Not for me, but for my friends! It’s always exciting to track my friends and other inspirational racers through the adventure of the Boston Marathon. The hype around Boston delivers an electric weekend and an unforgettable race experience.
Julia and I always come off of Marathon Monday with a runner’s high, eager to sign up for a road marathon and BQ again. Then, we recall the distress entwined with “major” races, particularly the major crowds that detract you from performing at your best. No matter, I’m sure we’ll be back to Boston one of these years.
Easy like Tuesday morning. I’ve grown accustomed to simple easy miles on Monday and Tuesday with no desire to go any faster or longer, just cruising on through the commute.
I have a new work schedule in which I work from home on Wednesdays. It’s a great way to split up the week and give me a breather from the daily grind of run commuting and provisioning food & attire for each day.
I took the opportunity to tackle the trails of White Ranch for an early morning loop. It’s been five months since I said “sayonara” to the relentless hills of our White Ranch playground. Leading up to TNF50 in SF, the crescendo of my training came in back-to-back days of double loops (25-miles) at the Ranch. So brutal, we needed some space.
Around mile 5, I stepped on a rock that twinged a nerve in the ball of my left foot. Suddenly I felt deflated. Did I just ruin all the work leading up to WFL in one over-excited trail run? I continued on gingerly, until I could figure out where the pain was coming from and how I could manage it. I wasn’t far from the central parking lot which marks the start of some moderate downhill. If the pain subsided on the downhill, I’d be OK for the remaining miles. I really had no choice though. I was far from my car and needed to keep moving.
The pain eventually went away. I was able to keep climbing and descending normally, though I was hounded by major wind gusts throughout the second half.
I’d hoped to measure my fitness against my past-self, having set a CR on the outer loop of WR last year. Unfortunately, I missed a turn while descending the final miles of the Long Horn trail and veered back into the belly of the Ranch.
There is no worse feeling than being lost near the end of a trail run. Your water and food is depleted, you’ve surpassed your planned mileage and time-on-feet, and the parking lot is nowhere in sight. Panic quickly sets in and you run a little faster, fueled by adrenaline. A stark reminder of the realities of trail running.
In the end, I added a few extra miles and feet of vertical to the normal route. I enjoyed relearning the relentless terrain of White Ranch. Climb after climb, it became obvious that trail running is a different beast than road running — demanding a drastically different stride, source of power, and grit.
We’ve been pounding the pavement of Dino Ridge week in and week out, so this week we hosted PlayGldn at the bike path behind School of Mines. It was a welcome change of pace, and I felt more “in control” of taking it easy. I had a big mileage weekend approaching and didn’t need to burn myself out ahead of time.
Also, did I mention trail running is hard? During the previous days tumult of feeling lost and late at White Ranch, I managed to stub my foot, as is my trail running M.O. My already arthritic big toe felt sore and swollen over night. There was no sign of the nerve pain, which was comforting.
During the day, I started prepping for Saturday’s long run. Here’s a teaser:
- 5 32:30
- 10 1:05
- 15 1:37:30
- 20 2:10
- 25 2:42:30
- 30 3:15
But what does it all mean?
I was off from work on Friday… wahoo, alternative work schedule! In the morning, Julia and I went to November Project to run the Littleman Hill with the tribe. I enforced the power tuck rule among the gentlemen in attendance. Serve & Protect.
I logged a couple miles on the hill, including a handful of hill sprints to get the juices flowing, then ran 15+ miles back home. It’s a vanilla route home along the Clear Creek bike path, but the banks of the creek were lush and Colorado is hitting peak green for the spring.
The rest of my day-off looked a little like this: Golden Rec Center for SS&S. That’s soak, stretch, & soak. I’m always revitalized by 15-minutes in the hot tub followed by 45 minutes of slpw stretching, followed by another 15-minutes in the tub. I stretch out my feet, hips, & spine and let deep relaxation seep in. I haven’t been listening to enough music lately, so I queued up Cold War Kids radio on Pandora, browsed social media, and read this fantastic November Project blog by Mike Bell… all while getting deep into hip openers and pigeon pose.
“Even if you aren’t the one who succeeds today, maybe your “fuck yeah” motivated someone to go a little harder today. So therefore, if you inspire the person who makes change happen, didn’t you kinda make that change happen?” ~ MB
I returned to the tub for a final soak, though, my extreme relaxation left me a bit light headed as I got out of the 104 degree tub.
4am alarm. I made coffee and toast and drove Julia to the Denver airport. I provided her with horrible chauffeur service (sorry, hun) because of the dark, freezing rain, fast cars, & high beams. Despite Julia already feeling late and needing to rush to her gate, I took a wrong turn and entered the airport parking garage rather than the drop-off area (sorry, hun). Alas, she made her boarding time and was off to STL for a weekend with her family.
I continued eastward to Bennett, CO for the longest training run of my life. The plan called for 34 miles at my Wings For Life goal pace of 6:30/mile. I’d loosely mapped out a route (see Post-it note from Thursday) and a basic pacing plan (5-mile chunks in 32:30).
Bennett welcomed me with a mix of dirt, gravel, and paved roads. Each farm block measured 1-mile by 1-mile, though it wasn’t a simple route, as not every road went all the way through to complete a grid.
It was a rather uneventful run… until mile 16. Who let the dogs out? Who!?!
First, I heard them barking. Second, I saw them running. Third, I felt them salivating within inches of me. I was surrounded by two sandlot dogs, barking ferociously, chasing intently, teeth and slobber on full display. As they sprinted alongside me for a hundred yards or so, I plead: “good dog, good dog”. I zigged and zagged while trying to mask my fear, dogs can smell fear, right? Miraculously, I fended them off.
The hounds eventually just backed off and disappeared and I had no interest looking back at them. I had avoided getting nipped (or worse) by the dogs, which honestly, I didn’t think I’d escape scot-free. I feared that all of this WFL training would be null and void, resulting with stitches (or worse) from a dog bite.
I gathered myself over the next mile, my pace had sped up to the quickest of the day, my heart rate was bursting, and I needed to pee.
Over the next few miles, I recounted the dog chase and thought intently on how I handled it and what I could do differently next time.
- Keep running. Quick legs confuse dogs and they can’t focus on where to strike your body.
- If a dog lunges at you, sacrifice you non-dominant arm. As runners, we need healthy legs. Dangling your arm in front of a canine that is fixing to strike is a better option than getting a bite taken out of your calf or IT band.
- By any means possible, carry a piece of meat with you.
Thankfully, the dog encounter was the only negative of the run. In an effort not to stew on the terrifying events that enhance storytelling, here are the beautiful moments that made the trek east well worth it:
- Friendly Animals: Cattle, horses, donkeys!, jack rabbits, hawks, pretty birds.
- 10 cars passed me in 4 hours. I enjoyed waving to them, encouraging them to keep on driving rather than stopping to ask me what I was running from 😉
- The sky, the fields, the rainfall. As this was the day to celebrate our planet, I soaked in every beautiful morsel of it.
Today’s 30+ mile adventure was devoured in 5 mile bites, with a goal for covering each 5 mile segment in 32:30. Keeping an even-pace and even-keel will be critical for WFL. Thinking about running straight for 40 miles and 4+ hours is overwhelming.
The final 4 miles were the toughest. Uphill and into the wind, there is no better training complement than fighting to the finish through the toughest miles. I completed the run feeling spent, but not near the level of exhaustion I felt 3 weeks prior.
The run itself was exactly what I wanted and needed. In my last WFL paced run, my actual pacing was poor, leaving me dead in the final miles. This time around, I managed to keep each mile in the vicinity of 6:30, the whole time. The only strain I encountered were on the uphill stretches that also brought a headwind. Double whammy. At the time, I had no clue of the elevation profile on the route, however, it ended up mimicking the WFL course perfectly! The uphill gain of ~30 ft/mile and against-the-wind climbing lasted from miles 10 to 20. Wings For Life course climbs from miles 17-28 (~90 ft/mi).
The real reason I picked Bennett, CO was the result of a Google search for “diner”. Sometimes you’ve got to treat yourself to a wholesome, nah, massive breakfast after a great run. What’s a more inviting place than this?
My appetite has been well-managed throughout these long runs, I rarely feel famished after 3+ hours of exertion. I’ve been happy with my fueling during long runs, utilizing a mix of Tailwind, Hammer gel, and Honey Stinger gel. I’m noticeably less ravenous after exercise, likely I’ve become better adapted to burning fat for fuel. Alas, when in Rome:
So the menu item on the right was the True Grit. A bowl of grits smothered with chorizo, topped with fried eggs and cheese. I substituted a side of toast with French toast soaked in butter, powdered sugar, and syrup… best decision of the day!
With my final race pace long run in the books, I’ve got 2 full weeks to taper down my training and bottle up my excitement for race day in California on May 7th!
Endurance changes time,