Friday, July 3, 2009

Round Mountain Summer Time Trial

Last time I chased Round Mountain, in January, I was pretty pleased to get up the 4.75 miles and 3,000 feet of rocky, switchback-laden singletrack in under an hour (58:23), but at the time I figured I was good for at least a sub-55-minute ascent with increased fitness and better, snow-free conditions. I decided to take a stab at the 55-minute goal last night. I was joined by Jonathan Zeif, who is in training for his tenth Journey Across the Sky in Leadville this summer. If successful, which he will be, J.Z. will bring home the coveted (and ridiculously large) 1,000-mile belt buckle.

The conditions at 6:30 on this evening were overcast and spitting rain - pretty good considering it could have been sweltering or massively stormy. As usual, I didn't much feel like embarking on an hour of hurt, but that's what mountain racing is all about (once you find your threshold and rhythm, it's never that bad).

Through the first mile, I was huffing and puffing, feeling slow and generally out of sorts. I was surprised then to see my one-mile split at 10:09, which was a minute faster than last time. Hmm, effort felt hard, but sustainable. I was going to wait for the two-mile split before calling this one a PR'able run.

Second, and toughest, mile came in at 11:53, another minute quicker than last time. I had found my groove and knew that a PR and FKT was in the cards. My effort felt similar to my run in January, so I concluded that I was simply a minute per mile fitter over this climb than I was in the winter. The third mile, which includes some flatter and faster sections, in addition to some of the steeper switchbacks on the climb, came in at 10:35; 90 seconds up on January. Now it was just a matter of maintaining the effort and seeing where I could shave some extra seconds with increased push. I decided to stay steady on mile four, hitting the split at 11:04 (one minute faster again), and then push the final 3/4 of a mile with whatever I had left.

The final stretch has probably the steepest climbing of the whole run, but it also has the best footing so you can really push if you have anything left. I felt like I still had some good push in me, so put my head down and ground out what I could, which turned out to be a 9:13 last split (another minute shaved) for a total run time of 52:55, or a 5:20 PR and new fastest-known time (FKT) for local runners who keep track of such things.

Very pleased with this run and the evidence that I'm in good aerobic shape despite significantly reduced mileage in the weeks either side of Bighorn. My legs felt great, so appear to be back on track after the beating they took two weeks ago, although I'm fully aware that they're probably not entirely healed. I plan to take it very easy after the Leadville Marathon next weekend to let everything repair properly before shifting my focus to the roads, and the beginning of a training cycle that will hopefully culminate in a sub-2:40 run at the Dublin Marathon in October.

I wore the Crosslites for their first outing since I got them the other day. Unfortunately I had the laces pulled too tight, so suffered through numb feet for most of the run. In addition, I had some pain in my right arch because of the narrow fit. On the plus side, the shoes are like none I have ever run in before, both in terms of lightness of feel and in flexibility across the whole shoe. I know La Sportiva build rock climbing shoes, so I couldn't help feeling that the fit of the Crosslites kind of felt that way: tight and flexible. These shoes are going to take some getting used to, but once I've figured out the right tension to put on the laces, and find trust in the flexibility of the shoe, I think they're going to rock as much as I thought they would when I got them out of the box for the first time.

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