Race Report: Squaw Valley Mountain Run 2011
This run is a beast. 2000 vertical feet of climbing in 3.6 miles. It is relentless. You start climbing immediately on the long ski run that links the base area and High Camp, and it never flattens. Even the finish is uphill. Even after the finish it still goes uphill while you are gasping and trying to get out of the way of the other racers. Last year I fink ally figured when this long running race is held, the first Saturday in August, and so now I know I can test myself on it every summer. Last year I managed a painful 54 min. that included a lot walking, numb legs, and being passed by dogs and small children. This year I passed all the dogs and children. I would a be damned if that Tibetan mastiff would pass me, and only the teenagers passed me. I’m OK with that.
So I really wanted to improve over my time from last year. Last year I really struggled, which surprised me since I usually climb well in trail races. But this course was ALL uphill, and while the gradient eased slightly a couple of times, it never really went flat. I feel fit this year, so I had that going for me. But I’ve done no anaerobic training and no specific climbing workouts. What would all this low intensity Maffetone training mean when I was going to redline my heart rate and not let up? And this was a short race, making it very intense and anaerobic, not like the longer efforts I’ve done this summer where the aerobic training would clearly pay off. To race for four or seven hours means almost all your energy is aerobic. But a super intense uphill effort for less than an hour will significantly challenge my anaerobic fitness as well. Since I do no anaerobic workouts and just use racing for my intensity, do I even have any such fitness? The only other short race I’ve done this summer was the Burton Creek 10K, and I definitely struggled there. I want to believe that was solely due to the previous day’s MTB race, but I still doubt myself. Also going against me, especially climbing uphill against gravity, is that I am far from my racing weight. This summer was supposed to get me close to racing weight for this race and especially XTERRA Incline. Too much livin’ large in the Tahoe summer. Rich food and drink make for a slow racer.
So the results were very favorable. And while I had to drag my heavy body uphill against gravity, I did so at a run for almost the whole race. For the first two miles I never walked except in the traffic jam at the start. While other racers kept alternating from a walk to a jog, I just kept chugging along like a diesel going up Donner Summit. I seriously thought that I might be able to run every step. But just before the single track section I walked a switchback which was really steep, thinking a recharge would help. It didn’t. The single track was steeper and narrower than I remembered, and very congested with people. I walked a lot of it to conserve energy. In retrospect this was the right thing to do, but it was demoralizing at the time. When the single track ended, there was only a half mile to go, and it eased a bit before the final finishing straight. This is where I really came unglued last year. I was hurting, got passed by a dog and then a young girl. This year, I felt much better and pressed on, even managing a finishing kick and lunge that put me past a guy that I had been sparring with. And I chopped minutes off of my time.
Even more good news about the low heart rate aerobic training. In a much shorter and more intense race, I could feel that more of my energy was aerobic, and I recovered from the race within a few minutes. Last year I sat on the lawn with a thousand yard stare and struggled to get my metabolism back to normal. In addition to the low heart rate training, I am experimenting with hydration. Since listening to this podcast interview with Dr. Timothy Noakes, author of the massive tome The Lore of Running, I have followed his advice to drink only water, and only to thirst. Apparently, electrolytes and dehydration are greatly exaggerated, possibly by the sports drink industry. More on this later as the experiment evolves. I felt no thirst during the race, but afterwards I drank a big glass of water out of habit from my commemorative pub glass, then a glass of the free beer. You can’t pass up free beer.
Nearly four minutes faster than last year
Attached video is Tim Van Orden, another plant based athlete, describing how hard this race is.