Monday, June 30, 2014

Summer of Suffering

The theme for 2014 is endurance.  Mandy did the Flying Pig half marathon and I've already done the Mohican.  We've got two of three Kentucky Century Challenge rides under our belts.

Mandy's signed up for the Iron Horse again.  I'm signed up for the Rugged Red.  I've also got my eyes set on the Cloudsplitter race.  I've talked a little bit with Jeff about the possibility of doing 12 Hours of Capitol View either as a team or solo.  I've also got a promise to myself to keep to run Rough Trail and Swift Camp Creek Trail back to back this year.  It will be either a heavy half or fifteen miles depending on how much climbing I want to do.


The Red is Rugged

I signed up for the Red's first official trail half marathon.  It'll be in October, so I've not been stressing about it.  This past weekend I ran about five miles of the course on a 7.5 mile trail run.

On the way home I stopped by Joe Bowen's house.  He's the primary sponsor and he came up with the idea for the Rugged Red.  I sat down next to him on his front porch and read the newspaper while he finished up a phone call.  As he said goodbye I put down the paper.

"Hey man! How you doin'?"  He asked with a big grin.

Real serious-like I replied: "Before we get to being nice I've got to punch you in the mouth."

Classic Joe, he turned his head and pointed at his chin.

We both chuckled and he asked why I wanted to deck him.  I explained that I'd just been out for a run on the a Rugged Red course.  Joe beamed.

I had underestimated the difficulty.  I've ran some tough trail sections in the Gorge.  The Grays Arch to Rush Ridge and Rush Ridge to Pinch Em Tight Ridge sections of Rough Trail are...rough.  There are portions so steep that running is almost impossible.  I've ran the westernmost section of Rough Trail from the Martin's Fork Trailhead to the Grays Arch Trailhead and it's brutal as well. 

Along Buck Trail
 
In short, the Red River Gorge is rugged.  There are no long gradual climbs. The original trail system was built out prior to the development of modern sustainable trail standards.  Ridges are nice.  Stream side trails are nice.  Climbs and descents are torture.  I've resolved to walk the hills.  But at least I can walk them as fast as I can run them.

The other day I started my run at Koomer Ridge Trailhead.  I ran the nice Koomer Ridge Trail 1.4 miles to the split with Buck Trail.  Buck me!  That trail is phenomenal and brutal.  The descent into Chimney Top Creek is good.  It's not too technical or too steep.  But climbing out to the Sheltowee on Pinch Em Tight Ridge is an epic affair akin to a protracted military engagement.  My cardiovascular fitness was taxed.  A plan to better develop my cardiovascular fitness was drafted.  My spirit was broken, melted into my shoes, was bitten by deer flies, and rose from the soggy ashes a few times.

Once on the Sheltowee I was able to kick the pace back up, and that's when I really started to find a rhythm and flow.  After a mile and a quarter or so of good solid running I hit the rough descent.  Down, down, down into the Right Fork of Chimney Top Creek.  Looking down into a drainage that you know you'll have to cross can be heartbreaking.

Buck Trail along Chimney Top Creek

Buck Trail nearing the junction with the ST on Pinch Em Tight Ridge

Crossing the Right Fk of Chimney Top Creek

Looking down the Koomer Ridge Trail

Climbing out of Chimney Top Creek back to Koomer Ridge
 

There was a picturesque section of trail along the creek before the slog out.  And slog it was.  That's when I resolved to walk the insane sections.  Gaining Koomer Ridge again was a chore.  I ran when I could and fast-hiked when I couldn't.  It's hard not to be cognizant of the fact that I'm going to have to train for running these hills if I want to win the Rugged Red it's inaugural year.


Do the Locomozer

I'd barely had time to get home from my run and settle down (we were actually at the pool) when I got the following text from Jeff:

Gorge loop time trial tonight?

I texted him back and bemoaned my mechanical problems.  After the Preservation Pedal I had a weird gremlin wobble in the Dogrunner.  I'd hoped Minus would be my salvation but...

I've got the Bianchi but the rear wheel is slightly out of true.  That would be an easy fix if I knew someone with a truing wheel.

To which Jeff responded:

Well get those tight Chainring buttocks up here!

He worries me sometimes.

Mandy and the kids rode up with me and I took both road bikes.  We repacked the rear hub, added some grease to the front hub, and checked the headset.  All was well with the sporty-sport bike.

Jeff gave Minus an alignment as well, and then we decided to set off for the Gorge while the wives and kids went to hang at the Red River Regional Bikeport.

Did I mention I had run 7.5 hard miles that morning?  I felt bad, because from the outset it seemed as if I was going to be holding Jeff back the whole way.  I struggled to maintain a reasonable pace for the first half of the ride.  And as inspiring as it was to climb Sky Bridge Hill and surf the rollers out to Pine Ridge on that fresh, smooth new pavement I just couldn't hang with Jeff.  But after refueling at Sky Bridge Station I was ready to make a legendary run for home.

Low on Sky Bridge Hill

Cruising out Sky Bridge Ridge
 
Jeff started pulling and I held onto his back wheel by my fingertips.  And so begins the Strava bragging.  Despite my ragged thin connection with reality I managed a PR from Pine Ridge to the top of Slade Hill averaging 18+ mph for 4.4 miles. 

Then I nabbed 7th overall on the Slade Hill Descent.  But more impressive was a PR and second overall on the long 11 mile Slade to Stanton segment.  Jeff and I averaged 20.8 mph for 11 freakin' miles.  I couldn't have pulled that off alone that day.  Only by drafting the Locomozer was I able to cover that long 11 mile section of the return trip home. 

For long stretches I meditated on his wheel.  It was surreal to watch it churn out a ribbon of blurred asphalt as I locked myself into a steady, but hollow cadence.  On even the slightest hills I either had to stand up and stomp on the pedals to avoid losing all my momentum or I had to fight hard to catch back up when the road flattened out again.

Finally we came blazing into Stanton.  Mandy had promised homemade pizza and it was all I could think about.  I didn't even notice the ugly little Steamshovel Hill in my way as I fought the last two miles home.

In the end we did a hard 48 miles in 2:58.  There was an added significant climb to get out of their house.  The first half was slow, but we made it up and then some in the last 22 miles.

The next day I was useless.  Oh, I tried to mow the yard and work in the garden, but my system kept crying foul.  Finally I concede ld defeat and plopped down in front of the TV.


Go Run the Trace!

Matt Hoyes is at it again.  He's attempting to thru-run (with support) the Sheltowee Trace.  I'll have a more in-depth treatment in the near future.  June has been a month of Tour Dividing, Trans Aming across the continent, and not ultrarunning on the Sheltowee.  Pretty exciting for a transitioning arm-chair endurance racer like myself.


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