Monday, January 23, 2012

(Mountain) Runner's High

Quietly lurking in the shadows of the pines lining the Western States course were DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). It wasn't obvious then, but in hindsight it's clear now that I had a quick return to training, and things were going to take time to get dialed in. The Monday on the course felt fine, however the Tuesday back in Southern California felt labored, and each day there after felt worse. Eventually I got through a hectic week at work and found myself sleeping in Saturday morning waiting for the rain to pass.

I started around 11AM at Chantry and had every reason to enjoy my plans for the day: a Newcomb, Sturtevant, Winter Creek climbing feast for some 8,200ft of climbing in 26 miles on crisp damp trails in fresh sunshine. The first (and easiest) climb up Newcomb went well enough, as I ran most of the way up. However the behemoth up Sturdevant was much more than I bargained for. Usually, I'm pretty warmed up for whatever comes my way 7-8 miles into a run. However, the varying 20% grade (3,000ft in 3 miles) kept me in a overly labored slow hike. I picked the climb specifically for it's Hardrock like steepness, but I thought I'd be able to lower my head and power hike it in 45 minutes. An hour later I saw Katie on her way down having an equally rough day and I continued on feeling a little bit better having related with her for a moment.

-Sturdevant Trail to Wilson

-View from Wilson

A quick traverse over Zion and I was looking at my final climb up Winter Creek. The apex of the AC course for many, Winter Creek sends runners at mile 78 up a stout 2400ft in 2.5 miles, switchbacks and all. I thought back to my better times on Winter Creek and focused on a strong hike for the first half, and a run up the last half to make it back in time before sunset (I'd dawdled a bit on the run taking pictures and eating too). To my surprise, the exhaustion from Sturdevant had melted away as I was chasing the last rays of light siphoning through the trees. By the time I hit the toll road, I'd run a good 10-15 minutes faster than my usual exhausted efforts :46. I knew how to run the climb in :35 minutes on fresh legs, how to run/hike it in :40 efficiently, and also how to just get over it in :60 on legs full of lead and eyes on the verge of sleep. I guess what I didn't know that I knew how to do, was to suffer with efficiency and power.

I was pretty miserable struggling up the hill (I'd forgotten salt, and had long since lost my appetite for gels). Yet, I found myself remarking aloud "Oh, this pitch again, and then that mean one over there, but they're really not that bad." By the time I reached the bench 4/5th the way up, I'd started to actually enjoy the steeper pitches, and opted for the ridge instead of the H.W bypass to avoid any more switchbacks denying me of the feeling of a thick, strong incline. I put hands to knees and sliced up the ridge smiling as I gasped for air, and enjoyed the exquisite moment in the waning sunset.

-Up the ridge, no need for a bypass to the right

The descent back included quite a bit of darkness without a headlamp, but the tingly feeling of intense exhaustion and spiritual satisfaction put my feet in exactly the right place through all the iceberg fields between Winter Creek and Chantry. It was darker than dark in some of the final traverses, but I saw half submerged boulders without even seeing them.

That night, I twitched a few times in my sleep. When I was younger, I'd spend several hours surfing and later that night feel the sensation of rocking up and down with the waves in my sleep for another few hours. The more intense the waves, the more life life the sensation at night. Saturday night, I felt myself flowing down the singletrack almost as clearly as it had felt that day.

Monday, Jan 16
10mi, 1000ft, 1:35 - WS course, Dusty Corners

3mi, 1000ft, :26 - Treadmill, 2 good @11%
9mi, 2000ft, 1:35 - Crystal Cove

3mi, 500ft, :21 - easy treadmill

6mi, 1500ft, 1:03 - Crystal Cove repeats
2mi, 1250ft, :23 - treadmill

5mi, 750ft, :43 - Brentwood Hills

26mi, 8200ft, 5:00 - Chantry Octopus (Newcomb, Sturdevant, Zion, Winter Creek)

27mi, 5200ft, 4:30 - Lake, San Gabriel Peak, Wilson, Mt. Lowe road back

91mi, 21,400ft

-Sunday on San Gabriel Peak (6,161 ft.)

-San Gabriel Peak seen from the backside

-A tour of the San Gabes from San Gabriel Peak

Miike Snow - Black and Blue


Billy said...

good shit Dom. gotta make a trip to the San Gabs soon myself.

Dominic Grossman said...

Thanks man, those trails have character. They usually break you down and build you up almost everytime.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to my world... your experience this time "running" up Winter Creek is pretty much the same as my standard experience there. Actually running the whole thing is unfathomable to me (though, I must admit, running up any mountain was an unfathomable concept to me two years ago and now I do it all the time). I guess that ability (plus speed) is what separates the elite guys like you and others from those of us in the middle of the pack.

Dominic Grossman said...

Marcus, I like that world. I have lesser peaks during the week to climb, but spend the weekends in the San Gabes for their unique challenge. I think the only time you should run up a hill is when your hike is less efficient and significantly slower. Hands on knees I can average 13-15 minute miles, but running I can hold 8-15 minute miles.. It's all about the terrain and what's the best efficiency/speed combination. (could be a good blog post)

Anonymous said...

Dominic, I'm still working on that. I do have several routes I run where I know hiking is more efficient, but I run them anyway in training for strength gains in my quads. Doing that has helped my running a lot over the last couple of months and really helped to stabilize my knees, which have been a problem for me.

Dominic Grossman said...

I know from experience that anything with hill in the word (whether up or down) is demmanding on the knees. You want to get to a point with cross training and controled running/hiking workouts where it's self-sustaining as far as knee strength go. Light lunges and squats will help, and of course.. UDO'S OIL!

Anonymous said...

Does Udo's Oil really work? I know some runners use it, but I wasn't sure if their mentions of it were because Udo's is a sponsor.

Dominic Grossman said...

Udo's doesn't sponsor me, but I definitely notice it helps a lot under heavy training loads.

Chris Price said...

I think Udo's works best when you shoot it.