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 espresso....like 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.