Lost Boys Training Run #1

"A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles." - Edward Abbey
I had two great training runs last week, great runs shouldn't happen that close together.  Runs that make the bad days worth it can't be scheduled, so you just take them when they come.  We were in Kauai on vacation last week and I did a nice humid 18-miler on some of the paths that lined the streets on the south side of the island.  Unfortunately, I didn't make it to the famed Kalalau trail on the Na Pali coast, which I have heard is trail-runner heaven.  I had to make some concessions with the family and couldn't take an all-day solo trip to the north side of the island to live out my trail running fantasies; I just couldn't do that to the wife and kids.  Running on Kauai was breathtaking, even if it wasn't the Na Pali coast, the roads were lined with putting-green grass trails that were just the right surface for a long run on tired muscles.  There were a couple of rainbows, but unfortunately no double rainbows, and an abundance of lush green scenery.  It was hot and humid, but the winds were cool and just when it seemed to get uncomfortable, a perfect summer rain would fall for about ten minutes, then clear up.  The air was clean, there weren't too many cars and I drained my 70 ounce hydration pack over the 18 miles, which I thought was a lot of water to drink on a training run, but now, after Saturday's run in the desert, seems like a teacup-full.

Stretching out the legs after a post-run dip
I was also lucky enough to get to run with my wife in Kauai.  We don't have the chance to run together very often because someone has to take care of the kids, so we usually split training time up - she usually gets up before the kids wake up and runs with her friends in the mornings and on Sunday.  I try to get my run in whenever I can get away from work for about an hour and I usually do my long run on Saturday.  In Kauai we had my mom, my brother and his family and my two sisters and their families, so while the cousins played together, my wife and I were able to run together.  It's always great running with her, she forces me to slow down on my recovery days, and we are able to talk without being interrupted by someone who needs food, milk, wiping, etc.  My wife got me into running and I'm glad she runs and that she gets that I need to drive an hour and a half into the desert to do 22 miles in the 110 degree heat, stop for some recovery food on the hour and a half drive back, on a Saturday, then get up Sunday morning and go for a recovery run.  Not only does she get me, she is patient and accepting, and I hope if I kiss her butt enough in this post, it will buy me a few more long training days before Whitney, the 50 miler, and the double crossing of the Grand Canyon.

I woke up early on Saturday morning, 5 Am, and drove through Ramona and the windy roads of Julian to the Anza Borrego Desert to run 22 miles of the Lost Boys 50 Miler course.  I had my 70 ounce pack and knew there would be water stashed along the way, but I didn't think I would need it.  I had just done an 18 miler in the heat and humidity of Kauai and I did fine with 70 ounces.

Through some user errors, a few of us ended up at the wrong starting point about a mile down the road from the correct starting point, and by the time we figured out our error we were a half hour behind the rest of the group.

I'm not sure what the temperature was at the start, probably in the 90s by 7 AM, and the highs of the day were 110, hot and dry, no clouds, no cool breeze and thank god for the water that was stashed by co-race directors Kara and Paul because there would have been some delirium out there, serious Chevy Chase in Vacation delirium.
The Desert Trail
Being a half hour late, I was pushing a little at the beginning of the run to catch up with some of the people who started earlier.  The first four miles were through soft sand in a wash with walls on both sides, probably an old riverbed and the soft sand would feel a lot worse on the way back, but I had fresh legs and I felt good running through it.  I crossed the road (the road name has got to be one of the coolest road names in the world, but I would hate to live on it and have to fill out a few lines for the return address - "Great Southern Overland Stage Route of 1849."  After crossing the road, there was quite a long climb (the total elevation gain for the 22 mile run was 3,300 ft) and I felt very good going up, keeping my eyes on the trail and looking out for rattlers.  I saw Carl running down the other way and he warned me of a rattler up the trail about 400 yards, and I thought cool because I kind of feel left out - everyone that runs the same trails I do sees them all the time which leads me to believe that I am either extremely lucky or extremely oblivious to my surroundings and I tend to think it's the latter.  I scanned the trail, searching for the triangular head, listening for the tsk tsk of the rattle, but it must have moved, because I didn't see it.

I got to the turnaround a few minutes after my hydration pack ran dry and I was praying that I would be able to find the stash of water because I knew I would be in trouble without it on the return trip.  Luckily, I ran into a couple of other runners who pointed me in the right direction.  I filled the bladder and ate a ginger chew that had been dropped near the stash of water.  I tried to pee, but not much came out, I was thirsty and even though, up to that point I had drank 100 ounces of water, I was feeling dehydrated.  I caught up to the pair of runners who had shown me the water stash, they had both run the San Diego 100 a couple of weeks before, so as we ran down the mountain, towards the Great Southern Overland Stage Route of 1849, we talked about the 100.  At this point, the heat was rising, pushing 110 degrees and we filled up our water at Paul's truck.  I also ate a gel and had some pretzels.

A coyote popped out on the trail ahead of us, looked back and walked off in a lazy heat blanket slow walk into the bush and I scanned for it but it was gone.  We crossed the road and as we entered the soft sand and the desert walls of the wash, the heat was rising, reflecting off the walls down onto us, and the heat was really getting to one of the guys I was running with so we stopped under the shade of a desert tree.  I walked with them the last few miles.  I felt good, but no reason to push it in, I was definitely getting the heat training I am going to need for the next couple of long races and my nutrition and hydration was working great - I downed four gels and drank 200 ounces of liquid (Cytomax and when that ran out, water).

There was salt caked on my shirt at the end, not just dried salt on my shirt, which I have had before, but a thick line of caked salt and I needed a hamburger and french fries.  I drove home through Julian and saw a fajitas restaurant, bet there wasn't any parking, so I headed up a side street and found some parking.  As I opened the door, right across the street from where I parked I saw the Buffalo Bill's Buffalo Burgers sign and I staggered over and got my salt on with "The Nugget," a buffalo burger with cheese, bacon, an onion ring and barbecue sauce with french fries and a coke.  It was amazing, not just the burger, but the whole day, suffering and sweating in the desert solitude.
Salt cake
The Nugget

Harding Hustle 30K - Race Report

I woke early on Saturday morning, barely Saturday morning at 3:30 AM to do the Harding Hustle 30K.  I gave myself time to boil some water for coffee, grab my pre-made breakfast, a pb and honey sandwich, got my two bottles from the fridge and hopped in the truck for an hour and a half drive up the deserted pre-dawn Southern California freeways to the Oakley Headquarters in Forest Hills and then catch a shuttle, and old yellow school bus with a wrinkled and friendly bus driver, to the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary in the Cleveland National Forest.

I don't know if I will ever run road races again, trail races seem to suit me.  No Black Eyed Peas blasting at the start line, no one reminding me over and over that today's going to be a good day, no U2 telling me that it's a beautiful day, just silence and nervous runners walking around, checking out the other runners' legs, veins like topographical maps, the nervous stretching and the confident striders, sprinting effortlessly through a pre-race warm-up.  No gun shot to mark the start, not even a bullhorn with runners' instructions, just a soft-voiced pretty blonde race director telling us to follow the ribbons and we won't get lost, then someone, not sure who said start and the nearly 100 trail runners were off to climb a mountain.

This was the first race I have ever done where the elevation profile was almost a perfect triangle, a little over 9 miles up a mountain, climbing about 4,000 feet to the top, then turning around and running back down.

The race was difficult.  I kept an easy and steady pace to the top, running with a guy named Edward and talking about other races, and longing to run downhill, but the company kept my mind off the relentless uphill, and the same muscles, over-used, begging for a change of terrain.  As we climbed above the cloud cover, the tops of mountains sliced through the fog, pyramids leading back to the ocean where the blanket was untouched.

The aid station at the top of the course was a blessing, and I re-filled my bottle, noticing that I was starting to sweat a lot in the heat towards the top, and not drinking enough.  When you are thirsty in a race, it is too late, you won't catch up on your hydration, and I was thirsty.

The downhill felt great, I was picking up speed and picking off runners, but then it started to get to me, the constant pull of gravity and the shock over and over of quads trying to slow me, pace me down the hill, trying to keep my form, trying to lean into the hill and let the earth lead me down to the bottom, trying to pee and the dark trickle of dehydration, and then walking, and self-doubt and me saying that I am weak, walking downhill, being passed by people that I had passed previously who were far behind, then a nice lady walking up the hill cheering me on, saying what a great day it was, then running again to the finish where Catra, an awesome runner, was waiting to put a shiny disco ball medal around my neck.

After sitting in the shade and drinking water, I noticed a cooler full of meat and cheese and bread on the picnic table, so I made a salty sandwich with pickles, sliced ham, mustard and potato chips and it was the best sandwich in the world and I said a prayer of thanks for trail races with no artificial pumpmeupjockjams at the start and a race director with a soft voice who provides sandwiches and shade, and I thanked my knees by icing them and I watched the ice melt over hot and tired muscles and then stream through the dirt that had dried on my calves.

Glenn shot a video of the race.

50 Mile Race - Training Plan

There are few things I like more than to sit down with my pencil and sketch out a training plan on my computer (the lead marks on my screen are really hard to clean off).  I love to set a goal, plan for it, and leave some room for fun things that present themselves on the way.

I guess my "A" race this year would be the Lost Boys 50 Mile Trail Run organized by my friends Kara, Paul and Jeremy.  Being slightly sadistic, they have created a beautiful, challenging 50 mile point to point trail run that is almost entirely contained in the Anza-Borrego Desert and Cuyamaca Rancho State Parks.  The course has nearly 10,000 feet of elevation gain and includes desert washes, canyons, alpine valleys and even a dry waterfall ascent, all of which I am pretty pumped about.

Pics of the Lost Boys 50 course (courtesy of Kara and Jeremy Scarbrough)

Lost Boys 50 Miler Elevation Profile (courtesy of the Marquis de Sade)

I have never run 50 miles, so setting out a training plan is basically an experiment and I wanted to share it because a) it keeps me accountable, b) someone might learn from it, or adapt it for their needs and most importantly c) someone much smarter and more experienced than myself will look at it and say you're on the right track, or are you kidding me? followed by some (hopefully) constructive criticism.  A few words about my plan:
  • I generally don't respond well to super-high mileage, no 100-mile weeks, I top out at a 64-mile week in training
  • I don't schedule days off, but I do take days off if my body tells me I need them, or if life gets in the way.
  • That being said, the long run (Saturday) and the strength run (Wednesday) are my two quality workouts and I will do pretty much anything to get these in during the week.
  • 90% of my running is done on hilly trails
  • A =  easy, flat, recovery pace
  • B = strength, hill repeats, or pushing the pace on a hilly run
  • C = long run, starting easy, and finishing faster
  • Cross-training days consist of core work and an easy spin on the bike, a swim, or rock climbing
My training plan - click  to read if you don't have Superman vision
I am constantly tinkering with the plan and when races that look like they are too much fun to pass up present themselves, I am obliged to enter...I'm a sucker that way.  So, when I heard about the Harding Hustle 30K this coming Saturday, I jumped at the chance to climb nine miles up a mountain, turn around and come back down.  I am planning to take the race slow, meaning a slow start, trying to maintain a good easy pace to the top, then easy on the knees downhill and probably sprint to the finish to avoid getting beat by some 14 year old cross country star.

Another fun elevation profile

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