Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Eight cycling days in December across Silicon Valley

My home in Silicon Valley is surrounded by headquarters of some of the worlds best known public technology companies and the venture capital money that funded their early growth.  For 8 days last December I rode through storms of money, innovation & creativity to nearby big climbs en-route to a selected technology company.  Here is a short summary of each days riding, destination & Strava profile:

December 23: 37 miles (3100' of climbing) including Old La Honda Rd, Windy Hill & Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers.  Located on Sand Hill Rd, KPCB has funded some of the best know tech companies in the valley including Google, AOL, Intel & Zynga.  Nearby Old La Honda Rd climbs 1300' in 3 miles and is a favorite of local cyclists (including venture capitalists on their lunch breaks).  Weather? Easy, breezy California - sunny and mild.

December 24: 40 mile road bike including Palo Alto Foothills Park, Woodside, Page Mill Rd and HP (Hewlett Packard).  Founded in 1935 by two Stanford grads, HP went public in 1957 and is recognized as the symbolic founder of Silicon Valley.  Page Mill Rd climbs 1900' in 6 miles and is a favorite of local road bike riders.  Weather?  Second day in a row of sunny & mild temps.

December 25: 35 miles including Apple Computer, Saratoga Village and 1 Infinite Loop.  Founded in 1976 and located at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA - Apple Computer got it's initial funding of $250,000 from angel investor Mike Markkula.  Just up the road from Apple, super-exclusive Saratoga Village is nestled at the foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains and is home to many of Silicon Valley's super-rich.  Weather?  Ok, this is getting boring - sunny and mild temps (again).

December 26:  60 cycling miles including San Bruno Mountain hill repeats, the Bay Trail, Seal Point and VMware.  Located along cyclists paradise Foothill Expressway in Palo Alto, VMware was founded in 1998, acquired by EMC Corporation in 2004 and went public in August 2007.  Dozens of cyclists on San Bruno Mountain this day training for the following weekends hill climb race.  There was nothing "virtual" about the pain cave we inhabited during the subsequent race.

December 27:  TRIPLE!  8 mile run + 15 mile bike + 21 mile bike.  I rode by Yahoo!'s corporate HQ in Sunnyvale, CA during both rides.  Founded in 1994 by Stanford grads Jerry Yang & David Filo, Yahoo! was one of the hotest web properties when its stock price peaked in 2000 at $118 per share. Today Yahoo! trades at $16 per share and has been eclipsed by its more successful rival located across Moffett Field in Mountain View.
8 Mile Run:
15 Mile Bike:
21 Mile Bike:

December 28:  6 mile run this morning followed by a 44 mile afternoon ride.  Rode a large loop to Saratoga, Los Gatos & the Bay Trail including a stop at Netflix corp HQ.  Founded in 1997, Netflix popularized DVD movies by mail in the US.  More recently Netflix has tried to transition to a streaming video business model without alienating it's existing customers.  I finished my ride at sunset at a popular search engine company located in Mountain View.

December 29:  Took the heavy iron 44 miles (1995 Specialized S-Works mountain bike) up Montebello Rd to Black Mountain (2800') to a descent on Alpine Rd through Portola Valley ending at the Google mother-ship in Mountain View, CA.  Like many other Silicon Valley tech companies Google was founded by Stanford University grads.  Larry Page & Sergey Brin started the search giant in 1998 and have succeeded making Google the best known company name / verb since Xerox.

December 30:  500 kilometers of cycling in 7 days.  Rode to Stanford University and social business pioneer Jive Software in Palo Alto, CA.  Founded by University of Iowa grads Matt Tucker & Bill Lynch 10 years ago, Jive went public in December opening at $12 per share and closing the day at $15. Pundits may claim the market is tired of social but Jive is showing the race to socialize enterprise is just getting started.

Now back to your regularly scheduled running programming.........

Monday, May 28, 2012

Two races in two days; excellence in mediocracy

Some things just go together; chocolate & peanut butter, pizza & beer, cars & seat-belts or Sonny & Cher.    Other things don't go so well together; oil & fiji water, pizza & mayonaise, Facebook & privacy or running & cycling.  Triathletes may beg to differ but let's be honest; you can't reach your full performance potential in either running or cycling races by training for both.  Last time I checked no world records in running were held by triathletes (sorry guys).  I had the opportunity to demonstrate this athletic discord in races the past couple months including back to back cycling and running races this long holiday weekend.

Before I get to this weekend's races let me just say that I love both running and cycling.  Also, after 15 years away from bike racing I'm really enjoying getting back at it - especially here in the road cycling mecca of Northern California.  Tons of people here ride, the cycling infrastructure is pretty decent and there are many, many great races to test your mettle.  That said, with 8 cycling and 5 running races done so far in 2012 I'm beginning to feel the limitations of a split training plan.  More specifically, since I'm putting most of my training time into running, I can feel the lack of cycling specific fitness (power) in my bike races.

Here are some numbers for consideration.  So far in 2012 I'm averaging 7.5 hours per week running vs. only 4.8 hours per week cycling.  That's not a huge time difference but consider that almost all of my quality high-intensity training hours (speed, hill workouts & races) are spent running and most of my rides are either a flat low-intensity ride or a race.  Before this year I assumed my overall running fitness would help me in bike races and to a limited extent it has.  Where I feel limited is in my ability to sustain a high power output on the bike and in 40+ mile bike races.

The good news is that what little time I do spend on the bike has been helpful to my running strength and my 2012 running races have been getting progressively better.  Also, unlike past years I've been able to sustain 65+ miles per week of running and for the past 6 week have been doing track-work and uphill threshold runs.  Considering my big goal races for 2012 are two running events next month I'm ok "sucking" a little bit on the bike (for now).

So, back to the last few days of training and back to back races.  Last Friday I'd planned to run twice for a total 10-12 miles but after Thursday's 14 mile / 3000' hard ascent/descent workout, the muscles deep in my abdomen were unexpectedly sore - and not is a good way.  I may have pulled something during Tuesday's track workout and exacerbated it running downhill for 3000'.  Since it didn't hurt while running I opted for one Friday workout - a 5 mile flat easy run.  Saturday was more of the same; my abs felt a little better so I ran short but with a little intensity at the end (6 minute miles) to make sure all systems were "go".

Sunday was race (#1) day - the Mt. Hamilton Classic.  For lowly Category 5 racers such as myself it was an 18 mile sprint to the top of 4200' Mt. Hamilton just East of San Jose.  While all the faster categories raced the full 62 miles to Livermore I was perfectly happy to end at the summit and save a little something for Monday's running race.  My goal for the race was to beat my time from last year (1:22:04) set on a 1984 Torpado Super Strada steel bike weighing 25 pounds.  With a new 17 pound "crabon fibre" beating my old time shouldn't be hard - the question would be by how much.

While some of my fellow freds warmed up on stationary trainers and rollers I ran two miles......cause I'm a runner and I do as runners do....I run.  Last year I raced in the 2nd Cat5 / citizen wave which included several folks on mountain bikes (?!?!).  This year I registered early and upgraded to wave #1; an all road bike crowd with predominately carbon fiber rigs and many a shaved leg(s).  If nobody in the crowd was fast, they at least looked fast so I lined up in the front and resolved to stick with the leaders for as long as I could.

Unlike last years slow roll to the official start of the climb, this years field got on the gas right from the start.  Within a couple miles the starting group of 50 was stretched out into two ever lengthening long lines lead by "Stanford" and "Webcor".  Stanford looked to be a strong and fit 20 years old and not at all laboring at this pace.  Webcor was also in his 20's and rode like a hot mess with shoulders rocking and rolling with every pedal stroke.  I reached my highest heart rate (166) in these first few miles but my legs felt good and I was content to follow wheels among the top few riders.

Once we got to the middle "flat" section of the first climb the pace continued to be high and lead group rode single file at a steady 20+ mph.  By the top of the first climb the original group of 50 was down to about 15 or 20 riders.  At the base of the second climb the select group bunched up again and set a surprisingly moderate pace.  So moderate that I raced that section slower than in a training ride earlier this year.  In spite of the slowish pace we still dropped some riders and were down to about 12 at the top of the second climb.

I took the lead on the last downhill only because I didn't want to get taken out if one of my fellow riders over-cooked the blind closing radius turn that sent one rider to the hospital last year.  After we crossed the bridge the real action started as Stanford burst into the lead followed by 3 or 4 riders.  I knew my limits and kept a steady pace as more riders passed in an attempt to catch the breakaway.  About a mile into the final climb I looked back to see I was the last rider from the original selection (oops).  The good news was that about 6 riders were within sight ahead on the road and not pulling away.

With 5 miles to go I set my sight on clawing back 6 places by riding hard and steady.  Slowly but surely I passed 5 of the 6 riders ahead including Webcor who was still hammering away with a significant about of body english.  At the final turn 200 meters from the finish it was clear I wasn't going to catch the 6th rider; unfortunately I wasn't looking behind me.  At 100m and 50m to go Webcor and another rider stormed past me in full sprint.  Oh well, I don't love getting out-sprinted but my real goal was to set a decent time and holding off two riders wasn't going to translate into that many seconds.

The official results have yet to be published but according to my Strava my time on the official course was 1:18:04 - exactly 4 minutes faster than last year.  Faster is always good but considering I used a much lighter bike than last year I'd hoped to be closer to 1:15.  Unlike last year I wasn't completely spent and cramping after the race.  I felt pretty good at the finish where I turned around and headed straight back to the start to get home a rest up for Monday's running race.

Today I drove up to Kentfield, CA for race #6 in the USATF-Pacific Associations Road Racing Grand Prix, the Marin Memorial Day 10k.  My legs felt pretty good but certainly not fresh as I ran my warm-up on the flat course around The College of Marin.  My plan would be to run a steady & controlled 5:30 pace and if I felt good try to pick up in the pace in the final mile or two.  It was hard to watch guys pull away that I've been able to beat in past races but I knew it was the smart move if I wanted to prevent a blow-up in the final miles.

The race unfolded about like I expected it to.  I went through every mile in 5:30 pace +/- a couple seconds.  Also as I expected a few guys came back to me in the second half of the race so I was able to pick up some places - valuable for the team scoring in this event.  What I didn't expect was the headwind in the final mile which made it my slowest mile in spite of it feeling like the hardest mile.  As I turned on the track for the final 300m an NB Excelsior teammate yelled words of encouragement from behind.  It was great motivation to keep the pace high and push through the latic acid pain.

Results have yet to be published but i think my time was just over 34 minutes - a good result considering the previous days bike race and right on my 5:30 goal pace.  Overall I'm happy with the combined results of both races.  I certainly could have biked faster if I'd done more cycling specific training.  I could have run faster if I'd not done the bike race. the end of the day I really like racing because it's fun!  I also really wanted do both races and was willing to accept whatever the outcome even if it was mediocre.

There will always be more races.  There will always be more fun.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pick your pain: Track or Mountain.....and I saw Air Force One!

...or both!  Yeah that's me - a glutton for punishment.  Tuesdays at the track and Thursdays at the mountain.  I'm not sure I can manage this all year around but in the lead-up to a couple big races next month my Tuesday / Thursday pain sandwich continues into week 4.  Oh and I'm also trying to keep my weekly mileage over 60.......and bike 2 to 3 times per week.

To that end even easy days aren't that "easy".  This past Monday I ran 4 miles in the morning with my bride followed by 8 slow miles on my own in the evening.  There's 12 in the bag.  Tuesday morning I ran another 8 miles; feeling much more spry than the previous evening.  Now up to 20 miles for the week.

Tuesday evening I met up with Aaron from the Lockheed speed crew to get an ass whoopin at the track.  Aaron is built like a brick house and has been training for 400 & 800 meter races.  Our workout was 3 sets of 200, 200, 400 with almost full rest in-between.  I managed 32 seconds for 200 and 66 seconds for 400 while Aaron ran 30's and 61's.  Oye, he looked sooooo far away coming down the front-stretch during the 400's.  I think we could have gone for another set but I was happy to finish before my times tanked.  A total of 6 miles including warm-up, active rest and warm-down.  Weekly mileage up to 26.

Normally on Wednesdays I run in the morning and bike in the evening but this week I opted for a long, steady, flat 14 mile run in the interest of boosting weekly milage.  I also wanted to see how my body might respond after the previous days track workout.  By the end I still felt strong - especially in the last couple miles where in previous long runs I could feel my legs beginning to fade.  Pace for the run was 7:25 per mile.  Total for the week up to 40 miles.......and I saw the President of the United States.

Ok, so I didn't actually see Barack Obama but I did see Air Force One land at Moffett Field and I predicted it's arrival.  Yeah for sure and not by looking on the Internet or hearing about it on TV!  While out for my morning 14 mile run I saw some unusual activity around Moffett Field:

1. Signs announcing that a section of the Bay Trail at the East end of the Moffett runway would be closed from 4 PM Wednesday to Noon on Thursday.
2. Half a dozen motorcycle cops on roads inside Moffett practicing what appeared to be route clearing drills.....for a motorcade perhaps?
3. An Air Force C5 transport place parked on the tarmac.  This is the type of aircraft is used to transport the presidential motorcade vehicles including "The Beast" used to carry the President.

When I rode my bike up the Stevens Creek Trail in the afternoon there were cops at every overpass between Mountain View and 101.  Ok, this is on for sure!  I asked one of the cops if the President was in town and if the trail would be closed.  Naturally he wouldn't confirm one way or the other but all the evidence was clearly adding up to "yes".  When I got up the Crittenden Lane a dozen people were gathered on the levee overlooking Moffett Field - somehow they got the memo.  2 minutes later Air Force One came into view and hit the ground with a couple black SUV's speeding down the runway after it.  Pretty freakin cool and I even got a (horrible) photo with my phone:

Star sighting complete.  Now for my Thursday test; a sustained uphill tempo run.  This week I selected a new course; one that started in the village of Saratoga and climbed to the 3100' high point on Skyline Drive 6.5 miles away.  The last time I ran to Skyline I started 2 miles West of Saratoga on Rt. 9.  This time I wanted to get an extra 400' of climb and more of a rolling start on the shallower grades of Rt. 9.  Once I turned onto Sanborn Rd (pictured below) the grade pitched up, my heart rate jumped into zone 4 and it was game on!

The Sanborn Rd segment is .75 miles long and climbs 450' before I turned right into the park.  That madness is followed by a narrow paved road through the campground that climbs 400' in .6 miles.  At the top of the campground road pavement finally gives way to dirt but the climbing continues.  The next 2 miles are all single-track (pictured below); most of it steep but with a few flatter traverses to take the edge off my lung burning - another 1200' climbed.

The single-track Sanborn trail meets the Skyline trail with a few hundred yards of Skyline Drive unfortunately I turned the wrong way.  Instead of a short set of steps from trail to road I bushwacked over to Skyline Drive and added .4 miles to my climb (schiznit).  No matter; once back on the road it was only a 1/2 mile and 175' of climbing to the high point and end of my tempo run.  DONE, and that a good way.  My reward was a clear view West to the Pacific Ocean (pictured below).

I took my time coming back down to try and go easy on my knees, snap some pics and try the San Andreas trail back to Sanborn Rd.  The upper section of San Andreas was well maintained and dominated by fun switchbacks but bottomed out in a maze of trails, roads, ponds, ball fields and school buildings.  A nice change of scenery but I'll stick with the Sanborn trail.

By the time I got back to Saratoga my clicked off almost 14 miles, 2950' of climb and an average pace of 8:58.  Good workout and I'm up to 54 miles of running for the week.  Next stop: Barefoot Coffee Roasters in Cupertino for an espresso (pictured above) and some fresh coffee for my grinder.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The tale of two mountains

The second half of last weeks training was organized around two key uphill workouts; a run up Black Mountain and a ride up Mt. Hamilton.  Both were important to building strength and fitness for upcoming hillclimb races.  The Mt. Hamilton Classic (road bike race) takes place next Sunday May 27 and for (slow) USA Cycling Category 5 racers like myself it will be 18 miles long with 4500' of climbing.  The Mt. Washington Road Race is coming up on June 16 and will be the 2012 USA Mountain Running National Championships.  This classic road mountain race climbs 4200' over 7.6 miles!

Yesterday was my last opportunity to ride up Mt. Hamilton before next weekend so I wanted to put in a steady zone 2/3 (heart rate) effort as well as think about strategy for the race.  Every time I ride Mt. Hamilton I think of the first time I rode it - last years Mt. Hamilton Challenge race!  I did the race on a heavy 25 pound steel bike from 1985 and was woefully unprepared in addition to being under-equipped.  I reached the summit in 1:22 with my lungs on fire and my ass muscles completely cramped.  In the end none of that mattered because it was wicked fun, an awesome challenge and I was hooked.

Mt. Hamilton Summit - May 2011

For this years race I resolved to do more uphill training rides prior to the race and be better equipped.  The better equipment was easy since I'd bought a modern carbon fiber bike last winter.  My training has also been better but only to a point since my primary focus has been on running and I only ride about 50 miles a week.  I felt good after climbing to the summit yesterday and looked forward to an enjoyable descent since my last visit to Hamilton was on a cool February day.  Total round trip ride stats: 40 miles, 2:42, 5400' of ascent and descent.

My other mountain climb last week was a uphill interval workout on Friday up to the 2800' summit of Black Mountain.  For this workout I took the shortest steepest route which climbs 5 miles from Moody Rd (Near Foothill College).  I started with 2 long 1 minute intervals at close to race pace.  With warm-up and rest this took me to the 4 mile mark (2000').  For the last steep mile I did 8x 1 minute hard intervals with 1 minute rest.  With a total of 23 minutes at threshold (zone 4) I counted that as a successful workout on the road to the Mt. Washington Road Race.  Workout stats are here or at the bottom of the post.

So those were my important workouts from the last few days.  Two mountains - at 4200' (Hamilton) and 2800' (Black) elevations, within sight of each other across Silicon Valley - both picture perfect training grounds for ascent races.  Other workouts the last few days included an 18 mile flat recovery bike ride Friday afternoon, an easy flat 10 mile run Saturday and a 4 mile run with my favorite running partner and wife Kelly.  :-)

Total mileage for the week:
60 running
121 cycling

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tour of California - Track workout - Deliverance

Ah, it's been a good first half of the week for training and a good time to live in California.  Early May is Amgen Tour of California (AToC) season and a chance to see some of the world's best cyclists up close and in person.  With that in mind, on Monday I took the train North to San Francisco to watch the start of stage 2 and ride part of the course......and ride home...maybe.

The circus started under cloudy skys on a chilly Marina Green with fans crowded around the team RV's eagerly awaiting views of their cycling heros.  About 45 minutes before the 11:00 AM start the Hincapie's, Boonan's, Sagan's, Leipheimer's, Horner's and other thick-legged riders emerged to greet the assembled fan-arazzi and pick up their featherweight carbon fiber steeds.

It's pretty cool to mingle this closely with the top riders in the sport but I'm sure that's partly due to the presence of a few hundred fans............not a few hundred thousand.  Like the rest of the adoring crowd I snapped the requisite photos and had a serious bout of bicycle-envy before riding out to the course to get some action photos.

10 minutes before the race start fellow Iron Data Thirsty Bear Cycling Team members Hans Gouwens, Phil Hynes, Tanya Fredricks and I sped off to the Legion of Honor to stake out a good viewing spot.  Soon after our arrival the entourage arrived astride motorcycles, cars, trucks, vans and bicycle.  First cops, then VIP cars, race officials, race referees, more cops, 75 BICYCLE RACERS, more officials, more referees, teams cars, ambulances, "broom wagons", sweep vehicles and finally......cops.  As the final vehicle passed a course marshall jumped into a nearby van, yelled "see you next year" and drove off in pursuit of America's largest cycling circus.

Well then, that was exciting.  From there Hans, Tanya, Phil and I followed the course South onto Rt. 1 along the far West edge of San Francisco.  Near the Zoo we picked up fellow teammate Duane Coughlin and continued down what is frankly not a very nice road for cycling.  Ok yes, it has a shoulder but for all intents and purposes Rt. 1 is a highway with cars zipping past at 55+ mph.  In San Bruno the team turned East while I continued South for another 40 miles of riding back to Mountain View.  Just about the time I was going to completely disavow bicycle riding in or near San Francisco the entrance to paradise - a separated bicycle path appeared - the Crystal Springs Regional Trail.  From there is was a decidedly more pleasant ride home.  Monday DONE!

Originally planned to ride down to San Jose to watch stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California but after Monday's 65 mile all day excursion I thought it would be best to get back to running training.  I kicked off the day with an easy 8 mile run along the Bay Trail after dropping Kelly off at her place of employment.

In the evening I met up with Jon Kimura, his Lockheed co-workers and my NB Excelsior team-mates Dan Rhodes & Andy Crawford for our weekly track workout.  It was pretty uneventful and typically painful - four sets of 200, 200, 400 with full rest.  Also typical was the running order - Lockheed out front, then young Andy, then me with Dan bringing up the rear.  The Lockheed guys have all been training hard for the track season since December while us old, road racing Excelsior guys were there to grow some fast-twitch muscle fibers.  Success is just showing up and suffering.  Mission accomplished.  Tuesday DONE.

Wednesday is usually the peanut butter & jelly in my speed (Tuesday) and hill work (Thursday) sandwich.  That is to say I usually take it easy and run and/or ride long.  Today I did keep the effort level low but went out into the hills in search of shade and elevation gain for the Strive for the Summit Challenge.  A world away from Silicon Valley but only 5 miles distant lies Redwood Gulch Road.  Looking like a shooting location from Deliverance, Redwood Gulch rises up from a deep wooded valley created by the San Andreas Fault and is known only to cyclists, runners and marijuana growers.  It was here where I started my 12 mile road / trail run that covered 2600' of vertical climb and descent.  Except for the descent on busy Rt. 9 it was a quiet run with not another soul to be seen.  Which was a good thing cause I ain't partial to squealing like a piggy.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Easy day - Race day - Long run day

On most days my knee surgeries seem like distant memories.  This past Thursday was an exception when my right knee decided to make it's dis-satisfaction known in the form of mildly painful swelling.  My surgery for a torn lateral meniscus was in 2006; prior to that I also had lyme arthritis in 2001.  Ever since those 2 events my right knee has always been more sensitive to overuse and in need of TLC (strength, form rolling, the stick & other exercises).  Never one to second guess a talkative knee I took Thursday completely off from training, iced the heck out of my knee, foam rolled more than usual and took a little ibuprofen.

In the interest of coming back easy I planned for only one workout on Friday - a very easy 26 mile road bike ride.  By late afternoon my knee continued to feel better so I changed up the plan and ran a very slow 4 miles.  Had this been mid-week I might have stuck with just the bike ride but on Saturday I had a 5k running race and wanted to see how my knee felt running prior to toeing the starting line.

Waking up Saturday my knee felt great - all systems go - now I could concentrate on racing.  The Pacific THERx 5k 4play was the 5th race in the USATF-Pacific Association's road racing grand prix and my 2nd 5k race of 2012.  I had two goals for the race - win the masters (40+) and run under 16 minutes.  My previous best this year was a 16:15, 3 weeks ago on a flatter course at the Zippy 5k.  Sub 16 might have been aggressive but hey, it's good to have goals.

Me and former USMRT team member Christine Lundy

In the end I only accomplished one of my goals - win the masters - and crossed the line in 16:08.  My Garmin data can be found on Strava here.  In hindsight I felt like I was going too easy following Jaime Heilpern (40+ master) for the 1st half of the race and left a few seconds on the table there.  I also ran too defensively in the final 1/2 mile and didn't suffer enough for fear of blowing up and loosing to Jaime.  That said, I was happy to be 7 seconds faster than Zippy on a course with 4x the vertical climbing & descending.  Perhaps the same effort on the Zippy course could have been a sub 16.  Complete race results are here.  

Today (Sunday) my knee continues to feel good so I capped off the weekend with a flat 12 mile run along the Bay Trail.  Weekly totals: 55 running miles (2100' climbing), 66 cycling miles (1600' climbing).  Not a ton of miles but with a another track workout done and race, I'm calling it a successful week.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mountain Running Season - Opening Day (sort of)

It's not exactly like opening day at Fenway Park; in fact there is no official opening day for the mountain running season but rest assured you can feel it coming.  Just as you can feel the approach warmer weather, mountain runners begin venturing out of their low-land dens onto to higher and muddy trails previously covered in snow.

Mountain running season kicks off in fits and starts first in the Appalachian chain along the Eastern United States, then the Sierras and Cascades before finally reaching the resistant snow pack of the high Colorado Rockies.

In the Northeast the USATF New England Association's 17th annual Mountain Running Circuit begins this weekend with the first ever Sleepy Hollow Mountain Running Race in Huntington, VT.  Sleepy Hollow is organized by 2011 World Mountain Running Champion and US Mountain Running Team (USMRT) member Kasie Enman.  The rest of the races in the series are:

May 26 - Wachusett Mountain - 4.7 miles - up/down - trail
June 3 - Pack Monadnock - 10 miles - uphill - road
June 24 - Mt. Cranmore Hillclimb - 6 miles - up/down - trail
July 8 - Loon Mountain Race - 5 miles - uphill - trail (selection race for the women's USMRT)
July 22 - Ascutney Mountain Challenge - 3.7 miles - uphill (2300') - road

The USATF New England Mountain Running Circuit was founded in 1996 by mountain running legend Dave Dunham (pictured above).  Dave won a silver medal at the 1993 World Mountain Running Trophy race in Gap, France and was a long time staff member for the US Mountain Running Team.  Dave passed organization of the circuit on to me in 2003.  In 2006 I moved to Oregon and handed the series over to it's current head of state Paul Kirsch.  Paul is also the Junior Team Leader for the US Mountain Running Team.

While not part of the New England Mountain Running Series the grand-daddy of all mountain races is without question the Mt. Washington Road Race (MWRR).  Often called the race to the clouds, it features only one hill which ends at the summit (pictured above).  The first timed run up the mountain was by George Foster in 1904 in a time of 1:42.  The MWRR is a 7.6 mile road race climbing 4200' up the auto road to the 6300'.  There are mountain races that climb more vertical feet (Mt. Ashland Hillclimb - 5600'); there are races finishing at higher elevations (Pikes Peak Ascent - 14,000') but NONE are as steep at Mt. Washington's 12% average grade for as many miles.  The 52nd annual MWRR will be held on June 16, 2012 and is the men's selection race for the US Mountain Running Team.

While New England has a rich history of mountain running there are other great races across the country.  The aforementioned Mt. Ashland Hillclimb Run (pictured above) will be held on August 4 (my birthday) in Ashland, Oregon.  This races climbs 5600' over 13 miles of mostly dirt road and trail from Lithia Park to the summit of Mt. Ashland (elevation 7533').  The race was first held in 1978 and has been run continuously ever since.  Up the road from Ashland at Applegate Lake is the Graniteman Mountain Run - a 10 mile up/down trail race that climbs 2200' before dropping back to the lakefront finish (pictured below).  The 2012 Graniteman will be held on June 17.

Naturally Colorado has many epic mountain races made even tougher by the high elevation courses.  Some notable races include:

July 7 - Vail Mountain Hillclimb - 7.5 miles - 2500' ascent
July 15 - Barr Mountain Trail Race - 12.5 miles - 3630' up/down
August 5 - Berry Picker Trail Run - 3.2 miles - 2100' ascent
August 18-19 - Pikes Peak Marathon & Ascent - 7800' ascent

Historically most members of the US Mountain Running Team have come from New England or Colorado because those were the regions with the most mountain running races.  Now we're seeing more elite mountain runners and fantastic mountain races outside these core regions.  Christine Lundy from Sausalito, CA has been on the USMRT several times and organized a team selection race on the famous Dipsea Trail in 2007.  Some current mountain races from around the country include:

May 12 - New York - Prospect Mountain Race - 5.6 miles - 1600' ascent
June 10 - California - Dipsea Trail Race - 7.4 miles - 2000' up/down
August 4 - California - Squaw Mountain Run - 3.6 miles - 2000' ascent
August 5 - New Mexico - La Luz Trail Run - 9 miles - 4000' ascent
August 25 - North Carolina - Continental Divide Trail Race - 6 miles - 1600' up/down
September 22 - New York - Whiteface Mountain Uphill Race - 7.5 miles - 3500' ascent
October 27 - California - Palm Springs Tram Road Challenge - 3.7 miles - 2000' ascent

The list above is not a complete list but rather a sampling of some great sub-ultra distance road and trail races featuring lots of vertical climb or climb & descent.  All the races above have hosted some of America's best mountain runners.

Speaking of our top elite mountain runners; where do they go to race against the world's best?  There are highly competitive mountain races on nearly every continent but the best of the best meet at the World Mountain Running Championships held each September.  The 28th annual championships will be held in Italy for the 7th time on September 2.  Pictured below is the 2008 bronze medal winning US men's team.

Other highly competitive international race include:

June 7 - Balkan Mountain Running Championships - Bulgaria
July 7 - European Mountain Running Championships - Turkey
July 21 - NACAC Mountain Running Championships - Canada
August 11 - CONSUDATLE Mountain Running Championships - Columbia
August 18 - Skaala Uphill - Norway
October 6 - Smarna Gora International Mountain Run - Slovenia
October 14 - Mt. Kinabalu Climbathon - Malaysia
November 29 - African Mountain Running Championships - Nigeria

Here are some resources for following the US Mountain Running Team through the 2012 mountain running season:

On Google+
On Twitter
On Facebook

See you in the mountains (or online)!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mixed Monday, Fast Tuesday & Recovery Wednesday

Normally on Monday I take the train to Marin Country and ride with my teammates on the Iron Data Thirsty Bear Cycling Team but not this week.  Tough workouts over the weekend left my legs feeling shot so I thought it wise to sleep in and push the day's workouts back a few hours.  By the time got my act together for a "morning" run it was noon, the sun was high in the sky and temps were in the 80's.  Oh well, I guess summer is inevitable even for winter-lovers like myself.  A flat 6 mile run at 7:30 pace gave me a chance to shake out the legs and do some heat training.

Not wanting to give up my regular Monday ride I decided on a one way ride late afternoon ride across new territory (for me).  The facilitate this adventure I opted to take Caltrain South as far as I dared given the inevitable sunset.  Studying the map and consulting the Caltrain schedule I selected the 4:15 PM out of Mountain View arriving 40 miles South in Morgan Hill (home of Specialized Bicycles) at 5:11 PM.  Sunset was at about 8 PM so the clock was ticking.

I set off North on as direct & bike friendly a route as I could find.  What I didn't expect was the brutal headwind sweeping across the open agricultural fields.  The grass, the trees and even the sign posts were leaning Southward (photo above).

To add some terrain variety I detoured West on Bailey Ave at the 10 mile mark, past the isolated rural IBM campus, past jet-skiers on Calero Reservoir (photo above) and into the outskirts of South San Jose on Almaden Expressway.  At Blossom Hill Road I faced a decision - turn due West for a more scenic ride through Los Gatos and Saratoga or head straight through downtown San Jose on a shorter route.  As I raced towards the intersection the left turn arrow (to Los Gatos) was red but straight ahead (to San Jose) was green.  I took the green light - decision made.

From here the ride was unremarkable and familiar - a mix of bike path and urban roads with decent bike lanes.  Along the Hwy 87 bike path, through Willow Glen, past our old apartment (The Elements),  The Alameda, past Santa Clara University, onto El Camino Real (briefly) to Monroe St and finally Evelyn Ave through Sunnyvale and home to Mountain View.  With a couple photo stops and headwind I averaged 17.6 mph over 40 miles.  I arrived home at 7:40 PM - about 10 minutes before sunset.  Route map and speed/heart-rate data on Strava here.

Tuesday was my scheduled track workout day which I kicked off with an easy, flat 7 mile morning run.    That evening I met NB Excelsior teammate Jon Kimura who along with his Lockheed co-workers have been on a regular track regimen since January in preparation for corporate races.  Following the Daniels training plan they recently raced at the Penn Relays and are training for the USATF-Pacific Association Track & Field Championships later this month.  Needless to say that I get my ass kicked but that's exactly what I need to stay motivated.

This was my 4th consecutive week of track work and the plan this night was for two sets of 200, 200, 800, 300 after four 100 meter striders.  800 meters would be my longest work period so far on the track but fortunately the plan called for full rest.  I felt fine for the 200s coming in at 33 seconds but the 800's were PAINFUL.  I managed a 2:23 and 2:27 but was far behind Jon's 2:14 and 2:11.  The 300's didn't feel easy either where I came through in about 47 seconds.  I didn't mind feeling slow and getting smoked by Jon - it was money in the bank.......which I hope to withdraw in the coming months.  Total miles for Tuesday: 14!  Strava data is here.

Wednesday (today) was another easy day but I needed some vertical for Strava's Strive for the Summit Run Challenge so it was off to the trails of Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve.  My legs felt pretty good considering the previous days speed work but I held back and kept my heart rate under 130 bpm.  The run ate up 1400' of climbing over 9.6 miles - a good days work.  I took the afternoon off but Android was feeling good about his recent gains in market share so he got in a few miles of trail running.  Nice job Android!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Single, double, double & a few more miles

I love it when a training plan comes together.  My plan to do a hard workout every other day has been working out well over the past week.  After feeling completely dead on Wednesday I came back on Thursday with a strong uphill trail running workout at Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve.

My original plan was to run intervals from Deer Hollow Farm (400') all the way up to the Black Mountain Trail (2300') but due to trail maintenance activities the "toilet paper trail" was closed.  The impromptu plan change actually worked out better allowing me to run two sets of intervals; one steep and another up a shallower grade.  Set #1 started in Wildcat Canyon at 600'.  I ran 10x 1 minute hard up the PGE power-line trail (pictured above) with 1 minute active rest between each interval.  The 10th and final interval was 90 seconds and took me right to the 1600' high point on the trail (pictured below).  Total interval distance: 2 miles.  Total interval climbing: 1000' (steep!!).

It's here that the toilet paper trail was closed so I headed down Upper High Meadow trail to find a start point for a second set.  Steep uphills are great for building strength and aerobic power but I also wanted to run some faster intervals - still uphill but shallow enough to allow a longer stride length.  Set #2 started on the Rogue Valley Trail at 450'.  I used the same format as set #1 - 1 minute intervals with 1 minute rest.  Rogue to Upper Rogue is a great profile for intervals because it starts out very gradual and gets progressively steeper until it meets the High Meadow Trail.

When I reached the High Meadow Trail (pictured above) I'd only done 9 intervals.  Total distance was 2.2 miles.  Total climb only 550'.  Definitely faster, half the steepness and less aerobic loading.  Here's a side-by-side summary of the two sets:

Set #1 - 10x 1min - 2.0 miles - 1000' - 155 to 167 HR
Set #2 - 9x 1min - 2.2 miles - 550' - 142 to 162 HR

Total distance for the workout including warm-up and warm-down was 11.7 miles - 1hr 40 min - 2050' of total climb.  Strava summary is here.  That would be the only workout of the day - afternoon rest.

Friday I got back to a double workout running an easy 9 miles with Google+ acquaintance and fellow runner Andrew Houlne in the morning.  We ran on the Guadalupe River Trail in San Jose - a place I'd not run since we moved to Mountain View last August.

Friday afternoon I set out for a medium-hard 25 mile road bike ride in an attempt to keep my cycling fitness up.  While my primary racing goals are running in 2012, I'd like to be in decent shape for the few cycling races on my calendar.  In bike races so far this year I've found my aerobic fitness to be good but my legs haven't been able to generate sustained power.  It stands to reason if I only do two to three 20 to 40 mile rides a week.  For this Friday afternoon ride I averaged a decent 18 mph over 26 miles with 1300' of climb and descent.

Saturday (yesterday) it was back to another proper hard workout - a negative split long run.  I started at an easy 7:30 to 8 minute pace and slowly ramped up the pace to low 6's by miles 12 & 13.  Total time: 1:30:49.  Distance: 13.2.  Only 25% of the run was zone 3 (141-155 bpm) which is much lower than when I did this workout 6 weeks ago when I spent 66% of the time in Z3 or higher.  Here's a side-by-side comparison:

5/5 - 13.2 miles - 1:30:49 - 6:53 pace - Z2 72% - Z3+ 24%
3/21 - 13.5 miles - 1:30:45 - 6:42 pace - Z2 32% - Z3+ 66%

Ok, so the 3/21 run was a little faster but that's a huge difference in aerobic efficiency.  Conclusion?  Training works!  So why not train some more?  I capped off Saturday with an easy 17 mile road bike ride on the Torpado.  (Below is the Strava data from my 13.2 mile run).

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

To build up you must first tear down

Wow, I'm dead tired today.  Went for an easy, flat 9 mile run along the Bay Trail and my legs felt like lead.  It makes sense after yesterday's 40 hilly miles on the bike and a tough speed session on the track.

Yesterday I hit the circular-running-thingy at Graham Middle School in Mountain View with a few NB Excelsior teammates and guys from Lockheed Martin.  They'd just returned from the Penn Relays and have been training at the track all winter....which is exactly why I wanted to be get a good kick in the ass.   The plan was for 4 sets of 200, 200, 400 with 2 minutes of rest after each run and 4 minutes between sets.  The fly-boys were running 29 second 200's and 60 second 400's so picked a slower pace that I could (hopefully) sustain for all 4 sets.  The long rest was helpful and I managed 200's at 32 and 400's at least until the last 400 when the wheels came off the bus.  All that training on Tuesday totaled almost 4 hours - a lot of volume considering neither workout was at an easy pace.

I also didn't take it easy on Monday running 11 miles at negative splits ending with a 5:40 mile.  This is a type of distance workout I've been trying to do once or twice a week to develop sustained speed in longer races.  It's something I read that former world marathon record holder Kalhid Khannouchi did in his training.  He'd supposedly run 20+ miles then hit the track for a couple really fast finishing miles.  Will it work for me?  TBD.

Prior to Monday - a day called "Sunday" - I ran an easy 8 miles on the trail but it was pretty hilly.  So that was 3 days of hard on the legs workouts and today I felt more tired than I have in a long time.

It's on days like today when I really appreciate the Bay Trail near Moffett Field with it's long stretches of smooth gravel, no road crossings and few other runners and cyclists.  It's the perfect course for setting the legs on auto-pilot and running with an un-interrupted gait for miles and miles.  Surprisingly I didn't run as slow as I felt; finishing 9 miles in just barely under 8 minute pace.  No second workout planned today unless you count this: