Friday, May 28, 2010

Slow Days Of Summer

Summer has come here in Juneau. It's been up near 70 degrees everyday this week and just in the past 10 days the snowpack in the mountains here has gone from too much snow for easy running to almost no snow in many places. Just in time for a training binge. Hoping to get in about 70 miles in the next 3 days.

Overall I've been feeling really good in my preparations for Western States. I was proud of myself earlier this week when I decided to do a 4 day active recovery phase in my training and I actually stuck to that plan. I think I only ran 33 miles in that 4 days. And so now I feel fresh and ready to hit it hard for about 8 or 10 days before beginning a gradual taper down to race day.

I have no idea what will unfold on June 26th, but to this point I couldn't be more pleased with the way my training and racing has gone this entire year. I think I had so much fun and so much success in my running last year that I almost expected there would be a let down this year. Not the case though. I feel as strong in body and mind as ever and I've been enjoying my training and racing maybe even a bit more this year.

One last note: for anyone here in Juneau I will be giving a little talk/presentation tonight at Foggy Mountain Shop at 7 pm. Montrail and Mountain Hardwear have provided all kinds of great raffle items (shoes, shirts, hats, etc) so most everyone should go home with something. Hope to see lots of familiar faces there.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Six Weeks

I've been feeling pretty solid since returning to Alaska on Monday. This is the quickest I've ever recovered from any Ultra. I didn't run until Tuesday but I was never once sore, just a bit tired on Sunday and Monday - by Wednesday I felt as good as I've felt on a run in a long time.

In the end Bear Mountain turned out to be a perfect long "training run" for Western States. I feel really good about where I'm at with 6 weeks to go before what will be my first 100 in 9 months. I find myself thinking a lot more about this race then I have leading up to any race in awhile. On most of my runs this week it was hard not to end up with my mind wandering to thoughts about crew/pacer logistics, heat/elevation acclimatization, and especially about the exciting race at the front of the pack that I hope to be a part of. Something's going to have to give in this one. Hal has won this race two years in a row; Tony has never lost any ultra that he's finished; I've set a course record on every single 100 mile course I've run; and most people in Europe believe that Killian is unbeatable in this one. And then beyond this there are half a dozen or so other guys who could also find a way to scratch and claw their way to the finish in Auburn before everyone else.

It should be really fun to be a part of this. I like my chances of having a satisfying race. I'm stronger, smarter, and more confident as a competitor than I've ever been. I feel very optimistic that this will be one of the most fun races I'll ever be a part of. And perhaps the best part is that as excited as I am for June 26th, I'm just as excited for the training runs that I'll be doing between now and then.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bear Mountain Race Report

Going into the Bear Mountain 50 miler this past weekend my biggest concern was how little sleep I was likely to have in the 48 hours leading up to the race. Like so many races this one starts at a ridiculously early hour and it's located in a time zone 4 hours ahead of where I was coming from. This meant that to get a decent amount of sleep the night before the race I would need to be asleep by about 4pm Alaska time. Needless to say I didn't get up Saturday morning feeling very rested. I had slept only ~8 hours in the last two nights combined and I had spent all day Thursday crammed into airplanes (8 hours of flying time from Juneau to Newark) and eating crappy food at airports (4 hour layover in Seattle).

Once the race started though I felt really relaxed. No one pushed the pace hard from the start and I was able to just run really smooth and with no pressure. For the first 15-20 miles the pace felt more to me like the start of a 100 miler than the start of a 50. With this kind of pace we had a decent sized lead pack. There were 7 or 8 of us through mile 15 and then around mile 20 I noticed the pack was down to just 4 of us. Shortly after that Leigh Schmitt and I pulled out of view of the others and ran together for an hour or more. Still the pace felt really relaxed and I felt no pressure or desire to push any harder. Eventually though I pulled away from Leigh and for the rest of the day I cruised along by myself.

I never really felt very tired all day but I also never really felt like I had a much faster gear. I just kind of plugged along at my steady pace and eventually I was done. I'm sure I could run this course a fair amount faster than my 7:06 finishing time, but this past weekend I don't think my body wanted to push any harder than I did. In many ways this race felt more like a training run than a race. I never really felt like any other runners put any pressure on me to run a faster pace than I wanted to so I was able to determine my own desired pace the entire time. My legs weren't even sore when I finished. I was even able to drive over to the aid station at mile 40 and run a mile or so with my friend Dan who was running his first ever race longer than a 10k!

Bear Mountain is a super rocky course but there isn't a whole lot of climbing. I don't think there's a place anywhere in the race when you are climbing continual for more than 2 or 3 minutes. That said though, I would recommend this course to anyone looking for a challenging 50 miler. It's almost all trail and there are some great views up on ridges and really beautiful forests. Of course you can't really take your eyes off the rocks on the trail to enjoy any of the views, but it's still nice feeling yourself surrounded by this kind of beauty.

I feel really good about how strong my body felt and what this means moving forward with less than 7 weeks until Western States. In all this was a really great weekend trip. Got to see most of my family (I had a contingency of 15 family and friends at the race); got to see my friend Dan finish his first ultra ever; and was able to pay for my entire trip with the $1000 prize money for winning the race.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Another Month Another Race

I'll be heading East this weekend to race another 50 miler: The North Face Endurance Challenge, Northeast region race. This one will be a little more "low key" than my previous race (American River) and a lot more low key than my next race (Western States), but it's hard to call it "low key" as it has a $1000 first place purse and a pretty solid field including my 3rd straight race against Max King.

Racing in New York will be a lot nicer for my family, which all live there, than for me. I'm doing the whole race as a 4 day trip and will probably be more exhausted from all the travel than from the race itself. I'm excited to race again though. It's felt like a long time since American River and I know that I've gotten myself into even a bit better shape then I was a month ago. As my last "tune up" before Western States it'd be great to feel really strong this weekend, but I know that feeling that way is such a fickle thing, not something that can be counted on just because I'm in good shape.

Another thing that's really exciting for me about this one is that one of my best friend's here in Juneau is heading out East to do this one as well. This will be his first 50 miler and his first run ever over ~30 miles. I think I'm more anxious for him than I am for me. I can't wait to see what his experience is like. Hopefully he doesn't decide he never wants to run again because he's become my most consistent training companion.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Starting To Think A Bit About June 26th

Somehow a rumor got started last month that I was going to be running Miwok. This was never something I was planning and I'm not sure how that rumor got started, but I did feel a bit bummed today to not be running. I've still got some unfinished business with that race and it would have been fun to run against Tony K. for the first time ever. Hopefully we both stay healthy and get a chance to race each other in June at Western States. Having Tony in Western States is going to make an already stellar field even that much stronger. This might sound like a really bold statement but I think only weather (snowpack, heat, mud, etc) can keep the course record from being seriously challenged this year. There are at least 4 runners who will be toeing the line on June 26th who could potentially run sub 16 hours. Scott Jurek's record of 15:36 will most likely stand but if 2 or 3 guys are having a good day that day I believe we could push each other below that time - Much like Karl and I at Wasatch last year. I think one would be crazy to argue against Hal as the Western States favorite (especially after he ran 8:20 at Miwok today), but he's going to have one of the best days of running he's ever had to win it.