Saturday, March 31, 2007

Black Saturday and Red Hot Sunday!

Big back to back runs deserve a level of respect so we decided to give them a name. In addition to having a name they also have a dress code. All black for Saturday and all red for Sunday. Saturday's are so tough they get a name, dress code and a logo. The skull and crossbones are appropriate because on "black Saturday" we do hill repeats. These are not wimpy hill repeats they are bad boys ranging anywhere from 30 minutes to 60 minutes of continues uphill running at threshold (95% of max.) in the Columbia River Gorge and.......there is always at least two!

There is no resting on the downhills either, you go as hard as you can without killing yourself. BS repeats make you very strong, in fact you have to be strong minded to even show up. It is just motivating to see all your friends dressed in black, running as hard as they can, huffing and puffing and loving every minute of it. These repeats are "go at your own pace" but we all go at threshold and that just yields different paces for each of us. At the top of the hill we are all within 5 minutes of each other so it's fun! After we are done with the hill repeats we do a cool down run for 2 hours or more depending on where we re in the training cycle. The cool down in no slouch run either but not even close to work load required to do the repeats.
Three years ago all of this fun began during my preparation for Western States. Fortunately for me my friends were open to giving this a try and they actually found it fun and challenging. We started dressing in all black because it made us feel tough and since the repeats were always done on Saturday Micheal came up with the name "Black Saturday" and it was so appropriate we have called it that every since. Not everyone who comes to BS does the specified workout but instead they come an enjoy the show...people dressed in black, breathing very hard, laughing and not taking themselves to seriously. Beast came today and took a ton of these pictures. Some others were doing other kinds of workouts specific to their upcoming events and couldn't join us for BS but they wore black anyway. :)

Today's workout was 4+ hours total with 2X30-40Min repeats followed by the cool down. We did the workout starting at the Herman Creek area and used the Gorton Creek trail to do the repeats. The Gorton Creek trail climbs approx. 2200 feet in 2.6 miles. Additional pictures from today can be seen at
Once BS is over we fuel up and ice bath to prepare for "Red Hot Sunday"! As you can see Micheal and I were the only ones that really took "Red Hot Sunday" seriously. Are those the worst outfits you have ever seen? Since we're in the Gorge where everything is green, grey and black these outfits really stood out, I wonder if the rest of the group was embarrassed because I know we were :). Why would we dress up like this? These outfits make us look like we are on fire....or at least that's what we are telling ourselves.....we were on fire. Back to backs to this degree bring out the grit in every runner. After 20 miles and 5500 feet of climbing and threshold hill repeats on Saturday, 5.5 hours and 7100 feet of climbing the next day requires an outfit that screams "fire"! Micheal and I decided that if any of the hikers asked, "what's with the outfits"? We would tell them we were a rescue team and if they needed any help we would send someone, ha, ha, ha. We got a lot of looks.

The run itself was hard and challenging on tired legs but we did a great job. Staying focused and pushing when all our muscles said enough was rewarding. That is exactly what these kinds of runs are for, making you run on tired legs, getting that neuromuscular system firing when all common sense says you can't. These kinds of runs are what make you strong and invinsible after mile 50 of a 100M race. We practice fueling, run/walk transitions and pushing hard on the climbs just to see if we have enough umffffffff to push anywhere near threshold. It's early in this phase of training and these are our first back to backs so even though we were breaking time splits today I imagine we will see even more upticks as we progress towards WS100M.

The rest of the group was doing 4.5 hours so they cut off before Micheal and I did leaving us with only ourselves and these really bad clothes. Oh well, it just motivated us to move faster so we could get done! Tom met us at the top of Angels Rest when we were at about mile 22 and ran in with us. We sat in parking lot an began the refueling process and started dreaming of our ice bath back home.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Track Workouts - Why?????

What are these? These are my track shoes, not really "track" shoes but "marathon racing flats". During my 20+ years of running and finishing over 25 marathons I have never worn a pair of these kinds of shoes! Last year Scott Jurek - my coach talked about these kinds of shoes and I thought why not, I can use them for my track workouts and my tempo runs that are done on the road. I bought a pair for just that reason and loved them. I wear an orthotic so I have a lot of freedom when it comes to choosing a shoe. I don't run on the road that much so the pair I bought last year lasted through my running season so I had to get new pair for this year and here they are, red hot and fast! One nice added feature of a racing flat is they are stylish, they come in bright colors and the just look fast. When I put these on my feet I feel faster :). When I put these on my feet any excuse I might have had to not do my full track workout leaves my brain forever!.

Why would an ultra runner need to do a track workout and do I really see any improvements from doing them? I have been asked that question a lot and the answer is yes! During my 20+ years of running I never went to the track and when I hired Scott to coach me 3 years ago he said one of the workouts would be done on the track if I had no objections. I had a lot of objections but kept them to myself because I relinquished all control of my running to him. I decided I would do all the workouts he prescribed whether I liked them or not. This was a big move for a control freak like myself but it paid big dividends. I was so uninformed about the track that he would have to remind me that the distance of one loop is 400M, he is patient! He would have to give me very specific instructions on exactly what a 400M, 800M, 1000M and 1200M may times around....where should I start.....are there lines on the track that indicate a starting and stopping do I monitor my speed. The conversations went like this for awhile before I finally got it. I've noticed a definite change in my leg turnover since I have added track workouts and I notice one additional gear in my cardio, a gear that can be called on during racing. Track workouts make me a more efficient runner. I use less energy when I run than I used to, better form and stride rate. My track times have come down significantly and I recover much quicker. I would say that is progress.

Now track workouts are just part of my routine on a weekly basis and I went for a feeling of nervous apprehensive to excitement as I drive to the track. Even the night before I think about my upcoming track workout and get pumped up! I am not sure it's because of the workout itself or that I get to wear the lightweight red hot shoes :).

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Gorge - Good to be back!

This is the end of a recovery week but I did get to go out to the Columbia River Gorge for the first time this year! It was a dreary day weather wise but the group was not anywhere near dreary. Micheal, Jim and I did a loop starting at the Angels Rest area, it was a short 2.5 hour loop but what a blast it was to be back out there. It's funny because by the end of the year I am ready to stay closer to town and run the urban trails. Not like our urban trails aren't nice and should be ignored during the summer but the Gorge and other wilderness areas offer such challenging terrain it's hard to not take every opportunity to be training in them! During the late fall and early winter it's sort of like you miss the urban trails and then when spring comes your chomping at the bit to be back in the rugged Gorge.

So, today marked our first run out in the Gorge, yeah!!!!! When we arrived at the trail head we were laughing about how nasty the weather was. My car thermometer said 51 degrees so it was plenty warm but the rain was coming down hard enough for me to find the "high" speed on my windshield wipers. In the parking lot there was a group of hikers with full packs and full rain gear meeting before they started their climb. We got some interesting looks when we piled out of the car wearing shorts and no jackets. We did decide to take jackets but quickly peeled them off after 10 minutes of running. It's that time of year again, the time when your adjusting to warmer temperatures but aren't used to being without a coat when the sun is not shining. We will get over that very soon, it's gets annoying carrying all that unused gear.
Since this is a recovery week we didn't do any hill repeats or push threshold (95% of max.) on any of the hills we were just steady. We weren't trying break any speed records but in the end were surprised at how fast we did the run. We climbed a little over 3000 feet today and it wasn't hard! I have done this loop many times and this was my second fastest so far and my fastest time included a 20 threshold climb whereas today had none. I really didn't feel like we hammered the downs either, we are saving ourselves for next weekends double thrashing.....Can't wait!
I have just entered the "competition" or "specificity" part of my training, I just finished the "base building" phase. This is where it starts to get really fun and challenging. This phase will last all of April and half of May. This is time when big back to backs, hill repeats, doubles and tempos are are thrown together. In the past I have not been this strong heading into this part of my training. I am super excited at this benchmark in my fitness and I am optimistic it will laaaaaaassssssssssstttttttttt all the way to end.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Chuckanut 50K

My training for the slam started somewhere around November. The word "training" has many definitions with regards to running some count miles, some count time and other various measures that determine if you are in "training". I use the word to mean I started working with a defined plan. A plan in which runs are well thought out with regards to time, intensity and they are all scheduled. I am a planner so this method serves me well!

(photo by Glenn Tachiyama)

Since November I have known all the races I would do this year. For my slam year I plan on giving Western States 110% focus and effort, the rest of the races I am hoping to survive and most importantly soak up every minute of the adventure from planning, training and racing.

Chuckanut 50K is the first ultra race for me this year and since I was there last year I knew what I was getting into and couldn't wait to go back. I think I was the 11th person to sign up, that's how excited I was. See last year I had some high expectations for Chuckanut, it was going to be my first ever attempt to "race" a 50K. I wanted to give it a big effort and see how fast I could run a tough 50K. Unfortunately I got really sick the week of the race and ended up on antibiotics but putting all that aside I lined up ready to push as hard as I could. I gave it all I had and posted a 6:10 finish and was very displeased with the time. I don't like excuses so being sick was just a sidebar, the bottom line was 6:10 was what I had in me. This year I was emotionally apprehensive but was ready to once again roll the 50K dice.

The extended forecast for Portland called for some beautiful weather for race weekend, but Bellingham and Portland were not on the same weather pattern. Bellingham was going to have rain all day and the weatherman in Bellingham got it right! It rained and rained all day but fortunately it was warm....around 50 degrees all day. Coming from Portland, OR a little rain didn't even hit the radar screen except I would need to bring gloves.

Last year I suffered badly on the 6.5 miles of gravel bike path on the way to the finish. My goal this year was to go out moderately on the same bike path, hit the trail climb (mile 6.5-10) focused, then let it rip. Go hard from 10.5 to 31.1! I was going to roll the dice and see how I would hold up. I was even prepared to push threshold (95% of max. heart rate) on the climbs. For the first climb I pushed to near threshold but only hit it a couple of times. Once we entered the ridge section of technical trail followed by a nice old muddy jeep road I knew I was going to have a good day. Pumped and ready for the next climb they call Chinscraper named after a steep climb at the Wasatch 100M I was anxious to see how I would do on this steep climb. See I haven't been doing any REAL climbing in training so this would be pure memory here. The climb was tough and I couldn't push my body anywhere near threshold but that just means I need to get the strength back. I definitely wasn't setting any speed records on the climb but I was still passing people and feeling strong, getting psyched up for the last 10.5 miles to the finish. Once you crest the top of Chinscraper you are treated with a blazing 3 mile downhill on a gravel road, time to move! The downhill was spectacular! I sored down this at a sub 7:15 pace which for me is "rock star" pace. The next task was the 6.5 miles home on the dreaded gravel bike path I bonked on last year. Giving myself a good talking to I changed my view of this section and decided instead of dreading it I was going to view it an an opportunity to test my determination factor, flirt with pain, push hard and then push harder. Since I had this new found outlook I was moving at a pretty good pace. The miles were clicking off fast and I had a couple of additional gears to work with so there was no time like the present, take a gel and let it rip! 6.5 miles went by fast, negative splits, faster on the way back then on way out. When I was finished I was excited, 5:44 and first masters girl! I love being 40 :)