31 July 2013

Schweitzer Mountain Trail Run

My Achilles is feeling stronger and stronger with each run. I'm slowly extending my long runs (14 this week) and weekly mileage (last week was my first week over 40 since March) and I'm getting more quality time on the trails.

Since I can't go long yet, I've been keeping my eyes open for shorter distance trail races in the area. The McCall Trail Running Classic 10-miler a couple weeks ago was a great first race back. And then I stumbled upon the inaugural Inland Northwest Mountain Running Series. It's a three race series on three different mountains with races of 10 miles, 10 miles, and then 25k. Perfect!

Race #1 was the 10-mile Schweitzer Mountain Trail Run last weekend in beautiful Sandpoint, ID. Race #2 is the 10-mile Chewelah Peak Trail Run this weekend in Chewelah, WA. Race #3 is the 25k Wild Moose Chase Trail Run on Mt. Spokane at the end of September.

I had a pretty good day at Schweitzer. It was a very hot day (in the 80's) and a very fast course for a mountain run. The race started with a short, very fast downhill on a service road and I did my best to keep my speed under control. I stayed with lead group of about twelve guys for that half-mile descent. When we shifted gears for the long, gradual, four-mile climb I stayed back and let the fast road guys take off. I settled back into probably eighth or ninth place.

The entire course was an even mix of single-track and service road. We'd get a mile of trail here, then a mile of road there. I knew the climbs weren't real big and that this course would favor the guys with more natural leg speed. I just focused on keeping to my usual mountain-running game plan of taking it easy on the climbs to save energy to really push the descents.

My up legs were feeling much better than they were at McCall the week before, and I was able to slow-by a couple guys before we hit the highpoint of the course. I was in seventh place when we hit the five-mile mark and started looping back toward the finish line.

I felt like the long, gradual descent in the second half of the race was good for me. It required/let me to push my pace more than I have since I've been back on the trail the last month. My leg turnover isn't nearly where it was pre-injury, but I'm happy with where I am right now at this stage in my recovery.

I didn't see anyone for a couple miles between miles five and seven, then between miles seven and 9 I passed three guys to jump up to fourth place. The last mile was a brutal climb back up to the finish line. On the map it doesn't look bad at all, but in a race this short and the paces being pushed as hard as they were it felt like it was straight up the side of a mountain. With about a half-mile left the third place guy came into view, but I had nothing left in my tank for anything that resembled a push. I was looking over my shoulder just to make sure that I wasn't going to be passed. I crossed the finish line in fourth place. (Official results.)

Overall it was a good event. Of course I'd love to see more trail and less road on a trail run. There was a neat little music fest afterward that Annie and I hung out at with some friends for awhile. Then Annie went and broke her ankle walking down some made-for-skiers-and-snow metal stairs. Major, major bummer.

Elevation profile comparison for the series races.
Heading with Sadie to check-in.
Race start. 
View from the starting line.
Coming to the finish chute.
Age group award. Pint glass and
huckleberries (melted from the heat).

Race #2 is this weekend. It should be an interesting one. Hopefully I'll have my down legs to take advantage of the gnarly descents at the end of the race.

Keep running!

15 July 2013

McCall Trailrunning Classic 10-mile Race

I'm still not able to put in big weekly miles or long Saturday runs, but I am very happy that I can run at all.  I've slowly built up from 25 miles a week to 35 miles a week with no Achilles pain.  This past week was my first week that I've been allowed a run as long as 10 miles...so of course I found a 10-mile trail race.

The McCall Trailrunning Classic is in its second year.  There are 40, 20, and 10-mile options on the beautiful mountain trails above McCall, ID.  I've been getting up on Moscow Mt more regularly the last couple weeks, so I've been getting my hills legs back slowly but surely.  It was nice to get out on the McCall trails and push my legs a little bit more.

We started off on some sweet single-track and I found myself in 8th or 9th place after about half a mile. I moved up a few more spots about a mile in when there was a chance to pass.  On paper the climbs didn't look too ferocious, but I found myself huffing for air and hiking more than usual even though I was employing my usual 'go slow on the climbs!' strategy to conserve energy. It's gonna take a few more months to get my hill lungs back I guess.  

I passed a couple more before hitting the aid station/highpoint of the course at mile 6. That section is a short out-n-back section, so I could see that I was the fourth person to the top and about four minutes behind the two leaders (one guy and one gal who must have been within 30 or so seconds of each other).  #3 arrived at the aid station just before I did and I passed her there.  

So I left the turnaround in third place and feeling like I could make up some good ground because there was a lot of downhill left, and I felt fresh for some fast downhill (which I think is my strength on the trails).  But when the downhill came my legs weren't there. I could tell I hadn't run this far or this hard since March (it's been that long?!?).  

I didn't have much in the tank with a couple miles to go and I found myself peeking back to see if someone was coming up on me.  But I was alone and holding on to third place. With about half a mile to go I came up on the guy who was leading at the turnaround. He looked like he was struggling a lot and I slowed to ask him if he needed water or anything. He said he was fine, but that he had missed a turn about a mile before and ran the wrong way for a bit before he recognized he wasn't on the course. He looked like his racing was over and that he was just cruising in to the finish line. I ran ahead and with a pleasantly surprising second place overall finish (first place male). The female (who was the wife of the guy who I had just passed) finished a couple minutes before me.  My final time was 1:35:57. (full results)

McCall Trailrunning Classic '10-mile' Course

Happy to be running again.
Mostly happy to have a pair of plaid shorts.

Early part of the course that I walked
with Annie and Sadie the day before the race.

After-race refreshments at McCall Brewery.

It certainly feels good to be running on the trails again.  I know my ultra-level fitness will be slow to come back to me since I'm so limited right now on my weekly mileage, but I can tell even after four weeks of running low mileage that I'm definitely getting my running legs back.

My 'fingers crossed' goal is to extend my long runs enough over the next couple months to be ready for a fall 50k.  The Moscow Mt. Madness 50k in September would be awesome, but that might be too soon.

In the meantime -- keep running!