The most pleasant surprise of the last few weeks was receiving the "Agony of De Feet" award from my running club, the New York Flyers, at the club's annual "awards gala." For "best male ultrarunner of the year," or something like that. Admittedly, it's a road running club that doesn't always make such awards, and there are only a handful who dabble in ultras among the 500 or so members. But I was touched to be recognized by a group of people who've meant a lot to me over the years, even as I gravitated away from roads. I was happy they mentioned not only the distances of the races I did last year and how long I've been doing ultras ('05), but also the Yahoo forum I created and moderate. The forum has been very important to me as a network and community and it first started out with support from a number of Flyers.
On a side note, it is always somewhat humorous to me (and I mean this in a totally non-condescending way) the kinds of things that road runners not familiar with ultras and trails focus on and ask about in their understandably naïve curiosity of "what it is we crazies do out there." I'm sure many of you have gotten the questions: "But did you sleep?," "How did you eat?" As they set up the award before announcing who it was going to, the part I remember (and I was getting nervous as I realized they were talking about me and I'd have to stand up before a couple hundred folks) was how they dwelled on the exact number of hours, minutes, and seconds it took me at Bighorn , repeating it twice ("33 hours, .......).
I think it's the sheer time on your feet that most amazes outsiders looking in, as they think of it in, say, marathon time terms. For us, I think we think of it much more in terms of the incredible natural places where we run, the range of conditions we experience in a single race (rain/sunshine, night/day, temps from the 20s to close to 80 at Bighorn), and the amount of verticality and rough terrain we confront. Road runners don't seem to be able to compute race courses and experiences in that way. Anyway, the presenters were also nice enough to note that it was my best time at Bighorn in three consecutive finishes, so clearly they had done their homework. I was touched. Humbled. Nice to know someone and especially a group of peers and friends notices us, even as we're out there toiling mostly in anonymity and solitude (and wouldn't really have it any other way, that's just how we're wired!).
Overview of Weeks 5 and 6 of Bighorn (and Mt. Whitney) Training
The first week I pushed pretty hard, with a solo speed session, my second Whitney training hike (carrying about 42 pounds up and wearing crampons and heavy boots up and down Palisades slopes), and the Hike-a-Thong fat ass event in western Harriman, which was a blast. So, the second week was more about stepping back and recovering and reluctantly but wisely "listening to the body." Around about Tuesday of that week, I felt pretty whipped, and then on Friday I felt tired enough to shelve plans for maybe a two-hour snowshoe run and just decided on a complete day off. Wise decision! I didn't step over that dangerous line.
The highlights were the Hike-a-Thong run on Superbowl Sunday and the epic short and sweet winter "run" at Bear, both in good company. I felt really good for the last few hours at Thong, and it was cool to check out some trails in western Harriman I don't think I'd been on. I really felt like I would have liked more miles and time on my feet at Thong, and it was really nice to be running on technical trails after the smooth trails and road of the previous three weekends. We had some melting snow and slush to contend with but generally better footing than we've had most of this winter.
Also, balmy temps in the 40s, which were a welcome if brief respite from this otherwise unrelenting winter.
At Bear we had to work really hard for our footing going up and down the AT in a foot or snow of not too well-trodden powdery snow, and it was really cold. So much snow had fallen a few days before.
The solo hike (Whitney training hike #2) came two days before that at Palisades, and was a bit of a grind, maybe because I hadn't carried that much weight since last summer at Shasta. I pulled out the crampons from the pack after a dicey descent early on with more snow than I expected there based on the very little we had in the city at that time. But they kept coming off and I had to adjust or put them on many times. Very pretty and scenic. That was also my maiden voyage with my new La Sportiva mountaineering boots, which are keepers in fit and seem just that little bit lighter than the old ones. Nice to be able to practice on snow and with my actual equipment ahead of Whitney!
Here are the "vitals":
Week of Jan. 24-Feb. 2
Time Running: 9.2 hours
Time on Feet with Weighted Pack Hiking: 14.45 hours
Running Mileage: 39.65 (goal per Relentless schedule of 48)
Mileage with Hiking: 45.5
No. of Runs: 6
Speed: 6 X half mile in Central Park on East Drive from 72nd transverse to Engineer's Gate, with 1:15ish recovery (3:44 up/3:46 up/3:42 down/3:27 down /3:43 up/3:45 up)
Longest run: Hike-a-Thong (fat ass trail run) in western Harriman to/from Tuxedo Train Station, 14.65 miles in 5:00 (with Garth, Lesley, and Brice)
Hikes: 1 (Palisades/State Line in snow with about 42 pounds and using crampons most of the way and poles, maybe 800-900' of ascent?)
Strength: 1 upper/core body session, 1 short lower body session
Full rest days: 0
Weed of Feb. 3-9
Time Running: 6.55 hours
Mileage: 21.8 (goal per Relentless schedule of 52)
Longest Trail Run: 7.5 miles in about 3:30 in about a foot of snow wearing Snowcross at Bear Mountain (with Garth, Lesley, and Jeff), once to top, then down partway and back up partway, approx. 1,800-2,000' of total ascent)
Speed: 30 treadmill minutes at 7:30 pace
Yoga: one Vinyasa class
Strength: 1 upper body/core, 1 very short legs
Total Rest Days: 2
Final Thoughts: I'm still a little off synch in terms of the Relentless schedule as my very rough guide. Quite close in mileage the first week, way below the second week which is a buildup week on that plan. But I did so much more a couple weeks in January with the two 50k's that I'm not obsessing. And I'm getting in the training hikes, and spacing them out better than I did last year in my training for the climb that wasn't. So that counts for something on the training ledger.
I'm also happy to be getting in the quality in terms of some kind of weekly speed session every week, even as my speedwork coach has been taking a winter hiatus and I've had to do it solo. Between that and the January racing, my speed is a little better than it usually would be this time of year.
I wish I were getting in a second upper body and core session and regular weekly yoga instead of sporadic. But those are the two elements that tend to slide when it gets busy, and busy it is. Weekly leg sessions have also been abbreviated for the most part so I'd like to do better. But I also have to balance that in alternate weeks against the training hikes, which are strength sessions on steroids really! The aim for February has been to try to get in three of them, spaced about 10/11 days apart.
So, I guess, all in all, I'm in a pretty good place with my training, and not getting sick or injured, knock on wood!