The Paseo Miramar fire road has been my nemesis since day one of this undertaking. It was the first trail that I ran on as I began this journey, and a year and a half later the thought of running it still strikes fear in me. It quickly climbs 950 vertical feet in the first mile, has an average grade of 18% and contains long steep sections where the grade climbs to over 25% – it’s a monster. The surface is slippery gravel and dried dirty dust. The California sun is relentless as there is no shade or cover to protect you. Then there is the wind – 1500 feet above the mighty Pacific, the wind is constant, and never blowing in the right direction. This trail has been my testing ground since the beginning. It’s where I go when I want to see how well I’ve been doing.
Today, on my birthday, when I should have been off celebrating somewhere, I decided instead to put myself to the test. My warmup was sluggish and tight and I was scared of how slow I might run. Voices echoed in my head telling me to wait until another day when I was more rested, but I decided not to listen to them. Last year at this time, I was again preparing for the US Mountain Running Championships. As an unknown runner at the time (and not a spring chicken) I had to prove my worthiness to be allowed into the event. They requested that I run a course similar to the championship course in steepness and then submit my time. I chose Paseo Miramar. One year ago, in what I then considered to be the best shape of my life, I clocked an 8:14 mile in my time trial, which was good enough to get me into the championships. Since that time I have dreamed about breaking the elusive 8:00 mark, but all the mileage in the world couldn’t get me there. Enter March 2007. My training reduced to a bare minimum of only “vertical” miles 3 to 4 days a week with one hard uphill workout per week – Paseo Miramar. On March 4th a miracle happened, I crushed my record in a time of 7:54. With new found confidence and inspiration I continued with my unorthodox training regimen. My training has been steady since that time and with the addition of the 5K races and leg strength I have been hoping that even with my low mileage my fitness has been improving.
So, back to today – the dawn of my 39th year, I found myself once again on the most punishing trail that I know. I started the time trial quickly, too quickly I thought, but I wanted to see how long I could endure this pace and the constant and intense leg burn that accompanies uphill running. The higher I got, the faster I ran, I was actually increasing the pace. A glance at my heart rate monitor lead me to believe I was in for a slow time, it read 168. Normally on one of these time trials, my heart races into the high 170’s. So I decided to pick up the pace even more for the last 400 meter stretch, and get my heart rate up to where it belongs. I crested the summit with a heart rate of 175 and stopped my watch. I was afraid to look. Maybe an 8:10 I guessed. I looked down at my watch in disbelief. It read 7:18. I had destroyed my previous best by 36 seconds (in a one mile event!!) and rated an average heart rate of only 164, which is well below an all out effort. This looks to be a VERY good year indeed.
Here’s a video of the Paseo Miramar Trail: