There are a couple different thoughts on long runs. Some people prefer to run by time (3 hours, 5 hours, etc). While I’ve based a couple of mine on time in the past (like maybe 3), mine are done with a distance in mind (20 miles, 25 miles, etc). Ever since I discovered the idea of everesting though, I’ve started thinking about doing runs based solely on elevation gain. So today’s run wasn’t based on time or distance, but on the goal of climbing 5k vertical feet over the course of the run.
A couple years ago, I did a couple runs prepping for Eastern States where I tried to get 200+ feet of vertical gain per mile. I remember those being some of the more challenging long runs that I’ve ever done even though I walked/hiked all the hills. I was looking for something even steeper and decided on a new trail section that was put in since then at my favorite set of trails near my house. The run ended up giving me 316 feet per mile of vertical gain.
Throughout the week, I was pretty excited about the run as the novelty provided me a sense of adventure that’s usually lacking in my normal training runs. Since I hadn’t really done this before, it was difficult for me to determine how long it would take since there weren’t any readily available benchmarks for me to use. Typically, I can get about 600 feet of elevation gain per hour, however that’s on routes with 100 feet per mile. I knew I could do more than that, but how much more was a complete guess. If you’re new to this blog, I like my round numbers so decided to target 1000 feet per hour or 5 hours to complete the run. I wasn’t too confident though and figured I would be north of this before I was done.
The first bit from the parking lot was mostly downhill and while I was able to knock out an 11 minute mile, I only logged 112 feet of vert. This took me to the 0.4 mile section of trail that I would run back and forth over until I hit my 5k. There were 3 total hills on the out-and-back as I started at the bottom of one hill and turned around at the top of the second. The first hill was about 90 feet high and the other two were right about 70 feet. These ended up giving me about 330 feet of gain per mile which led to me needing 20.5 laps to hit my target.
You’re probably thinking 20 laps on a half mile course would be boring as hell, but the layout was extremely varied for such a short section. Each hill had several turns, the trail was somewhat technical with rocks/roots, one end was wooded with the other ending in a meadow, and there was a wooden bridge at the bottom of the V section. I can honestly say that at no point did I get tired of the route and want to move off onto other trails.
I started out running low 15 minute splits for the first couple miles. I was attempting to take things easy because I wasn’t sure how hard this run was going to be and I didn’t want to blow myself up in the first hour. And as I was doing the math in my head, I realized I was pacing at about 1200 feet per hour or well below my 5 hour target. Things were still comfortable though so I didn’t get too worried and kept rolling along.
The worries started to creep in though when I dropped a couple 14 minute miles at 7 and 8 bringing me to 2500 feet in the first 2 hours. Um, what? That can’t be good. I’m supposed to be slowing down, not getting faster. I tried not to let it bother me. I was halfway done and still feeling good. Mile 9 was another 14 minute split and then I was completely shocked to see a 13:54 flash up on my watch for mile 10.
At this point, I started getting comfortable with the thought that not only was the pace sustainable, but that I could push the pace a bit if I wanted. While my legs were feeling good, I just kept cruising along because I felt awesome and was really enjoying myself. The rest of the miles ticked off without drama and I finished up with 5164 feet in just under 4 hours.
I had planned three of these vert runs into my training schedule this spring spaced a month apart. I was going to start with 5K before moving up to 10K and then a 15K run in April. Each run would be dependent on the prior one going well and not completely wrecking me. These are supposed to be training runs after all. Well, I’m definitely going to do 10K next month leading up to Naked Prussian. I’m still undecided on the next jump to 15K due to the time commitment (13-16 hours?) and the pounding my legs will take.
But that’s for tomorrow. Today I’ll just sit here and enjoy my 5K.