Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mount W and FD5K: Not your doctor's management plan

I had been planning on running up Mount Washington since March 18, which was when I heard that I failed to make it through the lottery for the road race. I was excited to both 1) get in my first mountain run of the season (I'm not counting Pack Monadnock) and 2) watch the elite racers take on the wall at the finish of the race. Despite the absolute fantastic forecast and the chance to watch the badass mountain elites, and the opportunity to get in what I would think would be a badass double weekend that should be the bread-and-butter for Big Brad/Vermont 100 training, I got a lot of negatory responses from TMR. But Susannah Beck took the bait and we had a great climb in gorgeous weather. The goal was to simply get in some strength training, not twist an ankle, and not challenge the O2 delivery system, so we maintained a very reasonable running pace and even walked some of the steeper sections. Once we turned onto Lion's head, it was almost all walking. Above the treeline, we briefly chatted with Jamie and Kate, who were also hiking to watch the race. The last little push to the top (rock hoppin' the boulder field) required a surprisingly high effort given that we were walking but I guess the trail is kind of steep in that section! We reached the summit sign in 95 minutes and in one piece.

We stayed at the summit for about 1 hour and then took the Tuckerman Ravine trail down. I had never been in the ravine so was eager to see it despite the looooooong train of hikers ascending. This made for slow progress. Once we passed ho-jos we did a very ez jog down the ski trail. At one point I turned around to look for Susannah and noticed two guys running down at a moderate pace and figured they had also run up to watch the race. But it was Sage Canaday (1st place) and Max King (8th place) - not who I was expecting to see running down the trail (wasn't there an awards ceremony at the base of the auto road?). We also ran into Chuck and Katy heading up! Our time down was about 2 hours and our pace on the ski trail was about the same as that climbing it! My left retrocalaneal bursitis and my right achilles felt surprisingly good until we spent 5 minutes soaking our feet in the very cold river and THEN starting jogging again. Running on the frozen tendons was NOT what the doctor ordered.

I had also been planning on racing the Sea Dogs Father's Day 5K since I signed up for the MD5K back in February. I bailed on the MD5K due to injury. I still have the same injury but I've either grown in wisdom (that I can race on it) or thrown wisdom out the window. I also decided to race in my asics piranahs, which are about the sweetest, reasonably durable racing flats out there (< 5 oz). The low heel drop (4 mm) and fast pace would put a strain on my L and R achilles that they hadn't seen in 9 months. The race went well enough, I guess I thought a 18:15 was on the table but given my complete lack of fast training (other than last week my fastest training pace was about 7:20 - last week I dropped this to 6:40). I ran 18:12 so I'm pretty happy with that. I even outkicked some guy in the last 100 m. Following the race I did a 4 mile cool down, also in the Piranahs despite having brought wu/cd shoes.

Mountain runs and 5Ks in low-heal racers are not the conventional prescription for calf/achilles/RCB issues. I'm going to take this weekend as a green light that I can bump up my running and maybe even train to race and not just run slow in the woods.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Pack Monadnock

My annual fishing trip was rained out so I decided to go run a small mountain instead, the Pack Monadnock, which is #3 in the USATF mountain running series (meaning many of the big dogs were out to play). I stayed with a friend in Concord NH the night before, which may have been a mistake because I was up late (for me) and had lots of beer (for me), which meant I had  3.5 12 oz beers and was in bed by midnight.

The Course
The race is point-2-point and despite the elevation profile, is quite rolling with short climbs and descents and a net gain of around 670 feet over the first 7 miles. The first mile climbed 260' in a 3/4 mile stretch. That's a good way to start a race! The 8th mile (still not on the mountain) climbs another 190 feet. The first 8 miles averages 197 feet of elevation gain per mile, which is slightly more than, say, climbing Mountain Rd in Falmouth (about 180'/mile). This is hilly for a road race but certainly not a mountain run. The Mid-Winter Classic 10 miler averages 70' per mile elevation gain, so is super flat by comparison. The first 7 miles really did roll; the number of descents surprised me enough that I wasn't actually sure that we had done any net climb by mile 7 (obviously my "feel" was way off).

At 7.9 miles the course turns onto route 101 and there is a good climb (6-8% grade) to the park entrance. At 8.7 miles you enter the park and actually start the mountain climb. The race web site advertised grades like Mt. Washington and it didn't disappoint. The first 1/2 mile of road is about 12-14% grade continuous. This is harder than Mt. Washington. The second 1/2 mile is back to about 6-8% and makes you feel like running, if you still have gas in the tank. The last 1/3 mile  starts with a Mount Washington grade but then turns onto a loooooong wall of  >20%. The wall is maybe 200 meters, which is much longer than the final wall on Mt. Washington and just as steep. It's sick.

Grade over the last 2.1 miles (from the turn onto Rt. 101 to the finish). The park rd. begins at mile 8.7. Individual points for the grade were averaged over 11 gps points (taken every 3 seconds) so even the red line is smoothed. The error is in the location of the GPS point which on a steep hill can create lots of noise.

My Race
I'll be brief. My goal was 1:18 which seemed conservative but given my 10K last week maybe even this was optimistic. I was very conservative on the first mile (which was again very uphill) and lots of people passed me. I passed a few people after mile 1 but then settled into a long lonely race where I ran alone, wasn't passed by anyone, and took about 6 miles to close the 50 meter gap with the two guys in front of me. Once I caught them I dropped them quickly and slowly closed the gap with another pack of about 5. I passed this entire pack on the Rt. 101 section between mile 8 and the park entrance (mile 8.7). On the park road, I passed about 4-5 more runners, and again, wasn't passed by anyone from behind. Finish time was 1:17:55 for 38th out of 201 runners. Wow, nailed the goal which is good, but not great since it was a conservative goal.

My Achilles
About 10 days ago I started to lean toward the source of pain being retrocalcaneal bursitis rather than insertional achilles. I based this conclusion on the ability to cause pain when I poked my heel with the achilles flaccid but not when tensed (hence the pain would seem to be deep to the tendon unless a tense tendon isn't painful for some reason). In response, I started myself on an NSAID treatment, which is usually something that I avoid (again tendon injuries aren't typically inflammation but tears).