Sunday, April 6, 2014

training crash & burn, then running the Marin Headlands

Training for the Woodside Ramble 50 km race, while not without hiccups, was going nicely to plan. I'd plotted a gradual increase in my simplified running form of CTS, ramping 0.43 km/day per week, and I was sticking to that schedule, initially by increasing the length of my runs, but later transitioning to an increase in frequency. I was tired, of course, but a good tired. I was pushing my limits, as one must to get them to shift, but it seemed to be working.

The problem with simplified training stress metrics is they exclude stress from other sources, and in this case the big ugly stress source was oral surgery. A tooth broke and the dentist gave me the sobering news the next day: it should be removed and replaced with an implant. So the tooth came out, a process involving the expenditure of extremely few kilojoules on my part, but which nevertheless left me very, very tired.

Initially I persisted in my plan to run every day. Length didn't matter, speed didn't matter, just go out and get a few kilometers in to see how the legs responded. But then allergies defeated my weakened defenses. Running simply wasn't an option. Commuting to work wasn't even an option. Monday to Thursday I worked from home.

On Friday I finally felt good enough to walk to the train. But it wasn't until the following Wednesday that I was able to go out for a run. It was a short one, just to test the waters. But it went fairly well. I didn't feel as fat and out of shape as I'd expected to.

On Thursday it was 10 days from my race: time for a taper. But you can't taper from nothing, so I chose instead to provide a last impulse of training to stop the slide into the abyss. So 14 km (estimated) on Thursday, 17 km Friday, then to the Marin Headlands for a long one on Saturday.

And what a glorious run that was! The weather was gorgeous, and the trails seemed to guide me around the park. Starting from Bunker Road with Cara, who was mountain biking, I went up and over Miwok at a steady pace, through the stables, up the rugged climb of the northern part of Miwok, then the more gradual, wider climb of Coyote Ridge. Suddenly I passed Green Gulch on the right, and without much thought, I diverted onto this, a trail I'd not run before. Down Green Gulch I entered the Green Gulch Farm Buddhist retreat, where I found some much-needed water to supplement the two bottles I was carrying, one almost empty.

Choices, choices...


On I went, moving onto the Coastal Trail not far from Muir Beach after being tempted by the fork to Diaz Ridge Trail in Tamalpais, across Highway 1. I'll take that route another day.

Here the climbing got more difficult. I was still running, albeit slowly, up the steep Coastal Trail climb south from Muir Beach. But before the summit, I reached the turn-off for the trail to Pirates Cove. That had been my target. Since passing it up 3 weeks prior when I'd been here with Cara, I knew I wanted to return soon.

It's a gorgeous route with spectacular ocean views: single track gradually descending, sometimes climbing, to out-and-back spur to the Cove itself.


The spur is too steep to be runnable, so I skip it, instead turning onto the stairs which climb south. Here the spring in my step failed me, and I was reduced to hiking.


Eventually, however, it leveled out, and I was able to run again. Then onto the steep descent, but on smooth fire road, to the Tennessee Valley Trail. My goal was the Coastal Trail climb to Hill 88, which had defeated me the last time I tried it on a long run, in 2011.

By Headlands standards, that trail isn't easy to find, access essentially unmarked on the southern lower of the two parallel Tennessee Valley trails.

It starts innocently enough:


But then it gets steeper. And once again I was reduced to hiking, just as in 2011, but this time sooner. My runs of the preceding two days having taken their toll.

To the top, I recovered a bit. After a short descent, I ran the climb of Wolf Creek to Miwok, but then walked the steeper Miwok climb to Bobcat. But the rest of the way was rolling or downhill, and I ran from then on. Bobcat, Alta, SCA with its amazing views of the Golden Gate, then Coastal trail descent back to where I began. Total distance: 31.5 km.

After the run, I got on my bike and rode the 21 km back home, just in time for a chocolate tasting tour of San Francisco I was planning on doing with Cara. If I ever felt justified eating chocolate treats, it was now.

The impact of the 12 days of downtime on my training metrics was, not surprisingly devastating:


So it's time to stop worrying about training metrics and start worrying about recovering and doing a good run in Woodside. If this makes me more cautious, more careful in pacing, nutrition, and hydration, well then it may turn out to be a good thing. I just need to avoid any more oral surgeries in the next week.

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