Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Week 12, Jan. 27 to Feb. 2

Leah and I spotted this red-shouldered hawk in the Presidio during our Thursday night ride. 
Beat has been engaged in a gear-making frenzy for ... well, for several months now. But this week he really upped the production, sewing several things for me in the process: A custom balaclava with detachable face mask and a cupped waterproof "schnoz" to contain moisture flow, and a pair of primaloft-lined booties to pull over my shoes in the event of extremely windy or cold weather (Frostbite stories from the Arrowhead 135 scared me very much. I wanted some insurance for the possibility of windchills below minus 30.)

This week, I plan to go shopping for my two drop bags, one which will be placed at mile 135 and one at mile 210. As a walker, these locations will be about three days apart, so I need to cram three to four days of supplies in a ten-pound bag. As with my past two Susitna 100s, I plan to prepare pocket-sized baggies of "rocket fuel" — combinations of peanut butter cups, dried fruit, peanut butter pretzels, nuts, and chocolate, ideally in a 60/30/10 carb-fat-protein ratio, with about 2,000 calories to a pound. Supplemented by a bag of gummy snacks, probably five ounces per day, and peanut butter. I may plan a more substantial percentage of my daily calories from peanut butter. I'm still pondering this one. Chewing gets really tedious and eventually painful in cold weather, and although peanut butter becomes brittle when frozen, a 250-calorie block can be devoured in two bites and goes down smooth as it thaws. Peanut butter worked really well for me when I ran low on food during PTL and had to ration while feeling hungry and depleted. Cheap peanut butter has enough sugar to stave off bonks and enough fat to feel full for a while, and is pleasingly calorie dense. Tim Hewitt basically lived off of it during his unsupported trek to Nome in 2013.

That's basically it. I'm going to keep it simple. There will probably be opportunities for a hot meal every one to two days, and I'll pack one Mountain House meal at the start and with each drop. I'm planning to start with less food, but eventually carry about 5,000 calories per day, so probably 15,000 calories in each drop. If I can keep those 5,000 calories to 2.5 pounds or less, that would be ideal. I have a few more days to ponder what to send to myself.

Beyond that, it was a good week of training. More intensive than the numbers make it seem, because those cart tows are actually pretty hard workouts.

Monday, Jan. 27: Cart tow, 1:47, 6.1 miles, 468 feet climbing. I took the cart to Rancho to run on the wide trails of Rogue Valley. Played with some harness positions and got a good hamstring workout.

Tuesday, Jan. 28: Run, 1:13, 7.3 miles, 695 feet climbing. No cart, usual Tuesday route through Monta Vista. I kept it on the slow side because of IT band concerns, but I'm not sure I need to worry about that any more. It hasn't been an issue since Steep Ravine two weeks ago.

Wednesday, Jan. 29: Cart tow, 2:14, 8.3 miles, 34 feet climbing. Tow back from Google on the bike path. For some reason it's harder on the paved path than on trails; probably because there's more friction on pavement. I practiced alternating walking with a shuffle run, and realized that the shuffle running actually isn't all that hard. It's just frustrating, because I'm still "running" a 14-minute-mile and I feel like I should be moving a lot faster than that. However, walking stays in the 17- to 20-minute-mile range, and shuffling does work different muscle groups, so I should plan to make a habit of alternating strides whenever conditions allow.

Thursday, Jan. 30: Mountain bike, 2:28, 21 miles, 2,284 feet climbing. I met Leah in the city for a Thursday night ride. She's been busy and I run too much, and anyway it's been far too long. She's had some ongoing lower back pain that prompted us to cut the ride short in Rodeo Valley. Due to my training log habit, this was perhaps the first time I wore my Garmin on a night ride with Leah, and was surprised to see that cutting our route considerably shorter than normal still netted a reasonably substantial ride. No wonder I'm always so tired after night rides with Leah. Even the truncated route earned us a delicious noodle feast at Ken Ken Ramen.

Friday, Jan. 31: Cart tow, 2:12, 6.7 miles, 703 feet climbing. Went back to Rancho and veered up another trail that I didn't remember being all that steep. It was. According to Strava, some of those grades topped 25 percent. I pulled a muscle in my lower back and I have to admit it's still nagging at me, but I've been doing some mild stretching and plan to wait a few more days before attempting another tow. And no more steep hills.

Saturday, Feb. 1: Run, 8:00, 31.2 miles, 7,036 feet climbing. Big loop through the upper Pescadero drainage. So much fun, and no issues all day, not even sore feet or legs. I wouldn't have been able to say this about so much time on my feet even a year ago, so perhaps I'm in the best "running" shape of my life. Although Alaska is sure to dispel such delusions.

Sunday, Feb. 2: Run, 1:54, 10.3 miles, 1,477 feet climbing. I hoped to put in one last "back-to-back" long weekend by riding 100 miles on my road bike on Sunday, but a rainstorm prompted me to postpone the ride. As usual after the buzz of a day-long effort, I was raring to go and had all sorts of ambitions. Beat talked me down to a moderate run ... for the best, as I was actually quite tired, but otherwise had no problems.

Total: 19:48, 69.9 miles run, 21 miles ride, 12,697 feet climbing

Just under three weeks until go time, and I plan to put in a substantial taper beforehand. This week will probably be a series of shorter runs and a cart-tow or two, and then over the weekend Beat and I hope to take one last shot at finding some snow and a colder place to tow our sleds and test out some of the homemade gear. After that, probably just mellow bike rides and slow runs to keep the legs loose. I'm normally terrible at tapers, but I am terrified of this race and want to be at my physical best as a survival tactic, so hopefully that will be motivation enough to show up at the starting line well-rested. 


  1. That looks a lot like the hawk that was sitting outside our window some time ago. I too have to get my drops together this week. One thing I was planning differently is to pack less for Winterlake and more for Rohn. However, maybe your strategy of just starting with less is a better one.

    1. Steve, I can't believe you have to go back out there so soon! I don't think I'd be mentally ready to deal with the cold for a long, long time. Jill, I was going to comment that someone else was just telling me about someone surviving on peanut butter on the way to Nome but now I realize that was Steve and he was also telling me about Tim:) It sounds like a good idea to me--peanut butter is one of those things that always tastes good no matter how awful you feel, don't you think?

    2. Yes, I think it will be important to carry more days' worth of food out of Rohn, especially if there's no snow in the Burn. Did you see the latest IronDog team training photos? Yikes. That area is a frozen tussock nightmare and it won't be fast for anyone, even the bikers, if it's bare. But there's still the issue of the 10-pound limit on the drop bags. Once you include batteries and a few other items, you really only have space for about 15,000 calories. Otherwise I would probably pack more in my Rohn drop.

      Alicia — It's surprising how mentally draining the cold can be, isn't it? Even my short exposure in Fairbanks over Christmas got me thinking about how I can better cope with it. It's hard to tell this far out what the weather will be like, but people like to joke that the 350-mile race is "due" for a cold year, especially after the long tropical Chinook that took over Alaska in January. I'm trying to mentally steel myself for anything and everything — from 40 above and rain to extreme wind and cold with no snow.

  2. Alicia, I probably wouldn't be ready if I had the kind of race that you had at Arrowhead. Remember, I turned back around mile 77 mainly because I had Alaska coming up. I will say this, after Arrowhead, the thing I am most looking forward to in the ITI is actually bivying in the snow. Of course, if there is no snow I think it will be a some very hard, rough bivies!


Feedback is always appreciated!