Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Mud Season Blues

April is actually a great month here. The days are already incredibly long--you could mow your lawn or toss a baseball at any time from 6 AM to 10 PM--and the temperature is moderate. We don't get much wind or rain here. It's pleasant and a season of expanding possibilities, but if you're a skier it's also kind of depressing. I could put in another day or two (and may yet still), but the trails are in rough shape by now, with ice, rivulets, and mud to circumnavigate. I find that skiing the hinky trails also strains my knees so I've pretty much shifted over to running.

Every year, during the middle of ski season, I say that I'm going to switch to the skiers annual cycle and eschew getting even half serious about running. But when the snow melts down, it's quite the opposite and I invariably decide to slap on some base wax, put the skis away, and begin to focus on training for running at the expense of long-term ski training.

So it goes. This year, I'll keep up with the rollerboard, 3X/week to maintain upper body strength, but for the next six months plans for the last year as a masters runner are taking shape.

The first month is the hardest (followed by the last). Everything in between is usually a joy. Right now, I'm up to 30-40 mpw, but feeling like tubby jogger. Between taper (beginning in mid-February this year) and recovery you lose a lot of fitness and spark. To transfer from a sport that requires balance and upper body strength, as well as endurance, to one that forces a lot of pounding on your joints with little demand on your upper body requires a month or so of plodding if not waddling and flailing. I generally run alone at this time as people are apt to make fun of my running form during the early season.

So what's in store this year? Last year I thought a lot about going to Anchorage for the USATF State Championships, but they moved the meet up three weeks so now it's scheduled just four days after the Midnight Sun Run 10k, my favorite race of the year. I could still do both easily, but could do well at only one of them (if that because at 49 doing well in a running race is only relative!). So the conundrum is go for a 4th consecutive masters win, and to vie for a sub 35 under the Midnight Sun or possibly go for a state age group record in Anchorage. Ahh, no biggie. It's all for fun anyway.

Meanwhile, even though there are races every week, things kind of slow down here by mid-July or August. Most of the events by then are low key fun runs. To keep it going, I'm actually considering a fall marathon in the lower 48. Chicago would be about the opposite of Equinox, and remains a distinct possibility.

Monday, April 02, 2007

2007 Ski Season Wrap Up

The cold snap finally broke! We had only 3-4 days above freezing from late October through the end of March. The entire month of March was below freezing (actually much of it below zero!) until the very last day when the official high reached 38. It will go down as about coldest March on record.

Meanwhile, about that light--we now have an abundance. Less than two weeks past the Equinox, there is still a glow at 10 PM and by 6 am it's getting light. The early transfer to Daylight Savings Time was not well received in Alaska. Actually it's just not needed here at all.

Back to skiing: Last year this time I said that my goals were to increase dryland training and to place in the top 20 at Tour of Anchorage 50k and top 6 at the Sonot. One out of three isn't too bad but the season went pretty well.

The first goal was easy to acheive. I actually did some dryland training! In addition to a lot of hill and trail running, I did 7 or 8 ski walking workouts in the fall, plus trained on the rollerboard 3X/week through most of the summer and fall (took it easy during August, early, Sept. while sharpening for Equinox).

(it was a wierd season, with an early start on poor snow; followed by a huge gap with no races in Dec. Jan., and only two classic races in January, and then another huge gap until March and by then it was so freakin' cold training was just a drudge).

Town Series #1, 8k Freestyle (11/18/06)
Time: 25:59
% back: 17.4
place: 20th overall (3rd 40-49)

Turkey Day Relays, 5k Freestyle (11/24)
Time: 16:41
% back: 18.4
2nd place masters team

Distance Series #1, 15k Freestyle (12/10/06)
Time: 48:31
% back: 17.1 (that's against NCAA double bronze medalist--I'll take it!)
12th overall (1st 40-49)

Town Series #2, 10k Classic (1/13/07)
Time: 33:26
% back: 9.1
4th overall (1st 40-49)

Distance Series #2, 20k Classic (1/21/07)
Time: 1:11:16
% back: 14.8
5th overall (2nd 40-49)

I was planning to do the American Birkebeiner on Feb. 24, but that was semi-cancelled due to warm temperatures and no snow in Wisconsin--so I didn't even race in February (but did two snow shoe races instead).

Tour of Anchorage, 50k Freestyle (3/4/07)
Time: 2:38:41
% back: 19.3
28th overall* (4th 40-49)

Skiathon, 20k Classic (3/17/07)
Time: 1:15:07
% back: 10.7
5th overall (1st 40-49)

Sonot Kkazoot 50k Freestyle (3/24/07)
Time: 3:06:44
% back: 17.8
9th overall* (3rd 40-49)

Looking at my goals--they were within grasp but I didn't close either marathon well. I was 5:40 out of 20th place in the Tour of Anchorage, and was pretty close to that pace with only 5k to go, but bonked bad. The Sonot was tougher; conditions were difficult throughout, and I didn't bonk as bad, but I lost 5 minutes over the last 10k.

*denotes ranking among men; got beat by 2 women at Sonot and at TOA so placing would actually be 30th and 11th OA.

Next year?

Maybe compete in World Masters, which will be in Idaho but that will be a huge commitment (2 weeks), and I'm not sure if that'll be feasible.

Otherwise, pick up the dryland training. Work on weakenesses: esp. upper body strength, explosive strength, and transitions; figure how to finish marathons stronger. Race the marathons a tad smarter to stay ahead of the elite women.