Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Running from What? A Trip to Washington State

Well, a trip back to Washington State to visit family was a long time coming.  Me running in Washington was even longer since I haven't run in the state since high school over 27 years ago.

The challenge with visiting family is my wife and mine's families are spread between Eastern and Western Washington.  Combine that with timing the visit with their schedule, it was definitely a challenge.  We would start off in the Tri-Cities for a four days, travel over the Cascades to Tacoma for a four days, and then wind up in Central Washington in Ellensburg.

It was my goal to run at least one day in each location.  In the Tri-Cities I would run the Horse Heaven Hills.  In Tacoma, I wanted to run my old cycling grounds in Point Defiance Park.  In Ellensburg, I wanted to run along the Yakima River.  

So keep in mind I am from the Bay Area in California.  So for me cold is the 40's.  Well the first run in Eastern Washington was pretty cold, well in the 30's with a major wind chill.  Not that I was complaining since the drive up through Oregon saw temperatures drop in the mid-teens.


Horse Heaven Hills - Kennewick, WA

 The run through the Horse Heaven Hills was awesome and proved to be a good test for a first run with my Hoka One One Stinsons.  I left my father-in-laws and quickly got into the hills.  Barren but beautiful, the hills provided vistas of the Blue Mountains to east, Badger Mountain to the West, and the Columbia and Snake Rivers to the North.  The terrain was wet sand and rolling hills, however, with the direction of the gusts I found myself being pushed up the hills and being held back on the descents.  It was a good 7 mile run though and the desolation provided a perfect outlet. You can find the map and Strava detail here.

Point Defiance - Tacoma, WA

The next run I have been looking forward since I began running seven years ago.  When I was in my twenties, I had convinced myself that while I needed to have some sort of exercise, I was not and would never be a runner.  So I turned to riding my bike. From my parents house I could ride 10 miles round trip through 5 Mile drive in Point Defiance and back.  I wasn't fast, but I could easily see the winter pounds drop as I rode from May to September.

This trip though would test my will to run in the rain but I was going to this trip no matter what.  I also wanted to run the trails instead of staying on the 5 Mile Drive.

I would have to say after my first run in the park, I really don't understand why anyone would ever run on the road.  This is a beautiful trail system.  It isn't technical at all but the single track through the Ferns and Douglas Fir and was awesome.   And someone with trail running background must have marked these trails with each loop color coded and easy to follow.

I took the dark blue trail which besides taking me deep into the park also had me running along the edge of the bluff overlooking the Puget Sound.  I would also say the vistas of Vashon Island, Gig Harbor, and the Narrows Bridge were spectacular. You can find the map and the Strava detail of the first Point Defiance run here. This route ended up being 5.8 miles.

I had such an awesome run I talked my wife to run the next day.  We were rewarded with no rain.  I made a slight adjustment to the run this time which took us deeper into the forest, where the trees cause twilight on the trails.  It was gorgeous and I felt privileged to share the run with my wife.  A note for next time though: this route is best run clockwise instead of the counter clockwise way we went since it is pretty much all up hill until the last half mile.  Overall, it was a good 4.3 mile run.  The map and Strava detail of this run is found here.

Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park - Ellensburg, WA

The final run was in Ellensburg which sits along the Yakima River.  I had run here with my wife 5 years ago when we were training for our first attempt at the San Francisco Marathon.  This time I wanted to run along the River though.  I had used Strava to locate a couple of segments in Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park I wanted to make my mark; however, I thought I could string along a good long run along  the river.  Well, the total trail access I could find was a little over 2.5 miles long round trip.  This meant that I would also string along another trail that afforded me beautiful views of the snowy Cascades to the west.  

By now the temperatures had dropped again and I found myself running at 18 degrees.  Burr!!!  However, I have to say the run along the river was beautiful, abet short.   The leaves were still falling so the golds and yellows were a wonderful contrast to the roaring river.  I wish this portion was longer but oh well, it was again a perfect outlet before the long marathon of a drive home.  For the map and Strava detail, check here.

I normally don't run on trips and I have always kicked myself for not doing so.  However, with this trip it has me really considering doing a trail run up there.  On my radar is the Volcano 50K around Mount Saint Helens, the Chuckanut 50K (a place I am really familiar with - I came down with chicken pox on the way back from Canada), the Orcas Island 50K (I used to fish off the islands near there) and if I truly am ambitious someday doing the White River 50 Miler (near Crystal Mountain which I skied every Christmas). 

We are definitely spoiled here in the Bay Area but I can say that the runners in Washington are just as spoiled.  That is probably why the likes of Geof Roes and Hal Kroener got their start there before moving south.  Definitely a place I plan on running again.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Donner Valley Run - Experimenting with Strava and Instagram

Well, I am a little late to the whole Instagram revolution as well as how seamless many apps now work with each other.  So on my run today I decided to take a couple of pictures using Instagram. Strava then synced up those photos with the run, showing on the map where those pictures were took.  Now I have a wonderful way to record the run!  And now that Strava is also synced up with my Garmin Connect, I only have to upload once at Garmin and everything is sitting nice and tidy waiting for any additional detail that needs to be added.

Now for the run, it has been a while since I have run anything with any sort of trail elevation.  Mount Diablo is really dry which means that many of the trails have lost much of their spunk.  In fact I almost missed my cut-over Wassaman Trail.

 I did do some new exploring taking a section of the Bruce Lee Spring Trail over to the Clayton Oaks Trail.  The lower Donner Road is pretty uninspiring, so I was thrilled to find a new option.  It is a wide fire trail with some steeper downhill for some quad-love.  It does take you near a housing development; however, in a short amount of time you are back into the wilderness.

It was definitely a good day to run.  The Strava detail is as follows.  Click on the Strava detail for a link to where the pictures were taken.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Bear Creek Half Marathon and Fine Tuning Nutrition

Source: Brazen Volunteer
I have to say I like to throw in a trail half marathon every once in a while.  Mind you my running over the last a couple months has been without much if any elevation.  So I knew signing up for the Bear Creek Half Marathon with about 3,000 feet of elevation gain was going to be a bit of a challenge.  Add in that it is August in the East Bay and this is probably one of the historically hottest half marathons that Brazen Racing does.  OK then, sign me up!  Sorry quads.

Source Brazen Volunteer
At least I knew a bit about the course.  Covering much of the Briones Regional Park, I had at least run half of it and could be strategic when to kick in and hold back.  The elevation gain though is a bit deceptive.  There are not many long climbs, but the combined effect really compiles over time.  And, there are a couple pretty long declines which are sure to demolish your quads if you haven’t trained for it.

It was overcast at race time.  Of course we all hoped that it would stay around for the entire race; however, we knew that was a bit optimistic.  The first three miles is a slow subtle climb to the top of the first hill.  This section was new to me and on the elevation chart, I thought this was going to be the toughest of the climbs.  

Source: Allen Lucas
However, I was very much aware of the following descent, a little more of a mile of well-groomed fire trail.  Mount Diablo was starting to show behind the different layers of fog and mist which provided an awesome picture opportunity.  Unfortunately for me, this is when my phone camera decided to go on the blink.  I had been looking forward to this section and opened up my pace, fully aware of the results that would show up a couple of days after.

At the bottom I caught up with Tony (Endorphin Dude) which was nice.  Our paths have crossed before but this time I got to hear about his first 100 mile attempt and his desire to qualify for Western States.  He had been doing fine for the first 80 miles, ahead of his goal time, and then had a really tough 6 miles to miss the cutoff by 12 minutes.  Next up is Rocky Raccoon.

The Wall - Source: Allen Lucas
After a couple of miles up and down, roller-coaster type single track, I began the next climb beginning with single track trail out of the Alhambra Staging area.  I am used to running this section at the beginning of a run and typically with a headlamp, so it was nice to see it in the light for a change.  The feature though on this trail is an approximately 30 foot “wall” of a hill and hitting it at mile 7 was a big challenge.  With heart rate through the roof, I stopped for a break at the top of it.

The next section is a slow steady climb up to the “Lagoon” which are a couple of twin ponds followed by the drop into the valley.  The rest of the race would be in areas I had not run and I had thought, again referencing the elevation map, I had passed my final big climb.  The heat was on and we were full exposed to the sun which seemed to sap much of our strength.  By the time we got to the aid station at about mile 10, I was spent.  But wait, more climbing?

Yep, and this was probably the steepest section of the race (with the exception of the 30 foot stint at mile 7) and took us up onto the ridge overlooking Walnut Creek and Lafayette.  It was a gorgeous view.  I had left Tony (Endorphin Dude) back before mile 7, so I wasn’t surprised that he caught up with me on the ridge.  He asked if there were any more hills and thankfully I could confirm that there was nothing left but a very steep drop into the valley right around the corner.  Now last year, our family worked the last aid station which was at the base of the final downhill.  I remembered how people really struggled going down so I was prepared and excited.  This would be the final masochistic romp on my quads so I had to make it count.  With little trepidation I ran down the hill like a champ.

The final climb to the finish. Source: Allen Lucas
At the final aid station I chomped on some watermelon and started the final single track.  Last year, this was full of poison oak; however, this year Brazen went out the day before to remove most of it from the trail.    This is an awesome section which affords a triumphant final mile before the finish if you have any energy left.

At the finish, my wife was waiting as well as the kids with an “Its It” ice cream sandwich at the ready.  I finished in 3 hours and 15 minutes.   I had no expectations going into this race so I was extremely happy with this run and my effort.  

Strava stats found here.

Things I learned - Nutrition

As I have written in the past, I have really been playing around with my nutrition.  I have really never gotten it dialed in.  Up to this point I have stayed away from Gel’s like the plague, using either Pocket Fuel (a nut butter whole food blend) or Clif Builder Bars.  That changed when I discovered Gu’s Roctane at the Way Too Cool 50K.  It was during the last 10 miles of the race, ready to try anything to help me finish that I found that it picked me up, at least that is what I wanted to believe.

Photo: Last minute reminder that Bear Creek registration prices go up at midnight.  T-shirt order and custom bib orders also go in tomorrow morning, so if you like saving a little money, being guaranteed your shirt size or having your name pre-printed on your bib, now is a great time to sign up!
Cool Shirt Logo Too!  Source: Brazen Racing
Roctane is different from standard Gu formula by adding histidine, branched chain amino acids, and citrates. " Plus the addition of OKG, an amino acid complex that lessens damage to muscle tissue during hard training or racing and speeds recovery," according to the Gu website.  Since this formula focuses on the needs of the long endurance runner, I wanted to see if I would have the power swings that I have had with past Gel products.  What was reassuring was that each Roctane was to be consumed at 45 minute intervals.  

I also had at my disposal 4 different varieties: Vanilla Orange, Chocolate Raspberry, Strawberry Kiwi, and Cherry Lime.  I would have to say Vanilla Orange and Cherry Lime are winners and I will pass on the Chocolate Raspberry (too thick in texture if that makes sense).

I figured that this would be a good setting to see if Roctane would be a good primary fuel source.  Yes I know, I could do this on a training run and trying something new on race day is ill advised.  But keep in mind I had already tried this at as a last resort at Way Too Cool.  I would have to say the strategy worked as well if not better than when I was using the nut butters.  I had no blood sugar /power swings and the 45 minute duration was perfect.  The only challenge I had, and this is something I need to figure out if I will continue with Roctane has to with my water intake.  I found that my gag reflex would kick in when I drank water due to residual “gunk” at the back of my throat.  I am not sure if this is because of the gel or if it was because of the heat, so I will be keeping my eye on this.  To get around it during this race, I would eat a slice of watermelon to “clean the pallet” which eased the gagging. 

All in all, a good training race for upcoming endeavors.  And thank you Mr. NotThatLucas for taking such wonderful pictures to share.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dirty Dozen 12 Hour Endurance Run – 2014 Relay

Imagine him coming at you after 10 hours!!

Well, the expectations for this year’s race was low.  Both my wife and I had originally signed up as singles a month in a half ago with my goal of finally reaching 50 miles.  However, training to be frank, the training never occurred.  Second, we realized the weekend before that all of our usual babysitters would be gone that weekend.  So we decided that we would change to the relay.

This worked out marvelously.  It allowed our daughters to run the 6 hour race, both completing a half marathon distance.  And it allowed our son to run the 5K, which he has been enjoying lately.  It also meant that both my wife and I could run a lap or two with the girls and make a family event out of it.
A beautiful course.

Really, we didn’t have much of a goal distance going into this race nor much of a strategy.  We just wanted to have fun.  How it worked out, most of the time we would switch out each lap with me starting. Each lap was 3.33 miles long.  I had learned from last year not to go out too fast, so I felt a 12 to 13 minute pace would be fine for myself.  In the back of my mind I was hoping for at least a 50K distance for myself or at least 50 miles as a team, but in reality I didn’t really hold out any hope of reaching either distance.

Crazy time on the first loop - Source: Brazen Volunteer
I began the first lap at 7:00 A.M.  It was a slow first mile as is always the case and ran with my oldest.  Just after mile one, she took off making me feel a little bit old.  I was almost through mile 2 when I was warmed up and rearing to go and caught up with my daughter in the Eucalyptus forest.  We ran the rest of the way in and I handed off the bib to my wife for her lap.  

Myles at the 5K - Source Brazen Volunteer
That pretty much summed up the first 6 laps of the relay.  For my part, I ran a consistent 12 minute mile and change. The challenge I quickly came to realize was that the first mile was typically going to be my worst as I warmed up again and I was finishing about the time I was most warmed up.

By the time it came for me to do the 7th lap (my 4th if you are keeping track) the sun had come out and it was getting warm.  I had taken a brief catnap and a snack of salami and cheese during the time my wife was out running with our youngest daughter so I was pretty refreshed.  My 4th lap was going really well and by the time I got back around my wife suggested I go around one more time.  The combined pace for those two laps (my lap 4 and 5) again was 12:10 per mile.  At this point, I realized that this strategy was working well and there was now a stronger possibility of us reaching either the 50K to 50 mile goal.
Emma and I on the First loop - Source: Brazen Volunteer

It was time for lunch when I got back. Besides the typical trail aid station / recovery food found at a Brazen Racing event, there was also BBQ and Pizza.  I was pretty much excited to have a slice of peperoni and some soda as bizarre as that might sound to a few. 

Well the few then also would say that the pizza was also the cause of my slowest lap (lap 6).  As usual my first mile was slower, around a 14 minute mile.  My pace was strong during mile 2 at an 11 minute pace, wow that pizza was working!  Then I fell flat for the final mile to a 15 minute pace, with the overall lap averaging a 13:34 pace.  

  Me hitting my stride - Source:Allen Lucas
“OK”, I thought, “this is where I start to fall apart like I do at most endurance races.”  After 20 miles I had reached that wall.  I handed the bib over to my wife and settled in for another catnap.  After 15 minutes, I got up, used the bath room, and ate a little bit more.  I took a couple of Tylenol to help with the soreness.  And with about 15 minutes left from when I estimated my wife to be back I walked over to the aid station with the goal of looking for some sort of gel with caffeine.  No luck.  What I did find, though were some GU Chomps with caffeine which did the job.  By the time she got back I was refreshed and raring to go.

My lap 7 was awesome! I felt great and I ran most of it at an 11 minute pace. By the time I got back to my wife I was wanting to go again and her more than obliged.  This was a really strong lap also, and I felt great.  The combined pace for lap seven and eight was 11:48!  In fact, during the second lap I caught up and passed some who were running the 10K on fresh legs.  Boy that made me feel good.

Debating who should go on the last big loop - Source:Allen Lucas
When I got back, there was an hour and half (10 hours 30 minutes had passed) left.  This left us in a quandary.  I had lost track of our mileage at this point but I knew that both the 50K goal and the 50 mile target were in sight.  I was averaging about a 42 to 43 minute lap and my wife just under an hour.  After reassuring her that I was doing great and would not have a heart attack on the course, we made the decision for me to go out.  Then we would meet up in the final hour mini loop (a 0.66 mile loop) and trade off.  This decision paid off in spades with my final big loop (the 9th) getting done in 42 minutes.

Source: Allen Lucas - Thank you!

I was spent by the time I got back to the mini loop.  I handed off the bib and my wife went for two laps followed by 1 of mine.  I was done, however my wife came in on her final lap spent also.  I knew we were so close to the goals but I didn’t know how close.  I decided to run the final 20 minutes which allowed me two really slow laps, or just over 1.2 miles.  That final decision was a great decision, I ran 31.92 miles just over my 50K target and combined we ran 50.75 miles!

As I had mention in last year’s post about this race, I never thought running 12 hours on a looped course would be that much fun.  However, Brazen Racing does a wonderful time organizing and supporting this race.  This is an awesome race and I would highly recommended it to others.  

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