Thursday, April 30, 2009


The doctor may have been optimistic, but I'm not feeling that way right this minute. I could barely sleep last night; every time I moved at all, I'd irritate my hamstring somehow and the pain would wake me up. I can't walk without limping, I can't bend over without pain, and just getting into bed or out of bed is painful.

I'm trying to stay upbeat right now, but this is clearly a serious injury, perhaps the worst injury I've ever had besides my torn ACL in 2002.

That injury in 2002 cost me my first shot at Western States. I'm certainly worried that this injury will be the end of this year's attempt.

There's nothing to do right now except watch my diet and hope things start to come around. My triple ascent of Mt. Mansfield this Saturday certainly isn't going to happen.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The verdict (for the moment)

The sports doc gave me a thorough poking and prodding yesterday. He is pretty convinced that the hamstring pull is in the main part of the muscle group and that I didn't tear any attachment points. He said the fact that I don't have any visible bruising or obvious swelling is a good thing. However, he did say it's still possible that it was a tear very deep in the muscle and that bruising could show up in a day or two. But, overall, he was optimistic.

He's also an athlete and understands my need to get back healthy and back to training for my race.

So, I'll start physical therapy today. PT will be a combo of ultrasound, massage, and e-stim. He's asked the PTs to lend me a portable e-stim machine so I do that at home as well. As soon as possible, he wants me to start pool running, to work on the range of motion in the muscle, but without it being weight bearing. And, I can return to running when ready. But, his estimate for me being back on the roads and trails is 1-3 weeks.

There's still time for everything to come together, but this will certainly make race day at WS more difficult.

So, I simply have to do everything possible to get past this injury and be ready for race day. And certainly, people who aren't training can't drink beer.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Off to the sports doc

Well, I was going to wait until I saw my chiropractor on Friday, but after 3 days, the hamstring has not improved in the slightest. I've been icing it, resting it, and using anti-inflammatories. No luck.

So, I'm going to see our hospital's sports med guy this afternoon. I've pulled hamstrings before, but this is without a doubt the worst pull I've ever had.

A fellow New Englander and I were talking by e-mail yesterday about two options for dealing with injuries. One option is train through stuff, and arrive fairly fit but hobbled. Another option is rest and heal, and risk arriving undertrained but healthy.

I figure 100 miles is going to hurt no matter what, but I think I prefer the pain of poor fitness over the pain of a true injury.

If I end up taking off a significant amount of time to recover, my diet becomes super-important. Yesterday, I dropped my calories for the day to about 1500 and I'll try to stay under 2000 on any day I can't work out.

This is a significant injury at a really bad time, but it doesn't have to be the end of the dream, if I'm careful with my diet, with my rehab, and I can find some ways to train at all, while allowing the hamstring to heal.

Monday, April 27, 2009


So, on Thursday morning, I survived a bad fall on my deck at home. I killed my phone, but I survived that fall just fine.

And then on Saturday afternoon, I managed to hurt my left hamstring very badly while playing in an impromptu game of kickball. I can't walk without a limp right now and my wife had to drive us home from PA yesterday. Basically, I couldn't clutch with my left leg because it hurt so much.

So, right now I'm icing it and in a day or two, I'll start alternating heat and ice. I see my chiropractor this Friday and I'll talk to him about treatment for the hamstring if it's still bothering me that day. He has a sports doc, an athletic trainer, and a couple of sports-oriented physical therapists in the same practice, so I'll use whoever he thinks can help me. I was planning to run close to 60 miles this coming week, but right now, I'd like to just be able to walk without a limp.

I guess I have to realize that playing kickball with 20-somethings is not a smart thing for this old guy to do. I hurt the hamstring trying to sprint out an infield hit. When I felt it pull, I basically went down hard and I crawled the last few feet to the base. I'm too competitive a person to participate in those kinds of games at my advanced age.

So, this week will be one of waiting to see how the leg responds. Right this minute, I can barely walk, so I can't possibly run or cycle or lift or really do much of anything.

My WS pacer is fighting hamstring/piriformis issues and she's looking at an MRI to see if she has a torn muscle where the head of the hamstring attaches to the bone. Maybe the two of us can just limp many miles together in June.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A bad way to start the day

As I was leaving for work this morning, I slipped on my deck outside the front door. My coffee thermos went flying. My breakfast went flying. My iPhone went flying. I went flying too.

I bruised my left elbow and hip and my ribs a bit, but I'll be fine. The thermos was fine. But, my iPhone was trashed. The touch-screen broke, although it still works at the moment, mostly because I had a screen protector on the phone, which held the screen together.

I went to two different AT&T stores this morning. The first store, where I bought the phone, was just plain rude. My only option was to buy a new phone for full retail price, sign a new contract, and simply pay, pay, pay. I walked out of that store and I will never return there.

The second store couldn't help much more, but they were polite and understanding. They gave me the phone number for Apple's iPhone tech support. It didn't take too long until I got to an actual human in tech support - and he was very helpful. I explained that I was going out of town tomorrow and I wanted to replace the phone as quickly as possible. He said there were no stores in VT that could do a swap (I still have to pay for the replacement, but it's not anywhere near full price), but he wanted to know my travel route. I told him and he found a big Apple store for me in NY. He gave me their phone number and suggested I call them.

I called and explained the situation. The lady was polite, said that they could exchange the phone on the spot tomorrow, she booked me a time slot, and quoted me a price. Even though I'm disappointed to pay the replacement price, I did break the thing.

Score: Apple 100, AT&T 5.

AT&T would get a zero if it weren't for one sympathetic ear and a person who handed me a phone number.

I guess it's not surprising that AT&T would have terrible customer support and Apple would have great support. It's consistent with how people view those two companies for the most part. It's too bad that Apple chose to give AT&T a monopoly on the iPhone.

I planned to run last night, but my wife and I had to deal with some issues with our son. By the time we were finished with that, it was almost 8:00. So, I went to the gym and got in a quick lifting workout. Tonight, I'll run 10 in the rain after work. I'm hoping to get in a couple more decent runs tomorrow and Saturday, but we'll be visiting family for the weekend, so I'm not sure how my time will go.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Easing back into workouts

Last night, I went to the gym after work. I did my scheduled lifting session, which had sets of 2x20. After Sunday's run, 2x20s were perfect to just get my body moving, but with low weights.

Tonight, I'll run home from work at a nice, easy pace. Tomorrow night, I plan on going a little further after work if tonight goes well.

I'm going to PA this weekend for Penn State's annual spring football scrimmage. I'll get to hang out with my brother for the weekend, which will be a lot of fun. I'm hoping to get in a nice trail run on Saturday morning before the game. The weather for the weekend looks beautiful.

After this lower intensity week, next week will be another step up in mileage, to the mid-50s or so. I think I got in just over 51 miles last week and I managed to survive.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Where Am I?

I'm tired today. I slept for 10 hours each of the past two nights and I'm still beat today.

I honestly can't figure out where I am in my WS prep.

I weigh too much. I've been drinking too much.

My diet has been better recently, except for the empty alcohol calories.

My left piriformis is bothering me at times, although it wasn't a factor on Sunday. I think that with appropriate stretching and chirpractic help that this problem will not be an issue.

But, I ran faster on Sunday than last year depsite being a year older. I'm in good physical shape. I'm way stronger than a year ago. I'm mentally focused on my race prep, at least most of the time.

In the last 5 months, I've dropped about 3.5 pounds of fat. I've added 3.5 pounds of muscle. That's not the way to get to a good raceday weight.

I have 66 days until WS. I have some changes I need to make. I think my training is solid. My diet is OK. I need to stop drinking for a while. It's really that simple, and yet it's not easy to give up that simple pleasure after a tough workout.

In 2004, when I was 11 weeks from Hardrock, I weighed 196. Thirty-four days later, I had lost just over 20 pounds and I raced Hardrock at my lightest weight every for an ultra - 175.

Right now, I weigh a bit over 196. If I raced today, I'd be at my highest weight ever for a 100. On a hot course, the extra weight will kill me (not literally, I hope).

I'm five years older and I take anti-depressants. My doctor thinks that the combination of age and the meds has made it harder for me to lose weight. That might be true, but beer and tequila don't help at all.

I need to not blow this opportunity with short-term pleasures taking priority over long term goals.

I'm concerned and I'm also encouraged by Sunday. I don't know where I really am, but at least I know what I should do. It all comes down to execution.

Maybe Dr. Andy is right. Maybe I have gotten soft.

Just under 10 weeks. I can make the right choices and have a great race. Or, I can make bad choices and waste years of preparation and obsession. Sounds like an easy choice, huh?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Trail Animals Don't Run Boston 50K - Race Report

This was my third time running this race.

In my first attempt, I spent a huge amount of time navigating a very complex course on tough technical terrain. I finished last in 10:07.

Two years ago, I missed the race when a storm hit on the weekend of the race. I would have been able to get to the race, but a Sunday night blizzard would have made it nearly impossible to get home.

Last year, I finished in 8:54, again last, but faster than my previous attempt. I still spent a lot of time solo, working on navigating this course.

Two weeks ago, I ran 24 miles on the course to refresh my sense of directions on this unmarked course, but I still had some navigational issues yesterday.

During the early part of the run, I fell in with Hardrock vet Craig Wilson, my friend Pat from Montreal, some friends of Craig's who made the trip from Maine with him, and Norm from MA. Norm and a few others were faster than most of us, and Pat eventually pulled away from me. Craig and a friend fell behind after a while.

So, by the time I hit the first major aid station at mile 13, I was already solo. I usually do the second half of this race solo, but not the first half. The weather was very nice - sunny, breezy, and cool - maybe low 50s at the warmest.

I left the aid station at mile 13 with two others, but they quickly pulled away. We hit the high point on the course and then returned to the aid station at mile 16. At this point, I figured I'd be solo for the rest of the day, so I grabbed my MP3 player for the next 10 mile segment. I was feeling pretty good and I'd maintained a slow but steady pace. It was pretty clear that I'd finish close to last year's time, but probably a bit slower. I was OK with that given my training this year vs. last year.

My nutrition worked perfectly all day - my normal mixture of Perpetuem and Hammergel, mixed into 300 calorie gel flasks. I try to take in 200-300 calories per hour, based on how hard I'm pushing and that worked flawlessly yesterday. I did use a different flavor of Hammergel - their "Tropical" flavor and it worked well with the very neutral flavor of the Perpetuem. I ate a few potato chips at aid stations - mostly for the salt.

The stretch from 16 to 18.5 or so is not super-technical, but navigation is difficult. About mile 18.5, we get on a trail that is very runnable for a while and I was just cruising along, listening to music. Suddenly, I noticed three other runners in the race who had been ahead of me. They were coming out of the forest on my left, using a trail that is not part of the race. They'd gotten lost and seemed a bit exasperated. I offered to guide them the rest of the way, but tried to explain that I wasn't going fast. They seemed OK with that, although Norm was constantly pulling ahead, while Kevin and I stayed back a bit.

Overall, it was a very synergistic group. I had been content to take it very easy and just finish. They wanted to finish, but they were having navigation problems. I started pushing myself a bit more so I'd be closer to their pace, so I could keep them on course. The last 2+ miles before the mile 26.5 aid station are pretty tough to navigate. Kevin was tired, and fighting some cramps, but I'd been sharing my electrolytes with him. I was happy to see that both Kevin and Norm wanted to finish, so the three of us pushed on. At this point, I was in the middle, pace-wise. Kevin was tired but game to push on. This was only his second ultra and he'd gone through a bad patch, yet he wanted to finish. That determination will serve him well in future races. Norm was fast, but understanding of our slower pace. Plus, when he got in the lead, he would sometimes miss turns. He missed one nearly invisible trail while in the lead with about 3.5 miles to go, and we all had to backtrack a bit.

Overall, the last 4.5 miles went by pretty quickly. The last mile or so is very easy and Norm pulled ahead just a bit while Kevin and I stayed together. We all crossed the line with a time of 8:48 - six minutes faster than I ran last year. With the cool temperatures and mostly dry trails, the course record from 2000 was taken out yesterday. The record was lowered from 5:38 to 5:16. That CR time alone should tell people how slow this course is. In the 50K, there are 5700' of climbing and lots of very technical terrain.

Overall, I'm very happy with my run. My weight is higher than one year ago and my mileage is lower, and I still improved my time by a few minutes. However, the slight improvement is mostly due to my improved familiarity with the terrain and the favorable weather conditions. Eighteen runners finished (24 starters) - and the RD thought that might be a new record number of finishers for this event. Most years, it seems that less than half the starting field finishes.

This run is really the antithesis of big-style events. No fees, no hype, no trail markings, no prizes, nothing. Just a few low-key aid stations, with a bring-your-own-supplies attitude, some trail maps, and some typed up instructions. Even the RD got lost for a bit yesterday while running the race.

This coming week will be a recovery week of sorts for me. I'm going to need a couple days to let yesterday's race fade from my beat up body. My next "big" workout is a triple ascent of Vermont's highest peak in two weeks. That run is just short of 26 miles, with 7800' of climbing. Essentially, I hike up, jog down, repeat and repeat. It simulates the canyons of Western States very well - except for the lack of heat.

Oh yeah, the finish of this race marked the 24th consecutive year that I've completed at least one race of the marathon distance or longer. Of all the things I've done in my running "career", that consistency over 24 years is something I'm proud of. I don't know how long the streak will last, but as a bigger-than-average runner who gets by on stubbornness at times, this streak shows just how stubborn I can be.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Yesterday's run

Last night, I ran to my meeting about forming a new USATF club. I knew it was going to be a tough run just because of the elevation profile. It started with two easy, mostly downhill miles. Then, straight uphill, sometimes steeply, for almost 2 miles. On the way to the meeting, I was a little bit early, so I ran an extra mile around the college campus. So, I ended up with nine hilly miles for the day.

It was interesting running the day after my first bike ride of the year. I didn't feel beat up, but my legs felt tired in a very non-specific way. I would look at my Garmin on easier stretches and see that I was running an 8:30 pace, yet it felt like I was barely moving. I guess it's better that I was moving at an 8:30 pace than a 10:30 pace, but it was an odd sensation having actual and perceived pace be so different.

When I got home, I cooked a birthday dinner for my daughter, who turned 11 yesterday. By the time we were done eating, I was ready for bed. I was physically exhausted.

My plan for today was to lift in the morning and do an easy bike ride at night. Then, I was going to run an easy 5 tomorrow before running 50K on Sunday. But, when the alarm went off, I was exhausted. During the night, I'd had a dream that I was running a race in tight runner traffic. At one point, I decided to create some room by throwing a left elbow at another runner. Regretfully, I did it in real life as well, and I threw my MP3 player and my reading glasses and a book across the room. The noise woke me up and woke up my wife. It was kind of funny, but I wonder if I worked too hard in my dream, and I was still beat from that race this morning.

Anyway, I slept in today. I said recently that I'm going to change my training, as needed, to be more focused on running and not as much on lifting or other cross-training. This will be my first 50+ mile week of the year, and I want to be somewhat rested on Sunday. So, no lifting this morning and I won't ride tonight. I think I'm going to do the easy 5 mile run I'd planned for tomorrow when I get home tonight. Today is going to be a beautiful day and it's going to rain a bit tomorrow. So, after work, I'll do some running with my wife and with our dogs. Then, I'll rest until the race on Sunday.

Ten weeks until the real race day. That means 7 or so more weeks of real training. I plan to run 50K or longer 3 times in that time period, and I plan a few more big hill days. I'm behind schedule on my tempo work. I wish the race was in September, but I'll be ready by June.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Yeah, it's a racing bike

I'm not a racer though, and my bike is probably embarrassed right now. I went out for an "easy" 20 miler last night, just trying to get a feel for the new bike. I'm impressed with how comfortable some parts of the bike were, such as hand positioning and comfort on the drops. However, my butt hasn't been on a bike saddle much the past few years, and despite aluminum tubing and a carbon fiber fork, the bike is stiff. Today, I can definitely feel that bike seat.

Overall, I was very impressed with the lightness and the handling of the bike, and it's going to be a fun toy for cross-training. But, it's going to take a while to get used to that seat and the stiffness of the bike.

I rode an out and back route, going slightly uphill (along a river) and into the wind on the way out. It took me 45 minutes in the little chainring to go 10 miles. On the way back, I got to use the big chainring the whole way and it only took 35 minutes. Twenty miles at an average of 15 mph. Yeah, it's been a long time, but that's pathetically slow. Oh well.

Tonight, I have a meeting at a local college to talk about establishing a new, local USATF club. There are a number of us working to find a way to get a track built in our little town, and we're hoping we can find some grant money and work with the local college to make it happen. The first step in that process is to create a formal organization that can apply for grants, so we are going to form a USATF club. The meeting is about 5 miles from my house, so I'm planning to run there and then run home after the meeting.

I'll do some easy cross-training tomorrow, a short run on Saturday, and then Sunday I'll run the Trail Animals Don't Run Boston 50K. Hopefully, I'll be a little faster than last year, but it will be close.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Chiropractor, Run, Lift, Bike

Yesterday afternoon, I went to see my chiropractor. Normally, when I'm training for a 100, I see him every 3 weeks or so. On the day of our last scheduled appointment, he was sick and had to cancel. It was two weeks later until he had another opening, so it had been 5 weeks since I'd seen him. In those 5 weeks, I'd done three runs of 20 or longer and my stride was a mess. My left piriformis is bothering me more and more, my stride feels unbalanced, and running just hasn't been as much fun as normal. I'm not hurt, but there's no flow to my running. Everything feels choppy and that takes some of the joy out of just moving down the road or trail.

As the chiropractor examined me yesterday, he told me that he saw some issues with my hips that were different than he'd ever seen before. He worked on me longer than normal yesterday and suggested that I return in 2 weeks. Overall, my run home last night felt better, but the left piriformis remains somewhat tight. He wants we to really focus on stretching and using heat in that area until I next see him.

This morning, I went to the gym to lift, and just like last week, I changed things around a bit. I did the scheduled lifts, sets and reps, but decreased the weight and decreased the rest intervals. I think I'm going to continue to lift like this for the next couple months and focus on strength again after Western States. Lifting like this is more of a metabolic workout than a strength workout and it doesn't leave me as tired for running.

Tonight after work, I'm going to go out for an easy road ride on my bike. Tomorrow, I'll run 10 miles including some tempo work, and I don't want to trash my legs on my first bike ride of the year.

We're having amazing weather right now that will last through Friday or so, when some rain will show up. I'm hoping it's dry for my race on Sunday. In past years, it's been hot for this race, but it looks like it may be fairly cool this year. To be honest, the heat is better for my training right now, but I can't really control the weather, so I just take what I get.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easy 20 on Saturday

As planned, I got out for an easy 20 on Saturday. I did about 2000' of climbing, running 16+ of the miles on dirt roads and the rest on pavement. I ran the first 16 miles in my new Brooks Cascadia 4s, and I'm pretty sure these will be the shoes I'll start in at WS. Well, maybe not this exact same pair, but the same model. I will wear them at the DRB race next Sunday.

After I'd done about 16 miles, I stopped at home and took one of the dogs out for 2 easy miles. Then, I took the other dog out for the same. It was the first run of the year for either of the dogs, but both of them handled it well. My older dog, Rocket, recently turned 8, and he is definitely slowing down. I don't see him doing any 18-20 milers in the future, but he still likes to run. I think I'm going to limit him to runs no more than 60-90 minutes this year. It's been two years since he last went over 10 miles and I think it's safest to be more conservative with him these days.

The younger dog simply doesn't like to run as much as the older dog; she gets bored after a while. By the time I'd gone 1.5 miles with her, I could see the house and I wanted to be done with my run. But, she was bored and wanted to walk slowly and smell everything. Then, something funny happened. A pick-up truck came by us and a boy leaned out the window and offered Nikki a dog biscuit. She happily took it and I assumed she'd eat in on the spot and then continue her walk home. Instead, she started running hard for home. She was holding the biscuit in her mouth and struggling to breathe through a mostly closed mouth. All I could figure was that she wanted to show the treat to our other dog before she ate it. She's the alpha of the pack and she can be mean to our older dog. Sure enough, she ran home, took the treat inside, showed it to the other dog, and then when he showed some interest, she sat down and ate the treat. My wife called her a b*tch, which is technically true, but not the way that my wife meant it.

Sunday, I took a rest day and then Monday turned into another rest day. My kids had both been sick with some sort of fever and it got me yesterday. I slept most of the day yesterday, finally got up to eat a little bit and watch some TV, and then headed back to bed. I'm still less than 100% right now, so I'm not sure about my run tonight.

I am going to see my chiropractor this afternoon for the ongoing problems I have with my hips and my left leg. My left piriformis has been giving me more and more trouble recently. I can get through my runs without problem, but my stride feels unbalanced, there is discomfort at times, and it can take the fun out of running at times. I'm going to talk to the chiropractor today to see if there might be some more aggressive treatments we can try - perhaps physical therapy of some sort - to help things get better.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Two good workouts

Last night, as planned, I ran 12 miles on the bike path by Lake Champlain. I deliberately took it easy, knowing that I have a 20 miler planned for Saturday morning. I could still feel some effects from my trail run last Saturday, so I think that skipping my 10 miler on Tuesday was a good idea. When I just didn't want to run on Tuesday, perhaps my body was telling me something.

I managed to get one blister last night, trying to get just one more run out of a pair of worn-out socks. Not too long into the run, a thin spot became a hole and my shoe rubbed against my little toe for the rest of the run. I may have to tape that spot for my long run tomorrow.

Yesterday was the fourth Thursday of the last five that I've done this exact same run after work. A week ago, I pushed the pace a bit, and last night I deliberately did the opposite. My time was exactly the same as it was 4 weeks earlier, but the run last night felt easier than it did then. Four weeks ago, I started faster but then died on the way back. Last night, my pace was much more even.

This morning, I went to the gym to lift, but I changed my planned workout a bit. I did the exact lifts and reps from my planned workout, but I decreased the weight and decreased the rest intervals. So, I made it more of an endurance workout in some ways. A workout that normally takes almost an hour was over in 35 minutes this morning. I'm going to try to make similar changes to other gym workouts so that they will hopefully have less impact on my runs.

After my 20 tomorrow, I'll take a rest day on Sunday. We have two family birthdays in the next week, and when Easter falls in April, we use Easter Sunday as a big family celebration. So, I'll be spending all day Sunday cooking for a dozen people.

Good luck to my fried Ollie at McNaughton this weekend.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

No more whining

OK, I'm over yesterday's freaking out. Thanks to people for the constructive comments I got here and by e-mail.

I don't know if I've posted these plans before, but this is what I'm currently planning for long runs between now and Western States:

4/11 - Rolling 20 on dirt roads in VT
4/19 - Trail Animals Don't Run Boston 50K in MA
4/25 - Easy weekend - visting family in PA
5/2 - Triple ascent on the Mount Mansfield Toll Road - 26 miles, 7800' of climbing
5/10 - GAC 6-hour run in MA. I'll probably do 10-15 the day before
5/16 - Probably an easy 20 in VT, hopefully on trails
5/24 -Pineland Farms ultra. I signed up for the 50 miler for now, but I may drop down to the 50K. The final votes from people that offered advice were 7-3 in favor of the 50K. I'll decide based on my fitness level at the time.
5/30 - Easy to moderate weekend
6/6 - Last long run before WS - probably on the VT100 course - 5-6 easy hours

Starting next week, I will be mixing tempo work into my runs on a regular basis. I'll start doing tempo once per week for 20 minutes and gradually build to twice, with each tempo workout having 30 minutes at tempo or 2x20 at tempo.

Lifting, food, skiing, and beer really need to take a back seat to other things right now. That doesn't mean abstinence, but I need to have my priorities straight.

In some ways, there is still a lot of time to WS. In some other ways, there's not much time at all.

Luckily, even though my weight is too high at the moment, my fitness is pretty good for this time of year. I know what I need to do.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Last post

I should probably just delete that last whiny post, but I'll leave it up so Dr. Andy or someone else can yell at me to quit whining and get my butt in gear.


I'm really struggling with my motivation right now. I was talking to my wife about this last night, and she basically said that it's too bad WS was cancelled last year. Last year, I was focused the whole way through training, my diet was better, and I was there, really ready to race. This year has been very different. And I'm not sure why. What worries me the most right now is my weight. I'm 15 pounds heavier right now than I was at this point last year.

I've mentioned before that job stresses have left me feeling a bit burnt out mentally. But, last winter, I had a similar job situation. So, that's not new. I now have my weekends back and that will certainly help. But, last night, when I got home, I just couldn't get myself out the door. The weather was raw and it was snowing a bit. But, that rarely deters me. I finally got myself dressed to run, and then I laid down on my bed. I ended up lying there for an hour, simply unmotivated to get out the door. Finally, at 6:15, I decided that I would simply skip it and I cooked dinner for the kids. I watched a DVD instead of working out.

I need to get my a** in gear. In some ways, this feels like a "last chance" at WS after so many disappointments in the past. I'm not too old or infirm to go through the whole process again, but I want to do this now. Maybe I'm creating negative pressure for myself by feeling that I NEED to finish the event, rather than focusing on what I love about long distance training and racing. I need to do this for the right reasons. Otherwise, it's simply too hard to feel like you have to do something that isn't going to be fun.

I think my training is OK. My diet sucks though right now and I've been drinking too much beer. That helps with the stress for an evening perhaps, but the long-term effects are certainly negative.

So, today is a new day. Today, I will relax, enjoy myself, make better decisions, and get myself one step closer to being ready for WS. One day at a time, I'll get there and I plan on having fun along the way.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Good lifting night, swamped with work...

I got in a good gym workout last night, despite the ridiculous crowds that were there. We only have one squat rack in the gym and I wanted to use it, but some idiot was doing all kinds of lifts in the squat rack that don't require the rack. Basically, it's very bad gym etiquette. From looking at him (young and ripped), he's no stranger to the gym, so I don't know why his manners were so bad.

But, despite that, I got through my workout and then spent the rest of the night working at my second job. We have a big report due to our biggest customer shortly, so we've been in crunch mode for that. We just finished one "crunch" with a grant application only to get hit by another immediately.

And today, at my "real" job, I've been swamped with work as well. But, as I've said before, being over-employed is better than being under-employed these days. Besides, I still have to come up with some extra money to cover some of the costs of that bike fitting on Sunday. I never imagined the fitting would double the cost of the bike.

Tonight, I'll run an easy 10-12 miles after work, most likely in snow flurries.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Non-skiing weekend

I had a great weekend, although I ended up missing a very good ski day yesterday, with 9" of new snow at the mountain. It was the first weekend I didn't ski at all since before Thanksgiving.

Friday night, I drove to NH to stay with some ultra friends. We got caught up on training and race plans over a couple beers and then got some sleep before our long run on Saturday. We started with a group of 10 or so. About half of the group was planning to run about 30 miles on the Trail Animals Don't Run Boston (we usually just call it DRB) 50K course. That race will be held in two weeks, the day before the Boston marathon.

It was my first trail run of the year, so my plan was to run 24 miles or so, and hopefully be out there for at least 6 hours. It is a very technical course - tough footing, tough route-finding, and lots of ups and downs that accumulate over the course of the day. The full 50K climbs about 5700 vertical feet. I mostly stayed with the group for the first 9 miles or so, but then I started to lag a bit. When we stopped at our aid station at mile 12, I said I was going to skip the next three mile section of the course and start on the next two sections, which total 12.5 miles. That would put me ahead of the other runners and I figured they'd catch me as I slowed down.

So, I headed out solo and mostly hiked, and then ran on the easier terrain. At one point, we run down a small ski slope and I was circumventing the remaining snow when I hit some mud and went down hard. That was my second fall of the day and I laughed it off and kept moving.

By the time I hit 20 miles or so, I started to run more. I was feeling beat up a bit, but pretty good overall. When I had about a mile left to the aid station, I bumped into the other group at a trail intersection. This course winds in and out of so many trails that you see certain intersections multiple times. So, I just hopped in with the group and ran with them for a while. When we got to the aid station, I was at 24 miles in 6:44, and I called it a day. The others went out for their last few miles and I relaxed in the car with a beer until they returned.

In 2005, I did the DRB race in 10:07. It was a warm day and my first time on the course, so route-finding was an issue. Last year, I ran 8:54. I was with others for the first half of the run, but solo for the second half, and route-finding was again an issue. I finished last both of these years, but most of the time, only half of the starters even finish.

In two weeks, I'll be on the course for the 4th time, and the second in a month. I'm hoping I'll spend less time looking at the map and more time running. Given my time for 24 tough miles on Saturday (I skipped one tough section and one easy section), I feel like I should be able to go faster than last year. I would have 2:10 to go an extra 7 miles, which is almost 19 mpm. We'll see how the weather cooperates in two weeks.

On Sunday, I was hoping to go for a walk with the dogs. But, I got online to check up on my buddy Joe, who was running at Umstead. Then, while waiting for updates, I started working. I had an appointment for a bike fitting in the afternoon and I ended up working right up until it was time to leave for the fitting.

The whole bike fitting process was pretty interesting. The shop starts with an interview, asking questions about your riding history, riding interests, fitness background, physical issues, etc. Then they move on to measuring and testing range of motion. Then, from those measurements, they do some adjustments on this weird bicycle where every tube length and angle can be changed. In reality, it's like a bike that can be infinitely adjusted to fit just about everyone. Then, you ride the bike and they take videos. From the videos, they measure angles while you're riding and start adjusting from there.

The initial measurements merely give them a starting place and the video allows them to fine tune everything. After the bike dimensions are set up, they focus on the pedal stroke. First, they use video to look for how the knee moves through the pedal stroke, hoping to see mostly vertical motion. I wasn't very vertical. They tried some inserts in my shoes, which didn't improve things. They told me that many athletes, especially runners, have very tight hips, which prevent them from getting the pedal stroke to be more vertical. Expensive footbeds for my shoes might help, but they might not. I decided against those for now and they said that I could try some older ski boot footbeds instead. The guy doing the fitting was a ski boot fitter earlier in his career, so I'll certainly take his advice to give that a try.

Next, they did a stroke analysis - comparing one leg vs. the other, to make sure there were no physical imbalances that would cause one leg to do most of the work. Then, they analyzed the entire pedal stroke for power output, trying to get me to smooth out the stroke and not just push, but also pull through the stroke.

Finally, they were done, and they put the whole analysis on a USB key so I could look at it more at home. But, that was just the analysis. Next, they attacked my bike to make it conform as well as possible to the ideal set-up. This ended up including some new parts, one of them very expensive, and the dollars kept adding up. By the time they were done, the bike felt completely different and very comfortable. We added a few other things - bottle cages, flat repair kit, new rear cassette so I'd have better gearing for riding hills in VT, etc. The most expensive part was new handlebars. The only bars they had in stock that fit me perfectly were carbon fiber. Those bars cost almost as much as the bike I bought in 1985 and used in my first few triathlons.

Then, the owner hit the cash register and started adding things up. When he was done, the price of my bike had doubled. He told me that was not unusual for a used bike like I had. This is a shop that sells many bikes in the $5K-$10K range, so they are used to dealing with serious cyclists with deep pockets.

I now remember part of why I quit doing triathlons years ago. I couldn't afford the bike gear any more. But, I now have a pretty sweet ride and I'm waiting for some nice weather to get out and go for a real ride.

And speaking of working out, this week will be pretty simple. I'll lift today, Wednesday and Friday. I'll run Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, probably doing 12, 10 and 20 in my runs. I might add in some short intervals on Wednesday if I have time and my legs are recovered from last weekend. And maybe, I'll get out for a bike ride, but the weather looks pretty rainy for the week.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Thursday Run, Friday Rest

Yesterday afternoon, I started a long-running computer process at work at about 4:00. It wasn't going to be done until sometime after 6:00, so my next action seemed obvious. It was warm outside and the Lake Champlain bike path was calling to me. Apparently, it was calling to everyone, because it was amazingly crowded out there. This 12 miler starts with a mostly downhill mile through Burlington, and after that, it's relatively flat to the turnaround. Last week, I was wearing tights, long sleeves, a wind jacket, gloves, hat, etc. This week - shorts, a short sleeve shirt, and shoes and socks. This was my first run of the year outside in a short sleeve shirt.

I felt good and found myself running a bit faster than last week. My time on the "out" portion was 57 minutes last week and I was at 55:12 this week. Last week, I faded late and did 61 minutes on the return trip. I faded somewhat this week too, mostly because of the last mile going straight uphill. But, my return time was 58:19, good enough for a sub-9:30 pace on this run. Yeah, that's slow, but I was happy with it.

Tonight, I'm driving to NH to spend the night with some friends. Tomorrow morning, we'll drive south of Boston and meet some other runners for a training run on the 50K race course I'll run in 2 weeks. Most of the runners are planning to do the entire course, but I'll probably go a bit less. Unless I feel really good, that is. I'm guessing I'll do 25-26 total. Hopefully, the weather will be kind to us, but it looks a bit iffy right now.

If I get through tomorrow's run OK, I'll have somewhere between 45 and 50 miles for the week, my highest of the year so far.

Good luck to all the Umstead and AR50 runners out there, especially Smokin' Joe who is going to get his first 100 mile finish in NC this weekend.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Beautiful Weather

The forecast for today calls for temps in the 60s with mostly sunny skies. I'm planning an easy 12 miler on the bike path after work and it should be wonderful. It will be my first outdoor run in shorts and a short sleeve shirt so far this year.

I lifted last night and I'm a little bit tired today. I was going to lift tomorrow night after work, but with a long trail run on Saturday, I think I'm going to skip that workout. The people that I'm traveling to MA with are planning to run all of the race course we'll run in two weeks. I don't know if I'll do all of it, but they'll probably push me further than the 22-24 I'd been planning. So, I think I'll take a rest day before that run.

Looking at my logbook, tomorrow will be four weeks since my last complete rest day, so I think it's time.

I asked some friends yesterday about a training option later in the year. Last year, before WS, I ran the 50K at Pineland Farms, and ran 20 the day before the 50K. This year, I've been leaning towards doing the 50 miler, although I'd do it easily - not racing. That's five weeks before the 100.

In 2005, a tough 50 miler (Squaw Peak in Utah) was too much, too close to WS, and my late disintegration was very much related to that time on the Squaw Peak course. So, is five weeks on an easier course enough time to recover and do well at Western States or is it stupid. So far, every vote I have (one from a sub-24 buckle owner at WS, another from someone who was race-walked 100 miles in under 24 hours, another from a friend who finished just behind me at VT100 two years ago, and one from a friend who has two long DNFs at MMT, and is running Umstead this weekend) gotten has been against doing the 50 miler, preferring the 20/31 double. I see their points, yet I still think that mentally, after not going beyond 50K last year, that a slow 50 miler could help me. But, I'm not really sure or I wouldn't be asking the question.

Thoughts from either of my readers out there?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Easy 10 miler and thoughts on hill training

When I said yesterday that I was going to run 10.5 on the way home, I forgot that one new section that I was adding to my normal route also chopped off some other distance. So, the run ended up being only 9.9 miles. My legs were a bit tired from lifting on Monday, but it wasn't too bad. I'll lift again tonight, but I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's run. It's supposed to be 60F+ and sunny and I'm planning 12 miles along the shore of Lake Champlain. It should be beautiful.

On the ultra list, people have been talking about hill running and training recently. Over the years, I've come up with some techniques that seem to help me get ready for really hilly races.

Once the snow clears, once or twice a week, I'll get up at a ridiculously early time and drive to the mountain where I teach skiing. I'll hike up one of the service roads to the summit and then run back down. It takes me about 1:50 to do that workout early in the year and my times drop to about 1:35 as my hill strength improves. I know my climbing is going well when I can summit in less than an hour. My descents are strong if I'm in the 35-37 minute range.

The first time or two that I do that workout, I will be sore for a few days. My quads will be trashed from the downhill and sore to the touch. But, after just a couple times, my muscles seem to adapt pretty well and the soreness doesn't recur.

Then, after I've done that workout a few times, if I have a hilly race planned early in the year, I head to Mount Mansfield on a weekend. The timing is key for this workout, because I use a 4+ mile long auto road to the top of the mountain. If I go too early in the year, the road is still snow covered. If I go too late, the road is open to auto traffic and foot traffic is prohibited. My goal is to do a triple ascent on this road. I hike up and then run down at a very easy pace. Last year, I did this workout on May 3rd and we hit more snow than I would have liked on the road. It took me 6:27 for three trips. Each ascent took 79-85 minutes and the descents were close to a 10 mpm pace. The total ascent is 7800 vertical feet. After I do that workout, I feel ready for a course like WS or VT. It wouldn't be enough for Hardrock or Wasatch, and for those races, I did some much tougher training days where I did at least 12,000 feet of ascent and the same amount of descent.

Lastly, as my race approaches, I will do longer runs on Saturdays and then do mountain hikes on Sundays. The hikes are at an easy pace, but I make sure to get thousands of feet of technical vertical terrain on days that I'm tired.

That's what's worked for me in the past. I hope it works this year.