Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Just another training day

In many ways, training for ultras can get boring. Don't get me wrong; I enjoy the training, at least most of the time. There are the key workouts, and most of them are long runs that happen on weekends for us working stiffs. The rest of the workouts can be pretty mundane - simply accumulating time on the feet (miles) and hopefully, fitness. It's important to do this, but it's about as interesting as spectating at an ultra. Most of the time, nothing of note is really happening. Or at least, it appears that way.

Last night, I ran 4 miles with my dogs. They were in a playful mood, and the pace was all over the place. At times, we were running at a 7:30 pace and at other times, we were doing a 12:00 pace, and stopping to eat grass or roll in mud (the dogs - not me). Overall, it was just under 38 minutes for 4 miles.

This morning, I had to run earlier than usual before an 8:00 meeting. I felt a bit tired, but still ran a hilly 6 miler at 9:45 pace. A month ago, my pace would probably have been closer to 10:30 for this route. Tonight, I'll run another 6, with 2 tempo miles.

Tomorrow, I start my new part-time job, and I need to finish my workout and be showered by 6:45, so I can make the drive to the new office. So, I'll lift very early tomorrow and then do a nice 10 miler along the shore of Lake Champlain after work.

Same old, same old. Run some, lift some, try to eat well, accumulate miles. Do it over a long period of time and with some focus though, and something almost magical can happen with your fitness.

My focus on my diet continues to be very solid. I'm allowing myself one meal per week where I can eat or drink what I want, but every other meal is closely controlled. I forgot to weigh myself this morning, but I believe I'm down to about 185 or so right now.

59 days until showtime...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Treadmill repeats

It was pouring when I got off work last night, and to be completely honest, I just didn't feel like running in pouring rain for my planned 5 miler. So, I went to the gym instead and did short, high speed (for me) repeats. Basically, I would run for 30 seconds at a 6:00mpm pace, and then reset the treadmill to 12:00 pace. It took 20 seconds for the treadmill to slow down to that speed. Then, I'd stay at the slow speed for 30 seconds, and then set it for the higher speed. It also took 20 seconds for the thing to speed up that much.

I did 10 quick repeats at 6:00 pace and a total of 3 miles. It was a short, fun workout that was probably more valuable than an easy 5 miler anyway.

This morning, I lifted at the gym. I'm in my 4th week of a 6-week program (Fat Loss 3 from the New Rules of Lifting book), and for the first time since I started this program, I added some weight to some of the lifts. Including warm-ups, I did a total of 100 deadlifts this morning, so I'm sure I'll feel that a bit tomorrow.

I'll finish this program the week before I pace at Massanutten and then move on to a completely different program after that. The next program is designed for building strength rather than for fat loss. So far, I've done mostly fat loss workouts from NROL, but I did one round of hypertrophy workouts as well. This next one will be my first foray into one of the strength programs.

Tonight, I'll do an easy 4-5 miler after work.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Oh yeah...

I thought I'd mention something that is pretty amazing to me.

In the Good Calories, Bad Calories book, Taubes talks about how high blood pressure can be blamed on excessive carbohydrate consumption. In the past month or so, I've been eating fewer and fewer carbohydrates, with the exception of one meal on Saturday evening, when I eat whatever I feel like eating. I've been especially diligent with sugar, flour, and potatoes.

My blood pressure has been higher than optimal for years, although not high enough that my doctor has ever suggested treating it. He did ask me to buy a home BP monitor and keep track of my BP over time.

Typically, I see numbers in the 125/85 range, occasionally 130/90 at the high end, and 120/80 on the low end. But, my past few readings have averaged 112/63, a huge improvement from a month ago.

Maybe this year, when I get my BP checked at Western States check-in, I won't have to convince them that my BP is normally much lower than they are getting. My doctor frequently gets numbers in the 145/95 range when I see him, but I never see those numbers at home. But, I get numbers like that at races too. Hopefully, the lower BP readings are not a coincidence and I'll have a normal reading at WS this year.

Last week

I ended up doing 40 miles last week, with a long day of 12.5 miles. I did tempo work twice, including 3 tempo miles on Saturday. It was windy on Saturday and I did 10 total miles, with tempo in miles 6, 7 and 8. My time was slow, but the wind and hills certainly affected my time.

I also skied for a couple hours yesterday and I lifted twice last week. All in all, I felt pretty good for a planned recovery week.

Today starts the next 4-week cycle of tough weeks. I'm planning to be over 60 miles for at least the next 3 weeks, and I'll probably hit 70 at least one of those three weeks.

My weight seems to finally be moving down again, and I've been using a different belt notch the past few days. My wife has commented that I seem to be looking a bit leaner (less fat?) in the past couple weeks.

This week's running will include two hard days: tempo on Wednesday as part of a 12-mile day, and then hill repeats on a gravel road this weekend. The road is 4.5 miles long and only has one hill, but that hill climbs 2600 vertical feet. I was thinking of doing 2 or 2.5 repeats, but I think I'm going to do 3 instead.

In 2005, I did 2 repeats on this road in 4:21. Hopefully, I can do 3 repeats in under 6 hours this year. Basically, I power-hike most of the uphill and then cruise-control back down. Although the footing isn't technical, the repeat ups and downs simulate the canyons portion of the WS course somewhat. Of course, because this is Vermont, the heat will also be lacking. There is snow in the forecast for Wednesday right now.

Friday, April 25, 2008


I still feel pretty good after the race last weekend. I've run every day this week, and my 7-day mileage total is at 66 miles, the highest so far this year.

The one clue I've had that I might be a bit tired has been in the evenings, especially last night. I fell asleep sometime before 8:00 last night. My wife came home from a meeting and woke me up, and I looked at my clock. It said 8:12 and I almost panicked. I thought I was late for work this morning and that I'd missed my run. When I found out that it was still Thursday night, I just went back to sleep and I got 10 good hours of sleep last night.

My weight seems stuck at 187 right now, and I've been gradually making minor changes to my diet to reduce some calories. Hopefully, I'll see some downward progress soon. One of the changes I've been making has been to my post workout recovery drinks. Instead of drinking them full strength, I've been using half of the mix that has carbohydrates and mixing it with a protein powder, to reduce the overall number of carbohydrates. I'm trying to reduce my total carbohydrate consumption to the point where I can feel it start to affect my workouts. After I find out where that point is, I hope to eat just enough carbohydrates daily so I can train well, but no more than that.

My last 4 weekend long runs have averaged over 25 miles. After this weekend, my long run will average over 30 miles for the four following weekends. So, this weekend will be lower mileage. I'm planning on 10 tomorrow morning, doing 5 easy, 3 tempo, and then a 2-mile cooldown. My son has a 90 minute track practice tomorrow morning, so I'll drop him off at practice and run from there.

Sunday will probably be my last skiing day of the season, unless I make it to Tuckerman's Ravine for some skiing next month. I would like to do that, and because you have to earn your turns, it's a workout as well. But, my scheduled long days and the closeness of WS will probably keep my focus on running rather than skiing.

My son's track team had a "scrimmage" meet last night and they mostly ran relays. He ran an 800, a 400, a 200 and a 100 last night, all in relays. He said he hates the 800 because he just locked up after about 600 meters. He also improved his PR in the shot put by 2 feet last night. He's hoping to throw the discus competitively in his meet next week.

His next meet is the middle of next week and he told his coach he wants to run the 3000. She told him she's never had a runner switch from the 100 to the 3000, but his freshman year is a good time to experiment with different events. One of his teammates, another freshman, has already run 12.4 for the 100, and qualified for the state meet at the end of the season. Phil doesn't seem likely to qualify for states this year, but he seems to be enjoying the variety of events he can try.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Training "PR"

I have a 10K route that I use to run to and from work quite a bit. It's rolling in both directions, but going home, there is a net uphill of over 500 vertical feet, most of that in the last 2.5 miles. Yesterday, I ran to work in a typical time of just over 61 minutes. Last night, I planned to do a little bit of tempo on the way home, if my legs felt OK.

Just after the 1.5 mile mark, and just after an uphill, I started to push the pace a little bit. I didn't pay close attention to my pace, but I'm sure I wasn't as fast as in my tempo work last week. When I got to the uphill where I intended to stop the tempo work, I realized that I had a chance to run faster on the way home than I ever had before.

Now, to be perfectly honest, most days that I run home I've already run to work on the same route. It's usually done for endurance rather than time. I often walk almost all of the hills in the last 2.5 miles. On occasion, I'll run all of the hills, but my pace is ridiculously slow.

I wasn't sure what my fastest time was in the homebound direction, but I knew I'd never gone under an hour. I checked my logs later and my fastest time was only 61:30, so clearly I'd never really pushed hard the whole way. Normally, it takes me 68 or so minutes to run home.

Yesterday, when I got to the start of the real uphills, I decided to keep working a bit. It still took me 12:14 to do mile 5, but that mile included the two toughest hills. At the end of mile 5, it looked like I could go under an hour. I pushed a bit more and ended up with a total of 57:53. My total time for the day was just over 2 hours. Considering the 50K I had run only 4 days prior, I was very happy with my running yesterday.

This morning, I lifted as scheduled, although I was a bit tired. Tonight, I'll head out with the dogs, and either walk or run, depending on how my legs feel.

Starting next week, I'll get to do one run per week on the bike path along Lake Champlain in Burlington. I have logged many miles on that path, most of them when I was working in Burlington from 2001-2006.

Some consulting work that I've been doing has now morphed into a part-time job. I'm going to continue at my current job, but drop to 4 days per week. Then, I'll be working for a small start-up company for 16 hours per week, including one day in their offices at the University of Vermont. The new part-time job will pay me as much for 16 hours per week as my current job will pay for 32 hours per week. Financially, it would have been tough to say no to that kind of offer. The part-time work is related to diabetes care and management, which is similar to part of my current job.

With the cost of our upcoming vacation to CA and the fact that our house needs a new roof this summer, the extra money will certainly be welcome.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Comes a Time

Every year, if I'm making progress on my ultramarathon fitness, there comes a time when my recovery from workouts starts to change noticeably. I will have days where I expect to be tired, yet I feel great. My average running speed will often start to increase with no apparent change in effort. And, I'll start putting together strings of days that should leave me tired, but instead, leave me feeling on top of the world.

When it happens each year, can vary a lot. I looked back at some comments in prior year training logs, to look for when I started to feel like I was really in shape each year.

Last year, it was late June until my workouts really started to click and I started to feel strong. The timing was good, because I started to finally feel fit just before I started my taper for the Vermont 100. In 2006, it was early June when I started to feel pretty good. It's kind of surprising that I hit my stride (so to speak) earlier that year, because I had a really rough winter and ran very few miles early in the year.

In 2005, the last time I was in WS, it was September until I felt really fit. I had a low mileage winter and spring, two minor surgeries in the spring, and I just felt like I was behind schedule all year. Finally, a couple weeks before Halliburton Forest, I started to feel fit. I never really had a point before Western States where I felt like I was really fit.

In 2004, I was entered in Hardrock and ran a lot of miles all through ski season. I made some comments in my log about feeling amazingly fit in late March that year, but then I had a rough April and regressed a bit. But, by early May, I was cruising again and I had some amazing workouts in the last two months before Hardrock.

I mention these past years, because I'm starting to feel like I'm getting to that point in this season right about now. In my 50K over the weekend, while I wasn't fast, my endurance was very encouraging. I wasn't sore at all the next day. I walked Sunday, ran Monday, and ran and lifted yesterday. I expected to be tired this morning. Instead, I had a nearly effortless 6+ mile run to work today.

So, if my endurance and strength are really ahead of where they've been every year since 2004, I'm very encouraged right now. After this week, I will have 4 very tough weeks of training, before one recovery week, one more tough week, and then my taper. If I can really work hard in this next 4 week cycle, I will hopefully see some good improvements in both speed and endurance in the coming weeks.

Hopefully, that will prevent me from battling cut-offs all day and night at Western States this year.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Post-race recovery

I am feeling pretty good physically after the race on Saturday. I walked on Sunday and then ran 5 miles with my dogs last night. I took it very easy on the run, enjoying the warm day. For the first time in more than a decade, I ran outside without a shirt yesterday. As a lifelong fat boy, running outside without a shirt is a big deal for me. But, for the first time in many years, I'm not afraid to be seen outside without a shirt. Between lifting and losing some weight, I don't jiggle nearly as much as I did in years past.

This morning, I did my normal lifting and I was surprised by how that went. I intended to drop the weights on all of the leg work, but it wasn't necessary on some of the lifts. I did drop the weight on walking lunges, but not on deadlifts. I actually increased the weight on deadlifts off a box.

Tonight, I'll do another easy run, going out with my wife and our dogs. Tomorrow, I'll probably run twice, and if my legs feel OK, I'll do tempo at night. This is a recovery week of sorts, where I'll simply run by feel all week. If my mileage adds up to 30 miles or 50 miles, I'll be happy with the total.

My Western States pacer seems to finally be past the worst of injury problems that have plagued her for the past year. She's done two 50Ks and a marathon in the past two months, and her foot problems continue to get better rather than worse. She's still afraid that I'll drop her on the course, but how many of us ever drop our pacers after 60 or more miles?

Less than 10 weeks and so much progress remains to be made...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Race Results Update and Trail Shoes

The runner who broke his finger in the race on Saturday went out and finished the race yesterday. His total time for 50K ended up being about 30 hours, and he'll have a great story to tell about that time.

I walked almost 5 miles with my son and the dogs yesterday. I'm tired, but not sore at all. After the 50K three weeks ago, my legs and feet were sore for a few days.

I walked yesterday in some new Brooks Cascadia 3s. I got two pairs on sale on Friday and I was amazed by how comfortable they were. I almost ran in them on Saturday, but decided it would be stupid to use a shoe brand and model I hadn't worn before in a race. This afternoon, I'll take them out for a short run on dirt roads.

I'm constantly looking for the "perfect" pair of trail shoes. On the roads, I have an Asics model (the 21x0 line - currently the 2130) that I've been using for years. I probably started using this line when the 2050 was the current model, so that would mean 8 or so years that I've been using that shoe line.

In that same time, I've probably tried 15 different trail shoes, and every one has come up short somehow. Montrails don't quite fit my feet the right way. The best Montrail shoe that I found from a fit perspective was last year's Nitrous, but they wore out too quickly for me. I like some of the Salomon trail shoes, but I find their traction to really be poor in wet terrain. I like the Inov-8 trail shoes a lot, and I can use them for 50K or so, but not longer than that; they just don't have enough support for a guy my size. Years ago, I used Adidas trail shoes, but I found that I got blisters in them too frequently. I like the trail version of the Asics road shoe that I use, but it's not a shoe for really technical terrain. They worked great on the VT100 course last year though, and they're currently my favorite trail shoe for most trail conditions.

So, my search goes on. I was impressed enough by the fit and feel of the Cascadias to buy 2 pairs after trying them on. My plan is to break them in slowly, and then try them out at the 6-hour race in 3 weeks. That race is on a 3-mile loop, so I could change shoes easily if they aren't working. If they work out for the 6-hour race, I'll probably use them for pacing at MMT the next weekend. And, if that works out, I'll use them at Western States.

I like to go into a 100 with at least two different shoe models that I'm comfortable with. That way, if something happens with one model that causes me problems, I can switch to the other shoe to relieve pressure or hot spots.

The Cascadia seems to be a good balance of cushioning, tread, toe protection, and weight. It's a bit beefier than the Inov-8s, but not as clunky as some of the Montrails can be. The cushioning is soft, yet it feels like they'll protect my feet a bit better than the Asics trail shoe. If I ever find the perfect trail shoe, I'm afraid the manufacturer will go out of business or drop the shoe model for some reason.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Race Report: "Trail Animals Don't Run Boston" 50K

This race is run the weekend of the Boston Marathon every year, in the Blue Hills Reservation, just south of Boston. It’s a local alternative to the marathon for the ultra community. It’s a low-key, no-fee race, whose RD, Howie, does a great job for the runners. Usually, the race is run on Sunday, the day before the marathon, but it was moved to Saturday this year so runners would be able to watch the women’s Olympic trials marathon on Sunday morning. The race sometimes attracts out-of-town ultramarathoners who run the 50K one day and the marathon the next. I don’t know if any of this year’s runners are doing the marathon tomorrow or not. Anyway, on to my race report:

In short, I’m not quite sure what to think about my race yesterday.

Just like 3 years ago, I finished last. But, only 9 of 18 starters finished the run, and some of the runners who didn't finish are much better runners than I am. One of the runners had a great excuse to drop though - a compound fracture of a finger after a fall.

It’s a tough course and it was a moderately warm day. Navigation is difficult if you don’t know the course well. I ran the second half of the race solo, after the 4 people I was running with all dropped – 2 of them at mile 13 and the other 2 at mile 16. None of them really planned on going the whole way, so I wasn’t surprised to run solo for the second half. I was surprised that Sherpa John, one of my 4 trail companions, showed up at all, after running 100 miles last weekend. Craig Wilson was another of the 4. He's usually way faster than I am, but he's been fighting some injuries and 16 miles was his longest run in quite a while.

I also had some problems with cramping at mile 18 or so, and I had to get some extra fluids and electrolytes into my body before I was able to resume a full effort.

Three years ago, I ran (and I use that term loosely here) the course in 10:07. This year, my time was 8:54. So, I was significantly faster. Of course, I was still very slow. And, for the second time in two trail races this year, I finished last. But, neither of those races saw a finishing percentage above 50%.

In February, I ran a marathon in 4:06 and felt strong. Last week, I ran 20 miles in 3:17 and it felt easy. So, why is it taking me 9 hours to do 50K? Mainly, I think it’s a lack of trail running. The two 50Ks are the only trail runs I’ve done this year.

Just like three weeks ago, my endurance and strength were good. That is very encouraging. I ran the last mile yesterday in 9:36 and it felt easy. I’m just not adapted to trails yet.

So, I got in another great training run. I am way ahead of where I was 3 years ago, the last time I ran Western States. It’s just obvious that I need more trail miles. The trails where I live are still covered by snow and mud though, although the recent weather has been warm and dry. It’s supposed to stay that way this coming week, so the trails should be getting better.

So, after Saturday runs of 31, 20, 20, and 31 the last 4 weekends, I’m going to skip a long run next weekend. After that, I’ve got 4 consecutive tough weekends planned:

5/3: Repeats on the Mount Mansfield Toll Road, a 4.5 mile gravel road that climbs about 2600’ over its length. I will do at least 2 repeats, maybe 3, and probably 2.5.
5/11: GAC 6-hour run – This will be the weekend before pacing at MMT, so I’m planning to run for 2 hours and then power-hike the last 4 hours
5/17-18: Pacing at MMT – 50 miles or so of hiking on tough terrain
5/25: Pineland Farms 50K in Maine – a relatively mild trail run

And, as soon as possible, I’ll start doing more of my other runs on trails. I think that a few weeks of dedicated trail running will see me running much faster on tougher terrain.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Track Star

My son Phil, who is a high school freshman, had his first ever track meet yesterday. Track is a club sport in our high school and there are about 9 or 10 people on the team - boys and girls combined.

Because of the weather and the fact that we have no track, their practice facilities are pretty limited. Last summer, I wrote a (successful) grant request that got $2000 for the team to buy some equipment and paid for short-term gym memberships so they could practice indoors until the weather improved.

For some reason, my son has decided he wants to be a thrower rather than focusing on running. Anything that keeps him happy and active is fine with me, but I was curious what would happen when he realized his opponents in meets were mostly high school football player types - big, muscular guys.

Yesterday, the only field event offered at the meet was the javelin. My son had thrown a practice javelin, but had never touched a real javelin until the meet. He threw it 55 feet. The winning distance was 133 feet, but he was very happy with his throw. He had established a season-long goal of 50 feet for the javelin, so he now needs a new goal.

He also ran the 100m last night, running 16.5 seconds. He apparently pulled one of his hamstrings a bit as well, but he seemed better this morning. After the meet last night, he told me that the guys running the 3000m looked pretty slow and he's sure he can keep up with them, so he's going to try that event as well. I didn't have the heart to tell him that people can look slow running 4:30 or 4:45 pace on the track. I have a videotape of my 5:18 mile PR and it looks like I'm just jogging along in that race. Despite that appearance, I still remember well the pain I was in that day, and that race was 17 years ago.

Tonight, he's got his second meet of the season. He'll be doing the shot put tonight, and then either the 100m or the 3000m. It's going to be close to 80F here today, our hottest day of the year, so the 100m might be a better choice.

He seems to be enjoying track so far, which makes me happy. The work he does here will have him in good enough shape for the last 6.7 miles of Western States, if he wants to run them with me. That was the plan three years ago, and then I got pulled at mile 93.5, right where he would have started running with me.

Oh yeah, I'm running a 50K tomorrow, but right this minute, I'm much more excited about my son, the track star.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Yesterday, after lifting in the morning, I took the evening off. We took my daughter out for dinner for her 10th birthday, but not before a little bit of excitement. On the way into the driveway after work, I pulled to the side of the road to get the mail, and two wheels of my car immediately sank up to the axles in mud. I thought the worst of Vermont's "mud season" was over, but maybe not.

The car was hopelessly stuck. I tried to call three local garages for a tow out of the mud, but I got no answer. I called one neighbor who I knew could help. He wasn't home. I dialed the number of another neighbor, and as his phone was ringing, I watched him drive slowly past my car and continue on to his house. I called him again a minute later and he was already getting into his truck to come and help me out.

It took some work, and some help from another neighbor, but we finally got my car out of the ditch. Now, I have to hope that I didn't do any real damage to it. Next week, I'm finally getting my snow tires taken off, getting it re-aligned, replacing the sway bars, and doing a few other maintenance items. Maybe at 126K miles, it's time to think about another car, but I really like my WRX, when it's not stuck in the mud.

This morning, I went out for a 4 mile run - 2 miles with each of my dogs. It was the first run of the year for each of them, so we went nice and slow.

I won't do any more workouts before my race on Saturday. Tomorrow, I'll be making a trip to the chiropractor for my normal monthly hip maintenance. The weather looks pretty good for the race on Saturday. Hopefully, I'll be significantly faster than the last time I ran this race and I'll also be faster than my 50K three weeks ago.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tempo and weights

Last night, I warmed up with 3 easy miles (28:xx) and then did 2 miles of tempo. My tempo miles were 7:14 and 7:08, which is pretty close to where I expected to be right now. If things go well, I'll gradually increase my tempo speed at the same heart rate over the next two months.

I follow Jack Daniels's rule for tempo, trying to run at 86%-88% of my max. By keeping my HR in a narrow range of 4 BPM, I can see if I'm really progressing as time goes by. Typically, I start the year in the 7:15 mpm range, and by the time I'm into my taper for a target race, my tempo miles are close to 6:50 mpm.

I'll gradually increase the number of tempo miles per week, starting at 2 this week and maxing out at 7 or 8 by late May or early June. Then, in June, as I start to taper for WS, I'll cut my total mileage and cut my tempo miles down, and that's when I hope to see paces of 6:50 or better.

I lifted this morning, and I lost track of set counts. I think I did an extra round in my first group of giant sets. If so, I did a total of 90 squats rather than 80, and 90 weighted step-ups (each leg) rather than 80. I wanted to be sure I didn't do less than scheduled, so I did at least 80 reps of the leg lifts. The upper body work had a bit more variation, and I did no more than 40 reps of anything there.

Despite beautiful weather, I won't run tonight with a race on Saturday. I'll probably take the dogs for a short walk before we take my daughter out to dinner to celebrate her 10th birthday.

Tomorrow morning, I'll run an easy 4 before work, and then rest until Saturday morning's race.

It looks like the temperatures in Boston for the next few days will be cooler than here in Vermont. That will be good news for my race on Saturday and good news for the marathoners on Monday. The current high temperature for the marathon is forecast to be 52F and the high on Saturday for my race should be 59F.

We'll see 70F here in VT for the first time this spring in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mileage graph over the past 5 years

So far this year, my mileage is higher than any recent year except 2004. That year, getting picked in the Hardrock lottery scared me into early-season high mileage, right through ski season.

Knee Crepitus

My knees make noises. I can really hear it when going up stairs. It's been going on for years. Some web sites describe it as a "rice krispies in milk" noise. That's pretty accurate.

My left knee, where I had a surgical ACL repair done six years ago, is no worse than my right knee.

I take Glucosamine and some of those other fancy joint supplements. I lift to strengthen the muscles around my knees. I change my shoes at lower mileage than I've done in the past.

I do try very hard to avoid anti-inflammatories, except for a tiny "heart dose" (81mg) of aspirin daily.

My knees still creak.

They don't hurt.

They just make funny noises.

A search of the web shows all kinds of results for knee crepitus. No one seems to think it's a fatal disease. Some people think it's not anything at all to worry about. Most people are in the middle somewhere.

Last night, I decided that three pairs of running shoes with 200-250 miles each were done. I typically run only 300-350 miles per pair of shoes, but now, I'm tossing them even earlier.

On Friday night, when EMS has their 20% off day, I'll go get some more shoes. Maybe the new shoes will make my knees be quieter. Probably not, though.

More likely, I'll just keep on running and skiing until someone complains that my knees are so loud that my knees are ruining his or her day. Then, I'll slink home and retire and throw out all of my exercise-related gear. And I'll sulk.

But for now, I've got WS to worry about, creaky knees be damned.

This morning, I had a very nice cruise-control six miler. Tonight will be six more, with two miles of tempo.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Back to the gym

I'm glad I read Julie Berg's McNaughton Race Report after I went to the gym this morning. She credited a weekly 2-hour leg session in the gym for part of her strength in the race. She does 210 pounds - 12 sets of 10 - squats. If I tried that, I'd be unable to walk for days, if I could even complete the workout. But, maybe that's why she won at McNaughton over the weekend while nobody is ever looking over their shoulder, wondering if I'm catching up.

Anyway, after a rest day yesterday, I headed back to the gym today for the workout that nearly crippled me last week. It's still a tough workout, but the lifts themselves felt more comfortable today. I was still gasping for air, doing multiple sets without rest, but the lifts themselves seemed better. We'll see how sore I am tomorrow when I try to run tempo after work.

Tonight, I'll do an easy 40-50 minute run after work.

Life is going pretty well right now. Now that I'm not teaching skiing any more, I'm not on our Select Board, and I've wrapped up a consulting contract, I'm down to one job. Most of the winter, I had four different jobs and life was hectic all the time. Yesterday, was a very casual day that included some random Internet surfing, watching a movie (No Country for Old Men - fantastic film), and listening to the Red Sox-Yankees game on radio as I fell asleep.

But, sometime soon, I have a meeting/interview for the next portion of the consulting work I've been doing. If and when that gets started, my free time will be reduced again. But, the extra money certainly comes in handy from that other job.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sweet, sweet run

The weather yesterday was way better than the forecast. Some thunder rumbled through about 6:00 a.m., but I wasn't getting up until about 6:30, so it didn't matter. I started running just before 9:00 a.m., and it was sunny and cool. I only went about 3/4 of a mile before I realized I was overdressed, and I headed back to the car to shed some clothes.

Last Saturday, only a week after a tough 50K, my plan was to run 20 at a deliberately easy pace, forcing myself to go slowly. I did the 20 that day in 3:36. My plan for yesterday was to run purely by feel. I wanted to just enjoy the run, and if I felt strong, maybe I'd push somewhat late.

The miles just seemed to fly by yesterday. I hit the 10 mile mark a bit slower than a 10mpm pace. I was cruising most of the flats and downs and walking the ups. I also walked for about a minute every 30 minutes or so, to take a gel and get a brief rest. My running speed was about 9:15-9:30 when I was running.

About mile 12, I realized that I felt pretty good and only had 8 miles to go. I was going to stop by my car at mile 15 for some Heed and gels, and I dropped my pace a little bit on the way there. I got to my car dead-on a 10 pace for the 15 miles. Considering how much walking I'd done, I was happy with that.

In the last 5 miles, I started to push the running pace while I was running, but I still took uphill walking breaks. By mile 17, I was running at an 8:30 or better pace most of the time. In the last mile, after walking the last big hill of my route, I dropped to a 7:40 pace for a while. I felt great the entire run, and finished in 3:17:01, about 19 minutes faster than last week.

This was my 8th run of the calendar year of 20 or more miles, and it was a very encouraging run.

I'm not sore or overly tired today, but I am taking a rest day, with an ultra coming up on Saturday. This week, I'll do a mini-taper for Saturday's race:

Monday: Lift in the morning, easy 4-5 at night
Tuesday: Easy hour in the morning, tempo at night
Wednesday: Lift in the morning
Thursday: Easy 4-miler in the morning
Friday: Rest
Saturday: DRB 50K

Unless I have a terrible day next Saturday (it might be pretty warm next weekend), I should run the DRB course way faster than my last place finishing time from 3 years ago. I might finish last again, but I should be faster.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Yes, I skipped my run last night. This morning, I ran 6 and felt very strong. Sometimes, there's a fine line between knowing when to push, so you get used to running while tired, and knowing when you really need to rest. Fifteen years ago, I would have chosen to run last night. Five years ago, I might have made the same choice.

I'm old now, I guess. I'm also either smarter or lazier than I used to be.

The weather looks kind of nasty for my 20 tomorrow, but not continuous pouring rain. I'll be on the roads rather than trails, so the weather shouldn't matter too much.

After my run, I'm cooking a birthday dinner for my daughter and my mother-in-law. My daughter continues to remind me that it's also a birthday dinner for both of our cats, but I'm not sure the cats really care.

Last night, because I didn't run, I went shopping at the co-op in Lebanon, NH where we normally buy our groceries. We typically go there every two weeks, at most, because it's a 40 mile drive to get there.

Most of my cooking these days is based on lean protein sources, fresh veggies, and salads. It seems like those are the most expensive things in the supermarket these days. Well, I bought some nice cheeses and some nice wines for dinner tomorrow night, but the bill shocked me. Normally, we spend about $400 at this market every two weeks. Last night, it was just under $600.

I'm blaming it all on my teenage son, who seems to be starving every minute of the day, especially since track practice started.

There are lots of ultras out there this weekend. I've got friends running in NY in a new 50 miler, in Illinois at McNaughton, and in VA at Bull Run Run. Plus, the US 100K road championship race is this weekend in Wisconsin. That race goes a long way towards determining the US team for the world 100K championships.

My next ultra won't come until next weekend, at the "Trail Animals Don't Run Boston" 50K, run just south of Boston, and always on the weekend before the Boston Marathon.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I know I've said this before...

I hate Alwyn Cosgrove. In the nicest possible way, of course. He is the creator of the workouts in the New Rules of Lifting book. The workout on Tuesday left me unbelievably sore. I'm sure it was deadlifts off a box that did the most damage. By standing on a box, I was able to drop the bar to the tops of my feet and I really stressed my glutes. They are sore to the touch.

Sitting hurts, and the worst part (avert your eyes if you're too squeamish) is lowering myself or rising from a toilet seat. I think the fact that I have less fat on my ass makes it hurt even more. The muscles are less padded than they've been in the past.

Despite the soreness from the lifting, I ran 12.5 miles yesterday, at a slow pace. I lifted again this morning, so the next round of soreness is no doubt on its way. I'm planning a 90 minute run after a dentist appointment this afternoon, but that one is iffy at the moment.

I think I manage to remain pretty healthy despite my size because I respect when my body needs to rest. It's possible that I need a day off running right now. My 20 miler on Saturday is more important than the miles tonight, so I may choose to skip tonight.

If I do skip running tonight, it will be primarily because of my lifting workouts. I may have to reconsider my lifting options for the next 2 months if lifting is going to cut into my running more than I'm willing to accept.

I've always done best in ultras off relatively high mileage, although some people wouldn't consider my peak mileage very high. I peaked at 330+ miles in a month for Hardrock and Wasatch, which were probably my two best 100s ever.

But, (and I hate to say this, considering one of my readers), I'm starting to wonder if it might make sense to focus on my key workouts - a long run, some hills, some tempo, and cut back on my mid-distance easy-pace days. Yes, Andy, I actually wrote that.

I wish I was capable of lifting hard 3x per week and running 70+ miles per week, but my body doesn't seem to want to do that. Currently, I'm trying to run 60 miles this week while lifting just twice, and that seems questionable.

One thing is certain; if I don't get to the starting line at WS, I won't finish WS.

Oh yeah, enough snow melted that I can now see a small patch of my lawn.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

So much for that theory

I deliberately kept the weights I lifted low yesterday. New routine, lots of sets and reps, and I was concerned about being sore today. I mean, the weights were really low. Deadlifts were 155 instead of 205. Deadlifts on a box were 115. Lunges were 2x25 dumbbells instead of 45s. Dumbbell bench presses were so low I'm surprised I didn't pick up the pink dumbbells.

But, it didn't work. My glutes are sore to the touch today. My pecs are sore. My lats are sore. I can't wait to do tomorrow's workout, which will include 80 reps of assorted squats. I'll need a wheelchair for the weekend, including Saturday's 20 miler.

I got in a great 9.5 mile run after work last night and I ran 10K to work this morning. I'll reverse this morning's run tonight, running back home in the uphill direction. It hurts to sit but not to run, so far at least.

Today, we should see 60F for the first time in a long time.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I don't know if anyone ever looks at the weight ticker at the bottom of this page. My goal for WS has been to get to 180 pounds. Near the end of February, I'd gotten to 187 pounds and most of my pants were starting to get too big.

Then, my month of March was a disaster in some ways. I got in two good long runs, but my eating was poor, I was sick part of the month, and my alcohol consumption increased. I've also been teaching a number of lunchtime classes at work, and there was (unhealthy) food there at every class.

At the end of the month, I was back up over 190 pounds. But, as of Saturday, my weight is back down to the 187 shown in the ticker below. So, no progress for over a month, but I'm back to where I was at least. I'm confident that I'm moving in the right direction right now, and one pound per week will get me to my target weight before the end of May.

Hopefully, I'll be close to my target weight for WS by the time I pace at Massanutten next month.

New lifting routine and other miscellany

I started the NROL Fat Loss 3 program today. The workout has two main parts - a pair of giant sets.

In the first giant set, you do 10-12 reps of four different lifts. You do one set of each and then you get a 60 second break, rather than a break between each set. You do four of the giant sets.

Then you do a second giant set of four lifts, but this time you are doing 20 reps. You only do this set twice though. The lifts in each set are "parallel" to the same lift in the other set.

The first lift in each set today was a deadlift variation, the second was a push variation, the third was a lunge variation, and lastly, a pull. I deliberately kept the weights low, knowing that each movement type would have at least 80 reps by the end of the workout.

Last night, I never did run, because the meeting I went to after work lasted almost 2 hours. This was another Select Board meeting about our town's municipal offices and I was expecting a very short meeting, with a quick vote against one option. Instead, it became a long public comment session and it was nearly dark by the time the meeting ended. I'll run 9-10 after work today and modify my schedule for the rest of the week so I still (hopefully) get to 60 miles.

Over the weekend, I nearly finished Gary Taubes's "Good Calories, Bad Calories". In many ways, the book is a very long and detailed elaboration of a NY Times article he published in 2002:

What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?

There are many web reviews of the book, and I am not planning to do a complete review here. I will say that the book will certainly lead to changes in my diet and I'll have to see if this leads to changes in my weight or other health markers. I find the research analyses and detail very compelling, but the conclusions contrary to current dogma seem to still be under-researched. The author contends that this is because the conclusions are so antithetical to the widely endorsed government and medical community perspectives that funding for research is difficult to obtain (my paraphrasing).

Without a doubt, it's one of the most compelling dietary books that I've ever read. If the theories in the book are correct, our government and the medical establishment should be ashamed of themselves. On the other hand, at times, I feel like my head will explode from all the contradictions that exist in the world of nutrition.

In some ways, this book takes me back to the Paleo Diet for Athletes as a model. The Taubes book doesn't really address the unique dietary needs of an endurance athlete, but the "Paleo" book does. But even there, I wonder if the carb timing theories in the Paleo Diet for Athletes could contradict what I've read in the Taubes book.

If this post is no longer making sense, it's because my brain is having a hard time processing so much contradictory information.

It's supposed to hit 60F here today, and I may run outside in a short sleeve shirt today. It's been a long time since I've done that.

Less than 12 weeks to WS. Yikes! The next two months of training will be very intense.

Monday, April 7, 2008


We had a beautiful weekend here in Vermont, weather-wise. In the next few days, it will stay warm and it's possible that some of my lawn will re-appear this week.

On Saturday, I slept in and took my time heading out for my run. It was below freezing early, and I wanted to run in the warmest part of the day. I felt like I still wasn't completely recovered from the 50K the weekend before, so I wanted to do a very slow and easy 20 miler. My plan was to do the miles, but keep any damage or stress as minimal as possible. It's probably only ultra runners who talk about an "easy 20". Well, elite marathoners probably do easy 20s at an absurdly fast pace.

I figured I'd be running/walking for about 3:45-4:00, and surprised myself by doing 3:36. I ran the first 3 miles with my son on dirt roads, and then hit the pavement for the rest of the run. Temps were in the 40s with a bit of cloud cover.

After the run and a shower, I barbecued ribs on the grill Saturday night and my wife and I shared a nice bottle of white Burgundy while I was cooking dinner. It was a great day.

Yesterday, I went skiing with my family for the first time all year. Most winters, I take half a dozen or more days off work to go skiing without having to teach. This year, because I was saving my vacation time for WS, I didn't do that once. So yesterday, for the first time all year, I had a day to just ski for fun. I did see most of the kids that I teach at the mountain yesterday. They were even skiing together, but without me.

I got some new boots yesterday, so I was taking it easy early on, trying to get the feel for the boots. They are a much softer boot than my old ski boots, allowing me to flex my ankles more than my current boots allow. At first, I hated the boots, but by mid-afternoon, I was settling into them. My last three runs of the day were single and double black diamond bump runs, and I felt pretty good. My quads were a bit tired, but otherwise, the snow was great and I had a great day with my family.

We forgot to take sunscreen though, and my daughter and I are a bit sunburned today.

This week, I'm planning my first 60 mile week of the year, with a long run of 20 on Saturday. I'm also changing weight-lifting routines, so I expect to be a bit sore from some new lifts. I'll try to start the lifting at fairly light weights, until I get a feel for some of the new lifts. My wife started a new routine on Saturday and she was complaining all day yesterday about being sore. I hope to avoid some of that.

Lastly, I'm almost done with "Good Calories, Bad Calories". I'll write more about that later, but it's a very compelling read. It's kind of amazing how the author manages to make a science book so compelling, but he gives you a taste of his conclusions early on, then takes you through a tour of science and medical history, before coming back to what everyone wants to know, which is "What should I be eating?"

Friday, April 4, 2008


I fell asleep at 8:30 on Wednesday night. Last night, my wife was out for dinner with a friend, and I was watching the kids for the evening. After dinner, I was reading a book in my bedroom, felt tired, and decided to turn out the lights. I looked at my clock and it was 8:06. I slept until 7:00 this morning. If my body is telling me it needs more sleep, I'm not going to argue right now.

Yesterday, after work, I ran a cruise-control 6+ miler at about 9:30 pace. It was a beautiful day to run outside - 50F and a cloudless sky.

Today, we're getting snow and rain, so I'll run inside for about 45 minutes tonight. Tomorrow, I'm still planning to do 20. Tomorrow will be the first Saturday since before Thanksgiving where I don't have to get up before 6:00 a.m.

In the "Good Calories, Bad Calories" book, I'm in a series of chapters that are talking about measurements of HDL, LDL and triglycerides. One point that the book makes continually is that total cholesterol and LDL numbers simply aren't as predictive of disease or mortality as we are generally led to believe, especially after age 50 (I'm not there yet). In particular, the author emphasizes that triglycerides and HDL are much more important predictors, and he discusses the ratio of triglyceride's to HDL as being an important number. The two numbers tend to have an inverse relationship.

In looking back at my last three lipid panels, the one where I thought my numbers were the best is where the author would contend I did my worst. In 2004, I had an LDL 0f 82, the lowest score I've ever seen there. But, my triglycerides were 254 and my HDL only 58, a ratio of almost 5:1. The author suggests that a ratio of 2:1 or lower is best. A year ago, my LDL was up to 148, but my triglycerides were down to 105 and my HDL was 79, a ratio well below 2:1.

This year, in my physical, my LDL was at 148, but my triglycerides were 133 and my HDL was down to 61.

My doctor seems just fine with the values I have now and I'm close to that 2:1 ratio.

I do take a small dose of a statin daily. One other note that the author has made is that even though LDL levels don't seem to be as predictive of disease and mortality as we are led to believe, there seems to be no doubt that statins save lives. The question then becomes "Why?" If the primary purpose of a statin is to alter something that doesn't seem to matter that much, what else do they do that is important?

The book continues to be very interesting and very challenging at times.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Strength workouts

Last year, I did a total of 78 strength workouts during the year. That was the most I'd ever done in a year.

My goal for this year was at least 100, which would be another all-time high. As of this morning, I'm at 27 for the year. On pace, but barely.

Now that I'm done teaching skiing for the year, I hope to get back to lifting 3x some weeks, rather than just 2x. Some of those days may be bodyweight-only days, but I really feel the strength training is helping me overall, so I need to stick with it.

Starting in the fall, I'm sure I'll get back to 3x per week, but for now, running takes priority if my time or ability to recover from one workout to another is limited.

The scene of the crime

This morning, I went back to the workout in the gym where I tweaked my hamstring last week. There are three different lifts in this workout that would cause problems for a pulled hamstring, but everything went great this morning. I did the main workout and then added a number of core exercises at the end.

The workout this morning was the last in the Fat Loss 2 program from The New Rules of Lifting. In the 10 months since I bought that book, I've now completed the Break-in program, Fat Loss 1, Fat Loss 2, Hypertrophy 1, Fat Loss 1 (repeat) and Fat Loss 2 (repeat) programs.

Next week, I will start Fat Loss 3, which looks to be very intense for the next six weeks. After that, I'll start the Strength 1 program, although I'll only be able to do the first 4 or 5 weeks before I start tapering for Western States.

Last night, I ran a 10K course home after work. My legs are still a bit beat up and running downhill is still not pleasant. But, the course I ran last night is almost all level or uphill, so it felt OK. Approximately 2 miles from my house, the course starts to climb almost the entire rest of the way. There are 3 different major hills and I rarely run any of them the whole way. I usually run half of each hill and then hike the second half. Last night, I ran the entire final 2 miles home. This is a case where I feel the lifting has really helped my running. I simply felt strong on those uphills, even though I wasn't fast. The last time I ran this course faster was in August of last year.

I'm currently trying to focus my entire day, not just my workouts, on Western States. I'm reminding myself regularly that I'm "training" for an event, and not just "working out." There is a difference.

My wife works out on a regular basis and tries to eat well. She is focused on an improved body, but she has no specific performance goal. I have a very different focus. I want to run as well as possible at Western States. My goal is not strictly body-related or weight-related or even health-related. If overall health was my goal, I think that training for and running a 100 miler would be counter-productive.

I'm trying hard to have every decision be about optimizing my race. That means that every workout has a purpose. Every meal needs to be about fueling my body rather than about the pleasure of the moment. It means that if my body wants to fall asleep at 8:30 p.m., as it did last night, that I respect that decision, put down the book I'm enjoying, and get some sleep.

Through January and February, my focus on training for Western States was where it needed to be. In March, things got a little off track. Right now, I'm back on track and truly focused on the end goal.

I have no idea what I'll be able to do at the race. Most likely, I'll be there with a goal of just finishing. It's a hard course and it deserves respect. In some ways, I think that I failed to respect the race enough 3 years ago, and I paid the price with a DNF. After finishing Wasatch and Hardrock the two prior years, I think I'd gotten a little bit cocky going into Western States last time. Not this time.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Recovery week

I got out for an easy 3 miler last night. I ran in shorts. Outside. In Vermont. I don't remember the last time I did that, but it was probably October.

After my run, I went to yet another contentious Select Board meeting. The 2 members who seem to be running the show these days have a new scheme for our Municipal Building, and it doesn't seem very "clean" to me, from a political perspective. If they consider this option, they really should re-open the entire process to any bidder or property owner out there. In reality, I believe they are simply trying to stall for time, so the purchase offer for the property the town voters approved will be withdrawn. Then, they will "be forced" to pursue alternatives, and they'll get their way without ever officially voting against the voters.

Last night, the wife of one of the two new members challenged a statement that I made to the board. She and her husband both work at the hospital where I work, and my wife is about to transfer to the woman's department. I was able to quickly and fully refute her statement, but I really worry if the political divisions in our town are going to affect how people work together during the day. I certainly hope not, and my wife has stayed out of the political end of things, but it does worry me.

Oh yeah, running. I'll do an easy uphill 6+ tonight, running home from work. Tomorrow, I think I'll lift in the morning, and hopefully my hamstring won't give me any troubles on deadlifts.

I'm still hoping to be recovered enough by Saturday to do an easy 20.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Better today

My snowshoe walk got cancelled by pouring rain last night. I did grill some chicken in the rain, but the dogs and my wife wanted nothing to do with hiking in the rain. I wasn't really up for it either, to be honest.

This morning, I got up early and went to the gym. I combined some bodyweight exercises with stretching and foam rolling for about an hour. I hate the foam roller sometimes, because the pressure can be so intense. But, I always feel better after I use it. I did some push-ups, pull-ups, prisoner squats, and a variety of ab exercises. And, I went through a stretching routine from my chiropractor twice. The first time through, I was very tight, but after some foam rolling and some other exercises, things had loosened up a bit.

Tonight, I'll run for 30-40 minutes after work. Hopefully, I'll run for an hour tomorrow. And then on Thursday, I'll try to do the weight workout that took me out last week. That workout is the last in my current series, and the next series is much harder. I'm anxious to get started with the next set of workouts there.

If I feel better by the weekend, I'll run 20 on Saturday and then do some skiing on Sunday. Next week should be a 60+ mile week - my first of the year.