Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Highlands Sky 40 = Summer!

Out in Northern California, ultrarunners know it's officially summer when Western States weekend rolls around. In Colorado, it's officially summertime when the "Camp Hardrock" people start to show up in Silverton to mark the course and get acclimatized to the altitude two weeks from race day. For others, its when they touch down in Death Valley in mid-July for Badwater, and the first sign of summer for many in the VHTRC is when they take off for Bighorn 100, 50, and 50K.

For me, it's officially summer when Highlands Sky 40 is here! Held the third Saturday in June, HS has been a staple on my racing calendar for the past 6 years. I have written about it in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and, most likely, will write about it again this year...and I am planning to take my camera along this time so that I can capture all the glory of this very tough course.It is a 40 miler that runs like a 50 every time.

After a crazy spring of very little training and racing because of work and family obligations, I was looking forward to getting serious about my preparation for Highland Sky by mid-May. By then, lacrosse seasons were over (this year was very bittersweet as it was Chape's last high school season), school was wrapping up, and I was finally getting heat-trained. We had many hot and humid weekends in May which added up to many excellent long runs in the mountains in the heat, and I was particularly happy with a double that included 23 miles on the Grindstone course (with a ball-busting 45 minute run to the top of Dowells Draft) followed up by 20 miles in the 90s on RipRap. Good stuff!

I also pulled out the old training logs and recycled my best track workouts for the last four weeks leading up to Highland Sky, including Bill's and my favorite:

4 x 1200 at 5k pace (4:50 for me, 4:40 for Bill) followed by a run off the track, down a steep hill and back up for about 800 meters with 3:00 recovery in between each 1200.

This one kicked our butts, but only after we ran this one the week before:

200, 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1200, 1000, 800, 600, 400, 200 at 5K pace with 2:00 rest in between each interval.

Yowza! This is a confidence builder, to be sure. Bill needed it for WS and I needed it for HS. It was a great feeling to push through the doubt and anxiety ("this is going to hurt") that came through my mind after the 1200.

After running the Priest and Three Ridges two weeks ago, it was time for the taper. Last year I wrote a post about the taper after attending an informative session on marathon tapering at Ragged Mountain Running Shop. While I won't rehash that post here, I will just say that I love the taper. It's a time for examination and reflection, as well as getting down to brass tacks and to start packing, planning, sorting. The homework is done and it's time to get ready for the exam! This week I am off from work, and have spent a lot of time catching up on sleep and fave book to read before a race is Running Within by Jerry Lynch. It has excellent chapters on mental preparation for racing and training, something that I have been working on.

I am looking forward to seeing the usual suspects as well as meeting new friends this weekend, and will be sure to post my pics here. Both the men's and women's fields are looking really tough, which is a great motivator for me.

Summertime...sweet summertime.

**NEW** Just came across this VERY cool video from Running Times of the trail work done on the Highlands Sky course this spring in preparation for the race on Saturday...a wonderful piece on the history of the Dolly Sods and a lot of glimpses of the trail!


Run Home Pam said...

Have fun this weekend, Sophie! I'm sure it will feel wonderful to be back in the ultra soup.

I should have done my homework on this race. We are visiting family in VA next week, and I think I probably could have hit this race on the way down. Next year, I hope.....

Rick Gray said...

Sweet Summer! You are certainly correct there. Highland Sky marks the beginning of summer for so many of us. As you said the fast women and men are certainly going to be going at it in two days. Sounds like your training has been strong and you are ready for a little heat and humidity in the mountains. Can't wait for Saturday, but I am praying for a little cloud cover while I am running the Road Across the Sky. See you tomorrow night! Get a good nights sleep tonight.

Anonymous said...

Good Luck and have fun, I know you will do great!!!!!