Monday, March 19, 2012

30,000 Feet of Ascent in one Hellishly Hilly Week

Mt. Everest: Over 29,000 ft Above Sea Level

While I don't feel that I can ever truly be ready for what awaits me, I think that I can honestly say that I have now trained as hard and as much as I possibly could have, without risking injury or overtraining.  And frankly, that could be debated as I may have overtrained a smidge.  Had I not been in Antarctica, I could have possibly trained a bit more earlier in the year, but I don't think those couple of extra weeks would have really made a difference.  Hopefully the next 10 days or so will give me a chance to have at least a moderate amount of rest and recovery.

The story for this past week week can be summed up with one BIG word:  HILLS.  I set out early in the week with two seemingly impossible goals:  Have two 10,000' ascent days (preferably back-to-back), and to have 30,000' of ascent for the week.  Understanding that the largest climb in the area is maybe 1400', you can imagine the prospect of doing literally dozens of repeats is less than appealing.  But, it had to be done.

If I NEVER see the Spruce Gap or Kettle trails again in my life, it will still be too soon.  The reason I have been going with these two trails is that there are relatively easy to get to, and they give me two distinct types of hill workouts.  The Spruce Gap Trail is about 1050' of climb, over about 1.4 miles.  So not quite as steep, but a bit longer.  The Kettle Trail is about 550', but over about a 1/2 a mile.  It is very steep near the top and has grades over 40%.  An out-n-back on these trails gives me about 3200' of gain, and each time takes me just under an hour. (The total length of each out-n-back is about 3.5 miles as there is some flat trail along the ridge line and at the bottom).  There are a couple of arguably better climbs in the area (i.e. gas-line cuts, or Broad Mtn), but they would have added a lot more time onto my workouts which as you will see filled up nearly my entire weekend as it was.

I ran/hiked nothing this entire week except these two trails.  I had no easy runs, no plain long runs, no tempo runs, and no trail escapades.  I ran Spruce and Kettle, and only Spruce and Kettle (And I use the term "ran" loosely as it was a lot of power hiking).  I forced myself to go easy on the downhill sections as well so as not to really injure myself.  There was no need to race down the steep parts and only risk serious knee problems.  The point was to rack up the elevation, not the speed.

So, a quick recap:

Rest Day
Notes:  Recovery from last weekend's 15,000' jaunt and 10k race.  Also, to prepare myself for the week.

Rothrock Hills
2x Spruce - Kettle out-n-backs.

Total Ascent: 3200'
Miles: ~7
Tuesday's 2x Out-n-Back
Rothrock Hills
2x Spruce - Kettle out-n-backs.

Total Ascent: 3200'
Miles: ~7
Wednesday's 2x Out-n-Back
Rothrock Hills
2x Spruce - Kettle out-n-backs.

Total Ascent: 3200'
Miles: ~7
Thursday's 2x Out-n-Back
Rest Day: Prepare for Weekend

Rothrock Hills
6x+ Spruce - Kettle out-n-backs.  
This was the big daddy.  I did 6 repeats plus a single Spruce out-n-back.
This workout featured 10,400 feet of ascent in 23 miles.  This is spot-on with what I need to be able to do.  I was super pleased with this.
This workout literally took me all day.  7+ hours (Includes lunch break).

Total Ascent: 10,400'!!!
Miles: ~23

Saturday's Extreme Profile

Total Ascent: 10,400'

23 miles, 7:26 total time.

Rothrock Hills
6x+ Spruce - Kettle out-n-backs.  
Well I did it!  I hit 10,000 for a 2nd day!  Yesterday I did 6 more repeats making my total number of Spruce/Kettle repeats for the week at 19!  By the time I hit my last climb yesterday, I was pretty darn cranky at the damn Spruce Trail.  All day I was passing the same day hikers that were looking at me with some rather peculiar looks.  One couple told me quite honestly that I was which I happily agreed.  I will finally, after over two months of extreme training, rest my body and focus on a solid recovery and taper.  I will probably still do a very light hill workout this week, but nothing like what I've been doing.  I really need my body to rest and heal up and it's no time to push myself.  It won't accomplish anything other than to put me at risk for injury and hence at a disadvantage.  

Sunday's workout had me at 10,000' at just about 20 miles, or 500' per mile.  This is also right where I need to be.  It's important to note too, that 7 hours may seem like a long time, but I also had about an hour break on both Saturday and Sunday in the middle of the workout for a lunch, and a splash in the creek.  The profile stops recording, but the clock does not.

Total Ascent: 10,000'!!!
Miles: ~21.5
Sunday's Profile

10,000' again!

20 Miles and just under 7 hours (pic taken before last descent)

TOTAL ASCENT: 30,000'  Woohoo!  I did it!
Miles: ~65.5

So, lets review my original to-do list:
  • Have a 90-100 mile week.   
    • Check! (Week of 2/13-2/19 : 92 Miles)
  • Run an ultra-length, full-day, hilly, long run (at least 8000' gain)
    • Check! (42-mile Black Forest Trail run : 9000', 11+ hours)
  • Run/Hike a 24-36 hr non-stop, unfamiliar trail. This is to train for navigation, sleep deprivation, and what to carry to be self-sufficient.
    • Check! (Mid-State Trail ~70-mile, 25-hour, thru-hike)
  • Spend 2+ months focusing on long trails runs and hills
    • Check! (see training log for past 2 months)
  • Get some training on extremely steep terrain
    • Check! (gas-line cut training, 40-50% grade:  ~1200ft in ~0.95 miles)
  • 10,000' ascent day
    • Check! (last weekend in Rothrock - followed by a 4500' day)
  • Back-to-back 10,000' ascent days
    • Check! (this past weekend!)
  • 30,000' ascent week
    • Check! (this entire past week!)
  • Orienteering practice
    • Partial-Check.  I spent time re-familiarizing myself with compass orientation and wrote down several bearings based on maps...and then navigated with those bearings.  Also, my romp on the mid-state trail had me use my compass several times.  In honesty though, I still need to work on this and will focus on it over the next 10 days
  • Buy remaining gear and supplies
    • Still working on this, but getting close and should be done by Thursday
  • Proper Rest/Recover
And the one item that I really haven't done enough of is, to practice bushwacking up steep hill-sides in Rothrock on unmarked climbs.  I had a couple of romps up overgrown hillsides, but to be honest, I feel that it was a bit overkill for training, especially when I can get the same gradient on marked trails and all I was doing was scratching myself up unnecessarily.  Add to that that the deer ticks are now out in crazy numbers, and I have no desire to be plucking those little buggers off me after every run.  As it was, I pulled 4 off me this just this week, AND I was wearing DEET.

Small male deer tick crawling on a twig...
(after I found him crawling on me!)

...oh and as far as the on-site training, well I'll just say that is still going to happen as well.

So that's it.  I am absolutely thrilled at what I've been able to accomplish with my training since getting back from Antarctica and having such little time.  I am also ecstatic that my body has mostly cooperated.  I had a little scare a couple of weeks ago when I had a mild case of runner's knee sneak up on me (no doubt from all the steep downhills), but that light week 2 weeks ago really helped and it has since gone away.

As far as the picture of Mt. Everest, well I put that as the title photo because I realized this morning that this past week I basically climbed from sea level, to the top of Mt. Everest.  Pretty Cool.

hike on everyone! 

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