Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Saturday, September 24, 2011
We just returned from Independence, Kansas for my second run of the FlatRock 50K. That's 31 miles for my non-running friends. I ran the race for the first time in 2007. I had only been running again for a short time and the last race I had run was a failed attempt at a 50 miler. So in 2007, finishing a race to restore my ego was my main goal and I set out with a conservative, I'm just going to make it to the end, pace. It took me over 8 hours! Partly my fault, because my training just wasn't sufficient, but partly, and I like to think mainly, because the course is incredibly tough. I chose the race the first time because it was only 3 hours from Springfield. This time, I was going to run the race to quiet the inner voice that was telling me I could do it better. The stated goal was 6 hours.
With about 7 miles to go, I was starting to cramp in my calves. You know that feeling when a muscle tightens into a ball, like a charlie horse that comes on suddenly and immobilizes you. Both calves were feeling on the edge of a full blown lock up. I was able to keep shuffling at a decent pace but when the trail would climb I was having to slow and some times use my hands to climb up the steeper sections.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Above is the course profile for the FlatRock 50k race this weekend. 31 miles of rugged and rocky trail. I stated my goal at the beginning of this year of finishing in less than 6 hours. That’s only 5 mph or 12 minute miles. It seems easy enough to say out loud but for some reason, with the run 4 days away, looking at this profile, and remembering when I was there in 2007 how it took me 8 hours, I’m suddenly feeling a little anxious.
Without using the blog to keep me up to date, I kept a pretty crummy training log over the summer. It was basically a post-it-note stuck to my work computer, that I somehow lost a couple weeks ago, with weekly totals written on it. The weeks that say 45-48 are the weeks I’m not really sure about. I know I did at least that many miles because I never went below that each week, but I know several weeks were actually higher. It doesn’t really matter.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
So, this turned out to be an extremely long post. Long story short, I ran the Ozark Greenways Adventure Race again this past weekend. I got to spend the weekend with a person I really enjoy being around and I had great adventure. It was an awesome day and I wanted to capture more of the details if possible.
We arrived in the town of Pineville, Missouri on Friday afternoon around 4:00 pm. The next morning Collin and I would be competing for the second time in the Ozark Greenways Adventure Race. We knew we would be running, orienteering with a map and compass, biking and floating. What we didn’t know was the order, or the distance, of any of those activities. The website said approximately 8 to 14 hours. Last year it took Collin and I just over 11 hours to complete the course. This year we were on a mission and intended to substantially improve on that time. The only logistical details we knew thus far were that the bikes had to be dropped off at the location we were pulling into, and we knew we would be getting on a bus to the starting line, wherever that might be, tomorrow morning at 6:00 am.
The rain had been coming down the entire two hour drive to Pineville. The falling rain posed several different concerns. Would it stop long enough to set up our campsite? Would it rain so much that the river would be flooded and they would cancel the floating portion of the race, again? Would the course be ankle deep in mud making every portion of it that much more challenging? Not that any of these things would change our mind about participating in the race, but the unknowns have a way of occupying your thoughts. As we were pulling into town, the rain was letting up and there were traces of the sun poking through the clouds. The rain was not done for the night but it did give us an hour or so of relief. It was just long enough to get the bikes dropped off, get to the race headquarters and set up our tent for the night. As soon as we had the campsite arranged, the rain started to fall again.
Race Headquarters was at the River Ranch Resort on the Elk River in Noel, Missouri. It was the largest river outfitter I have ever been to. They had campsites, cabins, showers, and even a 24 hour store. They had a cabin like building with a huge meeting area which served as the headquarters. We signed in there and received rules, bib numbers and instructions for the next day. It was entertaining watching the volunteers face when she asked for our team name. "We're Two Hot Chicks," I said. She then tried to look past us to find the hot chicks we were referring to. She must have assumed we were a team of four that might actually have hot chicks on it and not be just the two dudes standing in front of her. The team name would be the source of several comments from different volunteers through the next day. Like many long races, they provided a huge pasta dinner the night before the race and Collin and I both were looking forward to filling up. Most advice warns never to stuff yourself at these final meals but I can rarely resist. After hanging out at the dinner and talking with several friends, as well as meeting new ones, we decided to head back to our campsite and try to settle in for a few hours sleep before having to show up at 5:00 am to pick up our maps and final instructions before the race. The rain was still falling heavily.
We set up a tarp over some chairs and watched as a steady stream of other racers were showing up. We speculated about the different things we might face in the morning. The temperature never got below 60 but I still had a chill from all the damp clothes and a cool breeze. I desperately wanted to make a hot cup of coffee to help me warm up but knew if I had the caffeine, I wouldn’t get any sleep. Anticipation alone makes it difficult enough to sleep before a race. We finally crawled into the tent at around 9 pm and tried to get some rest. The warmth of the sleeping bag and the rain steadily falling on the fly of the tent was enough to put me out quickly.
My eyes popped open at 1:00 am and I realized the rain had finally stopped. I wouldn’t really sleep much from this point until 3:00 am when I finally just gave up trying and crawled out of the tent. We had noticed the night before that there were showers near the campsites that were supposed to be hot. They were 50¢ for 5 minutes. Next to coffee, a hot shower is one of my favorite ways to loosen up muscles and get my body moving in the morning. After an evening of shivering in the rain, I was truly looking forward to a long hot shower to lift my mood for the day. I had gotten $2.00 in quarters from the 24 hour store so that I could have 20 glorious minutes of warmth and relaxation before dressing for the race. Unfortunately, even after dumping in half my quarters and waiting a full 10 minutes, the water never got above what I would describe as ice cold. I wet my head and face and resigned myself to the fact that it wasn't going to happen. I settled for several cups of coffee and started putting my gear together for the race. (I learned after the race there were actually other showers on the grounds that were not only hot, but free!)
At 5:00 am we could finally pick up our clue sheets and maps and see what the day truly held in store for us. The maps we were given had various numbered checkpoints. The clue sheets described how we were supposed to travel and what order we were supposed to find the checkpoints in. We had until 5:45 am to look over the map and formulate our plans before having to attend a course safety briefing. At the briefing we were informed that the rain had flooded a few of the low water crossings and a couple of the checkpoints had to be removed. The good news was that the floating portion of the race was still a go. The last couple of years the race had removed the float portion due to rivers being at flood stage.
At 6:00 am all of the racers loaded onto 4 school buses that would deliver us to the starting line. The ride was filled with light hearted banter and jokes about the Harold Camping rapture prophecy that was supposed to happen at some point in the middle of the race. It seemed to be the consensus of everyone on my bus that it wouldn’t happen. We were right. The new date he has predicted is now October 21, 2011, in case you're interested. After about a 45 minute bus trip we unloaded at the starting point and stood around waiting for the final signal to start the race.
It was at about 7:10 when we finally got the word, "go." The mass of 53 teams began running down the road. It would all start with several miles of running down gravel farm roads. This year Collin and I had intended to run the race much more aggressively than we had last year. We were both feeling more fit and with just the two of us, we knew we could cover ground much quicker. This would be a new experience for me. Since getting back in shape, I have always approached races with a more conservative, just make it to the finish line approach. Now that I have tried several distances, I know I have the capability to push harder. However, it's still a scary feeling to go out hard and give it your all early on in the morning knowing that you are going to have to be moving all day. What if I can’t last? What if I bonked halfway through the race and then faced a death march to the finish? We ran for a couple minutes slowly to warm up and then we started gradually picking up the pace. We began to pass a steady stream of teams that had taken off quicker. As we moved closer towards the front of the pack it was really making me nervous. I kept thinking, “I shouldn’t be up here with these guys.”
Collin kept reassuring me about the pace but he is a much faster runner than I am. I appreciated his faith in my ability, but secretly wondered if I would be able to maintain this pace for the entire day. We ran until we reached Big Sugar Creek State Park. The first 6 of the checkpoints we had to find were located in these woods. We had already decided the order we would attack the points when we first got our map so now it was just a matter of keeping a strong pace and finding them. In no time at all, we had located all the points and were heading to the final checkpoint of the run portion. We finished with this section in 7th place overall and were still feeling really good. The final run checkpoint was the location we had been instructed to leave our bikes the night before.
We rode the bikes from the State Park to the Huckleberry Ridge Conservation Area. Getting there involved a stream crossing, carrying our bikes on our shoulders, that was almost chest deep. For the first part of this section we were still flying along at a good pace. However, as the sun began to heat the day up, we began to experience our first problems. The first issue we faced was there were far more trails in the area than were depicted on the map. This caused a significant amount of confusion in finding the last couple of checkpoints. I guess the fortunate part was that we were not the only team having trouble. At one point I think we had 15 or 20 bikes all following each other around in a big procession looking for a single checkpoint. The lead we had built over some of the other teams had unfortunately now disappeared. After we had all found the hidden checkpoint together, the band of teams began racing to the next checkpoint in one giant pack. Fortunately for our team, Collin recognized a trail that we had been on previously and we separated from the huge group. His keen observation got us to the next checkpoint far ahead of the rest of that large chunk traveling together and gained us several minutes on the next closest group. Despite all of our turning around and backtracking in this section, and losing what seemed like 2 hours of wasted time, we finished this portion of the race still in 8th place overall. We had only given up one place since the run portion.
I made some personal mistakes in the mountain bike portion as well. I had let myself get behind on hydration and calories. When I run, I can meticulously watch the amount of fluid, calories and electrolytes I take in. Every hour of activity, I shoot for 20 ounces of fluid, 200 calories and about 240 mg of sodium. For some reason, once I get on the mountain bike and start riding the trails, I always seem to fall behind. I focus on handling the bike on the trail and just forget to drink. Whenever we would stop moving, instead of drinking, I would get busy reading the map. Whatever the reason, I was behind and I could definitely feel it. Cramping was starting in my legs and I was also getting nauseous. These are two huge red flags that you aren’t getting enough nutrition wise. While I didn't notice it at the time, but in hindsight it is clear, I was also having quite a bit of trouble with coordination. This is another red flag by the way. I was having a really hard time clipping in and out of my pedals and that is something I normally can do without any thought. I remember stumbling more often as well. I was beginning to have trouble riding up the steeper hills. Collin was taunting me by calling out, “C’mon, Sally!” It worked well as each time he said it, I would rev up the pace for a few minutes. I tried to catch up for the rest of the race, but once you are behind on calories and hydration, there is really no coming back to normal. It’s far better for your body, not to mention more comfortable, to keep up from the beginning.
The next section of the race was a road biking portion. I led the way and Collin tucked in behind me and drafted most of this portion of the course. I didn't have any major issues during this segment with the exception of the saddle bag. It hangs under my seat with my spare tube and tools. I was too wide and was chaffing my inner thighs raw. That saddle bag is going in the trash! I was able to get a lot of fluids down as we rode by leaving the camelback drinking tube in my mouth and slowly sipping the entire ride. I was beginning to feel more balanced and energized again. We rode from the Conservation Area down the highway and through the town of Pineville almost all the way to the City of Noel where we found the next checkpoint on the side of the river. I’m guessing it was an 8 or 9 mile ride. Nobody passed us during this stretch. We arrived at the edge of the water still in 8th place overall. We were to drop our bikes here and get into canoes for the final portion of the race.
Now we just had an 8 mile float to the finish line. This is one area that we could definitely use some work as a team. Collin has not spent much time in a canoe at all and though I have, I didn’t feel particularly strong or efficient in this section. There is a large difference between lazily floating a river in the summertime and paddling as hard as you can for over an hour and a half in a race. Though, we didn’t do too terribly in comparison to other teams on the float portion and were able to complete the 8 mile trip in less than 1 hour and 38 minutes. The most frustrating part was watching 3 teams pass us on the river dropping us down to 11th place. We did learn after the race that one of the teams that flew past us was named, "Longboat Outfitters." If there was one team I wouldn't mind being passed by on the river, this would be the one.
Once we had pulled the boat off the river, it was only a few more steps of running to the finish line. My leg muscles were weak and stiff after sitting still in the boat for so long after running and riding all morning. We crossed the finish line in 7:18 to take 11th place overall. We didn't learn until later that we were the 3rd place 2 man team. For this we each won a gift certificate. In the past, I normally fall towards the back of the pack, so it was a great feeling to actually win a prize! All in all, it was an outstanding day. My speculation of overall distance would be about 10 miles on foot, 20 miles on the bike and 8 miles in the canoe. Rain and storms had been predicted for the day but we were blessed with warm and sunny skies for the entire race.
There were definitely things to improve on for next year. We could always be much faster. While I'm very proud of our time, I can't help but compare it to the winning teams amazing time of 4:28. Almost 3 full hours faster! I have quite a bit of experience navigating with a map and compass from the military but, obviously, my skills are rusty and could use some sharpening. I think we could also benefit from a couple float trips before the next one to sync up and economize our paddling efforts. I have to wonder how much better we could have done had we not had the issues finding that one point. Of course that is all part of it. Doing well in half the events means nothing if you falter in the other half. This year I will spend some time researching navigation tricks. I understand the race location got nearly 8 inches of rain the day after the race. That certainly would have made the race fun!
Week of May 16 – Bike 84, Run 20, D 8, U 4
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
I am a terrible record keeper. I don’t save receipts or balance my checkbook. In the 12 years I was a skydiver I only kept a logbook for the first few years and even then it was the minimum amount of information. In the later years I would determine how many jumps I made each year by the printouts they would give me for taxes. I had several friends who kept very detailed descriptions of every jump. Weather conditions, who was with them, what type of plane. It would be a cool way to be able to go back and relive some of the moments by reading. Alas, all of the jumps I made are now only kept in my fading memories.
I was the same way in the military. Of the places I traveled, I have a very small stack of pictures. I am much better about pictures now, mainly because it is so much easier with digital media to save and go through them. I need to get all my old Marine pictures scanned so I can not only share them, but keep them more safely online. I have always known that there was value in saving memories by writing them down but until the past year with the blog, I hadn’t been able to get into a habit of it.
That brings me to the point of this week’s entry, annual mileage. Like skydiving, many runners keep very detailed logs of every step they run. It should be no surprise that in the past I was not one of those runners. I didn’t track any of my running or riding until I started the blog back in February of 2010. I can now, for the first time, accurately look back over the year and see how much running and riding I actually accomplished. I'm still, for now, only tracking overall mileage. One day I might get ambitious and track other details like weather and exact time. I am using May 5 as an anniversary date because it was the end of my bike to work everyday for a year challenge. I didn’t even really log mileage during that entire period but I knew exactly how many days I had worked so it was easy enough to calculate riding mileage.
On the bike I put in a little less than the previous year for a total of 2,957 miles. Just 29 miles shy of the distance across the U.S depicted in the map above. That route is 2,986. That makes two years in a row that I have ridden the width of the Country. In the previous year I rode closer to 3,900 miles. It was significantly shorter this year from all the days I ran to work preparing for Busiek. As much as I hate to admit it, I did actually drive a few days this year as well in the week prior to and the week after the 100 miler.
On foot I ran a total of 1,614 miles. Not quite across the Country with this one, at least not east to west. This mileage would get me from the northern edge of Minnesota to the southern tip of Texas, though. This is one of the neatest things about keeping track of the numbers. It’s kind of cool to think about the fact that last year I ran the equivalent of Canada to Mexico and also rode the distance of California to Virginia.
This year I’m also tracking a new exercise that I have added to my daily routine. The first week of March, I started using the stairs at work. I work on the 20th floor and there are 400 steps to the ground floor. I have worked myself up to going down twice a day and up once. I can descend them in less than 2 minutes and climb them in a little over 3 minutes. My current record for down and back up is 5:04. In just the last 9 weeks I have descended 84 times or 1,680 floors and 33,600 steps. I have climbed 40 times or 800 floors and 16,000 steps.
Upon first reflection, this may seem like an absurd amount of activity. Most are thinking, “I’m way too busy to do all that but good for you.” I hear this excuse all the time, “I’d like to be in shape but I just don’t have the time.” But here’s the thing, riding to work takes a few minutes more than driving. Taking the stairs a few times through the day is done while I’m at work and literally takes minutes. I have a simple exercise philosophy; find things that you can integrate into your daily life and make them a habit. I can’t bring myself to pay for a gym membership when there are plenty of free physical challenges right next to us everyday. Few people enjoy the inside of gyms anyway. Besides running, riding and stairs, I also have a couple times per day that I throw in crunches, pushups, squats and calf exercises. Don’t wait until tomorrow when you finally have that (insert whatever it is that is stopping you here) figured out. You don’t need anything to start getting in shape. Do something today!
Week of March 9 – Bike 78, Run 35, D 8, U 4
Monday, May 9, 2011
Confronting a driver is really not a smart thing to do. It is rarely a good interaction. I have done it several times with mixed results. On the extreme end of what could go wrong, I could end up being shot in the face by some raging lunatic willing to escalate the situation more than I am. Most often, my adversaries probably leave the situations thinking I’m not only an idiot for being on the road riding in the first place but now they also think I’m just a big argumentative jerk. They may even attribute my abrasiveness to every other bike they encounter from now on and that would be a loss for cycling advocacy. I really do try, and for the most part I am successful, to maintain a passive outlook on other vehicles. I try to see them as big mobile obstacles in my path. Some are aggressive and some are docile. I try to act like it makes no difference to me what they do or say as long as I make it home to my family alive. But other times, cars will do something so aggressive and idiotic that I just can’t contain myself and I have to chase them down and say something. This is what happened last Thursday.
I was riding past the high school near our house which is always a great place to find a bad driver. I was pedaling slightly uphill, but still traveling fast, about to pass the entrance to the front of the high school when a van began to pass me. I watched him approach from behind in my handlebar mirror. He left a nice wide space between us, most people do and I greatly appreciate it. I stay alert whenever cars are anywhere near me. They have a tendency to make erratic moves and if you aren’t ready you may get caught in the crossfire. The trouble started as his rear bumper began to pass when he suddenly turns hard to the right across my path while simultaneously slamming on his brakes to keep his van from flipping over trying to make a hard turn at 30 mph. I slam on my brakes and turn with him into the driveway to keep myself from slamming into the side of his van. I did what I often do when running or riding and a car cuts close enough to me to reach out and touch it, I spit on his window and yelled, “What the hell?” Spitting on cars is not a great habit. I know this . . . but . . .well . . . okay there are no excuses for such childish behavior but he did almost kill me. If it makes it any better I rarely actually hit the cars with my spit.
He continued on into the circle drive to the front of the high school while I took a deep breath and turned back out on the road. And that’s when I was hit by the ignorant but oh so compelling voices of testosterone, the voice that whispers into a man’s ear at such times. “Are you going to let him get away with that? You know he did that on purpose just to make you mad!” I was hearing this conversation as I was just about to ride past the exit side of the circle drive where the van was now parked at the curb waiting to pick someone up. In a blurry haze from the adrenaline still coursing through me from the close call, I turned into the exit side of the driveway and rode towards the van. He needed to know I’m not the kind of guy who will just sit back and let him try to kill me.
As I rode toward the van I had my first chance to size up the driver. By this I mean apply all the general stereotypes that came to mind. The van was an old beat up mini-van with a logo advertising an auto mechanic. Great, this kind of guy probably thinks bikes on the road should be illegal and anyone riding one is gay. As I get closer, I could see he was a strongly built male which instantly put me more on guard than if it were say, an overweight older lady. He was going to be trouble for sure and he might even be tough enough to make it challenging. I almost had second thoughts and considered just riding past, settling for the evil eye encounter instead of a full ear full version. I pulled to a stop just in front of his door so he couldn’t hit me with it when he jumped out for the confrontation I knew was about to ensue. I think this is the first time he even noticed that I was coming for him. He looked up at me with the same look they all do when I get to their window, shocked and surprised. His first thought must have been, “How did this guy on a bike just catch me?” However, when he finally opened the door, it was me that was taken aback.
I am never quite satisfied with the words I choose in the heat of the moment. I always think of the perfect witty and clever things to say about 20 minutes later when my temper has cooled and I have replayed the situation in my head 100 times over. Unfortunately, in a confrontation like this there is no time to sit and wait for exactly the right thing to say so you have to shoot from the hip. As soon as he opened his door I led with, “Nice turn, dude! You couldn’t wait 2 more seconds?” While not my smoothest and most scathing opening, I did manage to control my breathing this time as usually I am so out of breath from trying to catch them they probably don't even understand me. This is when the part I was not expecting happened. He replies with, “I’m so sorry! I knew right after I did it that I had cut you off and I really apologize. I saw your light and everything. I should have waited. I’m really so sorry!” Way to kill the moment, man! He seemed totally sincere. He looked and sounded truly apologetic. He was admitting fault and didn’t offer excuses. Now I really didn’t know what to say or do. It instantly diffused the situation. I ended up telling him thanks for understanding my position and we parted ways with a handshake. Okay, so not all confrontations end badly. I wish they all ended by peacefully validating me like this one did.
I’m not sure why I feel the need to chase some people down to let them know how they offended me. I have never chased someone down in my car to tell them they just cut me off. I suppose it’s because you are so much more vulnerable on the bike than you are when you are encased in the steel and glass of your car that you take such slights more personally. Because of this event, I have to wonder about other times I have gotten so angry about the boneheaded move of some car. Could it be they are simply accidents and not an intentional insult to my right to the road? Even if they are, does that matter? Safe to say, me chasing them down and getting in their face is not the best way to handle it. At least it makes good blog fodder.
Week of May 2 - Bike 80, Run 35, D 10, U 5
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
An experience that is always recommended for anyone serious about running is to volunteer at an aid station for a race. When you race, the people at the aid stations are an amazing source of support. They stand and wait for the chance to give runners aid and always seem ready to offer anything they can to help you continue your journey. For some time I have been thinking about volunteering but until this past weekend, I had never made the commitment and actually done so.
I happened upon a Facebook post a couple weeks ago about the need for more volunteers at a run on the Frisco Highline Trail. They were having a 10 Mile, Marathon, 50K (31 mile), 50 Mile, and 50K Relay. I thought it would be great to help and see all the different types of runners that would show up for the different distances. I especially wanted to see the 50 mile runners later in the race to see how they were coping and handling the race.
The Frisco Highline Trail is a 36 mile path from Springfield to Bolivar and is the second-longest rail-trail in Missouri (first being the famous Katy Trail). I have run the first 8 miles of the trail on the Springfield side but have not ventured any further. While it is prettier than running down a busy street, it’s not quite as scenic as some of the other trails that are right near our house so I rarely head there for a run. They recently finished paving the first 8 miles of the trail which was a victory for cyclists but as a runner I have to say, I was a little disappointed. Before the paving, the entire trail was compacted crushed-gravel which is an excellent surface for running. Though I will say, I do fully understand and appreciate why the bikes wanted it paved. I have always harbored the desire to run the entire 36 miles of trail in one shot someday and may incorporate that into this summer at some point.
They assigned me a position at the 5 mile aid station. This was a good place to be as I would get to see everyone on the course. Regardless of the distance they were running, they would have to come past the table I was helping at. When I showed up race morning to pick up the supplies for the aid station there were nearly 300 runners preparing themselves for their various distances. While this is not a large crowd compared to some of the big city marathons, like Boston with over 25,000 runners, 300 is more than I see at any of the runs I like to do. While I think I am a fairly social person, I just don’t like running with crowds of people at all. Come to think of it, I don’t really care for crowds in any situation.
I loaded up the supplies for my station and drove the 5 miles further down the trail to set up a table with cups of water and Powerade. It would be at least 30 minutes before even the fastest of runners made it to our table. The slowest runners would be almost a full hour after the leading group. Once they started coming by we had a steady stream of people coming through and grabbing cups. Some grabbed water and dumped it over their head. Some would grab two and quickly slam them both before tossing their empty cups along the side of the trail. A few had their own bottles and asked us to refill them.
The first groups flew by at a faster pace than I could run a single mile and yet they somehow managed to snatch up cups and drink while hardly spilling a drop. It was amazing! I felt bad for one the first fast guys through who reached for a cup but hadn’t aimed quite right. Instead of grabbing anything he managed to knock several over! Without breaking pace he continued flying down the trail. It would be another 3 miles before he got a drink. I can only imagine after practically sprinting the past 5 miles and being that close to almost having a drink that his mouth was feeling pretty dry.
The difference in pace ranged from that first groups’ extreme speed to one of the final runners to pass who actually stopped at the table to talk for several minutes while he downed 4 or 5 cups and carried a couple more off down the trail with him. He was walking and sweating profusely and more out of breath than I get after 20 flights of stairs. But in the end he was out of bed early on a Saturday morning and on the course. He was out there and busy tackling a significant physical challenge which is more than the vast majority of people are willing to do these days.
I was surprised by all the people in tights and long sleeves. Some even had windbreakers or hats on! With a starting temperature of 60, and a forecast of climbing temps, I would have started shirtless and still been pouring sweat. I saw two people with Five Fingers on and just about every other type of shoe out there. I saw 10 milers with fanny packs and bottles of water and 50 milers with nothing but their shorts and tank tops. There was one group of women with matching shirts having a party on the move as they traveled the course together.
Races attract such a wide variety of people. I enjoyed getting to see all the different approaches to the sport. No matter which category of runner you fall into, fast or slow, to show up at a 10 mile or longer race, you have obviously spent a large amount of time preparing yourself. To toe that line you must have a passion for running and this was evident on many of the faces as they sped by. I really enjoyed the experience and need to volunteer again. One of these days, I would like to volunteer for the late night portion of 100 mile race and see how other people handle some of their darkest moments of a race.
Week of April 25 - Bike 64 (day off work), Run 31, D 8, U 4
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Hard to tell from the picture (too much moisture in the air for my cheap phone camera), but this was a river across one of the roads on my commute and it looked pretty menacing. As I approached it, there were two vehicles backing up to turn around and find another way. I rode past them and through the puddle. I'm not above walking through a pond if it turned out too deep to ride through. Once the vehicles who were about to go around saw that it was less than a foot deep they followed me through it. There were a couple low spots this morning that were similarly flooded. This particular stretch of road seems to really collect the worst of the road conditions in storms. Below is a picture I took after the blizzard this past winter of a truck that lost it on the ice and slid into the ditch. When the road was covered with snow and ice, as with today's flooding, the bike was undeterred and handled the road conditions well. I did once get a flat on this section. I guess it's like the Bermuda Triangle of my ride.
5 mile run in the new Minimus shoes after I got home last night. It was pouring big fat drops for the entire run. I wore the shoes without socks, as they are designed to be used, and they were amazing! My feet were completely soaked from a 6 inch deep river across the road within 2 minutes of leaving the house and remained drenched until I stopped an hour later. It was the most comfortable my feet have ever been running in the rain. I hope that comfort maintains as the shoes start to wear. Toe box, heel lift and sole shape are all well designed. I find them to essentially be like a Five Finger that has the toes joined. This may end up being my favorite shoe yet.
I had ran up to the gymnastics gym to watch Jakob at practice. When I got there one of the other dads was picking up his son. He is an ER doctor and is always curious about my running. Specifically, he likes to discuss how my body responds internally to different challenges. He is a great resource. He was concerned that I wasn't wearing enough clothing for the conditions. It was 55 and raining hard. He always has a story for me about someone admitted to the ER for whatever condition we are discussing. I do appreciate the stories as I realize there is a certain amount of danger in bad weather that needs to be pondered. I was wearing a long sleeve polyester shirt and running shorts. I felt perfectly warm while I was on the move. When you get cold, just run faster and you will warm up. I do have passing thoughts like, "what if I broke my ankle and had to lay out here for an hour?" Though, I think I could probably hop a few miles if it really came to that.
Monday, April 25, 2011
The blog feels more and more without focus lately. I have been forcing myself to sit and write but I haven’t been that happy with what is coming out. If anyone is still following, I apologize for the lack of inspirational or motivating content. I have a love/hate relationship with writing. I seem to have the most amazing ideas for topics when I’m miles from home on the trails but once I actually sit down to write, not a word comes to me. Keeping the blog going seems like a good idea most times. It is doing a great job of keeping me honest with training mileage. I think Jakob, maybe even Sara and me, will appreciate it in years to come. It will be an interesting way to look back on who I was and what I spent my life doing.
The rain has been falling heavily for the past 5 days. Even when there isn’t rain falling, there are large rivers and puddles in yards and streets. I have spent almost 7 hours in the last 5 days running and riding in the pouring rain. I’m definitely starting to feel a little waterlogged and I’m ready to see the sun. There are still a few days of rain in the forecast too so it won’t be over soon. Fortunately, it has been over 50 degrees so the cold isn’t a huge concern. Every workout ends with me peeling off sloppy and muddy clothes to reveal pickled skin. Yesterday’s long run was interfered with by the city posting signs that many of the trails near our house were “closed due to hazardous conditions.” If it weren’t illegal to run past such a sign, I might have encountered some sections of trail flooded with water over my knees and one even close to waist deep. In some sections I might have even seen ankle deep mud or had to crawl over downed trees.
Riding my bike to work continues. I’m at a crossroads in my running schedule. The easiest way for me to get big running mileage in is to start running the 16 miles to and from work instead of riding. The bad part about this is that last year, when I was running to work 3 days a week, I found myself really missing my bike ride. I wanted to do both! The easiest solution, with the least impact on family, would be to get up and run early in the morning and then ride in to work after that. The problem is, while I am an early riser, I’m not an early runner. I like to run in the evening. So why not just ride to work and then run at night? Going for a 2 or 3 hour run in the evening puts a huge dent in the amount of time I get to spend with Sara and Jake and I’m just not willing to compromise that much family time on a regular basis. I may find a workable solution that allows me to have my cake and eat it too but at this point, I’m not sure what that will be.
I did get some new running shoes in the mail today! I have been shopping for less and less shoe over the past few years. I did a lot of my running last year in the Vibram Five Fingers. While I loved the way they let my foot work, I found they lacked in protection for really rugged terrain, which is where I like to run the most. My last shoe was the New Balance MT101’s. I used them for the 100 miler and thought they performed fairly well. My only complaint was the heel was still lifted more than I like. Fortunately, New Balance just released the Minimus MT10 (shown below). It has a lower heel which brings me even closer to the barefoot position but still offers sole protection from sharper rocks and road debris. I’m excited to put some miles on them and see if they work as well as I’m hoping. I guess we will see how they handle the water first.
Week of April 18 - Bike 80, Run 31, D 10, U 5
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Everyone thinks they know how to run. People read books and study how to do lots of things but running is one that most people think you are just born doing right. I don’t believe this is the case. I think there is actually an optimal way to run which helps both in energy conservation and injury prevention. Repeatedly running with poor form can and does lead to numerous injuries. Especially as you age. Any mistakes you may have gotten away with while running as a youngster are amplified with older age.
When I returned to running after many years off, I began to experience knee pain. It was the very common Patellofemoral syndrome, more commonly called PFS or just runner’s knee, I diagnosed myself as usual. During my self diagnosing procedure (read scouring the internet looking for similar symptoms), I stumbled across many references to the pain being related to poor running form. Until that day, I had always assumed like most people, that you just know how to do it. I mean its just one foot in front of the other, right? I believed, like most people, if it always hurts something is probably broken or just worn out because I’m old. I no longer believe this is the case.
I won’t bore you with the nitty gritty details as it is far too easy to go overboard and throw far too much jargon out there unless you are a running nerd like I am. But safe to say, there is a healthier way that your body was designed to run. One that is easier on your body that will allow you to fun faster, longer and injury free. My first real resource was the book Chi Running. These days there are numerous resources out there and most are teaching the same principles. This website has some good information: Good Form Running. I love to talk about the subject but can see people’s eyes gloss over shortly after the conversation begins so now I just wait for them to ask for advice.
Even after years of studying and practicing good form though, I still have times where I get lazy or just zone out and forget about what I’m doing. Sure enough the old pain and discomfort in my knee returns. Once I recognize what I am doing, I adjust my body and foot strike and the pain slips away. Don’t be fooled by the latest advertisements for super-cushioned shoes. Joint comfort has zero to do with the amount of padding underfoot and everything to do with posture, cadence, stride length and foot strike. I do all my running in very minimal shoes and several miles per week completely barefoot. If you are experiencing pains when you run, it’s probably not your shoes. Do some reading and your body will thank you.
Week of April 11 – Bike 80, Run 33, D 10, U 5
Friday, April 15, 2011
I like to think it's all the fruit of my wit and prowess but I am a fortunate person.
I’m fortunate to have been born in a country that wasn’t war torn and starving. I have been to some of those and it's not so easy to excel.
Fortunate to have parents who worked hard to provide for their children. I have seen parents in this world whose children never had a chance.
Those same parents that taught me to face the world and work hard to provide for my family. Just saying you love a child is not enough, there are lessons to impart.
To have found a woman that I can cherish and adore who, I think, feels the same for me. It seems a rare commodity in today's world.
To have a son that looks up to me and strives to make me proud. I know I set bars high and he consistently sails higher.
To have a job that provides for my family in times where many are without.
To have traveled the globe and met with people from all corners of it.
To have my health and be capable of still growing stronger.
To have escaped unscathed from the perils I have sought for fun.
To have friends that enjoy my company.
Yep, I’m a pretty lucky guy.
Week of April 4 - – Bike 80, Run 28, D 10, U 5
Friday, April 8, 2011
Went for a run on my home loop last night. Because of its convenience, I have probably run this loop about a thousand times. It’s a 5 mile loop that is mostly on Greenway Trail and light traffic residential streets. It finishes with a mile long uphill stretch leading back to our house. Except for the first nice days of a new season, I rarely see anyone else out using the trail so it feels secluded. If I’m feeling like a little more distance, the loop passes the back entrance to the Nature Center Trail and I can get some steep hills and single track dirt trail, my favorite, but this night was just the standard 5 mile loop.
It’s amazing how your body adapts to exercise. Several years ago after my long layoff from exercise, a single mile of constant running was a difficult challenge that left me sore for days. I remember in Marine boot camp, the last run we did before graduating was the 5 mile motivation run. For several months we trained and looked forward to it. At that time it was the longest run I had ever attempted and when it finally came, it was a difficult and rewarding challenge to complete. The route took us places on the base we hadn’t seen before. We ran past the commanding officer’s house and other places that had remained hidden through all the training. These days, it hardly seems worth the time to put on my shoes and head out the door if I can’t get at least 5 miles in.
There are two construction zones that the loop intersects. I’m not sure when they actually do any construction as there are never any workers in the zones, at least until tonight. Nearly 4 miles into the run as I was approaching the final zone standing between me and the last big hill heading home, I heard the beeping sounds of commercial trucks backing. As I came around the corner I could see a crane boom swinging and yellow flashing lights on several different vehicles. Construction workers in their reflective vests and hardhats were working all over the place. Several of them turned to stare at me as I stopped and stood there for a second like a deer caught in headlights.
For a few moments I thought about just sprinting through them all. It would have been pretty funny to see their faces as I came storming through shirtless. Had it been dark already, I might have done just that. However, the sun was still up and there would be nowhere to escape if they had decided to give chase. I really doubt they would come after me, but I’m not sure what the charge and fine would even be and it didn’t seem worth the hassle or the time. Besides running through the pack of workers, my only choice was to head back the other direction. My 5 mile run had just turned closer to 8, I should have paced better. My only regret was that I hadn’t brought any water. I was ready for a drink by the time I got back to the house.
Week of March 28 – Bike 80, Run 23, D 10, U 4
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
I have realized that I do this in my life every so often. I have these periods of time, usually after finishing some significant event in my life, where I withdraw and take a month or so to redirect my life. This time I believe it was the completion of the 100 miler. Once the wounds have healed and the emotional buzz from fulfillment of achieving a goal have worn off, I find myself thinking, “what next?” I know I’m more difficult to get along with during these periods but Sara is always patient with me. I usually feel restless and my patience is thin, the easiest description would probably be moody. To friends who are close, it may just seem like I am being quiet. To most people it might not even be noticeable but I feel a difference and I know Sara and Jakob feel it.
The good news is that I usually come out of these funks with a new fervor for life. I think the key to it all is having some sort of goal you are working towards. When you don’t have a specific thing you are trying to achieve you just wander aimlessly. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the aimless approach to life, but for me, it leaves me feeling like I am trying to fall asleep with restless legs. So what will the next goal be? I have decided to run the FlatRock 50K on September 24, 2011. 50K is 31 miles. I have never set a time goal for a long race before but instead have always focused on just finishing. I am not what most would consider a fast runner and usually fall within the middle of the pack. My plan is to finish this race in 6 hours or less.
While 6 hours may not seem like a very fast goal for a 31 mile race, barely under 5 m.p.h. or 12 minutes per mile, I fully believe it will be a substantial challenge. The race has only had a handful of people finish in less than 5 hours. The first time I attempted this course it took me just over 8 . There are 2 reasons I think my time was slow. First, I was still fairly new to distance running. My training was poorly designed and didn’t cover enough mileage. The other element was the difficulty of the course. The challenges are described in detail on their website. FlatRock Trail Description Here is an excerpt:
Extreme concentration is required when running Flat Rock, as you will take very few steps where there will not be some potential obstacle. Most of these will be in the form of rocks. You will very quickly learn why the race motto here at “the Rock” is “If you look up…you are going down!” Buyer beware please. While the trail does not have any long hills, there is an estimated total elevation gain and loss of approximately 3,000 feet for the 50K. Most of these hills are very steep and rocky and are not runable, unless you can run trails like a mountain goat, due to the treacherous footing.
I took some pictures of the course the first time:
These are some of the more extreme places. I also remember a substantial amount of mud on the course.
I haven’t decided what footwear I will use. I have contemplated Five Fingers. Lately, I have been doing several miles a week completely barefoot and I am still convinced that less shoe is best. The rockiness of this course, at least at my level of conditioning, will demand I have something on my feet. For my next shoe, I’m going to try a pair of the newly released New Balance Trail Minimus. I have been enjoying running in their MT101’s but think I would enjoy even less of a shoe and the Minimus now offers that.
Ultimately I’m looking for something that gives my foot room to move and function, is extremely light yet has a sole that will protect me from rock points and sharp objects, and something that does not employ springs, air pockets or supports of any kind. All I want my shoes to do is protect me from sharp stuff on the ground and let my body move as it was designed to do.
So there is the proclamation, now to spend the next 6 months making it so.
Week of March 7 – Bike 80, Run 16, D 10, U 5
Week of March 14 – Bike 80, Run 20, D 10, U 5
Week of March 21 – Bike 80, Run 18, D 6, U 2
(I’m adding the 20 flights of stairs at work to my training to help with the hills. D for down and U for up)
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Week of February 7 – Bike 80, Run 15
Week of February 14 – Bike 80, Run 20
Week of February 21 – Bike 80, Run 20
Week of February 28 – Bike 80, Run 10
Saturday, February 19, 2011
I think an inevitable part of a life lived with passion is injury. Part of going after a goal with all your effort involves accepting and facing risks. Sometimes those risks catch up with you. Unfortunately, you don't always get to pick the most convenient time to experience an injury, but they never seem to come at a good time for taking a rest. I suppose there isn't ever a convenient time to be restricted from moving without pain for an extended period of time. When you are used to spending the better part of your free time using your body at the limit of its potential, being forced to sit and do nothing can seem like a long and cruel punishment.
Jakob is learning all about injuries and recovery this year. I think he has seen the doctor more in the past 6 months than he has the entire rest of his life. It all started this fall with the eye issues. Then at the first meet this season he had the ankle sprain. Next, we were in Oklahoma for a meet when he fell in the shower and sprained his wrist. Fortunately, all of these issues passed relatively quickly. For the past month he has been working hard and getting stronger. He was looking forward to competing at full strength, for the first time this season, at a meet in Wichita this weekend when another character building opportunity presented itself.
Jakob was at the gym this past Tuesday evening working on his high bar routine
when he took a fall. He said he thought he had bruised his foot pretty badly but he got back on the bar and finished up the routine. It was obvious it was more than a bruise but he iced it and finished up the practice doing everything he could without using that foot too much. One of the parents at the gym is a doctor. After taking a look at Jakob's foot, he thought an x-ray was definitely in need. With the past two trips to the hospital yielding nothing but simple sprains, coupled with his ability to get up and finish the routine and practice, I didn't expect them to really find anything. I was wrong! He had broken 3 metatarsals, the bones that run along the top of the foot. If you ever happen question Jakob's dedication and perseverance to gymnastics, just remember the time he worked out for another two hours with broken bones in his foot.
It has only been a few days since the injury and although he is in a boot with
crutches, he is already been back to the gym. For the next 4 weeks as the bones in his foot heal, he will focus on core and upper body strength. I'm sure he will have some emotional hurdles to work through as well. He was in the middle of the same skill that he fell from and sprained his ankle at the first meet in Arkansas this year. I can only imagine, after having two different injuries from the same skill, a high bar half turn, that every time he does a half turn in the future he will remember these events. This is one of the things I like about gymnastics though, it forces you to keep facing your fears until you conquer them. I believe there is great value in activities that teach you to continue trying something over and over again, even after it hurts you, until you finally perfect it. This applies to many things in life. Rarely are the most rewarding challenges accomplished on your first try with no adversity. Success is sometimes given to the lucky but I think more often, its given to the one who is willing to keep getting back up and trying again, no matter how many times it takes.
The last I wrote about Jakob was that he was getting burned out on gymnastics and questioning his goals. In the past month that feeling had diminished and he was charging forward again. It seems a little ironic that as soon as he regained his motivation for competing, he experienced an injury that potentially ended his season. There is a possibility he might compete again this year, however, the chance seems pretty thin. He will definitely miss the next two competitions and just be getting cleared to use his foot again at the same time the State meet is held. But if I know Jakob like I think I do, after having much time to sit around and think, he will come off of this long break hungry to work hard again. Next year will bring lots of excitement.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
It was snowing again this morning. A fresh couple inches of powder on the road for most of the trip. It’s been a long week of dealing with the elements. Starting with the blizzard last week, and then facing the single digit temps and polar winds, I have had my plate full of physical challenges. Despite our office being practically closed for 2 days last week, I haven’t missed a single day of work and have ridden my bike in everyday. Even people with 4 wheel drive were staying home. There is substantially more physical exertion in riding a bike when the conditions are like this. What is normally a 25 minute trip has been more like an hour or sometimes longer. The trip home in the peak of the storm last week took 2 hours! I normally spend 5 hours a week commuting but the past week was in the range of 11 hours which would explain my abnormal sluggishness.
There have been a couple of spills. As usual, no injuries as the falls are normally low speed slide outs that are fairly controlled. My tailbone is a little sore from one incident but nothing major. These falls rarely occur in the fresh soft snow. It’s always on the areas that have thawed and refrozen numerous times into lumpy sheets of polished ice. I think this is my 4th winter of riding and we seem to have had many more slippery days this year. It’s been enough that next year, I think I will fork out the money for a good set of studded tires.
I have been feeling guilty about the paltry amount of running miles in the last week and a half but I guess considering the extra time spent riding it’s not like I have been lying around being lazy. The few times I have gone out to run have been more harrowing than the bike miles. Of all the roads I normally traverse, maybe 200 feet of sidewalk has been shoveled. I pass many driveways that have been immaculately kept but only a precious few landowners have performed their legal obligation and cleared their sidewalks. This leaves me with 2 options, take to the narrowed streets with the cars or hike over and through the snow banks and drifts piled on the sidewalks. One woman felt so compelled to inform me of her disapproval of my running in the road that she stopped her car in the middle of a busy road full of traffic to roll down her window and yell, “Get out of the road you f-@$%#g idiot!” She got a smile, my middle finger, and then the sound of honking horns from all the vehicles that had to stop behind her while she shared her wisdom.
I’m sure it is because of the weather, but I have received more admonishments from friends than I usually get over the past week. Most of them come with the line, “you’re crazy!” Really, am I crazy? What is crazy anyway? According to Dictionary.com, crazy is:
1. Mentally deranged; demented; insane.
2. Senseless; impractical; totally unsound: a crazy scheme.
3. Informal. Intensely enthusiastic; passionately excited.
Okay, maybe if you go all the way to the third and informal definition then yes, I am crazy. I am crazy about health and well being. I am crazy about living my life to the fullest extent possible. Deranged or insane, I don’t think so. To me, deranged and insane is living with an overweight and out of shape body and not doing anything but complaining about it. In my humble opinion, that is the true crazy that is weighing on people these days. Pun intended. I would also define crazy as stopping your car and holding up traffic to scream your opinions at strangers. But you know, keep pointing out the window and calling me crazy while you drive yourself as close to the door as possible so you don’t have to walk too far to your next seated position all the while wondering how you got so out of shape.
Week of January 17 – Bike 80, Run 25
Week of January 24 – Bike 80, Run 30
Week of January 31 – Bike 80, Run 10