Monday, March 31, 2008


I'm still sore today. Well, truth be told, I'm more sore today than yesterday. But, the interesting thing is where I'm sore.

Normally, after my first tough trail run of the year, especially if it was hilly, I would be sorest in my lower quads. Right above my knee, pinching the bottom of the quadriceps muscle would be very painful. The entire muscle group would also be sore, but not necessarily to the touch.

But, I think the weightlifting has changed some things about how my body dealt with the race on Saturday. Most of my soreness is below the knees. My feet are beat up and my lower legs are sore, especially when I move my foot around. I think this is from landing on uneven ground and fighting to find good foot placements all day. My calves are sore, and this is rare for me. The last time my calves were sore after a run was at Hardrock, where I'd just climbed 33K feet, not 4600'.

Above the knee, my vastus lateralis is a bit sore, but not the vastus medials or the vastus intermedius. I'm wondering if the lunges, squats, Bulgarian split squats and other quad exercises I do hit the latter two portions of the quad more than the outer part. No matter the reason, it's nice to not have my entire quads so trashed that I can barely walk. I'm going to take the dogs out for a snowshoe walk tonight and then tomorrow, I'll slowly return to training.

This week will be a recovery week of sorts, although I want to run 20 on Saturday. Next week will be a high mileage week if all goes well, and then an easier week into my next 50K on 4/19.

The book "Good Calories, Bad Calories" continues to intrigue me. It's consistent with a lot of other ideas I've encountered in the last few years, but so opposite of major medical positions in some areas. In some ways, the book has me almost scared to eat at all, which might not be bad for me anyway. The author's real wrath is directed at white flour, white sugar, and HFCS, which are three things I'm trying to avoid anyway. But, that's easier said than done.

Race Results Update

Apparently, the course on Saturday was tougher than I thought. Only 8 of the 21 starters made it through 4 loops of the course, although one runner apparently did a "modified" 4th loop and was still out there when I left. His final time was listed as 11:05.

The results show only 2 people doing 5 loops, although I know I talked to 3 runners on my last loop who said they were on their 5th loop, so there might be a mistake in the results.

The winner, a very tough female who is running Western States this year, ran 5:56 and second place was 6:03. After that, no one else broke 7 hours for the 50K, although the guys who went 5 loops were sub-7 through 50K.

A number of very good runners called it a day after 3 loops.

Definitely a tough course.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Has anybody seen my trail legs?

Use it or lose it, right?

Yesterday, I ran my first trail run of the year. It was my first trail encounter since a hike in October. It was my first trail run longer than 10 miles since last August. I had no trail legs at all.

The good news was that my hamstring was absolutely fine. The other good news is that I finished a really tough 50K. The less good news is that I finished last in 8:59:50.

The course was a short out-and-back to a 7+ mile loop. The race was limited to about 20 runners, and you could run anywhere from 2-5 loops. Most runners did 3 or 4 (the 50K was 4), but 3 people ran the max of 5 loops. There was a 10 hour time limit. My Forerunner showed 31.3 miles for the 4-loop option and it also showed over 10,000 feet of climbing. However, knowing that the Forerunner is terrible at measuring elevation, I tucked my Suunto altimeter into my hydration pack and it showed 4600' of climbing. Even that amount was a lot for me at this time of year.

On my first loop, I quickly fell in with two runners from Massachusetts that I'd seen at other local races. But, after half an hour on incredibly rocky terrain, I let them go. For the next hour or so, I have to admit I was truly unhappy. The course was way more technical than I was ready to run, and I didn't want to fall and hurt myself on the rocks. I knew pretty early that I was looking at an 8+ hour day. At one point, I thought to myself that I would just have to endure it, because I needed the training for WS.

Then, after about 90 minutes, a GAC (Gil's Athletic Club) member named Ed caught up to me. We'd done numerous races together before, but had never really run together. We started talking and decided to run together. We finished the first loop in 2 hours and took a 5 minute aid station break. We knew we were in last place, but I think we both enjoyed the company. We commiserated about being fellow members of the no-matter-how-many-miles-I-run-why-am-I-still-fat running fraternity.

The second loop flew by in 2 hours flat and we took another 5 minute aid station break. I had the feeling that Ed was going to call it a day at 3 loops, given that he has a 50 miler in 2 weeks. Even though I wanted the company, I encouraged him to be smart with a 50 that soon. We slowed down on our 3rd loop and it took us 2:12. Towards the end of the loop, Ed was slowing and I started to pull away just a little bit. At the aid station, he confirmed that he was done for the day, so I headed out solo for my last loop.

The race course was a trail called the Skyline Trail, but that trail was one of many in this park. The trail was marked by white blazes and you had to constantly look up for trail markers and look down to avoid tripping over rocks. Ed and I had done 3 clock-wise loops, so for variety, I decided to go CCW on the last loop. I also decided I was pretty much going to hike the loop, but I did want to stay under 9 hours for the day. I headed out for the last loop at 6:28:xx on my watch, giving me about 2.5 hours to make my time goal.

Going the other way, I got off trail a couple times. One fairly aggressive dog (an Aussie) decided it wanted to herd me in a different direction and its owner spent some time getting it to leave me alone. I was surprised by how strong I felt, at least from an energy perspective. My feet and legs were a bit beat up, but my pace was consistent. Going CCW, the tougher part of the loop was at the end. At one point, I remember thinking that I was pretty amazed that I hadn't fallen yet. Within a couple minutes, I took my one fall of the day. It wasn't a rock that got me though; it was a downed tree that was pretty easy to see. I just didn't pick my foot up high enough.

With about a mile to go, I knew I'd have to push to go under 9 hours, and I started running a bit. I hit the last easy trail portion with about 5 minutes to go and I made the finish just under 9 hours. I was the last person on the course.

Another early season 50K in New England is the "Trail Animals Don't Run Boston" 50K, held the weekend right before the Boston marathon. That race climbs 5700' compared to the 4600' in this race. But overall, I think this race was definitely tougher than DRB. I'll be running DRB in 3 weeks, so I will be able to compare my times on the two courses after that race.

Today is a rest day.

Oh yeah, great job Pat. Very nice run, considering that you doubled your long run for the year. I'm guessing you guys finished in 7:15 or so, but maybe you were faster.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hamstring update

I thought about going to the gym for an easy 3 indoor miles this morning, but thought better of it. The hamstring feels much better today and I'm going to go to the race tomorrow and see how things go. It's a loop course, so I'll never be more than 3.5 miles or so from my car.

It's snowing here again today and we should end up with 4" or so. But, the ground in Boston has no snow cover, so it should be a different story down there. The course will be wet and may have some icy patches early, but no snow. I think.

Last night, I started rummaging through my ultra gear, trying to find the stuff I need to run a trail race. I'm guessing that my quads will be sore on Sunday after going up and down all day long.

Of course, this all assumes that I am able to do the whole race.

On another note, my son is finally past the worst of his illness and is attending his high school track practices. His illness created a double-whammy for him. Today is the end of the quarter in school, and three teachers suggested he take an incomplete so he could catch up on work he missed while sick. But, his track coach said he was already more than a week behind with the team, and if he had more than one incomplete class, he would not be allowed to practice according to school rules. So, he had to try to catch up academically while he tries to catch up to the team as well.

One of the classes where he was looking at an incomplete was gym, where he needed to do some of the tests for the Presidential Physical Fitness exam. He ran his mile on Tuesday in 8:41, coughing along the way. He could probably run sub-8 right now if healthy, but the 8:41 is an improvement from his last test, so he gets the top score there. He managed to catch up in geometry, and he's going to take an incomplete in Spanish, so he can make up some work there over the next week.

So, it looks like he can still practice, unless, of course, his humanities paper about Led Zeppelin comes back with a bad grade. I swear that I wasn't allowed to write papers about rock bands when I was in high school. It was more along the lines of analyzing the symbolism of Eppie and her golden colored hair replacing Silas Marner's stolen gold. And then being told you missed the point completely. Next think you know, there will be portable video games and telephones that these danged kids will want to own.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bad timing

Last night after work, I went to the gym to lift. All winter, I lifted on Monday and Thursday mornings, but my schedule has been all messed up this week by work events and kid events.

My lifting sessions start with either squats or deadlifts. Yesterday, it was deadlifts. Because of the amount of weight I use in these lifts, I warm up by going through a series of repetitions at no weight and then gradually increasing weight.

Last night, I was going to do 3x8 of deadlifts at 205 pounds. Yeah, if any "real" lifters read that number, they'll laugh, but that's where I am. I started with 5 reps with no weight at all - just going through the lifting movement. Then, 5 reps with just the bar - 45 pounds. Then, I put a pair of 25s on the bar to do 5 reps at 95. Next, I would go to 135, then 185, and then start my real sets.

On the third rep at 95, I strained something in my right hamstring. I stopped immediately and rested for a bit. I tried one more rep, but it was clearly not going to happen. I decided that with a race on Saturday, to just call it a night.

This morning, I planned an easy hour-long run. I was happy when I started, because the hamstring felt a little bit tight, but OK otherwise. But, within half a mile, it tightened up and I walked back to the office.

So, I've now got 48 hours until my race and I have to see if the hamstring will settle down between now and then. I've done this before and it's always been a minor issue - something that recovers quickly and rarely costs me any running time.

After a really good training month in January, and a decent month in February, March has been pretty poor for me. I've missed some training time because of a cold and some other time because I just felt tired. The race this weekend was scheduled to be my main event for the month and a good gauge of my fitness after ski season. Right now, I'm not sure if I'll be able to run or not.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Local Politics

Yesterday, I was at an all-day conference about medical care in Vermont, focusing on preventative care and care and prevention of chronic diseases such as diabetes or asthma. I heard some interesting ideas and I'll talk more about that later, but for now, I'm going to rant a bit about local politics.

My two or so readers, if they're both still out there, know that I lost a local election early this month. I lost by a huge margin to a well-known local politician. The change in our town's Select Board has been very significant. The two new members are both Republicans and they replaced two Democrats. But, it's not their party affiliation that concerns me, but rather their behavior on our local board.

For 8 years, our town has been trying to upgrade its municipal offices. Almost 4 years ago, the voters approved a bond to fund that upgrade. There was some funny business about how a contract was awarded and things went to court. The town lost. Then, the town got sued over a crab apple tree that was supposed to be cut down as part of the expansion. There were a total of three lawsuits, a bunch of money was spent, and no progress was made.

While I was on the board, we considered buying an alternate property and moving the offices. The town was fairly split on that option, but I favored it because a contractor offered us a deal with a fixed maximum price that we would pay for the property and its upgrades. The old site had too many cost variables, and I didn't think that the money remaining from the bond was enough to guarantee we could build what we needed. The issue had to be decided by the voters rather than the board, but I came out in favor of the new site because it was the fiscally prudent choice, in my opinion.

In December, we held a special town vote and the move to the new location was defeated. Only 13% of the eligible voters participated. The board received a petition for a re-vote and we put it on the ballot for earlier this month. The vote was very, very close, but it won by 25 votes on a day with a very large voter turnout.

However, our new board members don't like the proposed location and they've decided that they won't honor the vote. The meetings since the election have been contentious, with one of the new board members insulting the public and town employees. I've been embarrassed by the behavior of our newly elected officials.

This past Monday, they held a meeting, but they deliberately "warned" the meeting (a warning is a notice to the public that a meeting is planned) in a way that the public might not notice that the meeting would occur. OK, it's my opinion that they did it this way, but the only media outlet to get notice of the meeting received it that day after they had published their weekly paper.

The plan for the meeting was to meet in public, go into a private executive session, and then adjourn. Vermont's Open Meeting laws severely restrict when meetings can go into executive session and the law states that these sessions should be used very judiciously. In my opinion, they did not have legal grounds for an executive session.

Anyway, a large number of people showed up to protest the meeting and the planned executive session. The meeting was very boisterous and the vote to go into executive session was 3-2, led by the two new members. One member of the public stated that he would not leave the room for the session to occur, so the board moved to an alternate location and met in secret with some local business owners for a long time. Most of the public waited out the session and protested again at the end of the meeting. One of the local business owners invited to the session was involved in the contract that was voided by the court a few years ago, and he has a vested financial interest in the building upgrade occurring at the current site rather than the alternate site.

While the board was in session, various options for public action were discussed. Some people want the new members thrown out of office, which it seems we cannot do according to Vermont law. Others are planning to sue if the town pursues any option other than what was voted on earlier this month.

When I was on the board, I worked very hard to remember that my opinions weren't very important. I was there to represent what the people wanted, not to rule over the people. Our new board members seem to think they are rulers rather than representatives of the people and it's very disappointing to me.

The upside of this has been the number of people getting actively involved in government. I think our next few elections will have lots of qualified and involved candidates, something that isn't always true.

After losing the election, I chose to remain on some town committees. It seems as if I'll still be pretty actively involved in local politics despite the election results.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bad habits creeping in

I'm an all-or-nothing kind of guy. Sometimes, that can be very good. I can go months without missing a planned training session, getting up very early day after day. And other times, I can suddenly lose a couple weeks and my diet will go to hell and I wonder how I'll get back to where I need to be.

I seem to have transitioned from an "all good" phase to a not-so-good phase right now. It seems to sneak up on me. I ran a marathon late last month. The race went well and it was the end of 8 really good weeks, where I was losing weight, working out hard, and really focusing on doing everything right for Western States.

Then, I took a recovery week after the marathon. I had been staying away from alcohol and foods I shouldn't eat, but they started sneaking back into my diet that week. Then, I had a really good week of training, followed by a mediocre week. In that mediocre week, I was feeling a bit tired. I was feeling tired while working out, tired while skiing and tired when it was time to get up in the morning. On the weekends, rather than coming straight home after skiing, I was having a couple beers with my friends in ski school. One thing that I don't do is lose weight if I'm drinking alcohol at all. There are physiological reasons for how alcohol affects your body's ability to use fat for fuel, but bad eating seems to go hand-in-hand with alcohol as well.

A week ago on Saturday, I went out with friends after skiing and ate chicken wings and french fries. Yesterday, I ate french fries for lunch during my skiing day. I had some beer after skiing and some wine with dinner. I slept in this morning rather than working out.

None of these choices I've made recently are consistent with running a good race at Western States. I don't know why or how this happens. Well, of course, that's not true. Of course I know. I happen to love food and drinks that aren't really consistent with my athletic goals. I spend my whole life trying to balance the two. The default position, if I'm not truly diligent, is that I'll eat and drink more than I should. Part of it seems to be the amount of time involved. Even in periods of heavy training, I don't average much more than 2 hours of training per day. Assuming I sleep for 8 hours per night, that leaves me with 14 hours to do bad things with my diet. I can say "no" 100s of times, but each "yes" costs me. It's not a score sheet, where my "no's" outscore my "yes's", so I win overall.

I've been afraid to even step on the scale for the past 10 days or so.

So, I'm done teaching skiing for the year, which removes some dietary and alcohol temptations from my weekends. I have my first ultra of the year on Saturday. It's time to get my ass in gear again and focus all of my efforts. If I can't spend 14 weeks doing everything that I need to do for this race, I'm clearly not serious about this sport.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Moving Iron

I made it to the gym this morning and did a quick weight workout before work. I did snatch-grip deadlifts (195#), T-push-ups, Bulgarian split squats with an overhead press (2x15#), lat pulldowns (140#), Romanian Deadlifts with a row (95#), and lower-body Russian twists. I did 3x8 of each lift.

I am still feeling a bit run down, but it felt good to exercise again.

I saw my chiropractor today, and he said that the functional leg length imbalance seems to be getting better with my more frequent recent visits. He said my legs were the most even they'd been when I showed up for an appointment since I started seeing him. He did 15 minutes of e-stim, one quick adjustment, and sent me on my way. He also said I could consider coming in every 6 weeks rather than every 4, unless I notice problems.

I might do an easy walk/run on the treadmill tonight, if I feel like it. Then, two days of skiing and as much sleep as possible this weekend. Next week should be my first 60 mile week of the year if I feel fully recovered by then.

Fourteen weeks until Western States.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

One more rest day

I'm still feeling less than 100% today, but I'm definitely better. I'm way better off than both of my children right now. My son made it to school yesterday but he's home again today. His little sister is home sick for the second day in a row. They both have fevers, which I've avoided so far.

With my first ultra of the year 9 days away, I'd rather be cautious, so I'm ready next week. I may try working out easily tomorrow before I teach skiing on the weekend. I definitely need to ski this weekend, because it's the last weekend of the year, and it's when customers hand out tips to the instructors. I need a new pair of ski boots and I'll probably use the tip money to buy them, assuming my customers were happy enough with my work to tip me this year!

With warmer temps and some rain this week, our snow pack seems to be shrinking. The water content might not be lower, but the depth is down a bit. The snow depth in my yard is probably "only" 2 feet right now, down by half from a month ago.

The ultra next weekend will be my first trail run of the year. This will be an improvement on last year, when my second trail run of the year began a couple miles into the Massanutten 100. My first trail run last year was a few easy miles about 4 days before Massanutten. My legs were nowhere close to trail-ready on race day. I'll have to travel out of state for my first few trail runs this season, but I'll have some trail running in before I return to Massanutten for pacing duties. I've got three races planned in MA before then.

I'm still reading "Good Calories, Bad Calories" as I have time. It's very interesting so far in its approach to the history of medical studies researching links between dietary fat, saturated fat, cholesterol levels, heart disease and overall mortality rates. The book points out many places where data was "cherry picked" to support preconceived notions. Of course, the skeptic in me wonders if the author shows a similar (but inverse) bias. The book does quote one researcher who basically said there was so much information out there that no one could read it all.

The mathematician in me knows very well how numbers and statistics can be misused to tell just about story the user wants them to tell. It's no wonder that people are confused about diet and exercise and weight control. Even the so-called experts can't seem to agree on much of anything.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Another rest day

I'm still feeling kind of run down, but not as bad as my children have felt. My son skipped skiing over the weekend because he was feeling bad. On Sunday, he had a fever of 103+. A flu test at the doctor on Monday came out negative.

Yesterday morning, my daughter complained that her stomach hurt. Because she has a tendency to be a copycat, we sent her to school despite the complaint. She visited the nurse three times during the day, and took a nap for an hour during her third visit. She's home sick today, with a fever of 101+.

I've been taking some cough medicine and my lungs are a bit congested, but no fever.

Today at work, I had to make a presentation at 8:00 a.m., and I'm teaching a class from noon until 2:00 p.m. After that class, I'm going to go home and hang out with my daughter, so my wife can come back to work. Hopefully, we'll all be well again soon.

It will be nice to have a long afternoon and evening at home tonight. I have some consulting work I can catch up on, and I can go to sleep whenever I want.

The last two nights, I slept 10 and 9 hours respectively.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008



My son is really sick, and I seem to have a cold. I lifted and ran 6.3 yesterday, but I was coughing through the day. This morning, I slept in and I'm not going to train today. I'm amazingly sore from my workouts yesterday. My chest is congested and I simply need to rest for a few days. Perhaps I should have rested more last week when I felt run down, or maybe it wouldn't have made a difference.

I'm always torn about when to stop or re-start training around an illness. I don't want to stop too soon and then get sick anyway and miss a lot of days. I also don't want to start training too soon after an illness and not allow myself to recover. But, being the type of person who runs 100 mile races, I'm too obsessed with training to take lots of rest time.

Just over 14 weeks until WS and 11 days until my first ultra of the year -not a good time to get sick, although there's rarely a good time.

My son is going to miss most, if not all, of his first week of high school track practice. Right now, he's way sicker than I am, with a persistent fever. I'm just tired and congested so far.

I'm supposed to teach a quality improvement class at work tomorrow. It's a 7-week training program that I'm leading, and I think I need to find a back-up for class tomorrow, in case I can't do it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

One weekend to go

This past weekend was my next-to-last weekend of ski instruction. I skied moderately hard this weekend, with Sunday being the most vertical feet I've done with the kids all year. It's hard to believe that another season to teaching skiing is almost gone. Two of the children in my group have been skiing with me for six seasons now, meaning they've skied about as many days with me as they spend with a school teacher for one year.

After talking to a number of parents, I'm expecting about half of my group to move up or move on next year. My oldest student will not return to ski school. My second oldest - the daughter of my ski instructor "mentor", needs to move to a more challenging group. Two other students are probably going to move to a freestyle program, focused on mogul competitions and terrain park events. That will leave me with the younger portion of my group for next year, most likely.

For the most part, it's a really great job - hanging out with kids, teaching them to ski, and in many ways, watching them grow up. It has its downsides as well, and I have a few students right now who can be particularly difficult. But, it's a service job and you can't pick your customers.

On another note, I lifted this morning and had a good workout. For the next two weeks, I drop my reps on my current lifts from 3x10 to 3x8, and I drop the rest intervals to 30 seconds. I added weight on squats and lunges and barbell push presses this morning. I had been stuck for a while on squats, and I added 20 pounds to last week's weight for my 3rd set today.

I'll run an easy 6 outside tonight. Rain later in the week will probably keep me on the treadmill for more miles this week than last week.

I'm reading Gary Taubes's book "Good Calories, Bad Calories" right now. I'm still very early in the book, but the prologue gives enough information about where the book is going to go. I have the impression that the advice by the end of the book will be very similar to the Paleo Diet. I've read The Paleo Diet for Athletes, and I try to follow that book's recommendations to some extent. I try hard to stay away from sugar and other refined carbohydrates, but it's often hard to stay away from foods that I like so much, especially bread.

One thing that will be good about the end of ski season is that fact that I won't be buying lunch on the weekends at a ski area, where most of the food is expensive and unhealthy.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Another version of "this date in history"

I ran an easy 6 last night (58:07) and felt OK. This morning, I did a slow 4 on the treadmill and I'll run another 6 outside tonight. I'm feeling better after getting some extra sleep the last few nights and backing off training on Wednesday.

About a month ago, I listed my running mileage to date for this year and four previous years. I decided to look at those numbers again today:

2004: 652
2005: 225
2006: 144
2007: 329
2008: 438

So, either I'm off to a decent start this year, or my career has been all downhill since 2004 and Hardrock.

Let's see if I can find my weight on this date for those same years:

2004: 196 (I raced Hardrock at 176 or so)
2005: 188 (I weighed in for WS at 187)
2006: 189 and climbing. I got to 196 by April and then weighed in at 197 for VT100
2007: 197 (I weighed in at 194 for VT100)
2008: 188

In only one of the four previous years did I lose any noticeable amount of weight from March to my 100 miler. That's not good news.

This year, my BF% is lower than any of those other previous years at this time, but I still need to lose another 8 or so pounds before WS to really be where I want to be.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Tired (again)

Last night after work, I went straight home. Once inside the house, I walked straight ahead to my bed, which is only 10 or so steps from the front door. I fell straight into bed and slept for an hour. Then, I got up and cooked dinner for everyone and did some consulting work until 10:30. I had planned on going to sleep by 9:00, but I found an inconsistency in some software I was working on, and I needed to get that fixed last night.

This morning, the alarm was set for 5:00. The first time I looked at the clock, it was 6:14. I got to the gym late, but still had time to do my lifting workout. Regretfully, the workout was hard - harder than last week, using the exact same weights.

My legs are less sore today, but I'm still tired. I'm kind of unfocused as well right now - not really feeling like working or working out or paying attention to my diet. Mostly, I want to sleep. All of this makes me feel like Jim Puckett when I'd rather have training run reports like Julie Berg.

I'll get out for an easy run tonight to see how that feels. Maybe my marathon two-plus weeks ago took more out of me than I realized. Maybe I'm just being lazy. But, I certainly don't want to get injured, so I'll go by how I feel for a few days, rather than sticking strictly to a schedule.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The best laid plans...

I wrote yesterday that I was planning to run 15 total miles today. It's not going to happen. I'm just plain beat and sore right now. I ran 6 outside last night on the roads and I felt tired, but I got through the miles OK. This morning, I went to the gym, planning 6 on the treadmill. My comfortable pace was ridiculously slow, and I was tired and sore all over. I quit at 4 miles.

I think I'll skip tonight's run and get back to training tomorrow.

I've either been very fortunate or very smart or a little of both over my running career. Early on in my running, I had some shin splint problems. I think lots of runners deal with that problem when they first start to build miles. In 1986 and 1987, I had some ITBS problems. In 1988, I found a sports doc who showed me a stretch that fixed that problem.

I've had some intermittent Achilles problems over the years, but usually, some ice and a day of rest, and I'm good to go. But, the key there is probably the word rest. I think I'm pretty good at recognizing when I need some rest and I don't force things when I'm too tired. There are certainly times in training where I take chances, especially with key speed or distance workouts. But, right this minute, skipping a 90 minute run after work tonight is probably the safer decision.

I think I'll take my foam roller to the gym tonight and spend 45 minutes or so just stretching and using the roller. Hopefully, that will help with some of the hot spots I feel right now, most of which are probably attributable to lifting rather than running.

But, no matter the cause, an old fat guy like me needs to know when to back off for a day or two.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Different workouts

It's easy to get in the routine of doing the same old workouts day after day, or week after week. Even though I follow a definite pattern over the course of the year, with specific rest periods and race prep phases, within each phase, there's a certain level of repetition.

My last two workouts were a bit different though.

The rain over the weekend really solidified the snow base; it's very dense right now. The trails right outside my door (I have a 50K trail network on 1300 acres literally in my backyard, with some of the trails on my property) were groomed during the rain on Saturday, which put a smooth surface on the trails. I took the dogs out running on the trails last night. I ran in snowshoes, although I realized quickly I could have used just Yaktrax and been fine. The dogs were happy to get in a run, I was happy to have the extra daylight at the end of the day, and I got to go up and down some real hills. I did just over 6 miles at about a 12 mpm pace.

This morning, I was headed to the gym. I lifted on Sunday and I'm still a bit sore from that extended workout. So today, I decided to use a different type of gym workout called the Bodyweight 500. Basically, it's 500 total reps of a dozen different bodyweight exercises. Each exercise is done 25 or 50 times. But, the key to the workout is that you do it for time, not just for reps.

So, it's not quite a weight workout, but it's certainly not an aerobic-only workout either. Regretfully, I only did a "bodyweight 475", doing only 15 of the 25 pull-ups and only 10 of the 25 chin-ups. Chin-ups are last and I was reduced to doing single reps by the end of this workout. I need to get stronger or lighter or both to do all 25 of both of those exercises and finish in the same day.

My time was 43:48. I have seen some posts online where people have done all 500 reps in around 24 minutes or so.

I'll do an easy hour-long run tonight and then run twice for a total of 15 miles tomorrow.

Monday, March 10, 2008

What is it about Western States that intrigues me so much?

This is a long post. I'd tell you to just "delete it", but it's not an e-mail. So, I'll just apologize in advance.

I first heard of Western States in 1987, I believe. I'd just finished a Saturday long run with friends and I turned on the TV and caught a Wide World of Sports episode about WS. Instantly, I knew that I wanted to do that race someday, just as I'd known I wanted to try triathlons after watching a similar broadcast about Ironman Hawaii.

A few months later, I moved to CA. I joined a running club. We had a member of our club, Dave Scott (not the triathlete) who had a few top-10 finishes at WS. We had a few other ultrarunners as well. But, my focus was on triathlons and road racing. By 1989 or 1990, I decided to switch my focus just to running.

I still heard about Western States from people, but it seemed so impossible that I just put it out of my mind. One guy that I ran with at lunch was obsessed with the race, and he was always injured as well. I began to link ultras with injuries in my mind, I believe.

I became obsessed with a sub-3 marathon and a sub-80 minute half. But, I seemed to come up short repeatedly. By 1993, my marathon PR was 3:02 and my 1/2M PR was 1:22. I was also starting to feel burnt out on road racing. Plus, my wife and I had our first child in 1993, which changed our lives quite a bit.

I decided to focus on trail running and racing for a while. I ran a handful of slow, fun trail marathons in 1993. I decided late that year that I was recovering well from trail marathons and it was time to try an ultra. I picked the 1994 version of American River 50 as a target race. As part of training, I ran the Jed Smith 50K in January and Cool Canyon Crawl in March, back when you could still get into that race with a paper application. In April that year, I ran my first 50 miler in about 10.5 hours or so. I've now run AR50 five times, and I honestly forget which year was which. I've run as "fast" as 9:39 there and as slow as 12:10 or so.

I remember telling my wife at the mile 44 aid station that this was the stupidest thing I'd ever done. That feeling lingered for quite a while and I found myself training on the roads a few months later. I couldn't shake the feeling that the sub-3 marathon was still in there somewhere. In May of 1995, I ran 2:57:35 at Avenue of the Giants.

And then, I was faced with a big "what now"? To be honest, getting to that goal burned me out a bit and I took a break from serious running. Regretfully, I gained almost 40 pounds in one year and at the 100th Boston in 1996, I was in terrible shape. I was sick and out of shape and I quit at mile 12 or so.

I decided to try some ultras again that summer. I ran a few ultras that year and I was finally getting into decent shape. Then, I moved to Alaska. For me, that pretty much killed the dream of Western States. I wasn't in CA any more and I didn't get to hear the frequent conversations about "States", as people there call the race.

But, I kept up with ultras and in 1997, on a family vacation to VT, I tried the VT100. I had no clues about in-race nutrition for a race that long and I fell apart somewhere after 75 miles. At mile 81, I sat in a chair and refused to continue.

The next thing I knew, my wife was pregnant with our second child, and our daughter was born just under 9 months after my VT100 attempt. I changed jobs late in 1998 and we moved to Vermont. But, I was traveling a lot for work and despite entering Leadville in 1998, I never made it to the starting line.

Western States was still in my mind, but it seemed so far away.

For various reasons, it took me until late in 2000 to get in good shape again. I was in good shape for the NYC marathon that year, but got sick just before the race and had a poor race (3:43 when I was shooting for 3:15).

I decided to use my fitness level to try the VT100 again. My friend Cecil was running Western States that year and asked me to pace him. I attended WS for the first time and I was blown away by the atmosphere of the race itself. It was way different than any other ultra I'd ever run or attended. Cecil was running his first 100 and ran a tough and determined 26:23. He's since run sub-24 a couple times and is in the race again this year.

At the VT100 a few weeks later, I had some nasty blister problems that really made the race a struggle, but I managed to get through it. My friend Dr. Andy may have saved my race when he handed me a flask of banana Hammer Gel at mile 44 or so. Andy and a college buddy Jeff paced me to the finish, listening to me whine about my feet and watching me barely trudge along. I finished dead last and swore I'd never run another 100.

A few weeks later, I sent in my app for WS 2002. I got picked in the lottery, paired up with a friend from CA who would go on to complete the Grand Slam as his first four 100s. But, in March of 2002, while skiing at Jay Peak, a friend of mine fell over and landed hard on my knee, tearing my ACL. I was done for the year. I was too depressed to even go to the race while on vacation in CA that summer.

I had surgery in May of that year and ran two ultras late in the year. But, I couldn't qualify for WS. I ran Wasatch in 2003, qualifying me for the 2004 lottery for WS. I didn't get picked, so I entered the Hardrock lottery. I got picked there and finished Hardrock in 45:37:30. Then, I got picked for the 2005 WS race. After finishing Wasatch and Hardrock, I think I was starting to believe that I was now a decent ultrarunner and WS would simply happen because I showed up. I had a coach training me, but I'm not sure if I really took my training that year seriously. And, my coach was a believer in lower mileage than I'd used the two previous years. I arrived at WS with only 760 running miles for the year - way too low, in my opinion.

We had lots of snow early on that year, but cool temps through the canyons. I took my time on the snow and then felt like I was moving well later on. But, around mile 80, the wheels started to come off. I'd run a difficult 50 (Squaw Peak) 3 weeks earlier and I don't think I was recovered enough, especially given my mileage base.

At mile 93.5, I missed the time cut-off. Here I am, sitting in a chair after that DNF (the photographer didn't know much about using light, or perhaps I was trying to hide in the shade):

I tried two more 100s that year to re-qualify for the lottery. I don't know why I didn't just run an easy 50 and qualify. But, I DNFd both Haliburton Forest and Javelina, and couldn't even apply for the 2006 race. In 2006, I finished the VT100 for the second time, but I lost the lottery for WS. I did pace at WS that year though, just from Foresthill to the river crossing. In 2007, I finished VT100 again and this time, against great odds, I got picked in the WS lottery for the 2008 race.

So, I've been thinking about this race for over 20 years, and I've been applying to run it since 2001. That's not really all that long, but this is my 3rd time being accepted.

The first time, I didn't make it to the starting line.

The second time, I didn't make it to the finish line.

This year, I certainly hope to erase those two prior disappointments. Then, I can hopefully find something else to obsess about.


Saturday, while Ohio was getting crazy amounts of snow, it rained over most of Vermont. It poured all afternoon. The skiing was really good in the soft rain-soaked snow, but for some reason, the children that I teach weren't enthused about skiing in the rain. Just after 2:00, we went in for a hot chocolate break and we stayed inside until the ski day was over.

Saturday night, the winds howled and the temps plummeted. When my son and I got to the mountain yesterday, power was out for most of the mountain. The few lifts that had power were also in the path of high winds and the lifts were iced up. Ungroomed trails were just plain scary looking, from a skiing perspective.

Very few children showed up to ski, and we had too many coaches for the kids we had, so I volunteered to leave early. My son had no work for the day, so he was going to be stuck at the mountain all day with little to do if I worked. So, we were home by 11:30 yesterday.

I headed to the gym and did the following workout:

Five supersets, with each superset containing 3 sets of each lift:

Wide-grip seated row

Barbell push press
Supine Hip Extension with Leg Curl

Dynamic Lunge
Upper Body Russian Twist

Abdominal Crunch
Captain's Chair


After this work, I did 15 minutes of intervals on the stair climber. I knew by the time I finished that I would be sore today.

This morning, I ran 3 miles just to loosen up a bit, and I'll run on the roads or snowshoe on trails after work tonight. The extra daylight will be very nice for evening workouts.

It's going to be a long, wet mud season here in Vermont. We have so much frozen precip that will need to melt, and we have four storm systems lined up for the next 9 days. The first system will be a few inches of snow tomorrow night, but the next three will probably include some rain. Of course, our snowpack is nothing compared to snow depths in the Sierra Nevada at this point in time. It's too bad I can't use my snowshoes for the early miles at Western States.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Another treadmill day

I ran an easy 5 this morning on the treadmill. I'll do 6 more tonight. The weather just isn't cooperating for road running right now. We've been going above freezing most days this week and then everything freezes over at night. Next week, with daylight savings time, I should be able to start getting outside more after work, when the temps are above freezing.

The storm this weekend is going to include snow, sleet, freezing rain, icing, and pouring rain - with the form of precipitation varying frequently. Skiing might be decent tomorrow, but Sunday is likely to be a disaster. Only 16 days until I'm done teaching skiing for the season. Ski season may go into May, but I'll be done working much sooner than that. The ski season has flown by.

These guys really want the winter to be gone, so they can get back to running and chasing animal smells:

Thursday, March 6, 2008

9 more miles and other random thoughts

After 21 miles on Tuesday, I ran 9 more yesterday. It felt pretty good overall, but I was a bit slower than most days.

Last night, I fell asleep at 8:00. Sunday night, I fell asleep closer to 7:00. Luckily, I have the luxury of being able to get to sleep early most nights, so if I need the sleep, I'll get it. Now that I won't have any evening meetings for a while, I can go to sleep as early as I want most nights.

The little bit of a cold that hit me last week seems to be fading away. I have a very minor cough and I think the rest days did a lot of good.

This morning, I lifted, but I definitely felt tired. My first lift was snatch-grip deadlifts - 3 sets of 10. I did 3x12 of this lift twice last month, where I lifted 185#. My plan today was to go to 195#, but it was a no-go. My legs were tired and I just felt like I was going to put my back at risk to get that weight off the floor. I did the 185s OK though. On some other lifts, I also found that I needed to stay where I was two weeks ago. Clearly, my legs are a bit tired today, so I'm going to skip running tonight. I'll shoot for 12 tomorrow.

My weight never did make it to 185 by the end of February, although I've seen values from 184.5 (right after a workout) to 187 the past few days. I still need to get down closer to 180 in the next couple of months.

With daylight savings time starting this weekend, I'm hoping to start doing some longer snowshoe runs after work the next couple weeks. As the weather warms up, afternoon snowshoe runs on a solid snowpack are a lot of fun and my dogs love going along. They've gotten a bit fat during our snowy winter, so it's time to get them moving again.

Lastly, it looks like our weather is going to continue to include lots of precipitation. We are going to get hit by a mixed rain/snow event tomorrow night and I might be skiing in the rain on Saturday. A local forecaster is suggesting that a "block" near Greenland may set us up for a snowy end of March. Our current snowpack is near record levels from a moisture perspective, although not from a depth perspective. Too many warm days and mixed precip events have made the snowpack very dense. If the snowpack melts quickly this year, we are going to have significant flooding in Vermont. Mud season in VT could be interesting this year.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Good running day

I managed 21 miles yesterday on a day off work - all of it on the treadmill.

I was able to offer an argument at town meeting that seemed to sway an issue.

And then, the voters rejected me by a huge margin. I'm at a loss on how to beat someone who refuses to campaign, refuses to reveal his positions, and has major name recognition, especially when the local newspaper doesn't bother to cover the election.

I'll take some time to get over my disappointment and then decide if I want to get involved in town business again at any level. Any decision made right now would be based on disappointment and anger, and that's not the right frame of mind to make rational decisions.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Last week, this week

I completed my recovery week as scheduled, with a handful of short walks and runs, two days of low-weight lifting and two days of teaching skiing. I seem to be recovering from my minor cold, and I felt pretty good in the gym this morning. After the lower weights last week, I added weight to squats and rows this morning, and kept everything else at the levels from two weeks ago.

Skiing was great this weekend, with snow on Friday and another shot of fluffy powder on Saturday night. I was skiing deep untracked lines in wilderness terrain yesterday, enjoying it tremendously. We are lucky at the mountain to have a remote "out of bounds" adventure available right from the top of one of our lifts, and my boss and two other coaches and I took 13 children into that terrain yesterday. At the end of the skiing, we simply hop on a bus for a ride back to the main resort.

This week is busy again, with Vermont's Town Meeting Day (and elections) tomorrow. I have meetings each of the next three evenings. But, I'm also off work tomorrow, and I plan on running 20-25 miles, split between two sessions (one before and one after Town Meeting). That should let me get in a good mileage week this week.

With the election tomorrow, it's also possible that I'll have a lot more free time soon. I have to be considered an underdog in my election tomorrow, given my opponent's experience in local and state government and how well-known he is. I'm almost tired of hearing from people how smart my opponent is, how nice he is, plus he's a lawyer, so he must be good at politics. OK, I'm not almost tired of hearing it; I'm beyond that point.

If I win the election, I'll be glad to continue doing the job. If I lose, I have plenty of ways to use the extra free time.

We're going to have a lot of messy weather this week, including a potentially big ice storm on Tuesday night. Daytime temps are starting to climb above freezing on a more regular basis. Our average high/low temperatures for March 3rd are 36F/11F and the averages by the end of the month are 46F/24F. This will mean a month of melting during the day and freezing overnight, leaving the roads slick for morning running, but maybe OK for evenings. April 24th is the date when our average lows hit 33F.