Monday, December 31, 2007


Two posts in a day? Maybe I'm avoiding the graphs I need to update shortly. I have a personal log on the Precision Nutrition web site. It's a fairly small community of people who maintain active logs, and people share recipes, workout notes, and encouragement related to Precision Nutrition. The moderators insist that it be a positive and supportive environment and it's a good place to "hang out" on the web, although you have to be a "PN" customer to access the user logs portion of the site.

Some people on the logs have been suggesting that everyone needs to list resolutions for the New Year. I really don't do that very often, other than to say that I'm going to focus my attention on whatever my "A" race is for the coming year. Obviously, my "A" race for this coming year is Western States.

But, I did post a list of resolutions there this morning, so I thought I'd repeat them here. They are ambitious, I will admit, but the toughest one of all, for me, is probably number 5:

  1. When I weigh in for the race on 6/27, I will either be at 12% BF or lower OR I will be at 175 pounds or lower. I won't be unhappy if I get to 12%, but my weight is above 175. Similarly, I won't be disappointed if I lose some muscle mass between now and then, and I arrive at the starting line at 175 or less, no matter what my BF% is.
  2. Over the next six months, every workout, every meal, every skipped alcoholic beverage, every supplement, and every night of sleep will be dedicated to getting ready for this race. A few times in my life, I've invested myself wholly in prep for a single race for a six-month period. Those prep periods have led to my best ever races, including a sub-3 hour marathon and a finish at the Hardrock 100.
  3. While I focus on my race prep, my family will still come first in my life. If they need something, I'll be there for them, no matter what it does to my training. But, being there for them does not mean abandoning how I eat.
  4. As much as I love skiing and teaching skiing, I will reduce my number of skiing days this winter to focus on this race. This is hard to do at times, but I need to do it. This starts tomorrow, when I will skip a skiing day to run 20 miles. The skiing conditions will be amazing and I want to ski, but I NEED to run.
  5. After the Western States race is over, I will not revert to bad habits for the next 6 months. I will maintain or improve the results of goal #1 through the end of the calendar year.
  6. I will recognize when I am overtraining and I will rest when I need to do that. Last year, I got sick three different times. I think that overtraining was a factor in those illnesses and I want to prevent that from recurring.

Happy New Year to everyone. Enjoy your parties tonight. I'll probably be asleep by 9:00 as usual.


I taught skiing 6 of the last 9 days. Two of those days were with beginners or near beginners on easy terrain. The other four days were spent with the children I normally teach, and they are all strong skiers. We do at least one run each day on double-black diamond terrain - steep and moguled terrain. In all of those days of teaching, including some sketchy conditions, I didn't fall once. I felt good out there the whole time.

Yesterday, my wife and daughter were at the mountain with us. My son and I both teach skiing, so we are there every Saturday and Sunday. My wife and daughter used to come along almost every day, but that has changed a bit in the past two years. First, my daughter switched from skiing to snowboarding, so she has gone from being an expert skier to being a moderate rider. She's getting better, but she only rides on green or easier blue terrain. We still put my daughter in lessons sometimes, but a one-day lesson for her costs as much as I make in a day of teaching, so we can't afford that all the time.

So, my wife and daughter spent the day together on easy terrain yesterday, while my son and I worked. At 3:15, we all met up and my daughter was exhausted. My son was also tired from working with 4-year-old beginners all day. He spends a lot of time simply picking them up and getting them back on their feet.

So, the kids headed inside the lodge to change and my wife and I decided to ski a run together. We hadn't skied a single run together all year. I'm so busy teaching and she gets to ski so infrequently that we just don't get time together. We took two chair rides to one of the more moderate peaks at the mountain and we skied an intermediate bump run. I was feeling pretty good about my skiing. Then, we went to an even easier run to finish, although it has one short, steep pitch. My wife got to the bottom of that pitch before me and I was again feeling really good about my turns. I was feeling dynamic, my head was up, my body was framed down the fall line, and I was making nice rounded turns. And then, my ski tips touched briefly and I went down hard. My right thumb and left wrist took the brunt of the fall, but I shook it off and skied away. We had one final pitch to go and I went first. I got down quickly and I decided to watch my wife ski her last few turns while I was still moving. I was doing something called sideslipping, which is where you are traveling perpendicular to the length of your ski, basically skimming over the snow sideways. That allowed me to look up to watch my wife without stopping.

The bad thing about sideslipping is that you need to have your weight balanced just right over the ski. If your hips shift downhill just the slightest amount, your downhill edge will dig into the snow and you don't slide anymore. Your skis simply stop moving. Regretfully, I got careless and did exactly that. When my ski edges caught, the laws of physics still applied (P = mv, and I have a lot of "m"). Before I even realized that I'd caught my edge, I landed hard on my shoulder and side and then slid to a stop. Right under a lift. If I'd seen it from a chair, I probably would have laughed out loud. I simply laid there for a few seconds, assessing the damage. My shoulder hurt a bit and I'd hit my hip pretty hard, but I seemed OK. I finally got up and found one of my ski poles 20 yards ahead of me. I'd been going pretty fast and I hit pretty hard.

So, today I'm sore, but I don't think I'm injured. But, I may take a break from high speed sideslipping for a while.

This morning, I fought a bunch of new snow to get to the gym early. The lights were off and the doors were locked. Maybe they'll be open tonight. If not, I'll do a nighttime snowshoe run in the new snow. Then, I'll be asleep by 9:00, before running 20 tomorrow. I can't remember the last time I stayed up until midnight on New Year's Eve.

Friday, December 28, 2007

I am running!

Dr. Andy remarked in a comment that I should be running. I am. Sort of.

This week was scheduled as a last easy week before I start my real training. Because it's a low mileage week, I decided to push the pace a bit last night when I ran. I did a 10 minute warm-up and then did 5 minutes on, 5 off for the next 50 minutes. I wasn't going all that fast, but each repeat got faster, dropping eventually to a 7:00 pace.

By the time I went to bed last night, my glutes were screaming. I hadn't done squats for over a week and then did 3x15 yesterday morning to start my weight workout. I was only using 115# for the squats, but I worked on good form for all the reps. Add the faster running at the end of the day, and my legs were a bit tired.

Today, I'll do an easy hour of running before I teach skiing all weekend. Right now, I'm scheduled to teach skiing on Tuesday, but I think I might get out of that and start the new year with a 20 miler. I've only run longer than 12 once since Labor Day, so a long, slow run to start the year sounds like a good idea.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas and a song list

I've been taking it pretty easy since last Friday.

I taught skiing on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Wednesday and took a rest day on Christmas Day. This morning, I went back to the gym and finished my last workout in the NROL Hypertrophy 1 program. Next, I'm going to make some changes to the Fat Loss workouts and go back to them for a while.

Christmas was fairly relaxed at our house. I got a new pair of Dion Snowshoes, and mostly some gift certificates after that. I may end up buying a higher capacity MP3 player for long trail days, or perhaps just some running gear. My wife is going to get a tattoo, although she has to choose its location carefully, because they may not be visible here at work.

On Christmas Eve, my wife and I were up late, playing Santa Claus and drinking Champagne. Perhaps it was a bit too much Champagne, but we got started talking about classic rock songs. We tried to come up with a list of five songs that fit the following criteria:
  1. Everyone knows the song
  2. Everyone likes to sing along
  3. Everyone reaches for the volume dial to turn up the song.

After thinking about it for a while, we came up with this list:

  1. Stairway to Heaven (too easy)
  2. Paradise by the Dashboard Light by Meat Loaf
  3. American Pie by Don McLean
  4. Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen

We were a bit stuck for our final song. We both thought that the Cult's song "She Sells Sanctuary" fit #3 above, and #2 for people who know it, but decided it was perhaps not well enough known. Smells Like Teen Spirit was another option. Well, the truth is, there were many, many options. Our son recommended "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" the next day, but we decided against that song as well.

Finally, we settled on Billy Joel's Piano Man for our 5th song.

This meant no Stones, no Who, no Dylan, no Jimmy, no Beatles, no U2, and a number of other bands that could claim a spot in the list. I can think of so many other candidates.

So, what do readers (if I have any) think? What would your list be?

Friday, December 21, 2007


Before I talk about my trusty chiropractor, I'll mention that I ran for an hour last night and an hour this morning and I'll run for another hour tonight - all easy.

Today, I had an appointment with a chiropractor that I see periodically. His wife is an ultrarunner who has been on the national 100K team a number of times, and he is the go-to-guy for distance runners in Vermont.

I don't have a huge problem, but an adjustment every 6-8 weeks has been my pattern for the last couple years. Basically, when I tore my ACL and then had it repaired in 2002, my knee extension in my left leg changed a bit. This has altered my stride a bit, and over time, I have an imbalance that develops in my hips. This causes my left leg to functionally shorten and my right leg absorbs more of a beating than the left. It's very noticeable on a treadmill, where the rotation in my hip shows up clearly - my right leg will bump the front rail on the treadmill at times, but never my left leg.

Today, the chiro thought things were pretty bad when I got there, but some e-stim fixed most of the problem. After that, a quick adjustment in the hip area on each side, and I was good to go.

When I first started seeing him a couple years ago, the problem was reversed. The e-stim would show a small improvement and then a major adjustment was needed to fix things. These days, he says it's about 90/10 in the ligaments rather than the fascia, and I can work on this myself with stretches.

My appointments with him have been somewhat ad hoc over the past couple years. When I feel things aren't right, I make an appointment, wait two weeks until he has an opening, and he takes care of me. We decided today to go for once-a-month work with Western States out there for next year. Being married to an ultrarunner, even though she races primarily on the roads, he understands the importance of Western States to me.

If any other runners in the area want his name, I'd be glad to provide it. I have to admit that I'm biased, because I work for the same hospital system that employs this guy, but I started seeing him before I came to work here. He also works with a fantastic podiatrist who was running sub-3 marathons in his late 50s, but has now become a road biker. Between the pair of them and their PTs, they run a great clinic for runners.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

"Run" this morning

I have to admit I wasn't really looking forward to running this morning, after yesterday's weights. I got to the gym and reached in my bag for my running shoes and they weren't there. I keep a pair of racing flats at the gym that I use for lifting, but they're way too beat up to run in them any more.

So, I used the flats and did an upper body lifting session and then 15 minutes of interval training on the stair climber. I have to admit that I was happy to lift rather than run.

I seem to really like this lifting stuff and most days right now, I'd rather lift than run.

Tonight, after a committee meeting, I'll run for an hour. Tomorrow, I'll run twice for an hour each time. And then, I won't run until at least Christmas day, and next Thursday is more likely.

It looks like our nice snow from last night and today (and last weekend) is going to get messed up by some rain on Sunday. I don't mind skiing on rainy days; the snow can be great. But, the day after rain can be really tough (icy) skiing.

Nothing else too exciting. I'm trying to somehow avoid the huge quantity of sugar-loaded treats making their way through the office right now.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Weights this morning

I'm just about done with a program from New Rules of Lifting called Hypertrophy 1. Truthfully, I'm not all that interested in hypertrophy, but that program was next in the sequence that I've been following. I've enjoyed the program because of its variety. There are 24 workouts in the cycle and you do each exactly 4 times. There is a workout A, which is upper body and a workout B, which is lower body. Then, you alternate between 5x5s with 90 seconds rest, 4x10s with 60 seconds rest, and 3x15s with 30 seconds rest. All I've got left is a 4x10 upper body day and 3x15 lower body day. To me, the 3x15 days are the toughest, and perhaps also the most important for a runner.

The 5x5 days are my favorites though, because I feel like I'm lifting some real mass. Of course, within lifting, it's all relative, and real lifters would laugh at the amount of weight I'm pulling or pushing. Today's squats started at 135 for the first set, and then I did 3 sets at 145 and the last at 155. Deadlift shrugs were all done at 185 pounds. Both of these were PRs for this workout, in terms of total poundage moved. Then, I did Bulgarian split squats with 2x30# DBs and bench step-ups with 2x40# DBs. Then, 3x15 reverse crunches. I also added some push-ups and pull-ups. All in all, it was a great workout.

I'll finish this program early next week and I have to decide what is next. I think I'm going to drop lifting to 2x per week after the first of the year. I think I'm going to go back to the concept of the Fat Loss programs, but modify them somewhat.

Each of the first two fat loss programs contained 6 different lifts, paired up into 3 supersets. The goal was that each superset would combine two lifts not really related to each other, so there would be minimal interference within a superset.

The basic goal is to have one lift from the categories of push, pull, deadlift, squat, lunge and rotation. However, the fat loss programs have you either squat or deadlift on each day, but never both, so one movement usually gets repeated.

So, I think I want to vary the lifts I've been doing since I'm tired of lat pulldowns and cable rows and a few other lifts. But, if I put together something similar to the fat loss programs, focusing on one lift per category, I should have a huge amount of variety available for my next sequence. I'll spend the next week creating a new set of workouts to use after the first of the year. I may also vary the set/rep numbers from the fat loss programs to do at least some 5x5 days, so I can focus on lifting heavier weights periodically.

Oh yeah, I still run too - 11 easy miles yesterday.

After Friday, I'm going to take a multi-day break from running, and do a lot of skiing for a few days. Then, after skiing on the first of the year, I'll start upping my running mileage.

We went out for dinner last night and I had a bowl of soup and a salad with grilled chicken. No bread, no butter, no burgers, and no alcohol. I guess WS really has me focused right now. The important thing is to extend that focus through the next 27 weeks.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Weather on the other side of the country

In 2005, I trekked through many miles of snow early in Western States. I deliberately kept my pace down, not wanting to take any falls. When I fell apart after mile 80, I had no margin for error, partly because I'd deliberately started so slowly.

So, like many WS runners, I'll pay particular attention to the weather in the Sierra Nevada this winter. I see that they are about to get hit by a big snowstorm and I know that the Lake Tahoe area ski resorts need it.

I never want to wish anything bad upon my fellow skiers, and I really like skiing in the Tahoe area. But, I'd prefer the race to have less snow next June than in 2005.

I'm not in control of that though, so I'll pay attention to the snow stats for the Sierra Nevada and plan accordingly. If our winter continues like it's started, I'll be skiing in early June this year.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My new favorite word - bombogenesis

Bombogenesis is EXTREME cyclogenesis. What the hell am I talking about? Basically, it's a weather term that relates to intense low-pressure systems that form rapidly over water. For years, my wife and a few friends and I have used the term "weather bomb" to describe huge wintertime snow events that skiers love so much.

This fall, I found out that there is an actual weather word that leads to some of these weather bombs and that word is bombogenesis. We've had two of them recently, and yesterday's skiing was absolutely amazing. The drive home after skiing was a bit sketchy, but the snow was amazing while I was skiing.

Last year, skiing was terrible at this time of year. Things improved in late January and early February, but the season didn't really get going until the Valentine's day storm dropped almost 5 feet of snow on the mountains.

Right now, the skiing is as good as I've ever seen it in December in Vermont.

My only complaint this weekend came from Friday's workout. Friday, when I did squats, I changed my stance a bit. A wider stance (don't even think of that Senator from Idaho right now) can put less pressure on the knees while squatting. I decided to change my stance on Friday to see how it felt. I did feel like it was a bit more gentle on my knees. However, that stance change, and the fact that I went straight from squats to deadlifts, left my hamstrings aching all weekend. Squats usually hit me more in the glutes, but not this time.

It's amazing that such a small change could make such a big difference, but I felt it all weekend long.

This morning, I spent some time snowblowing the driveway and then I managed a quick upper body lifting session (3x15s with 30 seconds rest) before work. Tonight, I'll run for about 45 minutes before a Select Board meeting.

This week, I'll run 30 or so easy miles, ski 2x and lift 3x. Next week, with the holidays, I'll run less and ski more - a final running rest week before I start increasing my mileage on the first of the year.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Good week so far

I've worked out hard every day since Monday and haven't had a rest day since two Mondays ago.

This week, I ran and lifted on Monday, ran on Tuesday, ran/lifted on Wednesday, ran twice yesterday and then lifted this morning.

This morning was a 4x10 day with 60 seconds rest - lower body only on the schedule. I added 3x15 of push-ups and 3x3 of pull-ups as well.

I was going to run again tonight, but I should probably buy some Christmas gifts at some point, so I'm going to do that tonight. This weekend will be skiing, with a huge storm due in on Sunday.

My poor son will be going to the doctor again this afternoon and it's unlikely he'll be able to ski again this weekend. That means he'll miss the storm on Sunday and there's no way he can skip school on Monday to go skiing, after being out sick most of this week.

If the storm materializes the way it's predicted right now, driving home on Sunday night is going to be dicey. I'd love to stay over and ski on Monday, but I'm trying to save vacation for a family trip to Western States.

Oh yeah - no alcohol since the day of the WS lottery right now and my weight is definitely dropping. I'm using a new belt notch today and I don't intend to give it back.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Training hard and staying healthy

My kids have been sick this week. My son has been sick for most of the past week.

Last winter, I was sick for 3+ weeks. I got sick again for a similar time period in May. And then again in August, only longer. I think that I made a big training mistake last winter that left me in a run-down state. I trained for a road marathon through the fall and never really took a serious break from training after the race.

Massanutten seemed so close, and I was tired when I started training for the race.

This year, I've been on an extended rest cycle. I've run fewer than 500 miles since the first of August. I've been lifting regularly through that time period, but my training has not been running-intensive.

If I stay healthy for the next week, rather than getting sick like my children, I'll hope that indicates my body is not as drained as it was this time last year.

For consistency in training, I need to stay healthy this winter. If that means more rest days or fewer miles, so be it. I'd rather rest when I feel run down than rest for a few weeks because I went too far.

Dropping my running pace the last couple weeks seems to be helping. My running is fun again after a period where I wasn't really enjoying it.

It's snowing outside right now, although this storm is mostly hitting MA rather than VT. But, on Sunday, we may get hit with a huge snowstorm, which should lead to amazing skiing that day and into next week.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My mortal enemy - The Scale

I stepped on my scale for the first time in a while this morning. I weighed 196.

Over my running career, I've raced at weights as low as 165 and I've been as high as 227, although I don't think I ever raced when I weighed over 210.

In my 10 starts at 100 miles, I've been as light as 176 or so at Hardrock (they don't weigh you there) and as high as 202 at Vermont in 1997. Not surprisingly, I didn't finish that race in 1997.

I weighed in for WS at 187, VT at 194, 197, 198 and 202. I was 189 at Wasatch.

I ran my marathon PR (2:57:35) at 168 pounds. I ran my 5K PR just a few weeks before my marathon PR, at 170.

Except for Hardrock in 2004, I've never been under 180 pounds for an ultra.

A typical pattern for me will be something like this:

Decide on my key race for next season by the end of the previous calendar year. Enjoy the holidays and enjoy some beers after skiing early in the season. Step on the scale on the first of the year and freak out. Plan to lose x pounds by race day. Divide x by the number of months, n, until the race. The number will seem small. So, I'll figure I can make a few moderate changes and I'll get there slowly. Then, I eat well for a week and go right back to my normal habits. I'll drink beer after skiing every Saturday and Sunday. I'll eat cheeseburgers for lunch while I'm teaching skiing.

Suddenly, it will be the first of February. I still have x pounds to lose, but one less month. So, I need to lose x/(n-1) pounds per month. It still sounds doable.

Repeat January's habits in February. Repeat again in March. Finally, ski season ends and I switch to running on the weekends, but I'm now behind on where I need to be weight-wise. This affects my ability to run the number of miles that I'd like to run. I get frustrated, and eventually simply accept that I'll lose a little weight during my higher mileage training, but "x" is not going to happen. Maybe x-10 or x/2.

On raceday, I show up weighing more than I'd like, and despite all my training, I'm left wondering "what if". Fit and fat - story of my life.

So, here we are again. Is it time to lamely repeat the past?

I have a set of bodyfat calipers. They're kind of cheap, but I use them every month or two and I get pretty consistent numbers.

According to those calipers, at 198 pounds one month ago, I was at 21.7% body fat with a lean body mass of 155 pounds. It's hard to imagine that I'm ever going to see 10% body fat, which would be 172 pounds if my lean body mass stayed unchanged.

However, I imagine that as my running mileage increases and I cut my weight training from 3x per week to 2x, I'll lose some lean body mass.

I made it to Hardrock in the mid-170s back in 2004 and I finished 65th of 125 starters. That was probably the ultra race of my life so far.

So, I want to make 175 pounds my goal for Western States. Perhaps more important than the weight is my body fat percentage, depending on what happens with my lean body mass as my mileage increases. So, I'm going to set a goal there as well, although it may be unachievable: 12%.

I have just over 6 months until the race and I'm saying I'd like to lose 21 pounds. Hmmmm, that's just 3.5 pounds per month.

Here we go again...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Random Comments

Last week was a good training week. I had a rest day on Monday when a snowstorm and a town meeting stopped me from ever getting to the gym. After that, I lifted and ran on Tuesday, ran twice on Wednesday, lifted and ran on Thursday and ran twice on Friday. I taugh skiing both days over the weekend and woke up a bit sore this morning.

Regrefully, my workout this morning was a lower-body workout, doing 3x15s with only 30 seconds rest between sets. I always have to use much lighter weights for this set/rep/rest pattern. I did squats, deadlift shrugs, Bulgarian split squats, and bench step-ups, the latter two with dumbbells. Then, some reverse crunches, push-ups, and pull-ups. Tonight will be a very easy run or uphill walk on the treadmill.

It was great to be teaching skiing to kids again over the weekend. I enjoy our pre-season training clinics, but I feel most comfortable when I'm back at work, hanging out with the kids all day. My group has a range of ages, from 7 to 11, but no 9-year old children. We were skiing double-black-diamond bump runs yesterday afternoon, so I know we'll ski hard this season.

I had a hard time following the meal timing of Precision Nutrition while skiing. I have to figure out how to eat 3 small meals during the skiing day - meals that include protein and vegetables.

I guess that getting into Western States must have scared me a little bit. I didn't have a drop of alcohol last week - the first time in many months that I went a week without a drink.

I need to step on a scale and see where my weight is right now. Getting my bodyfat percentage lower is a key for me if I'm going to be successful in June.

Overall, I think I know the keys to getting my bodyfat lower. I know that we're all different, but this is what seems to matter the most for me. From a training perspective, speed work helps a lot with my weight, lifting seems to help, and total mileage doesn't seem to matter much. I think that as my mileage gets high, I simply compensate by eating more.

From a dietary perspective, alcohol seems to have the worst impact on my weight. After that, simple carbs (sugar and flour especially) are probably my biggest problem, and perhaps dairy fat is next. If I stay away from those three categories of food, or limit them properly, I can eat all the food I want and still lose weight. That basically means lean meats, lots of salads, other veggies and some fruit, plus my post-workout recovery drinks. It gets boring, but it seems to be effective, especially when combined with speed work or weight training or both.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Training Transition

I ran the Vermont 100 back in July and then ran two races later in the summer. One of the later races was a mountain race at a local ski resort and the other was a 100 mile road relay, with 5 teammates.

I was really drained after this racing and I was sick for a few weeks. So, I decided to cut back my mileage and not race at all this fall. For the most part, I've stayed around 30 miles per week, although I had one 50 mile week where I did a long run with a friend who was training for a marathon.

As my health returned and I felt more recovered, I started doing some speedwork this fall. As a result, I'm in pretty good shape right now, at least for me and for this time of year. I've been doing tempo or speedwork at least 2x per week for the last 6 weeks.

But, I think it's time to transition to long, slow miles, and start re-building my long distance base. In some ways, it's depressing to do that, because I've enjoyed running some miles at 7:00 pace or faster recently.

For my basebuilding, I follow a Maffetone-like approach. I start my "runs" by walking to warm up, I limit my heart rate while I'm running, and I finish by walking a few more minutes. This morning, I did 5.3 miles in an hour.

The good thing is that when I "run" at this speed, I can do a lot more miles and not feel so beat up. That's where I need to be as I start increasing my mileage.

I also know that by late March or early April, I'll return to some tempo work and interval work. But for now, it's time to relax and just cruise through my basebuilding for a few months.

On another note, tomorrow I start teaching skiing for the season. I've been leading training groups at the mountain for the past few weekends. It's nice to work with other ski instructors, but the real fun of the job, for me at least, is working with the kids. Tomorrow, our seasonal ski programs start, and I'll spend the next 16 weekends with the same group of 8-10 kids - skiing, playing, laughing, and getting to act like a kid myself.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Weight training and Ultras

There are as many opinions about weight training for ultrarunners as there are ultrarunners.

I've worked with coaches in the past and all of them (3 different coaches) advocated lifting to some extent, usually with light to moderate weights and high reps.

A year ago, while surfing, I stumbled across Alwyn Cosgrove's blog. This led me to two other sites that I've grown to love. One of them is Precision Nutrition and the other is Lou Schuler's blog.

I discovered that Lou and Alwyn had written a book called The New Rules of Lifting. As I read more about the book, I realized that it was written for people interested in getting stronger, but the focus was on free weights - higher weights than I'd ever lifted - and on reasonable length workouts. As a runner, a book that promised I could be in and out of the gym in less than an hour, with a good strength workout behind me seemed very appealing.

I bought the book and really enjoyed it. Lou's writing style is easy to read and very entertaining. The book contains a variety of programs and defines progressions through programs. I've been following a progression for neophytes so far, and I've worked through 3 full training cycles and 2/3 of a fourth cycle.

In the past, I've always used machines (Universal or Nautilus) for the majority of my lifting. I would usually start lifting in the winters and after my peak mileage months hit, I'd quit. The primary reason I would quit wasn't that I couldn't fit the work in, but rather that I wouldn't see much progress. It seemed that I just didn't get stronger, so why put in the time?

I joined a local gym. I learned how to use a squat rack. I learned the value of chalk when doing deadlifts to prevent my palms from getting ripped to shreds.

And, I started to get stronger. I'm still not strong by any means, but I've made incredible progress in the gym this year. During the spring and summer, I lifted 2x per week. This fall, it's been 3x. Starting the first of the year, I'll probably cut back to 2x per week.

I have found that I've fallen in love with lifting. I'm stronger than I've ever been in my life. Moving real iron around in a way that uses lots of muscles is fun. I've learned to love the soreness in my glutes after a tough round of squats.

Does it help my running? Well, since I started lifting this year, I haven't lost any weight. But, if I am using calipers correctly, I've added about 8 pounds of muscle this year and dropped about the same amount of fat. I feel stronger when I run, even when I'm tired. My speed has improved as well.

This past summer, I ran my fastest ever 100 miler, a few months after I started lifting. I did this off a lower mileage training base than most of my other 100 mile finishes. Admittedly, it was on an easier course (Vermont) than some I've run, and I know that course well, but a PR is a PR.

I don't know if I ran that PR because of, in spite of, or with no connection at all to the lifting.

But, so far, I'm pleased with the results from my time in the gym and I'm going to stick with it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Busy, Busy, Busy

My biggest concern with getting ready for Western States is time. I have a full time job, working in quality management in a smalltown hospital. I am on the Select Board (Vermont term for a small town's city council) of my local town. I teach skiing to children on the weekends in the winter. And, I do a little bit of computer consulting work to help pay the bills.

Oh yeah, I have a wife and two children and two dogs and two cats.

Life is busy, but my wife is very understanding and we usually find ways to make this all work.

But, in some ways, after prior disappointments around Western States, I want to do things as well as I can this year. Given the popularity of the race these days, you never know when you'll get another chance.

Somehow, over the next 29+ weeks, I need to do everything I need to do for my family, my jobs and my training, and yet stay relaxed and calm and focused.

Western States Lottery

I'm primarily starting this blog to track my training and progress towards the finish line of the 2008 Western States Endurance Run.

On Saturday, December 1st, with only a 16% chance of being picked, my name was drawn and I'm one of 350+ people entered in the race. The race will start June 28th at Squaw Valley Ski Resort in CA.

I first heard of this race when I saw a TV broadcast about it back in 1986 or 1987. I've been interested in it ever since. In 2001, I paced a friend over the last 38 miles in his first finish at the race. For 2002, I was selected in the lottery, but tore my ACL during ski season and never made it to the starting line. For 2003, I wasn't in the lottery. For 2004, I lost the lottery.

For 2005, I was selected and I made it to the starting line. But, due to a dumb mistake in training, racing a tough 50 miler three weeks before the race, I fell apart in the later miles of the race, and I was pulled from the race at mile 93.5. That one still haunts me, even though I know I gave everything I had that day.

For 2006, I wasn't in the lottery. For 2007, I lost in the lottery.

In 2008, I plan to finally finish this race.