A little slow in coming, but it was largely written before the Gravel Conspiracy so I decided I better finish it up and push publish.
Summer has been going pretty well for me. I thought I was ahead of where I was training volume at this time last year, but a quick check of my training log kicked that thought to the curb. Turns out I'm pretty much on par with total volume compared to last year. October and November were big downers though so as long as I can stay healthy my Birkie to Birke plan should be OK still.
But back on track, this post isn't about the Birkie. I was thinking about my overall aerobic fitness as I came into the final Sasquatch Dash. Last year I was training for the Birkie Trail Marathon. This year I had ZERO desire to run a full marathon again and thus have not been focusing on running volume. In my sanity check of my training log I see I had some 3+ hour long runs in the month of August last year. The chart below tells you the whole story of my running since the 50k this year (hint, other than the one random long run I did, nothing was longer than an hour and five minutes).
|One random 25k run, then nothing else much above 7 miles.|
So, we can confidently say I wasn't terribly confident in my legs taking me 13.7 miles this past Saturday. Again, aerobic fitness wise, no sweat. I've been doing some long roller skis the past few weekends, and my overall volume has been good. What you can't tell from those runs is that quite a few of those have been workouts (intervals and tempo runs). So while I'm not getting volume at least what running I am doing is work.
The next layer on my prep is working on pacing strategies in longer races. Last year at the Birkie Trail Marathon I went out a little harder than I should have and then picked it up way too early. This resulted in a catastrophic blow up. Then at the Gandy I started perhaps slightly conservatively, bumped it up to the sweet spot at the half, then tried to bump it up another notch at 3/4 and blew up again. So close. Ski season was a lot of blowing up until the last race of the year at the Pepsi where I finally nailed it.
|Gandy Marathon HR|
With the race starting with about 3/4 of a mile of easy crushed trap rock there was plenty of time to get things sorted out before hitting the single track. I was cruising comfortably somewhere around fifth or sixth when we passed the campsite. I was right behind Joe and ahead of Kevin. Right after we crossed the creek my plan came into effect as my HR jumped on the steep hill and I pulled aside to let Kevin go past.
I managed to get to River Road keeping my feet dry and without spraining an ankle on the new log rolling obstacles which were supposed to keep my feet dry. Starting up River Road I settled in to watch Greg, Kevin, and Tammi pull away. Joe and Tony each made a quick stop and then stopped again for a bottle drop at the entrance to BRC.
The climbing starts in earnest as soon as you get in BRC and thus the hiking really started. I'd get started up a climb and then revert to a power hike. It wasn't long before Tony and Joe caught up. Despite doing my own thing we ended up together for most of the loop around BRC. I'd get a little ahead on some of the climbs and they'd catch back up again as they bombed the downhills. My left hamstring was being a little tweaky and I didn't want to let it rip too much on the downhills.
Things were going well through all of BRC. I wasn't feeling overly stressed and seemed to be managing the heat reasonably well. I had my (well Starr's really I guess) handheld bottle and was sipping off of it every mile or so. I had put about 2/3 of a package of Tailwind in it giving that a try (something new on raceday). I can't really say how well it worked or didn't work. I also had two shot blocks over the course of the race. I never felt bonky nor did I have GI issues so I guess that is good.
Somewhere between 8 and 9 miles in Joe dropped back. Tony and I weren't sure what happened, but Joe called back down from up the hill and said he was good and to go on without him. Being I was trying to do my own thing anyway and he said he was good I continued on. Tony being the good friend waited up for Joe. I checked over my should a little later and was glad to see them both running strong so whatever had held Joe up wasn't too serious.
I timed my water consumption just right to drain the my bottle just before the water drop Ben left on the trail at mile 10. Knowing how warm it was I only took half a bottle to conserve for people behind me. And besides, I only had 3.7 miles to go. The rest of BRC was a little tougher than the rest. The sun was starting to come out and the last mile the ground was pretty soft.
On the way out of BRC Tony and Joe caught up again, but immediately made a stop to grab their bottle drops. I continued on down the pavement to River Road and down to the Ice Age Trail again. It was at this point that I finally decided I could take the 165 HR governor off and let it rip the last mile and half to the finish.
It certainly made the last 15 minutes of the race way more painful, but it also felt really good. Flying along the single track, skipping over rocks and logs, and through the brush is just exhilarating. I did make a quick stop to dunk my hat in the creek and splash my face and neck from the creek. Given how hard I was able to push that last stretch I obviously had enough left in the tank. I had no intention of taking this race to the limit though.
Overall it was a really good effort. I definitely executed my plan. Despite warm weather I was feeling pretty good towards the end. Looking at my HR my average was quite a bit less than 165. This was because I had a tendency to let my HR drop during the recovery stretches. If I want to execute closer to full potential I'll need to be more diligent about keeping the effort consistent. I'm not sure that I want to push the upper bounds any above 165 if I can get the average closer. Some things to work on yet this fall.
Mullin's What's Next
The Gravel Conspiracy rolls out from Grand Portage about 1:00pm on this Friday. Three days of "gravel" riding through the north woods of MN from the Canadian border down to Duluth. Another incredible weekend on a bike. (Note: By the time I got around to pushing publish this is actually in the past)
Birkie Trail Marathon 9/26 - 1/2 marathon
Gandy Marathon 10/10 - 1/2 marathon