Dec 062012

My most important trail-running goal for 2013 will be — wait for it — patience.

In other words, I want to improve upon last year, but I don’t expect to suddenly transform into a professional-level runner who wins races at any distance.  That’s just not realistic for anyone with the possible exception of Emelie Forsberg.  So here are a few things I’d like to accomplish in 2013:

1) Run a decent marathon-length race.  What counts as “decent” is that it won’t be like my 2012 Prairie Fire Marathon in Wichita, where I had to walk the last 10 miles of the course.  I’d like to try a 50k or 50 mile race, and I might try one in 2013, but I’m not going to fret much if the ultra distance gets pushed back a year or two.

2) Run the Pikes Peak Ascent or Marathon for the first time since 2001.  I’ll hope to get a good time, but unless I get a better qualifying time between now and next March, I’ll probably have to run those races in the second wave, which makes it a little more difficult.  If things go *really* well, I’d like to get a sub-3hr ascent time on Pikes Peak next year, either in the race or during a training run.

3) Run a race in Europe.  There’s a chance I’ll get to go to Europe next May, and I had initially thought of trying to get a spot at Zegama-Aizkorri.  Now, though, it looks like the timing won’t work out for that race.  So if I do go Europe at all, I’ll try to find another event.  Shouldn’t be that hard from what I’ve heard about the sheer number of races in Europe.

4) Have fun.  This probably means running a lot with my dog.

Dec 022012

Next summer I want to run the Pikes Peak Marathon for the first time since 2001.  This summer I ran up the Barr Trail to the summit for the first time since my last race, and recorded the following splits:

1:01  to top of incline (from soda springs park)
1:58 to barr camp (57 min from incline)
3:03 to aframe (1:05 from barr camp)
4:36 to summit (1:32 from aframe)

This run along with my previous race times told me a lot about what I need to do to record a good time in the marathon.  Here are the most important points.

Run, don’t walk, the portion of the ascent above timberline.  This is the most important single thing that separates the fast racers from the slow ones.  In my ascent this summer I wasn’t acclimated enough to the altitude to run any of the trail above the A-frame (roughly the elevation of timberline).  I watched the top racers this year near the summit, and it’s clear that you don’t necessarily need to run fast once you get that high on the mountain, but you should at least be running.  In 1996, I was working as an EMT on the summit and was able to run the entire trail above the A-frame during the Ascent, so I know I can do it if I’m adapted to the altitude.  Unfortunately, I was in the second wave of the Ascent that year and had to spend all my energy leaping up on rocks at the side of the trail to pass hikers, or my ascent time would have been much better than the 3:35 I recorded in the 1999 Marathon.

Condition my legs to absorb the beating of the downhill half.  My downhill times in my previous races are excessively long compared with my ascent times.  If you look at runners with roughly equivalent uphill times to mine, most of them have much better overall times, because they were able to run the descent much faster.  Most of the profound suffering that I experienced during my marathons was concentrated in the last fourth of the race.  In 2001 especially, I was reduced to walking most of the course below the summit of the incline on the descent, which meant that my downhill time was almost the same as my uphill time!  If I can run the entire downhill, my overall time will be much, much better.

These two goals dictate the kind of training I’ll need to do between now and next August.  Luckily, I’m living in Colorado now so I should be able to do what I need to do.  First, I’ll need to spend a lot of time up high.  Second, I need to do a lot of 5-6 hr trail runs with a lot of descending.  Both of these things sound fun to me, so I shouldn’t fail for lack of motivation.

Trail running is more fun with my dog.  This is my secret weapon that I didn’t have back when I last raced the PPM.  If I had had the kind of dog then that I have now, I would certainly have trained more and raced faster.

Pele waits for me above treeline on Pikes Peak