Late Summer Catchup


Well shoot… here I thought I’d written a post after the road mile, but it turns out I haven’t. Summer has clearly gotten away from me and quite a bit has happened in the past 2 months, so let’s get to it.

The road mile was awesome. My goal heading into the race was to run sub 4:30. I ran 4:37, but the winner only ran 4:24, so the somewhat hilly course definitely took its toll. The biggest accomplishment by far was outkicking Mario (sorry dude :-P). He and I were see-sawing back and forth, as he’d get ahead of me on the downhill parts of the course and then I’d move past him on the uphill parts. With about 300 to go, there’s a good downhill section and he moved past me to start his kick. I noticed him coming up on me heading into that portion by looking in a building window and seeing his pink shoes and despite trying to stay in front of him, he passed me with about 150 to go. However, the last 150 is a false flat and when we came around the corner, I was able to rein him back in and kick ahead into the finish. It was great. Exactly what I wanted – I stayed engaged the whole time, hurt the whole time, and came out happy. The workouts Koop prescribed did what I’d hoped and the burn was manageable. The whole Twilight Crit event was pretty damn awesome, with the men’s and women’s open miles sandwiched between the men’s and women’s pro bike races so the crowds were great and made for a very unique racing experience. Strava data:


Around the halfway mark at the San Rafael Twilight Mile

Following the road mile, I jumped into the Vo2 (aka 3 minute) intervals for the next several weeks. The next race on the calendar was Headlands 50k. I was planning on using it as a very hard training run, so I wasn’t nervous heading into it. It was the USATF 50k Trail National Championships, so competition was strong, but falling on the same day as UTMB tends to thin the herd a bit before the race even starts. My goal was to run strong and finish happy. I started out running hard and found myself near DBo and Sam Robinson. Sam went down hard(!!) at the top of Hill 88 unfortunately and ultimately ended up at the hospital after gamely continuing for 11 miles (get well soon!). I hung with DBo through the bottom of Miwok near Muir Woods but he dropped me on the climb up to Cardiac/Pantoll. My legs were shot. I began to wonder why and then remembered that this had just become my longest run since the Boston Marathon back in April. Oh boy. So I settled into a more sustainable pace and just tried to maintain. The descent down Matt Davis to Stinson was great but the climb out of Stinson was pretty rough on the Moors. Once I got into Steep Ravine, I felt a bit better and began to make up some ground. Coming into Cardiac for the 2nd and final time was a relief and I just concentrated on finishing strong. I ended up 5th overall while DBo grabbed a couple more spots to finish 3rd. Strava data here:


Finishing at the Headlands 50k (PC: Jim Harleen)

The beauty of training through a race like Headlands is that you’re not fit enough to really race it so the recovery doesn’t take too too long. I spent the next week doing super easy runs in preparation for the 1st Annual Mt. Tam Hill Climb Triple Crown for Runners (which will be re-named to the Triple Goat following the constructive criticism from some members of the cycling community who do the road bike/MTB/hill climb Triple Crown, which is indeed the “true and original” Triple Crown). Anyways, the first day was the Widowmaker, starting at Camp 222 and finishing at the door on East Peak (where else). I got after it and ran a PR for the route, 28:23 (still a ways off Galen & Levi). Strava data here:


All the way to the door! (PC: YiOu Wang)

Day 2 saw us on the infinitely more runnable Old Railroad Grade, from the gate on Blithedale, through the gate on Fern Canyon Road, along Fern Canyon Road (no shortcuts), and then up the rest of ORRG to the gate at Ridgecrest before picking your own adventure to the East Peak door. The point of choosing this more runnable route was to give all sorts of hill runners a chance. The Widowmaker definitely favors those who are more “goatish” in their climbing abilities while ORRG is very runnable and so might favor a different type of climber. It’s also a nice change of muscle groups from the scrambling on Widowmaker to all-out running on ORRG. Another hearty group of souls showed up for this one and gutted it out to the top. I ran gate to gate in my 2nd fastest time (outside goal was to take down my PR but my legs were definitely a bit tired from the day before) and made it to the summit in 48:48. Strava data here: Funny how the ORRG route is more than 3x farther than the Widowmaker but only takes 20 minutes more.

Processed with Snapseed.

A hearty (and meager) group of souls showed up for Day 2.

The 3rd and final day was the decades-old Mt. Tam Hill Climb, produced by the Stever-Slaymaker household (thank you!!). I wasn’t too sure how my legs would feel after 2 days of hard uphill, but I knew it would hurt either way. The start was fast as usual as Levi took it out hard. He pulled a couple of guys along with him, including Mario, and I stayed back a bit, wanting to see how my legs were doing. I passed the guys (Mario said he started too fast and knew it and I had to chuckle) who were trailing Levi and found myself in 2nd, watching Levi steadily get farther and farther away up the road. When we hit the cuts at the top of Summit/Fern Canyon, he was out of sight and so was everyone else behind me. I actually felt really good on the road section despite the 2 days before, but once I hit Temelpa and the real climbing kicked up, I had to hike a bit more than I’d liked. Still, I managed to keep grinding forward and seeing Rachelle at the top of Verna Dunshee was a nice surprise. I finished 2nd in 33:45 (a new PR!) and my jaw dropped when I learned that Levi had run 31:30ish. Crazy. Hill Climb record is 30:32 from 30 years ago with an open course (aka no switchbacks at the top of Temelpa), so it’s pretty safe to say Levi set the modern CR. Incredible run. Strava data here:


Up top with the GOAT (aka Hill Climb winner) (PC: Kim Gaylord)

After a couple down days, I started into the tempo phase of this training cycle. It was nice to be back into that groove again, although it is rather painful. The workout went better than I thought it had when I looked back at the data, which was a nice surprise. Sunday (4 days ago) found me at the Golden Gate Park Open Cross Country race. I did a long run in the Headlands the day before with SFRC so I wasn’t expecting much, nor was I peaking in any way for this race. I just wanted to get out and see what I could do over 4 somewhat hilly, loose-footed miles. I ran 20:44 for the 4+ mile course and most agreed that it was a bit slower than in past years due to loose footing, but in any case, I was quite pleased. I got out pretty hard in the 1st mile and dug in to hold on to the group of 4-5 guys I was with through the next 2 miles. The 2nd and 4th miles are significantly more uphill than the 1st and 3rd and so that’s where I really tried to work. I stayed even with the group on the 2nd mile and then felt strong enough to move ahead of them in the 4th mile and was able to gap them just enough so that I didn’t have to kick in to the finish, which was a great relief. I was really pleased with the effort, as I remained engaged and focused the whole time and on top of that, felt strong. Taking 30 seconds off last year’s time didn’t hurt either.  Strava data here:


Golden Gate Park XC Open Pain Cave (PC: Rookie)

That’s about it for now. I don’t think I’ll race again until the IAU Ultra Trail World Championships in Portugal on October 29, so it’ll mostly be grinding out some good training. The biggest challenge will likely be maintaining my fitness through our 2-week honeymoon, but I think that’s a good problem to have. Until next time!

About afvarner

Runner. Donuts. Sneakerhead. Not necessarily in that order. Nike Trail Elite. Picky Bars. Gu. Vicory Sportdesign.
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