Monday, August 4, 2014
Since I have only been to 14k once this summer (in June) and previously once in December since last Pikes Peak, I was hoping to get in a solid run to 14k on Friday in preparation for the Pikes Peak Marathon, but family obligations once again prevailed. We settled with the compromise of Brainard Lake, where Allison and the girls could ride their bikes, do some light hiking, wade in the lake (they are braver than I) and search for moose (they spotted 5 huge bulls).
We got somewhat of a late start and I was a bit antsy about the building clouds early in the morning, but there was enough intermittent blue sky to remain optimistic. Because of the late hour and the need to easily meet up afterwards, we parked in one of the large lots on the East side of Brainard Lake. As I was preparing, dark clouds became more prominent, the clouds shrouded the summit and a cold wind kicked up, making the mid-50's temps feel even cooler. I reacted by putting on a long sleeve shirt (along with my short sleeve) and added a light windbreaker, beanie and gloves to my shorts pocket (turns out I was a bit too warm with the added shirt and did not use the other gear).
The added ~mile to the Mitchell Lake served as a good warm up and I started up the trail at 9:58am. I felt peppy on the warm up, but as soon as I upped the effort on the trail, I knew right away that I was in for a great run. The initial section is gradual, serving as a nice warm up, but since already warmed up, I was moving pretty good. I feel as though I hardly slowed as the trail steepened and became more rocky, was just in a perfect flow and I was feeling unusually strong and fluid.
The trail was quite wet in spots above treeline, somewhat of a creek really from the recent rains, but was only of minimal impact. I arrived at the Audubon/Notabon saddle in 46:50-ish and knew if I could maintain the effort, I would be at or near PR for the ascent. I kept up a good pace, but lost a little time doing my best to stick to the sometimes hard to follow trail, that is mostly direct, but meanders a bit.
Hit the far summit cairn/shelter in 56:48 and without pause turned to head back down, making quick work of the upper section and then started to push a little more below the saddle. It is hard to go too fast, as it is quite rocky and bouldery, but did my best to be efficient and my feet felt quite accurate and precise.
I pushed a bit toward the end, trying my best to gain time, but was not really aware of what my PR was and finished in 1:34:05. I just felt great and knew it would be one of my better runs. When I got home, I looked through my records and found that I have multiple ascents in the 55-56 range, but am not entirely sure which of those were sticking precisely to the trail or beelining it a bit from below the saddle (I know the 55 involved some shortcutting). The best RT time I could find was a 1:38:50 from 2010. I have been on Audubon or Audubon/Paiute weekly for the past 5 weeks and on the 4th of July, clocked a 1:03/43 on the same route, so to shave so much time was a huge surprise.
What does it all mean? History has told me that it means about nothing, but it sure made me feel great that day and indicates that my fitness is good. This run was certainly on par with any of my best runs ever. I often worry that I am slowing (and in general, I am a bit), but days like this prove to me that on a great day, I can still match or surpass my old self. Of course, Pikes is 900 feet higher in elevation and a LOT longer, but I am feeling as ready as I have ever been and confident that I can improve there still.
I must also take this opportunity to rave about the Hoka Huaka. This shoe really excelled on a run like this, as it is light and responsive enough to feel really speedy on the up and down, but also provide awesome protection and cushion, allowing me to push a bit harder on the down than I might otherwise. Key to this though is the stability and control in this shoe, which I have not found in other Hokas. Though the tread is minimal, I did not slip of skitter once, even when pushed hard on a rocky, wet, technical trail such as Audubon. I HIGHLY recommend this shoe for anybody looking for maximum performance in a very light shoe with tons of cushion and protection (I have no affiliation with Hoka, this shoe is just that good and the next step in shoe technology I believe).
Splits: 1st switchback - 7:50
Beaver Creek Trail Split - 18:59
Saddle - 46:50
Summit - 56:48
Saddle - 1:02:32
Finish - 1:34:05 (37:16 descent)