Monday, September 12, 2011

A Fine Day - Battle at the Assault

The Assault on Pine Mountain is a new 9 (8’ish actually) mile trail race north of Atlanta close to Red Top Mountain State Park.  The race has two significant climbs and descents starting at miles 3 and 5.  Shorter trail races are tough for me since speedsters, typically young ones, can show up and blaze the trail. I was hoping that the two rather big switchback-laden climbs in this one and the technical single track throughout could work to my advantage.    
The race started well, as I quickly worked to stay with the leaders.   The guy wearing the Vibram five-fingers fell off about half way through the first climb.  So then I was left with two of the aforementioned speedsters who appeared to be friends from Jacksonville (based on their singlets).   They were strong on the climbs and even faster on the descents.  At the top of the first climb one of them was well in front and out of site.  At the bottom of the first descent, they were both out of site.  I kept plugging along and managed to catch them about halfway up the second climb.  The first guy ended up taking a wrong turn on the loop that we were on and eventually met us head on and turned around with us.  All three of us were together again. 
After a hard consistent pull up the second climb, I came out of the water station at the top in first place and started into the descent.  Three miles to go.   I had not managed to shake them on the climb and I knew they were faster descenders than I.    So I did the only thing I could think of…run as fast as I could.  I quickly figured out that one of the guys was upset about getting lost and fell back.  So I ran with the other speedy guy hot on my heels, eating up the rooty, rocky single track as we went.  I offered to let him go by but he declined. 
After a short but steep uphill section, we finally came to the downhill gravel road that would lead us the remaining 600 yards to the finish.  At that point, the speedy guy came around and started sprinting downhill.  I tried with everything I had to keep up, but I just couldn’t turn my legs over fast enough.  I was still within about 20 feet at about 300 yards to go but all of the sudden I tripped since I was to travelling at a speed that I had no business at.  I laid out superman-style in the air and came to a skid like an airplane missing it’s landing gear.  I immediately jumped up and asked the camerawoman well positioned about 15 feet in front of me if she got a shot of that as I ran by her.  Unfortunately she missed the best shot she would have had all day.  I sprinted in happy with a second place finish.  It was a certainly a fun battle.   I was particularly impressed that the winner had never run a trail race before and was from pancake flat Florida. 
The rest of the day was pretty much perfect.  I capped it off with a great day of college football on TV with the family (Tennessee won! Auburn won! Georgia Tech won!) and rocking out with the Black Lips at a truck stop dive bar till 2AM.  Plenty of celebratory beers were downed throughout the day.  Seriously, could it get any better?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Big'uns! Mountains that is...

Training has been going great.  It's nice to be building up a strong base with relatively low pressure to prepare for a race.   Since most of my races are at the end of the year, I've tried to slowly and consistently build up my mileage as well as throw in some cross training on the road bike.

Along the way I have once again confirmed a few tenants about running.  Although these are probably widely known they always seem to naturally reveal themselves during training.
1) Recovery is hugely important.  Not just in macro-cycles (a few weeks off once or twice a year), but also micro-cycles (a day or two off weekly and a down week every three weeks.  After running at a fairly high volume for the past ten years, I can definitely tell when my body is getting worn down.  Although many running books prescribe recovery periods, I think the more you run the more you can play it by feel.
2) Heat sucks!  Seriously, it sucks both ability and motivation right out of me.  This is a prime reason I've started to race later in the winter and early in spring. 
3) Tendonitis is a fact of life for runners.  Almost every little ache and pain is some sort of tendonitis that is best managed with ice and ibuprofen. 

Anyway, I've recently completed big week with 56 miles and over 7,500' of elevation gain.  It's been a great week of running trails in North Georgia and Tacoma WA.  Yesterday's run accounted for almost half of that at 21.5 miles and 3,600',  most of which was up and over Rocky Top on the beautiful Benton McKaye Trail.  Add in the Sunday just prior and the eight day total is 74 miles and 11,000'.  Needless to say it's time for a little rest and ice (see above).  Which makes me extremely happy to be waking up to eggs, bacon, coffee, and no run on the schedule this morning.
COLD Ice Bath After Sunday's Run

I'll probably run very little this week to recover and get ready for Saturday's race, the Assualt on Pine Mountain.  A week ago Sunday I ran a double on the course.  It is a short 8 mile trail race with plenty of single track and a couple of steep mountains thrown in.  The footing is not too technical.  The course suits me well but it is a little short so I'll have to try to go out fast.  Normally I conserve and hold back but I might have to stay with the leaders from the start on this one in order to have a chance for the win.  We'll see!

A Couple of Fun Climbs in the Assualt on Pine Mountain Race this Saturday!