Monday, May 20, 2013

Horseshoe Lake 50K

Heat training and Oreo lips
On Sunday we did our last long run before the Bryce 100, the Horseshoe Lake 50K. It was a beautiful morning, with saturated light at clear views over the big blue Pacific. The race was sold out and I think there were close to 200 people at the start. I was drawn into all the excitement of "yay running" and went out too fast on the first climb, which resulted in being caught in a faster group for the punchy descents. Not wanting to get mowed down on the singletrack, I did my best to keep the pace by resorting to toe running.

I've done a bit of research on common causes of shin pain. There are a lot of different theories about which motions and/or tight muscles lead to tibial stress. My experiment of one so far shows that braking or landing hard with my forefoot, which is my tendency when descending or accelerating, seems to exacerbate the pain. Subsequently, slowing my downhill pace, shortening my stride, and deliberately engaging full foot strikes (trying to get that heel on the ground) brought quick relief. I was unhappy at mile six and suspected I would need to stop once I reached the first return to the start at mile 13. But at the half marathon point, after seven miles of mitigation efforts, I felt considerably better. I decided that continued experimentation with shin pain management would be more beneficial for my upcoming race than quitting early and hoping this will somehow work itself out in ten days. If it was a full-blown injury, I would certainly be more cautious. But this still qualifies as a minor nagging pain, and it doesn't seem to be worsening. Most sources I found say that shin splints typically take three to six weeks to go away, but it's possible to continue training during recovery as long as pain doesn't get worse.

Beyond that, the run was fairly uneventful. It was warm — probably into the mid-80s — but there was a nice breeze whisking along the ridge to take the edge off the heat. I felt strong, so my purposefully slowed pace caused some frustration and dissatisfaction ("I feel good. I can do better than this. But I shouldn't. But I can. Grrr.") In the aftermath, I feel my stride experimentation was beneficial, but there were plenty of points during the race when all I really wanted was to run faster — or climb faster, because a determined power-hike up a steep grade also involves getting up on the toes. But I dialed it back and finished strong, happy, and essentially pain-free. One week after the 50-miler, the Horseshoe Lake 50K was a good confidence boost in my endurance ahead of the Bryce 100.

I finished in 6:32. I raced this same course back in October and felt compelled to look up my former time, to see how it compared. Also 6:32. Apparently, getting stung by a wasp and minor shin splints cause me the exact same degree of pain-induced slowness.

I'm not planning to do any more running before Bryce. I'm headed out to Utah a week before the race to visit my family, and my dad and I are going to go for a few hikes in the Wasatch this weekend. The whole course is between 7,000 and 9,500 feet, so I could use all the pre-race acclimation I can get. My friends claim this is an unfair advantage, and they're right. But they're also all stronger runners than me, and the 34-hour cutoff looms.

I'm really looking forward to the Bryce 100. These 50K and 50-mile efforts are fun, but there's something intimately engaging about pressing through the night and emerging into a second day. Hundred-mile runs and multi-day bike races have their own life spans, and they always linger in my memories long after these smaller adventures fade into the distance. In a sense, long efforts are my way of extending my own life, because I live so intensely and experience so much in a relatively short time span. I often emerge feeling like I've made weeks, months, and sometimes years of individual progress. Many will argue that these efforts are inherently unhealthy, and they're not wrong. But in my opinion, the benefits of hundred-milers could never be quantified in any tangible way. From an outside perspective, they're nothing but stupid ... but inside, they're an integral part of an invaluable education.

And with that, I missed a week but I am still trying to keep track of my training for the summer. Blogs are good for that kind of tangible nonsense.

Week May 6-12
Monday: Trail run, 6.5 miles, 976 feet of climbing
Tuesday: 0
Wednesday: Road bike, 17.5 miles, 2,553 feet of climbing
Thursday: 0
Friday: 0
Saturday: Trail run, 50 miles, 8,799 feet of climbing
Sunday: 0
Total: 56.5 miles run, 17.5 miles ride, 12,328 feet of climbing

Week May 13-19
Monday: Road bike, 16 miles, 2,143 feet of climbing
Tuesday: 0
Wednesday: Trail run, 9.1 miles, 1,327 feet of climbing
                     Mountain bike, 8.9 miles, 1,844 feet of climbing
Thursday: Trail run, 7 miles, 1,675 feet of climbing
Friday: Road bike, 17.5 miles, 2,535 feet of climbing
Saturday: Mountain bike, 20 miles, 2,740 feet of climbing
Sunday: Trail run, 31.1 miles, 5,671 feet of climbing
Total: 47.2 miles run, 62.4 miles ride, 17,935 feet of climbing