Saturday, February 27, 2010

Good Week

I've finally gotten back on track with the mileage this week.

Last week was somewhat of a disaster, considering I was attempting to recover from a 50K and battling some sort of stomach virus/food poisoning at the same time.  It seemed that every time I would try to pick up my normal routine of ~16 miles a day, my body would fight back and I would spend another day being completely exhausted.  So, the weekly total was 72 hard-fought miles.

This week was a very different story.  Here is a log of my miles:

FEB 22- FEB 28

M- AM 69 min, 10 miles

     PM 45 min, 6.5 miles

T- AM 111 min, 14 miles

     PM 43.5 min, 6.5 miles

W- AM 66 min, 10 miles

     PM 66 min, 10 miles

T- AM 40 min, 6 miles

     PM 41 min, 6 miles

F- 67 min, 10 miles

S- AM 95 min, 12 miles

    PM 70 min, 10 miles

S- SOLO, __ min, 14 miles (still to come)

TOTAL: 115

Although I haven't quite finished out the week, I only need 14 more miles to complete my goal of 115 miles.  My body once again feels whole, and every run this week left me feeling stronger and more confident than the last.

Today was the best run yet.  For the last 6 weeks or so, I've been waking up every Saturday at 6:30 a.m, eager to go for a run.  This is because of the group I've been running with, C.R.U.D.  Although I don't get to run with C.R.U.D as much as I used to with the Trail Nerds, I still feel the same cohesiveness and friendliness from everyone who is in the group.  Good folks!  So this morning, I was running a bit late, but soon caught up to an unusually small group of Crudders crossing the train tracks to make their way up to the Falcon Trail.  I was glad to see Rick, Paul, Tara, and John (whom I'd met only last week) all with smiles on their faces.  We hit the trail and instantly there were 5 inches of fresh snow under every footfall.  This made running a bit sketchy at times, but very easy on the legs.  And I think the thing I remember most was how quickly the twelve miles went by, and how bummed I was that the run was over.  I can't really recall the last time I felt that way.  Luckily, the day wasn't over, as Tara and John invited Paul and I to attend a yoga class.  I'll omit the details, but will say that it kicked my ass and I can't wait to go back.

Overall, this week was awesome. I'm back on track with mileage and I wake up every day excited to get stronger and faster.  2 weeks until Salida Marathon!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Random Tip

So, it occurred to me today that I should probably post this random tip to people who run on muddy trails or to anyone who is planning for a muddy race coming up.  I've found that the best way to get mud (especially the clay mud that doesn't come out in the washer) out of your clothing and off of your shoes is to go to a do-it-yourself warwash and use the power washer.  It's relatively cheap, and you can avoid destroying your bathroom trying to soak your shoes in the tub. Just a thought.......

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Born to Run

If anyone hasn't read this book yet, I would definitely recommend it.  Born to Run is full of useful advice, great stories, and plenty of mystery and excitement to keep the pages turning.  And although I'm somewhat skeptical of the "100% barefoot running" message that this book portrays, it has a lot of underlying messages that mean a lot to me.  The largest one is the notion of group running.

Throughout the book, the author repeatedly focuses on the fact that the Tarahumara wear nothing but sandals, and that they still win races without modern running shoe technology.  What he fails to highlight is the cohesive structure of the Tarahumara running packs when they race and train.  In every race they run, they run together as long as possible.  So, they are effectively being each other's pacer for nearly the entire race.  They also push one another to go faster, and pull the more sluggish ones along.

I can't even begin to describe how much group running has effected my training this year except to say that I am already close to being in better shape than I was before Leadville last year.  Most of this is due to having a training partner and motivator for a roommate, and a plethora of runner's who match or exceed my fitness to run with.

If you are skeptical about the benefits of having a training partner, simply look at all of the great athletes in the world.  Nearly all of them live and train with a running community.  In a group you are able to strengthen your weakest elements while strengthening someone else at the same time.  As my friend Dallas says, "Iron sharpens iron."

There is also a social side to running in groups that makes it easier to get out the door.  It is so much less troublesome to go for that 20 mile run in the snow when you know someone will be there to join in the misery.  For example, last Saturday I was on my usual long run with team CRUD.  I had only gotten about 3 hours of sleep and was still recovering from a 50k the week before, and some kind of food poisoning that left me couch-ridden for 2 days.  Needless to say, I was not in a great state of fitness.  After a 7 mile climb to the Palmer trialhead, I was gassed and ready to quit.  Just then, a pack of CRUDders passed me.  After seeing what condition I was in, two of them grabbed my water bottles and carried them, and one simply talked me out of my bad mood for the remaining ten miles.  By the end of the run I felt great.

I would suggest that anyone who is training for a race in the near future find a training buddy.  It really helps!

By the way, if anyone would like to check out the interview I did for Endurance Planet, just go to the website below.  Endurance Planet is a website dedicated to covering sports such as ultra-marathoning, ironman triathlons, and various other races that fall inside the endurance sport demographic.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Day in the Mud

What a great weekend! Here is a review of the race from my perspective....

I've noticed that waking up for races is a lot like waking up before school when you were a kid, or before a big day at work.  As usual, Saturday was no different.  I woke up about 5 minutes before my alarm went off and just stared at it until it beeped.  I stretched my legs a few times and got out from under the covers.  I could feel the cold outside just by looking out the window, and tried not to let the chills influence my wardrobe decisions for the day.  I put on my mizuno shorts, bio gear long sleeve, a trail nerds jersey, and then 10 more layers to make sure I'd stay warm.

Once again, I had the usual nauseous stomach that refuses to take in food without a fight.  So, anticipating this, I had brought two very high calorie energy bars to get in a lot of nutrition without having to eat a lot.  One was a PROBAR, which I saved for last since it is actually quite delicious and has about 400 calories per bar.  I would not recommend this for an everyday snack, but if you need a lot of healthy calories, this is the thing to eat.  Anyway, after ingesting almost 800 calories in five minutes, I took my multivitamins and chugged about 6 glasses of water, then headed out to the course.

I was a bit worried as I peeled off my outer layers because it was already starting to get warmer, and I know this course is notorious for being filled with muck that can reach up to a foot deep.  Visions of the summer course started rifling through my head of losing my shoes 6 times (yes, 6 times).  So, once I got my shoes screwed, I made sure to tie everything really tight.

200 people approached the start line, and with the sound of the horn we were off.  My legs felt really fresh from the easy week of mileage I'd been doing, along with the opportunity to breathe in wonderful, low-altitude air.

The plan for the first and second loops was to try to keep my splits as close to 1:20:00 as possible.  Caleb Chatfield had advised me not to keep the same pace the entire way, but to keep the same effort.  This meant running the flats at around 7:30 pace, the downhills at around 6:45 to 7:00 minutes per mile, and then just run up the uphills without getting too fatigued.  This plan worked pretty perfectly for the entire first loop.  The uphills were free of muck, and the entire course was in pretty solid condition.  As I rounded the turn to go through the main aid station, I hit a 1:19:56.  The happiness of hitting that split so closely actually gave me a boost of energy.  I thought, "Let's see how lap two feels!"

Well, lap two started well..... I can't really say much more than that.  The course had just seen about 475 pairs of shoes running straight down the center of a semi-frozen sludge pit.  Turning off from the road onto the trail, I saw a completely different trail than I'd seen 83 minutes earlier.  It was now a five foot wide muddy, rocky bog.  I attempted to run on the side of the trail, but as I noticed further down the trail, quite a few people had already gotten that idea.  There was nowhere to go but straight up the middle.  The worst part of lap two was the major climbs.  With every two-foot step, you sink back six inches.  It was impossible not to get fatigued.  By the time I got to the five mile point, I was in oxygen debt and actually glad to run a half mile uphill on pavement.  At this aid station I also saw Derek, my impromptu pacer extraordinaire.  Derek had paced me at leadville with 15 minutes notice, and as I passed him I asked him if maybe he would do it again.  Of course, being the awesome guy he is, he said yes.  And as I rounded the turn through the main aid station a second time, he was there waiting in his running gear.  My split was 1:20:58, with much more effort being put into this lap.

On lap 3, the course was in the worst condition I'd ever seen.  There wasn't a single place you could step without slipping, unless you ran into the woods (trading the slippage for low branches and thorns).  Imagine dancing on marbles while trying to run quickly.  It was exhausting!  The most frightening parts were the muddy downhills with signs saying SLOW DOWN! I just kept thinking, "But what if I can't?"

There were a few times when I completely banana-peeled, meaning both of my legs went over my head, and other times when I simply didn't have the strength to balance myself.  So, giving into gravity, I would merely fall in the best way I could.  I made it through most of the muck and finally climbed up the hill to the shelter 10 aid station.  Kristi Mayo reminded me that I only had 2.5 miles to go.  I looked at my watch and saw that I had exactly 22 minutes.  If the final 2.5 miles of the course looked anything like the previous 7.5, it was gonna be close.  I kicked in what little energy I had left to climb up the remaining hills.  Just as I was closing in on a 1/4 mile left, I saw Brad Bishop standing in a clearing.  He began to scream down to the finish line and tell everyone to cheer.  The end of a race always gets my blood pumping.  No matter how tired I am or how badly I'm hurting, my body always finds a way to cruise in the last part of a race.  This race was no different.  Once I saw Brad, I began to sprint down to the finish line.  The last time rounding the aid station, I saw that even the field had become a mud pit.  And seeing as how I was already covered in mud from head to toe, it only seemed appropriate to slide head first into the finish line.  Here is the link below....

Surprisingly enough, I didn't feel nearly as awful as I thought I would.  I laid on the ground and laughed as Bad Ben put the medal around my neck.  Then Shelley, Sophia, Birnbaum, and Danielle all came over and we took a group picture. My final time was 4:15:12, still four minutes under the course record.

As I took the medal out of my bag I noticed a big clump of mud on it.  I laughed, and hung it up as-is on the wall.  It will serve as a reminder that not everything is going to be completely perfect in a race.  There will always be something that isn't planned for.  The only thing you can do is grit your teeth and face it head-on.  Most of the time you end up having more fun anyway.

Thank you to everyone that volunteered at the race.  Bad Ben, you always impress me with your talent to put on a perfect race in imperfect conditions.  Shelley, you are a saint, and a damn fine crew mate.  Derek, I can't thank you enough for pacing me for the 3rd loop, I just hope someday I'll be able to return the favor.  And to everyone I met out on the trail, STAY MUDDY.  I hope to see you all again next year!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Final Countdown

I will admit, there is always a little bit of pressure to perform well in your first race for the season.  Last season ended fairly well with a few good performances in national level races.  This year, however, is important in a different way.  It is laced with expectations to follow through and improve upon last year's rookie season.  So, although the first race of the year is not the most important, it is crucial in finding out where you stand in your levels of fitness as well as where you stand among competition.

Last week was my biggest week of milage this year, totaling 120 miles with a day off.  I have to say I felt really strong during the entire week, and although I felt a day off was necessary, I was able to hit a back to back the two days afterward to make up for lost time.   Here was the last weeks total....

WEEK 5: JAN 25- JAN 31

M- AM 65 min, 10 miles

     PM 95 min, 13 miles

T- 164 min, 22.5 miles

W-AM 56 min, 8 miles

     PM 65 min, 10 miles

T- AM 40 min, 6 miles

     PM 41 min, 6 miles

F- day off

S- 202 min, team CRUD 23 miles

S- 147 min, 21.5 miles

TOTAL: 120 MILES, 14 hrs 35 min, 7:12 min/mile

This week has been great in a lot of ways too.  I have just moved into my new apartment, and now it is possible to run from my place to Garden of the Gods in 30 minutes using mostly trails.  Now most of my miles include a variety of bike trails, jeep trails, and singletrack, which is the perfect mix when training for trail races.  Also, there is quite a bit of elevation gain on the way to Garden of the Gods, with quite a bit of loss on the way back.  This allows for my legs to get a healthy dose of hilly miles, along with a chance to stretch my legs out and lengthen my stride for some fast miles on the way back.

Needless to say, it will be interesting to see how the elevation, along with the hilly terrain of Colorado Springs have helped me get into shape this season.  I'm anxiously awaiting the moment to prove myself in a race setting, especially against my "ghost" of last year.