Monday, March 29, 2010

Ride the Ridge

Mike K, Jon W, Leland and I all drove down to Dyke, VA for Ride the Ridge put on by the Blue Ridge School after Darren continually talked it up and said he'd be going. As we were
on our way down we got the email from Darren saying he wouldn't be making it after all. I'll just say the near mid-night phone call from the 4 of us at the cabin was well justified in our eyes, especially when the rain started on race morning.

Going into this race I was feeling pretty good, though overall I was unsure of where I stood. I knew my fitness was good from all the running but I've done very little biking so far this year, especially on the trails. Still though I thought if the power from running transfered as well as I hoped to the SS, I'd be in good shape and might even be able to keep pace with Jonathon; or at least stay near him.

We started off the race second, behind the expert/pros and along with the sport class racers and high schoolers and cruised across the grass fields to the start of the single track. Being on the SS was a bit of a bear here since it put me solidly in the mid-pack range which in turn led me to be stuck behind a large number of people bobbling and stopping on some pretty rideable technical stuff up to the first climb. Once things sorted out a bit I settled in and started working the climbs.

Overall I felt I was riding well to begin with and I was catching and passing lots of riders. I was rocking up the climbing sections including the first which the RD referred to as a punishing climb
but in general I began having a bit too much trouble on the rocky and technical sections of the trail. It got worse as I got tired naturally so after Jonathon had passed me fairly early on he only continued to put time between us, riding strong and likely clearing the obstacles with ease.

The downhills on the course were mush more choppy then I expected so while the additional of the front suspension was a tremendous help, I didn't feel like I was able to bomb the downhills quite as much as I'd been hoping to. The somewhat muddy trail conditions combined with near constant switchbacks led to a lack in sustained downhill speed and almost no ability to hold downhill momentum on the SS.

I ended up somewhere around 5th place SS on the day with Jonathon in 4th, though probably 10 minutes ahead of me. The garmin reported 3500' feet of elevation gain in just over 14 miles too so I feel pretty good about my climbing performance and overall power on the SS. Leland had some issues with his grips slipping off leading to some major issues on the climbing intensive and technical course (hence lots of wrenching and hard gripping on the handle bars). MK came into view a couple of times for me, pacing himself for the extra lap for expert/pro racers, but the rain, mud and cold got to him late in the race and he decided to pull out after 2 laps. Thank goodness too since we all would have been waiting around shivering for him to finish before we could leave.

Throughout most of the first lap and seemingly all of the second there was one person sticking to me that I just could not drop. They would catch up to me on a bunch of the more technical climbs and then I would drop them on some of the descents, always thinking I'd rid myself of them for good only to have them pop back up a few hundred meters down the trail. Towards the end of the second they were gaining steadily on me and then as I fumbled and stumbled over a particularly technical downhill/flat section they caught me.

Turned out it was a woman also on a single speed (whoops I'd said something to her earlier, referring to her as "man"! In my defense I didn't get much of a look at her at all so I was just assuming it was a dude since I hadn't seen many women out there in general). I let her pass quickly and then went to chasing her the remainder of the downhill, catching her on the brief road section with about a 1/4 of a mile to go.

I pulled up next to her and complimented her on her riding and catch in the technical junk. She let me lead into the short pine section before the final grassy section where she insisted we sprint for the line. I wasn't going to sprint but at her insistence I picked it up and spun in with her, not really wanting to beat her but not really wanting to "lose" either. In the end I think our wheels crossed essentially together, though likely she got the edge on me there. She was actually racing the open SS so technically in the "official" results I was likely 6th, but I'm going to say I was next after Jonathon anyway.

In the car on the way home I found out that women was actually ex-pro and mountain biking legend Sue Haywood! Wow! I know she's retired and all but still, in 2007 she set a course record at the SM100 en route to at least her 3rd consecutive win (8:11, 2nd place was 9:01) plus plenty more. I'd say its pretty awesome that I got the opportunity to ride with her in general. Good thing I didn't know who she was during the race or I probably would have been star struck and gotten overly self conscious and sucked up the technical stuff even more!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Seneca Greenway 50K Fame

Some shots have surfaced from the Seneca Greenway Trail race. I was all alone when they saw me apparently so there are a bunch of me. WoHoo! Look how tired I look!

Notice the mud along my right arm and knee. Pretty sure it was on my face too but you can't see it. Yeah, I took a sweet muddy spill at a nice off camber section. One of those spots were I saw the fall coming well before I took the stride but still didn't alter my route.


This one I like to call focus.

Sasquatch sighting!

Smile is proof that I was actually enjoying myself out there!

Matthew was cruising with a group of people so didn't get the highlight reel of photos I got. I'll go ahead and just say they took more pictures of the better looking one!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A new era of running?

Nah, I don't think I'd go that far, but I will say I'm in for a definite adjustment in my running.

On Monday I used my REI dividend, 20% off coupon and an overly kind and unnecessary gift card from a friend (thanks Katie! and Aimee for letting me use it!) and picked up a pair of the Vibram FiveFingers for no money out of pocket. While trying them on I was one of 3 people in the shoe department and all of us were checking them out so I suppose the popularity is really starting to ramp up! It helps that REI just started carrying them; though they were already low on inventory when I grabbed mine...

Anyway, my initial impressions were good. Getting them on is a little weird as my toes kind of scrunch together a little bit and spreading them out to fit the toe holes was a bit of a chore. Once they were on though they felt comfortable and my little jaunt down the aisle of REI felt pretty easy and natural in them. It probably helps that I've been working over the last year plus on my running mechanics to use a midfoot strike (as opposed to heel).

Monday evening I put them on for a while just hanging around the house and then grabbed Cass and went for an easy 2 mile run around the neighborhood sidewalks. They felt great! Even more, I was cruising, and not on purpose either! I'd forgotten to wear my garmin so I was going by feel on pace, planning on a slower, easy run. Turns out I was down in the low 7's to mid/upper 6's for almost the entire way... Whoops!

Gave them a go at lunch on Thursday again for 2 miles, this time with the garmin and again had the same result! Though I didn't try to reel myself in when I noted a sub-6:30 pace, I felt surprisingly smooth and at ease with the high cadence running. Better yet, the running was down right, put a goofy grin on my face and laugh out loud fun!

Yeah, I got a few weird looks in general on this run...

Good times!

My only issue so far has been a sore left calf muscle from the slightly different running form, but that has been very minor in general. Otherwise, I can feel some additional muscles getting a workout but nothing hurts. Even running on the pebbles of the "trails" along the Mall was much easier then I expected. While large stones were felt, there was nothing that was outright painful. I can see the benefits of toughening up my feet but otherwise I think I'm in pretty good shape for using these "shoes".

For now I'll slowly build up my mileage to where I can do my usual entire 4 to 6 mile lunch run and see how things go. If nothing else the increased cadence work will benefit my speed and hopefully the focused form work will settle in permanently whether wearing shoes or not. Ideally I'll dial in my mechanics well enough that come fall I'll be able to start running in a MUCH more minimalistic trail shoe such as the New Balance 100's. Lightweight shoes that drain like a bathtub would be nice!

The New Balance 100's - Hopefully the new model out this fall will address the heel rub issue I've been hearing about so far.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Happy Feet

Frustrating: Over the last 6 months I log a few hundred miles training, both road and trail, run two 50k's and my feet come out roses. No blisters or any other significant issues to report. Yesterday I ran 16 miles home on paved hiker/biker trails and roads and I end up with a blister on each foot, one sore and slightly rubbed heal and somewhat raw forefoot on both feet. What's up with that?

I'm going to chalk it up as a function of a combination of wearing my trail shoes (Brooks Cascadia 4s which I haven't worn as much as others) on the paved surfaces along with the irritating wool DeFeet socks. While the socks have certainly worked wonderfully previously, they are beginning to wear pretty heavily so maybe the worn down defeats cause more abrasion then fresh less worn pairs might? Wishful thinking that I can blame it more on the socks then the shoes. That said, I may need to stick to more trail use with these Cascadias. Of course, 16 miles on roads is probably too much for any trail shoe I suppose even if they are reviewed well for use on the road sections of trail races...

The good news is my feet feel significantly better this morning then they did when I got home yesterday evening.

On another, though similar front, I'm finally reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. Really, surprisingly gripping read. Much more build and suspense then I'd have expected out of it and a very motivating book; especially to really get out and do some real mountain/serious trail running. Combine it with the volunteer time at the Elizabeth Furnace Fat Ass 50k during which the trails were running streams and the "creek" crossings were raging rivers and our 10 mile training run the prior day on the same trails produced elevation gain of well over 2000' and I'm really getting the itch! If only I lived closer to the mountains!

The book is reinforcing a slight twinge of interest in trying out some barefoot/uber-minimal shoe running. The book touts the benefits of a strengthened foot, and rails pretty heavily against modern running shoes and Nike in particular. I'm not interested in losing the running shoes, especially for my trail running; but the interest in a pair of Vibram FiveFingers is certainly increasing. (I have to admit I'd expected a little more in weight savings from these then they have listed; 11.2 ounces per shoe while my Mountain Masochists are something like 11.8 ounces per shoe. If anything I think this could just further improve my stride from the heal strike style I've been moving away from over the last year or so. Have to say I've come a long way without the 5Fingers though on the other hand with my dividend, 20% off coupon and $30 gift certificate I'd get them few a few bucks out of pocket... Enticing.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

EliptiGOOOO… | Dean's Blog

EliptiGOOOO… | Dean's Blog

I've just started reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and apparently he calls out Dean for overly commercializing the sport of ultra marathons and being a sell out. I haven't gotten to that part yet, but for what its worth, I'd probably believe/agree...

I assumed this was going to be Publish Posta joke, but unfortunately not. They must be donating a crap ton of money to his charity.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Seneca Creek Greenway Trail 50k

This race popped up on my radar a while back but I didn't put much thought into it until I noticed it's timing relative to Bull Run Run. At just over one month before the 50 miler it was the perfect pre-race long run for me. I signed up tentatively with the RD figuring if I was feeling good and Matthew was in I'd be there.

That said, with the set backs in training, 1 week being sick at the end of January followed by a generally weak week (sorry), the February double whammy of a snowstorm and then the week long trip to Asheville and Knoxville during which I ran 3 times I wasn't feeling too great about my chances of completing this race. On the other hand, I had a good past couple of weeks, and aside from the horrendous conditions on the Potomac Heritage Trail last weekend, I did manage nearly 3 and a half hours of on the go time. Time on the feet I've heard is one of the most important parts of training for ultra distance races, so I figured it was well worth the $20 to get out there and give it a go. When Matthew came back and said he was in, I knew it was on!

We started off somewhere in the middle/front of the 350ish marathon and 50k runners and settled onto a nice long train of people. We were cruising along in the 7:30-8:30 minute mile range for probably the first 10 or so miles stuck pretty tight to the remaining train, picking our way over the frozen solid and rutted out snow on the trails. Somewhere along the way we passed some folks and leading Matthew I tried to stay with a few runners in my sights maybe 25 yards ahead. I wasn't doing it and was slowly dropping back when Matthew took over and slowly and steadily reeled the two guys ahead of us in. I was struggling there but made it up with him and did my best to continue to hang on.

We stayed with those two, one named Daryl (I think but I'm probably wrong) and the other a young guy in a VHTRC sleeveless shirt around the lake loop. About half way around the lake we caught up to Rob D(2nd 50k in 3 weeks following the 100 miler 4 weeks prior... ouch!) who'd been volunteering at the PHT 50k and I dropped back to chat for a minute or two but knew I'd be dead if I didn't hang on to Matthew and Daryl for a bit longer. It took some serious effort to catch back up to them but I got up there and followed through to the second stop at the lake aid station.

Shortly after that aid station we lost Daryl off the front and Matthew and I continued to roll along. Matthew was feeling good and I was slowly falling off his pace. I was doing what I could to keep him in my sights but he was cruising and continued to pull further and further ahead mile after mile. Eventually though, I got a bit of help when he got stuck behind some folks and I managed the slightest little second wind and finally reeled him in on a fairly steep little switch back "climb" and we stuck together for a bit after that until a long grinding uphill.

A young women we'd run with before caught up quickly up here, tried to stick behind us and then rocketed by once she saw us dying hard at the top of the climb. I offered to play rabbit for Matthew for a bit and shuffled off in front of him. I eventually separated from him over the next few miles and settled in to my shuffle jog for the final miles of running. Somewhere in here we started to see mud; mostly just relatively small patches that were pretty sloppy, though again I was surprised by how dry most of the trail was.

The last aid station came a supposed 2.2 miles to the finish but was followed abruptly by a second creek crossing (which felt GREAT!) and the steepest little kicker of the race (which DIDN'T!). The end of the trail put us out directly next to my truck and even thinking it was well under a mile to go I absolutely had to fight off thoughts of just going straight to my truck. It was especially difficult when all I could think of was how I'd already run this portion of road in the morning since we were the last people boarding the last bus to go to the race start (aka we were late...)

Around two corners and an announcement that we had a mile road run to the finish was tough, but I managed a little focus, took the smooth road for what it was and gritted out my final mile back in a reasonable (though in all reality super slow) pace. My finish time of 5 hours, 20 minutes and change was a significant improvement over the PHT 50k though I'd guess the trail is quite a bit less technical then that one was; at least at times. Matthew came in a short 10 minutes later and we headed over to the race provided BBQ for some well deserved sodas and BBQ sandwiches.

Caught up with Rob a bit afterwards and talked to a couple of the people we'd run with during the race before heading home, taking a detour off River Rd due to an accident, ending up near Catholic University (way out of the way) and finally getting home to ice baths, a quick meal of pasta and veggie sausages and heading straight to Jenny's house for her 30th birthday dinner and games party. And, yes we did both eat full meals again! Yum!

No official results though from what I can tell I was somewhere in the sub-40's for the 50k placement. A much faster race field then I think we expected, though the delusions of top 20/top 10 placements were way off base to begin with! :)

Can't wait for BRR!

Friday, March 05, 2010

When it rains, it pours

After weeks of radio silence, I've got a little more to say.

Seneca Creek Greenway 50k is tomorrow. Matthew and I will be tackling that one at 8am.

I got the latest in upgrades for the Jamis in on Monday including the Reba Race fork. Also included an XT crankset and some anodized green crank bros egg beater pedals. I'd like to swap out both the road and mountain bikes to these if I end up liking them for more compatibility when it comes to shoes. It'd be nice to be able to walk around without killing myself or taking my shoes off at the office when I commute on the road bike.

The new crankset and pedals.

Pedal shot. Love that green!

The bike is definitely shaping up pretty darn nice. I'm also working on getting my hands on a matching green anodized Chris King headset so once I get that the bike will be full upgraded.

At this point I'm thinking if I manage to sell off the ss ghetto cross and the Fuji Track bikes I'll use part of those proceeds to pick up a carbon White Brothers rigid fork Jonathon has at the shop and really have a sweet set up either way I go. The current Jamis rigid fork I've got is suspension corrected so it holds the front end up pretty high. With the WB it'd be a much racier front end which is exactly what I'd be looking for for my rigid set up.

Better pix to come once I get everything worked out and installed. Oh and this will about do it for the original parts off the Exile I actually bought 2 years ago. The headset and fork are the last remaining pieces. Wow.

Office life

My coworkers no doubt believe I've gone a bit extreme, if not completely crazy. It started with heaps of clothing stored in the office, most notably of the running and biking variety.

Box #1

Box #2

Then it was the shoes...

Now, throw in the fitness ball seat and my "stick" which I use while reading and roll my feet on constantly...

And I think we have a critical mass.