White River 50 Training Update (and 2013 first half review)

(If you want to skip all the training talk, just read the last paragraph. Boy am I excited!)

Today marks the end of a big training weekend and my last major effort before July 27’s White River 50. This morning I joined a crew of well over 20 other runners to preview the second loop of the WR50 course, a 22.8-mile route with over 4000′ of elevation gain, some hot dusty trails, and more stunning views than I can count. I felt quite sluggish and actually ran a few segments slower than in 2012’s race, but considering my Saturday (5.2-mile fairly quick morning run followed immediately by a 12 mile hike on the PCT to Kendall’s Katwalk) and all that that took out of my legs (hiking really does work your body differently than running and I’m not used to it), I’ll take it…somewhat.

I’m not sandbagging when I say that I’m worried. This has been among my favorite six months of running ever (more on that below in my 2013-so-far review), and I’ve done more technical trails and more vertical than ever. However, I’m worried that my fundamental engine isn’t what it was last year. Entering last year’s WR50 I’d done very little specific training, but I had well over 12 months of solid, consistent training over 100 miles every month and occasionally over 200, my longest months ever, with lots of faster road running with the Stanford Running Club. Despite record vertical month-in-and-month-out, last month, June, was my first over 100 since last July. Over a six month span from early August to early February, I ran a TOTAL of 300 miles, struggling for many months with injury and subsequent lack of fitness. My training from February on has been very fun and enjoyable, my main goal over that time, but it’s also been very slow. Spending so many hours on Cableline, Chirico, Si, Mailbox, Rattlesnake, etc. means that I’m doing most of my miles at 12-20 minute/mile pace, and when I do get a chance to cruise on the roads, I find myself really pushing hard to hit 7:30/mile, a pace that just a year ago was my comfortable, go-to junk mile pace. All that said, barring injury, I’m confident that I’ll complete White River this year, and that I’ll probably feel better through the middle miles than last year. However, I doubt I’ll finish with as much energy, and I’m not so sure I can improve my time despite thinking over that past year, “if my knees didn’t hurt I could’ve taken at least 30 minutes off.”

Hopefully I’m unknowing sandbagging and on race day I’ll come out and kill it with a 9:30 or something, but my running’s been about enjoyment not “training” all year and I’ll deal with however that manifests in my first race in six months. Enough whining, on to the positive!

2013 so far has been fantastic. Since January’s Bridle Trails 50k, when I went into a dark place emotionally, I readjusted my priorities and my outlook and started just getting out and enjoying running for its own sake. What did this mean? TRAILS! Technical trails, snowy trails, steep trails, long trails, and many many new trails. Despite a January still plagued by injury with only 44 miles and 2400 vertical feet, I ended up by June’s end with a half-year tally of 433 miles and 89,500 vertical feet. That mileage comes nowhere close to first-half-2012’s 800 miles, but the vert is insane, averaging over 200 feet/mile including ALL runs, not just trail runs. Trails runs total 249 miles with 82,000 vertical feet, 330 feet/mile, up AND down! Yeah this isn’t humble-bragging, it’s just bragging, but it’s truly because I’ve enjoyed it so much. Like I said, I’ve gotten slower and slower, but getting out on these steep techy trails has been so much fun and has reinvigorated my love of running.

I’ve explored Tiger for the first time ever (beyond the hugely popular T3 route that MIXC does), finding some of my favorite trails around. My six repeats on the Chirico Trail set a new personal record for vert in a day, racking up 10,300′ over 21 miles. My descents of Cableline allowed me to really hone my ability and mostly improve my confidence and recklessness descending steep technical trails, improving my PR from 28 minutes the first time to a near-suicidal 16:40. I explored the winding rolling trails of the eastern flanks, seen bear tracks in virgin snow, slip-slided down Poo-Top in the snow, and tagged four peaks for the first time.

I ran Mt. Si for the first time…and second and third in a relaxed double. I “ran” Mailbox Peak, which quickly and unquestionably surpased Cableline as the most challenging trail I’ve ever run. 4000′ in 2.5 miles and high technical, so much so that my descent, which I thought felt pretty darn fast and impressive, ended up averaging something like 18 minutes/mile…for the descent! Beautiful views greeted me atop both. Oh, and of course there was my Stanford to the Sea run; I literally almost forgot to mention that! You can read all about that here.

Now as I look forward to the rest of the year ahead, I’ve got three weeks to White River. I’m sure I’ll be happy to run it, but at this point I’m regretting my return to racing. Stanford to the Sea was a major interruption to my mountain adventures for a couple weeks on either end, and White River certainly means no more challenging trails for the next three weeks. Unless I REALLY enjoy the race and that whole atmosphere, I foresee myself returning to an indefinite racing hiatus. I’m hoping that August can be a month unlike any other. I’ve been exploring the trails of the I-90 corridor (Cougar, Squak, Tiger, Rattlesnake, Si, and Mailbox; still never been up Teneriffe). All I want to do right now is get into the Cascades and enjoy some trails through passes and lakes and cirques and glaciers and with no views of towns and cities anywhere. The PCT; The Alipine Lakes Wilderness, The Enchantments, The Wonderland: all await me with their rugged wildness. I got a taste yesterday on the PCT and I cannot wait to answer the call!

Summit of West Tiger #1, February

Summit of West Tiger #1, February

Summit of East Tiger, Early March

Summit of East Tiger, Early March

Bear tracks near Middle Tiger, late March. My footprint's there for scale and there were NO other prints around.

Bear tracks near Middle Tiger, late March. My footprint’s there for scale and there were NO other prints around.

Descending the Chirico Trail during the Chirico Tenpeat (I did six repeats).

Descending the Chirico Trail during the Chirico Tenpeat (I did six repeats). Photo from UphillRunning.com

Descending the Chirico Trail during the Chirico Tenpeat again, a little later this time.

Descending the Chirico Trail during the Chirico Tenpeat again, a little later this time. Photo by Jerry Gamez.

Second summit of Si on the day.

Second summit of Si on the day.

View from Rattlesnake Mountain's upper ledge during my misty, previously-torrentially-rainy double-traverse.

View from Rattlesnake Mountain’s upper ledge during my misty, previously-torrentially-rainy double-traverse.

Summit of Mailbox Peak for the first time.

Summit of Mailbox Peak for the first time.

The namesake mailbox on a gorgeous day.

The namesake mailbox on a gorgeous day.

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