Tuesday, January 31, 2012

It only takes a month

On New Year's Day, doubt had me in its grips.  I hadn't had a quality stretch of training since Pikes - a fairly long time to go without focus or goals.  I only ran 55 times in 112 days - that's 67 days off, vs. 30 or so in the previous 8 months.  I weighed in at a surprising 148 lbs - I was 140 in August.  Most telling, however, was how lethargic I felt when I actually DID get out the door.

These beast feeds upon itself.

I've been around the block enough to trust that a couple back-to-back quality weeks would silence the beast, and I would be back in control of my training.  Maybe a month or two behind my training from one year ago, but back in control nonetheless.

Thirty-one days later and I'm in a whole different place.  I considered January 2011 to be a pretty solid month, as I had a decent base of work under me going into 2011.  When I stacked it up against this year's first month, though, I liked what I saw.

  • 235 miles / 29k of climbing in January 2012
  • 222 miles / 15k of climbing in January 2011
  • 27 days running in 2012
  • 27 days running in 2011
  • 13 days crossfit/cross-training in 2012
  • 0 days in 2011

Furthermore, I'm shocked to find that some of my early-season tempo efforts have been faster at the same PE.  Today's 5 x 1000 (2 minutes active recovery) around Stratton Rez were done comfortably in 5:58 pace.  I did this same exact workout (give or take some reps) many times last spring, and usually found 6:10 to be about the right pace for an LT effort.  On the few tempo efforts I've put forth, I found a similar pattern - I'm comfortably about 10-15 seconds/mile faster.

Go figure.  I'm still a few lbs over fighting weight, especially for 100-milers.  Maybe 2011's miles are beginning to pay off.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunny and warm. What's new?

Another amazing weekend in Colorado.  I hope I never take for granted days like this.

COS could put on another Fat Ass run.  Yesterday, I tested that theory by checking out some of the southwest trails from the westside.  My foray added up to 27, but I'm pretty sure the following route would yield about 31:
  • up Red Rocks
  • up High Drive
  • down Captain Jacks
  • down Spring Creek
  • up Columbine and Gold Camp
  • up Buckhorn
  • down Bear Creek
  • up Section 16
  • down Red Rocks
  • around the Garden
I distinctly remember, back in my MTBing days, when I thought this was an epic day on the bike.  I felt great upon wrapping up yesterday - good enough to stop by Brownie's for a recovery drink on my way home.  A testament to how one's perspective can change based off of experience.

Downtown from Captain Jack's
North Cheyenne Canyon - cheaper than 7 Falls!

Highpoint of ~8,200' on Mt. Buckhorn

January in Red Rocks Open Space

Mileage-wise, I got into the 60's for the week.  Of those, 5 were "quality", tempo or faster.  Two miles ~5:55 with the high schoolers on Tuesday, and three more 6:30 descending to 6:10 on Thursday.  I should probably start wearing the HRM to see how those register - I feel I'm in better shape than I was 12 months ago, but would love to see the numbers prove it.  Last winter, I wore that thing religiously during similar workouts.  I love tempo work over the winter - each run serves to feed my hunger to improve.  They require discipline - "man, this is easy, I WANT to go faster...but I won't" - but allow me to bounce back quickly.

The kid has just recently begun to call me crazy.  The only evidence he supplies to support this claim:  I like to run ultramarathons.  I haven't the heart to tell him I've only completed one thus far.  Balancing this running thing with life continues to demand some creativity.  I've recently added the whole wake-up-ungodly-early-and-be-done-before-anyone-else-would-even-think-about-stirring strategy to my arsenal.  

While I am likely to hop in to some sort of smaller race before March 31, my next goal is now the Badger Mountain Challenge in Pasco, Washington. (or is it Richland?  Or Kennewick?)  Long story short, I had some serious logistical issues finding a race over spring break.  Antelope Island, Old Goats, Umstead, and a few others were either full or too early or too late or too hard to get to.  I started looking into this Badger Mountain race and pulled the trigger on a whim.  It's a 50k, so I should be able to bounce back from it in time for one of the "local" 50-milers a few weeks later - Collegiate Peaks, Quad Rock, Jemez, etc.  I'm bummed I couldn't make it down to Texas for Rocky Raccoon - putting down a fast 50 would have been a blast.  Suppose I'll just live vicariously through others.

Sad to think most kids these days haven't ever heard of a mosh pit.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


The lack thereof in my training has been my achilles' heel for oh, about my entire running life.  Looking back on logs from college, I notice my weekly mileage progressions followed a dreadfully predictable pattern:

  • 50, 60, 55, 65, 60, 75, 0.  
  • 55, 60, 55, 60, 55, 60, 65, 0.
  • 40, 40, 40, 40, 40, 60, 0.
  • 65, 70, 65, 75, 80, 75, 100, 0.

Whenever I tried to mix high mileage with high intensity, it was just a matter of time until something broke and I would shut down.

Since I began running seriously again in 2007, I feel like I've become somewhat more consistent in my mileage, albeit at a much lower and less intense level.  In the first 18 weeks of 2011 - week 18 was Collegiate Peaks and weeks 19-20 were planned weeks off - I was able to log between 45 to 70 miles in all but one of them.  The following 13 weeks, which were spent ramping up for Pikes, saw me below 45 only once as well.  That's 30 out of 32 weeks in the 45+ range.  While 45 mile weeks are hardly the recipe for success at the highest level, putting in that base level of mileage has definitely paid dividends for me over the past year.  It came to me a little later in life, but the lesson here is that consistency is key.

I essentially have 30 weeks until Pb.  Assuming an easy week after Old Goats and another one after Lake City, that's 28 weeks in which to put in the time.  The miles will be a byproduct of many other factors, but I hope to look back and see results that look like this:

  • 40+ miles - 28 weeks
  • 50+ miles - 28 weeks
  • 60+ miles - 20 weeks
  • 70+ miles - 10 weeks
  • 80+ miles - 5 weeks

I hope to live in the ~60 mpw range throughout much of the spring.  It seems to be a level I can sustain without burning out, breaking, or dropping the ball at any of my other personal endeavors - you know, pesky little chores like family and career.  If I can sustain that volume through May, stepping into the 70's for the summer should be doable.

Easy, slow 17 around the west side of town yesterday.  55 for the week.  I put in two 6:30's on Gold Camp Rd mid-week, and picked my 16th mile yesterday up to a 6:55; otherwise it was just a lot of slow distance.  I'll start adding in more marathon-plus pace work into my routine this month.

A lot of talk regarding the right "way" to view a big race.  Some folks obsess over it for months; others walk into it loosey-goosey.  Not sure if the results point to any one method being more effective than another.  I've got to think a lot of it depends on a person's natural disposition.  I've always been one who benefits from careful, deliberate planning as I'm naturally inclined to spacecase.  Dwelling on Pb for the next eight months will likely leave me in much better shape come August than convincing myself it's simply another race.

Monday, January 16, 2012

2012 - What's on tap?

Short list so far of races that I deem important.  I'll probably hop in to things like Colorado Springs' own Winter Series, Salida's Run thru time half-mary, and other fun stuff.  The biggies, though, are listed below.

March 24 - Old Goat 50 mile (San Luis Capistrano, CA)
Only 13,000' of elevation gain.  Let's just say that's 25 miles up and 25 miles down, I think that averages out to about 500' per mile.  Just looking at past runs, the climb up Longs Ranch Road gains about 600'.  The steepest mile at Collegiate Peaks was only 420'.  I guess if I can get through the Old Goat, I can get through anything.

April 28 - Cheyenne Mountain 50k (Colorado Springs, CO)
Or the 25k.  I love both the course and the race directors.  Being a single dad, I find it's not too difficult to find someone to watch Cale for a few hours while I run locally.  Hopefully it won't snow this year.

June 23 - San Juan Solstice 50 mile (Lake City, CO)
200 people in this one.  I swear I already know about 50 of them.  Another PR-friendly half-century.  Lake City is beautiful in the summer; can't wait for this one.

~July 4-7 - Nolan's 14 dress rehearsal.  (Sawatch Range, CO) 
La Plata, Ellingwood Ridge in the foreground
Day 1:  Massive, Elbert, La Plata.  Day 2:  Huron, Missouri, Belford, Oxford, Harvard, Columbia, Yale.  Day 3:  rest.  Day 4:  Princeton, Antero, Tabeguache, Shavano.  Weather permitting.  I'd like to break this thing up into sections and gain familiarity with a few of the routes I've never done.  Another bucket list item would be successful completion of Nolan's 14...2013?  2014?  Eventually life will catch up with me, so any attempt will have to be soon.  Brandon is looking to give it a shot.  Let me know if you're interested in playing with us for a day or two or four.

July 13-15 - pacing at Hard Rock 100 (Silverton, CO)
How can Hard Rock not be on the bucket list?

August 18 - Leadville 100 mile (Leadville, CO)
Most normal people think this is insane.  Most people who actually read this blog think this is trendy and lame.  I can't win.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Counterculture Antiresolutions

Another calendar year is here.  I've learned enough about the ultra community to get that is the ultimate counter-culture.  Meaning the standard ultra guy should say something like, "New Years is just some arbitrary date.  Resolutions are bull$hit, just fodder for the fat and weak to spend a week at Bally's before bowing out to eat a tub of Ben & Jerry's on the couch while watching The Biggest Loser."

Yeah, I guess I'm one of the masses still.  A new year always gives me pause to look back, look around, and look ahead.  And make the anti-resolution to keep doing stuff that I deem blog-worthy.

Looking back.  2011 treated me well - personally, professionally, athletically, and as a parent.  (I am not a fan of the wording - "treated me well" makes it sound like it was out of my control.  Hell no.  We are each the master of our own destiny.)  I set forth a racing goal a year ago to finish top 10 in every trail/mountain/ultra race I entered in 2011, and I came pretty damn close to making it happen - only my annual Ascent meltdown kept me from fulfilling it.  The number of high peaks I have "bagged" running reached double digits.  For the most part, I averted serious injury, and I made some great new friends and training partners.  Indeed, 2011 was worth every day it offered me.

I did something to my back in mid-November on a run to Barr Camp, and it has been giving me fits ever since.  I seem to be able to manage it, but it took me the better part of a month just sitting around before I could get back at it.  I've been busy the past few weeks, though.  Winter break has afforded me the opportunity to get reacquainted with some of the coolness that is Colorado.
Sunrise over the Mosquito Range
I had the opportunity to go on not one but two hut trips.  The first one was with a group of "16" to Fritz and Fabi Benedict Huts near Aspen.  I used to avoid these things like the plague, figuring I'd be giving up on training days.  How naive.  Any time you snowshoe 4 hours with a heavy pack, you get stronger.

An opportunity opened up the day after Christmas, and I did a solo jaunt to Sangree Frolicher hut near Leadville.  The snow cover was scant enough to allow me a chance to dash up to the summit of 12,867' Buckeye Peak before heading home.  Showing up to the hut as a random "that guy" was fun - I met a bunch of very cool, like-minded folks at the hut.

This view never gets old
Later in the week, I traveled down to South Colony Lake Road in hopes of climbing Humboldt Peak via its east ridge.  The wind was absolutely ferocious and I really didn't have the patience to deal with it, so when I hit the turnoff from South Colony Lakes Road, I just kept going straight until I hit the old trailhead.  I got to cut fresh tracks for a few hours and ended up getting a hefty workout - 5 hours, 11 miles, and a breathtaking view of a sleeping Crestone Needle.  I would still like to get back and hit the ridge, but the mountain isn't going anywhere.

I'm not at liberty to share our route, but.....
On New Years Eve, Brandon Stepanowich, Amanda Ewing, Adam Wade and I went for a little jog up Pikes via a most secretive route.  Wind advisories covered the state - the forecast for Pikes called for gusts in excess of 100 mph.  That didn't stop us from at least giving it a shot, and we did make it to treeline before retreating gracefully to Barr Camp.  Back-to-back five-hour days made for a great weekend of "time on feet".