Tuesday, June 26, 2012

San Juans and the Central Governor

Highlights of the past week:

1. Cheering Bethany on to win another epic race, finishing the San Juan Solstice 50m in 9:58, just off the course record.

2. Running above 12,000 feet on a daily basis.

3. Tetherball with Ada.

4. Time with the Eldridges in Montrose and at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

5. Family camping.

Running in the San Juans is humbling.  The sheer vertical relief, the scale, the elevation: all of these combine to make one feel pretty small.  Mountain travel above 12,000 feet is a different beast: grades that are eminently runnable on lower elevation trail become hypoxia-inducing, vision-constricting stumble-fests.   After a week of camping and running in Ouray, Silverton, and Telluride I felt pretty spent- and only partly due to the limited sleep afforded by a 21-month old completely out of her routine.  Spent yes, but also inspired:  It will be exciting to come back out here in only a few weeks to pace Jared Campbell at Hardrock and have a rare inside glimpse of the front end of this epic race.  

Running at elevation is a good test of Noakes' Central Governor Hypothesis of fatigue in endurance sport.  In a nutshell, this is the notion that exercise capacity is limited not by mechanical properties of muscle and tendon, nor by the pure efficiency of aerobic metabolism, but is regulated in top-down fashion by the brain which dictates how much muscle is devoted to the task at hand so as to preserve the integrity of the organism in extremis.  Monitoring my heart rates while climbing I was surprised to see numbers only in the 150s when my perceived effort level was much higher.  Presumably my brain sensed less available oxygen and correspondingly downregulated muscle recruitment patterns so as to avoid the possibility of bodily damage.   The old adage that running is 99% mental is true in more ways than one... 


Goblin Valley

Island Lake

Ice Lake, Fuller Lake

Sleepless camping

The precipitous Bear Creek trail

Engineer Pass

Bethany, mile 16 of SJS en route to a convincing victory. 

Post race, cheesy motel decor.

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