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Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Great Outdoors

To get more of a feel for trail running at elevation, I thought it would be a good idea to run in the woods on an actual mountain.  My brother and I went running at Skegg's Point/El Corte de Madera Creek on Kings Mountain today.  While it was clear skies where we live at a few hundred feet above sea level,  we were running in the clouds and rain at an elevation of 2200 feet.  Bear Valley, where the Tough Mudder will be having the NorCal event, is much higher than that, but this is the best I can do near where I live.  The trails run along ridges, canyon walls, and alongside creeks at the lower elevations.  Running through the redwood trees in the moist air was incredible.  

If you are familiar with the trails, we followed the Tafoni Trail 0.9m, to Fir Trail 0.3m with the 0.1m detour to the vista point, Resolution Trail 1.7, to end with El Corte de Madera Creek Trail 1.5m.  That makes it a 4.5m run with many elevation changes withing a 400 foot span.  Here is a pdf of the trail map.  Virtual Parks has an online map and some panoramic views of a few spots on the trail, including the vista point.  
For a good review of the El Corte de Madera Creek trails, check out this writeup on Bay Area Hiker, a great hiking resource if you live in the area and the source of these photos.

Having a running partner was nice.  My brother, who is training for a different endeavor, has a different running style than myself.  I charge uphill, and cool off on the downhill.  I charge up the hills because it is more work, and I want to maximize my workout.  I cool off downhill because I just need to keep my heart rate up, and I'm hardly going to be working my muscles downhill anyway.  Then I'm doing interval training without stopping, but I don't know if this is the most effective way to do that.  It's my method that I have come up with during this training, and I should do some research to see if this is really is a legitimate strategy.  My brother keeps constant pace, no matter what ground is under him.  Uphill, downhill, rocky, loose dirt, or packed dirt, he keeps the same pace.  For the second half of our run, I let him take the lead and followed his pace.  His consistency was really helpful when I was tired, because continuing to charge uphill was killing me. It also helped that he had a watch, so when we were tired at the end, we were able to be sure that we were running at least 10 minutes at a time.  I will probably pick up a fitness timer, or just get a cheap digital watch.

Both of us were running in Vibram Five Finger shoes.  He had the KSO with a smooth soul, and I went with my KSO Trek with beefer kangaroo leather and more tread.  He usually uses his shoes for treadmill running at the gym, and I have been running on concrete with the Bikila.  We were both struggling with the sharp rocky sections of many of the ridge trails.  My brother was also having some issues with the slick sole of his shoes on wet rocks.  We both kept our eyes glued to the trail ahead, to avoid stepping directly on a rock or something we might slip on.  I was very glad to have the extra tread, and the kangaroo leather held up fine when wet.  My two shoe system seems to be working out well.

After the run, we took a dip in the, usually warm, pool at my brother's complex.  The heater must have been off or something, because that water was freezing!  I know it's going to be much colder when I do the Tough Mudder, so this little taste of frigid water has me not looking forward to those obstacles.
Luckily, the hot tub was living up to it's name.  I took a 15 minute soak in there, and did some leg stretches, while I loosened up in the hot water.  Not wanting to dehydrate much more, I thought it would be a good idea not to have a prolonged soak.

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