Monday, January 31, 2011

Sultan 50k Report and other stuff

Saturday, Hannah and I headed off to run with the WNC Trail Runner group in South Mountains State Park for the Sultan 50k (aka South Mountains Crossing).  Since Uwharrie is next week, I opted to only run half of the run this year and run with Hannah as she would run the toughest run of here life to date.  After making a wrong turn near the start, which added another 1.5 miles to the already 16.5 mile journey, we ended up running 18 miles with about 3,700 ft of gain!  The course was absolutely stunning, with many open views to waves of mountain ridges stretched out to the horizon.   The trail wasn't technical and it was actually more of a dirt rd/gravel rd the entire way except for a boulder hopping and step climbing mile past a beautiful waterfall.  Hannah did great and ran 5 miles more than she has ever ran before and with more climb to boot. Congratulations as well to all the other runners, 3 of which finished the full 33 miles and 6900 ft of ascent in under 5 hours!  Also, a big thanks to Sultan for putting on this run!  Can't wait to come back next year for the full monty! Here is the Garmin data: Sultan 50k (halfish)

After the run, Hannah and I went out to eat at Jalapenos Fresh Grill with a few other runners to enjoy some of the best Mexican food I have ever tasted.  We had a great time talking and joking around with everyone.  After Jalapenos, Hannah and I had one more item on the agenda to attend to.  Go see Jill Andrews at the Grey Eagle in Asheville.  We hadn't seen her in over a year and couldn't pass up the opportunity to see her while she was close by again.  The show was amazing as she played some old favorites and some new gems that will be released this May on her forthcoming release.  Here is a quick little sample of her show if you have never heard her before. 

This weekend was one of the best I can remember.  Big thanks to Adam Hill and family for putting us up for this night at his home in Asheville.  I can't wait for the next WNC Trail Runner group run, Rattle My Heart 50k

Also, a quick note on my January running totals:
Miles = 193
Vertical Gain = 23,000 ft
(funny how this looks like one week for Krupicka, haha)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

New Mile and 800M PR Today

I'm currently in taper mode for Uwharrie right now so I'm not putting a lot of mileage on this week or next, but the little bit of mileage I am getting in I want to be quality.  So today, I decided since all the trails were covered in fresh snow, I would go for a little run on the indoor track here on campus.  The plan was just to run a lot of slow 9 min pace laps around the track with a few 400m spurts at 10k pace just to get the legs used to some turnover.  But I also had a mission for today's run.  Run a mile under 6 minutes, my previous timed mile PR (I may have run a faster mile before, but it definitely wasn't timed and it was probably on a downhill section of road or trail). I know what your thinking, "a mile under 6 min is easy".  It may be for someone that is training for that distance, but not for a guy that has been running long distance ever since he started running and has never even really tried to run a fast mile.

The plan was to run the first 800M in 3:00 flat and then run the second half in 2:55.  I was taking it relatively easy at first and when I got to the halfway point, I looked down at my watch and saw 3:08! My first thought was, "there is no way I'm going to get under 6 minutes now", but I just started busting it out anyway.  I was constantly looking at my watch just hoping I would make up the time some how.  With just under 200m left, I looked down and had 30 seconds to get to the finish.  I threw it into another gear I didn't even knew I had and crossed the line in 5:58! I managed to beat both my mile PR and 800m PR by 2 seconds (previous 800m - 2:52).

After today's workout, I think I have a new appreciation for the track and will probably start incorporating it into the training schedule at least bi-monthly.  I really think this is about as much as I'll want to do, I just love the trails too much to sacrifice more time to running around in circles for an hour.  As well, I'm going to set a mile goal this year for a 5:40, maybe even a 5:30 if the track workouts start showing some really solid gains.  Looking forward to the Sultan 50k+ this weekend, although I'm only running half(16.5m).  I'll have a report for you on that next time.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Running with Warriors

Yesterday, Doug and Dennis (ultra warriors) decided to join me and head down towards Wilkesboro to run the Warrior Creek Loop on the banks of the Kerr Scott Reservoir.  All of us live in the Boone area and we were all ready to head off the mountain and enjoy some buttery trail and warmer temperatures after a cold and nasty week of training (very un-ultra warrior like, haha). 

Nice field along the way

The trail was beautiful and we all really enjoyed it.  It is intended to be a mountain bike trail and you can tell with all the sweeping turns and switchbacks on top of switchbacks.  Doug said that the map looked like a small child had just made scribble lines all over the paper.  After running on the trail, that would be a correct observation.  The trail was all over the place, but it was really fun.  Because of all the switchbacks, there was never really a steep grade to go up or down.  You could really settle into a nice
Doug and Dennis cruising
pace and keep it there almost the entire run.  There weren't many technical sections on the trail, and the two "rock gardens" were advertised before you reached them. Other than that the trail was buttery smooth and had some pretty sweet views of the reservoir.  If you know anyone that doesn't really enjoy technical trails or someone who is new to trail running, this would be a perfect place to take them.

After about 13 miles of running the Warrior Loop, we were back at our cars and it was decision time to keep going or pack it up and head back up the mountain.  Dennis and Doug decided to head on back, but I decided to stay behind and get some extra time on my feet.  Instead of doing another Warrior Loop, I headed out on the OVT trail.  This section of the trail was quite a surprise as it was quite mountainous at first and then completely flattened out along the banks of the Yadkin river.  I ran about an extra hour and a half on an out back on the trail and finished the day with about 22 miles.  This was a little shy of the number of miles and hours on my legs I was shooting for, but I needed to be back in Boone by 6 o'clock.  Here is the garmin data from the run (very unaccurate because of all the switchbacks) and some more pictures below: Warrior Creek and OVT

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lakeside 25k Race Report

This past Saturday, I headed back down to the Piedmont to run a tune-up race for Uwharrie in 3 weeks.  The race was the inaugural running of the Lakeside 25k in Greensboro on some of my favorite trails in NC.  The run benefited Greensboro Youth Soccer and the Greensboro Trails.  After some slow sign up rate preceding the run, people finally started to commit in the last week and registered runners went from around 60 to 110 at the race start.  A pretty good amount of folks for this inaugural run.

When I heard of this race back in November, I wasn't sure I was going to run it, but as the date grew closer I couldn't pass not running it.  I had ran the loop part of the course a few times over Christmas break and fell in love with it.  It is such a beautiful section of trail and super fast at that.  I knew that I could lay down a pretty stout time during this run.  But because of the recent wintry precipitation that swung through the area earlier in the week, the trail would not be ideal for laying down a super fast time, just an average time.  That is why I wouldn't be that upset with missing my goal of running the distance in under 2 hours.

After saying some hellos to a couple of friends that were there as well, I toed the line and was ready to go.  The pace out the gate was a bit too fast for me, so I just settled into a rhythm I was comfortable with and decided just to race my race (keeping an average of 7:30-8:00 min/miles).  The trail was a mix of hard pack snow/ice and crunchy snow with some mud/dirt in occasional sun soaked parts of the trail.  Grip was minimal and made it difficult to run fast around the many short turns in the trail.  I am almost completely sure that this lack of grip attributed to a loss of about 3-5 minutes on everyone's times and maybe even more.

Throughout the first half of the race, my legs weren't feeling that great and felt pretty heavy.  They finally started to feel like they should about 8 miles into the run and this is when I started to pass people again.  I'm not sure if I get stronger the longer I get into a run (doubt it) or if the rest of the competition just starts to break down more than me the longer into a race.  No matter which it is (probably the later), I tend to pass a lot of people toward the end of runs.  When I got to the last aid station (4 miles left) I had promptly 28ish minutes to make it to the finish in under 2 hours.  That meant that I would have to average just around a 7 min/mile for probably the toughest trail in the run.  In my attempt to push my pace, I promptly busted my butt two times by once slipping on the mud and falling on my hip at the last aid station and then again by slipping on some ice on the last bridge landing on the same hip on a harder surface a mile from the finish.  I think my pride was more hurt than my body from both falls, although I would have a bruised hip and little finger for the next few days. 

After falling at the bridge, I had about 5:30 minutes to get to the finish in under 2 hours.  My hopes for a sub 2 hour finish was gone (the fastest timed mile I have ever run was just under 6 minutes on a flat track), but I still pushed it hard to at least get near the 2 hour mark.  I crossed the line at exactly 2:02:00!  I still secured 2nd in my age group (20-29) and 9th overall.  I was pretty satisfied with my run although I didn't reach my goal, but I know that I would have if the trails were not covered in snow/ice. 

This was a great race that was well organized and I will definitely be running it again in the future.  It definitely filled my expectations of a good tune-up race for Uwharrie in 3 weeks.  I hope they add a 50k option next year, which would be an even better tune-up for Uwharrie.  The trails are all single track with just enough technicality with roots in sections to make a bit challenging, but not overly challenging.  Plus, the trails are so flat that you can just bust out a super fast PR effort.  Hope to see more people out for it next year!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Beginning of a New Semester

As the reality of the new semester dawns with this mornings unsurprisingly snowy start, it is back to the old task to try and find a balance between school and of course running.  But the first order of business is to take a short break from logging the miles.  I have had a surprisingly extended streak of solid training, even though it wasn't exactly what I had planned for mileage wise.  The weather will sometimes get the best of you and ruin your plans.

In the past 8 weeks I have averaged just under 50 miles a week (49.8 to be exact) and that load is starting to effect my body.  This is the longest streak of my running career at this volume.  My legs are just feeling dead and my turnover is suffering.  So a good two day break is called for with some minimal mileage later in the week.  I may throw some mile repeats down on Wednesday in preparation for this weekends Lakeside 25k just to get used to some quicker turnover on this flat beautiful course.  But other than those two blazing days, I'm going to take it super easy and probably only log 20 extra miles on top of that for a weekly total around 35 miles.  This will probably help my aching ankle as well (a problem that is becoming quite persistent and one that I would like to see go away).

Looking towards Grandfather from the summit
View towards 3 Top, Jefferson, and Phoenix Mtns
On another note, yesterday I had a great time enjoying the only break of snowfall in Boone this week by taking advantage of the weather and getting a sweet hike up Elk Knob.  The views were even more amazing in the winter.  On the last pitch to the summit, snow drifts were mid-thigh deep!  Elk Knob is were I usually log my hill/mountain running workout.  The trail to the summit is 1.8 miles of ~10% grade.  Run hard up and even harder down and repeat.  No breaks really other than soaking the views in at the summit for a bit.  I usually average about 19.5 minutes up and 12.5 minutes down.  Here is a link to that workout: Double Elk Knob Summit.

After the hike to soak in the views, I drove back down to Rich Mountain Rd to log some actual running on the plowed gravel surface.  This road has access to some amazing views as well.  Its pretty darn tough too.  The first 1.7 miles consist of a 800 ft climb to the beautiful Rich Mtn Gap and then gently descends towards US 421.  I only ran about 3 miles of this 5 mile road and then turned around, but those 6 miles got me close to 1200 ft of gain.  That's pretty stout and I averaged 8:57/mile on super tired legs.  A pretty good last workout before a mini break.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Inaugural Tanawha Trail Run Report

Friday, I went out to the trail to shoot some footage for the final installment of my Tanawha trail updates to send to the WNC Trail Runner group.  Conditions didn't seem like they would be that bad if we would have ran that day.  Instead, after getting back to my place in Boone, the bottom fell out and we were covered in 3 inches of snow in less than an hour! And it was forecasted to continue dumping all the way through Saturday afternoon.  Things were not looking good for the inaugural running of the Tanawha Trail Marathon, Half, & 50k.  All Friday night I was getting emails informing me that those who planned to run were bailing.  By Saturday morning, the number of committed runners dropped from 20 to 6.   I cannot blame them either, the roads to the trail were super nasty and the conditions were burly.  Only Adam Hill, Doug Blackford, Dennis Norris, Scott Williams, Allen Meyer, and myself were crazy enough to go out and face these conditions head on. 

There was no way that I would be making it out to the trail in my car, so I walked over to the Sun Inn to meet Adam and wait for Scott to come pick us up in his girlfriends all-wheel drive Subaru.  I definitely will be investing in one of those in the future.  It was a beast in the snow.  The roads made for slow going but we eventually made it out to the trail by 9:30.  I had been debating on running in my jacket or not the whole drive to the trail and eventually I decided to wear it.  A decision I would regret the first 8 miles and one I would love the last 5-6. 

We actually started the run from Holloway Mt Rd. just under the parkway instead of the official start at Price Lake.  This really didn't make for much of a mile difference (only about half a mile less) and it would keep us off the unplowed parkway. After the first initial mile on the road, Adam, Scott, and I all began to separate once on the trail.  Obviously, I was the slow one in this group and quickly fell behind the others.  I started to get into a funk during this lonesome running period.  The snow was dumping like crazy, and I was getting no grip in the 6-8 inch powdery snow.  I thought that putting on my micro-spikes would afford me better traction, which it did, but they continued to slide off my shoe when catching a root or rock.  So I was constantly stopping to adjust my spikes, still slipping all over the trail, and when I went to get a sip of water from my camel pack, the bit valve was frozen over.  All of this, including me trying to catch up with everyone else (Doug, Dennis, & Allen who started ahead of us, but a bit slower) I was hating the world and the trail.  I knew that as soon as I would catch up with Doug, Dennis, & Allen I would be in a much better mood.

After about an hour of running, neglecting my needs for calories, I finally caught Doug & Dennis.  And sure enough, my mood completely changed and I was finally ready to run for an extended period of time.  They were having the same problems with traction as I was, so at least I wasn't the only one.  It was nice running with them, and considering the conditions weren't letting up, I decided that I would run with them the rest of the day.  Soon, we caught up with Adam who waiting for us ahead (Scott had fell behind looking for his lost water bootle). We all decided to stick to together and run the trail all the way to Raven Rocks (8.5 miles in) and then hit the parkway and run the 5-6 miles back to the cars.  Everyone was pretty satisfied with this decision.  The trail past Raven Rocks gets extremely technical and would have been very dangerous in these conditions.

Before we headed down the parkway, we all tried to rehydrate and fuel up for the return trip.  It started getting really cold, especially since we were now exposed to the vicious wind on parkway.  Something we had only heard while running on the trail, which sheltered us with the thick forest and rhododendron.  There was a good 8 inches of snow on the parkway all the way back to the cars.  But at least it was all down hill from Raven Rocks.  Being exposed to the wind made me appreciate my jacket and I was glad I was wearing it.  My legs began to feel very heavy on the way down the parkway, probably due to the extra weight of the spikes and snow accumulating around my ankles.  It was just hard for me to push though and run the whole section, but I did.

Upon arrival to the cars, we noticed that Scott wasn't there and we hoped that he would follow our tracks back down the parkway.  Adam and I decided to run down to the start with Doug, Dennis, and Allen and hoped that Scott would make it back to our car by the time we came back.  Adam chose to run back, I decided to hitch a ride with Doug. 

When we got back to the car, Scott was waiting for us.  He never found his bottle, but did follow our tracks back down the parkway and was thankful for this as the rest of us were.  We all ended up running for about 3.5 hours.  We only covered about 13-14 miles during that time.  That gives you an idea about how slow going it was out there.

We all meet at Canyon's afterward and enjoyed some tasty grub and brew before parting ways back to our warm homes.  This was by far the craziest, most extreme, and most epic run of my life.  Even though it was on a section of trail I have run numerous times.  The conditions were by far the most extreme I had ever ran in.  None of us ended up doing are respective distance for the inaugural running of the Tanawha Trail Runs but we had a great time still.  Hopefully the conditions next year will be better and everyone will be able to make it out to this amazing run!

Here is a vid I put together of the run:

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Stone Mountain State Park to Devil's Garden Overlook via MST

Wow! This week has been pretty intense for me even though my mileage and vertical gain was minuscule (50m & 7k ft). Lets just say that I want be doing 3 tempo runs in one week again. But the week did end really good even though my body wasn't feeling that great. I met up with some friends from Winston-Salem (everyone from the Hanging Rock snow run plus some new faces) and we headed up to Stone Mountain State Park to charge up the the Mountains-to-Sea trail (a.k.a. MST) from the park to the Blue Ridge Parkway at Devil's Garden Overlook and then hammer the trail back down to the cars. It would be 6 miles up and then 6 miles down.

After an hour drive and some good conversation with John, we arrived at the starting point for our 12 mile adventure. We all piled out of our cars and made final preparations with our gear and then took off. The first mile of the trail was a wide gravel road that criss-crossed a stream until you turned off the gravel and onto dirt double-track. This also marks the brutal climbing that lay before us and the first mile of it is the worse! Abran had told me last night that most of the climbing was around a 10% grade. He was right other than this first hill which was more like 25%!!! Needless to say, I was walking this section even though Abran and John kept pushing through it somehow. After the first initial climb though it was at or just above 10% the rest of the way and I was able to run the rest of the climb. I really enjoyed this climb because it was almost entirely soft double-track dirt. It helped cushion a lot of impact on the short down hill sections, which were hurting me less after Friday's blasting down Moore's Knob at Hanging Rock State Park. I could definitely tell after the first initial climb that my body still hadn't recovered from that day and it showed as Abran and John blazed by me. I was still having a great time though and the weather was perfect. After about each mile, Abran would wait up for me to catch up and then blaze on up the trail ahead of me again, which he pretty much repeated the entire day. It was fine with me because it helped me stay on the trail and have someone to run with for a little while, even if it was only about 30 seconds. Haha. With about a mile to go to the turn around, I finally mustered up enough strength to keep Abran behind and captured the moment with this picture to the left. This would be the only time today that I was taking the lead. After about two-thirds of a mile of gentle climbing we took a right onto the single-track trail that would lead us to Devil's Garden Overlook. We cruised down the trail and made it to the turn around in 1:11. But when we arrived there, we didn't see John who had been in front of us almost the entire climb. He must have missed the turn and went straight. On the way back up, we ran into the rest of the group and asked if they had seen John or Derrien. They said that they hadn't so Abran and I decided that we would make a short look for them. After about half a mile of going down the suspected trail they were on, we decided that we would go ahead and turn back to go to the car. We were sure that they would realize there mistake and would make it back ok.

The steep descent back to the car wasn't to bad because of the soft footing, but my body still did not want to respond to the demand I was placing on it so the going was quite slow. I passed a few hikers out on this beautiful day and said a quick "hello" and went on my way. All I could think about was that last hard descent down to the gravel road and how bad it was going to hurt. It didn't end up being that bad and I met Abran at the bottom and we both started waiting for everyone else to come in. Sure enough, less than 5 minutes later John came cruising down the hill. We asked him what happened and sure enough he missed the turn, came back up, met Derrien, went back down the wrong trail, and then him and Derrien decided to turn around and take it home minus Devil's Garden Overlook. I think Abran's face in this picture says it all regarding our reaction to this quite humorous story.

Everyone eventually showed up and we took it back to the cars. Everyone's day was finished except mine and I contemplated not running any more. I wanted to try and get in around 22 miles today but I just didn't know if my body could take it. After about 20 minutes of eating and conversing in the parking lot I decided that I would at least go up to Wolf Rock and check it out. Apparently, Wolf Rock and Cedar Rock warranted pretty good views of the surrounding peaks and Stone Mountain. This would add about another 4.5 miles on the day for a total of 18.1. Definitely not 22 miles, but more than 13.1. So, I said my goodbye's to everyone and drove to the Wolf Rock trailhead, because it would have been another two miles of pavement otherwise.

My energy on the climb up to Wolf Rock was solid after eating quite a bit at the parking area, but the residual soreness in my legs was still there. So again, more slow going. As I reached Wolf Rock and Cedar Rock I was awarded with great views represented in these two pictures. I'm glad I decided to tack on these few extra miles. The views were worth it! Stone Mountain is so unique and the views of the Blue Ridge were outstanding.

Well, after dragging my body back to the car it was time to head back to Boone for the school year. But before school starts, I've got one more big run. The Tanawha Marathon, Half, & 50k! This is a fun run I am throwing with the WNC Trail Runner group, so if you haven't checked it out do so now and send me and RSVP if you want to join!