Last ultramarathon training run: Three hours up the China Creek Watershed, Port Alberni

ILP1010782‘m posting this a few days late, because Dave has been really on it posting things this week… but last Monday Dave and I did a long run as our last big training run (well, almost our only big training run since the Squamish-Whistler ultramarathon a month ago!) before the Angel’s Staircase 60k Ultramarathon that we are running in Washington State on August 11th.

We have done this run before from our house (I think it is something like 10k each way from our house, nearly all on trails or logging roads, to the gate at the base of the China Creek Watershed, which is part of Port Alberni’s water supply – so it makes a good long run). But I wanted to do a route with a steady climb, which the trail section isn’t really. So, instead, we drove to the gate on Cameron Main (near the turnoff to Bainbridge Lake) and ran up China Creek Main from there. Driving to the gate, instead of running to it, meant that we would have the time to go much farther up the roadl

This run was significant in a number of ways:

First, that I am running at all. I am still getting over the metatarsalgia (inflammation of the nerves between the metatarsal bones of my foot). I seem to be able to run an hour or more in road shoes without pain, but stiffer shoes or longer runs still cause me a lot of pain. Fortunately, it does not seem to flare up at all after a big run – but it was pretty painful during our Squamish ultra, and it started hurting a couple of hours in on this run, too. I wore trail shoes for this run – I don’t think I’ll be able to get by with road shoes for Angel’s Staircase, with its 3000 m of cumulative elevation gain and loss! So I am expecting it to be an issue at Angel’s Staircase, too… am doing my best to figure out what the best shoe/insole combo is.

A big long uphill...

A big long uphill…

Second, timing. We did this run 13 days before our race, which is really good timing to do our last big long run before the main event. We left later in the day than we had planned – which ended up being fine, since it had been a pretty hot day. The run is an out-and-back. I wanted to go for 3 hours, but wasn’t sure how I’d feel, so the plan was to go out for an hour, assess how we feel, then either keep going out or turn around at that point. Since the “out” part was uphill, we knew the “back” part would be a bit faster.

Long shadows, late in the day.

Long shadows, late in the day.

Third, route and elevation gain. Looking at the Angel’s Staircase profile, the route starts with a 10.6 mile (17 km) fairly steady climb of about 6000′ or 2000 m. Here’s that race’s elevation profile (horizontal scale is 60 km, click to enlarge):


That works out to an average of about 118 m per km, so I wanted to find a route with something similar to that. This one is probably a slightly smaller gradient – but it’s close. (It made me realize how lucky we are in Port Alberni, with so many running routes to choose from – we can pick any distance and any terrain type or gradient, and find a route that matches!)

Heading up to the hills.

Heading up to the hills.

Fourth, my shorts! I was wearing my Opedix Core-tec muscle-support shorts, which I will soon write a review of – and they are great! Compression-wear keeps muscles from jiggling, which can reduce muscle fatigue – and they really worked well for me. I’ll probably wear them for the upcoming race…

Running down, around 8:30pm, into the setting sun.

Running down, around 8:30pm, into the setting sun.

So, all in all, a good run! We ended up going out for 1:45, with few stops ( a few pix, not much else). At 1:32, we came to the part where the road gets substantially steeper, so we hiked that part up – good to do a brisk hard hike like that on tired legs! Then we turned around, flew down that steep section, and jogged the rest of the way back… saw one long-legged adolescent bear who loped down the trail ahead of us at our approach, and lots of elk tracks but no elk. In total, we were out for 3:09 – a perfect long training running for around 2 weeks before our ultramarathon!

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