Thursday, September 27, 2007

GEER Preview

I will be running the Great Eastern Endurance Run (GEER) 100K this coming Saturday. The race is located just outside Charlottesville and was the location of my first trail ultra. My running has improved immensely over the last year and I am anxious to see how I do relative to last year. I have really put a lot of work into my training and expect it will pay off on Saturday. The course has had some significant changes all of which make the race more challenging. However, the scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains will make it all worthwhile. The weather outlook calls for temps in the 70s with clear skies. Hopefully the forecast will hold.

One of my goals for this race is to really focus on holding back early so that I can run stronger during the last 20 miles. I want to continue to move purposefully but not open things up too much early on. Another key goal is to be much more efficient in the aid stations, getting what I need and then moving on. I think a key component of this is to avoid any extended breaks at the aid stations. If I need a rest, get through the aid station and rest further down the trail. In my opinion, aid station efficiency and having legs late in the race are two ways to significantly improve ones race times - particular in longer races such as 100K or 100 mile events. Regardless of how the chips fall, I am expecting a fun time on the trails in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Will post a report next week.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Crowder's Mountain Training Run

Yesterday I headed over to Crowder's Mountain for a 6 hour training run. This run was important for a number of reasons. First, it would be my final "long" run before the GEER 100K on September 29. Second, it would give me a sense of how much my climbing has improved over the last 8 weeks. Finally, I hoped to test my leg turnover on technical terrain in the latter half of the run. Both climbing and leg turnover late in the race would be critical to my success at GEER.

The weather was warmer than I hoped for but wasn't totally unbearable. I hoped to cover about 31 miles but would start with two 14 mile loops. If all went well, I would add on @3 miles before covering the final 2.5 miles of the second loop. If I had about an hour left at this point, I would add the 3 miles. I would make one stop at my car after the first 14 miles and had two water spots along the route. There were two "goals" for the run. First, I wanted to go out easy and cover the first "half" in just over 3 hours. By doing so, I would hopefully save my legs and be able to push the second half of the run, hopefully breaking 3 hours for the second half. Leg turnover would be critical in achieving this goal. My second goal was to climb strong on the hills and run all but the steepest sections even if it was more of a trot at times.

The hardest climb would be at the beginning of each loop and it went well both times. It was about 2 miles to the top and I was up in around 30 minutes and down in around 20 minutes both times. After the climb, I had a 5 mile out and back that also covered a big climb at the halfway point followed by a nice 2 mile downhill section. This would allow me to not push too hard on the climb and make it up on the downhill. I covered the first 14 miles in about 2:50 (@ 3:10 for 15.5 miles) and felt really good. I quickly refilled my pack and bottle, replenished my gels and shot blocks and was off for the second loop.

I again took the first climb relatively easy but was actually 4 minutes faster up and ~6 minutes faster down. On the next round of the 5 mile out and back, I pushed the pace some(heart rate up to about 160, 164 on uphill sections). After the second climb, I cranked the downhill section (heart rate up to 166) to do a bit of threshold training and to test the quads. I covered the two miles in a little over 15 minutes, which is pretty quick for me. When I arrived at about 2.5 miles to go, my time was about 4:55 so I added the "extra" three miles and decided to push as hard as I could. The hope was to cover the last five miles in under an hour. My legs were pretty tired but it was worth a shot.

The "extra" three miles included the two mile downhill section but added a steep one mile climb on a gravel road. Before getting to the downhill section I had to go up to the Crowder's summit one more time. I ran the gravel section and pushed the stair steps to the summit as fast as I ever have. I pushed the downhill section and again covered it pretty quickly in about 16 minutes. I was pretty wiped but made my way up the steep climb, running all but the steepest sections. My legs were screaming the whole way but I covered the climb in about 12 minutes, leaving me only 17 minutes to break 6 hours for the day - no way that was happening. I stuffed my watch in my pocket and decided to run the last section as best as I could. I opened up and ran as hard as my body would let me, never once looking at my heart rate or time. When I got back, my time was 6:06, I had covered the second 15.5 miles in 2:56 and the last 2 .5 mile section in 23 minutes! These are fantastic times for me.

This was one of my best training runs ever and I accomplished both of my primary goals. I am particularly excited about covering the second half ~14 minutes faster. Also, to see the benefit of holding back early so you can turn it on later is a huge mental lift as well. Hydration and nutrition (gels, shot blocks and e-caps) all went exceptionally well. I also used this run to "test" out the gear I would use during the race and everything went off without a hitch. My confidence level is pretty high as GEER approaches. Hopefully, the race will go as well as the training run yesterday.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

September Arrives - Football and Cooler Temps

Flipping the calendar from August to September always gets me excited. This generally signifies the arrival of football season and a reprieve from the summer heat. In North Carolina, the landscape will soon become picturesque with fall color.

This year September means my training for the GEER 100K (September 29th) is coming to a close. In fact, this week is my last big push with next week being a "mini push" of sorts before I taper for two weeks. Total mileage for this week will top out around 70 with another 50 or so next week. My training has gone very well as I have focused largely on leg turnover and improving my climbing. These are two areas that have limited my performance in some previous races and I wanted to really make a concerted effort to improve these areas. Hill repeats are hard in Charlotte as the longest climb can be covered in about 15 minutes. It is not realistic for me to get to the mountains mid week for repeats so I have had to improvise - treadmill!

I am not a treadmill fan by any means, but my climbing has definitely improved with the addition of 3 x 30 minute repeats on the treadmill at 12 to 14 incline. I usually alternate running and walking every 10 minutes with a 10 minute "recovery" on 0 incline at ~8:00 pace in between the repeats. The results have been good so far but the real test will be in three weeks. I have also done a good bit of tempo and threshold training to improve leg turnover and have incorporated segments of these into my long runs. The improvements from both of these workouts as boosted my mental confidence, which is also a very good thing.

Tomorrow I am headed to the mountains to do about 6 hours on technical mountain trails as my final long run before GEER. Hopefully, the weather will be cooler and my legs will stay strong. Last but not least, my friends Mike Mason and Brennen Wyssong are both running the Wasatch Front 100 this weekend in Utah. This is a tough race that I hope to do someday. Both Mike and Brennen ran very strong at Massanutten this year and I am sure both will do great out west. Good luck guys.