Sunday, 13 April 2014

Lake Sonoma 50

Lake Sonoma has become an incredibly competitive major race on the trail circuit, partly due to it offering Western States entries to the top three (or potentially four) men and women. To avoid over-racing this year and given a focus on Western States and Leadville, I ran it like the first half of an 100-miler, planning to run with Nick Clark. He was also taking things a little easier since he's racing UTMF in just under two weeks.

Unfortunately I missed the start since I was in the toilet queue and got going from the back of the pack. Since I wanted to keep the pressure low this worked out fine, but meant I only caught up to Nick just after the final aid station.

What I didn't miss out on were the great views of the lake on a course that didn't contain any hills bigger than about 600ft but still crammed in over 10,000ft of ascent. A fantastic out-and-back route where the course records were broken, as expected. Full results here.

Things felt fairly comfortable except the final couple of miles with Nick. He just wanted to get it done by that point and pushed a little more than I wanted, but we crossed the line in joint 18th. Here's the Strava file that lost a little signal in the early fog and gratuitous tree cover. Legs felt surprisingly good hiking Mt Diablo today, so it looks like the training is paying off.

Around mile one due to the road start to allow space to spread out before the single track.

First full aid station.

Running with Kaci Lickteig for half the day as she got third, under the old female CR.

Foggy morning

irunfar's Bryon Powell and Kim Gaylord.

I posed for this one, although this is roughly how the leaders must have run every hill.

Sage Canaday after the turnaround en route to third

Ryan Gelfi.

Bay Area giants making me look like a short-arse at the turnaround. Jorge Maravilla (left) wasn't running due to injury and Matt Laye is saving himself for Boston nine days later.

Low water levels due to the drought.

Nick Clark at the end. Over the past 250 miles we've raced each other our total time is just a few seconds apart.

16 miles from the finish, so the sign lies - that's pretty close to the end.
Plus a few more shots courtesy of Ultra Running Magazine.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Races As Training Runs - Super-Compensation

In the latest edition of Ultra Running Magazine (April, 2014) I discuss using races for purposes other than racing all out for the best time or place. Related to this is the concept of super-compensation, involving subjecting the body to a greater than usual training load or stress which leads to muscles being forced to adapt and improve.

This is the time of year where many runners are building up to their focus 'A' race. Many of the people I run with as well as many I'm coaching are preparing for Western States 100. WS100 is also my target event right now and it's just under three months away so I'm getting into the peak phase of my training.

Super-compensation in practice

At this stage in the build up to a focus race I find it's really beneficial to run several races in close proximity, but off maximum effort. It gives an effective boost to endurance by using super-compensation since the period of racing involves a greater workload for the body to deal with, but not too much extra. The key here is having a period (in my case for about 3-4 weeks, but this varies depending on individual circumstances and the level of training a runner has reached) of slightly harder effort by the body, derived from a mixture of a little more volume and intensity. Choosing interesting and exciting races also helps.

There's a very fine line here to avoid over-doing things with much higher risk of over-training leading to fatigue and lower performance or injuries. Possible errors include:

- Running the training races too hard with intensity above the optimum for adaptation
- Increasing total mileage by too much with volume above what the body can withstand without overtraining
- A combination of a little too much of each of the above factors
- Picking up a small injury during the races and continuing to race, thus making it much worse

I wouldn't recommend the tactic of using multiple races in every situation for every runner, but it can usually be adjusted effectively.

Below is the example of my current training using races off maximum for super-compensation through the month of April this year.

- Mileage increase from around 80 miles/week to around 100 miles/week for four weeks
- Races as follows but with flexibility over the effort levels:
1. Grizzly Peak 50k (6,700ft ascent) 4/5/14 - comfortable pace, approx 100-mile effort
2. Lake Sonoma 50 Miler (10,500ft ascent) 4/12/14 - comfortable pace, approx 100-mile effort
3. Boston Marathon 4/21/14 - hard effort but a much shorter amount of time
4. Big Sur Marathon 4/27/14 - hard effort, but less than at Boston

Note the most important part of this process is the ability to be flexible and adjust the effort as required if the body seems overly tired. Potentially not starting races is an option but that's only likely if an injury occurs.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Grand Canyon Rim2Rim2Rim - Super Hero Edition

Pre-Rim2Rim2Rim at 5:30am

One of the biggest perks of being an ultra runner is that it allows us to get deeper into beautiful landscapes in shorter spaces of time. A great example is the Grand Canyon, a place most tourists only see from the rim but a runner can cover from one side to the other and back in a day.

The fastest route chosen by those aiming to set a fast time is about 42 miles with 11,000ft of ascent, plus the same descent, using the South Kaibab Trail then going up to the North Rim and back to the same point. I hadn't seen much previously except the South Rim so went along a marginally longer route going down the South Kaibab Trail but coming back via the Bright Angel Trail, making it closer to 45 miles.

Like many ultrarunners the Rim2Rim2Rim route was a bucket list run for me and it lived up to expectations. I ran with Sean Meissner, who paced me at Leadville and Wasatch last year. A few days before the run I saw a photo of Sean online at a recent race in an, umm, disturbing Superman costume so suggested he wear that through the canyon while I wear my old Spiderman costume (here it was the last time I used it). We were also joined by David Sooter and John Moore who didn't get the memo about wearing something stupid :)

Here's a selection of photos highlighting the beauty of the Grand Canyon. A great day by all accounts and virtually dawn to dusk on trails. This was the route.


Sunday, 9 March 2014

Mt Diablo Videos

Mt Diablo in the background along Shell Ridge, from my run yesterday

I'm using Mt Diablo in the Easy Bay of the San Francisco area as my main training area for hills currently and today was my tenth ascent of the year. It's about a 3,500ft net ascent from the trail head, although today I went on a longer route that racked up about 4,400ft in the steepest 13 miles. I thought I'd try out my Go Pro too, expecting the footage to be vomit-inducing. It is, but still a fun experiment. This is the route I used.

Since running uphill is extremely undramatic and looks very slow in video, I chose a few short downhills and one flat section. None of the technical sections since I had to run them holding a camera out in my hand, but I did move at a decent pace with speeds kept between 3:20/mile and 4:30/mile in the videos except the flatter section close to Juniper Campground.

Enjoy the roller-coaster - don't worry, all the videos are short, but I think they prove that carrying a camera while running only works if you're JB Benna and have an elaborate set-up on a stick (you'll know what I mean if you've seen him filming or have seen his work in 'Unbreakable').

Firstly, a section on the Summit Trail very near the top and through an area that was burnt last year (all around 4:30/mile pace):

Then half-way between the summit and Juniper Campground (low 4:00/mile pace):

A flatter section along from Juniper Campground (7:00-8:00/mile pace):

Finally the Widowmaker climb below Juniper Campground, in reverse (3:20-4:00/mile pace):

I know that anyone watching these is probably hoping for a dramatic fall, but I'll save that for next time and get some cash from America's Funniest Home Videos, or whatever that show's called.

Also, here's an article about downhill technique that I wrote a while ago but that fits in with this subject matter. No shaky videos.