Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Achillies Heels

We've all had that one special day.  One where every step you ran, from the first to the last, was pure bliss. One that made you love everything about running.  One that made you believe you will run every single day until you die.

Too bad we don't always feel that way.  The fraction of life that DOESN'T involve running tends to throw innumerable wrenches into our best-laid plans.  I've traditionally held up well against many of said wrenches, but my kryptonite...my de-railer...has hit me head-on this past week.

Weather and terrain seem to be a major player in the excuse sweepstakes.  Luckily, I've felt impervious to mother nature.  Maybe it was my upbringing in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  I ran 10 miles on this day, so getting through ones like this were no problem this winter.  (La Crosse also afforded me the opportunity to run on this day - my buddy and I even intentionally ran at 4PM to just to see if we could do it)  Mountains?  Altitude?  Whatever, just run slower.  Adjusting to altitude only sucks for a little bit.  Visiting my parents in Colorado during college meant dealing with that adjustment multiple times a year.  I couldn't afford to just quit training, so I just dealt with it.  Wind?  I remember this story from my high school coach upon overhearing a teammate of mine remark "the wind SUCKS!"  His response:  "No, Kelly.  The wind sucks for Edina."  In other words, the conditions are the same for everyone.  It's how you react to the conditions that matters - any bit of adversity can be an opportunity to separate yourself from your competitors.

The stress of work and the real world also seem to derail a good deal of people.  I get it.  Back when I made good money sitting in front of a computer all day long, I sometimes found myself struggling to get out the door.  I just didn't get excited about doing anything after work...I just wanted to go home and stare at a wall.  When I sucked up my pride and went into a profession for which I actually had a passion, I found that I could work twice as hard, give ten times the emotional energy, yet still be ready to rip off a hard hill run when it was all said and done.  I attribute this to the fact that teaching might take a toll on me unlike anything I ever experienced in the corporate world, yet whatever I get in return makes me feel alive!  That, in turn, gives me that extra motivation to run immediately after work.  More common than work doldrums are the personal and relationship stressors that people deal with.  I've had my share, trust me...but I've found that when I run, I relax.  I think things through.  I escape my demons.  Years ago, when I went through a divorce, running was the one thing I could count on.  Even when I'd torment myself for the other 23 hours of the day, I knew I would have a stretch of time where I would feel at peace.  Safe.  The stresses of life have always pushed me TO train harder.

I wish I could say that I'm invincible.  Tough as nails.  This brings me to this entry.  Here's the problem:  I see weakness in myself when presented with scenarios such as the one I'm in now.  My left hip has been bugging me for the past week or so.  At first I thought it was ITB, but now I'm beginning to think it may be Greater Trochanteric Bursitis?  (I'd never heard of it until today, when a PT friend of mine suggested I jfgi and find out)  Anyhoo, I took three days off last week (Wednesday, Friday, Sunday) to see if it would go away...and it did seem to bother me less every day I stayed off it.  However, today I felt it throughout much of my run.  At this juncture, the pain does seem bearable - something I can run on for a few weeks if I had to...but the thought of having this nagging injury for the next five months is unfathomable.  When I'm dinged up, I lose all motivation to train.  Could I bike?  Swim?  Ice and stretch?  Absolutely.  Do I do everything I can to heal?  No.  I don't know why I struggle with this part.  I think, "eh, I'm a gimp, so why even bother doing anything about it?"  In the face of a potentially serious malady, I can't believe I could even think this way for an instant.  But...I do.  Henceforth, one of my goals shall be to "do better" with the little things like stretching and icing.

Thing is, how do you measure this?

6 miles, 800' to 1st tunnel with Haven this afternoon.  Hip bothered me throughout, and definitely more at the end than the beginning.  Going to try flat surfaces for the next two days.

Cale turns 6 tomorrow.  That thought in itself is big.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cripple Creek "Celebration"

"Hey Sean, how do you feel?"
Who in their right mind comes up with this kind of crap?

A few months ago,  I took ideas from a few of my friends and began to put together an "event" that would get some people to show.  (I'm good for about one of these annually)  Peter Maksimow had turned 32 a few months ago and did a 32-miler that day just for kicks.  Brooks had run the 35 miles from Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek unsupported a couple of times.  I realized that A)I was turning 36 and B)I needed to get at least one meaty run in before Collegiate Peaks.  Why not see if I could talk a few people into joining me for the trek across the south side of Pikes?

The logistics were fluid to say the least.  In the two months leading up to the event, many people were in and out of the picture.  A couple of guys committed to running the whole thing.  Many others chose to run it as a relay, run just a portion, ride a bike, provide sag support to everyone, or just wait for the crew to show up in Cripple Creek.  Some folks were staying overnight in Cripple Creek, others opted to take the Ramblin' Express shuttle back to the Springs.  Needless to say, trying to figure out just who was going to be where was a challenge.
Ready to run

When all the smoke had cleared, we had a group of about 12 or so looking to at least start the run on a crisp and beautiful morning.  From the Upper Gold Camp Rd./Helen Hunt parking lot at 7,500', we set off together in a 10:00 mile before settling into a couple of groups.  We stayed in these groups for the majority of the day - in mine were Peter, Branden Stepanowich, and Paul Doyle.  All four of us have 50-milers on the not-so-far-off horizon.  I was a little nicked up, as my left hip/IT band had been kind of tender all week.  I had concerns that the birthday boy might have to pull out of his own shenanigans prematurely.

  The first eight miles climbed 1,500' on the closed portion of Gold Camp Rd., and they featured many tunnels and views of Colorado Springs down below.  Unfortunately, running this stretch was like running on a beach - sand, gravel, and generally sloggy footing.  We met our sag vehicle at mile 8.5, where Gold Camp intersects Old Stage Rd. and opens up to car traffic again.  A quick refuel and we were off again.  To this point, my hip problems seemed fine - a little soreness, but nothing debilitating.

Patrick, Peter, Sean, Branden, Paul.  "9 miles down"
 As the miles clicked away, we alternated between chatting and retreating into our own little worlds.  As one would expect, the further in we got, the more withdrawn we became.  Once we hit our first view of the Rosemount Reservoir at mile 14, we had reached just short of 10,000'.  We stayed within a few hundred feet of 10k for the remainder of the day.

One of many tunnels

Gold Camp solitude?

A little lack of communication with our Taylor, our sag driver (I failed to tell him that he was to take care of ALL the runners, not just the back pack) left us without extra clothes, food, or water from miles 9 to 22.  These miles were precisely where a brisk headwind met us.  Paul and I had stripped down to short sleeves when we last saw the sag.  At first, we weren't concerned as we figured Taylor would catch up to us any minute.  One minute turned into ten, then sixty.  Finally, another sag vehicle topped us all off.  We also gained two more part-time runners - Darin and Sandu.  We began to open up the pace a little bit from miles 10 to 25, averaging a shade under 8:00's for this stretch.  The pace was a tad more brisk than I had hoped for, but save my hip I felt comfortable.  It began to throb periodically during this stretch, and I began to wonder again if I was going to suffer a DNF. 

At mile 24, Brooks and Amanda joined us.  They had parked in Cripple Creek and run backwards to catch us.  They were just in time to witness the first casualty of the lead pack.  My hip had been tightening up with more and more frequency, and just after they joined us, I looked up to find myself a minute behind the others.  After downing some calories and sandbagging a couple of 9:30 miles, I got back into a groove.  Brooks and Amanda stayed with me for the remainder of the run, and I was thankful for the company.

By now, I had begun to chunk up the remainder of the run into doable portions.  My focus moved to just reaching the first pavement of the day at mile 30.  This signified a new long for me.  The thought of every subsequent step taking me further into the unknown blew a little bit of wind back into my sails, but needless to say I was still experiencing more downs than ups at this point.

The last six miles were broken up in my head in this way - 1.5 miles of pavement, 2.5 miles of climbing on a dirt road, and 2 very steep downhill miles into town.

The paved mile and a half marked my low point of the day.  Thoughts of the various methods of inflicting death upon myself went through my head.  I'm pretty sure they all were more appealing than continuing in the ragged state I was in.  The pain that I had once felt in my hip I swear had spread to my entire body.

Once we turned back onto dirt and began climbing again, I caught a glimpse of Branden ahead of me...it was then that I quit having a pity party and went to catch up to him.  His wheels had fallen off not too much after mine, but our little reunion gave us enough juice to top out at mile 34 realizing we were going to finish this madness.  All that remained was, according to Brooks, a "nice little jog" into town.  Losing 1,000' vertical.  In just under two miles.  On twisty, uneven pavement with no shoulder.  Ugh.  Sweet relief when we hit the city limits!

Run distance:  36.0 miles
Gain:  3,560'
Time:  5h20min

This was a great experience on many levels.  First, bringing over 30 people together for something like this was neat.  Never thought I'd find like-minded souls that actually find running for hours on end to be fun.  Second, I finally am familiar with the ultra "death" feeling.  I had averted it in my 30-miler last month, but now I know it's real and that I won't actually die.  How encouraging.  The celebration afterward was comical, as well...

Runners(full):  Paul, Peter, Sean, Branden, Steve, Julian, Yeti
Runners(part):  Patrick, Jane, Andrea, Deirdre, Darin, Sandu, Brooks, Amanda, Sarah, Deb
Bikers:  Patrick, Beth, Marc, Brandon
Support vehicle:  Taylor
Moral support:  Brian, Christoph, Wes, Chris, Josh, Katie, Matt, Randi, Nora

Post-run festivities

What the ...?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Getting Ready

A little over an hour before the start of my "birthday run."

The trepidation I'm experiencing at this moment should be embraced.  Every person who has ever consciously decided to run any distance has been in my shoes right now - asking himself, "I've never run this far.  Will I be able to?"  It's not a question I've had to ask myself much over the years, having completed marathon distances in my early twenties.  That I have, in the past four or five months, been able to push that envelope a couple of times has been a treat.  I enjoy the challenge. 

With each subsequent success, challenge becomes more welcome.

36 miles.  I did 30 a month ago.  Despite a lack of nutrition, that run worked out fine.  I didn't even have a dark moment.  These extra six are simply another hour of plodding tacked on.  Or so I tell myself.  My left hip is sore (ITB) and I've been nursing it all week.  I was only able to pull off 1 x 4 mile on Wednesday because of it, and I've taken two days off.  It feels better today - heck, if I didn't remember I've been having problems, I wouldn't even know it's there.

Be back late tomorrow with a report.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Palmer Park

Grandview/Cheyenne + Palmer Point/Templeton loops
 Easy day again.  I actually have time to drive to different places, so I'm taking full advantage of it.  I'm not a huge fan of Palmer Park - it's busy, you have to link a bunch of trails together to get any distance, and I always get @#$@#%# lost!  The place is a black hole.

I've had my mind on tomorrow's workout for a few days now, and I'll admit I'm scared of it.  2 x 4 miles @ sub-6:00's sounds like a killer.  I'm sure it will be - I just hope I can maintain that type of effort.  No surprise that I've felt kind of lethargic these past two days - 35-mile weekends are a new thing for me.

The weather for my birthday run Saturday is looking good...for now.  Sounds like it's still growing.  We'll see who actually shows!

Smoke or Fire - they remind me of Face to Face...just 20 years younger.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Williams Canyon

The realization that I'm on spring break hit today, as I was able to smugly grin and turn my 5:15 alarm off instead of snooze.  I'm looking to have two very low-key days in preparation for Wednesday's 2 x 4 mile workout.  Definitely accomplished that this morning.

Stef had never been to Williams, and I had offered to show her.  Straightforward day, straightforward run.  Made it to Rampart Range Rd. and turned around.  Nice way to loosen up after the weekend - 78 minutes, 6.3 miles, 1,700'.  Tried out the new Inov-8 X-Talon's.  As usual, I love their fit.  I feel it gets me much closer to the trail than even my RocLite's.

I think I found a new energy drink.

Took a long look at the current PPA and PPM start lists last night.  Lots of interesting stuff there, especially the rookie flatlanders with predicted times of 1:40 for PPA.  Looks like Kimmel is doubling, too.  Judging by her predicted time of 2:33 in the Ascent, she plans on getting after it this summer.  No other doublers seem capable of breaking 8:00, let alone 7:00.  We'll see how many comp entries come in between now and Augusts.

State Radio - one of those bands that I somehow passed over for years.  Making up for lost time with them these days.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Buckhorn and Captain Jacks

New first for me:  back-to-back days of 2+ hours.  With yesterday's effort, today's run put me over 30 miles for the weekend.  Brooks and I agreed yesterday to go to Gold Camp for a good climbing run on trails, albeit at an easy effort.  This was the standard 'accountability trick' - with both of us committing to each other, we would be less likely to bail.

Captain Jack's/Buckhorn from Gold Camp Elem.
What a beautiful morning!  It took us a while to get into the flow.  Brooks, a lifetime COS resident who has been known to run a few trail miles, had never been on Chamberlain, The Chutes, or Captain Jack's.  We found ourselves grinding up from 6,300' to 8,300' during the first six miles, then ambled back down Gold Camp Rd.

Ran into mountain stud Tommy Manning high on Captain Jack's.  Kinda cool how the higher and deeper you get into the mountains, the Tommy Mannings are more and more likely to be the only types you run into.

Sneaked in another 6 miles on Sunday night with Brooks and Christoph.  Put me up over 70 for the first time in 13.

Week in review
Monday: Gold Camp Rd to Helen Hunt
Tuesday: Incline
Wednesday: 10 easy
Thursday: 8 x 1000'
Friday: off
Saturday:  Cheyenne Mtn State Park
Sunday:  AM Captain Jack's/Buckhorn, PM Brooks's house

Week Total:  72 miles, 9,400'
March total:  182 miles, 20,500'
2011 total:  618 miles, 44,500'

Definitely a strong week - the consistency and quality of training I've had this year are new.  Two challenges await for next week:  2 x 4 miles FAST (for me, anyway), and a run to Cripple Creek on Sunday.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

There is a fine line between sadism and masochism

Normal people view runners as masochists.  Running hurts.  Sitting on the couch with a remote and a bag of Lay's doesn't hurt.  That's about as far as many ever go when deciding what to do with their time.

Recreational runners sometimes get to a point where going for a run doesn't hurt anymore.  It just becomes something they do.  Maybe they'll suffer a little bit if they decide to train for a marathon, but since suffering sucks, they avoid all but the necessary pain - namely the weekly long run and the race itself.

A few even go as far as to do actual workouts every now and then.  Generally, speed hurts.  Pushing oneself hurts.  Some tolerate the pain better than others, but it usually feels great when the workout is over, and the sense of accomplishment drives many to do it again another day.

Today was one of the rare workout days where I transcended pain.  Instead of enduring suffering, I out-of-body doled out an ass-whopping like no other on the frame that I usually occupy.  I was the inflictor of pain, not the inflictee.

Amanda Ewing and I carpooled down to Cheyenne Mountain State Park to do our long workout - two hours with 45-60 minutes uptempo mixed in.  We decided to scout out the Cheyenne Mtn 25k course and add on if necessary.  Neither of us felt especially spry at the onset of the run.  I suggested we just log miles until we hit the Talon section of the trail (about mile eight on the course), then work that stretch of seven-ish miles.

Talon loop is the bottom one, tops out on the far left.
We both started to get some life into our legs as we got into our second hour.  I was prepared for some uncomfortable mileage as the four miles up Sundance and North Talon don't relent.  7:31, 7:40, 8:21, 7:29 with a gain of about 200'/mile.  I didn't check HR or pace throughout, but I could feel I was doing work.  Moreso than other days, I welcomed the pain.  Embraced it.  Kept pushing to see how much of it I could dish out.  Definitely went to a place I only get to when I'm truly flowing.  The avg HR of 168 confirms this - that's a few beats below my 13.1 race effort.

At the top of Talon, I enjoyed some rolling, twisting, and downhill burners - 6:31, 6:18, 5:43.  Flying down twisty singletrack is bliss.  Met back up with Amanda.  Mopped up with a few miles afterward.  2h45min, 19.5 miles, 2,400'.  Looks like another 60-65 mile week in the books with an easy ninety minutes tomorrow. 

Feeling poppy today.

Friday, March 18, 2011

March 17 - 1000's

One assumes that after a race like Salida, it'll take a few days for your legs to come back to you.  Hell, when I was younger, the thought of "training through" a marathon was unfathomable.  It's good news then to feel that I have bounced back faster than I did after Austin.  That's a testament to the evils of concrete if you ask me.  Anyway, I was a bit conservative with throwing in more work and waited until Thursday to test out the engine.

Warmed up by climbing to the reservoir.  Goal was 8 x 1000 @ marathon pace(6:15/mi) with 200 recovery.  Instead of hammering this stuff out on the track - I'm a believer in avoiding the track unless you're racing on a track - I make a couple of modifications.  1)I do a loop on hardpack around one of the Stratton reservoirs.  It's 1000-"ish".  My garmin measures it out to be .60, so probably a few seconds short.  2)I do them on the 5:00 and don't worry about how far I run in between, but again my garmin suggests I'm doing about a 200 shag.  3)I only allow myself to check my garmin once during each repeat, as I like trying to work on 'feeling' the correct pace.  It was extremely windy yesterday, so I expected variability, which I got:  3:40/3:36/3:46/3:38/3:41/3:38/3:44/3:36, HR between 150 and 158.  Felt not great but good.

Going forward, I'm expecting to start feeling tired as I do work.  I've managed to keep that pre-season feeling in the legs, but looking ahead, I think there's gonna be some real work to do.  8 days until my 36th birthday run, 5 weeks till Cheyenne Mtn, and 7 weeks till Collegiate Peaks.

Today is a staff development day, then we're off on Spring Break.  Should be some solid training.  New Rise Against came out on Tuesday...the whole album is still growing on me, but definitely a few good "get off your ass and do something about it" tracks on it. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I declared war today.

Yeay med tent
While I've had seven months to grumble and groan over last year's disappointing performance on Pikes Peak, today was the first day I could actually do something about it.  Clicking the 'submit' button not once, but twice, felt like a declaration of war against the pile of rocks that lives just a few miles to my west.

After a surprising 2:44 in 2009, I decided to put all my eggs in the Ascent basket last August.  Three hours, twenty-one minutes later, I found myself sucking down O's and belligerently snapping at medical staff.  My grand blowup began early - likely at the beginning of the W's - but the wheels didn't fall off until A-Frame.  Mile splits of 20, 25, and 43 minutes ensued.  Carnage.

I had it all planned out.  I was going to click off a sub-2:40 Ascent, hop in a car and pace JT in Leadville that night.  I had even tentatively planned on drinking the Leadville Kool-Aid.  A sub-2:40 would have been fast enough for me to walk away from the Ascent and give this 100-mile craziness a shot in 2011.

The taste that bonk left in my mouth, though...it ate at me.  I did make it out to Leadville to pace JT.  I did fall in love with the idea of the race, the atmosphere, the challenge...but in the back of my mind, I knew I still had a score to settle with my 14,110' backdoor neighbor.  At the same time, I felt I wanted to mix it up at least a smidge, so I began thinking about the round-trip.  I was soon talked into the double, and it's been on my mind ever since 2011 came around.

The game plan now is simple.  I'm going to crush the Ascent.  I'm going to come back the next day and see if I can beat my old Ascent PR on the way up.  A strong performance on Pikes in August will allow me the 'closure' I need to tackle Leadville in 2012.  That mountain is in trouble - today I just made it legal.

Incline super easy yesterday.  10 miles easy today (8:35's) on the Santa Fe.  Giving the legs one more day to recover before I hit up 1000's around the rez on St. Patty's Day.

Part of my training routine will include this - at least it will tomorrow!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Helen Hunt

Took yesterday off to spend some time with Cale.  After Saturday's race, it would have been a little better for my legs to have shaken them out, but it is what it is.

Saturday was just one race, but it does give me hope that I'm on the right track this season - that I've cleared a hurdle, maybe broken out of a plateau.  I would hope so, as I've prepared differently these past few months.  One of the biggest changes I've made has been in my diet.  More on that in the future, but I've got to think it's had a major impact in my performance.

Five miles uphill from school this afternoon - two miles through Chamberlain to Gold Camp Rd, then three more on the dirt till just past the Helen Hunt parking lot.  Definitely had some post-race legs - I was 93 minutes with a 139 HR this time around.  Last time I ran it back in late Feb, I was 3 minutes faster with the same HR.  Not a surprise there.  I'm hopeful that another day of recovery will get me ready for some hill work tomorrow.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Run Through Time

Wow.  What a day...I'm still on a high!

Run through Time Marathon
Salida, CO
March 12th, 2011
5th out of ~124, 3:23:27.
 4,829' of elevation gain/loss

When I put together my race calendar for 2011, this race was an afterthought.  My belief had always been that if I'm to go through the trouble and effort of running a marathon, I might as well do a fast one.  Something that I can PR on, at least.

I changed my tune when I started thinking about Leadville.  I'm trying to set myself up for success if and when I ever give that beast a try, which is why I'm doing Collegiate Peaks before I re-focus on Pike's this summer.  Believing you can succeed at 100 is possible if you've already had success at 50, and from what I can tell the recovery cost of a 50 isn't so high that I can't have an awesome summer of training.  All that explains why I got to signing up for Collegiate Peaks.  Getting ready for that one, though, requires some longer stuff than I'm used to...enter Salida.

Setting some old wrongs right
To further diminish my excitement for this race, I went a little crazy with the hills on Wednesday.  My calves hated me.  So much that I couldn't even touch 'em without wincing by Friday night.  Add in a week's full of crappy sleep and I just wasn't feeling it.  Of course, Brooks started rattling off a murderer's row of studs who were going to be at this race.

Great, I'll place better in a field of 10,000 in Austin than one of 150 in Salida.

We made a few pit stops, but eventually rolled into Salida by 9:00.  Met up with JT, Katie, Nacho, Matt, and Lisa at some fine establishment to have the customary Gin & Tonics.  When I realized this could very well go all night, I bugged out and bunked up at the lovely Simple Lodge Hostel, (highly recommended for a whopping $24 per night!) leaving the real drinking to the professionals.

Conditions were perfect - maybe even a bit too warm, with sun and 40 rising into the low 50's during the course of the race.  Salida is at 7200' or so, and it isn't often that the weather in the mountains was what it was this morning.

My race plan wasn't finalized until just before the gun went off.  I didn't want to get sucked into a lot of pain, especially feeling as flat as I did during my warm-up.  The initial climb gains 2,000' from miles 2 through 8, I decided to limit my HR to 160 until I was past that stretch, then make 165 my limit until I was ready to throw the numbers away and gut it out.  I had been hoping for a top 10 finish until the past few days, but by 9:00, I had decided that just getting through this thing intact would be considered a victory.

Immediately, I found myself behind a good 25-30 runners.  By the mile, though, things had thinned out a bit and I counted 12 in front of me.  The lead pack of five had already formed.  They were sooo close and it was tempting to just hop in and go with them, but I stayed with my plan and found Brooks for the next few miles.  For the most part, they were uneventful and I found my HR locked in between 158 and 161.  I paid little attention to mile splits as we grinded up a dirt road.  We gained a significant amount of elevation in this time - with gains of 220', 130', 310', 430', 510', 300', 220', and 210' in the first 8 miles.  The lead pack of five (Tim Parr, Nick Clark, Dan Vega, Ryan Burch, and some other guy) had finally moved out of sight.  A kid named Branden was a ways up but still visible, and three other guys stayed right in front of me as we topped out at 9000'.  I was surprised to not have more people in front of me at this time. 

Clockwise loop - all the squiggles in the lower right show the singletrack.

Some time on the spur near mile 9, I pulled away from the three guys and started to close the gap on Branden and the other guy.  At the spur turn-around (mile 10.4), I permitted myself to turn the screws a little bit and quickly moved into 6th.  The next few miles were enjoyable, as I felt fresh and strong while I got to see tons of familiar faces coming up the hill I was now bombing back down.  I had made visual contact with Branden and went to work on reeling him in.  By mile 14, I finally made contact with him.  Just as I got on his tail, though, he had to pull aside.  GI issues, he told me later.  Kind of disappointing to have put in work to earn that place and to have it given to me instead, but that helped fire me up as the course turned into a much more remote-feeling, jeep-traily bobsled run.  The miles started to fly by as I focused on the next phase - the steep descent on singletrack that began at mile 20.

By this time, the realization that I might be able to finish top 5 began to fire me up.  After building up a good two minute lead, though, I had allowed Branden to make contact again.  He totally caught me by surprise on a savage uphill somewhere during mile 21.  My response was a surge of fear...which actually seemed to work!  I had somehow found myself in 5th, and I sure as hell wasn't going to hand that accolade back over easily.  The last miles were extremely technical, though, and maintaining focus was becoming more and more difficult.  I took a few looks back and saw that I had re-built a good 90 second cushion, but ran scared the rest of the way in.  I finished in 3:23:27 - nine minutes back of fourth place and two minutes ahead of sixth.

During the race, I can't say I felt I was really 'in the zone' or anything.  I just ran.  Keeping my HR on the low end seemed to pay dividends later...don't get me wrong, I was absolutely shot by the time I hit the singletrack, but that type of running tires everyone out. I am still pondering what seems to be a surprising placing, but I think I may be suited for the longer stuff.  The short list of characters ahead of me - Parr, Clark, Vega, and Burch - suggest that may be the case.  We'll find out in May. 

Mile splits and net elevation gain/loss:

1 7:22 105
2 7:24 128
3 8:30 312
4 9:12 401
5 9:05 428
6 8:21 249
7 7:51 189
8 7:51 213
9 6:25 -178
10 8:21 149
11 6:35 -258
12 7:50 185
13 6:58 10
14 6:51 -107
15 7:04 19
16 7:13 -171
17 7:49 50
18 7:02 -215
19 7:17 -192
20 7:25 -368
21 8:34 -485
22 9:26 47
23 7:35 -80
24 8:39 26
25 7:00 -205
26 7:04 -270

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Hill repeats up the face of the South Suburban Reservoir.  Reminded me of track practice back in high school - short, intense, made me wanna puke.  I kinda liked the feeling.

14,042' Mt. Lindsey - Sangre de Cristo range
Talked to my old HS coach this morning.  Colorado Trip 2011 is a go - this will be the sixth year in a row that kids from Wayzata have come out for some good ol' altitude and camping.  I think I'll take them up Lindsey, which is a class 2+.  It's not like JT is coming, so I think they'll be fine.  I've taken them up La Plata, Humboldt, Pikes, Uncompahgre, and Massive in the past.

To tell you the truth, I just wish Saturday would hurry up and get here.  I'm kind of itching to get this marathon out of the way so I can focus on Collegiate Peaks.  A lot of the same characters will be at both races.

Old-school punk on order tonight.  Just for you, macho.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Because of my job and family obligations, I am pretty much constrained to being as efficient as possible with where and when I run.  I almost HAVE to run from my work.  Driving 20 minutes to somewhere else cuts into that precious little time I allocate for my training.  When that window is as narrow as 65-70 minutes, every second counts.  But seriously, of all the locations to be constrained to, what better place than Gold Camp Elementary?  Save Cheyenne Mountain High School, I can't think of a business in the city that's closer to such a robust set of trails, with Stratton Open Space in my backyard.  I gotta post some pics.
Stratton trails were in great shape after a dusting of snow from yesterday.  Tacky - good for riding.  Warmed up to the rez and knocked off 6 1000's @ 6:15 pace.  1:00 recovery.  I take data with a grain of salt.  Case in point:  my avg HR for these.  Was between 154-156 for all of 'em.  Well, my guess is that it took a good 60 sec to ramp my HR each time...otherwise, I'd be pretty stoked to hold 154's on 6:15's.  :)  My avg HR at Austin 13.1 was only 170 - as far as I can tell, many folks race that distance up closer to 180.  Good, bad, indifferent, but my heart beats like I'm hibernating.

Kids are getting ready for the lovely state-mandated CSAP tests next week.  I only started the test-specific prep this week.  Drew on plenty of training analogies.  We overemphasis writing plans now so that when it matters, it's no big deal.  Write 7 paragraph essays so a 5 paragraph essay on a test is nothing.  Do the work, see the results.  Practice your ass off, and view the race/test as your reward, your chance to show off the hard work.

Sure to be overplayed if it already hasn't been in some places, I love their sound anyway. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cheaper than a shrink

Today was one of those "character-building" days.  Got some news I wasn't prepared for.  Caught two kids cheating on a test and had to contact parents.  Had another parent come after me because her kid didn't get a big part in the musical.  And lost my buddy Chris for my birthday run as he had the opportunity to visit his folks in Wisco that weekend.  To top it off, sleet had started coming down at a somewhat annoying rate.  Snow is one thing, but sleet gets you all chilled to the bone.  I was in a foul mood when I got done with work.

So I ran.

Nothing crazy, I planned on an easy hour after yesterday's long run.  Here's the beauty of running, though.  Within minutes, this sixty minute recovery run became something entirely different.  It became therapy.  It became escape.  Relaxation.  It put my headhamster to rest for a bit.  Totally lost track of anything other than the freshly snow-covered lower Columbine trail and the first semblance of peace I'd experienced today.  

The monster was at gymnastics during this hour - he was jonesin' for some Wii at the YMCA, so we stopped in for thirty minutes afterward.  Just enough time for to squeeze in some rehab for my shoulder.  Read a good book to the little man, talked about planets as I tucked him in.  Had a cool email waiting for me.  Realized the day had taken a turn for a better, and that defining point, as it usually is, was when I stepped out that door.

Another email I got tonight was from the fine folks who run the Salida Marathon.  Sounds like there's barely any snow on the course right now.  We'll see.  A brisk little 2k climb in the first 8 miles, a bunch of rollers, and then a drop back into town around mile 20.  Probably not a Boston qualifier.

Truthfully, I haven't run a non-Ironman mary since 2001...and I was fat and useless back then.  While I don't expect anything impressive, I am looking forward to another chance to test my fitness.  26 trail miles are very different than 13 concrete miles.   

Got this JBT tune stuck in my head.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Rough day today, but I figured it would be.  I had a rare night without Cale and took full advantage of it...unfortunately, that also meant getting home at 2:00.  I'm too old to make that work on a regular basis.  Anyway, I had set a date to meet Patrick on the Santa Fe this morning.  It's a lot harder to weasel out of a run when you're being held accountable to someone else.

Today's plan - 10 out on the Santa Fe at an easy pace, likely in the 8:30 range.  Turn it around and come back at mary + 10 effort - supposedly 6:26's.  All the variables, though - how I felt, slight downhill, trail vs. road, southerly wind, and of course, altitude - meant "6:26 effort."  Straight up, 6:26 WAS effort this morning.

Long story short - 20 miles is still 20 miles.  Not a walk in the park.  Patrick's company was much appreciated, as he joined me for miles 2-9 and a couple of the pickup miles on the way back.  I wasn't able to push and hold well today - I'm sure it was a combination of sleep, still getting over the cold earlier this week, and having an emptier tank before I stepped out the door this morning.  I shut down the pickup a mile early as I just wasn't feeling it.  Splits and HR's for the pickup:  6:27/149, 6:29/154, 6:35/152, 6:28/154, 6:36/154, 6:23/156, 6:18/156, 6:26/161.  Looking at when I shut it down, it seems my HR confirmed what I felt.  

Long runs are opportunities to experiment with hydration, nutrition, etc.  Trying things on the short runs don't really give you an idea of what they'll do to you during a race.  Today's bright and shiny supplement - Justin's Peanut Butter.  I'm trying to get away from all those Gu/HammerGel calories.  Thought being I can get plenty of electrolytes and sugars through sport drink, but PB is loaded with protein and fat.  More importantly, it appeals to me and it's a little more natural.  Anyway, I had two concerns about the funky little Gu-like packages.  #1 - would I be able to get the stuff out easily while holding a steady pace, and #2 would I be able to swallow this stuff?  Turns out #1 was more of an issue than #2.  I did feel a little better after downing the package, but my pre-run preparations were severely lacking this morning and I felt it.

Got a quick nap in up at my folks when I went to pick up Cale.  Sneaked in another few minutes in the theater when I took him to Gnomeo and Juliet.  Kinda cute, I guess.  Even kid movies pull at the romantic hidden somewhere in me.  I'll sleep well tonight...it was a good week, all things considered.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Fuel - the long, boring history lesson

Why do you run?

It's a simple question, really.  For those of us who do so with any regularity, though...the answer is never very simple.  I'm sure many runners, triathletes, climbers, and other "competitive athletes" might need a good few sessions on Freud's couch in order to find out for themselves. Usually, the answer involves words such as "escape" and "release." 

I'm no different.  As a kid, I was perpetually restless, hyper, distracted, bored, and curious.  When my 9th grade P.E. teacher told me to go out for cross-country, I quickly found an outlet for all my extra energy.
Up to this point, I was a serious little hockey brat.  In-season, my time on the ice regularly exceeded 15 hours a week.  I spent countless more hours practicing my shots on a dryland net, reading books, drawing up plays, and dreaming of one-timing the game-winner off of a no-look Gretzky pass to the delight of tens of thousands of screaming fans.

What I couldn't stand about hockey was this - I busted my ass.  I was good, but that was a relative term.  There were plenty of kids who viewed hockey as an afterthought.  I knew very few who were willing to outwork me.  It allowed me to hold my own...problem is, I never excelled.  Furthermore, watching all these other kids who didn't put in 20% of my effort improve by leaps and bounds and surpass me just made me burn.  What?  Life isn't fair???

Running fit me well.  Obviously, being a skinny dude helped.  However, the skill set I possessed that finally could be exploited was my ability to lay out a long-term goal and work toward it over time.  In no other sport is "talent" so much defined not so much by physical traits but by the ability to plan...the ability to persevere and work towards a far-away goal without instant gratification.  In other words, the correlation between HARD WORK and RESULTS is stronger in a sport like running than in any of the "games" kids play such as hockey, soccer, and football.

Soon, running joined hockey as my second major activity.  I was nothing special - 5:05/10:50 and JV kid on a weak XC team in Omaha as a freshman, 5:03/10:50/17:57 and a ho-hum varsity runner on yet another mediocre XC team as a sophomore.

Possibly the most life-changing event happened over the next summer.  My family moved for the umpeenth time...this time from Omaha, NE to suburban Minneapolis.  I was stoked - for once, I'd be able to play hockey with the big boys!  Turned out to be a very different story.

At Wayzata HS, I was introduced to the single most influential person in my entire life - my coach, Bill Miles.  Running up until now was just something I did because I wasn't half-bad at it.  Bill changed how I looked at it.  Running became a passion.  Whereas it used to be a source of stress - "oh man, we've got to do 400's today?  Blech!" - it became a way of relieving stress.  He helped turn it into a drug for me.

I learned many life lessons in those two years...some of which lay dormant for many years, not to be called on until I truly needed them.  My philosophies on training, running, work, relationships, on just about everything...I can track them all back to my time running for Bill.  We won a state championship my senior year - the first of six that Bill has coached at Wayzata.  That was merely a byproduct of the attitude, the philosophy, the life-view Bill instilled in each of us, though.  Countless hundreds of kids from Wayzata will back me up on that bold statement.

I ran in college, as well, at UW-La Crosse.  Even though I got to run at nationals, and had the fortune of being on the team when we won our first national title, the effect it had on my life was far less.  Out of college, I got busy doing what you're supposed to do - grow up, get a job, get married, ditch the fun and games, and become sedentary.  I did an amazing job of this, having all of them wrapped up in record time.  I still ran, but strictly for fun.  A 1:28 half became cause for celebration.  And I must admit, it wasn't "fun" as it was before.  I was slowly turning into a "skinny fat man" and hating every minute of it.  I kinda gave triathlon a shot - did Ironman a couple three times.  Sucked at it - 12:40, 11:50, and 11:20.  Moved to CO, had a kid, changed careers.  I was stuck in a rut and looking for answers.

Enter my divorce.  No one event can knock you on your ass like that.  I needed some sort of stability.  Something I could count on as I sorted out the rest of my life...and guess what was there, just waiting for me?  While the other 23 hours of my day were spent wallowing, I had control over my demons when I stepped out that door.  The gift I had been given many years ago came through and gave me the stability and hope I needed to pull myself together and figure out what I wanted to be when I came out of "this mess."

Since 2008, I have embraced running to extent I never before imagined.  The by-products have been mostly positive.  I have more control over my life than at any other point in time....at least, I THINK I do.  When it comes down to it, how you view the world around you is more important than the world itself.  Hence the title of my blog.  I can't control what comes to me, but I can control how I react to it.

Anyone who is in his mid-thirties and runs as much I do obviously is fueled by something.  I think that fuel is different for everyone.  Mine...there's something inside me that never goes to sleep.  Only by running, climbing mountains, biking...only then can I quiet the voices and find peace.  When I sit on my ass, I'm miserable.  I fidget.  I argue.  I patronize.  When I get out the door, though, I find an outlet for all that negative vibe.  Sitting in traffic these days doesn't raise my blood pressure.  Listening to political opinions at odds with my own doesn't make my blood boil.  I can control my negative passions when I have a benign outlet for them.

Friday, March 4, 2011

You've gotta start somewhere

I don't know why I haven't gotten around to this earlier.  Fear of commitment, maybe.  At any rate, I've found myself reading blogs from many guys not so different than myself lately.  I figure if I'm actually reading their stuff, maybe I'll read mine.  Hell, maybe someone else will, too.  And I'll be a bit more motivated to train that extra bit.

My tentative plan is to use this primarily as part of my own training log.  I'm sure I'll throw in other random musings, adventures, and opinions along the way.  For now, though, I'm going to start simple.  Simply? Start being a verb, therefore making simply an adverb.  Yes, I'll pepper in some of the thrill of my profession as well...for better or worse.

Suggestions welcome.