Friday, December 30, 2005

Colorado visit: Glorious to ski, yet difficult to run

Here's a look back at the last few days spent visiting my family in Colorado for Christmas...

Mon, 12/26

I ate a ton on Christmas Day. Sometimes, I just can’t quit eating and drinking. We ate at 2:30 PM on Christmas. I shoveled it in to the point that I did not eat again until the next day. Thankfully, we had a brisk walk in the evening to help offset my feast.

On to Monday - As a nice break from running, we went skiing at Arapahoe Basin, or “A-Basin”, as it is called in the area. It was gorgeous weather and the conditions were outstanding. I love to ski. It is simply something I do not get to do enough. Downhill skiing in the Rockies is definitely a different kind of workout than banging out mileage.

What was fascinating is how a runner in my condition can be rendered breathless at 12,500 feet of mountain elevation in a matter of seconds. Seriously, we exited the chairlift on a couple of occasions and had to work up an incline to get to the run we wanted to ski, and I was completely winded after 10 seconds of work. What gives?

Tue, 12/27

For my first run in the Denver ‘burbs, I was planning to do between 5 and 6 miles to try to get adjusted to the altitude. The weather in Denver seemed perfect – better than perfect. In fact, the high hit 60 degrees and the sun was beaming. As I got going, however, I was surprised by the high winds. I ran locally around the main roads in Littleton and completed just over 5 miles.

TIME: 39:38 -- DIST: 5.13 – PACE: 7:41

Wed, 12/28

For this day, I had planned to knock out a tempo 9-miler, as my Intermediate Training Plan called for. I used to plan a circuit around the Littleton area. It really is a beautiful place to run – and to live, for that matter. Surrounded by mountains, the sun has an intensity and brightness that you cannot get on the East Coast. The town of Littleton is just developed enough to have nice, wide sidewalks – yet underdeveloped in that the congestion does not exist in the residential sections.

For the first six, I was doing quite well and had believed that I was getting into form in Denver. Then, I hit some sort of wall. I turned onto Wadsworth Ave to head back toward my sister’s, and “crash”… the wind was 20+ MPH and I was climbing uphill. I started to chug and slow. It was brutal. I was out of gas. The first six miles, I did at 7:32. I did my last two miles at 8:49 per minute, if that’s any indication of the struggle.

When I hit my sis’s subdivision again, I wasn’t even worried about completing the full 9 miles. I decided it was an off day and turned in slightly early.

Factors, reasons (or excuses, if you please) for my difficult finish on Wednesday:

(1) Elevation – Like or not, running at 5,000 feet is not the same as running at sea level if you are not used to it.
(2) Diet – I was eating like crap and drinking a lot of beer. My habits are fairly poor during holiday times. For the prior evening’s dinner. I had two chili dogs topped with onions and cheese, and washed that down with a half of bag of chocolate covered espresso beans – not to mention the 5 or 6 beers I crushed. How’s that for a champion runner supper? On Monday night, I polished off a bunch of pizza after skiing and (of course) several more beers with my bro-in-law.
(3) Fatigue – I think the skiing on Monday and run the day before took more out of me than I realized.
(4) Wind – It was gusting 20-25 MPH as I hit the major incline back. It was really ridiculous trying to battle Mother Nature.
(5) Poor sleep – Jen & I crashed in the basement on an overly firm queen.

The ending of this run sucked my confidence. I pouted privately with the usual remarks to myself… “I need to take better care of myself”.

TIME: 1:05:24 -- DIST: 8.27 – PACE: 7:54

Interesting upon reviewing my two runs was that my average heart rate for my two runs was in the range of 160-165 bpm. I am typically in the 153-155 range with prior runs in Connecticut.

In closing, I decided to rest on Thursday morning – as opposed to trying to squeeze in a run before heading to airport to return home. I needed it.

Fri, 12/30 – Six miles
Sat, 12/31 – Easy 3-miler
Sun, 1/1 – Hard10-miler – Try to push toward race pace when possible

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