Friday, August 10, 2012

August beatdown

I am trying to "peak" my UTMB training this week — "peak" simply meaning I do a relatively high volume of tough outdoor workouts in an effort to get my mind ready for the long slog ahead. Oh, and to reintroduce the legs to chronic fatigue. Since the week started with Sunday's 50K, this is what I have so far:

Sunday: Trail running, 32 miles, 7,070 feet of climbing
Monday: Road cycling, 18 miles, 2,772 feet of climbing
Tuesday: Trail running, 7 miles, 1,414 feet of climbing
Wednesday: Trail running, 8.5 miles, 1,605 feet of climbing
Thursday: Mountain biking, 57 miles, 7,291 feet of climbing
Five-day total: 47.5 miles trail running, 75 miles cycling, 20,152 feet of climbing

For Friday I'm planning another run of indeterminate length and then on Saturday Beat and I have another 50K trail race. If I finish the race, this week could end up being one of my largest seven-day running totals yet. I love doing these "peak" weeks, but as it turns out, August is not my favorite time of year for a beatdown. After the Steep Ravine 50K, local temperatures shot into the 90s. I generally do my exercising around 5 p.m., of course the hottest time of day. I realize it would be wise to wake up early and try to take advantage of that thin wisp of a marine layer that helps keep morning temperatures more reasonable. But since I'm training to toughen up my head game, I figured I might as well make it tough. So I went out for my afternoon runs with my tired legs, little water bottle, and sweat-drenched sad face. Then, today, two of my crazier bike friends had the time and desire for an all-day mountain bike ride.

Leah, Jan and I met up at Saratoga Gap for an 11 a.m. start. My car dashboard thermometer indicated it was already 89 degrees. Jan has been fighting a sinus infection and I've only been on a bicycle twice in the last three weeks. We set out on the dried-out, loose chunder, steep rolling trails of Skyline Ridge. Leah, who brought her cross bike because I said, "Yeah, this would be a good ride for a cross bike," skidded on several of the descents. We all fought the chundery climbs with what felt like twice the amount of force that I usually need when these trails are tacky. Seriously, August is a mean month.

We spent ninety minutes working hard for the first nine miles, and by then I was nearly out of water. Just like that, seventy ounces, gone. Leah was out, too. We'd spend the entire rest of the ride rationing our way from water stop to water stop, because we only had a finite number of known water stops (all ranger stations and a camp site, so no retail resupply) and limited carrying capacity. It was of course a mistake to bring only a two-liter bladder, but I didn't understand how much water I'd be burning through — significantly more than I'm used to. All of that liquid just evaporated into the hot air, scarcely moving through my system before it disappeared. Mean, mean August.

But we had a fun ride, descending into Portola Redwoods State Park, slicing through the dark woods of Pescadero on an old logging road, chasing a slightly cooling breeze along coastal farm roads, climbing the sandy Butano Ridge, and descending into Big Basin Redwoods before our final climb to Skyline. The whole area is remote — as remote as you can be in the immediate Bay Area. We were never far from civilization, but we were just far enough that we saw few people, heard few engines, and looked across sweeping vistas to see nothing but mountains, ocean, and trees.

We were also far from water, surface or treated. We filled up at every stop, and still we had to accept that amount was less than we wanted. In Big Basin we decided that we would likely need to go off route for four miles and back to ranger station for our last resupply, but then I remembered a backpacker camp on the Skyline to the Sea Trail that was off limits to bikes — but we were in need. That backpacker camp resupply was heavenly, even though the water was lukewarm and the spigot was surrounded by dozens of angry kamikaze bees. But it was there that we could finally drink all we wanted, and not feel too sick, because at that point it was 5:30 p.m. and the hard sun was finally starting to wane.

A combination of the relentless heat, dry air, loose dirt, and water rationing had us all lulling our necks toward the end, exhausted. We agreed our Big Basin Beatdown was quite a bit tougher than a 57-mile ride with 7,200 feet of climbing should be. Oh, August, you sure know how to administer a proper peak week thrashing. I can't wait for my fifty-kilometer run on Saturday.


  1. That's quite a week of exercise.... you must be hungry...

  2. Well, we didn't get to see each other in Montana a few weeks ago, but we no doubt meet up in Chamonix soon. We should plan a date, dinner, a hike, whatever suits you pre-race! I'm looking forward to seeing you run around that big mountain. :)

  3. I know the backpacker camp you're talking about, because I saw the same kamikaze bees when I refilled there at around 2:30 yesterday.

    At that point I'd been hiking for about 20 miles (started up Black Mountain, connected trails to Saratoga Gap, then down Skyline to Sea), and had gone through nearly a gallon of water.

    After that stop, I went about 10 more miles to Big Basin HQ, where my girlfriend picked me up. My shirt was stiff and crusted with salt.

  4. Meghan, definitely. Since Beat is racing PTL, I'll be in town for several days before UTMB, presumably pacing nervously and repacking gear. A hike or dinner would be great. We should swap phone numbers. I'll probably get a specific phone for Europe but you can e-mail me at

    ElZo — Great hike! A similar route to the STTS backpacker camp is something I once considered as a potentially fun point-to-point long run that I could do from my house, via Rancho San Antonio, Bella Vista, Steven's Creek Canyon, and the Table Mountain trail. Nice varied terrain and lots of climbing. Yesterday was a hot day out there. In the seven hours we were riding, I probably drank 200 ounces of water and I was constantly thirsty, and only peed once at the very end.

  5. I think people who talk about meeting up in Chamonix suck. Oh who am I kidding. FOMO sucks.


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