Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Laurel Ultra 2016 Training Day

I'm running the 50K version of the Laurel Ultra again in June and this time it's my 50 for 50 birthday celebration.  I ran this awesome race back in 2014 (link here) and I run on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail (LHHT) all the time, so I'm super happy that my schedule cleared out and I'm able to run the race again.

I was hoping to do a rim-to-rim-to-rim run, across the Grand Canyon and back, as my 50 (miles) for 50, but the logistics of that trip just did not work out, so the Laurel Ultra is a great substitution.  I'll get the R2R2R trip done some other time...

The last time I ran in the Laurel Ultra I was four weeks post Ironman, so I was in great physical condition but I was definitely still recovering.  My training had been spread across swim, bike and run, so I was probably under trained from a run perspective.  Also, I was way under trained from a trail run perspective.  I think I put in fewer than 30 total miles of trail running leading up to race day.

This year, training has been quite different.  I raced Ironman this past November and I'm not racing Ironman again until November of this year, so the early part of this season has been mostly run focused.  This ski season has been "challenging" (aka non-existent), so I've been able to get in some solid running miles on the trail.  Most of my trail miles have been from 7 Springs to RT 653 since I've been running back to the house after a morning of snowboarding.


This past Saturday was different: the weather had been so warm I had no interest in even trying to snowboard.  Instead, I had Cath drop me off in Ohiopyle with the plan to run from Ohiopyle back to the house (~20 miles).  This would be both my longest trail run of the season and also my longest run overall.  Add to that the elevation gain between Ohiopyle and RT 653 and the fact that I ran long on Thursday and I knew I had a big day ahead of me.

The weather was great and there were lots of people out on the trail.  Usually I'll pass one or two groups of people on the trail but on Saturday I think I passed by closer to 10.  There were some through hikers with fully loaded backpacks stopped at the first observation spot out of Ohiopyle. There were three or four couples with dogs and three or so more without dogs.  And there was one solo hiker who I passed as I was climbing the Conn Road hill.  One thing I didn't see was other runners. 


My pace was pretty reasonable, for me - not slow (but not fast) and steady.  I felt pretty good as I crossed the road at Maple Summit (my I can't go any further safety bail out point), so I called Cath and told her I intended to keep going.


Somewhere around mile five I started thinking about all of the bridges on the trail and I wondered how many bridges there are on the entire trail.  My initial guess was 140 - 150 (~2 bridges per mile which seemed reasonable if not low).  I started counting at some point and most miles had 2 or three. The most I counted in one mile was 6 and the least was 1, so I'm revising my guess up to 175, unless there's a penalty for going over :-).  Maybe one of these days I'll do a more formal count.  For the record, I'm calling it a bridge if I take two or more steps along the length of a split log or 6x6.  If I step off of wood, onto land and then back onto wood, that's two bridges, but if two sections of wood meet without a step onto land then that's one long bridge.

This mental exercise really helped to pass the miles between Maple Summit and RT 653.  I mostly jogged and counted bridges as I ran more and more out of gas...  I struggled up the steep hill past the camp site trail head and then ran along the flat to the road.



Ironically, the worst part of the whole trip was walking down the road to the house.  I was pretty spent and since I was walking I started to get cold.  Plus I was out of water and I was pretty thirsty. Cry me a river...

I took Sunday off as a recovery day.  It was Cath's birthday and we had plans to go to Nemacolin or 7 Springs but we ended up spending much of the day cooking and lounging on the couch.  It was a great way to end the weekend.

This run was a pretty good test and I'm happy with the way it turned out.  I was spent by the time I reached RT 653, but I could have kept going if I had to.  Factor in the fact that I was running on tired legs and I'm even happier.  Overall there's still lots of work to be done but I'm happy with my progress thus far.  I'll be on the trail again this weekend and hopefully I'll get in another Ohiopyle to 653 day in early April.

Hopefully you enjoyed your weekend training also!

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