TransRockies Run Final Training Update (July 18-August 21)

As my training for next week’s Gore-Tex TransRockies Run stage race has progressed, my training updates have tailed off. For […]

By on August 22, 2008 | Comments

As my training for next week’s Gore-Tex TransRockies Run stage race has progressed, my training updates have tailed off. For a while the updates were weekly (May 5-11; May 12-18; May 19-25; May 26-June 1; June 2-8) and then there was July’s 6-week period update (June 9-July 17). While my training has not been ideal, I hope that a couple weeks of consistent training and a few key workouts will allow me to excel besides my teammate, Martin Gaffuri. Below is a summary of my training for the past 5 weeks, as well as reports of pacing stints at the Vermont 100, the Riley’s Rumble half marathon, and pacing at the Leadville 100.

Check back in at next week for what I hope will be daily updates from the TransRockies Run to see if my training was, indeed, enough. I had planned on writing up a preview of each stage of TRR, but my teammate has done such a good job that I’ll simply direct you to his analysis of the race, as well as the individual stages: Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, Stage 4, Stage 5, and Stage 6.

Overall, I ran 321 miles in the five weeks since my last update. At 64.5 miles per week, that’s likely the best five week stretch of training since August into September of 2007, which included an epic trail running vacation. (Day 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) During these past five weeks I also logged 5 runs of 23 miles or more with 4 of those runs being at least 6 hour efforts.

This training period kicked off with one of those long efforts. On July 19th, I had the pleasure of pacing Andy Jones-Wilkins for the final 30 miles at the Vermont 100. Andy did a great job of summing up the race, so I’ll spare you most of the details. I’ll just say it was a thrill to be in such as race… and a race it was. I’d never seen a 100 mile race where the top three guys were shoulder-to-shoulder at a point after 70 miles and 100-mile rookie, Kevin Sullivan, kept the heat on AJW the entire way. In the end, Andy held on to win in 16:07… and Kevin had given me a major case of whiplash. ;-)

Andy Jones-Wilkins pace Vermont 100Pace graph of AJW’s last 30 miles at the 2008 Vermont 100

After two hours or so of rest following pacing Andy and with much encouragement from Andy’s oldest son, I got back in the shuttle van and headed back to Camp Ten Bear (mile 70) to pick up a random pacee. As luck would have it, I was assigned Jim Cavanaugh, who lives but 2 miles away from me in Arlington, Virginia! What made pacing Jim so special was that he was 66 years old attempting his first 100 miler. While Jim would rightfully complain about his feet or quads from time to time, he never once suggested that he wouldn’t finish throughout the long night. Quite the opposite – he was determined to make it and 29 and a half hours after the gun sounded, he crossed the finish line 30 minutes under the time limit. As sweet as it was to join Andy for his Vermont victory, it was inspiring to witness what Jim accomplished.

Vermont 100 elevation profile - last 30 milesVermont 100 course – elevation profile last 30 miles

The back-to-back 30 mile runs at Vermont resulted in what was easily my highest mileage week of the year at 92 miles. After two easy days to recover from the Vermont traveling mileage as much as the running mileage, I put in another base week at 47.5 miles, including 3 runs of 10+ miles. The final such run was at the Riley’s Rumble half marathon. The Riley’s Rumble course was quite hilly and the morning very humid, but these weren’t the biggest challenges of the day. Nope, my own head was. I ran the race as a way to prepare for the intensity of the shorter stages at the TransRockies Run and it turns out that I sure did need it. After going out at a respectable enough 170+ beats per minute (bpm) heart rate (hr) for 2 or 3 miles, my hr drifted down to 165 and then 160. I thought I was trying my hardest as my hr drifted below 160 bpm. Fortunately, two guys came up on my should at that point and I decided to go with them. I ran the next 10 or so miles with one of them. We averaged 175 bpm for the next 3.5 miles and were closer to 180 or above on the way back in on the out-and-back course. My time was unspectacular at 1:23 and change, but given the conditions I felt very good about the effort. The fellow I ran with and the one I passed in the final mile had both run 27:30-40 for an 8k under bad conditions the previous weekend and the one I finished with had run a 14:45 5k the previous spring. While I may not be suited for speed right now, I may be closer to the strength and endurance mix I’ll need for the TransRockies Run. It is time to be the diesel locomotive, not the dragster.

Riley's Rumble half marathon elevation profile2008 Riley’s Rumble Half Marathon – elevation profile and heart rate data

The week of July 28 through August 3 was an innocuous 56 mile week with a hard 23 miler on the roads to finish it off. The following week, August 4-10 started off innocently enough… and then I flew to Utah for the Outdoor Retailer show. (iRF’s OR Show top products) Other than running the length of the Salt Palace to make appointments I didn’t run during my first day in Utah, but I sure made up for it the following two days!

On Saturday morning around 10:30 I slipped on a pair of END Footwear’s Spring 2009 YMMV shoes and started doing laps outside of the Salt Palace. Not long thereafter, I found myself standing on a treadmill set at a 15% incline. I was about to try to go as far as I could on that grade in 15 minutes as part of Trail Runner Magazine’s Uphill Challenge. At this point I’ve blocked out most of the painful details, but to paint that brutal quarter hour in broad brush strokes, I started out at 5 mph and quickly increased the pace to 6 mph. Big mistake. After shifting down to 5.5 mph, I alternated between 5 and 5.5 mph until around 10 minutes when I had to take a 30 second break at 3.5 mph. At some point during the first 12 minutes, I also managed to walk 15% grade at 5 mph for a little bit. This walking speed was my biggest surprise of the challenge… get on a treadmill and try it! I never really had a kick, but did finish strong – logging 1.33 by the end of 15 minutes. It was just behind the best mark of the day to that point (1.36 miles) and ahead of my competitor and friend, Paul Curran from END footwear. It was, however, far behind Erik Skaggs’ standard setting 1.63 miles. (Video of Erik versus his brother, Kyle, in the Uphill Challenge)

Bryon Powell and Paul Curran Uphill Challenge END Footwear YMMVBryon Powell (left) vs. Paul Curran (right) at the 2008 Trail Runner Magazine Uphill Challenge
Both competitors are wearing END Footwear’s forthcoming YMMV shoe

After a few hours of wandering the OR show, I met up with Andy Jones-Wilkins and Jeff Kozak for a night run on the Wasatch 100 course. We ran out from Brighton (mile 75) past The Plunge with one gratuitous elevation gain thrown in for good measure before heading back to Pole Line via a short cut. As we approached Pole Line from the back Andy was far ahead of Jeff and I. The two of us were unsure at one intersection and added another 900′ of gratuitous elevation gain before returning to the turn and getting back on course. In the end we ended up running 28 miles in 9 hours(!) with at least 8,000′ of elevation. I was wiped!

Sunday evening I gingerly hit the trail with Garret Graubins for a nice 14 miles from downtown SLC, up City Creek Canyon and then east on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail before reversing direction. It was great to catch up with Garret and I was quite thankful that he was patient with me and my fried legs.

I think this Wasatch weekend was great in many respects. First off, I logged 45 miles in 33 hours (and 70 miles for the full week). That’s a good way to get some miles in. Second, I got the intensity of the Uphill Challenge under my belt. I will be ready to go as hard as I need to at TransRockies. Third, I thrashed my quads with some solid eccentric downhill work. I live in Arlington, VA and 250′ is about as big of a climb as I get at home, so I don’t get to test my quads unless I drive to the mountains… which I haven’t done this summer. The 8-10,000′ of descent during my run with Andy and Jeff certainly went a long way towards giving me the strength I’ll need for the day after day of descents at TransRockies. Lastly, my run with Garret was practice for running on tired legs, which I’ll certainly have to do during TRR next week.

Last week, August 11-17, was another 70+ mile week (71 miles). The training highlight of the week was pacing 37 mile at Leadville. I was supposed to pace Wasatch Speed Goat teammate Tim Long starting at Winfield (mile 50), but he dropped at mile 49. Instead, I ran out of Winfield with another WSG teammate, Larry Hall. We had a great crossing of Hope Pass. Heading out of Twin Lakes (mile 60), Larry insisted that I go ahead and pace Sandy White, yet another Speed Goater who we came into the aid station with and who was attempting his first 100. I ran with Sandy until Mayqueen (mile 87) where the day and the miles got the best of him. The morning and night at Leadville were brutal this year with cold and wet conditions that led to a higher than usual number of dropouts. For a better perspective on the conditions read Scott Jaime’s race report and Leadville 100 regular Paul DeWitt’s crew/pacing report.

Larry Hall Hope Pass Leadville 100 2008Larry Hall et al. in the Race Across the Sky

Since Monday, I’ve been in Boulder staying with Adam Chase at the base of Mt. Sanitas. My TransRockies Run teammate, Martin Gaffuri has also been staying there since Monday evening. Martin and I have logged three runs together so far and things look good for TRR. He is lightning and I am thunder. I think my patience will help his race, while his energy and enthusiasm will pull me along when I want to plod along.

Bryon Powell and Martin Gaffuri Mount Salinas Boulder ColoradoTeam Wings of Glory atop Mt. Sanitas

Check back tomorrow for a post on recovery and all next week for updates on team Wings of Glory’s progress as well as coverage of the TransRockies Run as a whole.

Trail Goat atop a mountain Boulder, Colorado
-photo by Martin Gaffuri
Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.