Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Saturday, August 2, 2014

8HOP: Eight Hours of Power

I needed a long training run that would allow me to create conditions as close as possible to NorthCoast so I could practice my walk/run pattern and see how I felt doing that on tired legs.

My options were few: there are no good asphalt or concrete loop courses that are 0.9 miles with close parking. I could have gone to the track and set up a table, but I'm not running on the track for this race. I could have gone to the cemetery for the 0.98 mile loop, but that's gravel.

I chose a stretch of the Power Trail that is only about a mile from home. I found a double out & back course that measured out 2.7 miles. I measured a quarter mile from my car and used that as my walk break. I mapped everything out with GPS and double checked it on my phone, plus I am already very familiar with the course, as I run that section all the time. I used my car as my aid station, and parked next to some tennis courts in the shade.

My plan at NorthCoast is to walk a quarter mile every three laps. On the track it would be close to doing 10 laps of running to 1 lap of walking. At Cornbelt I ran/walked 6:1 and that was very doable. Not sure how the 10:1 plan might go, but I wanted to see how it felt, at least for 40 miles, on dead legs. The other things I considered are: it's at 5000 feet altitude, it's warm, there are some good rolling hills on the Power Trail that won't be there in Cleveland, I'm not rested or tapered, it's at the end of a 90 mile week, and the car is an inconvenience that would take extra time to mess with things than a table.

I planned to run 8 hours at my race pace, and cover 40 miles. It was a good compromise for a long run, less recovery needed than if I raced a 50 miler, but challenging. I would not shut off my watch, all of the elapsed time would include aid breaks, bathroom breaks, walk breaks, and anything else that might occur. I wanted to run steady for the first 6 hours and then pick it up the last 2 hours if I had anything left.

I wore my new Zensah compression shorts for the first time. I've been considering getting a pair since Cornbelt and decided to try them. I didn't use compression sleeves on my calves today, though. I will on race day.

I figured on starting around 6 and being done by 2 pm. As it turned out, thanks to those reliable night sweats, I woke up at 2:55 am. I figured what the hell and dragged myself out of bed. I made PBJs and filled the cooler with ice water and vitamin water zero. I ate a PBJ for breakfast because I didn't feel like making anything else. I drove over to the trailhead and parked, and started about 4:30 am.

It was 55 degrees, it felt perfect. I didn't need my headlamp, there was enough ambient light. I started out at a slow but steady pace and held it. I didn't vary the pace much at all the whole time, my fastest loops were 30 minutes, most were 31 or 32 minutes, and a few were closer to 35 when I took bathroom breaks. My walking pace was my typical 14 minute mile pace. I count on 15 minute miles but after many loops that buys me extra time, for things like bathroom breaks or occasionally being indecisive about food, drink, clothing or supplies.

I took pictures early in the morning but I didn't feel like messing with my phone later in the run. There is some interesting variety alongside the trail, like the elaborately painted utility boxes. The trail runs parallel to railroad tracks but doesn't follow the railroad grade. It has some challenging rolling hills.

By 8:30, about halfway through, I was right on schedule, and it was starting to get hot. I pulled out my ice bandana but I had no ice cubes, I soaked it with ice water from my jug. That was enough. I continued to be consistent on my splits. The southern end of the course has some nice shade for a quarter mile stretch, and doubling back it extends it to a half mile, across from the golf course on Horsetooth Road. That was my reward each time.

My stomach was not too happy with my food choice, that breakfast PBJ didn't sit well, and I only ate one more PBJ about halfway through. I only had 3 gels in addition to the sandwiches. I was peeing enough, but not a lot. I had S Caps in vitamin water and ice water in my bottles, switching off every other loop. I don't eat much bread anymore normally, and sometimes I think that wheat doesn't always agree with me. It was getting warm, too, so maybe it was just that.

At 6 hours I decided to crank up the pace, but I didn't have much to give. I ran a few loops close to 30 minutes but I felt better when I ran closer to my average pace. My legs were tired. The walk breaks were perfect, I think I'm okay with that, and on rested legs I'm sure I'll respond even better.

I thought about running the entire 8 hours, which would have given me just over 41 miles, but decided against it, and stopped at 40. I finished 40 in 7:47 and it was nearly 80 degrees. I could have kept going for a while like that, but I was starting to feel it along with the heat. No need to overdo it. I need recovery and fresh legs more than anything else now.

This run rebuilt some confidence. I've been feeling so crappy for the past month that I was starting to worry that I wouldn't be ready for NorthCoast. This turned things around for me, mentally. I needed this for my head more than anything. I have 7 weeks left until NorthCoast, and that will be my longest training run. In two weeks I run a marathon, and I'll probably do a fairly high mileage week two weeks after that, but I'm not doing any more long runs. Nothing much over 20 miles. I need to keep things focused on a faster pace from here on into the race, and recover from my workouts.

Time to go home, refuel and hydrate, and take a shower. When I took off all my sweaty stuff, I had Zensah legs. Time for some chili, lots of fluids, and later on, beer and a nap. I had a job to do, I got it done, and I'm happy.

Seven weeks!

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