Sunday, May 29, 2016

Knoya Ridge Run recap

On Thursday, I completed my first trail race that involved a significant hill climb. I figure that is a pretty important part of my trainging for my 50 miler, since there is something like 12,000 feet or so of elevation gain and loss.

The Alaska Mountain Runners put on this race, Kal's Knoya Ridge Run. There are 3 choices of length, a 2.5k "Happy" trail with 1200 feet of elevation gain(mostly for the kids), the original 5.6k with 2900 feet of elevation gain, and the "full monty" 8.5k with 4300 feet of elevation gain. It climbs up a hill that I think is actually on military land, and they require you to get the military recreational access pass to participate. The sign up is only on race day, and they say they limit the long race to 100 people, but more than 100 people were signed up for it that day, including me.  The part of this it clearly says in the race information, but I didn't fully process? The listed distances are ONLY THE UPHILL PORTION. The finish line is at the top, and then you go back down on your own. So really, you go twice as far as the distance given.

This race had some interesting quirks. It is named after someone that apparently died climbing it, and they said they spread some of his ashes at the start line every year, so that he gets gradually carried up to the top on people's shoes. Also, there is a bit of a walk from the pre-race gathering area to the start line, on a single track trail through the woods. Some people felt the need to run this also, but I walked until I got to the start line, and the race actually started. I wanted to save my energy for the climb.

They tell you at the start to not come back down alone. The bottom half of the trail goes through the woods, and there is apparently a lot of bear activity in the area this year. I didn't see anything though. I came back down alone, because I didn't know anyone there, and my introverted self wasn't up to finding someone to run with on the way back down.

The bottom half of the course, the part through the woods, was rolling hills, climbing gradually upwards. As we got close to the treeline, though, the trail got steeper. There was one section about midway to the 5.6k finish that was particularly bad. It was very steep, with a lot of loose gravel just waiting to make you lose your footing. I heard someone call it "scree". I'm not a veteran enough trail runner to know if this is an official name. It was ok on the way up, but really scary on the way down. I was convinced I was going to slide all the way down and die.

Most of the course was single track, and so I often found myself in a line of people climbing slowly uphill. People were plenty polite if you wanted to pass them, though. Once you got up on top of the first little dome, and above the tree line, there was just little short cover plants, and lots of rocks. It was mostly uphill, but there were a couple places where the trail dipped back down for brief moments, giving your legs a rest, but then you had to make up that elevation loss in the next few minutes anyway.

When I started, I planned to do the entire thing. By the time I had gotten to the 5.6k finish, though, it had already been about an hour and 14 minutes or so, I was getting close to the cutoff time, and didn't know how far I had to go to reach the cutoff spot, and I was practically out of water, and didn't bring any fuel at all. That would be because I forgot to double the distance to include the trip down, lol.  I only had a 1.5L Camelbak with me, and it was sunny and HOT on the exposed sides of the domes. I decided to stop at the 5.6k finish. I'm pretty confident that if I had been better prepared, I could have gone the entire distance.

The views at the top were AMAZING.

(the 8.5k race continued up the hill to the left)

(looking over Anchorage and Cook Inlet)

They have not listed times yet on the website, and I have only seen a few photos online, none of which I happen to be in. I didn't stop to take any pictures on the way up, but I did take some at the top. (Really, I needed the break to catch my breath and assess before heading down).

The race info said the middle race was 5.6k (3.48 miles), but map my run put it at 4.11 miles. I decided to run all the way back to my car, not just to the start line, and my total distance was 8.5 miles round trip. By the time I got back to the car, I was STARVING and my Camelbak was dry. I was glad I didn't need as much water on the way down as I did on the way up.

My quads got quite the workout on this climb. But I remembered that climbing basically sucks to a certain extent, and then just keeps sucking about the same. As a matter of fact, really the first part of the climb hurt way more than the second half. By that time, my legs had warmed up, and it was just a matter of taking small steps, trying to remember to keep my glutes engaged to save my quads, and just continuing to put one foot in front of the other, and repeat. I can climb uphill without wearing myself out. I just can't do it fast.

One sort of funny thing happened. I was on my way down, and running easily but carefully, and people kept passing me, flying by. I started feeling bad because I wasn't running fast, sort of mentally berating myself for being such a slow runner. At one point, though, I passed some people that had started down before me, and they said something about my socks (I was wearing brightly striped compression socks), and said that earlier they had been trying to keep up with "that lady with the rainbow socks", lol. It was really nice to hear at that moment, when I was feeling bad about my pace, that someone else was trying to keep up with me.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

All I had to do was follow directions...

I have a training plan for my 50 mile race in July. The training plan is designed to make sure I am ready for that race, without over stressing my body. The idea behind the plan is to gradually increase mileage, both in single runs, and in total weekly mileage, so that my body can acclimate, and avoid injury.

The catch?  For the training plan to work, I have to follow it.

So, last week I followed my plan pretty well, and did 22 miles on Saturday at Eklutna Lake, and 10 miles on Sunday.  This is what my training plan said for this week:

Monday: rest day
Tuesday: rest day
Wednesday 10 miles
Thursday: 8 miles
Friday: rest day
Saturday: 24 miles
Sunday: 10 miles
Total weekly mileage: 52

This is what actually happened this week:

Monday: I always run either about 3.25 or about 4.1 miles on Monday, but they are fairly easy miles, in a group run put on by my local running store, Active Soles. 3.25 miles

Tuesday: I don't have rest days. I run every day, because I am streaking. So for me, on rest days, I typically run 1 mile on a treadmill, and use those miles to run fast. 1 mile, in 9:18.

Wednesday: I planned to run 10 miles after work at 4:30. I didn't get off til after 8:00 pm, though, Tried out a trail at an outdoor recreation center that was sort of on my way home. I ran every inch of the trail, and all I got was 1.54 miles.

Thursday: Again, my plan was to run the 8 miles after work. I worked until 9:00. Ugh. Went to Matanuska Lake and ran 4.25 miles. I love those trails, even when I'm tired.

Friday: 1 mile, on the treadmill again, this time in 8:58.

Saturday: I was going to run 24 miles, really I was. I woke up and it was raining. I went and ran a couple errands, then came home, because my husband was going to ride his bike while I ran. He was taking a nap when I got home, since it was cold and rainy, and I took a nap with him. It was chilly and rainy all afternoon, I just couldn't get up the motivation to run for 5 hours in that. I took the dog for a quick run around the neighborhood. 1.25 miles. 

Tomorrow: Tomorrow I am going to do my long run!! 24 miles. The weather is supposed to be better, but even if not, I'm going to have to just suck it up and do it.

Total weekly mileage: 36.29 (counting tomorrow's run)

Yeah. I didn't quite make it. This isn't going to get me to Chena Hot Springs.

I am SO not a morning person, but I am starting to think I may have to get my butt out of bed at 4:45 on Wednesday and Thursday mornings to get those runs in. I have a job that requires me to work late on a distressingly regular basis, and clearly waiting til after work isn't working. Somehow I have to get those miles in. And I've got less than 2 months til my race, so I can't afford to stay home when the weather sucks anymore. After all, I might very well have to run the race in crappy weather. The weather was chilly and rainy for it last year...

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Eklutna Lake trail run

My training plan called for a 22 mile trail run this past Saturday. 22 takes a long time to run, even on pavement, and my pace is somewhat slower on trails. I estimated that it would take about 4 and a half hours, maybe more. Since when I run on bike paths, that gets pretty boring for the family, they don't usually come along. But since this needed to be a trail run, and I wanted some distracting scent for the long run, I decided on Eklutna Lake. As a bonus, this was a destination I thought I might be able to get the family interested in, and get my long run in while still spending quality time with them. We had been to Eklutna Lake before on our bikes and enjoyed it. Sure enough, my husband and 12 year old son decided to bring their bikes and ride while I ran. My 16 year old daughter thought hanging with her friends was way cooler than spending the day with us, but that's ok. I would have thought the same thing at her age. The only hang up was that we are really busy right now, and it took my husband forever to decide to come with us instead of staying home and working. I'm really glad he decided to come with me, but it was fairly late by the time we got there. Good thing for long Alaska summer days!

Eklutna Lake is a long, skinny man made lake, with a dam at one end and a glacier at the other. The glacier used to come pretty close to where the shallow end of the lake is now, but it's been  retreating for a long time, and now you can't see it from the lake. There is a trail that runs 8 miles along the edge of the lake, then another 4 or 5 miles to the glacier terminus. It is a multi-use trail, used by hikers and runners,  mountain bikers, equestrians,  and ATV's, so it is a pretty wide trail, really much like a gravel road. There are multiple places, however, where the trail splits, and ATV's go one way, and pedestrians and bikers go the other, onto smaller, more scenic trails closer to the edge of the water. I always chose the pedestrian trails.

My husky, Daisy, ran with me, with her little backpack carrying extra food and water. After about mile 5 or so, weren't seeing very many other people, so I let her off her leash so she could explore a little. For the most part, she did a good job of staying with me.

The boys would ride their bikes for a few miles, then stop and wait for me to catch up, when they found convenient waiting spots. 

At about mile 10, they decided they had gone far enough, and I went on ahead another mile, then turned around and started heading back. It was a great run with some amazing views:

By the time we had gotten towards the end of the trip, it was getting late, almost 10 pm, and the sun was getting low in the sky. That really brought out the color of the lake.


My Garmin says it took me 4:49:29. I did pause it at mile 12, when we took a fairly lengthy break, but other than that I didn't stop it at all. That's a little over 13 minutes per mile. It does seem like I stopped a lot. I stopped at mile 3.5, where they were waiting for me at the bench, mile 8.15, mile 10, mile 12, mile 13.85, and mile 18.5, at least. There were also several times I stopped to let the dog drink, to take pictures, to call the dog out of the woods, etc. So I *think* that if I had run this by myself with no distractions, I probably would have averaged at least a minute or so faster per mile. But it was so nice to have my family there, and not feel guilty about going to the lake without them, that it was totally worth any time sacrifice. After all, this was a training run, not a race. And anything that makes training miles fun is totally worth it, I think. By the end of the run, I was really tired. As usual, miles 17-20, maybe 21, were really hard. By mile 22 I was picking it up again. I was tired, but not completely done in, which makes me really happy.

Fuel, hydration, electrolytes:

This run was kind of a mishmash of things, but it kind of worked. First off, water. I had two 1.5 liter bladders for my Camelbak. It was a warm, sunny day, about 70 degrees, which is sort of crazy warm for mid-May in Alaska. In one of my 1.5 liter bladders, I put a stick of Tailwind. I know that 1 stick is too dilute, but that was what I had. In the other, I put a package of Gu high energy electrolyte mix. I had my husband carry the extra water in his backpack, since he was biking, and he had the room in his pack, and I switched out the bladder in my running vest at mile 12, giving him the empty to haul back. It actually wasn't completely empty, but there was less than half a liter in it, and my 12 year old had emptied his Camelbak, and we put the rest, plus some extra water from my husband's 3 liter bladder in my son's. Can't have your kids getting dehydrated. 

I know that Tailwind says that when mixed properly with water, Tailwind is all you need for calories, as well as electrolytes. But I found when I use just Tailwind, I get hungry. I think my stomach likes having a little solid food in it. I seem to do better with mixing Tailwind at about half strength and then supplementing with other fuel, but less frequently than I would without the Tailwind. That seems to not only ensure that I am getting some electrolytes, but it has so far worked to keep my stomach from refusing fuel after mile 18 or so, like what happened with my marathons last summer. (Well, except for the PB&J... read on.)

We bought M&M's that were on sale buy 1, get 1 free, and I ate one of them on the way up the canyon in the Jeep, about 20 minutes before starting to run. I ate a Honey Stinger waffle at mile 4, and a Gu at mile 8. I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich I was going to eat at the turnaround point at mile 11, but with the boys stopping at mile 10, I ran to mile 11 and back before stopping to eat with them. This is the only problem I had. I ate the entire PB&J. It was smooshed, but SO GOOD!! I really should have eaten half then and the other half later. Or eaten half at mile 10, and half at mile 12 maybe. By the time I got to mile 14, my stomach was giving me problems because I had eaten too much at once. At mile 18 or so, I ate a second Honey Stinger waffle. As soon as I got back in the Jeep, I ate the other package of M&M's. I was starving and all I could think was that I wanted a burger, but food had to wait til we got home. By that time, I was all about Kraft macaroni and cheese, LOL, and ate a huge bowl of it with hot dogs cut up in it. Yes, I sometimes have the taste buds of a 12 year old. It totally hit the spot.

So, all in all, this run was a total success. I knew I could run distances on pavement, and now I know I can do it on trails too. All I need now is some elevation, but there's still snow in the mountains. Soon, soon. This run made me feel a bit more confident in my ability to complete the race in July. Plus, family time, plus beautiful scenery. It's all win/win. There was no downside to this trip whatsoever, and I loved it.