Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fall Runnin'

Fall is easily my favorite time of year to run. The leaves are changing color, the mornings and evenings are cool, midday is still warm, there's a bit of snow in the mountains, the trails are less crowded, Sascha can go further and faster because of the lower's just very pleasant. After being out of town the previous 9 weekends (!!), I was really looking forward to hanging out in central Oregon and enjoying some nice fall running here in this beautiful area.

First, congratulations to Nessski for kicking butt at only his 2nd 50k (he ran well at his first one, too). At the Autumn Leaves 50k, he smoked a 3:40:14! The little bastard beat my time from there 2 years ago by 4 seconds. Attaboy, Ryan!

Last Sunday, I organized the 3 Butte Butt Buster Fun Run at Fleet Feet. I had wanted to make a big loop and run the 3 main buttes in Bend for quite a while. So I figured it was time to stop thinking about it and just do it. I sent out the invite to the FF e-group and was stoked with the 23 runner turnout. The 65 degree weather definitely helped out. We ran up Overturf, then across town to Pilot, then back across town for the big finale - Awbrey. In all, we ran 13.8 miles, gained 1,609' and descended that much, too. Definitely one of the tougher road 1/2 marathons out there! Here's the cool route:

Since Sascha didn't join in 3 butte fun, and the day was so beautiful, I thought she would enjoy at least one butte. So when I got home from the 3 Butte Run, I immediately put Sascha in the car and we drove to Black Butte to tackle that bad boy. I wanted a 20+ mile day, so we parked 1 1/2 miles and 500+' vertical below the trailhead and ran the road up to the trail. Since it was such a beautiful day, I really shouldn't have been at all surprised by how many people were on the butte enjoying it one last time before the snow...but, I was. It had been a few years since I was on Black Butte on a busy weekend. But hey, I was there enjoying it, so I couldn't really blame others for doing the same. Just cruising and enjoying the day, with Sascha setting the pace, we ran the 2 mile, 1,600' climb on the trail right at 24 minutes. Anything under 25 is good, so I was happy. Since it was probably the last time we would be on top for a while, we hung out and enjoyed the view (Mt. Adams was even super clear) for 10 minutes. Sascha was a bit lazy descending, so we didn't set any speed records, but we did have a great mid-November afternoon playing together on Black Butte in 65 degree weather. It was a great way to end my 21 mile, 3,700' day.

I had Monday off and really wanted to get in the mountains one last time before the snow hits for good. I decided to go with one of my favorites - Black Crater. Even though we had just run Black Butte the previous day, I knew Sascha wouldn't want to miss this one. And Fatboy and I hadn't run together in a while, so I invited him to join the fun, too. We parked at the gate (which had closed 1 1/2 weeks earlier for the season due to snow, but had since melted off) and ran the 3 1/2 paved miles up to the BC trailhead at a mellow pace with FB leading the conversation. A little stretching at the trailhead (but no wilderness permit to fill-out) and Fatboy and Sascha set off up the trail. I started a few minutes later and as I went by, FB told me he may be a while. I said to not worry because I wasn't going for any record. Sascha joined me and immediately set a very comfortable pace up front. The Black Crater trail is 4 miles long and gains about 2,500 vertical; anything under 50 min. to the top is good. I casually noticed that I hit my first time check about 2 min. faster than 50 min. pace. The next check was another min., 2 more min. for the 3rd, and another minute for the last pitch to the top. Hm, 44 minutes...guess I lied to Fatboy about no record today. Not only was I not trying to get a p.r. (my heartrate was only 120 when I reached the top, 7,257'), but there was enough blowdown to keep me in check from ever opening up. Crap, I'm getting in shape. FB joined us not long after and showed me the cool cross country route he took a few months back getting back down. Maybe next summer... A nice cruiser down the trail and road and we were back at the car. Running with my two best running partners on my favorite trail in central Oregon in my favorite season - not too shabby of a day.

I wanted to get in a track day this week. I planned on Tuesday, but after lots of miles and vert. on Sunday and Monday, after my two mile warm-up to the track, I decided to just keep on running past it. Good call as I felt much looser when I finished my easy run, then I ended up having a good track session on Wednesday. 800-1600-800, jog a lap, 800-1600-800. Other than the 400 jog between sets, I rested no more than 2 minutes between each interval. I averaged 2:41 for my 8s and 5:35 for my 16s. Good, solid workout. I was happy.

I wasn't going to run on Thursday, but when I got home after work, Sascha had other plans. To keep her happy, we went out for an easy 5. As usual, I was glad I did it when we were done. Friday morning was 4 PBRs (Pilot Butte repeats) - one paved mile up and .8 trail miles down, 500' vertical each way. As I've said before, this is my favorite workout in Bend. I can get so much bang for my buck. In about 54 minutes, I can get 7.2 good miles with 2,000' of climbing and descending. I love it! Although the CIM course profile looks nothing like this, I'm convinced the hills make me stronger, which then ultimately makes me faster for longer periods. And I don't get the same repetitive jarring as on the track or a fast road tempo.

Saturday morning was the annual COCC Turkey Trot. This is a super fun, low-key run at the local community college. It's challenging 3 mile route with a fast, downhill 1st mile, gradual uphill 2nd, then big uphill and short downhill last mile. I've run from 17:38 - 18:24. I'm fit this year so I wanted to go sub-17. I was lame and the day before, I told local studs Jeff Caba and Andy Martin about the Trot. They showed up and pushed the 1st mile fast. I went through in 5:10 and was a bit concerned. Mile 2 in 11:04 confirmed I went out to hard. I suffered a bit going up the steep part of the 3rd mile, then recorved a bit on the down, before suffering again on the final short uphill pitch. 17:01...doh! I decided I was happy with the effort, then enjoyed the awesome homemade goodies that are always at this race. I don't know who does all of the baking, but I sure do appreciate it. COCC puts on 5-6 fun, low-key races throughout the year and they're all super cheap ($5-$8), have great prizes and terrific post-race goodies, and almost always draw a few ringers uber-competitive Bend.

One last long run tomorrow 13 days out from CIM. Well, long is relative, as it's only going to be 17. As per coach Thomas, 12 at a moderate pace, then pick it up the last 5, finishing around marathon race pace. A track workout this week and a short one early next week, then I'll be fit to fly. Well, unless I get too fat on Thanksgiving. But that's why it's good I'm running CIM and not Seattle.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Lithia Loop Trail Marathon

Last weekend, Sascha, Gina, and I headed down to Ashland for a little Lithia Loop Trail Marathon fun. Well, I had the marathon fun, while Gina and Sascha had fun getting the 3rd degree from a cop because Sascha was on the grass in a city park. I guess liberal Ashland isn't so liberal when it comes to dogs.

Reading the race info, looking at the course profile, and getting the details from Erik at packet pick-up, I knew it was going to be a fun, tough, and sometimes even fast, course. It was mostly nice forest service dirt roads with about 4 miles of singletrack thrown in for fun. And the best started with a 7 mile, 3,000' climb! It sounded like the perfect Sean-course. (Refueling at Windburn and sporting my stylish Sisters Poker Run sleeves!)

Although I was really using Lithia as a good trainer for CIM next month, I still wanted to go hard. However, to make sure I didn't fully race, I went into the race on tired legs with a 100 mile week.

I did a nice 3 mile warm-up to make sure I was ready to start climbing immediately. When Hal said "go", I found myself running amongst some fast folks - Josh, Jeff, JC, Susannah, and a few others. I lagged behind a bit for the first couple miles to get fully warmed up, then I got into my climbing gear and enjoyed the uphill. I briefly chatted with everyone when I went by and then only Jeff was ahead of me (Jeff was also using Lithia as a CIM trainer). He wasn't really going that much faster than the rest of us, but he was just slowly pulling away.

Shortly after passing Josh, he caught back up to me and we pretty much ran together for the next 5-6 miles. I like Josh and it was great to catch-up with running and other life things with him. Along with Susannah, Josh was using Lithia a tune-up for The North Face 50 mile Championship in the Headlands next month. $10,000 is on the line for the top boy and girl. Josh and Susannah are both definitely putting themselves in a good position to compete for some cash.

(Close to the finish sporting a little grimace and my stylish new Sisters Outlaws XC Singlet)

At mile 7, the top of the big climb, were Erik and Kyle waiting to fill my bottle, give me a Gu, and send me off with an attaboy. It was cool seeing the two young studs out helping (they had run a slightly shorter version of the course a week earlier in 2:40!) The next 13 miles were on top of a ridge where I was able to just get in a groove and cruise. After a couple slight uphill miles, the next 11 were slight downhill and I was easily hitting 6:00-6:15 for all of those splits (there may have even been a couple sub-6s). It was fun to be running comfortably hard so that I wasn't killing myself. Other aid station volunteers I remember seeing on this stretch were Eric, Chris, Ian, Tim, John, and Rob...thank you to all of you and all of the volunteers for helping and cheering. I really appreciate it!

Around 1/2 way, I asked Eric at the West Fork A.S. how far up Jeff was. About 2 1/2 minutes. That grew bit, then shrunk back to 2 1/2 by mile 20. I thought I might have a shot, especially with my 5:20 - 21st mile. Shortly after, the nice bomber dirt road downhill turned into a trail that went up for a little bit. I remember Erik had told me the night before that it was only bad for a few minutes. Although it seemed like a long time, he was probably right and soon I was going down again. But we stayed on singletrack that was getting pretty windy, and I sure was getting tired now. Dang, I knew I was not only losing time to Jeff, but that uber-downhiller Josh was gaining on me. I tried to just lean forward and let gravity take me down.

Eventually I recognized the reservoir where we started and I knew there was only about 1 1/2 miles of nice paved downhill to the finish. So I pushed a bit harder and soon saw Gina cheering and taking pictures. Another slight bend in the road and there was the finish line. 2:53:09, 2nd place. I was pretty darn happy with my performance. Jeff ended up whooping me by 5 1/2 minutes, flying into the finish in 2:47:31. A little over a minute after me, Josh finished in 3rd place, 2:54:33. Susannah had the best finish I saw, running hard across the line in 3:00:29, 1st girl and 4th overall.

If you're looking for an excuse to road trip to Ashland next November, I highly recommend using the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon as that excuse. You'll come home with sore quads, a great t-shirt, great memories of a great event, and a full belly from an excellent post-race spread. Thanks Rogue Valley Runners!

Full results here.

RVR report here.

*Breaking news: RVR bid to make the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon the USATF Trail Marathon National Championship for next year. Sweet!