Friday, February 27, 2009

The "R" word

We're at that time of year when many Vermonters are starting to grumble about the snow. The sap runs should start pretty soon, so the syrup producers are getting ready to fire up their operations.

A few days ago, we passed the point where the average daily high temperature is above the freezing mark.

And yet, March can be a very snowy month. For skiers, the warmer temperatures aren't all bad. Spring skiing is some of the most fun skiing of the year. But, powder skiing is better and we want that as long as possible.

Today's forecast is calling for highs near 50F with rain (the "R" word) and lots of wind. The amazing skiing of the past few days is going to be destroyed in just a few hours. Then, it's going to get cold tonight and we'll have two days to ski on ice, I'm afraid.

Two days ago, the forecast showed a major snowstorm headed our way for Sunday night and Monday, but it now appears that storm will hit NH and ME, but not VT. My clinic next week might be no fun at all. We'll have to see what this storm does to the course for the snowshoe marathon. I'm guessing that the ground will get exposed in some lower elevation areas by the warmth and the rain.

I ran an easy 4 last night. Tonight, I'll do intervals on the treadmill. Nothing too exciting. I'm more focused on the weather for skiing right now.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Back to training

I'm still thinking about the skiing on Tuesday. It was just one of those perfect days and I'm sure that people are still enjoying some great skiing. Today is supposed to be warm and it's going to rain a bit tomorrow night, so the weekend won't be nearly as much fun as Tuesday. But, we might get another snowstorm on Sunday night and into Monday, which would be nice. Next week, I'm taking a PSIA clinic at Stowe, something I need to do at least every other year to maintain my ski instructor certification. The clinic is titled "Steeps and Trees", and the more fresh snow we have for extreme terrain, the better. The downside to any storm is that more snow could make the course really slow for the snowshoe marathon on March 7th. Win some, lose some, I guess.

Last night, I got out for an easy 6 miler after work. I averaged about a 9:20 pace and it felt almost effortless. At this time of year, I'm often running closer to a 10mpm pace as I train through the winter, so I was happy with the run.

This morning, I lifted before work and I struggled a bit. I am a bit sore from skiing so hard on Tuesday and while my run went well last night, some of the muscles I needed for lifting were sore and tired. This was my last workout in my current lifting cycle and I'm going to take a short break from lifting right now. With 2 extra ski days next week and the snowshoe marathon, it's a good week to not lift anyway. So, I'll probably start my next lifting cycle in about 12 days or so.

I'll go out for an easy 40 minutes or so tonight after work and then run twice tomorrow before spending the weekend on skis. I have five weekends of teaching left and starting the first weekend of April, I can spend my weekends just running.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Epic ski day

This picture looks kind of dark. We were on a super-steep out-of-bounds tree run, and the trees were so full of snow that they were obscuring a lot of the light. I took the picture primarily to e-mail it to a few friends who opted not to ski yesterday. This is my buddy Jeff, resting for a few seconds before heading down the hill again. He's on a snowboard, but there's so much snow you can't even see the board.

I don't even know how to describe yesterday, especially to non-skiers. It might very well rank as one of the best 10 days of my life to date. I've probably had ski days that were as good, but none better.

I met a friend and co-worker early in the morning. I was afraid that the winds on Monday might have created a wind-slab surface,which can make skiing very difficult. On our first chair ride, another skier said that conditions were tough. Luckily, she was either skiing in the wrong place or she simply wasn't a good skier.

I started on a trail, to try to get a feel for the snow. We warmed up on a single-black diamond bump run called Domino. It was beautiful. Our next run, we started to go into the trees. The first tree run was completely untracked. At one point, I rounded a corner and made a turn to the right. I was stopped dead by a pile of snow that was chest deep. From there, we headed to the summit. We dropped into a tight, steep tree run and found it untracked. We could go as fast as we wanted because the snow was waist-deep at places and you could simply turn into a drift somewhere and it would lower your speed.

Encouraged by the conditions, I suggested a remote run that's not on any trail map. We had to leave the ski area via the Long Trail to get to this run. We weren't the first people there, but not many people had been there before us. That line starts with a few very tight turns and then starts to widen out. I fell once but my fall simply caused a mini-avalanche and the sliding snow essentially stood me up again and I simply started turning again.

After that run, we headed to a part of the mountain that receives no snowmaking and no grooming. From there, we skied two very difficult tree lines and they were amazing. A quick lunch break, and we took two chair rides to access an out-of-bounds bowl where we'd meander through trees for a long way. The snow was a bit wind-packed, but it was still fun. From there, we had to catch a bus back to the resort.

Then, one chair ride, one short tree run, and another chair ride to the summit. We dropped into a tree line at 3:30 and found it mostly untracked. By this point in time, I was really beat. My skiing was getting a bit sloppy, and I was afraid of getting hurt. At one point, I was simply too tired to make a turn that I needed to make so I wouldn't hit a tree. I simply flopped over into the snow to stop the impending collision.

We did one more easy and short tree run, repeating the line I'd hit untracked hours before. I was ready to call it a day, but my friends were heading back up. They agreed to ski on a trail, so I went along. We skied a double-black bump run that was just in amazing shape. I've never seen that trail ski so easily.

From there, a quick change of clothes and we met in the pub to swap stories about an epic day. All told, I only took 12 chair rides all day and I skied about 20,000 vertical feet. Only two of the runs were on actual trails though and the easiest thing we skied was a warm-up on a single black diamond and our cooldown on a double-black.

I almost used all caps to write this post, so I could try to convey how amazing the day was. Imagine your favorite athletic activity, no matter what it is. Now, imagine the most perfect example of that activity that you can. Imagine having good friends there to share your day.

That was my day yesterday.

Monday, February 23, 2009


The storm fizzled out somewhat overnight and we ended up with "only" 10" at our house. The ski mountain reported 18", and they've gotten over 4 feet of snow since last Thursday. My boss has approved a vacation day for tomorrow, so I'll be skiing all day, probably by myself and going hard. When I'm teaching, I don't get to ski nearly as hard as I'd like to ski, so tomorrow should be a lot of fun.


Today is very windy and the last I checked, the mountain had all of their lifts on wind hold. Wind can take powder and pack it into wind slab conditions. Wind slab is no fun to ski, because you never know when you'll break through the slab and when you won't. You have to be careful with how you apply rotary movements in snow like that, because it's easy to twist a knee the wrong way. But, there's so much snow that I'm going to show up and give it a shot tomorrow. The forecast shows the potential for a warm, rainy day later this week, so I need to ski before then.

I'll lift tonight after work - my next to last session in my current lifting cycle. After I finish this cycle on Thursday, I'll take a week off from lifting before I start the next cycle. The timing is good to take a week off, because I have the snowshoe marathon in two weeks anyway.

It's hard to believe that February is almost over already. I have 5 weekends of ski instruction left in the season, and suddenly, it will be April. I have a lot of running to do between now and mid-June if I'm going to be ready for WS.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sometimes, I love the NWS

From the current winter storm warning:





It really wasn't that bad driving home from the mountain, but it's snowing like crazy right now. My wife has been clearing the driveway while I cook dinner and catch up on some work (OK, right now I'm wasting time), and the snow is just pounding down right now.

Today was another amazing ski day - the end of the best weekend in a couple years.

I was going to lift tomorrow morning, but we will need to snowblow the driveway again, so I'll do that tomorrow morning. The kids just had a week off school and it looks like the holiday will be extended through tomorrow by this storm. I'll get to the gym tomorrow night. I hope.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sweet, sweet powder day

Last night, we got a dusting of snow at our house. The mountain forecast was for 4"-8" overnight. I was tired from my run yesterday, so I didn't hurry to get to the mountain for training this morning. What a mistake.

It turned out that the mountain got 18" of light, fluffy snow overnight. The two-day total was 27". Skiing was as good as it gets on the east coast. In the afternoon, I took my group to the toughest trail on the mountain - a narrow, steep, twisting double black run called Rumble. Every one of the 9 girls made it look easy today. The snow was just amazing. After I was done teaching, I went out skiing with some of my co-workers until the lifts stopped spinning.

Tomorrow morning, at 7:00 a.m., a winter storm warning goes into effect and we are supposed to get 8"-12" at my house. The mountain is forecast to get 12"-18" in this next storm, and 2 feet of snow would not be surprising by Monday afternoon. I'm sure I'll ski tomorrow until they turn off the lifts, and I'm going to try to take a day off work early next week to ski. Monday is supposed to be very windy, so I might go on Tuesday. After this next storm, it might be very difficult to find any ice on the mountain. Just a week ago, the mountain was very icy at spots, but now, everything is turning to soft, sweet snow.

Friday, February 20, 2009

24 hour fast and 20 mile run

So, I ended up fasting from 7:30 on Wednesday night until 7:45 last night. I had a very busy day at work on Thursday and I was the first one into the office and the last one out. Because I was so busy, I didn't even think about being hungry for most of the day.

However, as I started to drive home (I had my long commute of 65 miles yesterday), I realized I was really hungry. I wanted to make sure that when the fast was over that I didn't eat everything in the house. At the same time, because I was planning a 20 miler this morning, I wanted to make sure I got some carbs that would help with this morning's workout. Normally, on a rest day, I eat very few carbohydrates - just what I get from fruits and veggies. But last night, I deliberately added carbs to dinner, thinking ahead to this morning.

When I got out of bed this morning for my 20 miler, I felt kind of tired, probably from the fast. We were also out of caffeinated coffee, which didn't help matters. But, at 7:45, I hopped on the treadmill and I had a very pleasant 20 mile run, at a nice easy pace. During the run, I drank some Heed and had 3 gels and my energy levels were great for the whole run.

I even got to watch a movie that I really like - The Usual Suspects - on AMC while I was running. It was my first run beyond 15 miles since early November and I felt pretty good. We'll see how that translates to a snowshoe marathon in two weeks.

Skiing should be great this weekend. The mountain has 17" of new snow since I last skied. Tonight, they are expecting another 4"-8" of snow. On Sunday, they should get at least that much more. Driving home on Sunday might be dicey because of the snow, but it should be a great skiing weekend. I might even take a day off work to ski next week if conditions are really nice through the weekend.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Strange training week

Between the weather, my jobs, trying to get enough rest when I need it, and a few other things, it's been a strange week so far.

So far, I've lifted on Monday and Wednesday and I ran 10 miles on Tuesday. Today is a planned rest day, which is kind of a good thing for multiple reasons. Between the weather and my long commute, there isn't much extra time today. I was up at 5:30 to snowblow the driveway and my commute took longer than normal due to the weather. And everything outside is snow-covered right now. Plus, the coached eating program has us doing a 24 hour fast right now. I started at 7:00 p.m. last night, and I'll be able to eat a late dinner tonight. So, for today, I guess it's a coached "non-eating" program. Working out hard during a fast would be interesting, but probably not fun.

With a 20 miler tomorrow, I'll be curious to see how that run goes after a day of greatly reduced calories. I took tomorrow morning off work and I'll do my 20 on a treadmill. It will be slow because I haven't gone beyond 15 miles since November, but I think I'll get through it OK. I need at least one 20 miler before my snowshoe marathon in two weeks.

More snow is due later today, tonight, tomorrow, tomorrow night, and then after a brief break, overnight Saturday and into Sunday. Skiing should be very nice this weekend if the winds aren't too bad.

If you get a chance, read Andy Jones-Wilkins blog post about WS. There's a link in my blog list on this page. Then, read the other synchro-blog posts as well.

I've never even finished the race, but I've applied enough times, paced enough times, and been there to compete a couple times as well, and it's gotten under my skin as well. I'm hoping that after I (hopefully) finish this year, the itch will be gone and I can focus on something else.

I keep thinking that WS this year will be my last 100. But, I'd kind of like to run Hardrock again. Wasatch too. Ten finishes at VT would be really nice and I only have 3 so far. I have unfinished business at Haliburton and Javelina and Massanutten. Cascade Crest and Superior Trails are very intriguing.

Aand there are some shorter ultras I really want to do, some of them repeats. I want to run Laurel Highlands again. I want to run AR50 again to get my 5th finish. I'd like to do Miwok someday. I haven't done Cool since it was the Cool Canyon Crawl (1994 - paper application). JFK. VT50. Mountain Masochist. The list goes on and on.

There just isn't enough time, money, or ability in my life to do all of those things.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I got out of work a little bit late last night. I wanted to run 6 miles and I also needed to make it to a little "farmstand" grocery store that closes at 6:00. So, I had three choices: cut my run short, shop first and then run in the dark, or run faster than normal.

I chose the latter option and my run went pretty well. The roads were icy at places because it had briefly gone about freezing in the afternoon, but things were cooling off again when I ran. So, I had to take it easy on the icy patches, but I got in 6 miles at a sub-9 pace.

After running and getting some groceries, I headed home to cook dinner. I was surprised to see that I now had 3 children rather than 2, but it turned out that the third child belonged to one of the neighbors. The last thing I needed was another male teenager in my house right now. Other than eating a lot, and sending text messages every 30 seconds or so, the two boys mostly stayed to themselves and played video games. I hope they weren't texting each other, but you never know.

I was tired after my workout, and I headed to bed to do some reading about 8:00. I'm just starting Mark Bittman's "Food Matters". I know I'm going to disagree with some of the dietary recommendations in this book, but I understand the environmental issues that it raises. The book also contains 75 recipes that are low in animal protein. I've been looking forward to reading it since its recent release.

But, after just a few pages of the book, I found myself dozing off. It wasn't the book; it was me. About 8:30, I gave up and turned out the lights. The next thing I knew, it was 6:30. I'd slept right through my alarm and my morning workout, which was planned to be a short, easy run in very cold weather.

Tonight I'll lift and then tomorrow I'll take a rest day, except for snowblowing. On Friday morning, I'll hit the treadmill for my first 20 miler since early November.

Snow tonight, snow tomorrow, lighter snow through the weekend, and then we might have a big storm on Sunday night. I may need to take a day off work on Monday to go free skiing if that later storm materializes.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I lifted as scheduled last night. Lately, I've been lifting in the morning, mostly because I prefer to lift first on days I'm going to lift and run. But, the gym has reduced hours this week due to the college kids being gone for the week (it's a gym on a college campus), so I had to lift in the evening.

Last night was 5x5s, so I was lifting higher weights than my last few workouts. I was very happy with the amount of weight I was moving last night and with how strong I felt. This makes me wonder if I'd do better in the gym if I lifted in the evenings instead of mornings.

However, as soon as daylight savings time arrives, I'll have enough time to run for 2 or more hours after work on weekdays, so I'm sure I'll go back to morning lifting. But, it was interesting to note the change in how strong I felt by lifting at a different time of day.

This morning, I was able to run on the dirt road where I live. It's been too icy to run for weeks, but recent longer, warmer days have finally melted most of the ice on the road. I usually do a hilly 4 miler on this road and that's what I did this morning. I wasn't fast, but I felt strong on the steepest, longest hill and ran all of it, rather than walking like I often do.

Tonight, I'll do an easy hour of road running after work. Starting tomorrow evening, the roads will get messy again as a storm system moves in. I'm guessing my 20 miler on Friday will be done on a treadmill. Looking ahead, it appears that we'll have a thaw around the middle of next week, so the roads might become runnable fairly quickly. Hopefully we won't have so much of a thaw that there's no snow for the snowshoe marathon on 3/7.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Why do I lift so much if I'm allegedly an ultrarunner?

First things first - my workouts since my last post. I'm sure that all 3 of my readers are on the edges of their seats to see what I've been up to. Friday night, as planned, I did 10 x 1 minute intervals, at 6:40 pace. I could have gone faster, but the treadmill only goes to 9mph. After that workout, I went out for a nice dinner with my wife, my daughter and my wife's parents.

Saturday, I taught skiing. Sunday, I taught skiing. Conditions were OK, with lots of snow to be found, but also plenty of east coast ice to survive. The mountain was less crowded on Saturday than I'd expected, but Sunday was very busy. I had a large group on Sunday and two of the girls were feeling less than 100% late in the day. One of the girls had some sort of quad cramping going on that slowed her down and put her in a bad mood. Then, my daugher wiped out pretty badly and just wanted the day to be over. We called it quits a little bit early so the girls could go and participate in a Radio Disney broadcast going on at the mountain. They were all smiling and dancing when the day ended, so I think it was a successful day.

On to another topic: training and the "why" part of it all.

A fried of mine posted something on his blog and some running lists recently about his lack of motivation as a 100 miler approaches:

Ollie's Post

I saw some replies on multiple running lists but didn't respond for a while. On another running list where Ollie and I both reside, the talented and tenacious Dr. Andy had some interesting recent posts.

He commented on my training techniques and the muscle mass I told him I've gained over the past two years - about 15 pounds. I think Andy misread that as pure weight gain, which isn't really true. My body fat percentage is much lower now than two years ago at this point and my total weight is about the same. My BF% when I started lifting was just under 25% and it's closer to 17% now.

Andy also suggested that Ollie needed to "man up" or move on (my paraphrasing).

I found Ollie's post and Andy's recent comments to be very much related. I think in the world of long distance endurance activities, motivation is very important. I think we all derive motivation from different places. In my road racing days, I'll admit that my motivation came from beating others and impressing others with my times. Maybe that's why I performed relatively better at road racing than I've done at ultras. But, where is the real value in "impressing" someone? Even my most successful ultras have simply been long, slow slogs on very tough courses like Wasatch or Hardrock and I've never gone sub-24 in a 100. Ollie has walked 100 miles in under 24 hours and Dr. Andy has finished WS in under 24 hours, along with numerous other sub-24s. I'm not sure if I'll ever go sub-24 in a 100 and I'm not sure if I care anymore.

I think I've reached a point in my life where I want my workouts to be fun as much as possible. I told Ollie that I find myself thinking more and more abou the eventual "end" of my athletic career. I would like to run and lift and teach skiing for many more years, but I've been training hard for 25 straight years right now. I'm finding myself more interested in my long-term health and in how I can have the most fun when I train.

I have a lot of responsibilities in my life and my time is very tight at times between my family time and my work time. I choose to be this busy, but free time is precious. When I train, I want to do something that gives me pleasure. That doesn't mean it has to be easy. I love doing speed work. I love lifting heavy. I love running very long runs on difficult terrain as well. And, I love skiing and teaching skiing.

So, right now, I'm taking an unconventional approach to getting ready for WS. I may be doing more lifting than anyone else entered in that race. I imagine I'm doing more skiing than anyone entered in the race. I'm probably not running the lowest mileage of anyone entered, but my mileage is not very high right now. I'm doing more miles (at the corresponding time of year) than when I ran a 27:15 at VT100 in 2006, about the same mileage as when I ran a 26:04 in that race in 2007, and less mileage than I was doing last year when I was prepping for WS.

My first 20 miler of the year will be this coming Friday morning. My second 20 miler will be a snowshoe marathon on 3/7. I'll add a thirty miler in mid-to-late March, and then hopefull pace 50 miles at Umstead on 4/4-4/5. So, I'm planning long runs. I'm starting to map out some hilly runs as well.

But, I keep lifting and doing interval work. Is that appropriate work to maximize my results at WS, given the time limitations that I have? If I end up getting very lean for the race through that work, the answer might be yes. But overall, the answer is more likely no.

So, why train this way? Because it keeps me motivated to do the next workout, and I'm having fun and I'm getting more fit. It might not be race-specific right now, but it's fitness. By the time I'm done teaching skiing for the season, I'll be ready to focus my weekends on long runs. I think I'll have enough time to get to where I need to be. And if not, I will have had fun getting to where I end up.

I've simply decided that the only person I need to impress any more is me. If I spend my free time doing what others think I should be doing, then it isn't really my time at all. So, I'm making up my own rules and I'll see how it works out.

I wonder if any of that made sense at all.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Good workouts and TV cooking shows

Last night, as planned, I hopped on the treadmill and just started running. I managed to watch 3+ cooking shows on cable while I ran 10 easy miles. Many years ago, I watched cooking shows on PBS every Saturday morning. I would get up early, run with the running club I belonged to, get some breakfast, and then come home to watch cooking shows. Then, inspired by those shows, I'd go grocery shopping on Saturday afternoon.

These days, I hardly ever watch TV and I don't see cooking shows very often. So, last night was kind of interesting, but at the same time, scary. Overall, the shows just weren't that good. The hosts seemed to be missing some passion for what they were doing.

The first show was an Italian lady whose famous name I should remember. She made three dishes - two pastas and a salad, and each looked great. The theme was dishes that guys could cook to impress a girl on Valentine's Day and it was well done. She seemed excited about what she was doing, and if I was single, I'd be glad to cook a Valentine's Day dinner for her.

The next show was the Barefoot Contessa lady. The show was informative, she seemed engaged and happy with what she was doing, and it was a good show. She prepared Coq au Vin in a very classic style and I actually learned a trick that I can use during the show.

Another show was Paula Deen, who was cooking Thai food. One of the dishes that she made was Pad Thai, a dish that I love but I rarely cook because my son has a peanut allergy, and I don't eat noodles very often anymore. The version that she made was not well done at all, IMO, and by the time she was done, it didn't even look appetizing. She had clearly oversoaked the noodles and they fell apart as she tossed the dish. Her soup didn't seem very appetizing, and her coconut flan with sauteed bananas seemed easy and tasty. But, something seemed wrong about this southern lady trying to cook Thai food.

Last came the well known Rachel Ray. I know she is immensely popular, especially her techniques for quick and easy meals. But, she seemed bored out of her mind by what she was doing. She kept saying the same thing over and over again. The food seemed interesting and healthy, and yet despite her popularity, I found her very boring. I just did a Google search and it seems that she has quite a few people who don't like her. I get the impression that she is popular based more on her appearance and personality rather than anything else.

Apparently, I'm not missing much by not watching FoodTV or whatever it's called.

My 10 miles put me at 15 easy miles for the day.

This morning, I lifted as planned: nothing special, just my scheduled workout. I'm through 14 workouts in an 18-workout cycle, so my body is pretty well adapted to the work. It's important to change lifting routines frequently enough that your body is challenged enough. I'm going to finish this cycle and then take one week off from lifting - the week that I run my snowshoe marathon. After that week, I'll start the next cycle from the book I'm using right now.

Tonight, I'll do a short but very intense treadmill workout. I'll warm up and then do 10 x 1 minute hard with 1 minute of rest.

And then, I'll go skiing all weekend. It's going to be a crowded and icy weekend. Tomorrow is the busiest ski day of the season at the mountain. Our next potential snowstorm isn't until Wednesday and we lost a lot of snow this week. My driveway is now solid ice. My roof is clear of snow for the first time since Christmas week. Some Vermonters are starting to talk about spring and sap runs. I'm still thinking about big snowstorms.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

More workouts and my first iPhone "glitch"

First things first. So far, I've been amazed by the iPhone in the 4 weeks that I've owned it. I've never owned an Apple anything before and much of that has been deliberate. My daughter has an iPod Shuffle, but I've always stayed with Windows compatible MP3 players that support drag-and-drop and also support WMA files as well as MP3. I don't like the requirement of an intermediate piece of software with my MP3 players. I had some of the same concerns about the iPhone, but I've gotten over it because the darned thing has been so amazing to me.

I've been a software developer for the past 24 years and my impression over the last month has been that the iPhone has the best user interface of any piece of software or hardware that I've ever used. I haven't opened any manuals because everything is so intuitive.

So, this morning, I've been working remotely in a coffee shop. I had a tele-conference call early in the morning. After that call, I started to do an update to take my phone from V2.2 to V2.2.1. While this update was occurring, I got a phone call. Apparently, the phone and iTunes don't recognize that you shouldn't proceed with an update if the phone is in use. I was talking to two colleagues about some software design when I suddenly realized they were gone. I wanted to get them back, but the phone was locked by the update. So, I unplugged it from its tether cord, hoping it would revert to its normal functionality. (Yes, I know that's not the smartest thing to do, but I was in a panic at the time.)


The phone simply died and wouldn't do anything. I had to do a restore to its initial settings. Luckily, iTunes has a synch capability, so I thought I could simply restore everything from my last synch. But, for some reasons, it thinks that 16 installed (and free) apps that I've added to the phone are not authorized, so I have to start all over with those apps. It seems like everything else was restored though.

Even the best technology isn't perfect, and yes, I know that unplugging the phone during an update wasn't the smartest thing, but I wanted to get back to my phone call.

Workouts? I ran 6 miles in the rain last night after work. It was about 40F and calm and I really enjoyed the run. I was going to run outside again this morning because the temperature was supposed to stay in the high 30s all night. But when I got up this morning, it had gone below freezing in our town. So, I ran 5 on the treadmill before work because the roads weren't safe. I'll run another 9-10 tonight after work.

I'm really struggling with my time management right now. I'm working my "day job" for 32 hours per week. I teach skiing all weekend. I normally work 16 more hours per week for a software start-up. But, right now, I'm simultaneously working on software development for them and I'm working on a grant application. The grant application work is on top of the 16 hours. Right now, I'm working about 75 total hours per week between all of these. So far, I'm holding up to the workouts and the workload, but this will continue through March. As I've mentioned before, it's better to be over-employed than under-employed these days, but it can be tiring.

As much as I love skiing, I think I'll be happy when this ski season comes to a close and I can focus my weekends on Western States training.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Workouts and more on the PN Lean Eating Program

Last night, I planned to do 5 total miles, with 8 by a quarter at a brisk, but not all-out pace. The workout went pretty well, and for my 8th repeat, I stretched it to a half mile. I felt strong at the end of the workout.

This morning, I lifted. My workouts right now cycle between three set/rep patterns. I have two different workouts, so there are six combinations. Today, I started the 7th round (of 9), and after my first set, which is a strength set, I did 2x20s for my main sets. Of the three set/rep patterns, I hate 2x20s. The rest is short, I have to use puny weights, and I sweat like crazy. I love 5x5 days because I get to play with big (for me) weights and I get longer rest periods. The 4x10 days are tough, but the longer rest makes them more fun than 2x20s.

Today, I started with 5x3 of DB snatches. In the last three rounds of the program, the first set goes to 5x3 (It started at 3x5 and then went to 4x4) and the goal is to add weight each time the set/rep count changes. So, today, I went from 50# to 55# and it was tough. I had one rep with my left hand that didn't seem legit, so I simply repeated that one.

After the snatches, I did squats, step-ups (these really show a difference in leg strength between my left and right side), BB bent-over rows, incline BB bench press, cable wood chops and 3-point planks. The one good thing about 2x20 day is that the workout doesn't last long - fewer sets and short rest will do that.

Tonight, because the temperature will get to at least 40F today, I'm planning an easy hour-long road run after work.

I got an interesting message in the Lean Eating program this morning. We have homework nearly every day. We have make-up days so that we can catch up if we don't have time to do something when it's scheduled, but the coaches expect that we'll do every single assignment.

At the start of the program, they said that everyone who did all of the homework would get a Precision Nutrition T-shirt. That didn't seem like a big deal, but the second half of the incentive was a big deal. Of all the people who do all the assignments, whoever has the best body transformation over 6 months also gets their money refunded - $700. Today, they posted the people who are still eligible for the T-shirt and refund and I was shocked. I think we have about 125-150 people in the program, but only 2 of us have done all of the homework so far, and I'm one of them.

The other person who has done all the homework so far started from a far different place than I started. He is a much bigger person than I am, but started with a lower reported BF% than I had. To date, he's lost 20 total pounds and I've lost only 2. So, I now have an extra $700 incentive to work hard from now until 5/24. I could use that refund to help pay for my trip to Western States. At the same time, I will also applaud the other gentleman if he continues his amazing progress and wins the refund.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Lean Eating Program

I am now 11 weeks into the coached nutrition program that I started in late November.

The program has been very beneficial so far, in many ways, but mostly it's been the mental challenges that the coaches have thrown at us. We've had to read books, watch videos, listen to podcasts, post reactions to information, etc. And, every other week, we have a moment of truth where we post photos, a compliance number (how well are we eating vs. the program goals), and measurements.

To be honest, until 5 weeks ago, I was coasting through some aspects of the program. During the holidays, I was drinking more alcohol than I should have been drinking and my eating was a bit haphazard. In the last few weeks though, I've tightened up my eating. And, the coach I'm working with has had a few suggestions related to exercise and my nutrition.

When I step on the scale these days, I'm somewhat disappointed by the slow changes going on there. But, when I use the measuring tape and the skinfold calipers, I get a different story. I've added 3.5 pounds of muscle mass in the past 11 weeks. I've dropped 5.5 pounds of fat and the fat loss is accelerating. Yes, the muscle mass will probably not help me at Western States. But, once my endurance work really takes off in April, I think some of that mass will disappear. Right now, I'm more focused on the fat loss portion of the program.

I'm guessing that some changes we made to my diet this week will really help in that area in the next few weeks, if I follow through. I'm going to completely eliminate dairy fat for a while (all dairy except whey protein isolate), and I'm going to start being more careful about quantities and types of fat I eat. Essentially, I'm going to limit fat to olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, fish oil supplements, and meats that are either wild-caught or grass-fed. And, I'm going to cut way back on grains, trying to get most of my carbs from fruit instead. It might be less exciting to eat that way for a while, but I think those changes will help with fat loss.

Last night, I lifted at the gym and then spent some cooldown time doing stretches and yoga poses. My left ITB remains tight, and I'm working on that on a daily basis.

This morning, I did an easy 51 minutes of snowshoeing before work. Tonight, I'll do running intervals on the treadmill.

The weather for the next few days looks awful - sleet and freezing rain tonight, temps in the mid-40s tomorrow, rain tomorrow night, and then freezing rain on Thursday morning. If we're lucky, we may get some mountain snows on Friday that could make skiing this coming weekend much more pleasant.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ski season weather to date

It's been an odd ski season so far. We've had enough snow to keep the conditions pretty nice. We lost a bunch of snow Christmas week, but storms and snowmaking brough the mountain back to good conditions. Going into the weekend 10 days ago, when we'd had a 21" storm on Wednesday and then another 7" on Friday night, skiing was really amazing, despite the fact that it was a cold, windy day.

But, it seems like every Saturday and Sunday, it's very cold and often very windy. We have not had any weekend days recently where the wind and the temperatures were both nice. Today is beautiful - perfect weather for skiing, but I'm in my office.

This past Saturday, the day started cold and very windy. During the day, a number of lifts were shut down for periods of time because of excessive winds. But, the day warmed up and the afternoon skiing was great. By Sunday morning, the temp at the base of the mountain was 43F and it was 30F at the summit. It was also windy again, and we had an intense 90 minute snow sqall as a cold front moved in. For the rest of the day, temperatures dropped steadily and the mountain got gradually more and more firm, and the wind gusted frequently.

We still managed to have fun, but I'm just waiting for the day this season where the snow is good, the sun is shining, and the temps are moderate. It seems like that hasn't happened once yet this season. We still have 7 weeks left in the seasonal program, although I'm going to skip at least one day for the snowshoe marathon on 3/7. And, depending how beat up I am from the race, I might not ski on 3/8 either.

This week, we are going to have two warm days, the first with mixed precip, and the second (Wednesday) just plain hot for VT at this time of year - 45F. So, we'll be losing snowpack during the week. A storm on Friday might rescue the mountain as they go into a financially import holiday week.

Oh yeah, workouts. Friday night, I lifted as planned and then did a few short treadmill intervals. My left hamstring felt a bit tight, so I limited the speed of the interval work and the duration. On Saturday and Sunday, I skied relatively hard and both were long days, where I led training clinics at 8:00 a.m. before my day with the children in my group.

My plan was to lift this morning, but I definitely got behind on my hydration over the weekend. I always forget to drink water when I'm skiing, and I drank over a quart of water overnight last night, trying to rehydrate. This morning, as I got ready to get out of bed to head to the gym, my quad cramped up on me while I stretched a bit. I decided to defer my lifting until tonight. Today, I'm drinking as much as I can to get myself re-hydrated.

I should be able to snowshoe run tomorrow morning, but my second run tomorrow may get pushed to the treadmill by mixed precip. Wednesday should be a good day for running on the roads.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Great snowshoe run

Last night's run was pretty amazing, but I am tired today.

It was 9F when I started running, right about sunset. Luckily, the breeze had subsided to almost nothing, so the conditions were very comfortable. I deliberately headed north to start the run, so I'd be going into the little bit of wind while I was still fresh.

As the light from the sun faded, I pulled my flashlight out of my pocket, but I hardly used it at all. The skies were clear and the moon was high in the sky, giving me lots of light to run by. It reminded me of nights in Anchorage when I could run or snowshoe or XC ski without a flashlight. There, I was often able to go without a flashlight when it was cloudy. Downtown Anchorage is so bright that the lights from the city proper would reflect off the clouds and the snow, and everything would be bright miles away from downtown. Last night, it was the moon, but the effects were similar.

Last Thursday, I had done 6 miles by snowshoe on this same route and there had been a lot of fresh, unpacked snow to run through. I felt like I was doing an interval workout the whole way, and it took me 50 minutes to do the first 3 miles. Last night, I hit the same point in just under 40 minutes and I felt great. My plan was to run for 2 hours, and I got to the 4.5 mile mark right at one hour. It took me 67 minutes to come back, so I was out for 2:07 total - doing 9 miles.

A week ago, the concept of doing 26 miles on snowshoes next month in under 10 hours seemed impossible. After last night, it seems possible, but it's going to be work. Nine miles is the longest I've ever gone on snowshoes where I was running as much as I could. I've done more mileage in a day on snowshoes, but I was hiking the whole time. It's clear that trail conditions on race day will be a huge factor in how fast I can go.

I remember one day in Anchorage where I hiked on snowshoes for the entirety of our daylight - a little over 5 hours. Late in the hike that day, I was afraid of running out of daylight so I took a short-cut back to my car. I was crossing a "field" when I suddenly noticed that the surface of the "field" was amazingly uniform - dead flat with no plants sticking up anywhere. Suddenly, I realized that I was likely hiking directly over a lake and not a field and I kind of freaked out. I knew that it was probably safe (this was Alaska in winter, after all), but I was by myself, no one knew where I was, and I didn't know how thick the ice was. I turned around and carefully got back to the edge of the lake, where I found a worn path around. I barely got back to my car before dark, but I was just happy I hadn't disappeared forever into a remote lake.

Yesterday, I saw a pair of runners running on a path right on the edge of the ice of Lake Champlain. I was thinking that maybe I'd switch to running there on the return part of my run, and then I remembered my hike in Anchorage. I was alone, no one knew exactly where I was, and if the ice cracked, I'd be a goner. I stuck to the bike path.

After my run, I stopped at a great Chinese restaurant in Burlington - A Single Pebble - to get some dinner before I headed home. I was sitting at the bar, looking at the menu, when I realized my beard was still full of ice. Luckily, they didn't throw me out for looking like a vagrant. As always, dinner at this place was amazing.

I'm a bit sore and tired this morning, but I'll lift tonight and then do some short, fast running intervals. Then, skiing all weekend.

Life is good.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

24 hours without a workout?

No workout last night. None this morning. I even got to sleep in a bit today.

I probably would have slept better if I hadn't done my taxes last night. I owe Uncle Sam a bunch of money and I have to figure out where that's going to come from. Last year, I worked at two different salaried jobs, each of them less than 100% of full time. I did some consulting work and paid no taxes (yet) on any of that work. And, my part time ski instruction work contributes to the problem. The mountain takes very little taxes out of my paychecks because I make very little money. But, at the end of the year, the IRS adds that money to the top end of my income, and they think I need to pay more taxes.

At least I'm still employed. Having 3 jobs is better than having no jobs these days, and too many of my friends and family seem to be unemployed at the moment.

It's cold and breezy here in Vermont today. I'm going to do a 2-hour snowshoe run after work and after sunset. With a high temperature near 15F and some breezes, it will be pretty cold running along Lake Champlain tonight. I'm sure there will be sub-zero wind chills for the entire run.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Just plugging along

Get up, train, eat, work, train, eat, sleep, repeat.

Good, now I don't have to post again for a few months...

Last night was 4 miles, starting at a 10 pace, eventually dropping to an 8 pace and then gradually back to a 10 pace. This morning, I lifted - jump squats, lat pulldowns, DB push presses, DB Romanian deadlifts, Bulgarian split squats, incline reverse crunches and side planks.

Tonight, I'm going to spend time stretching and doing some "massage" with my foam roller.

The main issue I've been thinking about for the past two days is where I am in my training right now, where I need to be, and then, how do I best get ready for WS?

I've basically got 20 weeks until the race. Twenty weeks from today, I'll be in the air to CA. I really need to drop about 20 pounds of bodyfat before the race. That would have me at the race lighter than last year and lighter than I've been for any ultra except Hardrock in 2004. So, weight loss has to be a priority. Yeah, I've finished 100 milers at my current weight, but it's not fun, and I haven't done it in extreme heat. And right this minute, I weigh a few pounds more than I weighed when I got pulled at mile 93 a few years ago.

(I seem to have deleted a paragraph here somehow, and I'm adding it back now)
For me, I think I do best with fat loss when my workouts are focused on lifting and interval work. The interval work can be done running, on an elliptical trainer, on a bike or anything else that gets my heart rate very high. I tend to do worse with weight control when my workouts tend towards pure endurance. I've read some recent studies that seem to support the idea that many pure endurance athletes have a difficult time with weight control. I find that harder, shorter training sessions seem to help me more with weight control.

At the same time, endurance work is very important as well. Hard intervals and weight training help me more in my never-ending quest to drop bodyfat. But, that kind of training is far from ideal for getting ready to run 100 miles.

Right now, I'm simply not capable of lifting hard, doing interval work, and doing long training runs, at least during ski season. I think that for right now, I need to prioritize the fat loss. It's easier to fit those kind of workouts into ski season anyway. But, I am entered in a snowshoe marathon in 4 weeks. And, I'm scheduled to pace 50 miles at Umstead in early April. I need to be able to complete those distances.

I think that I can squeeze in a couple long runs and get through those two races. The runner I'm pacing at Umstead is shooting only to finish, so I'm guessing it will take us about 16 hours for the 50 miles. I should be able to pull that off on minimal long runs. If I can do the snowshoe marathon and then maybe do one other long run in March, I should be ready for Umstead. Especially if my weight is lower than it is now.

If I can do one more long day between now and the snowshoe marathon, I think I'll be OK for getting through that race, at least slowly.

Right now, I guess I think it's more important to prioritize the weight loss, so that I can train hard, closer to my race weight, through April and May and into early June. But, I worry that I'm cutting it close in terms of endurance work if I take this approach.

Without a doubt, my approach to nutrition is very important. We have a benchmark number we track each week in the coached nutrition program I've been doing since November. The goal is that 90% of your meals are "compliant" with the program and that any non-compliances are reasonable "cheats". That might mean having one beer or glass of wine with a meal, or eating a reasonable serving of one food not appropriate at the time you eat it. It doesn't mean eating an entire pizza and drinking a bottle of wine or a six pack of beer.

Through the holidays, I had some weeks where my compliance was below 50%. Then, starting in early January, I started to hit 80%. For the past 3 weeks, I've been above 90%. If that trend continues, my weight will continue to drop like it has the past couple weeks. If it doesn't, I'm putting my goal of a Western States finish in major jeopardy. This race has been tormenting me for 20+ years. It's time to spend 20 weeks really obsessing about what I need to do to finally cross that finish line.

In reality, it's time to stop talking about it and just do what needs to be done.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

More workouts

I said yesterday that I was going to run easy last night, but I changed my mind. Well, I had help from a nutritional coach in changing my mind.

We just finished our second "block" in the coached eating program that I've been doing since late November. Each block is essentially one month. So far, while my fitness has improved, my body composition hasn't changed that much. My body fat percentage has gone from 20.3% to 18.3%. That's a change in the right direction, but I'm still far from where I want to be for Western States. And, it took me two months to get there.

At the end of each block, we have some 1-on-1 conversations with the coaches. My coach suggested that I make a couple short-term changes to my exercise to focus more on fat loss for a while. He asked me to increase my lifting to 3x per week instead of 2x, and to do that by subtracting one hour of endurance work. My total volume of exercise is already higher than just about anyone else in the program. Also, I need to increase the amount of high intensity interval training (HIIT) that I do. For the most part, I've only been doing HIIT once per week. HIIT is different than normal running intervals, mostly because volume of work isn't very high, but the effort is high and the recovery period often short. The ultimate example of HIIT is Tabata intervals - 5 minutes of hell where you go all out for 20 seconds, recover for 10 seconds, and you do this for a total of 10 reps.

My diet has been much better in the past four weeks and I'm starting to lose some weight. But, the coach would like to see me do more lifting and HIIT in the near term to focus on fat loss. This obviously carries some risks, as it might leave me behind where I want to be from an endurance perspective when ski season ends. But, if it has me at my racing weight more quickly, my longer workouts in April and May and June should go much better. So, it's a chance I'm willing to take, at least for 4-6 weeks right now.

So, last night, instead of running easy, I warmed up for a mile and then did 6 quarters, with a quarter of rest. For HIIT-type interval work, the longest distance I ever use is quarters, and I think they give me a good balance between pure all-out efforts and my need for run-specific training.

This morning, I went out for an easy 66 minutes of snowshoeing. Tonight, I'll likely add about 75 more minutes of snowshoeing.

So, for the next few weeks, my exercise is going to look like this:

Monday: Lift in the morning, HIIT at night
Tuesday: Easy endurance morning and night, totalling at least 2 hours
Wednesday: Lift in the morning. Rest at night or maybe an easy walk
Thursday: Two-hour endurance effort at night, most likely on snowshoes
Friday: Same as Monday
Saturday, Sunday: Ski. If conditions force us to take it really easy, maybe some easy endurance work after skiing.

I'll add in a rest day or a cut-back day periodically, as needed.

Hopefully, this will get me down below 15% BF fairly quickly.

Last year, I arrived at WS at about 13% and I'd like to be closer to 10% this year, if I can pull that off. Right now, I'm about 18 pounds of fat loss away from 10%.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Weekend workouts

Friday night, I felt much better than I did on Friday morning, but I wasn't in the mood for doing a lot of miles. I was afraid that doing that would leave me too tired for what I knew would be a tough skiing weekend.

Instead, I did interval work - 10 x 1 minute at 6:40 pace. I would have gone faster, but the treadmill I had available at the time only went to 9mph.

Saturday, with a lot of new snow on the mountain, I skied really hard. I led a coach's clinic in the morning and we skied off trail - in untouched snow in the trees. I was in snow up to mid-thigh level at places and it was a blast. I then skied in the trees with my gaggle of girls all day long. We did some tree runs that I'd been unwilling to try earlier in the year, when we had less snow. Everyone was exhausted by the end of the day.

Sunday morning, I led another clinic in the trees before I started teaching the kids. Then, I took my group to our resort's other mountain. We skied there all day, but about 1:30, I noticed the girls getting really tired. So, I started to back off on the terrain we were skiing to keep them from getting hurt. It's really important to pay attention to how tired the students are in a ski lesson. It's very common on Sunday afternoons to see hands drop, butts drop, ankles un-flex, and falls increase. When I see those things happening, it's time to back off and ski easy for the rest of the day. The girls never complain when I make that decision, because they know they're tired, even if they haven't admitted it out loud.

I took one hard fall yesterday afternoon when I came around a tree and caught my skis on an exposed tree root. I basically did a somersault and I hyper-flexed my right ankle a bit. I skied the rest of the day, but it was a bit tender later. I iced the ankle last night, and I was able to do my lifting this morning.

My workout this morning included snatches, squats and step-ups, and if any lifts would bother the ankle, those lifts would do it. But, I got through everything just fine. Tonight, I'm going to do an easy run after work. It's going to be above freezing here today, which means the snowshoe trails might be very soft and slow. So, maybe I'll use the treadmill tonight and then snowshoe tomorrow morning, after the snow surfaces have re-frozen.

My weight dropped 2.5 pounds last week, but I still have a bunch more to lose to be at a good race weight for WS.