John "lakewood" Fegyveresi

Sunday, February 12, 2012

First Race, Snowy Hills, and Happy Feet

The snow has come to PA

Well it's been an interesting week of running for me.  I told myself that I was going to take a slight step back this week, focus more on light hill work, and keep the mileage totals a little lower.  For the most part I stuck to this plan, but also managed to throw in a few curve balls into the mix.

Let me first start off by saying, that winter is finally here in central PA.  For the past two weeks I've been able to enjoy some beautiful trail running through Rothrock State Forest.  Well...with a new, fresh 6" or so out there now, it makes running on the trails pretty dicey...especially considering how rocky and gnarly they are without the snow.  So I've been relegated to a lot of road running.  Thankfully, with a little creativity, I managed to put together a pretty nice week for myself.

A quick foot update.  For the first time in almost 8 months, I've gone three days completely pain-free in my right big toe.  I had a few final followup doc visits and the short story is that I simply have some mild arthritis in the one joint, and running 50-70 miles a week isn't helping.  No matter what I've tried...this damned recalcitrant toe, just doesn't want to cooperate.  Well, I've temporarily increased my ibuprofin intake, finished off every evening with a warm foot-bath, and I've been wearing dancer's pads. I ordered both the felt and foam pads and have been wearing them around the apartment and while running.  Lastly, I've been wearing new shoes, with a much firmer fore-foot...and it has been like night and day.  My foot hasn't felt this good since last May...and I ran 58 miles this week (including a race)!

Typical Dancer Pad - Keeps pressure off of the 
big toe's first joint (Metatarsophalangeal Joint)

So on to some quick weekly numbers:
Rather than do two back-to-back long/hill runs this weekend, I opted for a longer Saturday coupled with a shorter intense hill workout Sunday.  I popped onto the local Nittany Valley Runner Club page this week and saw that the first of six "Tussey Teaser" races was going to be this Saturday.  A 5.8 mile out-n-back on leg 9 of the Tussey 50 miler course.  I haven't done any sort of competitive race this year and I thought it would be a good idea to see how I fared.  So, I parked my car about 9 miles away from the start of the race, and had a nice hilly run to the starting line.  At 10:00 am, about 40 of us headed out into the 30 degree, snowy oblivion.  I was very surprised at how well I was able to maintain a fast pace (7 min/mile) without breathing too hard.  I guess all the training has been paying off.  I passed people left and right and finished the 5.8 mile snow covered course in about 41 minutes.  I finished in 5th place, so I was very pleased.  After the race, I put my Nathan pack back on, and ran about 11 miles back to my car (via different trails).  This gave me a nice 19-mile long run, with a ~6 mile race thrown in.  Great day!

(I am in one of the pics somewhere)

- As far as hill workouts, this week was a lot tougher to get in the overall elevation.  The snow makes the really steep trails quite scary to navigate and difficult to get good footing on.  I will say that the new Brooks Cascadia 7s held up very well and had excellent traction on the slippery rocks.  While my own verdict on the new Cascadia's is not quite out yet, I was very glad to have such stable footing all week.

- I was able to get in a solid 4x repeat up-and-down on Mt. Nittany on Tuesday before the snow hit.  I am getting noticeably faster with this climb.  I ran quite a bit of the uphills.

- On thursday, I made my way to Broad Mtn again, but after one climb up, I realized that the trail was way to sketchy to be doing and instead settled for a moderate run along the fire road.

- I was starting to get a bit worried about what I'd be able to find to do proper hill workouts on.  The snow is really putting a kink in my plans and even Mt. Nittany Trail is pretty slick now.  But alas, things always work out.  While I was looking over my map for something to run that best mimics the type of climb that I'll be faced with in a few short weeks, I discovered something that hadn't occurred to me.  I had an outside-the-box sort of epiphany and found what I was looking for.  And what exactly did I find you ask?  Well, I found the magical "gas-line cut".  Similar in style to to a "powerline cut", the "gas-line cut" runs right through Rothrock and goes straight up...and straight down the ridges.  No switchbacks, no trails, no simple way about it.  This is EXACTLY what I was looking for.  Something steep, something unmaintained, and something relatively clear of snow.  For whatever meteorological reason, the way the wind blows through the cut, keeps a lot of snow from accumulating.  This was a big bonus.  And while the cuts aren't a complete "bush-wack" (which I will also like to train through), it is a step in the right direction.  So today I had a "fun" field day playing on the gas-line cuts.

Cut 1:
The first cut seemed perfect.  1250 feet of gain in just under 1 mile.  This is the closest I've been able to find to what I will actually be dealing with.  This was the type of climb that I found myself on all fours several times.  I was surprised at how strong I powered up it...but then reality hit.  This particular climb was extremely rocky.  I hadn't really paid much attention, but on the way down, I was frankly terrified.  I slipped several times and decided that doing two more passes just wasn't worth the risk.  After about 15 minutes in my car of feeling rather dejected...I set out to find another cut to play on.  It was tempting to simply drive home.  After all, I ran almost 26 miles yesterday, it was about 20F outside with gusting wind, and I was tired.  But as I started to drive away, I decided to take a look at one other place that looked promising on the map, that was also on the way back home.

Cut 1:  It doesn't look that ominous, but don't be fooled.  It is 1250ft in 0.95 miles

Once up, once down was enough for me
(I will definitely try this cut again once the snow melts though)

Cut 2:
The second cut was noticeably lower in elevation, but also noticeably "grassier".   The total elevation was about 700ft in 1/2 about the same steepness.  I figured this was a good compromise and started up it.  There ended up actually being a sort-of goat-path along the left side.  I wouldn't call it a trail, but it gave me a vague path to follow.  This climb was considerably less rocky and I was able to power up and down it 4 me over 2700ft of ascent in just under 4 miles.  The best part about this cut is that at the very top, it crosses the Tussey Mountain trail.  I see a lot of potential here for combined long/hill workouts.

Cut 2:  A more subdued 700ft of climb in 0.5 miles.  

Cut 2 repeats.  I ran along the Tussey Trail for a bit after the fourth climb,
and I added a cool-down run once back at my car (Total 5 miles)

The hill workouts are really starting to add up.  It's hard not living in someplace like Boulder where I could go up and down a single peak every morning for 3000ft of gain.  I have to do the best with what I have here.  So far, I feel that I've been pretty creative in what I've come up with: steep and rocky trail work, with some long runs thrown in.

- For this particular week, I managed just under 12,000 ft of total Ascent, ~58 miles, and a good showing at my first race!
- I did also manage to get in a little compass work today.  I practiced getting bearings, and picking proper headings to various landmarks.  In all, it was mostly a refresh just to make sure I remembered how to use my compass.  I plan to do a more intense refresher in the weeks to come.

Hill Ascent totals so far

Next week, I'm hoping to step it back up to about 60-65 miles.  I will undoubtedly be using my new found gas-line cut often and would like to get in at least 15-20,000 feet of gain for the week.

By the way, for those that are interested in how to calculate "steepness" vs "percentage" vs "gradient", here's the easy guide:

  • Slope, gradient, grade, incline, and pitch, are all the same thing.
  • Slope is usually expressed as a percentage, angle, or ratio.
  • Slope is determined by dividing the "rise" over the "run".
  • "Run" can be determined either on a map, or very crudely by using the pythagorean theorem.
  • Mutiply (Rise/Run) by 100 to express slope as a percentage.
  • To express the slope angle in degrees, take the arctangent of (Rise/Run).
Example from Cut 1, yesterday:

1.  I ran just under a mile from my car to the top of the cut....or 5000 ft.
2.  I climbed 1250 ft of total ascent.  This would be the "RISE"
3.  To determine the RUN, I will use the pythagorean theorem.
    (Obviously using a map is the better way to go here to get the actual "RUN"distance since I did not run a perfect angle on a perfect triangle - but this will give a rough estimate)
                 RUN^2 + RISE^2 = AB^2    OR  RUN = SQRT(AB^2 - RISE^2)
                 RUN = approx 4841 ft
4.  So, the Slope (ratio), or GRADE, is RISE/RUN = 1250/4841 or 0.258.
5.  Expressed as a percent, it would be 0.258 * 100, or 25.8%.
6.  The angle in degrees would be expressed as arctan(1250/4841) or, ~14.5 degrees.
7.  Of couse this is an average slope integrated over the length of the run.  Obviously some parts are steeper than others.

Note:  Using a map to determine an exact RUN distance by using the scale bar on the map, I get a RUN of about 4600 ft...which results in a Slope of 1250/4600 or 0.271 (27.1%).  This would equate to an average degree-angle of roughly 15.2 degrees.

One last thing...
My Great 2012 Shoe Experiment:
Something I haven't talked about but I will mention briefly, is I also plan to conduct my own personalized running shoe study.  In addition to the dancer pads, my doctor also suggested I try two different shoe routes to help with my toe (even though it has now been pain-free for over 3 days).  He suggested either a more robust shoe with a stiffer fore-foot, or a shoe with added cushioning/padding.  So far I'm very pleased with my new Cascadias, and am proud to be a "Friend of Brooks", but wanted to at least be scientific about this.  With the help of some incredible deals on a few outlet websites, I managed to acquire two additional pairs of shoes that I will be testing over the next couple of weeks.  This is all I'm going to say about it right now, but will do a complete review following my experiment.  Needless to say, there aren't any minimalist shoes in the mix.


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