Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Time Trial

I ran a time trial today.

The goal for the year is to run a 17:30 5k, so I figured I should go run a 5k, see how far off I am.

I was hoping to run an 18:15, and I ran a 18:21. I was on pace for an 18:30 through about 2.7 miles, but got a little burst of energy at the end.

Thoughts:
  • That’s the fastest 5k I’ve run since I was 19! 
  • You can do tempos and intervals all you want, but actually going at it for a full 5k, that's a special kind of burn. 
  • I was working hard, no doubt, but I'm hopeful I might have another half-gear in there somewhere.
  • I remember liking this distance once upon a time. I think I still do. 
  • Today’s run was 5:55/mile. The goal is 5:38/mile. 17 seconds a mile faster seems super intimidating. But two seconds per mile every month? Not totally inconceivable. Still intimidating, but less so.
  • Pretty sure my best bet to reach this goal is to find a 5k in November/December at 7,000 feet lower altitude than where I’m currently running. 
I acknowledge that there’s something arguably douche-y about being a 40-year-old running just shy of 90 second quarters by himself on a high school track. But, whatever. On the grand scale of things, none of this matters. I'm having fun with it. And I'll keep doing that as long as I feel that way.

On an unrelated note, I am not running Run Through Time this year, marathon or the half. I could give a bunch of excuses, but the truth is, I just wasn’t feeling it. I’ll be out there, though, volunteering at the intersection (miles 12 and 16) where Dakota Jones and Eric Senseman got lost last year, trying to make sure we don’t have a repeat.

If you’re running, I’ll see you out there!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Injury Prone

Walking around my living room this morning, I noticed something unusual.

I wasn’t in pain. Not even a niggle. Just me, walking around in my bare feet like normal people do.

This is unusual, because I am injury prone. And it’s taken me 28 years of running to admit it. 

I got to thinking about this a couple of months ago when my buddy Tom Sobal asked me on a Sunday run, “have you always been this injury prone?”

“Me? Injury prone.” I thought to myself. “Pssshaw. I’m not injury prone.”

But I like to consider myself a rational guy, so let’s consider the evidence: 
  • In 2017, I missed multiple races and hobbled through a few others with Achilles tendinitis in both legs. Plus, I strained my quad in October trying to do a track workout. Had to take off nearly a month for that.
  • I had tendinitis that kept me from training hard in 2016, too.
  • In 2015, I didn’t really train or race (except for two 5ks).
  • In 2014, I had various injuries that kept me from ramping up training for ultras.
  • Same for 2013, except for shorter distances.
  • In 2011, I injured my left hamstring right after my first 100 and had to take more than two months off. And then a month before Leadville in 2012, I reinjured the same thing and had to take a month off/easy before the race and then limped the last 47 miles of the race when it flared up on me.
  • In 2010, I had IT band issues that made me DNS Rocky Raccoon in January 2011.
  • Between 1999 and 2009, I didn’t train or race.
  • My freshman year of college in 1997 I missed half the year of cross-country with a stress fracture.
  • My sophomore year in 1998, I was still dealing with the stress fracture.

So yeah, now that I think about it, I’m totally injury prone. Like, as in maybe running–is-a-really-bad-idea-for-me injury prone.

But I still love to run and I have no intention of quitting any time soon.

So what to do with this information?

Here’s what I’ve been doing over the last couple of months:
  • Forget about mileage. Sure, Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter ran 160 miles a week for dozens of years in a row, and that’s what made them running gods, but I’m not built like them. Accept my limitations.
  • One day off every week. I’m teaching myself to ski!
  • I’ve gone over to the dark side.
  • I’m doing two workouts a week, but this go-around, rather than balls-to-the-wall Vo2 max stuff, I’m focusing on 90% efforts. I’m doing cruise intervals, hills, and tempo work. I’m doing workouts knowing that I have an extra gear in the bag, but leaving that gear for race efforts. First things first: I have to make it to the starting line in one piece.
  • No ultras or even marathons (at least for now).
  • Core and strength stuff daily. Lunge matrix and leg swings.
  • Strides once a week, two longer aerobic efforts (70-120 minutes) and two easy days.
  • I’m just being super careful to introduce stress in an incremental way. If my last workout was 6 x 800 at 6-minute pace, then the next workout might be either 5 x 1k at the same pace or 6 x 800 at 5:55 pace.
None of this is rocket science. But it’s obvious in retrospect that I haven’t seen improvement in my running because I haven’t been making consistent progress in the right direction. I have bursts of activity followed by injury followed by long periods of relative inactivity. I gotta figure out how to cut out the injuries or all the rest of this so much bloviating.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

End of 2017 Musings

  • Decent year of running for me. Will finish with just over 2800 miles. That’s the highest mileage I’ve done since 2011, and the second highest mileage year I’ve had since my freshman year of college. And though I don't track it, I've never had a year with more up and down.
  • Good year of running, but a crap year for racing. I ran four races. One was decent (Imogene). Ran five miles off course in another (Creede). Got sidetracked and swam in a lake in a third (Crested Butte). And the Run Through Time in Salida was bad enough where I’d rather pretend it wasn’t a race.
  • On a brighter note, the move to Salida has exceeded all expectations. It’s just a super fun place to live. I expect to stay here permanently. My wife and I will be looking to buy a place here soon.
  • I turned 40 this year!
  • I have two racing goals in 2018. One, have fun racing as a master. Two, run a sub-17:30 5k. The first should be easy enough. The second will be a real challenge, as I’m nowhere near that level of fitness right now.
  • I still plan to run mountain trail races this year; I'm just sticking to half marathons and shorter. I had fun at Grin & Bear It and Creede (despite getting lost), so I’ll probably go back there. Other “maybe” races include the Fibark races in Salida, the Run Through Time Half here, the Hardscrabble race put on by Hal Walters in Westcliffe, the Black Canyon 10k, the Sleeping Indian Hill Climb, the Lead King Loop, and the Moab Trail Half. Half of those races and a few 5ks would make for a good year.
  • Since I’m 40 now, I might also hop into a road marathon just to get a qualifier for 2019. My BQ time is 3:15 now, which seems doable even without much specific training. Judging by those running equivalency calculators, if I’m anywhere near 17:30 fitness, I should be able to do a flat road marathon in under 3:10 without straining too much.
  • The 16-year-old version of me would have found this very hard to fathom, but the challenge of running almost as fast as I used to as a teenager is way more intimidating to me right now than the challenge of running more 100s. I am about 80% certain I could train for a year and get another buckle at Leadville, maybe even the big one. And I’m 80% certain I could slog through some Hardrock qualifier. 
  • But, can I run a 17:2X, with even a year of training to pull it off? Right now, I reckon that there’s an 80% chance that I’ll fail with this goal. Which makes me think that it's a good goal.
  • I know a lot more 40-plus-year-olds who can run 100 miles than ones who can run a sub-17:30 5k. So yeah, I think the 5k goal is harder.
  • This is not the first time I have talked about a moderately ambitious 5K goals on this site, and I didn’t even come close last time. So yeah, for now, it's all hat and no cowboy. 
  • That's all for now. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all those reading. And best wishes for a Happy New Year!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Creede Mountain Run/Imogene Pass Race Reports

I ran back-to-back races the last two weekends. First I ran the Creede Mountain Run 12 Mile on Labor Day weekend and then the Imogene Pass Run last weekend.

A bit of lead up to both races: I had ratcheted up my training from maybe 25-30 miles a week in 2016 to 50-60 miles a week in 2017, so I was excited to get out and see if I could prove my fitness. I had only run two races in the past five years, so two races in back-to-back weekends was a lot for me.

I had originally planned to run the Aspen Backcountry Marathon in August, but some Achilles tendinitis made me think the better of it. I laid back on the training for a couple of weeks, then put in a solid three-week block of 70 mile weeks with lots of elevation gain. The Achilles never fully healed, but I was able to run through it in training, so I was hopeful I could do the same in races.

The Creede Mountain Run was a super chill race, even by the standards of my most recent races. The race had a 2 mile, a 12 mile, and a 22 mile variant, I was doing the middle version. The race was so low key, if you weren’t careful, you might not find it. To give you an idea, the race website says that “the race starts in town,” with no further information. So I showed up in Creede about 45 minutes before the start, and asked the owner of the local coffee shop if she knew where the race started. She didn’t, but another patron in line pointed me to the starting line a couple of blocks from the coffee joint.

I did a little jog warm up, bumped into a guy I knew from Salida, and then waited for the start. I lined up in the front. I immediately got the sense that this wouldn’t be a particularly competitive race, because I was literally one of two people who started at the actual starting line. No one wanted to be near the front. Everybody sat back 20-30 feet back from the line waiting for the gun to go off. 

When it did, I found myself jogging with a couple of local runners and a 10-year-old kid who started off hot in the accompanying 2-mile fun run.

At about the half-mile mark, I looked at my watch, and we were going about 6:45 pace up what was probably a 5% incline. It seemed easy enough, and so I picked up the pace.

For the first time since I was in high school, I was leading a race.

The incline increased and I did my best to keep up the pace. But I was definitely working hard, harder than I had in any race in years. I had a heart-rate monitor on and my heart rate was right around 170 for most of the first five miles. In training, I never let my heart rate go much higher than 165, so this was uncharted territory for me.

From what I knew of the course, it went up about 2000 ft. for five miles, leveled off for two, and then descended 2000 ft. on a dirt road for the final five miles. So I figured I’d gun it for the first five and then try to hold on for dear life from there.

It was working. At three miles, I had about a 200-meter lead. By the five-mile aid station, I couldn’t see anybody behind me. I had run five miles in just under 45 minutes, with just shy of 2000 feet of elevation gain. I felt like I was having the best race I had in years. When I got to the aid station, there was one kid who handed me a glass of water and one lady who asked me for my race number.

I blasted through the aid station, and to my chagrin, the road kept climbing. I was under the impression that the race topped out at about 10,700 ft., but my watch (and my legs) kept telling me I was going higher and higher. By the time I got to mile 6.5, and I was over 11,000 ft., I was pretty sure something was very rotten in Denmark. I looked around me on a long stretch of road where I could see nearly a half a mile behind me, and there was absolutely no one.

And then a little later I saw something that made my stomach sink. I saw some course flagging. But whereas earlier in the race, there had been orange and blue colored flags (go Broncos!), now there was only blue. I stopped dead in my tracks, because I was pretty sure I had gone off course. But I was in the middle of nowhere and running by myself. So I had no idea what was the right course, either. So I slowed my pace to a jog and then talked to the nearest driver on the road. He didn’t know the race course, but he said there was an aid station a quarter mile up the road. So I jogged up the road, where the aid station volunteers were buoyant and jolly, cheering me on eagerly as the first runner, when I asked, “Am I still on the 12-mile course?”

The lady cringed and said, “Sorry, no.” I asked her where the turnaround was, and she said that it was right at the 5-mile aid station. I looked at my watch and it said 7.46 miles. I had gone nearly 5 miles off course in a 12-mile race. I did some swearing, saw that there were children present, and then apologized.

At that point, I had another decision. Should I just continue and do the 22 instead? I was so far ahead of second place in the 22 mile I couldn’t even see the next runner, even though I had stopped for a minute or so. But my wife was going to be waiting for me at the finish. And it was pretty hot, and I didn’t have any water or nutrition. I thought about borrowing the lady’s cell phone and calling my wife and telling her I’d be a couple of hours later than planned, but she had no service.

So I decided to turn around and head back. I ended up running just shy of 17 miles with about 3k of elevation gain in just over 2:10. But my 5-mile detour took me from first to last place. When I got back to the actual turnaround, the only marking was a 2-foot-by-2-foot cardboard sign drawn by a child that someone had nailed to a tree. Nothing on the road. No one directing traffic (or at least they weren't when I was there).

Needless to say, I was not the only person who had gotten lost. At the finish, I (and a few others) spoke with the race director about the lack of markings. She was a nice enough lady, but totally out of her depth when it comes to organizing a race.

Sigh. It's a small mountain race. What can you do?

Imogene Pass was much less eventful. 

My Achilles tendinitis got flared up pretty badly from my hard effort in Creede, so all I could muster the week in between the two races was three miles of super easy jogging on a treadmill.

Come race day, I felt flat, and my Achilles was still not fully healed. 

I gave it a decent effort, but wasn’t expecting much. I got to the top of the pass in just over two hours, which had me in 22nd place (out of 1600 runners, I believe), and then ran one of the slowest downhill sections of the top 50 runners, where I got passed by quite a few on the way down. The road was much more technical than I had anticipated, and bombing down techie descents is not my cup of tea.

All whining aside, I did about as well I had in me to do that day.

2:55, good for 31st overall, and 12th in my age group. If I had been two months older, I would have been 2nd! Looking forward to the start of my Masters’ career.

All in all, neither race was quite what I had hoped for. But I’m happy with how my fitness is progressing overall.

Next up is to let myself heal completely. Then I’m going to work on speed. Maybe even make it to the track for a few workouts or races.

If nothing else, it should make it easier to stay on the right course.




Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Grin and Bear It Trail Race

This Saturday, my wife and I ran the Grin and Bear It trail race up in Crested Butte. It was a fun little race, in a beautiful area, with a great vibe. The race started in town and worked its way up about 1700 ft. over 4.65 miles to Green Lake, which was super beautiful. Then you ran back down the hill back into town for a total of 9.3 miles. The course was mostly on singletrack, with a little rocky stuff up top, but mostly runnable.

The short story is that I got 10th.

Longer version is that I was in 3rd at the turnaround, but they had a special prim available to the first runner who was willing to jump into middle of the lake to get it. So of course that’s what I did. Only problem was that I didn’t take off my shoes, the lake was really cold, and it’s really hard to swim in mountain lakes when you’re exhausted, out of breath, and wearing shoes. It was a decision I immediately regretted, but once I had gone in, I figured I had to get it. Better to be the idiot who jumped in the lake to get the prim than the idiot who jumped in the lake but didn't even get the prim. Either way, the little excursion easily added an extra five minutes to my time, and totally zapped me of any energy to compete.

When I was out of the lake, I was in 8th, instead of 3rd. And I wasn’t really in the mood to bomb back down the hill. The swim made me appreciate the challenge of triathlon transitions. Three more people passed me in the first mile or so down, as I was barely shuffling at first. I got my running legs back a couple of miles down the hill and caught one guy who had passed me, but I suck at even moderately techie descents and that was all I could muster. 

Anyway, all told the race was encouraging from a fitness perspective and good fun. I got a $50 gift certificate and a six-pack of Eddyline for my swimming excursion. Since the race entry fee was only $30, and there were plenty of delicious burritos and Eddyline tallboys available at the finish, I’d say, in poker parlance, that I ended the day a little ahead.

Wife had a good day, too. Finished slightly ahead of mid-pack, which ain't bad considering she only averages 10-20 miles a week. 

I suspect I’ll be back. Other than two 5ks I ran a few years ago, I hadn’t run a race shorter than 25 miles since college. But I enjoyed the more middling distance—it was a good test without totally killing the whole day and wiping me out for weeks. Feels more my speed these days. 

Next up is the Aspen Backcountry Marathon August 12th. Still nursing a little tendonitis, so I'll have to be cautious in training, but hopefully I can have a better day than what I pulled together at the Run Through Time.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Rito Alto Four Pass Loop?

Sending out a general invite to see if anyone wanted to join me for a long day in the Sangre de Cristos on July 22nd. Thinking of doing the Rito Alto Four Pass Loop, which I had never heard of until recently but it looks amazing, from the few reports I've seen.

Link here:

I live just off the Rainbow Trail, so I don't think the trailhead is super far from my house (an hourish, I suspect).

Anyway, shoot me a comment or an email at Kieran.McCarthy@gmail.com if you're interested.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Update and a Return to Racing

We just reached the six-month anniversary of our move to Salida, and life is good. We’ve settled into the community, we’re doing well professionally, and we’re enjoying the small-town vibe. The more time we spend here, the more I realize I wasn’t cut out to live in the city. The small town life suits me.

The move has definitely had a positive impact on my running. A year ago this time, I was averaging 20-30 miles a week mostly trotting around Wash Park, with an average of 4-5 hours of total running a week. Right now I’m almost through with a three-week training block with an average of over 60 miles a week, with more than 10 hours a week of running, and an average of about 8,000 ft. a week of elevation gain.

Easily more than double what I was doing a year ago.

There are just so many great places to run around here in summer, it’s made me giddy. Forgive me if this is obnoxious, but within 30 minutes of my house, there’s the Bear Creek trail, Pass Creek trail, Green Creek trail, Browns Creek trail, Fooses Creek trail, Monarch Crest Trail, Turret Trail, Boss Lake, Hunt Lake, Waterdog Lake, Stout Lake, the Methodist Mountain Trail System, the Arkansas Hill Trail System, thirty miles of the Rainbow Trail, fifty miles of the Colorado Trail, and twenty miles of the Continental Divide Trail.

It’s trail-running heaven. I still feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface.

Anyway, I’m running a lot more than I was before. And with all that running, I figured I’d sign up for a few races this summer: The Grin and Bear It 9 mile out in Crested Butte next Saturday, the Aspen Backcountry Marathon in August, and Imogene Pass in September. There’s an off chance I might also do the Creede Mountain Run on Labor Day weekend, but I’m playing that one by ear, as it's the week before Imogene. They all seem like fun, relatively inexpensive sub-ultra trail races within a couple of hours of where I live. That’s what appeals to me in races now.

I feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve been in since Leadville 2012. It's all relative, of course. I joined the Chaffee County Running Club for a July 4th run on the Continental Divide, and three college kids, including local phenom Taylor Stack, dropped me in the first 200 yards. Oh well, at least I was able to keep up with Taylor's mom (not as easy it sounds). Either way, I’ve managed to ramp up the mileage and intensity without serious injury. (Knock on wood—I’ve got a little tendonitis in my left Achilles but I think it’s manageable).

But thinking you’re fit and showing it on race day are two separate things.
I know this because I ran Salida Run Through Time Marathon in March and I stunk up the joint, running more than a half an hour slower than I had hoped. I won’t go into too much detail other than to say I probably should have run the half marathon that day. I wasn’t in trail marathon shape, and it showed in my performance. 

I’m certain I’m more fit now than I was then. But there's a chance my own estimation of my fitness is still higher than my actual fitness. But I guess that’s the point of racing in the first place. To put yourself out there and test it for all to see.

I turn 40 this fall, and so this is a bit of prelude to what I see as a ramp up of fitness going into soon-to-be masters racing. The last time I was anything resembling a competitive runner was as a teenager. There’s some appeal to seeing if I might be able to pull off something similar on the other end of the age spectrum. There’s a satisfaction knowing that I was once very fit, that I lost fitness completely, and that now I’m starting to get some of it back. Exactly how much of that youthful vigor I can recover is yet to be seen. This isn’t the first time I’ve discussed lofty ambitions of getting fast on this blog—every previous time I was pissing in the wind.


All that’s to say it’s easier said than done. But I’m excited about the challenge and to have something to push for.