Friday, November 8, 2013

Expect the Unexpected

Hey, look, I have a Blog.  :)

I pretty much forgot about this in all the excitement.  I should close this out properly.  I'd have to say I pretty much failed at keeping any interesting or up-to-date content posted here as my training went along.

Here's how it went down:

  • My training was remarkably effective, and I carried off all the long & epic workouts when, where, and how I intended to.  Completely unprecedented, and probably never to be repeated!  :)
  • I got pretty worn down toward the end, like I expected.  My last hard day, a 12-hour trip up Long's Peak with some friends (including biking from home) was successful, but completely miserable.  Great, I thought, I have 3 weeks to recover and taper, mission accomplished.
  • I was smart about my taper (for once!!) and really rested those 3 weeks.
  • Felt great, but weird before race day.  OK, I'd never trained or tapered like this before, so weird is not necessarily bad, right?
  • On race day, right from the start something wasn't right.  I was feeling the morning chill too much.  The measured pace up the first mountain should have felt easy, and it didn't.  The running just didn't open up and flow like I wanted it to.  By mile 30 I was officially having a bad day, with sharp pains in my lower right abdomen.  (if you think you know where this is going, you're probably right)
  • 42 miles in I'm trying to keep my game face on, but the sun is going down and this is just not going well.  My stride is all wack from miles of compensating for the lower GI pain, and everything from my toes to my neck is barking at me.
  • I'm very fortunate to have my good buddy Mike S catch me just as things get fully dark and I go fully into the tunnel of pain.  He walks me to the aid station at mile 53.  I'm done; he goes on his way and will finish the next day.
  • Amazing aid station volunteers make me as comfortable as possible, and truck me and a couple of other victims back to base by morning.
  • After a couple hours of sleep and a cup of joe, I'm pleasantly surprised to feel OK, and spend the morning walking around and trying to be helpful for the race folks.  Quite bummed about having dropped out, as I'm obviously still functional.
  • 6 days later --- suddenly the stabbing gut pain is back.  Hours on the couch and I'm getting worse, fast.  I can't stand up or walk very well.  I make the drastic call to go to the ER to find out what's wrong.  "How do you feel about surgery tonight?" asks the doc ... my appendix is about 5x normal size, parts of it are already dead, and it needs to come out NOW.  How I ran 53 miles without rupturing it is not something they can readily explain...
What did I learn from all this?  Well, for starters it's important to stop in time if something's actually wrong!  I was pretty stubborn along the way to admitting something was truly wrong, but did stop in time.  No guilt about dropping out ... this time.  I also learned that I can do this.  53 miles with that handicap is an accomplishment; without the trouble, I am convinced that 100 miles is do-able for me.  Especially so if I can train again as effectively as I did  this time.

Training-wise, I confirmed that big days rule.  Running every day is completely optional.  Stacking up enormous weekly mileage numbers is not necessary, and may actually be a bad idea.  Mixing in biking works well for me, especially if it's my transportation to/from the trailhead for a run.  But once a week, you have to go big (with occasional recovery weeks of course).  5, 6, 7, maybe 10 hours.  At altitude.  Not necessary to be running all the time (particularly if training for a mountain ultra), but always on the move.  These long days are what prepare you to go the distance.  Trick for the really devious:  "pre-fatigue" for these big days by doing intervals the day before!  This will help you simulate the thrashing you'll fell late in an ultra.  The other days of the week?  Stay active, stay strong, stay healthy, rest when your body asks for it, and be aggressive about taking care of those little aches & pains that won't stay little if you ignore them.

I want a re-match!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hi, Beth

Love you, hon.

OK, for those of you who are really puzzled by that intro, it's because the latest title and first sentence from this blog are attached to my contact info in my wife's phone.  She doesn't know how it got there, but she was tired of looking at "yes, I'm a slacker" from my last post ... which was *months* ago.  Just having some fun. 

So yes, I'm still alive and I'm still patently awful at blogging on a consistent basis.  Guess you know where my priorities are.  Or at least you know that they aren't here.  :)

My ultra training is going quite well (I hope).  I feel great, anyway.  Long runs are north of 4 hours, and back-to-back days don't seem to be an issue.  I finish each run feeling like I kinda want to keep going and see what's out there.  That sensation should get squashed out of me pretty well by sometime on September 15th...

Off on a tangent.  Geoff Roes put up a really interesting post on about commonly used rhetoric that turns up in ultra running.  Thoughtful, and fun discussion.  But it made me think of something that really bugs me, rhetoric-wise.

I was reading through a shoe review (also on iRunFar ... great site) and came across this funny construct.  The author made the statement "shoe x is designed for natural running"  and then in the very next sentence began to list all the features of the shoe that are designed to change or control the way the foot moves:  arch support, medial posting, 10mm of heel lift, etc.  I realized when I read that, that the phrase "designed for natural running" didn't actually mean anything; it could be stretched enough to apply to anything you can run in.  Compared to my alpine ski boots, my tele boots are designed for natural running.

***disclaimer:  no I have not read "Born To Run" ... though you probably don't believe me on that point***

Now I don't pretend for a minute that the running community is going to suddenly come to a consensus on what terms like "natural" and "minimalist" and the like actually mean.  But as an engineer I hate sloppy language, so for the fun of it I'm going to float some definitions that actually mean something.  Definitions that are short, precise, repeatable, and slop-free.  Betcha nobody even notices!

Eric's definitions:
"Minimalist Shoe" - a shoe with no midsole.  Really, it's that simple!  If a shoe has a midsole, it is not minimalist.  We can dispense with the painful descriptions "more minimalist" and "less minimalist" in shoe reviews now!!  The shoe can have an upper and an outsole, otherwise it wouldn't be a shoe, right?  A Zero-drop, no-arch-support shoe with a midsole is not a minimalist shoe.  But, but, but... nope, this definition is best if it's clear, simple, and has no grey areas.

"Natural Running Shoe" - a shoe that does not modify the way the foot interacts with a flat surface under it.  Specifically:  no arch support, no posting, no heel lift.  Not 4 mm of heel lift.  Not 1 mm of heel lift ... if you go down that road you're voluntarily loading the definition with gray area.  Most minimalist shoes are also natural running shoes.  However, if you have a minimalist shoe that is narrow in the forefoot such that the mets and toes cannot spread they way they usually would under load, it is no longer a natural running shoe.  A shoe with a big fat midsole but no heel lift and all that other stuff is still a natural running shoe -- it's just a more padded one.  If you carpet a room with 1/2" of fluffy midsole material and run across it barefoot, your foot is moving naturally on that surface.  If you run on concrete in a shoe with a midsole of that same material, that does not lift your heel, "support" your arch, or constrict the spread of your toes, your foot is still moving naturally.  Midsole=OK, "feature"=not OK for the purposes of this definition.

Not like I just changed the world or anything, but that's what those words mean to me.  I like this better, because most places I see those words, they don't actually mean anything more than "I'm sorta somewhere on a continuum between less and more."  And I already knew that much.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Solid foundation

Yes, I'm a slacker when it comes to this content-generation stuff.  Has it really been 3 weeks since I posted anything? 

I need to get some notes on here about my training plan.  I've made a few comments about it already, but I have spreadsheets!  And graphs!  All manner of geeky wonderfulness.

One thing I do know:  the cornerstone of my training program is REST.  I learned this from a cycling coach a long time ago (thank you John Bravard). 
     Q: what makes you stronger?
     A: REST. 
Seriously ... I've done enough different athletic things over the years to know that no amount, kind, or specificity of training can make you stronger.  Training is just stimulus.  Apply the stimulus, and then REST.  The time, the *only* time when you are actually getting stronger, is during that rest period.  Now, of course the quality of the stimulus helps determine the value of the recovery, for sure, but one without the other is a waste of time.

Let's see, what else is going on?

I have a new pair of shoes in my rotation:  I picked up some Pearl Izumi E-Motion Trail N1s.  I've used Pearl shoes off and on for several years now ... this is the best Pearl shoe I've ever had on.  It's been a long-term trend for me that the more I run, the less shoe I like.  I was excited when Pearl first came out with the Peak XC.  The new E-Motion design tops it, though.  Sleek, close to the ground, flexible, *nearly* a zero-drop shoe. (really, why not just go to zero?  keeping a millimeter or two of drop in the midsole so you can claim not to be on a bandwagon?)  I'm very happy with the shoe so far.  I've had it out on runs up to 2 hours at this point.  The N1 definitely likes to go fast!  My only complaint is that the forefoot could be wider.  I don't have particularly wide feet, but would really like to have a little more room for the toes to spread under load.  Pearl's last has always been on the narrow side -- particularly their cycling shoes, which I'm not entirely certain are designed for human feet -- their running shoes use a different last for sure, but still skimp on the forefoot girth.


I was excited to bag a lunch run yesterday in warm sun and shirt-off temps!!  Of course it's raining now and will be snow by morning.  Welcome to springtime in Colorado.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Calibrating for ... *ahem* ... age

One thing I can definitely say I have noticed as I have started to ramp up in this training program:  things don't respond the same way they used to!  I'm 45 now, which ain't old (or at least you'll never get me to admit it), but I'm definitely *not* 25.

The biggest difference?  How long it takes for the soreness to show up.

Used to be pretty simple.  I'd go out and train long, or hard, or in a different way.  The next day I'd be sore, and I'd say "yep, this is from yesterday."

Now the time lag is more like 2 days, which has taken some getting used to.  Say I do a big mountain run on Saturday.  Sunday I still feel fine, so I think "great, my condition must be pretty good."  Monday morning it's a struggle to get down the stairs, and I'm all confused because I didn't do anything *yesterday* that should have made me sore.

But I'm getting used to it, and I'm training myself to look back more than a day in my training log when something hurts.  This helps everything make a lot more sense. 

There's also a positive spin to this, which I'm gonna keep repeating in hopes I will eventually believe it.  :)  I can now OUTRUN PAIN!!  Look at it this way... it takes 48 hours, or at least a good full 36 hours, for the soreness from a hard run to show up.  OK ... the 100-miler I'm doing has a 36-hour cutoff.  Do the math.  This means that I will finish before I get sore. 

It's magic.  I'm now old enough that I can outrun pain.  Yeah!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

UD Scott Jurek "ultra vest"

I'm not going to turn this into a gear blog.  I'm not going to turn this into a gear blog.  I'm not going to...

So one of the pieces of this 100-mile mystery I will need to solve is what I want to carry, and how I'm going to carry it.  Hydration obviously, some food, and a very minimal amount of clothing and gear to help me deal with whatever sideswipes me out there on the trail. 

I don't currently own anything that I would consider a good solution for this need.  I have some small packs, but they're pretty unpleasant to wear while running.  I have a waistpack, but don't care for the bounce I get from something that is basically attached to my pelvis.  I really don't care for drinking out of a hose.

For some time now I've been interested in carrying stuff in front ... anything I would like access to without stopping to mess with my load, like a bottle, a snack, maybe small map & compass, etc.  I was about ready to start tinkering with a solution of my own -- partly because tinkering is just what I do.  Well, guess what.  Ultimate Direction handily ticked the basic boxes I was looking for with their signature series vests/packs:  (1) a little cargo space in the back, and (2) BOTTLES (3) IN FRONT. 

Nice!  So I ran out real quick and got one.

Alas, it turned out not to be the solution for me.  I couldn't seem to get the fit/size right, it was either too loose to stop the bottles from bouncing, or it was tight enough to affect breathing.  Worse, for me, the bottles were in exactly the wrong place ... directly over my nipples.  I completed my first & last run with the pack with my bottles in my hands, and returned it to the store the next day.  Yay Boulder Running Company for their good customer service.

I'm still convinced it's the right approach; I do want to run with bottles, and I want the front-carry option, but this specific design wasn't right for me.  I don't see a lot else out there that fits that description.  The UltraSpire Riblon looks like a promising back-carry version of the same idea, maybe I'll give one of those a try.

And I will definitely continue with some tinkering of my own!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Perspective -- yeah, that's important

I got to thinking today... yeah, it's crazy that I'm planning on 'running' a 100-mile race.  Sort of.  I mean, it's new for me, and it will be really really (really) hard and all that, but it's possible.  People do it.

Here's what's really crazy:  that I have the luxury of doing it at all.  I have the health, the resources, the opportunity.  I can worry about training periodization, and getting enough good sleep, and whether I need one new pair of shoes or two, and make all kinds of choices with my nutrition. 

All that would be so utterly foreign to the majority of people on this planet.

I'm still going to do this thing, but really ... who cares?  Is there any actual value in me having an incredible experience that stretches me in every way, and probably crushes my prior perspectives on my personal limits? 

I hope so.  I'm going to find out.

By the grace of God, I'll continue to experience the statistically rare privileges of staying healthy, training well, spending gobs of quality time in the mountains, and truly appreciating the people around me who participate, support, question, and ask me if I'm off my rocker.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Game on, it would seem

You'd be tempted to think it's game on because I went for my first long run of the year.  (My definition of "long run" is anything over 90 minutes, for now). 

I knocked down 2 solid hours in some glorious late-winter Colorado Front Range sunshine.  Mileage?  I dunno... I've been in the habit of training by the clock for several years now, and haven't got in the habit of carrying a GPS.  Strava?  Not me; maybe someday.  Yeah, I could figure it out online.  If I needed the info, I could get dig it up.  Measuring training volume in hours works dandy for me.

I got suckered by the sunshine, though.  Didn't take long to figure out the temp was actually in the upper 40s, once I was out there in my shorts and an old BolderBoulder t-shirt.  My hands got good and chilly, but it wasn't too bad.  I had the motor good and warmed up, and the rest of me felt fine.

The biggest thing for me now is to ease into the training volume.  It's sooooo tempting to dive in and overdo it.  Heck, jumping from a training base of several lunch-hour runs to a solid 2-hour go isn't exactly a by-the-book rampup.  I'll be listening carefully to the knees and ankles as I go along, and certainly won't be stretching my long run beyond the 2 hour mark for another couple of weeks at least.

My intent is that my workweek running won't be all that distinguishable from a typical 10k plan volume-wise, and on the slow side.  The real key will be the weekend 'runs' which will progress into epic territory by summertime.  Planning on lots of trail miles, with an emphasis on interesting projects like multi-summit linkups and such, and really not stressing over the actual running.  Just looking for lots of hours on foot, at altitude, gaining and dropping big elevation.  I'll be working in occasionally 'mountain duathlons' as well (approach by bike), so that I can get a half-day's load on heart, lungs, and gut, without a half-day's abuse on my joints.

But all that's just ruminating about what I think I'll be doing as summer approaches.  Here's the real story:  this is why it's really game on... 

I'm all-in now because I just ordered some SpeedGoatKarl's 100 Mile Blend!!!