Knock on wood, but....
Never could I have imagined that I would feel this good only 10 days after running one of the two or three toughest 50-mile races in North America.
Last week, in the wake of the Jemez 50-miler in Los Alamos, New Mexico, I focused on recovery, getting some much-needed mental and physical rest. Basically, I listened to my body and did only what it wanted. I never forced any mileage or time goals and just did what my legs wanted to do, be it 3 miles at 9:00 pace on Monday and just 2.5 miles at 9:30 pace on Tuesday. Once I felt pain, I stopped. By Wednesday I was a lot better. The recovery process seems to have worked. Though I ran only 46 miles for the week, I managed to get in 15 good miles on Sunday, 5/29 at Deer Creek Canyon, where I logged 2,500 feet of vertical at 7,000+ feet. Deer Creek isn't hardcore, but it's moderately challenging in sections.
This week I'm aiming for 90 miles and am off to a strong start. Yesterday (Memorial Day), I ventured to Mount Falcon (elevation 7,850 feet), getting in a little over 3,000 feet of vertical over 14.25 miles. Mount Falcon is a great place to run. In the first 4 miles alone I gained 1,700 feet, and then during the last 3 miles I dropped about 1,500 feet (return trip was via a different route). When you get to the summit of Falcon, you're treated to a nice (but not quite awe-inspiring) view of Mount Evans and Mount Bierstadt, which I look forward to conquering this summer. There are a few fairly technical sections of Mount Falcon Open Space, making it a great place to train and a tad more difficult than Deer Creek Canyon. The one negative to Falcon is that there are quite a few mountain bikers on the trails.
Getting back to recovery, for the past few months I've been using Hammer Recoverite after every run and I think the extra glutamine it delivers is really making a difference. Following the advice of a runner I greatly respect and admire, I took Recoverite within 10 minutes of my Jemez finish and then about an hour later. The stuff seems to work, because never have I recovered this fast from a hard effort like Jemez. I don't think I'm 100% recovered yet, but I'm able to run well and felt pretty good on the trails on Sunday and Monday. I've also heard First Endurance Ultragen is good stuff, but I haven't tried it yet.
Jemez was in many ways a major wakeup call for me. It made me realize that if I want to perform well in mountain races, then I need to train in the mountains. Getting to the mountains everyday isn't possible due to job and family considerations, but I think for the next three months I can get to the mountains 2-3 times a week for some serious vertical. With the Leadville 100 now on the radar screen, I want to build some strength on big climbs and get more comfortable on the long downs and technical terrain commonly found here in Colorado.
Speaking from firsthand experience from my 2010 sub-25-hour finish, the Leadville 100 is actually quite a runnable course with only a few technical sections, but it will definitely benefit me to hone my trail skills. The Hope Pass double-crossing is a critical section of the race for anyone who wants to break 20 hours--a tall task indeed as this 20-mile section brings about 6,000 feet of climb and 6,000 feet of descent, topping out at 12,600 feet. I continue to crunch the numbers on running a 19:59 at Leadville this year and here's what I've come up with as far as tentative goals:
Miles 1-40: 6:15 (last year=6:54)
Miles 41-60/Hope Pass double crossing: 5:45 (last year=6:34)
Miles 61-100: 8:00 (last year=11:21)
Last year, I ran miles 1-40 very conservatively and a bit scared as my foot, which had been stricken with plantar fasciitis, was hurting. By mile 40, it had loosened up, but up to that point I was fearing a DNF. This year, with a healthy foot (knock on wood again), I really think I can get to Twin Lakes (mile 40) in 6:15.
Hope Pass Double Crossing
The Hope Pass section last year was a major weakness for me due to inexperience and faulty strategy, namely carrying trekking poles and a heavy Camelbak. This year, my goal is a somewhat ambitious 5:45 and I'll be the first to admit that it ain't gonna be easy. To be ready, I plan to do 2-3 Hope Pass training runs/hikes this summer, in addition to other high country outings. The key to Hope Pass, as far as I'm concerned, is being able to hike at a strong clip on the long climbs and let gravity work for you on the downs (while not going too hard or else you run the risk of trashing your quads).
Miles 61-100 last year were interesting to say the last. I missed a turn after Fish Hatchery, adding 2 mentally crushing miles to my race, and I also lost about 45 minutes at Mayqueen due a nasty case of altitude sickness. Those two situations alone added on ~70 minutes to my race. This year, if I avoid costly mistakes, keep the calories coming in, avoid altitude sickness and keep my aid station stops brief, I think I can get the last 40 miles done in 8 hours, but it won't be easy with the difficult Powerline/Sugarloaf Pass climb and other challenges along the way.
Traditionally, a time under 20 hours at Leadville will get you a top-10 finish.