Friday, June 29, 2012

USA Mountain Running Championships / Mt. Washington Road Race

Wow, it's been almost 2 weeks but I'm finally getting to writing about my trip to the East Coast for the Mt. Washington Road Race.  I'd hoped to be racing but an injury from my previous race made sitting out the smart choice......and gave me the opportunity to cover Mt. Washington from the press van.  I'd done the same in 2001 when (again) an injury forced me to sit out the race.  Riding in the press van gave me a great opportunity to get tons of awesome shots as the race unfolded.  Here are some of my favorites from the 2001 Mt. Washington Road Race:

Race winner Daniel Kihara (Kenya) on his way to victory in 60:06

Dave Dunham (2nd place) looking back at Craig Fram (3rd place) 100m from the finish

Female winner Anna Prichrtova (Czech Republic) cresting the horizon onto the "flats" 

Dan Verrington (Bradford, MA) on the 22% grade 50m from the finish

Steve Peterson (Chelmsford, MA) shows his pain face 25m from the finish

Fergus Cullen (Laconia, NH) get's anaerobic on the rock-pile

10 years on many of the same runners face the mountain, the pain of running "the hill" hasn't changed but the competition certainly has gotten stiffer.  Of all the runners pictured above only Daniel and Anna didn't come back in 2012 - people love this race!

In 2004 Mt Washington became a USA Track & Field sanctioned national championship and a selection for the US Mountain Running Team.  This has continued to be the case in 2006, 2008, 2010 and again now in 2012 - these are all years that the World Mountain Running Championships are an up-hill only format.  To get an idea of how the Mt Washington profile compares to the World Championships check out these profiles from 2004 when the world champs was a bit short and the Vail Hill Climb was our other selection race:

To give an idea of what this national championship and selection race designation has done for the competition consider the following.  In 2001 only 5 runners finished in under 70 minutes.  At the world championships in 2001 our team didn't make the race due to air travel restrictions after the 9/11 attacks but in 2002 our men finished 14th place (32, 68, 74, 88, 91).  Yeah, that was me in 91st place.

Your's truly bringing up the rear in the 2002 World Champs in Innsbruck, Austria

Consider how far Mt. Washington and Team USA's performances have come in 10 years.  At this years national championship 32 runners finished under 70 minutes.  At the last uphill World Mountain Running Championships in Kamnick, Slovenia (2010) our men finished 2nd (10, 16, 18, 27, 52, 59).  Pretty impressive!

On to covering this year's Mt. Washington.  It was pretty clear the field was stacked and lots of guys were going to run under 70 minutes - the real question was who was going to be in the top 6 and make the 2012 US Mountain Running Team.  Here's the play by play with photos from press van #1:

Tim Chichester (#19) attacks the hill

Mile 1:
6:04 – Tim Chichester, Max King, Glen Randall – top 3.  The fastest first mile ever run!

Marco, Glenn, Simon and Max

Mile 2:
13:40 – Sage Canaday, Joe Gray, Eric Blake, Tommy Manning, Marco De Gasperi, Glenn Randall, Simon Gutierrez, Max King (2011 World Mountain Running Champion)

Tommy (#2) and Eric (#9)

Mile 2.5/3000’:
Sage Canaday, Joe Gray and Eric Blake are 1,2,3; Glen Randall and Eric Blake are together stride for stride back in 4th and 5th, Tommy Manning, Max King, Marco De Gasperi, Tim Chichester, Simon Gutierrez, Jeremy Freed follow strung out behind.

Former race winner Rickey Gates finished 14th

Mile 3:
Sage – 21:20, Gray – 21:40, Eric Blake in 3rd, Tommy Manning in 4th

Sage way out front and making it look easy

Mile 4+:
Sage Canaday opens a 40 second lead then Joe Gray.  Further behind are Eric/Tommy/Glen together

Painful? Yes, but at least the scenery is pretty good

Mile 5:
Just before mile 5 – Sage checks his watch, Press Liaison for the race John Stifler, “Looks on target for sub hour.”
Canaday – 37:08, Gray – 38:19, Blake – 38:52, Randall – 38:52, Manning – 39:01, Chichester – 39:16, De Gasperi – 39:21, Gutierrez – 39:24, King – 39:27, Alex Nichols – 39:42, Matt Byrne, Jason Delaney, Jeremy Freed, Rickey Gates – 40:24

Sage approaches the assembled media horde

Mile 6:Canaday – 45:11

Marco looks back at Tim Chichester

Hairpin between mile 6/7:
Canaday, Gray, Glen/Blake running stride for stride, Manning, De Gasperi, Chichester, King, Gutierrez

46 year old Simon Gutierrez was 9th overall and won the masters race

Mile 7:
Canaday way out front then Joe Gray in 55:06

Sage Canaday wins the 52nd Mt. Washington Road Race

1. Sage Canaday 26 Sheridan OR 58:27 - 7:42 pace
2. Joseph Gray 28 Newcastle WA 1:00:33 - 7:58 pace
3. Eric Blake 33 New Britain CT 1:00:54 - 8:01 pace
4. Glenn Randall 25 Mesa CO 1:00:58 - 8:02 pace
5. Marco De Gasperi 35 Bormio, Italy 1:01:38 - 8:07 pace
6. Tommy Manning 36 Colorado Spring CO 1:01:52 - 8:09 pace
7. Tim Chichester 23 Mount Morris NY 1:02:06 - 8:11 pace
8. Max King 32 Bend OR 1:02:21 - 8:13 pace
9. Simon Gutierrez 46 Colorado Spring CO 1:02:24 - 8:13 pace
10. Alex Nichols 27 Colorado Spring CO 1:02:41 - 8:15 pace
(Automatically selected to the 2012 US Mountain Running Team)

It was really amazing to watch the race unfold.  Sage was the big surprise - clearly a talented road and track athlete but with no experience at national class ascent races.  Mt. Washington has seen many talented flat road or track athletes go out hard and crash and burn.  Sage was clearly prepared and ran within his abilities despite going out fast and besting course record holder Jonathan Wyatt's time to mile one.  By the finish Sage was 1:50 behind Wyatt's 2004 record.  Still, pretty good - Jon has won 6 World Mountain Running Championship titles.  

The biggest disappointment was clearly that of 2011 World Champion Max King who was unable to finish among the top 6 Americans.  Unfortunately Max got sick the week before the race and was clearly not at his best.  He still put in a heroic effort and missed making the team by 15 seconds.  Max will be missed on this years team but he's to be commended for so many amazing results already in 2012.  Max finished 19th (2:14:36) at the US Olympic Marathon Trials in January.  3 weeks ago Max qualified for the US Olympic Steeplechase trials and went out the next day and won the USA 1/2 Marathon Trail Championships.  Finally, Max finished 6th (8:30) and set a PR in the steeplechase finals at the Track & Field Olympic Trials just 48 hours ago.  No doubt Max will return to the World Mountain Running Championships and be faster and stronger than ever. 

Complete results can be found here:

Story from Sports Illustrated: 

Story from Trail Runner Magazine:

Story from the Manchester Union-Leader:

Story from Nancy Hobbs - Executive Director of the American Trail Running Association:

Laura Haefeli and 2011 World Mountain Running Champion Kasie Enman (W3)

With the men's team now set attention turns to the women's team selection race at Loon Mountain on July 8.  The women's field is shaping up to also be the strongest ever assembled.  You can follow the race live @usmrt starting at 9:00 AM Eastern.  The top 4 women will be automatically selected to the team.  US Mountain Running Team staff member Paul Kirsch will be manning the tweet machine.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My Dirty Half

It's good to be home for a few days after a busy long weekend in Bend, OR.  Unfortunately my nagging pelvic injury flared up after the race and I'm almost certainly dealing with a sports hernia.

It started on May 23rd as a minor deep pelvic pain that was difficult to feel except after long runs (10+), hilly runs or races.  The pain also quickly dissipated by the day after the aforementioned runs so I thought it would go away on a reduced mileage training plan.  Any thought of this being a minor issue was put to rest after last Sunday's USA 1/2 Marathon Trail Championships (Footzone Dirty Half) in Bend, OR.  It was very, very painful immediately after the race and even after 2 full days rest I still have a deep achy pain behind my pelvic bone.  Even coughing hurts......which can't be a good thing.

Despite the the injury I was reasonably happy with my performance in the race and had a good time with my Bend area friends and a few elite runners who flew in for the event.  I stayed with fellow Central Mass Strider and Running Raw founder Tim Van Orden (Bennington, VT), 2011 US NACAC Mountain Running Team member Amber Moran (Asheville, NC) and her boyfriend Chris Young (Skyland, NC).  Also hanging out with us was Gina Lucrezi (Carbondale, CO) who is the works for Trail Runner Magazine and was on the 2011 US NACAC team with Amber.

Amber (left) & Gina (center) at the 2011 NACAC

Tim had been to Bend to race in the 2010 XTERRA Trail Running Nationals but for Amber, Mike and Gina, this was their first time in the trail running Mecca of Central Oregon.  What do you do with a bunch of Bend newbies?  Enjoy as much of this small, friendly town as is possible in 48 hours; endless singletrack, sunny skys, fresh roasted artisan coffee, 12 craft breweries, great food & epic mountain scenery.

Customer created cedar planks decorate the Thump ceiling

Since Bend is my wanna-be hometown I took the lead as tour guide and started us off at Thump Coffee, just off Bond St in downtown.  In addition to enjoying a few espressos and latte drinks we decorated our own cedar planks to add to the thousands currently adorning the ceiling.  After getting adequately amped up on caffeine we walked over to the Footzone to pick up our race numbers.  This is a shop that all runners visiting Bend should check out.  The selection is great and the staff are all avid local runners including 2011 World Mountain Running Champion Max King.

We next went for a 6 mile warm-up run on the Dirty Half course to acquaint ourselves with the first and last couple miles of the race route.  Just as I'd promised our out of town visitors, the temps were warm, the sun shone brightly and the views of freshly snow dusted Cascade Mountains were fully epic.

After running I returned to the Footzone to help button up some details related to the USA Track & Field Championship portion of the event while Gina, Amber, Chris and Tim had lunch at Super Burrito.  After ensuring all systems were a "go" at Footzone I bounced next door for a couple quick slices at Pizza Mondo.  The good folks at Mondo would also be providing free post race pizza at the next days race.  Yeah thats right, pizza for breakfast - no better way to celebrate a 13 mile race.

The Old Mill - Bend, OR

In the afternoon I went off to see my parents while Gina, Amber, Chris and Tim toured the town for some additional sightseeing including The Old Mill, Strictly Organic Coffee, Pilot Butte State Park and 10 Barrel Brewing.  I always find it a bit strange to see the Old Mill reborn as a mecca of shopping and recreation.  The first time I saw it in the mid-1990's it was still an active mill located in a gritty industrial neighborhood South of Downtown.  Now the old power plant is an REI store and tourists mill about doing what they do at any average shopping mall - spent $$$.  Except you can run, ride your bike or paddle a kayak to this shopping mall and see expansive mountain views from the back door of The Gap.

Photo by brad21

Race day.  We were all concerned it would be cold after the previous nights frost warning and an 8 AM start.  Fortunately the skys were crystal clear, there was no wind and the bright run warmed the course to near perfect racing weather.  Shorts and singlets were still the order of the day with maybe some light gloves.  At this point my pelvic pain was not an issue and I could only barely feel an ever so slight deep ache.

Amber and Gina

At 8 AM the gun fired and I headed on course with 60 other USATF members plus another 200 runners in wave 1.  My plan was to stick with last years 40+ winner Tim Van Orden and see if I could run strong enough to take him in the final miles.  At 2 miles it was clear Tim was running too fast for me so I backed off and settled into a pace I thought I could maintain for the next 11 miles.  At 2.5 miles a guy with an M50-54 back tag passed me like I was standing still and quickly closed in on Tim.  Ok, I just got dusted by a guy 10 years older than me - that hurts.  I later found out this was Mike Blackmore who runs for elite Bowerman Athletic Club and holds the 50+ American 5000m record (15:16).  Now I feel better.

Club Northwest Masters

At 4 miles I got passed by Kevin Cave (who went on to finish 6th) and again at 8 miles by Jeff Sather (who went on to finish 8th).  Ugh, I hate getting passed but I didn't feel like I had the legs to go with any of these guys.  It sucks feeling like you are just hanging on and guys are blowing by you.  Was I going backwards or were they starting slow and then running strong in the 2nd half of the race?  It wasn't till I got to mile 12 that I realized that I was running pretty even while Kevin and Jeff just kicked ass in the 2nd half of their races.  I could actually see Tim way ahead followed by Jeff, Mike and non-USATF runner (and excellent ultra runner) Ian Sharman.  Mike had faded in the final miles because I saw him get passed by Jeff & Ian and Tim later told be Mike ran ahead of him in the middle of the race.

Masters Champion Tim Van Orden

I crossed the line in 1:21:43 - over 2.5 minutes faster than last year but slower than I would have hoped.  Was it the high elevation?  Was it the nagging injury and my diminished training the previous 2 weeks?  Reflecting back after the race I remembered that this was my first trail race & longest race in 6 months.  I'd done well in 10 bike races and 5 running races (10 miles and under) on the road in 2012 but while good training, those aren't exactly solid indicators for an off-road 1/2 marathon on twisty trails.  I'd done lot's of speed but all of it was on the roads or on the track.  In hindsight some speed on the trails would be been a good idea.

RD Dave Thomason & 80 year old Don Hildebrand

Regardless of not meeting my pre-race expectations I did have fun flogging myself on the trails for an hour or so.  The real negative outcome was my pelvic pain which REALLY hurt immediately after the race.  Just walking around was not comfortable.  It felt like someone hit me in the groin with a hammer each time I would take a step.  Fortunately there was work to be done to distract from the pain; taking photos, working on USATF results with Doug Cleavenger and handing our national championship awards & prize money with race director Dave Thomason.

Beer for breakfast

There were also hundreds of other runners pouring into the post race festival, getting good eats, drinking beer from Deschutes Brewery and listening to music.  I had the chance to chat up my running friends, talk about our races and catch-up on our respective happenings.  Regardless of my own result and injury, this was the part of the Dirty Half or any race that I enjoyed and value most.

Late Sunday night I learned that one runner among us didn't make it to the finish line.  40 year old William Tufts collapsed and died on the trail while competing in the Dirty Half.  I'm even more thankful for all my experiences this past weekend because you never know when they might be your last. R.I.P Mr. Tufts.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

USA 1/2 Marathon Trail Championships - Results

The USA Half Marathon Trail Championships held in conjunction with the 11th annual foot zone Dirty Half kicked off to perfect running weather, sunny blue skies and cool temperatures. Over 60 USA Track & Field members registered for the national championship - the most ever for a trail race in Oregon. For the third year in a row the race was won by 2011 World Mountain Running Champion and local hero Max King ($500) in a time of 1:15:48. On the women's side, Marci Klimek ($500) out sprinted 2008 US Mountain Running Team member Megan Kimmel for her first USA Track & Field trail national championship in a time of 1:24:34 (photo below).

Max (photo below) cruised to victory after driving 6 hours the day before to run a steeplechase on the track in Eugene where he qualified for the US Olympic Trials. Following Max by only 36 seconds, Reno, Nevada’s Ron Tibaduiza ($300) finished second in a time of 1:16:24. Rounding out the men's top three in a time of 1:16:52 was Bend’s Scott Gage ($200). 

After dueling closely with Marci Klimek for the first half of the race, Megan Kimmel ($300) finished second in a time of 1:24:36. 2011 US 50k Trail National Champion Stephanie Howe ($200) from Bend took home third place in a time of 1:26:49.

Race Director Dave Thomason and the Top 10 men

The top men's master for the second year in a row, taking home $250, from Bennington, VT was Tim Van Orden in a time of 1:19:52. Tim also finished 7th place overall. In the female masters competition, 2010 USA Trail Marathon champion Katie Caba also took home $250 for her win in a time of 1:27:16. Katie was the fifth woman overall.

Dave Thomason and the top 10 women

New in 2011, the mostly rolling single track course started and finished at Breedlove Guitars on the west side of Bend in the Northwest Crossing neighborhood. Utilizing many mountain bike trails originating from Phil’s trailhead, the race wound through pine forests and open desert with scenic views of snowcapped volcanoes.

The large staff of enthusiastic volunteers was lead by race director Super Dave Thomason. Post race amenities included ample sunshine, warming temperatures, a beer garden courtesy of Deschutes Brewery, Jamba Juice smoothies and a multitude of other snacks and refreshments. There was $2,500 in cash prizes, courtesy of the Visit Bend (the City of Bend Visitors bureau). This race is also a successful fundraiser, having contributed over $100,000 to the Deschutes Land Trust.

Men's 80-84 National Champion Don Hildebrand

2012 Age Group National Champions:
Katie Caba (Bend, OR) – 1:27:16 – F40-44
Carolyn Daubeny (Bend, OR) – 1:52:10 – F45-49
Trisha Kluge (Eugene, OR) – 1:48:41 – F50-54
Jeannie Groesz (Redmond, OR) – 2:04:04 – F60-64
Tim Van Orden (Bennington, VT) – 1:19:52 – M40-44
Carl Winter (Seattle, WA) – 1:27:05 – M45-49
Mike Blackmore (Eugene, OR) – 1:20:54 – M50-54
Stephen Blacklocks (Brooklyn, OR) – 1:33:23 – M55-59
Jake Osborne (Pendleton, OR) – 1:46:46 – M65-69
Don Hildebrand (Sisters, OR) – 2:39:15 – M80-84

Race Photos:

Websites:USA Track & Field -
Footzone Bend -
Visit Bend -
Deschutes Land Trust -
Overall Race Results:

National Championship Results (USATF members only):

         1     1 Max King               1 M3034         9999999999     1:15:48 
         2   157 Ron Tibaduiza          2 M3034         8215099638     1:16:24 
         3    55 Scott Gage             1 M2024         8211886237     1:16:52 
         4    99 Mario Mendoza          1 M2529         8211722937     1:18:48 
         5   110 Santi Ocariz           2 M2529         8212130437     1:18:49 
         6   179 Kevin Cave             3 M3034         8211762537     1:18:49 
         7   159 Tim Van Orden          1 M4044         8212069802     1:19:52 
         8   135 Jeff Sather            4 M3034         8210887137     1:20:42 
         9    15 Mike Blackmore         1 M5054         8210184337     1:20:54 
        10    18 Richard Bolt           2 M4044         8210056337     1:21:43 
        11    57 Joshua Gordon          1 M3539         6111586337     1:22:32 
        12    56 Don Gallogly           3 M4044         8211729437     1:23:33 
        13    74 Jason Irby             2 M3539         8210747737     1:23:41 
        14    13 Joe Bisignano          2 M5054         8210960836     1:24:13 
        15    81 Marci Klimek           1 F2024         6110642537     1:24:34 
        16   177 Megan Kimmel           1 F3034         8212121432     1:24:36 
        17   174 Andy Young             3 M2529         99             1:25:14 
        18   167 David White-Espin      3 M5054         8211042436     1:25:32 
        19    73 Kevin Hutchins         4 M4044         8212031437     1:25:51 
        20    72 Jeremy Hurl            3 M3539         8211669237     1:26:05 
        21    71 Jj Howard              5 M4044         8210282357     1:26:27 
        22   202 Stephanie Howe         1 F2529         8110904437     1:26:49 
        23   171 Carl Winter            1 M4549         821031303     1:27:05 
        24   101 Amber Moran            2 F3034         8210501913     1:27:08 
        25    24 Katie Caba             1 F4044         8211069537     1:27:16 
        26    91 Gina Lucrezi           2 F2529         8211966332     1:27:24 
        27   121 Rick Rapaport          2 M4549         6112691037     1:27:45 
        28   176 Teague Hatfield        6 M4044         8212378937     1:30:29 
        29    80 Craig Kenworthy        4 M5054         8210122536     1:30:58 
        30    97 Samuel McElwain        5 M3034         8211383037     1:32:07 
        31   175 Chris Young            7 M4044         8211597613     1:32:13 
        32    14 Stephen Blacklocks     1 M5559         8210638306     1:33:23 
        33   118 Ed Price               5 M5054         8210100539     1:34:37 
        34   123 Richard Rendon         3 M4549         8210319537     1:34:50 
        35    84 Renee Knapp            3 F3034         8210087837     1:34:57 
        36   124 Chris Rennaker         4 M3539         3812191137     1:35:14 
        37   136 Tom Schoderbek         1 M1014         8210003537     1:36:28 
        38    96 Quintin McCoy          2 M1014         8210413637     1:36:45 
        39    98 Brian McGuire          6 M5054         8211338437     1:37:58 
        40   163 Dave Webster           2 M5559         8210645337     1:38:35 
        41    42 Ron Deems              7 M5054         8210734537     1:39:05 
        42   203 Kari Strang            1 F3539         8211689037     1:40:45 
        43    52 Michael Franklin       5 M3539         8210210239     1:41:20 
        44   161 Joseph Volpi           6 M3034         8210392237     1:42:54 
        45    78 Ahna Jura              2 F3539         8210285837     1:43:27 
        46   162 Jake Vossler           3 M1014         8210402937     1:43:40 
        47   113 Jake Osborne           1 M6064         8210135935     1:46:46 
        48    83 Trisha Kluge           1 F5054         8211190937     1:48:41 
        49   181 Carolyn Daubeny        1 F4549         6112250537     1:51:10 
        50   103 Billie Moser           2 F4549         8211712037     1:54:39 
        51    25 Nick Campbell          4 M4549         8210620637     1:58:54 
        52    59 Jeannie Groesz         1 F6064         8210661037     2:04:04 
        53   147 Brian Staudinger       8 M4044         8210819437     2:11:22 
        54    69 Don Hildebrand         1 M7598         8210674337     2:39:15 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Footzone Dirty Half - USA 1/2 Marathon Trail Champs Preview

Bend, OR ------ For the third year in a row, the renowned trail running town of Bend, OR will host the USA Half Marathon Trail Championships - part of the Footzone Dirty Half. This is the 11th installment of this trail popular event which will be held on Sunday, June 10 at 8:00 a.m.

A deep field, including defending champion Max King, is slated to compete. Leading the women’s competition will be 2011 USA NACAC Mountain Running Team members Gina Lucrezi and Amber Moran as well as defending masters champion Katie Caba. Other top athletes include defending men’s masters champion Tim Van Orden and 2011 USA NACAC Mountain Running Team member Mario Mendoza. Local trail speedsters Jeff Caba and Chris Rennaker will also toe the starting line located in front of Breedlove Guitars on the West side of Bend.

2011 1/2 Marathon Trail Champion Max King

These top athletes and other USA Track & Field (USATF) members will vie for the $2500 in cash prizes. The prize money breakdown is: $500 for first, $300 for second, $200 for third and $250 for the top masters. The prize giving ceremony will be held immediately after the race. Prize money is provided courtesy of Visit Bend - the city of Bend, Oregon’s visitors bureau.

“We are expecting about 800 runners and almost as many spectators for our event,” said USATF Championship Liaison Richard Bolt. “I’ve really enjoyed connecting with the USATF athletes and learning a bit more about them and their passion for trail running. We’re really making this more than another trail race. With the excellent support from the community, sponsors, and volunteers, this is going to be a celebration of trail running. One very hard run followed by some fun afterwards.”

The course starts in the Northwest Crossing neighborhood of Bend and heads out on a paved road for the first ¾ mile. From there it’s a whole lot of flat, fast trails that are part of network originating from the popular Phil’s Trailhead. Total climb and descent for the course is 700’ - not extremely steep by most trail running standards but at over 4000’ elevation it will be a challenge for lowland runners coming from outside the area. A course map can be found here:

Race Director "Super" Dave Thomason confirms there will be plenty of post-race goodies with tasty yum-yums provided by Nancy P's Bakery, Burritos provided by The Taco Stand and lots of other food at the finish. A band and beer-garden will be there for runners enjoyment as well, serving Deschutes Brewery's award winning Down and Dirty Ale.

Race day information for participants can be found here:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Espresso Powered Mountain Running

Ok so it does take more than thick, dark, syrupy, caffeinated, coffee goodness to power an effective training program but.......I do like to start my day with a fresh ground, freshly home-brewed this:

My Solis SL 90 working its magic

I wasn't always a coffee fanatic; in fact I didn't start drinking coffee until several years after college.  It was friend and fellow skier/runner/cyclist Randy Wint who schooled me in the dark art of roasting, grinding & brewing in the late-1990's.  Whenever my skiing adventures would bring me to Lake Placid, NY I would visit Randy and enjoy a home-made latte.  It wasn't until the early 2000's when I began working with a couple people who went to school in the Pacific Northwest, that I became a regular "user".  They told stories of a coffee mecca where Starbucks was only one of several large chains and espresso could be even be found at small road-side kiosks.

Located deep in Dunkin Donuts country we mail-ordered fresh roasted beans from Peet's Coffee on the left coast and I started using a cheap hand-me down steam-driven espresso maker.  It's wasn't long before 1 bar of pressure didn't suffice and I got all opinionated deeming Peet's too "pedestrian".  In 2005 I upgraded to a new pump-driven Swiss made Solis Crema SL90 and started mail-ordering beans from Seattle micro-roaster Espresso Vivace.  Around the same time Starbucks & Peets were making their way East; opening stores in the Boston metro area.  Coffee culture was coming to me!

It wasn't till we moved to Portland, OR in 2006 that I truly understood the depth, berth and origins of third wave coffee culture.  In Portland Starbucks was considered the evil coffee empire, new micro-roasters were popping up every few months and local hero Stumptown was considered the gold standard.  The Solis continued to pump out a decent home espresso and I had a nearly limitless supply and variety of beans to feed my habit.  By the time I left Portland in 2011 my favorite local shop was Barista; founded in 2010 by 2-time Northwest Barista Champion Billy Wilson.

Where the magic happens

Now living in California I can't help but judge local coffee through a palette honed in Portland.  Barefoot Coffee Roasters is my local go-to roaster.  Even though their Cupertino shop is located in a bland, soul-sucking suburban strip mall, it's all "Portland" on the inside.  Also on the Richard approved list of Bay Area coffee are Blue Bottle Coffee (San Francisco), Ritual Coffee Roasters (San Francisco), Verve Coffee Roasters (Santa Cruz) and Four Barrel Coffee (San Francisco).

$9 per cup of coffee at Barista

So I have Portland to thank for my ongoing quality espresso habit (and Starbucks aversion) but as habits go, this one is not so bad.  It was this little extra caffeinated boost that I took to Saratoga yesterday morning for my last uphill tempo run before this weekends USA 1/2 Marathon Trail Running Championships in Bend, OR.  To help save my legs I first drove my mountain bike up to Skyline Drive and stashed it in the woods.  Downhill running is a great strength building workout but not what I needed so close to race day.

The first 2 miles up Congress Springs Rd (Rt. 9) are pretty shallow climbing only 350' and I used this as a warm-up.  At Sanborn Rd the road gets steeper and I used this as my time trial start point.  I've biked up the road several times and it's amazing how much longer it seems to take on foot.  I quickly got up into zone 4 (threshold) and just held a good steady effort up the long continuous grade to Skyline Drive.  My splits were:

Mile 3 - 7:00 - 320' climb - HR 150
Mile 4 - 7:16 - 350' climb - HR 159
Mile 5 - 7:29 - 340' climb - HR 160
Mile 6 - 7:39 - 387' climb - HR 161
Mile 7 - 7:50 - 387' climb - HR 161
Mile 8 - 6:20 - 176' climb - HR 161 (peak 168)

The 6 time trial miles took about 45 minutes.  It wasn't quite race pace but exactly the hard effort I needed to train up my aerobic power for upcoming races.  It might have felt slow going up but coasting 8 miles downhill in 15 minutes sure was quick.  My other workouts this week were easy and uneventful:

Sunday: 10 flat road miles
Monday: 8 mile rolling trail run
Tuesday: 6.5 mile flat road run

This morning I ran easy again - 7 miles of flat easy road running at 7:30 pace.  This afternoon I plan to run 4 miles easy......but not before a late afternoon espresso break to perk up my mind.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

On the mend and up the mountain

Thanks to a slightly strained pelvic muscle this past week turned into an active rest & recovery period.  Sometime the week before last said muscle declared "I'm out" after too much speedwork & downhill running and not enough attention given to my chronicly stiff lower back.  Structural failure always seeks out a weak point and after several months of quality training, 65+ miles per week and good race results mine was laid bare.

The good news is this injury has caused only a minor speed-bump in my training plan (so far; fingers crossed, knock on wood, etc.).  I cancelled only one hard workout and reduced my weekly volume by 20ish miles.  I also had the benefit of a PT visit yesterday to help loosen tight muscles and re-balance a pelvic asymmetry.  In the interest of preventing future muscular work-stoppages she also gave me some strength & stretching exercises to add to my already long pre-run routine.

With this injury in the mix my runs over the past week were unremarkable.  9 miles on Tuesday (ouch my pelvis).  A 40 mile road bike ride up/down Mt. Hamilton (again) on Wednesday (pictured above).  6 miles Thursday morning and 5 miles Thursday afternoon in a new pair of Salomon XR Mission shoes (pictured below).  I documented my thoughts about this new shoe vs. the Salomon XR Crossmax in a post on Google+.  With a PT appointment Friday afternoon I ran just once in the morning; 7 miles up & back on the Stevens Creek Trail.

I was pretty sore Friday afternoon from all the physical therapy but my PT gave me the green light to run hills today (Saturday).  My plan was to do a long, hard, uphill threshold effort so a trip to nearby Black Mountain  was the venue of choice.  I've done many training runs and a few interval workouts up Black Mountain but never an all-out bottom to top time trial so this was going to be interesting.....and painful.

The time trial would start at the Rhus Ridge trailhead off Moody Rd in Los Altos Hills and climb to the 2800' summit just under 5 miles away.  The start elevation is about 400' above sea level and the first .8 miles of the trail is very steep climbing 625' - a 15% grade!  Mercifully the next 3/4 mile is pretty flat.  Following that "break" the next 1.75 miles climbs very evenly up another 900 vertical feet.  The next section starts where the single-track breaks out of the shady woods and onto a sun baked dirt service road for PGE's nearby high-tension power-line.

This is where the fun begins because if you weren't suffering to this point you soon will be.  The next .6 miles climbs 500 feet and the loose pea-sized gravel on the hard packed dirt make each push-off less effective - especially for a runner with tired legs.  Now at 2500' above sea level the road briefly turns downhill, scrubbing off 50 hard won vertical feet.  About 100 feet of flat running is followed by a short but very steep "wall".  According to my Garmin data it climbs 40 feet in .03 miles.  Maybe not an accurate reading but trust me; it's STEEP.  From "the wall" it's another .5 miles and 300' of climbing to the wide open, flat-topped summit of Black Mountain.

I started my run at Foothill College so I could get a 1/2 mile flat-ish warm-up before hitting time trial start.  I felt really good up the steep Rhus Ridge trail going through the .8 mile Strava segment in 8:01; only 5 seconds slower than my PR.  I used the subsequent flat section to recover a little and get my heart-rate back under control.  The next 2 miles felt harder than I would have hoped due (I hope) to the heat and blazing sun on the open sections of trail.  Unfortunately I knew it wasn't going to get any easier when I reached the steep power-line service road......and it wasn't.  With 15 minutes to the summit my heart-rate was now bouncing along the upper limit of zone 4 (168-169) dropping only briefly for short less steep sections.  At "the wall" after the short downhill I had 5 minutes left and now my heart-rate went into zone 5 and would stay there until the summit.

I crossed the summit in 45:20 with a peak heart-rate of 174.  Total climb 2400' - distance 4.8 miles - average grade 9.5%.  Reviewing the heart-rate data I spent 32 minutes in zone 4 (threshold) and 8 minutes in zone 5 (anaerobic).  A good workout for certain but the Mt. Washington Road Race in two weeks will be 25 minutes longer, climb another 2000' and will be STEEPER with an average grade of 12%.

I finished the run with a 2.5 mile descent (900') to the Monte Bello Open Space parking lot of Page Mill Rd.   It was refreshing to finally be on the breezy side of the mountain after baking in the sunny, still air on the way up.  After downing some water and a couple FRS chews I ran another 2 flat miles of warm-down.  Total miles of trail running for the day - 10 (ten).  Time to go home and put my feet up.