Friday, May 30, 2008

Short Intervals and one more long training run

Last night, I did a very easy 4 miler, as planned. This morning, I did a 5 mile run with 6 x 1 minute at about 6:30 pace for each short interval. It was a beautiful sunny, but cool, morning, and I really enjoyed the run.

Tomorrow, I'm meeting a group of runners to run 24 miles of the Vermont 100 course. There is one aid station that runners hit at miles 46 and 70, so we are going to run the loop that starts and ends at that aid station. It's supposed to rain on us, but it's been a very dry spring here in Vermont, and we need the rain. Some of the runners may continue to the 77 mile aid station location. If they do that, I'm going to serve as a shuttle driver for them. No more 30+ mile runs for me.

Tomorrow's run will be my last long run before Western States. It will be my sixth run of 20 or more miles in May, and it's time for me to start backing off my training volume. Yes, I know that some runners would only taper for two weeks or maybe three. My normal taper would be three weeks, but my recent long run volume has been high enough that I want to be a bit more conservative about tapering.

I will continue to do interval work, tempo work, and strength training, but my running volume will drop to about 40 miles for next week, and probably 30-35 miles for the two following weeks. Next weekend, I'll do a 2-3 hour trail run, at an easy effort, but I doubt I'll go longer than 15 miles.

I'm off to visit my chiropractor in a little bit. I'll see him today and then one more time before I leave for CA. He has done a lot to help keep me together through all of my training the past few months.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Pineland Farms Results

My time was 6:13:31, 70th out of 113 finishers. The median finishing time was 5:42. I could likely have bested that median time if I'd rested the day before the race rather than running 20. But, I didn't.

However, after finishing last in two smaller and very technical 50Ks earlier this year, my time and overall position for this race were encouraging.

It might not be a fast time, but it convinces me that my fitness is where I need it to be for WS in 4 weeks.

One more long run, some speed work, lots of sleep, eat well, and get ready to race. That's what the next four weeks will be about.

Intervals and Weights

Last night, I did my interval workout on the way home. I did 6 x 2 minute repeats, with 2 minutes of recovery. Then, the last 5km the rest of the way home were all uphill and I simply cruised through those miles.

This morning, I did weights and stair climber intervals before work. Tonight, I'll do a very easy 4 mile jog along Lake Champlain.

Tomorrow morning, some short running intervals, and then a long run in the rain on Saturday.

Saturday's run will be 24 miles - my 14th run of 20 to 31 miles so far this year. In 2004, I had done 16 runs of 20 or more miles at this point in the year, but the 14 this year is my second most (to this date) ever. The run on Saturday will be my last day of 20 or more miles until Western States.

Oh yeah, my bib number for WS is 263. We leave for CA in just over 3 weeks.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Easy run last night, some intervals tonight

Last night, it was cool and blustery. I ran in a long sleeve shirt and wearing a wind vest. I took each of my 2 lazy dogs for a 2 mile run, giving me 4 total. Because I just wanted to stretch my legs a bit, I let the dogs stop and sniff and dig and eat grass and whatever else they wanted to do.

I was surprised when I couldn't keep my eyes open at 8:30 last night and I slept in until 6:30 this morning. I'm almost done reading a book about a 1967 climbing accident on Denali, named "Forever on the Mountain", but I couldn't stay awake to finish it. The next book in my stack is "The Bunion Derby", about a trans-continental footrace, held in the late 1920s, I believe.

Tonight, I'll run home from work, about 8 total miles, with some short intervals along the way. I'm planning to do 6 x 90 seconds with 3 minutes recovery on the way home.

Tomorrow will be weight work and an easy 4 miler. Friday, I'll repeat today's run, although I'll do it in the downhill direction on Friday.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Recovery Day

Yesterday was a recovery day. I ended up doing outdoor housework for most of the day. We put up the rain gutters (finally), I mowed the lawn for the first time this year, moved some fallen tree branches around, cleaned up some rocks and did some weed whacking. Really exciting stuff.

After that, I took a shower and then did some work for my second job for a few hours, writing software. More exciting stuff.

This morning, I went to the gym before work. Between now and WS, I'm going to be using a lifting program that was not taken from The New Rules of Lifting, although it was designed by the same guy who designed the workouts in NROL.

These new workouts are intended to focus on fat loss and they are certainly intense. Today, I started out with 4x6 in the squat rack. Then, I did two different 10 minute supersets, where I did two lifts, in sets of six, completing as many sets as possible. After that was done, I did cross-training intervals, using the rowing machine this morning. It was a very tough workout overall.

Tonight, I'll do an easy 4 mile run with the dogs. Tomorrow, I'm planning to do some running intervals, although my total running mileage for the day won't be very high.

Last week, I did 74 miles and my 4-week total is about 240 miles, even with fewer miles at Massanutten than I expected. This week, I want to do about 45 total miles. Last week will be my high mileage week for WS. From here on out, I'll gradually reduce miles and increase the intensity of my runs.

My weight is down to 183 - close to my goal of 180 for the race in 5 weeks.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Back to Back Long Runs

Some ultrarunners love doing back to back long runs. Others don't like it at all. I've never been a big fan of doing long runs back to back, but I wanted to get in a lot of miles this weekend. So, I decided to go long both Saturday and Sunday.

My plan was a very easy 20 on Saturday and then the Pineland Farms 50K on Sunday.

On Saturday, it was cool and breezy and I ran a nice, relaxed 20 on a mixture of paved and dirt roads. The course was rolling, but not exceptionally hilly - 1400 feet of climbing over the 20 miles.

Saturday night, I got to bed early because of the race on Sunday and to get as much sleep as possible between the two longer days. I got up about 3:15 a.m. and got on the road to Maine within 20 minutes. I was amazed at the number of speed traps yesterday. I was expecting an increase in speed traps because of the holiday weekend, but it was crazy. I got hit by instant-on radar at 5:30 a.m. in New Hampshire. In Maine, it seemed like there was a state cop every couple miles.

I arrived at the race about an hour before the start and had plenty of time to get a drop bag together and to socialize with friends. As we started at 8:00, I fell in with a speedy friend for a while and then had to back off after about 3 miles. From there, I just relaxed through the first loop, wondering when the serious fatigue might set in. As I started my second 25K loop, I felt pretty good. I hit the halfway point in just under 3:03. After the long day on Saturday, I was guessing I'd run at least 6:30 and maybe 7:00, so the 3:03 halfway split surprised me.

But, while the course was all trails and it was rolling (about 3500' of climbing over 50K), the footing was great and about as non-technical as trails can be. Around mile 22 or so, I started to push a little bit, wanting to be done. I caught up to a friend at the mile 23 aid station, and he made no attempt to run with me. I was starting to pass people somewhat frequently.

I hit the 25.8 mile aid station in about 5:15, and I was feeling great. I really pushed the 4.3 miles back to this aid station pretty hard and passed a number of runners. As I got back to the aid station, I ditched my bottle and my small pack and headed for the finish. One runner was close behind me and I didn't want to get caught. It wasn't close, as I cruised the last mile at a sub-9 pace. My final time was 6:13:xx - I didn't catch the exact number of seconds and I forgot to hit the stop button on my watch. So, I'd done the second half of the race in about 3:11 - not much slower than the first half.

By the time I finished, they'd run out of beer, which was probably just as well, given that I had to drive home. I grabbed some food very quickly and headed for home. I got a giant cup of coffee from an evil corporate coffee venue on the Maine turnpike; I needed the caffeine for the drive.

Oh yeah, on top of the ridiculous amount of money I spent for gas yesterday (way more than my race entry), I also had to pay almost $8 to drive on roads that I thought my tax dollars already paid for. Vermont has no tolls on their interstates, but the rest of New England sure does.

Friday, May 23, 2008


After feeling great on Wednesday, yesterday was just the opposite. I wonder if the time I spent in the sauna after my run on Wednesday night dehydrated me enough to slow down my recovery from one day to the next.

I ran an easy effort 8 miler yesterday after work, finishing in 77 minutes. The course is an out and back, with one mile all downhill to start, 6 mostly flat miles, and then a tough uphill mile to finish. I was just beat by the time I got back to my office. The last time I ran this course, I was 90 seconds faster, but I felt like I worked a little bit that day.

We had a late meeting at work after my run, and I didn't get home until after 8:00.

When I got home, I went to my bedroom to read and I was asleep before 9:00. I was planning on doing a bodyweight "lifting" routine this morning, but I decided to sleep in instead. With 20 miles tomorrow and a 50K on Sunday, rest seemed like a good idea.

I'm not looking forward to getting up at 2:30 to drive to Maine on Sunday morning, but the campgrounds and hotels near the race are all full. Perhaps I'll drive over on Saturday night and just sleep in my car.

The weather for the holiday weekend looks pretty awesome, so I'll be running and doing work on the house - outside all weekend. If I'm still moving OK on Monday, my wife and I might get out climbing for the first time this year.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


I went out for a planned easy 6-miler last night and was surprised by how good my legs felt. I guess that only having run 35-40 miles in the past week let me recover a bit. Because it was also looking like rain, I decided to do tempo work last night. I warmed up with an easy 3 miles and then started to push a bit. It also started to rain as soon as I increased the pace.

I felt good and ran a rolling first mile into the wind in 7:02. After a couple hundred more yards, I turned and had the wind at my back. My pace increased and I was happy with a 6:49 second mile, done in absolute pouring rain. After that, I did an easy cool-down mile back to my car. When my tempo work averages under 7 mpm, I know that I'm getting into decent ultra shape. In my road racing days, that speed would have seemed too slow, but these days, it's a good sign of my fitness.

I was surprised to see ice on my car when I returned. Apparently, there was isolated hail during the storm, but I didn't get hit by any while running.

I'll do a moderate-paced 6-8 miler later today and then take tomorrow off running before my back to back long runs this weekend.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Back to Training

I'm taking this week off from lifting, sort of. I'm going to do a bodyweight workout on Friday morning, but no iron. Last night, I did an easy 4 miler to stretch out my legs after my pacing and traveling over the weekend. My legs were a bit tight, but the run went just fine. This morning, I ran for an hour and I'll do another hour tonight.

Tomorrow, I'll do some tempo work. But, the crux of this week and perhaps the crux of my WS training, will be this weekend. I'm entered in a 50K on Sunday. Because I didn't do the 50+ miles I was hoping to pace last weekend, I need more miles this weekend. So, I'm going to run an easy 20 on Saturday before racing on Sunday. A 50 mile weekend 5 weeks from WS seems just about right. The following weekend, I think I'm going to do a 24 miler on the VT100 course.

From there, I'll do two weeks of reduced mileage, but with speedwork 2x per week. My weightlifting will also change, moving to higher reps and lower weights for the last few weeks before the race.

I'm still a bit sleepy from this past weekend. When I thought about it, I didn't really get a decent night of sleep from Thursday night through Monday night. Last night was marginally better. Adequate sleep is something I need to work on in the next couple days and the coming weeks.

Also, tonight, I'll spend some time in the sauna to get used to the feeling of heat. I wish I could be in CA to train in the heat right now, but I'm not. So, I'll make do with the sauna instead.

Today is May 21st. On June 21st, I board a plane for CA. The race is coming, ready or not.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Massanutten Pacing

I'm beat today. I got home about 1:00 a.m. from my trip to Virginia for the Massanutten Mountain 100 miler. I was pacing a friend from Ohio named Joe.

Joe was making his second attempt at 100 miles, with both of them at MMT. A number of his friends love this race and he trains in the area on occasion, so it's a natural fit for him. But, it's also a very tough course for the most experienced runners, much less a runner who has yet to finish a 100 miler.

Joe's e-mails this spring have sounded very confident. His running has been going well and he proclaimed himself fitter and leaner than last year. I really thought this was going to be his year, but it was not to be.

Right after the start on Saturday morning, I went back to bed for a bit and slept until about 7:00 a.m. I was going to ride along with the wife of another runner until it was time for me to pace. Andrea was crewing for her husband; her husband and Joe were close enough together that we saw both of them at most crew points. I was also able to check in with some friends from New England at many points as they crewed for and prepared to pace Sherpa John.

Joe was right on schedule at the 24+ mile aid station. He was there just at 6 hours, as planned. His feet were really muddy, and the mud was really the story of this race. Last year, when I attempted MMT, the trails were mostly dry. I was shocked at the mud I saw while pacing this year. I talked to one runner on Sunday who was 8 for 8 in prior MMT attempts, and he quit this year, proclaiming the worst conditions he'd ever seen.

At the 33 mile aid station, Joe complained that he was hot. I thought the day felt pretty cool and it was breezy, but Joe found it to be hot. I'm sure it was cooler than last year, but Joe is a big guy and he does best in cool conditions where he can keep his core temperature down. But, Joe's time was OK and I kept reminding him to just take it easy and have fun. There was no reason to hurry in the heat of the day when he had 36 total hours to complete the race.

We missed Joe at mile 38, making sure we had time to get some food and meet Andrea's husband by the time he got to mile 48. Andrea's husband wasn't in good spirits at mile 48 and he was having a tough day. He has five prior MMT finishes, but he would call it a day just a few miles later.

About 7:15 or so, Joe showed up at the mile 48 aid station. He seemed to be feeling fine and he was an hour ahead of the cut-offs. He was slightly behind his time from last year, but with the tougher course conditions, I wasn't too worried.

We got him fed and hydrated and I started pacing on the long climb to Bird Knob. Almost immediately, I noted that Joe's stride seemed a bit imbalanced. He was also leaning a bit to the right. I hoped this was his normal stride, but I still don't know the answer to that. But, what alarmed me the most was that Joe seemed a bit sloppy with his foot placements and he was kicking lots of rocks.

The climb to Bird Knob takes runners to the highest point on the MMT course, and the ascent portion of this out-and-back stretch is particularly tough. I was wearing my altimeter and watching our ascent rate. I noticed that when Joe was ascending at a rate of more than 30 vertical feet per minute, he'd get winded very quickly. I kept reminding him to back off and just go nice and steady on the tough climbs. Because this was an out-and-back stretch, we had lots of runners coming towards us on the trail, which slowed things down a bit. The trail was muddy early on, but less so high on the ridge. We hit the turnaround in 1:51 - 111 minutes for a tough 5.1 miles. This pace was just fine at this point in the race and Joe still seemed to be doing well.

I was surprised that we didn't go much faster on the return trip, and we made it back to the aid station at mile 58 still only an hour ahead of the cut-offs. It rained on us for a couple minutes just before the aid station, but shortly, the nearly full moon was visible again.

The next stretch is a tough almost-7 miles, with a deceptively large amount of climbing. This stretch was also very muddy, especially on the descent. On this climb, I kept reminding Joe to be nice and steady and not force the climbs. Regretfully, the mud on the descent made things really nasty on the way down to the mile 65 aid station. We were also wet from a sustained rain shower on the ascent. For me, the worst part of the ascent was probably the whipporwills. I am sure some people love their song, but I found them amazingly annoying. Don't they ever sleep?

We found one runner in rough shape about a mile before the aid station. He was off the trail and confused. I got him back on the trail and he immediately fell. He was planning to drop at the aid station, but I was a bit concerned about leaving him behind. When we got to the aid station, I immediately notified the team there that they had a runner in trouble on the trail. The runner hadn't made it to the station by the time we left.

At mile 65, I was a bit concerned. We had lost 20 minutes on the cut-off time on the last stretch. But, it had been in tough shape, and I hoped we would do better on some of the rockier terrain coming up, hoping that it would be less muddy.

The next aid station was Moreland Gap, only 3 miles away, but we had a long climb and then a moderate descent to this station. Joe really struggled on this climb and I had to keep forcing him to get some calories into his body. His foot placements were really starting to concern me. He'd taken one minor fall, but I was worried that he was going to take a hard fall on the downhill into Moreland Gap.

He didn't fall, but regretfully, I think it was because his pace became so slow. He was kicking rocks frequently, uttering expletives repeatedly, and clearly in trouble. He made one comment about the next stretch of trail and I knew what he was thinking. But, I cut him off and told him to focus on getting to the next aid station and nothing more. It took us almost 90 minutes to go 3 miles. This was the first time Joe had dropped below the average 2.5 mph pace we needed to average to finish the race.

At the aid station, our margin over the cut-off was down to 20 minutes. Joe was in pain; his feet were killing him. He started talking openly about quitting. I got him to find some socks in his drop bag. I figured his feet were trashed from the mud and dirt in his shoes, and I wanted him to clean his feet and put on dry socks. He got his socks off and got his feet cleaned, but he just didn't want to put the new socks on. He was going through the math in his head, knowing that we were losing time. We were also looking at a brutal climb in the next 8 mile stretch - a section of trail that would take us at least 3.5 hours and probably more in Joe's condition. Joe said he wanted to drop.

I told him he couldn't drop out. He had to sit there and at least think about it. I was hoping that he would change his mind before the cut-off time. But, that wasn't a lot of time. When we got to within 5 minutes of the cut-off, it was clear that Joe wasn't going back out there. At the time limit, he removed his race number and called it a night.

Luckily, we got a ride to a prior aid station, where a pacer had stashed a vehicle that he needed returned to the starting area. I got us back to the start/finish area right about sunrise. We each got a quick shower and then fell asleep.

We spent the afternoon watching people finish and enjoying a few beers. Even the finishers could only talk about the mud on the course. A fellow New Englander, who had broken her foot two days before this race last year, finished as second female and first masters female, earning a silver buckle. Sherpa John fought through foot problems and a delirious pacer to finish around 32 hours.

Unlike last year, no one finished in the last five minutes and the trail sweeps showed up with about 10 minutes left in the race. The race was over.

I'm disappointed for Joe, because I know he worked hard to get ready for this event. I think he is now thinking about trying an easier 100 to get more experience before trying MMT again.

Before the race, I had warned Joe that no matter how much help I provided, and no matter how much encouragement I could provide, he would reach a point in the race where he would have to find the desire to finish inside himself. I've hit that point myself many times. Sometimes, I've given in to the pain of the moment and sometimes I haven't. Regretfully, even if you continue at one low point, you have to find the will to continue over and over again. But, you only have to give in once and you're done. Joe had reached a point where pain in his feet made the decision easy for him, at least at the time.

To me, that decision point or series of decision points is the essence of ultra running. Can you find a way to continue and a way to care when your body is screaming at you to stop this silliness?

Joe didn't finish this time, but he learned a lot. He'll use the experience in the future and I'm sure he'll eventually get his 100 mile finish.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Easy Day

I'm working at my second job today, which involves a long commute. I'm going to get out for an easy 3 miler tonight after work and then stay overnight with some friends nearby. My flight for MMT leaves at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow morning, and my second job and friends are close to the airport.

I'll be up at 3:30 or so tomorrow morning, but hopefully get some extra sleep during the day or sometime on Saturday. Since I'll be up all night on Saturday, I'll need some sleep sometime - hopefully before Sunday afternoon.

The weather for the weekend looks a bit damp, but not too hot or too cold. It should be a fun weekend.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Massanutten 100 miler pacing

I hit 800 miles for the year yesterday. I should arrive at WS with close to 1000 for the year. That's the minimum amount I like to have done in the 6 months before a 100, but I've run reasonably well with fewer miles than that. But, I've only done well with fewer miles on easier courses, particularly the Vermont 100. There's no such thing as an easy 100, but Vermont is easier than most of the 100s in the western US.

Last year, I did about 925 miles in the 6 months before my PR at VT100. The year before, I ran about 825 in the six months before VT100. In 2005, I was under 800 miles for the 6-months before WS100, and I DNFd. For Hardrock in 2004, I ran almost 1500 miles in the 6 months before the race. I'm still not sure how I found the time to pull that off, but I needed every one of those miles to get through the race that year. I also ran Hardrock at my lightest weight ever for a 100.

So, this year, I'll run WS100 at my second-lightest ever weight for a 100. I will likely be at my lowest body fat percentage ever for a 100, although I don't have the data to confirm that. I'll have fewer miles than before Hardrock or Wasatch, but more than before any other 100.

This weekend, it's on to Massanutten. I will be crewing and pacing, and it now looks like I may go as far as 52 miles overnight Saturday and into Sunday. I thought I'd be doing 30-35 miles, but it looks like that might change. So, I backed off on weights this morning and I'm going to skip my tempo work tonight. I'll still do an easy run tonight, but no tempo. Tomorrow, I'll run an easy 3 before traveling on Friday.

Sunday afternoon sometime, my buddy Joe will cross the finish line for his first 100 mile finish, on a brutally tough course. I am really looking forward to being there when that happens.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Same old, same old...

I lifted last night as planned. I felt pretty good, even on deadlifts and lunges. My legs aren't sore at all from Sunday's run/hike.

This morning, I did an easy but hilly 5 miler before work. Again, I was amazed at how good my legs felt. Tonight, I'll run home after work for a total of just over 11 miles for the day.

Sleep, train, eat, work, train, eat, repeat. That's my life right now. But, I'm very happy with my fitness level, which makes it fun to run every time out.

I'm currently trying to figure out how to organize my last couple weekends before I start my taper in June. I might run the Nipmuck marathon on 6/1 or maybe the Whiteface Mountain hill climb that same day. If I do the latter, I'll also run back down the mountain, like I always do when I race there. That would be a 17 mile day with about 70-80 minutes of high intensity work.

After a long (planned) string of good training weekends, I'm thinking about a 4 week taper for WS rather than my normal 3 week taper. I still need to figure out if I'm going to train hard or not on 6/7 or 6/8. I have an option for a 30 mile day with friends on 6/7, but I'm thinking I don't want to do a tough 30 miler 3 weeks from WS. But, when I ran Hardrock in 2004, I trained relatively hard until 10 days before the race and that worked well for me, so I'm still not sure which way to go.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Week in review

I got in a total of 66 miles last week and I had a great training weekend. I also did my normal two days of lifting last week.

My weight is down to 185 and still moving downward at a slow but steady pace.

On Saturday, I did an easy 11 miler on rolling terrain. I was running mostly at about a 9:00-9:15 pace, but I walked a lot of the last 2 uphill miles to home, which slowed my average pace for the day. After running on Saturday, I spent the rest of the day catching up on spring household projects.

Sunday, I got up at 4:30 and drove to MA for the GAC Mother's Day 6-hour run. This run is amazingly inexpensive at $20, and it's a great event. It's done on Mother's Day as a breast cancer research fund raiser, so additional contributions are always welcome. For your money, you get a nice rolling 3-mile trail loop, lots of great food at the aid stations, a T-shirt, and then a post-race pizza party with adult beverages.

I've done this race 4 prior times, with totals from 30 to 35 miles. I've never hit the 36 mark, although I'm sure I could have done it this year, if going hard yesterday had fit into my plans. Because I'm pacing at MMT next weekend, I wanted to make sure I didn't trash my legs too much. So, I planned to run for 2 hours and then hike for 4 hours, for a total of about 24 miles.

At the start, I was amazed at how good I felt. My legs just felt great and I found myself running near runners who typically come in close to 40 miles for the event. I was probably in the top 8 or so runners for the first 12 miles. Despite plans of 30 minute loops to start, I found myself doing 27s instead. The first and last mile of the loop aren't super-technical, but the middle mile can be dangerous if you aren't careful. The trails are well used and there are exposed tree roots waiting to trip you up in that middle mile. Add in a few rolling hills, and I was very happy to be running close to a 9:00 pace. I eventually hit 12 miles in 1:49, averaging 9:05 per mile for 12.

I really wanted to keep running because I felt so good, but I needed to stick to my plan. So, I switched to walking as I started my 5th loop. My first walking loop was 54 minutes and I stayed close to that pace. I knew after one loop that I would probably have time for a 25th mile at the end of my 8th loop.

As I started my 8th loop, my time was 4:33. I realized then that a couple quicker miles would let me get to 26 miles. There are no partial miles in this event, so you have to hit certain marks in the last partial loop to get credit for any full miles. When I realized I could get to 26 miles, I sped up a bit, and did a couple Ollie-like miles at about 15 pace. It felt good to be able to walk at that speed after working hard in the first 4 loops.

Eventually, I hit the 26 mile mark in 5:51 and called it a day. I had time for a 27th mile if I wanted to run it, but there was no really compelling reason to do that. So, I averaged about 17:20 per mile for 14 miles of walking.

Today, my legs feel great, but I am going to skip running today. I will lift tonight though.

For this week, I'll lift today, run twice tomorrow, lift and run on Wednesday, run short on Thursday, and then I travel to Virginia on Friday. I'll do tempo work during my Wednesday run.

Saturday I'll be part of a 2-man crewing and pacing team that will get my buddy Joe to his first 100 mile finish at Massanutten. Joe is in great shape and I'm looking forward to helping him out. I'm disappointed for my friend Tom, who had to drop out of MMT with an injury, but I'm sure he'll toe the line for a different 100 as soon as he's healthy. I hope to still help Tom out when he makes his next attempt.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Fifty Days

When the lottery for Western States happens, the race seems so far away. In reality, six months is probably a minimum amount of time to get ready for a 100, at least for me. Some people who live in warmer climates and run trails and ultras year round can probably get ready for a 100 in less time, but a six-month build-up is what it usually takes me to get ready for a big race.

In 1995 (ancient history, I know), I spent almost exactly six months living and breathing for a sub-3 hour marathon attempt, and I needed all of that training time to get there.

So now, we're down to 50 days until the race. It seems so close. But, I've still got time for a solid month of training before I start my taper.

Last year, seven weeks before MMT, I was in a panic. My conditioning was not good and I felt like I was running out of time. In 2005, seven weeks before WS, I was in a similar panic.

This year, things feel a lot different. So far, everything is on track. My weight is dropping slowly to my race target. My long runs are going well. Week by week, my recovery times from hard workouts seem to be dropping. And, I'm seeing the gradual drop in pace in my easy runs that I typically see as my fitness improves.

In the winters, I train on a treadmill and it's not uncommon for me to "run" as slowly as an 11:00 mpm pace. When I make the transition to outdoor running, I usually run at a 10:00 mpm pace. As my fitness improves, my pace gradually starts dropping towards 9:00-9:15 mpm. At least that's been the pattern in the years where I get myself adequately prepared for a 100. It happened in 2003 for Wasatch and in 2004 for Hardrock. In 2005, my pace never really improved much and I DNF'd Western States.

Last year, my pace stayed slow before my DNF at MMT, but things got a lot better through June as I focused on the Vermont 100. I ran my best ever 100 in that race last summer.

So, this week, I've been a bit tired from my hill repeats last Saturday. But, I've gone out for every scheduled workout. I also lifted twice this week. I've been tired at times, but my running pace has been good. Last night, I did a hilly 8 miler at 9:20 pace after lifting in the morning.

Bit by bit, it's all coming together.


Knowing that today was a rest day, I was thinking that it would be nice to relax with a beer or a glass of wine last night. Maybe two. And then, I thought about WS. And seven weeks.

Things are going well right now, but there's still plenty of time to screw them up. This isn't the time to relax on my diet or my training or anything else that I'm doing well.

There will be plenty of time to relax and celebrate after the race.

Rest day today, easy 10 tomorrow, and then 24 miles on Sunday in a 6-hour race. I'm going to run the first two hours moderately hard on Sunday and then switch to walking until I hit the 24 mile mark. It's important to practice walking when tired for ultras, and that is Sunday's goal. It will also be another chance to run on trails, although this course is way less technical than the two 50Ks I've done this spring. My trails here at home are just about ready for running and I hope to start using them in the next week or two.

Next weekend is in flux a bit right now. The runner I was supposed to pace at MMT has an injury and can't run, so I'm trying to figure out what to do for training next weekend.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


I just keep truckin' along, I guess, tired or not.

I was tired yesterday, but my run home felt really good. I walked the ups and cruise-controlled the rest. I was way slower than the 57:xx I ran a few weeks ago, but I wasn't trying for time on this 10K uphill course.

As I was cooking dinner and washing some dishes last night, I could feel the residual tiredness in my legs. It's been a while since I have had this kind of accumulated fatigue in my legs, but it's important to get there as part of my training.

My wife was off lifting while I was cooking dinner. She's been using the New Rules of Lifting for Women book, and she has been making great progress. In the men's book, there are different workouts based on goals of fat loss or strength or hypertrophy. In the women's book, there are simply stages, and you move through them in order. She started Stage 3 this week, which seems very interesting. A lot of the lifts are complex movements that require very little weight other than body weight or fairly light dumbbells. Then, after the workouts, there is a bodyweight "matrix" to do one day and a high intensity interval workout the other day.

When my wife walked in the door last night, it was clear the workout had worked her over. I'm betting she is sore today. I know a number of women who have found Stage 3 to be fairly challenging.

This morning, I lifted at the gym, and I worked hard. Today's workout included 4x10 squats and 2x20 squats, each as part of a larger giant set. With squats and deadlifts, I'm always careful to warm up, with about 5 reps each at lower weights, on my way up to my target weight. So, all told, I did at least 100 squats this morning. I also did 80 weighted bench step-ups per leg. I was tired and sweating like crazy by the end of the workout, but I was happy with my effort. I've got one week left in my current routine and then I may take one week off lifting before starting the next routine.

Today, after work, I'll do a very easy 8 miler and then rest tomorrow before doing 10 and 24 mile days over the weekend. After Sunday, I'll take a rest day and do a mini-taper into my pacing duties at MMT next weekend. However, I'll still run and lift a couple times from Tuesday-Thursday next week.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Fine line

Training for ultras is similar to marathon training in some respects. I do less speed work for ultras and more of my speedwork is tempo rather than intervals. But, otherwise, my weekly mileage and mileage patterns and long run patterns are similar.

Where things differ is training when tired. When training for a marathon, if I find myself really tired, I often find it smart to back off and take a rest day. After 14 years of running ultras, I have a good feeling for the endurance required to finish a race. In marathon training, I'd often rather take a rest day when I'm tired, so that the quality of my subsequent workouts doesn't degrade.

But, I know that in a 100, I'll have to cover many, many miles when I'm tired. So, if I avoid running when tired in training, will I be prepared to do that in a race?

Yet, at the same time, it seems that the risk of injury and illness is higher if I train when I'm tired. Finding the balance, treading that fine line between when to train and when to rest, is a tough chore in ultra training.

Because training when tired is often the least fun type of training, it can be easy to skip those workouts. But, sometimes they need to be done. And sometimes, I really need the rest.

This morning, I was tired. Last Saturday's workout took more out of me than I thought it would. I rested Sunday and ran easy on Monday, but I lifted and ran yesterday. This morning, I really felt tired, but I got out for an easy 5 miles with the dogs. Tonight, I'll run another 7 at an easy pace. Tomorrow, I'll lift and run. By tomorrow night, I'm sure I'll be feeling really beat.

But then Friday, I'll sleep in and take a rest day. Saturday, I'll sleep in again and run easy before a long day on Sunday.

Hopefully, I can stay right on that fine line - doing as much training as I can, while staying healthy.

Oh yeah, my weight was down to 185 this morning. I'm about 5 pounds from my target weight for WS. I think it's clear that I could stand to lose more than 5 more pounds, but according to my body fat calipers, I'll be at 11% body fat if I get to 180. I don't think I look that lean, but I'm way leaner than a year ago. I have pictures to prove it. I'm just too embarrassed, at the moment, to post them here.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sore but moving

Related to my last post about our new TV, my son is so happy right now. Apparently, his Xbox has component outputs for hi def TVs and it even switches to a 16x9 view. The game looks pretty amazing on the new TV. He has now suggested that since Playstation 3s play Blu-Ray DVDs and they cost less than some Blu-Ray DVD players, we could save money and get him a video game in the process. PS3s do look really amazing in 1080p, but I'm in no hurry to give him another excuse to stay inside and play video games. I will probably spring for a Blu-Ray DVD player though in the near future. It will come in handy when I spend all of July and August sitting inside, drinking margaritas and watching movies.

My son has another track meet today. He's running the 100 and 1500, plus throwing the javelin and shot. It's starting to look like he might not get to throw the discus this year. They just haven't had enough time to practice everything, and the discus might not happen.

So, last night, I went out for an easy 4 with the dogs. Running downhill hurts a bit, as my quads are still sore. But, they've been a lot worse in the past. This morning, I lifted, and my lifting included a number of leg lifts that hit the quads. Surprisingly, the quads felt just fine for the lifting.

After my workout, the photographer for the local newspaper, Bob, started talking to me. He's taken some pictures when our small town weekly paper has done articles about my ultras in the past. He asked about my recent training and my upcoming training. At one point in the conversation, he asked me if I could run the race (Western States) right now, if I had to. The question caught me by surprise, but I told him that if I had a week to rest and recover from my most recent workouts that I thought I could do it. He told me that he had suspected that from my answers to his questions about my training.

I thought about our conversation as I was taking a shower, and I realized that I am feeling very good about how things are going right now. There is still work to do, but things are on schedule and going well. Compared to 2005, I am very confident in my preparation for WS. Something in our conversation must have conveyed that confidence to Bob.

Tonight, I'll run an easy 6 and then spend some time with my foam roller, working on the quads.

I'm starting to get really excited about my trip to Massanutten next week, where two good friends are running. I'll help to crew for both of them during the day and then pace one of them at night. Unlike last year, when one of those two, Joe, and I combined to go 0 for 2 at MMT, this year, I'm predicting 2 for 2. Both runners have worked hard, they've got experienced crew and pacer help, and they are both determined to succeed in the race. For each of them, this is their second attempt at 100 miles, and the first attempt didn't go the way either of them wanted.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Rest Days are Dangerous

Yesterday was a rainy, ugly kind of day. I was tired. My wife wanted to go clothes shopping. I had nothing better to do, so I went along. Then, I got bored and my son and I wandered off to look at TVs. Somehow, after getting my wife's permission, I bought an HDTV yesterday. It would certainly have been cheaper to go running instead.

But, watching a movie in HD last night looked pretty good. Because it's a 1080p set, now I'm probably going to need a BluRay DVD player too. When college football season rolls around, I hope I'm not tempted to get a satellite dish so I can watch Penn State lose in HD.

I'm pretty sore this morning from Saturday's run. It kind of surprised me, given how my quads responded to my two previous hilly runs. But, these downhills were long and continuous, and I did 2000' more vertical than I had done 2 weeks ago. I'll spend some time tonight massaging the quads with my foam roller.

I skipped lifting this morning, and I'll lift on Tuesday and Thursday instead of Monday and Wednesday this week. I'll do an easy 4-5 miles with the dogs tonight, and then I'll try to get to 30-35 miles for the work-week. On the weekend, I'm planning a 10 and a 24. Then, I'll rest a bit next week before my pacing duties at Massanutten the following weekend.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Mt. Mansfield Hill Repeats

Mt. Mansfield is the highest peak in Vermont and the home of the Stowe ski area. There is a dirt road that leads to a sub-peak of Mt. Mansfield at about 3850', about 400' shy of the real summit of the peak. In the summer, the dirt road is used to rip off tourists, who pay some ridiculous amount of money to drive up to a small parking lot near the summit. From there, some highpointers even hike the mile or so to the real summit and claim they've summited VT's highest peak.

The road is 4.3 miles long, according to my Forerunner. It climbs about half a vertical mile in those 4.3 miles. My plan yesterday was to run 3 repeats of the road. I had another Vermonter who is entered in Western States along for company.

Two years ago, I had done two repeats in 4:10 as part of my WS training. I knew that in 2001, a very good ultrarunner from Vermont had done this road three times as part of his prep for WS. He ran sub-24 at WS this year and claimed that this was his key workout in getting ready for the race. I won't run sub-24, but I figured this run would simulate the up-down-up-down nature of the canyons pretty well.

We met at 6:30 a.m. and it was cloudy and raining lightly. The forecast called for a nice day, but the weathermen were way wrong.

The road is also an easy ski trail that gets snowmaking during the winter. In the past, when I've gone up this road in May, there was practically no snow left. But, we had a snowy winter this year and we found a lot more snow than I expected. We could even see two small patches of snow from the parking lot.

The plan was simple - hike up, run down, repeat. So, about 6:45, we headed up into the rain and fog. I train alone most of the time and it was nice to have company. I talked so much to Jeff while we were out there that he may never agree to run with me again. I was expecting each ascent to take about 75 minutes, but the amount of snow really surprised me. Jeff was more prepared, carrying Yaktrax with him, but he never used them. Our first ascent took 79 minutes. The rain was coming down reasonably hard higher on the mountain, and we were soaked. Our round-tip time was about 2:04, slower than the 2:00 I hoped to average.

I changed shirts, grabbed a warmer hat and a second pair of gloves, and some food and water at the bottom. Jeff got some food and water and we headed back up. Jeff commented that he was a bit cold, and it was still raining. This time, the ascent took 84 minutes. The summit was still completely fogged in. We headed down and hit the bottom at 4:11. We were soaked again.

Luckily, I had a third dry long-sleeve shirt in the car and I changed quickly. Jeff's gloves were soaked, he was cold, and he decided to call it a day. Given how the third repeat went, I think he made a good call.

Just as I headed up for the last repeat, I thought I heard thunder, but assumed I was imagining it. But, I kept hearing what sounded like distant thunder. By the time I was halfway up, it was clear that I wasn't imagining it at all. The thunder seemed to be in the clouds rather than being associated with lightning strikes, so I kept going up. About 3/4 of the way up, there were a couple closer rumbles. I thought about turning around, but I wanted to finish the entire three repeats if possible. It did briefly cross my mind that if I got hit by lightning that I certainly wouldn't finish Western States. I also knew that no one else would "happen by" to find me if anything went wrong. But, it seemed pretty safe overall, so I went up. The thunder let up for a while.

Just before the summit, I had to cross an open parking lot. As I got there, I was thinking that right now is when I'll hear thunder again. Seconds later, it happened, but it still seemed to be in the clouds. I tagged the summit 85 minutes after heading up. I noticed rime ice forming on the grass at the top. I headed down quickly.

This time, on the way down, going solo, I definitely backed off a bit. I didn't want to fall on the ice or snow, and my quads were feeling the descents. The thunder abated and I hit the bottom for a total time of 6:27, slower than I'd hoped for, but I was happy, considering the conditions.

As I was changing clothes in the parking lot, it started to thunder again - pretty frequently at times. I'm glad we started earlier than my suggested starting time of 8:00.

I'm a bit sore today, but not too bad. I hit 60 miles for the week, with two lifting sessions, two speed sessions and a tough long run. It was a good week. It's still raining today, so I'll probably take a rest day. The coming week will be 65-70 miles, so a rest day will help me be ready for that.

Friday, May 2, 2008


Oh yeah, I hit the 700 mile mark for the year yesterday. In 2005, I arrived at the starting line of Western States with only 760 miles for the year, although I'd run over 5000 miles in the previous two years.

My weight yesterday was 186, the lowest of the year and the lowest in about 18 months. I'm seeing a slow but steady decrease in my weight right now. I don't know if I'll get to 180 by WS, but I hope my training in May and a good focus on my diet (Saturday nights excepted) will get me there.

If I stall out on losing weight, my one "free" meal of the week will have to go by the wayside until after the race.

Busy day yesterday

I post something here almost every weekday. I almost always have some time to do that, but it just didn't happen yesterday. I was busy every second yesterday, from 4:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., it seemed.

Wednesday night, I did 6 miles with 2 tempo miles. After some short intervals on Monday and lifting on Tuesday, I was a bit tired and my tempo miles were slower than I wanted - not much under 7:30 pace. Yesterday morning, I lifted very early, and then drove to Burlington to start my new part-time job. It was a busy day there; I worked ten hours.

I did sneak out at 4:30 for a 10 mile run, before we had a 6:30 p.m. dinner meeting. My time for my 10 miler was just under 95 minutes, which was OK, but I felt tired. In 4 days, I'd run 34 miles, with one tempo session and one short interval session, plus I'd lifted twice. I got through my run OK, but it is clearly time for a rest day.

So, I slept in this morning, which was nice. Tomorrow is a planned 27 mile day with about 8000' of climbing. The terrain is not technical, just hilly. Some other friends are doing a long run on the Wapack trail in NH, where there will be a 50 miler next weekend. That terrain is way more technical than most of the WS course, and I think I'll be better served by hill repeats. Plus, it takes less gas to get to where I'm going. And, on the way home from my run tomorrow, there's a wine shop with a nice selection of Burgundies. I may stop for a nice bottle of Burgundy and grill some lamb chops tomorrow night.

After tomorrow, I'll be over 60 miles for the week, and I might do a few more on Sunday. Next week, I might hit 70 miles for the first time all year. Two weeks from now, I'll be at Massanutten for pacing duties.