Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pulling the plug on the monster

I was really excited to test my limits at the 100 mile distance when I signed up for the Mogollon Monster 100. I was sure I would train. And train. And train. I imagined big weeks with epic runs in the Catalinas, but after moving to Tucson I've yet to do even one monstrous run.
Some of my lack of motivation may stem from slightly overtaxing my body in the heat. I was trying to push the pace pretty hard in 95 to 105 degree heat, mostly on exposed trails, before I was acclimated. Even though I enjoy the heat, I've never been able to run fast or hard in it, my body just doesn't respond well to it and I haven't gotten stronger or faster. In fact, I just feel tired and slow. Even my easy runs have been feeling difficult and I've only been running 60 miles per week with minimal vertical and no significant long runs. So instead of crawling my way to a 30+ hour finish, I've decided to pull the plug on the MOG100 this year.
The rest of 2014 is going to be exciting though! Since I won't be focusing on 100 mile specific training I'm going to focus on getting my energy back and dialing in my speed for the 50K distance. I will be heading up to Oregon in October for the inaugural Oregon Coast 50K and in December I will most likely skip TNF 50 Mile in San Francisco (for the 3rd year in a row) and instead run the Deception Pass 50K in Washington. What better way to spend a weekend back home than at a Rainshadow Running event?

See you on the trails!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Vertigo Night Runs 31K Race Report

The vertigo night runs are part of Aravaipa Running's Insomniac Night Trail Running and Relays Series. Vertigo is held on the competitive track at the White Tank Regional Park starting at 7p.m. You would think that as the sun sets in Phoenix it would cool down, but on July 26th that wasn't really the case.
I didn't run this race particularly fast. Not because I didn't want to, I did and I tried, but it was so damn hot that my 8 minute pace felt like a 6:15 pace! Not to mention the technical terrain, sandy washes and the course being illuminated by only my headlamp. It was 105 degrees when we started racing which made me want to drop on my first loop. The metallic taste in my throat and my seemingly unquenchable thirst didn't help. The main reason I didn't stop running is because almost every runner I passed on the course (the 10K, 31K, and 63K were all running their races on the same loop) offered words of encouragement. Just another reason I love this sport. Thank you all for the positive vibes!
All of the eyeball-baking-energy-sucking-heat aside, it was a really great experience. The first 3-4 miles of the 6.5 loop were fairly flat, but rock strewn with abrupt rollers through various sandy washes. Around mile 4, my favorite part of the race, there was a small climb. At the top I would look back down on the Sonoran Competitive Track to see all of the headlamps scampering below me. It was an awesome sight. From there it was a fun and fast, short but technical descent to an aid station followed by a fast and mostly flat 2 mile section back to the start/finish aid before I'd head out for another loop.
On my last lap a storm started rolling in shooting bursts of electricity through the night sky which illuminated silhouettes of saguaros and revealed ominous clouds in the distance. The 63K runners eventually had to be pulled from the course due to dust, wind and lightning, but my friend and training partner Sion Lupowitz came through the 32 mile mark in 1st place well ahead of the runner up, so he took the win on the shortened course. 
Aravaipa Running put on a class act event. I've run a hand full of their events and they only seem to get better. My favorite new Aravaipa Running perk at this race was the free finisher photo at the end (Plus a finishers mug and a gym bag). Their live result system is awesome, their aid stations are always stocked and the course is always well marked. If you find yourself in Arizona, do yourself a favor and run an Aravaipa event. It's well worth it!
Thanks to Nick and Jamil for having me up there and putting on a stellar run. Thanks to all of the volunteers for being out in the heat all night to help all of us crazy Insomniacs. And thank you to Pearl Izumi and ClifBar for the continued support.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @koreykonga

See you on the trails!



Sion and I were sporting the same kicks: the Pearl Izumi Trail N1. Photo: Aravaipa Running

Kickin' it before the race. Photo: Aravaipa Running


Sun setting before the 31K start
31K start. Photo: Aravaipa Running

Coming through the second loop. Photo: Aravaip Running

Finisher photo. Photo: Aravaipa Running

Female winner Suzie Kramer and myself at the finish . Photo Aravaipa Running.

Lightning popping off!

POP!

Sion demanding something delicious before his final lap. Photo: Michelle Sager via Twiinkly App.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Being back in Tucson

I am loving being back in the Southwest. Initially, when we committed to moving back to Tucson about 3 months ago, I was slightly concerned that I wouldn't enjoy it. I thought "How can I leave the North West? How can I leave these mountains? This singletrack?" But I do believe it turned out to be one of the best decisions we've made. 
Right before we left Tucson last year I became friends with Sion Lupowitz. We never really hung out when I lived here, but we gradually became better friends via text and Instagram while I was in Ashland. Since moving back we've trained together 4 times per week. He's funny as hell and as fast as I am. I can safely say he is one of my best friends, which doesn't seem to happen often as you get older.
It took about 10 days until I could run well in the heat and even now (2 weeks later) I'd say that it slows me down quite a bit, but it's getting better. And I actually don't mind it. There's something gratifying about suffering in the desert heat. There's something satisfying about running up a rock strewn trail at 4 p.m. with pockets of 100+ degree air smacking you in the face. It's a special kind of suck. And I love it.
We live one mile from Sabino Canyon (my training grounds) which is awesome. If you don't live somewhere where you can run out your front door to the mountains, you don't know what you're missing! My wife, of course, loves being pool side and being able to lay out everyday, as well as having great restaurants to dine at. And we are super stoked to be close to her parents again.
All in all. Things are pretty perfect down here under the Southwest sun.
I will leave you with some photos and a video Sion threw together from one of our runs. Cheers!

First time back on top of Blackets

Monsoon rolling in over Thimble Peak

Sion descending Bear Canyon Trail

Aspen Trail on Mt. Lemmon (7,500 ft)

Back side of Bear Canyon (100+ that day)

Switch backs on Bear Canyon Trail descending to 7 falls

Sunrise on Phoneline Trail

Phoneline Trail

Sion making his way up Aspen trail to the Mt. Lemmon summit

Running along the top of Lemmon with the city below

Wilderness Of Rocks

Seven Falls

Pearl Izumi Trail N2, which I believe will be my weapon of choice at the MOG100


Here's that video. We apologize for the generic EDM.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

My first trip up Mount McLoughlin in 2014

Yesterday I went out to summit Mt. Mcloughlin for my first time this year. To get to the summit you climb about 4,000 vertical feet in just over 5 miles. It's a great place to practice both technical uphill and downhill running. And the views don't suck either.Last year my PR from the trailhead to the summit was 01:12. But the trail has changed a a bit. There are more loose rocks and downed trees, plus my legs were a little tired from my 20 miler on the rogue the day before, so it took me 01:30 to summit. 
On the way down I did precisely what I thought only inexperienced hikers do on Mcloughlin; I got lost on the scree field to the right of the ridgeline  instead of following the ridgeline to the left. Luckily I'm smart enough to back track instead of continuing on in the wrong direction. I'm also in good enough shape to be able to run back up the mountain in a short amount of time. So that's what I did. I saw a few guys down the ridgeline on the actual trail and caught up with them until I got back on course. This added a little over an hour to my trip, but it was all well worth it. Another beautiful day on the trails!


McLoughlin from a distance

Loose rock on the trail

The snow is almost gone

Heading up the ridgeline towards the summit

The view

The last 100ft to the summit, steeper than it looks

Selfie


Instead of following the ridgeline from whence I came, like a smart mountain runner, I took the scree field to the right.

Trail?



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Rogue River Trail


Today I ventured out past Merlin, OR for a run on the Rogue River Trail. I promised myself that, since we are leaving Oregon, I would run as many beautiful and scenic trails as I can fit in between now and July 5th. So that's what I'm doing. It wasn't an intense run, but it was 20 or so very scenic miles with about 2,500ft of gain and loss.
I started out at the Graves Creek trail head and followed the trail to Black Bar. It was essentially an out and back, but I popped off the trail at various places to explore and take photos. The first 10 miles felt great, but after that I started having some serious pain/discomfort in what I call my "knee pit". I've had problems with my popliteus before, and I'd venture to say that's what's going on, but I know ADAPT will iron it out.
"Pain just hurts" so I still enjoyed the run in it's entirety. The views are stunning, the air is fresh and the singletrack undulates like rolling waves.
I'd love to run the 40 mile trail point to point one day.


The trailhead 
D-bag #selfie

Singletrack

The Rogue River

Rafters below

"And then the vulture eats you"

Natures ice bath

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Beacon Rock 50K race report

Leading up to the Beacon Rock 50K I got a solid 7 week training block in with my biggest week topping out around 12 hours with 17,000ft of vert; my biggest week of vertical gain ever. That might not seem like a lot, but the last 4 months have been a slow process returning from some overuse injuries. It could have been a much slower return, but thankfully Aaron Anders helped me out and I was able to train through the process a bit. Needless to say, I was really excited to race an Ultra that I felt prepared for! It had been a while.
I drove up to Beacon Rock State Park the day before the race to take advantage of Rainshadow Running's free group camping. I wish I had arrived a day earlier because they had all sorts of activities from climbing, to swimming, to hashing, which I missed out on. I suggest you partake in the whole Rainshadow experience when running their races! Totally worth it.
Race morning I woke at 4 a.m. to what sounded like the Amazon rainforest. The birds were so loud! They were natures alarm clock and I was fine with that. I ate my breakfast, drank some cold coffee and then headed over to the pre race briefing. James made a comment about the William Emerson double crown, where you win the 25K and the 50K in the same race. I had the "Yea right" face on but the "can I do that?" thought. And we were off!

Here's the course profile:


The 50K is two loops of the 25K which I really liked because I knew what to expect on the second loop. The course starts with a nice jarring downhill pavement stretch before going right into the first long climb. Myself, Connor Meakin and Matt Palilla pretty much stuck together for the first 15 -20K with Masazumi Fujioka trailing behind. Both of the climbs are long and steady with one very steep section towards the top of the first climb and some spaced out stairs in the middle of the second climb. But it's all runnable. When Connor started to pull away, I figured I'd see him again and knew I only had to worry about Masazumi who is a very strong runner and, I had a feeling, one hell of a closer.
This race is either up or down. I doubt there's even a mile of flat running. The downhills were a lot of fun though; Smooth single track that you could just really hammer. And the views at the top outs were breathtaking. Being up there in the mountains with the wildflowers and fresh air really made me miss living in Washington.
When I was heading towards the start/finish area to start my second loop, Connor was coming back about a half mile ahead of me. He looked strong and very happy. We high fived and he kept on hammering. At the start/finish I switched out my water bottle for a larger one, which was a good choice since it got warm later, and grabbed my iPod for some motivation on the second loop.
Heading out on the second loop Masazumi was coming in from his first loop right behind me, smiling and looking strong. I knew I would have to push to stay ahead of him. But I blew up a bit on that 3rd climb. Towards the top I found myself power hiking and thinking "Screw racing. I'm done with this." I let Masazumi pass. I ate a Clifshot. I turned up my music. I put one foot in front of the other and suddenly my negative feelings went away. They went away and they never came back. This was a first for me during a race as I usually have a lot of trouble staying positive in the last 10 miles of a 50K.
The 4th climb was a bit of a grind as well, but once I was up on the ridge it felt like there was no other place in the world I would rather be. It was beautiful. The last 6 miles were all downhill so I just kept on pushing. At the last aid station one of the volunteers told me that Masazumi was only a couple minutes ahead of me, but I was content with where I was and didn't try to pick up the pace to catch him.
I came through the finish in 04:50:03 which was a good 30 minutes off my goal time, but considering the big picture I was happy with it. Masazumi was 2nd in 04:46:31 and Connor was 1st in 04:23:25. I always creep Ultra Signup before I race, so I kind of knew who my competition was, but I have to be honest and say that I did not expect Connor Meakin to run that hard and take the course record. It was really impressive.
When I finished I laid down in the grass. Put my headphones in. And enjoyed the feeling of being where I belong. I haven't felt like I was home since we left Washington, but I felt it at Beacon Rock. And it felt good.
As always James Varner stayed at the finish line and high fived every runner that came through (even the runners who didn't make the cut off). There was great pizza, cold beer and good company. I love Rainshadow Running events! Just like they say "Why run anywhere else?"


A little shake out up Beacon Rock 

The view from Beacon Rock


Hotel Konga

The top of the first climb. Photo by Glenn Tachiyama

The ridge after the final climb. Photo by Glenn Tachiyama

Uphill Running. The man, the myth, the legend (and the guy you get race coverage from). 

Project Talaria filming.

Finish line lounging


Gear used:

  • Pearl Izumi Trail N1
  • Pearl Izumi Ultra Split Short
  • Pearl Izumi Team 7 Hills Fly Singlet
  • Drymax Run-lite mesh mini crew socks
  • Team Pearl Izumi Ultra Half Buff
  • Amphipod handheld
  • Ultimate Direction Essential  waist pack
  • Suunto Core

Nutrition:

  • Night before: 2 Ham sandwiches, 3  Caldera Pilot Rock Porters
  • Breakfast: 1 Banana, 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of coffee, 1 hand full of salted almonds
  • Race: 7 Clifshots. Chocolate, Mocha and Razz.







Sunday, May 25, 2014

Week ending 05/25/2014

Monday - 00:35 - 600ft EG - Easy recovery run around the Oredson-Todd Woods and White Rabbit.

Tuesday - 03:50 - 7,000ft EG - Long run including Ostritch Peak and 2X Pete's Punisher. 1st Pete's ascent in 00:24. 2nd Pete's ascent in 00:22. Not my fastest times up Pete's, but I'm satisfied.

Wednseday - 01:50 - 2,900ft EG - Medium long. Headed up Park St. to White Rabbit, dropped down Jabberwocky and then returned home via Bandernsnatch, Alice in Wonderland and White Rabbit.

Thursday - 01:24 - 1,600ft EG - Easy run up Tolman Creek Rd. to Toothpick, then home via Queen of Hearts and Mike Uhtoff.

Friday - A.m. - 01:16 - 1,500ft EG - Did some intervals on the Plaza/Bandersnatch/Alice/Rabbit loop: Warm, then 20X 1 minute intervals slightly beyond 5K effort with 1 minute recovery jogs, Cool.

Noon - Physio: Core work and EMS.

Saturday - 01:50 - 2,100ft EG - Wagner Butte for the first time with Joe, Brian and the Trail Butter Crew! Super fun run with amazing views. Couldn't ask for a better Saturday.

Sunday - 01:19 - Easy run to the Plaza and up through the park. Took 2060 to Queen of Hearts and White Rabbit home.


Total time: 12:04
Total Elevation Gain: 17,200ft

I feel pretty strong this week! This is the most vertical gain I've ever had in a training week, so I'm a bit tired and my left foot is giving me some guff, but all in all I feel good. I've had a solid 7 weeks of training which gives me quite a bit of confidence going into Beacon Rock.
I'll leave you with some pictures of the trails I've been training on:


The view heading up Hitt Rd. towards Ostrich Peak
A view of the valley from White Rabbit
Bandersnatch 
Tolman Creek Rd.
Mike Uhtoff Trail

The view from Wagner Butte trail


Heading down Wagner Butte with the Trail Butter crew and friends



Trail Butter


The trail head to Pete's Punisher which climbs about 1,600ft in 1.1 miles
The pug does not care
Tempo song of the week