Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How to Climb a Mountain

Maybe that should read 'why climb a mountain'.

When I did the Pikes Peak Marathon in 2013, I knew it would be ~6-7 minutes per mile slower than my road marathon pace.  This can be frustrating for a 'runner' where moving slower can seem like failure, in a way.  But if you fix effort level which can be measured by heart rate, an inclined run can turn into a walk and yield the same 160 bpm that a 7 minute/mile pace flat run can yield.

The PPM is an out and back, you get to see every runner.   It's amazing to see the range of human performance in that sample.  Some front-runners are **trucking** long strides, large broad jumps over obstacles - to - those that are doing a sort of zombie walk, leaning on rocks to catch their breath.  A  small handful of runners were heading back down the mountain having missed the cut offs at certain aid stations.

In 2013 my PPM training was convenient since I lived in Manitou Springs.  I could leave my house (on foot) and in 3 miles, I was on the Barr Trail.  For my weekly long runs, I practiced ascending to 8,000, then 9,000, etc etc until I reached the top.  I ascended the full summit 4 or 5 times before the PPM '13, taking the train back down.  I ascended by train and descended by foot a couple times.  Somehow the race went very poorly for me.  5 months of living in Colorado, the training runs, I expected to be 5:30, but it took me 6:48!  Poor estimates like this leave my wife waiting nervously at the finish line.

This year, I'd moved to Boulder training in 5,500-8,200 feet of elevation without taking a road trip.  Family/work life does lend itself to making trips to 14ers for true altitude training.  My training runs got ~20miles by late May (for the August race).  But in early June, on a business trip to Boston I tripped on a trail run and broke my toe - bad.  Cleanly, but non-displaced, fracture of intermediate metatarsal of my second toe.  This being my longest toe, any toe-off stage of gait re-stressed the fracture.  I had to be careful.  I took off the rest of June and most of July.  In my big come back I tried a 13mile sea level flat training run and I was hurting the next day(s).  Even shin splints, which I hadn't felt since my first attempts of running in 2009-10.  I was clicking off some nice 9 mile hilly runs by August.  No long runs, no altitude, but some signs of strength.

PPM 2014 arriving.  I discussed my plans for the race with my mom.  Getting someone who knows me so
Just don't trip, just don't trip
well, but doesn't understand the sport is ALWAYS helpful.  She said 'just don't trip'.  Such a simple statement and it rang in my head tap-tap-tap-just-don't trip-just-don't-trip-tap-tap-tap.  Thanks mom!  It worked, I didn't trip.  There is carnage after this race, much open wounds from many who fell!  I was not one of them.

My ascent felt great, I was walk/running watching my Heart Rate Monitor(HRM) occasionally.  NOT concerned with distance.  I tried to stay under 160, preferably 156 bpm.  I knew I could hold that for hours and hours.  In 2013 it took me just over 4hours to get up there (worse than most training runs).  PPM 2014 seemed all about restraint, I held that heart rate!  I passed person after person and ascended in 3:40.  Given my training I couldn't expect a better time, but it happened!

Is my camel-toe showing?
The turn around felt amazing, I was bounding and zig-zagging.  I thought I was making good time.  After a few miles down, I could feel the lack of volume in my training.  My muscles were tightening up even before mile 20.  Even on the less technical sections I felt like I was lucky to dip into ~10 minute/mile pace :(.  I felt the sting of people passing me.  'Just don't trip Just don't trip' kept working.  I saw people fall, people cramp up and limp off the course.  People that missed the time cut offs.  I felt ok with where I was.  I consumed ~4 scoops of Ucan Superstarch, 4 honey stinger gels, and a few handfuls of grapes (at aid stations).  For my effort level, it felt like I was perfectly sated.  Taking in 600 calories, and burning 4600 calories proves I'm pretty well fat-adapted.  A fat-burning machine?  ;).
Crossing finish line just a few minute past my goal.

Soaking my legs that would cramp  if I moved them too fast!

The final 1-1.5 miles on road surface I felt like a robot, and the finish I felt like smiling.  Temperatures reached 104 degrees in the sun on the descent.  I KNEW I'd lounge in the creek at the end.  I could feel it towards the end.

My Nathan Quickshot water bottle, Ultimate Direction AK Race vest, and Born2Run Trail Shoes worked flawlessly.

The details of my 'performance':