Monday, December 25, 2006

The lost miles

I wish a Merry Christmas to all those celebrating today and a great day of running to those who are not. I had considered simply skipping over this post describing the last two days of running. After all, there is nothing that is compelling me to describe my failures; but then again, this wouldn’t be an honest journal if it were only filled with happy talk.

I was lucky enough to spend Friday and Saturday in Carlsbad, California (USA). I had two runs to do while in California. First, I needed to get in a 5K at race pace on Friday and follow that with a 17 mile long run on Saturday. You couldn’t ask for a better area to do either. Carlsbad is a lovely place nestled against the Pacific Ocean with beautiful vista from its many hill tops (now mostly covered with houses). The skies were a vivid blue and the day-time temperatures floated around 60F (16C). These are just perfect running conditions. The only thing going against me was a lingering cold that I’m having a heck of time shaking. But I'm tough (yeh .. right).

Late Friday afternoon (after driving 400 miles from Phoenix) I ran up to the top of the one of the hills looking for a pseudo-flat spot to run my requisite 5K. Without too much of a sense of irony, I found a hill top that some developer has sheered off and walked off a 600m course in a conch spiral. All I needed to do was run out and back 4 times + 200m and I’d have a home made 5K.

As soon as I took off, I knew I was in for trouble. The soft dirt was littered with ruts from the heavy machinery used to “develop” this hill top, making the footing rather tricky. Plus I was having a hard time breathing and trying to run all out was, to say the least, difficult. The final results were equally disappointing – 23:05 (average pace 7:26). Since my best 5K pace is sub 7:00/mi, I don’t know if I really did what Pfitz intended, but it was the best 5K I was going to run on Friday afternoon.

Saturday’s 17 miler yielded similar results. Since I never get to run real hills in Phoenix, I mapped out a 5.5 mile loop course around Palomar Airport that I knew had one 300 foot climb. What I didn’t know was that it actually had two substantial hills over the 5.5 mile loop. I ran 1.5 miles up to the start of the loop and stashed a water bottle by the side of the road. I got up the first climb at a decent pace and was feeling pretty good until the road started to fall away sharply (see graphic below). After running down a steep grade for nearly a mile, I knew I was in trouble. I literally had to climb out of a hole and run back to the top of the hill and then down again to complete the first lap. Still, I was feeling OK – not great, but still OK – of course, I’d only run 7 miles after the first loop and I’d better be feeling fresh.

The first hill on the 2nd loop was slower than I hoped, but my legs and lungs were still working; however, I just couldn’t get any speed while running DOWN the steep incline that followed. I think my pace going down hill was over 10:00/mi. My hamstrings just weren’t letting me go anywhere quickly. Once I got to the bottom and started up the 2nd hill, I think I actually sped up; at least I felt a lot better going up hill than I did running down. When I reached the top however, I was completely spent and again couldn’t generate any speed running back down to the start of the loop.

I’d signed up for three laps and bravely jog out to start the 3rd set, but, 1 mile up the hill, the legs just stopped moving. After less than 14 miles I was completely spent! I stood there by the side of road for a minute looking up the hill and started jogging up again, only to stop after 2 or 3 steps. My body just wasn’t going up any more hills on Saturday. Since I forgot to pack any spare mojo, I turned around and limped back to my sister-in-laws apartment. Total distance for the run: 16.2 miles; average pace: 9:32/mi. Not my best effort - certiainly the hilliest course I'd ever attempted.

On Sunday, my wife and I headed for Tucson (440 miles) to go to church with my oldest daughter on Christmas Eve and then headed back to Phoenix (130 miles) - getting home at 1:30 AM in Christmas morning. No running today.

I hope you all have a great week ahead of you. I have the last week of Pfitz's "race prep" Mesocycle to complete this week, it should be interesting. The sniffles have subsided and I think I'm close to healthy; altough several pounds heavier than I'd like to be.

Running for the week:

Mon- Rest Day
Tue – 8.5 miles w/5x600m @ 6:36/mi pace
Wed – 11.0 miles, general aerobic, 9:32/mi avg pace
Thr - 4.0 miles, recovery w/6x100m strides, 8:47 avg pace
Fri – 7.8 miles w/5K @ 7:26/mi
Sat – 16.2 miles, long w/hills, 9:32/mi avg pace

The Hills of Carlsbad - this was one hill course. The peak of the 1st and 3rd hills is around 350'


Mike said...

I would imagine all that driving is tough on the legs with regard to blood flow, and hopefully you will bounce back soon.

In my experience I've found that training for hilly courses is a double-edged sword. The eccentric muscle contractions that come from running downhill can beat me up more than I realize, so it's a fine line between getting myself prepared and doing myself in before the race. I was glad to see you take the day off afterwards, which will hopefully bring you back around.

They can't all be great ones or it wouldn't be a challenge.

Michele said...

Glad you posted about the bad runs, makes the rest of us who have lots of bad runs feel better! :)

Those hills look TOUGH!!!

Hope your cold is over, I think I am about to kick this cough for the second time!

Darrell said...

All things considered; travel, cold, hills; I'd say it wasn't such a bad day. It certainly was a beautiful day.

My only question is how does the hill get shorter on the second time around (see the chart)?

Good luck with the last week of training.

Anne said...

Sounds like you had a double whammy: a cold and stiff legs from all that driving. I am all too familiar with the hills you ran on. I think I even know which development they topped off for your 5k run. I realize next time you're out here will be for the marathon, but in the future (since you seem to come out this way regularly), do check out some of these trails/runs in Carlsbad. I highly recommend the Rancho Carillo one.

DawnB said...

Sorry you had such a rough time out there. Factor the cold, and all that driving in, its any wonder you did as well as you did.

love2runcanada said...

Are these hills anywhere near your marathon course? Good practice for the big day. Hope that cold improves soon.

angie's pink fuzzy said...

wow, two hard runs after driving and with a cold. way to go! i know that feeling where the legs just stop, whew.

Dusty said...

Now those are some hills!

Don't beat yourself up about the pace - it is very difficult to run the same pace when you are sick - even for elite runners. The point, when you are sick, is to get the effort in - your body knows how to translate it. Don't look at it as a bad week, look at it as a challenge you worked through & overcame. :)

Javamom said...

Wow, Phil!! That really was hilly! Sorry it didn't go as well as expected. I never even though of stashing a water bottle, I think you are a genius. :>)