Thursday, January 15, 2009

Two Runs, Twice the fun.

I'm trying to keep up with posting more frequently and wanted to report on this past weekends happenings without getting too far behind. I wanted to put something out about a couple runs I got in over the weekend on both Saturday and Sunday. I wanted to get in a couple good long runs to work on building that base mileage. I'm not trying to go crazy with trying to cover X distance in X time. Right now I'm just focused on getting in time on my feet and time on the course.

On Saturday I was looking to get in 16-20 miles on the Potomac Heritage Trail (PHT) starting at the Teddy Roosevelt Island parking lot and heading up to the American Legion Bridge - 10 miles out. I took some mental splits at certain sections such was Windy Run and Donaldson Run early on as well as hit the Lap button on the HRM at other places such as Chain Bridge, Ft. Marcy, 231 GW Pkwy, and Turkey Run (8 miles out). There are certain sections I figured I could use for specific training, such as the 4 miles out to Chain Bridge, or the 1.2 miles between Ft. Marcy and the trail opening at 231 near GW Pkwy. I plan to run repeats here as speed work. There's even a long gradual hill halfway between the section from Chain Bridge to Ft. Marcy for hill specific work. There are so many options that I want to leave every possibility open and not limit myself.

I thought I might negative split the run and made it out to the 8 mile mark in 2:15. The return trip took me about 2:13 as I even or negative split each section I mentioned above. It's the first time I've been out there in awhile and the farthest I've run on the PHT. I'm not going to worry too much about my time and just plan on improving it over the next few months.

On Sunday, we got a bit of a late start on our trip out to the Massanutten's. I plan on running the Reverse Ring on Feb 21-22 and wanted to run a section of the course from Habron Gap to the Signal Knob parking lot. Including the 2.1 trek up to the intersection on the Habron and Massanutten Trail, the run should've been about 20 miles. Because of our late start, and lack of headlamps (DOH!), I decided to take the 'shortcut' down Sherman Gap Trail to Botts, and ending in the Elizabeth Furnace parking lot.

This gave me good practice on the climb up Habron, which is tough as well as a chance to check out the trail in the direction I'll be running it in a few weeks. Having been on the trails numerous times for training runs as well as for The Ring, it has become familiar to me, but running it in the reverse direction sometimes turns me around a bit! Since most, if not all, of this section I'll be running at night for TRR, I wanted to get a sense of how long it will take me to cover sections of the trail to where it intersects with other side trails. I'm sure I'll be MUCH slower at night, and with 50 miles underfoot, but still wanted to get in some good trail time.

The first challenge was the climb, which I wanted to get up somewhat quickly. Hills have been a struggle for me and I've been feeling really slow. I lose time on climbs and wanted to run as much as possible. I wore my HRM to keep splits as I reached trail intersections, but looped my new watch around a piece of my Camelbak and set two of the interval timers to countdown 30 seconds (run) and 1 minute (walk). No matter how steep the section was, I would do my best to 'run' it.. even if I could walk faster than I was running, I wanted to at least ATTEMPT running. I walked 4 minutes as a warm up before starting the watch, and the 90 second intervals repeated 25 times until I got to the intersection with the orange Massanutten trail. A few times on the last climb I had to stop and catch my breath, but I still made it up the 2.1 mile climb in about 42 minutes. I was pleased and want to improve on it.

It was eerily quiet on the trail. Almost TOO quiet. I was surprised to hear and see absolutely nothing. It was beautiful, but spooky all the same. The view off the ridge was gorgeous and I wanted to stop and stare, but wanted to get to the parking lot as quickly as possible.

When reaching intersections with Milford Gap trail and Tuscorora, I texted my GF who was doing a hike around the Signal Knob area. I kept her updated on my run and progress. We were able to talk when I got to Tuscarora (good reception up on the trail) and told her I'd let her know when I got to Sherman Gap trail since my reception down at Veach, where I was headed, was probably nonexistent, and I was right.

The mile descent to Veach Gap was good downhill running training, which is something else I need to practice. I knew it was going to be a long slow climb out, so I started my 30/60 run/walk interval set again. It was easier to run here, but by setting the intervals I was forcing myself to run. Even on the minute 'rest' I would continue to run, but at a slower pace to recover. My run was a flat our SPRINT to get to the next trail marking, or the next rock.. then if I reached that, it was the tree just beyond it.

I didn't know how long it was to the Sherman Gap trail, but I repeated the intervals 26 times until I reached the ridge. At one point I panicked since the area didn't look familiar and I thought I missed the turn. I figured I'd keep running and I'd eventually find the trail, which I did. After a long, steep descent, the trail leveled out again to the point were I ran my intervals one last time - 30/60. I ran as much as possible and sprinted on the 30 seconds. I'm sure if anyone else was around me they would've found the incessant beeping annoying, but it worked and it kept me moving until reaching the parking lot.

I was happy with the run especially with throwing those intervals in there. It made me run sections I might've normally walked, but I think it helped me run faster than I might've wanted to, and that's what I need to do. I can't keep doing these training runs at a slow pace that's at or slower than 'race pace' and barely getting me from aid station to aid station with some time cushion.

I plan to double up like this just about every weekend with varying mileage and intensity. I'm not looking to do 20/20 every Sat/Sun - no. The idea is hit my weaknesses, which seem to be endless. At least that gives me a lot to choose from, whether it's doing repeats of the 2.1 climb up/down Habron or experimenting with the intervals - running longer and resting for a short period of time.

This weekend includes another back to back run that covers a HUGE chuck of the MMT course. On Saturday we're running the first 1/3 and on Sunday it will be the middle 1/3. Chilly temps will be there to greet us, and running fast is a good way to stay warm!


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