Monday, June 07, 2010
My training plan was simple enough: log as many miles as possible on the road to base build right up to the half marathon in April. Then after the half marathon, continue logging weekly miles while adding long trail runs on the weekend. For my trail runs I chose Mt. Falcon, a trail which I felt closely resembled the altitude and terrain of the race course, and Deer Creek Canyon, one with slightly less severe climbing but longer mileage and total altitude gain. These runs, coupled with their back-to-back road runs and cycling counterparts, made up the backbone of my endurance training.
By the beginning of the two week taper I had experienced everything I felt I needed: lung-burning ascents, quad-busting descents, runs that I never wanted to end, and runs that could not end soon enough. The only thing that remained was the x-factor, the unknown of running past the brink of what you feel are your physical capabilities and returning from "the dead" to carry on.
I arrived the morning of the race with a single goal in mind, to finish the whole distance still feeling like I was having fun. The first climb felt impossibly easy, we were moving quickly but I didn't feel out of breath at all. After a fast descent into the first aid station we climbed again, slow and steady to the high point of the course, panorama point, at just over 9500 feet. I still felt good and was able to make ground up on other racers on the downhills, but I tried to save myself for the two brutal climbs that I knew lay ahead. I had been ignoring my watch and mile markers to this point, but after the first of these two climbs I caught sight of the 13 mile mark and doubt entered my mind, I wasn't even halfway done yet! I finished the second of the two technical sections and arrived at the third aid station feeling fairly strong. That was all about to change.
The day was beginning to heat up, with temperatures heading into the upper 70s and the high-altitude sun beating down. Between the first two aid stations I had finished one 20-ounce bottle, but between aid station 2 and 3 I had downed both of them. I went through my drop bag, reapplied sunscreen and replenished my chews, and grabbed a handful of trailmix before starting the climb back up to Fraser meadows. One mile into the climb I was hurting pretty badly, my stomach was in knots and I was feeling very queasy. I was forced to walk almost all of the 5 miles to the next aid station, thankfully there were few downhills through this section as I had problems moving at all but the slowest of speeds. Despite this I forced myself to keep drinking fluids which I'm sure kept me in the game.
I finally reached the last aid station, and the thought of only 8 miles to go plus a gel that I managed to keep down had my spirits rebounding. I had made it through my low point and though it was still tough to keep going I knew I was going to finish. The long climb up Windy Peak was all that stood in my way. The journey through where I had just been mentally was somewhat humorously personified by the string of runners winding their way up the switchbacks on the side of the mountain; our own little death march. By the time we reached the top I was physically hurting, but my mind was back in it and I was able to joke with the other runners and volunteers again. Each step of the descent hurt, but I could see the finish line tucked away in the valley and it kept me going. Glancing at my watch for one of the few times of the day I now saw that I was close to 7 hours, so I made it my goal to finish with a 6 in front. With that final adrenaline kick I ran across the finish line in 6:55, both the longest mileage and longest time I have ever run before!
Despite the tough times I really enjoyed this race. Golden Gate Canyon State Park has some of the most beautiful trails I have seen and it was a pleasure to take a seven hour tour of its gems. All in all the 31 mile course boasts not a single scrap of pavement, and almost all of it is singletrack. I cannot think of a better place to experience my trip to the brink and back again.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Who can blame you? Exercise is shoved down our throats from every angle. "Get your best bikini body with this simple workout!" "Sign up for our gym and our personal trainers will help you achieve your fitness goals!" "Abs of steel in only 5 minutes a day!" It all boils down to the same marketing angle: exercise sucks and spending money on this product will help it suck a little less. Exercise does suck! If you are going to a gym and staring at a wall of mirrors, lifting more weight than you have any right to be, or running in place for what seems like an eternity, you are not going to be having fun.
Thankfully, there is an alternative to the "e-word" and it's an "f-word": fun. Being active is doing something you want to do, for the reasons you choose. Running because you love the feeling of wind in your hair. Riding a bike because it helps you rediscover the feeling of freedom you lost when you became an adult. Hiking because you love how the world looks small from high on a mountain. Eating healthy food because it just tastes good. Do you sometimes have to go to a gym so that you can enjoy these activities more? Sure, but now you are working toward a dream rather than a "I need to lose x pounds by memorial day" goal.
When you find an activity that you love, everything else comes into focus. An active lifestyle develops around this simple discovery, and suddenly all the marketing efforts of the exercise industry become what they truly are: noise. Oswald Chambers said "if we do only what we feel inclined to do, some of us would do nothing forever and ever" and this is as true for our physical lives as it is for the spiritual walk he was referring to. Being active does take a conscious decision to do something every day, but don't do it because you feel obligated to or because you want to fit into a smaller pair of pants, do it because it's fun!
Saturday, March 27, 2010
The race was the 2006 San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. It was my first marathon after I had started running occasionally 2 years prior. My best race to date was a 40:30 5-mile race, and my plan was to run 4 hours at the marathon.
Training had been rocky at best. I followed a 16 week beginner training plan and slowly built my long runs up to the 20 mile mark. The plan involved hill work, but not much else and the weekly mileage tapped out at 35 miles. I remember the long runs being brutal! As it was only a 16 week program, the long runs were merciless in their advancement, after ramping up to 10 miles they increased every week by 2 miles to hit 20 four weeks before the race. Every run over 12 was longer than I had ever run before. Each week was worse than the last, but foolishly I convinced myself that the race would be better as I would have more energy after tapering.
The day before race day arrived and we spent most of the day walking around San Diego, it was 85 degrees and I remember being hot, tired and dehydrated by 4 o'clock. Having trained in Colorado springtime I had no hot weather experience and I was dreading the heat. I didn't even have a decent hat, just a baseball cap that I had used for training, so I bought a tech hat at the race expo. Pre-race nutrition was a disaster as we waited outside Buca di Beppo for hours for a table that never materialized. Apparently it was also grad night for many schools and after limo after limo pulled in we decided to hit TGI Fridays. By that time anything would have tasted good.
The early morning alarm arrived, I went through race preparations and got to the starting line alone as Melissa and Elijah slept. We had neglected to get a crib for the hotel room and Elijah, then 15 months old, had fallen out of the bed in the middle of the night making for a restless night for all of us. I had hoped to hit the port-a-potties before the race started, but so had 20,000 other overhydrated racers so I just made for the corrals. The strains of U2's "Beautiful Day" saw us on our way, I was about to run farther than I had ever run before!
As I have come to understand about the marathon, it all seems impossibly easy in the first miles. I eventually found a port-a-potty at mile 5 that had a fairly short line so I took advantage of it, and then picked up the pace to catch the 4 hour pace group. The morning was overcast, thankfully, and the temperatures stayed modest, but still felt hot with the high humidity. By the time I saw my family and friends cheering at mile 13 I was starting to hurt, and this would be the last time I was to see them before the finish. Ironically, Elijah was crying in his stroller and I felt like I wanted to cry as well but I pressed on.
Each mile became progressively more difficult and I found myself having to take more and more walk breaks. I struggled to make it to mile 17 where a gel station awaited, but I was finding more and more that there were just not enough sports drink stations. Water was not satisfying my thirst and I ended up dumping most of it on my head to keep cool. Mile 20 arrived and I was into unknown territory, I kept welling up emotionally thinking of Melissa and Elijah waiting for me at the finish. The thought of them waiting hours for me to arrive on a sag wagon was the only thing keeping me going, I knew I had to push through as they would be worried about me. Eventually I settled into a pattern of walking for a few minutes at every water stop, but I still found it in me to start running again each time. The Marine Corps recruitment depot arrived and I knew I was going to finish, I was so happy to see Elijah and Melissa cheering I couldn't help tearing up. I was done, and I had finished the biggest physical goal I had ever laid out for myself.
Four hours and forty-four minutes. Even today I have not run again for as much time as that day (that will change this year). In the three years following that race I took nearly an hour and a half off of that marathon time. The picture above summarizes well the pain and pride that I felt during that race, which is why I like it so much. The marathon is a goal that is achievable by anyone, and yet not everyone will strive to achieve it. It is less a test of what you can do on one day than it is a test of what you can do over months of training. It allows one a rare glimpse inside your own character, how will you persevere when things get difficult?
Sunday, March 21, 2010
The other day I was at the Boulder Running Company at the Denver Tech Center. Recently I have been participating in their group runs on Saturday mornings, which have been a great way for me to meet new runners and have a little company for weekly long runs. Two of the guys who work at the store, Mike Aish and Scott Schrader, have offered great training tips and workouts as well as inspiring me to work harder. While I was there I was looking at a picture on the wall of Mike winning the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon. I made the comment that I would likely never get to experience "breaking the tape", and Scott responded with "Well, with that attitude you certainly won't!"
That remark really sunk in over the next few days. It got me thinking "What if..." A few years ago I would have never thought I would be racing the times I'm running now, what if a couple of years from now I am not only competitive in my age group, but competitive for the podium! Is there a limit to the goals I can achieve with consistent and directed effort over the next few years? What if the only thing holding me back is my bad attitude about what I think my body can accomplish!
I dwell too much on the opportunities I've missed along the way. The fact that I never realized my enjoyment of running in high school, that I never really had any physical activities through college, that I never had a coach encouraging me to do more, that I'm too old now to be competitive. I can focus on the positives: that I never got burned out on running, that I have never been seriously injured, that in developing my own training plans I can tailor them to my own strengths and weaknesses, and that at 33 years old I have a good 7 years before I even start to experience the effects of aging on my running. I can dare to dream the big dreams, and maybe soon it will be me in that picture breaking the tape!
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Really I have known about this problem for a while. At first I thought I could deal with it by cutting down on coffee, then by exercising more. But no matter what I seemed to do, the readings only seemed to go up. Then I passed it off as "white-coat syndrome", I get pretty worked up when doctors measure my blood pressure, it's like a test I can't pass! Finally, this year when the readings started hitting 150/100 my doctor decided to pull the trigger on medication.
So here I am, 33 years old and having to come to grips with the fact that I will be on lifelong medication. Fortunately, there are a lot of types of medications to choose from, each with differing success for each patient. Not all of the treatments have adverse affects for athletes either. My current morning cocktail consists of Lisinopril, an angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, Hydrochloro thiazide, a diuretic, and Amlodipine, a calcium channel blocker.
The first two of these seemed to make no difference at all in my blood pressure readings, so I hope I can eventually get off of these altogether. I am especially concerned about the diuretic, as there is potential for dehydration and kidney failure in endurance athletes. So far I have not noticed a big difference, but I am most concerned about running in the summer when I know I struggle to stay hydrated. One of the other side effects is sensitivity to the sun, which I have also noticed. Lately I have developed quite a sunglass-tan and I have started applying sunscreen. Usually I don't start using much sunscreen until May when the sun is higher in the sky, so this seems to be a result of the medication. The Amlodipine has had the biggest effect so far with the fewest side effects. There is potential for swelling in the ankles with this medication, but I seem to have dodged that bullet.
I also purchased a blood pressure cuff and take readings in the morning and evening. I am recording these readings using the HeartWise iPhone app (iTunes Link), which is giving me a wealth of statistics about trends and stats. My pressure now has fallen to the 130/60 range and seems to be holding steady. One unexpected added bonus of the measurements is a daily reading of my resting heart rate. It has been interesting to me to see the changes in my morning heart rate depending on my training. I have noticed that on days after my hard workouts the rate is generally elevated which I am taking as an indication of my recovery.
I have come to terms with my treatment, and realize that by addressing the problem now I can avoid potential health issues later in life. Overall this is also my reasoning behind running and staying healthy, so there is really no difference between this and a lifetime of physical fitness. What activity and diet have failed to do, modern medicine can hopefully achieve.
Friday, February 19, 2010
The key is to start introducing doubles to my training schedule, slowly building up the number of days per week that I workout twice. In the past I have attempted to do this, but often met with injury or overtraining soon after. This year I am taking a more conservative approach, which seems to be working better. So far, all of my doubles have been on my tempo or interval days, meaning that the total mileage for the day is not much more than my usual one run days. For example, I usually run 9 miles once per day, but only run 11 miles for the two runs combined. By running the double on the hard days I'm also more cognizant of making the easy days easy.
I think if I stay grounded in this approach I will be able to continue to increase the combined length of the doubles and get my mileage where I want it to be, hopefully without injury. This will also help prepare my body for the bike commute that will again become part of my routine in the spring. Last year I found riding twice a day, plus running was a bit much for a daily schedule.
This all fits into what I consider to be my training experiment. There are no controls, no statistics, just one test subject and an infinite number of variables. I enjoy both the fruits of my labors when training decisions turn out well, and the return to the blackboard when things fall apart. The more I learn about how my body reacts to training, the better I will be able to react and adjust when it inevitably begins to change.
Friday, January 29, 2010
In fact the design of this shoe is probably the most noticeable right out of the box. The yellows and reds that color the upper and sole are bright and in-your-face and the asymmetric lacing offers a unique look. One of the most striking features of the shoes, however, is the difference between the left and right shoes. Yes, the left and right shoes are complete opposites of each other with the red and yellow palates swapped right down to the sole! The result is a shoe that really makes a statement, and that statement is "I'm here to run fast!"
The feel of these shoes is something else entirely. The tongue is integrated into the upper of the shoe, with the lacing traveling down the side of the foot, just off of center. There is also minimal stitching and few overlays resulting in a very comfortable feel to the upper. The soft fabric conforms to the foot remarkably well and I could easily see myself wearing these shoes sockless. The midsole of the shoe is fairly substantial but the cushioning seems a little stiffer than the Launch. One noticeable difference is how flat the sole is, with almost no discernible heel. The insole as well seems to be designed with this in mind as it feels like there is less contouring than the insoles provided in other shoes.
Performance wise these shoes feel like an extension of my foot. The transition from heel to toe is very smooth and the cushioning substantial enough that I do not feel like my stride is hindered even at top speed. These were made with a more midfoot-forefoot strike in mind, but I believe they are substantial enough that a heel strike would not cause many problems. I also think that these would stand up to races as long as the half-marathon, but a marathon may be pushing it for most runners.
All around the Green Silence is a great racing shoe and speed trainer. The comfort of the upper alone makes it worth the hype in my eyes, it really does have a good overall feel. I am looking forward to turning some heads when I break these out for races!
Disclaimer: I shelled out of my own pocket for these shoes, but I was able to get a discount through my membership in the Brooks ID program.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
But as I accepted my failure in the intended workout an idea crept into my mind. Instead of turning around at the halfway point I decided I would run a couple of miles farther at an easy pace to give myself time to recover, then dial it back up to tempo pace for the remainder of my planned tempo distance.
The result of this scheme was a negative split for the second half of the tempo "interval," and just like that, a workout that I thought was trashed ended up in the win column. I am not going to claim that this workout had all of the benefits of a full 5.5 mile tempo run, but it was a far cry better than limping back at a pace far too slow for tempo but too fast for recovery.
In the end I think this demonstrated to me the importance of flexibility in training. Not every day will be a good day and it's important to take what you can on those days. Listening to your body and adapting to its needs will always be better than trying to grind through a workout and ending up ineffective, or worse injured.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
But I did get a chance to give you a sweet new look! And I updated your goal races for 2010, doesn't that count for something? Plus, I have a lot of plans for blog posts coming up with reviews and comments on some of my favorite running things! And if I manage to win one of those boxes of LARABAR that Megan Killian is giving away I promise I'll share with you.
Why do you have to bring up Twitter? Yes I spend a lot of time there, but sometimes 140 characters just isn't enough. What do you mean Dailymile sees me a lot too? I didn't even know you knew about that.
Well it's obvious we have some communication issues to work through, but we owe it to our readers to keep going! We can make this work!