Monday, May 16, 2011

Spring in Northern Nevada

As I noted in my last post, my brother and I had been contemplating a run up a mountain in the East Range just east (makes sense, right?) of Lovelock.  The weather forecast didn't look all that good but how bad could it really be; a little snow and/or rain never hurt anyone! Right?

The wind was blowing pretty good when I left the house early in the morning to meet my brother in Fernley, where we'd carpool the rest of the way.  It was pretty cold and drizzly but our spirit was still good and we were looking forward to a possible summit. The drive out E. Coal Valley Rd., just east of Lovelock (off Interstate 80) was really beautiful and I'm always amazed at how green the Nevada desert can be. The range was enveloped in low clouds but there didn't appear to be any snow on the mountains...yet. After about a 45 minute drive from I-80 we arrived at our starting point near Walker Pass in a steady rain.

As we changed into appropriate gear the rain turned to snow and the wind began to pick up.  We weren't all that discouraged as it still seemed like a fun adventure so we set off up the ridge line.  We knew the climb would be substantial as we had to gain 3,000+ feet in a 4.5-5 miles.  Within minutes it was snowing pretty good and the temps were dropping.

The trail was good and the snow actually made it kind of fun, for a while.  Even over steep terrain traction was never an issue, which was good cause I told Craig that there was no need for his yak trax on this adventure. Up we went for about two miles until the point where it appeared we'd gain the true (more exposed) ridge line for the summit.  We talked it over here and decided it looked like it was going to get worse and it would be a better choice to turn back now.  Good call!  In 30 seconds to a minute after starting our descent back down the storm really kicked in.  We cussed and laughed our way down hiding behind scrub whenever the opportunity presented itself.  This video half way down sums it up pretty well.

Untitled from Darren Young on Vimeo.

Regardless of the outcome, it was a fantastic way to spend a Sunday morning and I had a blast.  Still, I felt a bit guilty for the short run in the morning so when I got back home to Reno I went for a windy run for a little over 5 miles (Evans Canyon, a staple run for me).

A pretty short week mileage wise (30 miles) but, as I mentioned in my last post, it just nice to be running. I'm a little nervous about running 50k this weekend.  The knee might be okay but I don't know if I have 50k in me right now! Heck, it's only three 10 mile runs, right?  That's easy.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Back in the saddle (trail shoes) again

I was given the o.k. to start running again last Wednesday.  The MRI showed a healthy knee for the most part, just a little excess fluid built up (not sure what that means really).  Dr. just asked that I PLEASE listen to my body and back off as the pain dictates.  While that seems simple and reasonable to me, I have, on occasion, been known NOT to make the best decisions when it comes to my body and pain.

I'm using a pain grading system of 0-10; a 0 being no pain and a 10 being "just cut my leg off!" This pain scale is a good reference. For the last few days I've been running at a pain level between 2 and 3.  My runs have been between 4 and 7 miles at an easily maintained pace, although I've noticed a significant loss in my aerobic fitness. The fitness will return in time but it's probably good it doesn't exist now or else I'm sure I'd push my knee to hard.

I look forward to getting back to some real running in the next few weeks and maybe writing about cool runs in cool places (with some pictures too).  It may happen even sooner than I think, if the weather holds out this weekend. Might try to head out with my brother and run up to the high point in a mountain range east of Lovelock (Nevada). Something like 3,000 ft. of gain in 5 miles...I anticipate a bunch of walking!

I'm seriously contemplating running the 50 kilometer race at the Silver State 50/50 on the 21st (a little over a week away).  I have the opportunity to run it with one of my closest friends and don't want to miss out on that.  Not the best course of action for healing the knee but there are ample bail out points if it appears I'm hurting my recovery (Leadville is the goal of the year and I'll keep that in mind).

Stats for the last 8 days:
7 days of running
36 total miles
5hrs. 25 min.

It's nice to be running again.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bum Knee?

The short answer is I don't know...yet.  MRI scheduled for early May and hopefully that sheds some light on the pain under my knee cap.  The Doc ruled out ACL, MCL, meniscus and is leaning toward an issue with the patellar tendon.  I'm hoping it's just something that a little dedicated PT can fix and that running can start back up soon.

I'll have to devise some other workouts to occupy my time (and keep the weight off).  Matt Hart has a great core workout on his blog, maybe I'll start with that.  Maybe some weekend rock climbing if I can find a willing partner.

Haven't scratched the Silver State 50 yet but it's safe to assume I won't be running 50 miles there.  I'll hold out hope that I can do one of the shorter distances (50k or 1/2 marathon).

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Buffalo Run 100 (Antelope Island State Park, Utah)


The decision to run this race was one born out of necessity, in my mind anyway. For some unknown reason this last fall I signed up for the Leadville 100 Mile Endurance Run in Colorado as it seemed like a good idea at the time. But fear and panic soon set in. Can I really run 100 miles, with substantial climbing all at altitude (average elevation is 10,000+ feet)? I had some 50k and 50 mile racing on my schedule before Leadville but I wondered if that would be enough. In the hunt for a good regional 100k run to add to the schedule I stumbled across the site and a new race on their schedule for this year…The Buffalo Run 100. On paper this looked like a good intro to the 100 mile distance and if I believed I was going to finish Pbville then I should be able to run this. Heck, it was an “easy” course and typically had good weather this time of year. Perfect!?

My coach set up a training schedule to get me to this race in some semblance of good condition (only a little over 3 ½ months to work with) and I was off and running.

The weather in Reno during the winter can be unpredictable. I’ve lived here for over half my life and I’ve seen it all but this one seemed like one for the books. Maybe it was just because I needed to run but this winter seemed unusually wet. The occasional big snow dump is fun to run in; changes the mechanics and makes the run feel more like an adventure. But when ever other day seems like the Trail of Tears or a Muddy Buddy run it wears on the mind. Am I really getting in the type of training I need to run a “hundo?” Quiet! Turn off “the unit” and run dangit!

I hit the bricks and got the mileage in (more weekly miles than I’ve ever done, in winter no less!). Aside from the weather I had few complaints; why should I, running is a pleasure.

The only injury incurred in this build up was about 3 ½ weeks before the event. I hyper extended my knee whilst sledding with my daughter up at Bocca Reservoir. Ouch, that hurt! Mileage dropped to a quarter my norm and KT Tape became my friend. Longer taper, at least that is what I told myself.


Flew into Salt Lake the day before the race and met my coach who was running this race also. Less than an hour after arriving it began to rain (with the occasional snow flake) and it rained for the next 5 hours. The weather began to break by late evening and we were optimistic about the next day even though all weather forecasts were ugly. We woke to snow. We were optimistic that it would stop long before the noon start. We arrived at the start in pleasant winter squall. What are going to do? It’s not like I didn’t run in this all winter long. Quiet the mind, yet again, and run.

Likely over dressed, we got the race going with a nice climb in the first few miles. This climb was remarkably dry for the conditions and I was optimistic about the rest of this initial 19 mile loop. Optimism is fleeting. After the first few miles we arrived to an inch or two of snow and medium sized ponds in the middle of the trail; the trail conditions would continue to degrade. Miles 15-18 of this loop was less like running and more like interpretive dance (slipping and sliding every which way). I wasn’t looking forward to doing this loop again in the late night hours!

I always make a conscience effort to smile and greet other runners on the trail when possible (out and back sections). The return smile and greeting I get from them is like fuel for my run. Something about the shared experience motivates me. But do other runners really notice this as more than just a standard, dead panned “good job?” Apparently they do!

I was in an awful “bad patch” from mile 19 - 33 and while I kept up the “good job” at every occasion it was missing heart. One runner (Meghan Zarnetske) noticed something missing, at some point on the long out and back section on the east side of the island she said “you’re not smiling anymore?” That phrase clawed at my mind for miles. I needed to get my game back. I needed that fuel I get from other runners when I give them an earnest greeting. (as a side note: I talked to another runner (A.D. Marshall, I believe. He’s not on the results but he did finish in under 24 hours) the next day at the hotel and when we recognized each other from the trail he said “You’re the happy guy on the trail!” So take note; a good attitude is noticed, appreciated and, in my case, fuel!)

I was sure I was going to drop from this ordeal during that bad patch but something happened at about mile 33 (Ranch aid station). What? Thoughts of my family primarily. My wife snuck a picture of my daughter and me together in my bag before I left Reno and that picture consumed the pessimism and turned my race around. I picked up my headlamp at Lower Frary aid station and began to look forward to a night on the trail.

The night was a stark contrast from the day (aside from the obvious, the weather was decidedly better). Clear as a bell…and a bit chilly; low of about 24 I think. I didn’t really notice the cold however, I just enjoyed the trail which was in much better condition than it was in the afternoon. Miles went by. I arrived at the 50 mile mark about 10 hours into the race (not a bad 50 mile split) and took my time getting dry gear together. At this point I should mention I was “testing” some new, silly shoes: Hoka Bondi B’s. I typically wear NB MT 101’s, which I love, but didn’t think I could handle 100 miles in those. While the Hoka’s seem completely opposed to the NB’s they have a relatively low heel to toe drop and that is what I’m really after (I’ve got no problem with cushioning!) in a shoe. Light weight ain’t bad either. No shoe (or sock) change at 50, or at any point, These were worth the high price tag! After a long aid stop (almost 30 minutes! Yikes.) I put my ipod on and hit the trail. The Beatles, Presidents of the United States of America, STP, Iron Maiden, Dave Mathews and many others. Strange music selection but the variety was good.

This next lap was less like a blur and more like a dream. Everything seemed to gel and the body just did what it was trained to do, run (okay, and walk a good bit too. It’s a 100 miles, cut me some slack!).

I knew at some point in the morning I’d see my parents out on the course. One of the aid station leaders (mile 93 or so) told me they had stopped by to get an idea on my ETA. That lifted some of the natural fatigue. At about mile 95 there was my Mom, in the middle of the road, running out to greet me (my Dad, with his ever present camera there ready to document the moment). I still get a lump in my throat just writing this. It started to sink in…I’m about to run 100 freakin’ miles! Mom didn’t even want a hug. She was so excited she just patted me on my back and told me to keep going! Adrenaline injection right then and there. I must have run by them at 7:30 pace, not bad for mile 95. That burst lasted for about a half mile and then it was back to a reasonable pace. A lethargic run at best but definitely acceptable for my proximity in the race.

The finish line was a sweet sight, albeit still an agonizing mile away. Run it in. Finish strong. Look like an idiot sprinting down that last quarter mile like it was a five mile race. Check, check and check! Done. 22 hours, 10 minutes and 44 seconds of pretty constant forward motion. I’m impressed. Less with myself and more with the capabilities of the human body. It can do far more than we give it credit for!

Post Race

I was anticipating a week of sore legs and silly walking, but my body had other plans I guess. By Monday I felt pretty darn good. Going down stairs didn’t really hurt all that much and walking in general was pretty normal. By Wednesday I could have done a normal running workout. I didn’t. My body deserves a break and I’m going to give it one. This weekend I’ll hit the trail again. After all I’ve got Leadville to run, which is why I did this silly run in the first place!

Hoka Bondi B (great shoe)
Wright sock (blister free 100 mile run!)
Nathan Hydration Pack
McDavid Calf Compression Sleeves (Happy calves)