Almost as important as completing a 40 mile run last week was finding out how my body would respond this week. I knew I'd probably be a little sore and stiff early in the week, and I was, but I was hoping to bounce back and get a good long run in later in the week AND have some energy left for a strong trail race to close the week out. That seems like asking for a lot, but for the most part it actually worked out.
Monday - Rest. I did play basketball, which may or may not have been a good idea. A few minutes into it, I stopped suddenly to grab a loose ball and felt my left calf pop and big knot form. This happens quite often, almost always in my left calf. It didn't stop me from playing, but it was sore and did slow me down some.
Tuesday - 9 miles. I wasn't sure how this was going to go with the sore left calf from basketball and a lingering soreness/tightness in my right knee from the 40 miler on Sunday. But, it actually went fairly well considering. The soreness was there as background noise, but didn't really affect me. This was also my first run in my brand new Nike LunarFly shoes. They are nice. Real nice. Although, the only color left in my size was black with a red midsole, which makes them look like Air Jordans, but they feel good, so I guess I can live with that.
Wednesday - 6.1 miles in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. I ran my first double in a long time for a couple of reasons. First, I ended up having to drop my son off at school in the morning and my wife was also running in the morning, so I was pinched for time. Second, when I did start my morning run, I was noticeably more sore than I had been the day before, so I decided to take it easy and split the run up.
Thursday - 8.1 miles. Decided to get back in the habit of running on trails on Thursdays, so headed up to the Tinton trail just outside of Spearfish. Got about 1/4 mile up the trail and ran into some loggers cutting timber along the trail and was forced to turn back. Got back in the car, drove back into town and headed to the Lookout Mtn. trails instead and ended up running all the way up to the summit for the first time (I've hiked up there a couple of times, but never run to the top).
Friday - 26.2 miles. Yup, I ran a marathon. Not an official one, just my own personal marathon for the hell of it. I had planned on running 25 miles, so what's another 1.2? I headed back to Deadwood to run on the Mickelson trail, hoping that the snow was gone by now (a few weeks ago I got turned back by knee deep snow across the trail). Although the trail was wet from rain the night before, it was in good shape and the snow was gone. I started my run at the Deadwood trailhead, which is also the finish line for the Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon that is coming up in a couple of weeks, and ran up to the half marathon start line and then back down. I say "up" to the start line because it is up, although fairly gradual, pretty much the entire way save for a mile or so stretch of downhill about halfway. Conversely, that means it was almost all downhill on the way back to Deadwood and, as a result, I ended up posting a 9 minute negative split even though I most definitely was not pushing hard....I maintained my run/walk ratio of 10 minutes to 2 minutes the entire way. The 9 minutes difference was purely due to gravity lending a hand.
Saturday - 6 miles. Felt pretty tired and sluggish most of the day and did not really feel like running at all, but I figured I needed to get the blood flowing after the marathon the day before, so I forced myself out the door and it turned out being a fairly good run, which oddly enough is often the case in that situation.
Sunday - 9.3 miles total including the 8 mile Alkali Creek trail race. For the 2nd year in a row, the Black Hills Trail Series kicked off on my birthday, although with a different race than last year. The Alkali Creek race is a new one to the series, but I was fairly familiar with the course after running it twice with the race director, Ryan, who is also my occasional Lean Horse training partner. It's an out and back course, 4 miles up the hill (about 1000 ft. elevation gain) and then back down. Based on those two runs, and the fact that I had just run 26.2 miles two days before, I was expecting to finish somewhere in the 1:15 range. As it turns out, my legs actually felt really good when I woke up and the lingering soreness in my calf and knee were magically gone. A birthday present from the running gods?? After a short warmup jog with another local runner, Luke, we lined up for the start and were off up the hill. I was immediately in 8th or 9th place as a group of faster guys took off ahead. Rains the night before had muddied the trail up some, especially in the lower section that didn't have any tree cover, but it wasn't horrible and the creek crossing about 1/2 mile into it allowed us to rinse the mud off. The first mile was a gentler uphill and I covered it at a decent trail pace for me. Miles 2-4 are where the uphill grind really begins as the trail switchbacks up the ridge. Steep, very slow pitches were alternated with more gradual and even flattish sections where I could open up some. My mission was to maintain a sensible pace that allowed me to run the entire way and push it at least a little on the less steep sections. During that uphill stretch I got passed a few times, but also passed a couple of other guys. By the time I reached the turnaround on the ridgeline, I was right behind a local runner, Joe, and had another guy breathing down my neck. As we headed downhill, both Joe and I opened it up and pushed the pace, leaving the other guy behind. I pushed the downhill as much as I dared but no matter what I did, it seemed like Joe was able to maintain the gap between us. I was fairly confident that if I could keep that gap small, I might be able to catch him when the trail flattened out some near the finish, but after a mile and a half or so of pounding the downhill, my legs threw in the white flag and I was forced to back off and watch Joe pull away. When we did hit that flatter section I was able to push the pace again and I think I closed the gap a little on him, but it was too little too late at that point. Final result was 11th overall and 5th in my division with a 1:07:25, a solid 7+ minutes faster than I thought I would run. So basically, I ran faster than I thought I would, but also finished lower in the standings than I expected. You take the good with the bad, I guess. Looks like I'll have my work cut out for me defending my division title from last year, especially with the bulk of my training focusing on endurance more so than speed (excuses, excuses...;) ).