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.