October 11, 2009

Long Run at Murphy-Hanrehan

Went out for a nice long run at Murphy-Hanrehan park yesterday morning with RD Les and a host of other people. My intention was to get to the park early enough that I could park at the horse camp, do a complete loop of the south end in the dark to test out my lights, then run the Surf the Murph course up to the main lot and meet everyone who would be starting their training run at 8 am. Goal was to do 2 complete laps of the race course for about 31 miles total without worrying about pace.

As it turned out, the roads were absolutely treacherous after the first snow of the year and it took me longer than anticipated to get there. Coming down Hwy 169, the bridges and overpasses were glare ice, especially near the Bloomington Ferry Bridge and the ramp leading off to Hwy 13. Saw more cars in the ditch than on the road in that area.

Finally got to the horse camp about 6:20 am and headed out in the dark with temps in the upper 20's and windchill in the teens. The south end of the park is flatter and more open than the hilly, wooded, north end, so the wind was very noticeable. I don't have much experience with night running, and it was a little tough to see with the snow flurries reflecting light right back into my eyes. I was using my Nathan to carry Heed and soon after starting out I realized that my drink tube had frozen solid. Took a few minutes to get that undone - then I remembered Carl telling me long ago about blowing back into the tube in cold weather to prevent that from happening.

Because of the difficulty with visibility, I ended up walking more than running, but was keeping about a 15 min/mile pace which felt very easy. There was a fair amount of mud, and the horses had really chewed up the trail making it very "lumpy" in places. Had to skip a loop at the southeast corner of the park because of my late start, and made it back to the horse camp just before dawn.

Stopped at my car to drop my lights, exchanged the wool hat for a baseball cap, and headed back out to the single track trail towards the north end of the park. Again, I had to take a short cut in order to make it to the main lot by 8 am, but it was nice to see a different trail rather than getting so caught up in running the actual course.

Arrived at the main lot at about 8:04 on my watch, just as everyone was gathering and getting ready to head down the trail. Had to make a quick pit stop, then run to catch up with everybody. Chris came back to meet me and we finally caught up with Les, Carl, and Wayne. By now the sun was up and it was looking like it would be a great day! The snow was on top of near-peak-fall-colors, kind of cool.

The trails in this part of the park are really fun to run - a few rocks and holes (which will all be hidden under leaf litter by race day), ups and downs, twists and turns - gorgeous! While the hills are not very big, they are steep and plentiful. We met Maria, Doug, and one of their sons running in the opposite direction - I don't think I've ever seen so many people out on the trails in this park as I did this day.

We soon arrived at the first of the "bonus loops" - one that I had remembered as having a very steep climb. There is a turn onto some narrow single track past a collection of patio furniture that the local teenagers have assembled in the woods, then a short jaunt through an open area, past a small pile of junk, then a short, very steep climb up a dirt hill. I'm short enough and the step up to the next foothold is long enough that I sometimes need to use my hands to keep my balance, especially since the gravelly dirt is a little slippery on the steep grade. If it's muddy, this climb will be a real adventure ;)

Les, Carl, Wayne, and Chris heading up toward AS 1

We came back out onto the main trail and got to the horse camp in no time. Since my car was there, we were able to use it as an aid station and fill up on banana bread and Coke. I refilled my Nathan, restocked my gels, and then forgot to pick up my handheld filled with Perpetuem (I'm still experimenting with nutrition strategies for all. day. long races). Carl was not going to run the south loop, so he left on his own. Les was getting cold, so he went on ahead and we planned on catching up to him but never did.

South loop

With my first lap (although shortened) done, the three of us (Wayne, Chris, me) headed out for the south loop. Although it was mostly sunny, the wind was still noticeable on the exposed parts of the trail. Les had drawn arrows in the dirt for us to follow, though I've run this loop enough to know the race course except for the "extras". We did hit a little snag on the bonus loop at the southwest end of the park, but quickly figured it out since Wayne and I had run it one other time with Les about a month ago. We made it back to my car at the horse camp for more banana bread and Coke, then headed back to the single track for the 3.5 miles back to the main lot.

By now I was feeling tired, especially my hamstrings. This was making me nervous since I was not even at the 25 mile mark yet - how in the world will I pull off 50 miles in 3 weeks if I'm ready to be done after 20? We finally reached the main lot where Chris and Wayne were done for the day. Les was there in his car and let me know that I would have "extra hours" if needed to finish the 50 miles. In other words - don't worry about cut offs. That may or may not be a good thing ;)

Everyone left and I headed back down the trail on my own to finish the 5.75 miles back to the horse camp. This leg is probably the most difficult, especially between miles 3 and 4 (which includes the wicked little climb up to AS 1). My pace was dropping noticeably, probably because I was running alone and didn't have anyone pulling me along. I had also been out there running for several hours and was mentally fatigued and getting easily distracted. I was starting to get a headache, but didn't seem dehydrated so I tried another S cap. I was starting to negotiate with myself: "you can skip the short steep climb to AS 1, it won't subtract much as far as miles are concerned" vs "it will psych you out if you don't do that short little climb just because you're tired, and you're going to have to do it 3 times 3 weeks from now when you'll be much more tired!" I did the little AS 1 loop and practically crawled up that dirt hill. But, I did it and I'm glad I did.

Finally made it back to the horse camp with no headache - done running for the day! Garmin said 27.33 miles, Sport Tracks said 27.54. Took 7.5 hours, with 41 minutes of that being time I spent milling around in "aid stations". I felt encouraged that the pace I ran would be good enough to finish under the cut off times, even though the cut offs are soft. On the other hand, I only ran a little more than half the race distance and I know I'll be slowing down considerably later in the race, especially when it's dark and harder to see again. Since this run was more about miles than paying attention to pace, I also wasn't worrying about how much time I spent stopping to refuel, take bio breaks, etc. That wasted time was also factored into my pace since the clock doesn't stop running just because you do.

Things I learned:

*For once, I dressed appropriately for the weather.
*Drink tubes freeze. So do gels.
*My hydration and electrolytes seemed to be pretty well balanced - no hand swelling, no cramping. In 7.5 hours, I drank 3.5 liters of Heed, 1 can of Coke, and took 4 S caps.
*I need to get more calories in if I expect to keep going much longer. I did OK for 27+ miles, but was falling a little behind and would have bonked big time if that were only the half way point. In addition to the Heed and Coke, I had 2 or 3 slices of banana bread, 5 gels, 8 or 9 grams of BCAA, and 1 vitamin B complex tablet. More gels or Perpetuem would make the most sense (I had planned on 8 gels + 1 bottle of Perpetuem), but the yuck factor is no small thing. Solid food takes several hours to digest and absorb, which is great for recovery but doesn't fuel one's race. Unless I'm out there for a day and a half, which is not out of the question ;)
*I move slower in the dark, but that may not be a bad thing. Brisk walking is much easier than slow running, and I can maintain that much longer.

Today I'm a little stiff - the arthritis in my feet and knees are speaking to me. Will probably do some cross training today rather than more running. See you on the trails soon!


Wayne said...

Nice job, Kel. You were there before us and stayed for more after we all bailed! Good physical and mental training to do everything you did. And thanks for the banana bread and coke, that really hit the spot - twice! :)

wildknits said...

Sounds like Saturday was the day to run snow-covered technical trails!

Nice job on getting out there early and staying late. Where do you wear your headlamp?

I found during Ragnar (and later while pacing a friend on his 24 hour attempt when I wore it on my head and remembered why I didn't like that method) that around my chest worked pretty well - other than having to hoist it up on occasion as it would slip down. Went from that to wearing it around my belly - worked even better. Lit up the part of the trail I needed to see and I didn't blind folks when looking at them. Any more night runs planned so you can try various options?

Jean said...

Great run, and fantastic pictures, Kel! Saturday was not the nicest of days, so 7 1/2 hours on the trails is remarkable. You are going to do great at Surf the Murph. All the best to you, and continued success with your training!

Bill S said...

Hey Kel,
Thanks for the well wishes on my blog. It's nice to hear from others. Wild Duluth is my first 50K and I am very happy it is time. I wish i had known you were training so often at Murphy. I had been doing the same through a good part of September and October and eventually did 2 full race loops by myself (a little over 28 niles I think). You are correct, we have not met but I will go out of my way to meet you on Halloween before we spend most of the day on the trail.It's going to be fun.
Thanks again!

Bill S said...

I meant 28 MILES. Of course no one could run 28 NILES.

bryan said...

Your countdown clock is way too sobering. Seriously only three days left til Murph?! How'd that happen?!

You look like you're in serious shape for it though! Great job on the training.