Tuesday, September 24, 2013

2014 Schedule

I've been enjoying running since Leadville. Not that I don't always enjoy running, because I do. Lately, though, I've been running a lot with our dog, Nick, a golden retriever "puppy" (he's about a year and a half old and loves to chase rabbits), and enjoying being outdoors and watching him get in really good shape. In a few weeks, if the weather and conditions permit, Nick will go on his first outing to the Colorado high country.

Running a lot with Nick, I haven't been paying too much attention to pace. That said, there have been times over the past few weeks that I've really gone hard--as in race effort hard--in a few runs. A few of my Strava "course records" in Parker were recently beaten and I've been pretty diligent about getting all those CRs back, which has meant some hard efforts. As a pretty competitive person, I enjoy the challenge of getting the CRs back. I love to run fast, really push it and spend some QT in the pain cave.

It's hard to say what I'll do with the rest of the year. At this point, I'm still leaning toward the Rock 'n Roll Denver 1/2 Marathon in October. I ran a 1:25 at the Highlands Ranch 1/2 Marathon two weeks after Leadville, so I think a 1:23 or better at the RNR Denver 1/2 is possible. That may be it for the year. I really want to do shorter, faster stuff, along with weight training, for the rest of 2013. I'll probably start Maffetone Method training in early January and stay with MAF and weights through March. I see no need to start MAF anytime before January 1. Somewhere in there, maybe before Christmas, I'm going to take a full week off from running.

I've been thinking about what 2014 may hold. It all hinges on whether or not I get into the Western States 100. If so, Western States will be my A race. If no Western, then the schedule will probably include:
  • Colorado Marathon: Early May. This would be my spring A race and I'd go for a sub-3 hour there. I really want another sub-3, even if it's a 2:59. I would need to average 6:50/mile, which seems doable with the proper training.
  • Mt. Evans Ascent: Mid June. I had to miss Evans this year due to family scheduling stuff. I really missed it.
  • Leadville Marathon: Late June. The LT Marathon is an annual tradition for me. It will be hard to beat the 4:19 I threw down there this year.
  • Leadville 100-Mile Run: Mid-August. The big one. Will go for my fourth sub-25 buckle.
Although my chances of being selected in the Western States lottery are slim, I think training for and participating in "the super bowl of ultrarunning" would be fun. I would enjoy the challenge of a very hot weather race with a ton of downhill, a little (but not a lot of) elevation sprinkled in and some quality climbing. I can see myself now running in place in a sauna. In fact, I've half-jokingly asked my wife if we can add a sauna to our basement remodel plans. If no sauna, then exercising in our garage and driving around with the heat on in June will do.

I've more or less decided that I want to go after the 1,000-mile buckle at Leadville. Leadville took some heat for race-day issues this year, but at the end of the day it's still a premier 100-miler and it's an epic experience in the beautiful Colorado high county. I can't imagine being anywhere else in mid-August. It would be cool if all ten buckles were sub-25. I think it's possible. I already have three and need just seven more!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Making the Sport of Ultrarunning Something It's Not

First off, the combined numbers for the months of June, July and August:
  • 1,027 miles
  • 151,000 feet of vertical
I doubt I'll ever rack up that kind of vertical over a single summer again. But you never know....


Last Monday I ran the first annual Highlands Ranch Half Marathon. I entered the race to help raise money for someone we know who is undergoing treatment for a very serious form of cancer. But of course I didn't joy-run it (that's just not in my nature). I finished 11th overall out of 636 starters, crossing the line in 1:25--good for 6:33 pace. This was my first half marathon in more than five years!

Although 1:25 is three minutes off my half-marathon PR, I was pretty pleased with my result, given that I'd run the Leadville 100 two weeks prior and I didn't do much fast stuff over the summer. I passed easily 25 runners along the way and didn't get overtaken a single time except in the first few hundred feet. I definitely felt the 100 at about the mile 7 mark of the half. But fortunately I did a decent job of holding pace and finished strong. It's a downhill, point-to-point course but it gives you a decent climb at mile 12 to keep things honest. Personally, I think point-to-point courses are the best.

Interestingly, my average heart rate for the half was 148, with a max heart rate of 158 on that last climb before the finish. My MAF zone is 136-146, so I was pretty much right in it for the whole race. It seems to me that half-marathon pace should be 10-20 beats/minute above MAF.

For the past few years--and really since I've been running--I feel like there's been an imbalance between my aerobic fitness and strength, despite the fact that I've always done a good job with tempo runs. (Admittedly, this summer I didn't do as many tempo runs as usual since I was on the trail every single day.) My aerobic fitness appears to be very good, but for some reason my legs just can't seem to keep pace. I need to figure out the reasons for this imbalance and correct it. A big part of me thinks my tempo runs have been too hard. Maybe I need to relax the pace a bit and stretch it out longer.

Anyway, the Highlands Ranch half left me pretty sore. I'll probably do a few more races this year. I'm interested in the El Grito 5K next weekend, the Highlands Ranch Backcountry Half Marathon in early October and the Rock 'n Roll Denver Half Marathon in late October. I really enjoy the half-marathon distance and right now I'm just not feeling motivated to do any ultras.


And speaking of the Denver Rock 'n Roll, someone told me that if you drop out of any Rock 'n Roll race they'll give you a ride to the finish and you can get a finisher's medal despite the fact that you really didn't finish. I didn't believe this, since it goes against EVERYTHING I believe in and stand for, but then I heard another person say the same thing. Is that really true? I guess if this is true, then it's probably also true that they give finisher's medals to those who drop. In all seriousness, if it's really true, it's hard to believe a race would do such a thing--and it makes me kind of hesitant to take part in the Rock 'n Roll "trophies for everyone" circus.


That said, I'm not one of those ultrarunners who thinks the world revolves around the "elites." Recently, a new international ultrarunning series with points and sponsors (and lots of question marks, too!) was announced, and the series involves some pretty big races like the Western States 100 and Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. This appears to be an attempt to bring some structure to the sport. Personally, I'm not a big fan of efforts to organize a sport that for decades has more or less functioned in the shadows. I'd rather ultrarunning remain low key and small enough so that everyone knows everyone and there's love out there on courses. Sadly, I think that's a pipe dream. I think there are folks who are pushing as hard as they can to make ultrarunning something I believe it was never intended to be. It's almost as if we're embarrassed that our sport is so grassroots and down-home. Be that as it may, I think efforts to organize the sport and bring more corporate participation to it will "work" for a few years, but I don't see them being sustainable as there's just not enough money to be made for sponsors and the sport just isn't that spectator-friendly. I believe that in almost every case where corporate interests and money can be found, there is corruption and greed. We'll see. It wouldn't surprise me if ultrarunning eventually implodes and then comes back as it once was.

If at some point I find myself dissatisfied with the direction of things, then I'll turn to other endurance endeavors, like multi-day, self-supported jaunts on the John Muir Trail.


At this point, I'm still undecided about returning to the Leadville 100 in 2014. It all depends on whether or not Lifetime Fitness addresses the problems we saw this year. I am definitely entering the Western States lottery and, if by some miracle I get in, then that would be my focus race in 2014. If I don't get into Western, then I may consider a few other races that would include Leadville. I had thought seriously about Wasatch, but it's pretty late in the summer and this whole debacle left a bad taste in my mouth. We'll see what happens.