Working out in Colorado has been an eye-opening experience. An 8:15 pace on level terrain -- normally an easy workout for me -- leaves me seriously sucking wind. My attempt at a tempo run was seriously curtailed. But, difficult or not, I'm still signed up for the Kendall Mountain Run in less than a week, and I need to have some sense of what to expect.
I've done a couple trail runs, but these trails are much steeper and more technical than what I'll be experiencing in Silverton. So yesterday I decided to do a hill workout that's easier than the trails I've been running on. I haven't had much luck finding roads that precisely match what I'll be seeing on Kendall Mountain, but I figure at least running on roads will give me a better sense of what I can expect on race day. I plotted out a 13.9 mile route -- a little shorter than the 15 miles my workout schedule called for, but I figured I'd be able to make up the extra mile somewhere along the way. Like Kendall, it would be front-loaded with uphill, and it would have a downhill finish. Unlike Kendall, it would top out at around 7,000 feet elevation (Kendall is nearly 13,000 feet tall). While it has plenty of hills, it's not as hilly as Kendall: 1,500 feet of climbing versus 3,300.
Also unlike Kendall, as it turned out, most of the roads I ran on yesterday were paved, though there was a good 3-mile segment on gravel.
Still, I think it was a closer approximation of what race day will be like than either the trail runs or the flat tempo workout I did a few days earlier.
Once I started running uphill, I could tell it wasn't going to be easy, but it was going to be doable. I don't think I'm going to have to hike all the way to the top of Kendall Mountain. On the steeper sections I tried to walk about 2 minutes per mile. There were two miles where I climbed more than 300 vertical feet, and I completed them in 10:01 and 11:20. On Kendall, I'll be *averaging* 600 vertical feet for 5.5 miles, so again, this isn't as steep as what I'll be doing on Saturday.
That said, after my hilly run, I was still able to hit the downhills fairly hard, finishing my last downhill mile in 8:03. I did find an extra mile over the course of the run (on "Panorama Road," which lived up to its name and added another 200 feet of climbing), so I ran a bit farther than I'll be doing Saturday. My total elapsed time for the workout (including stops to check the route) was 2:24:57, a time I'd take for the race in a heartbeat -- last year that would have been good for fourth in age group.
As an added benefit, yesterday's workout was amazingly beautiful. I got to run on gorgeous country roads with stunning views and practically no traffic. Here's a photo I snapped near the high-altitude point of the run:
I'm gradually building a sense of what running this high-altitude hill climb (and descent) will be like. I'll save my prognostications for the race for a separate post.
Details of yesterday's workout are below: