Monday, July 31, 2017

Back home for a last tune-down before Skyline 50K

After 5.5 weeks out of the country, it felt good to be back home and reconnect with my usual running routes and routine. Traveling has been amazing, with so many opportunities to see family and friends and the discovery of new places in South Africa and Namibia, but it has its toll on the running, especially when we join an organized group tour like in Namibia.

My first run after flying back from Africa on Wednesday was on my local neighborhood 5K loop, which I covered three times, getting faster and faster, down to the last mile in 5:58. Between the heat of the summer, the elevation in Winthoek and Johannesburg (5,500 feet), the steep and rocky terrain in the Alps, it has been months since I broke that pace on a mile, last time was probably during the Boston Marathon as a matter of fact. Well, except a short spike at 4:42 min/mile (!), flying down the Lion's Head mountain in Cape Town as Max noticed on my Relive.cc flyover.

On Friday, I ran 9 miles again, albeit slightly slower given the heat (92F) and the rolling terrain of our trail loop at work. And, after experimenting with much success my new pairs of Brooks Caldera since May, I broke a new pair of shoes: the other Brooks trail shoes, called Mazama (that makes 5 different trail running models with the well-known Cascadia, now in their 12th release, the light and fast PureGrit and the Adrenaline ASR 14).

On Saturday, after these two runs, I felt quite bullish and aimed at running a 50K, to the top of Black Mountain plus 3 Bella Vista/Indian Creek trail loops, which I've never done more than 2 at a time. Although I was up early thanks to the jet lag, I only left the house at 10 am and got stuck at the top of Black Mountain in the middle of the blazing heat, which I was completely unprepared for after enjoying the winter season for 2 weeks, down under. I actually had pushed quite a lot on the climb up to Montebello Road, passing 2 bikes and being passed by 2 other bikes (which is rare on this steep climb), just before the top. 

At the beginning of the first loop down Bella Vista, I ran into Chuck Wilson and we chatted for 5 minutes about many topics: Namibia and South Africa, which he visited too, Vespa, his recent switch to a low carb diet, where to find the best water in the area, etc. As I resumed my run, I started feeling dizzy but that passed after another mile of down hill. To save some energy for the next loops, I alternated running and power walking in my first climb on Indian Creek, but even walking was hard in this heat.

I stopped for 3-4 minutes at the backpack campground to refill my bottles and cool off a bit in the shade, but was still hopeful of completing the three loops. However, struggling on the second climb, over heating, I decided it was more reasonable to cut it short and return home and keep the 3-loop goal for later in August as another UTMB-prep exercise. Before hitting Montebello Road again on the way back, I still went on the Waterwheel trail detour for a total of 31.2 miles, and I stopped at every creek on Montebello Road to cool off. Despite some walking, even in the last flat miles across Cupertino, I was stunned to see that my overall average pace ended up close to 9 min/mile, I certainly had pushed too much in the first climb! It took me a few hours and a good night of sleep to recover, and I was able to run 9 miles before jumping on a plane again this Sunday morning, this time for Dallas, Texas. As a side data for this ultra experiment, I weighted 137 lb after my 2-day trip back from Namibia and 124 lb after this challenging 50K training run, quite a difference over 3 days! Thinking about it, I believe the main reason I bonked is that I only ingested 300 calories (1 Snickers bar, 1 GU gel) for the whole run; while it was a good test of how hard it is to switch to fat burning without using Vespa, it was on the risky side. Lesson learned.

The Strava map and profile (Strava activity):


Well, instead of a tune-up, I'm calling this 50K a tune-down before next week's Skyline 50K race (I know, tune-down isn't in dictionary, but that fits well with the context...). At least I got some last minute heat training, in case it's getting hot on race day. It will be my 11th consecutive participation, I've very much looking forward to it, I really like this fast course and local ultra reunion! This will be my 64th 50K race in 11 years, time flies and how much things have change that I now run a 50K to train for another one a week later... But it's more than, like many others, we use ultra races to train for bigger and longer goals (UTMB on 9/1 for me). What an ultra life! ;-)

There are quite a few Quicksilver teammates signed up, should be fun! See many of you there on Sunday (I won't show up on Saturday this time... ;-)!

1 comment:

Jay Hsu said...

See you there Jean! Welcome back to the US by the way. :)