It’s been that long?

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Lots of time has past since the last post

 

I could not believe it’s been since February that I last posted here. I knew it had been a while, but I figured it hadn’t been that long.

What have I been doing since then?

Fitness

I’ll start with fitness, since that’s what I write about most here.

1.) Piling up miles

When I committed to the Quad Rock 50, I decided to explore a training approach that included higher volume. I’ve done that in 2014…I’ve done some sort of run or ride on over 200 days this year. That’s about as many workouts (running/riding) as I’ve had in a whole year in the past.

Adding it all up, in 2014 I’ve:

  • Run just under 2500 miles (2478 by my count)
  • Rode 1600+ miles (1610 by my count)

I’m not entirely convinced that a high volume approach is right for me. I’ll have more to say on this in the future.

2.) Raced (once so far) – Quad Rock 50

At some point I might write more extensively about my experience at the Quad Rock 50. For now, I will say that it was a tremendous experience. I finished in just over 11 hours (11:02:25) – not as good as I was hoping for. I suffered from a lack of fitness and some issues with my nutrition. But I learned a lot about ultra distance racing.

And it didn’t stop me from taking another step forward into the ultra distance.

3.) Signed up for my first 100 mile race – Oil Creek 100

The Oil Creek 100 is on October 11.

Coming off the Quad Rock 50, I knew I wanted to do another ultra distance race in 2014. I spent some time going back and forth between another 50 miler and jumping up to 100 miles. I decided to move up to 100 miles. I’ll explain the reasons in a subsequent post, but it was about more than just wanting to complete the distance.

There is something about the journey, about the process and discipline of training, that I needed. More later on this too.

4.) I still have not mastered my eating habits

This is an ongoing struggle for me and something I need to continue working on.

I’m convinced that this has more to do with what’s going on in the rest of my life (non fitness) than anything else. I’m eating almost as a way to pass time or numb some things that may not be quite right in other aspects of my life.

Maybe this is an excuse and I should be able to just have the discipline to eat better. But to me there is something else at play here. There is a disconnect somewhere else that I have yet to resolve, and eating is a way of distracting myself from dealing with that disconnect. If I could ever resolve that disconnect, I have a feeling that my eating habits would fall into line, almost effortlessly. I’m still trying to explore these things to see if I can make some progress here.

Non fitness

The other major thing I’ve explored a time or two on this blog is things like addiction, depression. Things haven’t been right for me in a while. I’ve gotten some insights about this over the past 6-8 months that I hope to explore more fully. I think writing about them might actually help bring more clarity to them. I’m actually feeling half decent right now, which is more than I could say for the better part of the last few years.

The other aspect that I’m constantly thinking about is career and how that plays into everything else. I believe I’ve figured out some things there as well. Now it’s just a matter of putting some plans into motion. This is where I encounter the most “Resistance” (a Steven Pressfield term), and I think it’s a major influence on other aspects of my life (eating habits and everything else).

Things really cannot be separated

In this post, I’ve neatly separated things into “fitness” and “non fitness.” What I’ve discovered is that for me, these two things cannot be separated. I need to be in nature and moving –runs and rides are not simply about getting ready for the next race or improving my health. There is something more to it than that. It gets into the nature of soul and spirit – I’ve been reading a lot about this recently and gained a ton of insight. I’m looking forward to sharing some of that here as well.

Finally, there has been the usual chaos and fun of being a husband and father. I don’t spend much time on that here…but I try to spend as much time as possible in those spaces and find it a constant learning experience.

Getting to a regular schedule for posting here on this blog is an important new goal for me. It’s one of the next steps I need to take to move things forward.  It feels good to be back at it.

 


February 2014 — Fitness Update

Another step forward this month.

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It has been a brutal month for weather.  I have had 18 inches of snow and ice in my back yard for the entire month.  Today — the last day of February — we had single digit temperatures with a wind chill below zero.  Monday — March 3 for goodness sake — we are expecting another storm.

I got out consistently this month — only missed one day (which I intentionally skipped).  No super long runs, but consistency really makes a difference.  I ended up with over 380 miles in 4 weeks.  I set a goal of 90+ miles a week, and I hit it every week in February.  Pretty stoked about that.  All of my runs except for today were easy intensity — HR under 150.  I think that’s why I’ve been able to handle the volume pretty well.  No injuries thus far.

The other aspect of consistency has been sleep.  I get to bed early (between 9-9:30 pm) pretty much no matter what.  I’ve found that getting to bed early sets me up well for the next day.

Last month I mentioned that I wanted to extend my long runs.  I ended up not doing that.  I could state a few reasons but they would mostly be excuses.  I’m happy with the volume and not overly worried about getting to 30-35 miles.  I will aim for that again this month as the weather improves.

I’ve started to use the treadmill again…this is partly because of the snow but mostly because I need it to get ready for Quad Rock.  Where I live it’s hard to simulate 11K of ascent on any single run.  I use the treadmill for that, and I just organize my treadmill runs around days when it is snowing.  I’ve been able to simulate 5-7K worth of ascent on the treadmill, which I know from experience (Pikes Peak) is valuable.  I’m already looking at a 25+ mile treadmill run on Monday when we get hit with this next storm.

In March I hope to maintain or increase the volume and start to increase the intensity.  I’ll probably start to move away from medium size runs (12-18 miles) in favor of shorter, more intense runs and longer (20+ miles), easy runs.  Hopefully by mid-March I can take my bike out of moth balls.

The big goal for March is to get my eating habits in line.  I cannot be successful without that…so it’s time to buckle down.

It’s hard to believe the Quad Rock 50 is only 10 weeks from tomorrow.  Based on the conditions outside, it seems like we are in the dead of winter.  Light has been the saving grace — the days are longer which helps to remind me that spring is coming.

Here are some numbers

Workouts

Runs

  • 27 runs for 389 miles
  • total time running:  just under 60 hours
  • longest run:  26 miles
  • ascent:  53201 feet
  • descent:  31860 feet

Rides

  • No rides this month — there has been ice on my driveway and the roads almost every day.  when there wasn’t ice, it was about 20 degrees outside

Sleep

  • 203 hours of sleep
  • Average over 7 hrs per night, min of 6 hrs

Weight

  • About the same this month:  mid 160s (I didn’t actually step on a scale)

January 2014 — fitness update

Getting back in the swing of things with fitness.  I’ll try to summarize the month.

I’m up on Strava now so anyone interested in more specifics can get in touch with me over there.  So far I’ve found some useful pieces of Strava.  I especially like the ability to go back and look at how I’ve done on various segments over time.  It’s nice to see a steady improvement in pace as time goes by.  I also am intrigued by the “GAP” (grade adjusted pace).  I don’t completely trust it, but at least I get a sense of performance over the course of a run.  From what I can see, folks who live in my area use Strava much more for cycling than running.

The goal for the month was to get back to regular workouts and start building volume.  I need to build a decent base for the Quad Rock 50 in May.

The month started out poorly — I was ill with a flu so didn’t run the first 4 days of January.

Recognizing the degree to which I was out of shape coming into January, I was very cautious about overcooking it and ending up injured.  I cut a few runs short due to soreness (mostly in my left calf), and I skipped a workout or two after a car accident that left my back feeling stiff and sore.  At this point I’m not willing to risk injury for more volume.  That will change over time as I get more fit.  All of these runs were at a target heart rate of under 150, with average HRs being mostly in the 144-146 range.  Good base work.

The weather this month was brutal.  I can’t remember a January with so many days in single digits or negative temperatures.  In those conditions I can only stay out there for about 3 hrs max.  Whatever gloves I wear, my hands sweat and my gloves freeze and the result is quite painful.  There has been snow on the ground for almost all of January.  The snow combined with hunting season kept me on roads more than trails, although I did manage to get some trail time in recently (in bright orange on days when gun hunting was not permitted).

I need to get more hills in, but I’m waiting for some basic fitness before I worry too much about hills.  I have managed to find a few nice hilly trails — I’ll have to repeat a lot but I believe I can mimic the elevation I’ll deal with at Quad Rock (11.5K ascent and descent over 50 miles).

I rode only once — this was largely due to the weather and the road conditions.  I have no interest in encountering ice on my way downhill at 40+ mph.  Beyond that, salt and dirt on the roads and no shoulder (due to snow) makes for a tricky ride.  I’m eager to get back on the bike as it’s a key aspect of my fitness.  Hoping February ends up offering better weather.

I’ve managed to keep my mind focused on enjoying the runs and not obsessing over HR, mileage and time.  Happy with that although I have more work to do there.

One disappointing aspect to the month was my lack of flexibility work.  I never thought I would say this, but I dropped the practice of regular stretching before running.  It was a conscious choice as the calendar has been crowded, and I wasn’t able to make the time to stretch.  I had to choose between 45 minutes of stretching (which I love to do and makes me feel great) and an extra 4+ miles per day.  At this point, the miles need to come first.  That said, I know I can make time for stretching; I just have to get it done.

The main goal for February is to continue building volume and extending my long runs.  I’d like to get my long runs up over 35 miles.  I’d like to get back to regular stretching.  I’d like to ride my bike frequently, as much as 3x per week if weather and time permits.  I miss it.  I’d like to get my diet in line.  While I’m happy with the -10 pound month of January, I can do better with my eating habits.  I have 20 more pounds or so to go before I’m in the place I want to be.  I need to drop the weight to reduce the chance of injury on those long runs.

Here are some numbers:

Workouts

20 runs for 291 miles
average 14.5 miles per run
longest run 24 miles
total time running 44 hrs, 53 minutes

ascent:  24,820 feet
descent:  23,640 feet

1 ride for 68 miles, 4 hrs 12 minutes

Sleep

217 hours of sleep
Average of 7 hrs per night, min of 4.5 hrs

Weight

Dropped 10 pounds, from 174 to 164


Back to racing — Quad Rock 50

In May 2014 I’ll be racing again for the first time since August 2012.  Looking forward to the Quad Rock 50 in Fort Collins, CO on May 10th.  I’ve read lots of great things about the race and the organization that puts it on .  Can’t be more excited.

Here’s a course profile from the Quad Rock 50 web site.  Lots of ups and downs!!

Quad Rock 50 profile

I spent a lot of time trying to decide if I was ready for getting back to racing.  I spent most of December trying to figure out if I was ready to make the necessary commitment.  I was satisfied enough that I’m ready to do it.

Of course, the day after I signed up I came down with some sort of flu bug which I’ve just gotten over.  But all systems are go for Quad Rock in May.

 

 


Me and Thomas Edison

I just finished reading The Edison Gene:  ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child, by Thom Hartmann.

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Oh man was it eye-opening.

As Hartmann ticked off the behaviors of a “hunter” child, I felt like he was describing me.  It really resonated.  Always sensing the environment, given to periods of hyper-focus and intensity, individualistic, motivated by fear/fight-or-flight, prone to addictive behaviors, not very competitive, not willing to follow the script…that was me.

My interpretation of Hartmann’s basic premise — most of the behaviors that get labeled as ADHD are consistent with a genetic profile (the hunter) that was extremely valuable thousands of years ago.  He argues that ADHD is not necessarily a disorder of the individual who has it, but rather a disconnect between the individual’s strengths and the environment in which they are in.  Furthermore, the people with this sort of “hunter profile” (like Thomas Edison) are often the best innovators, inventors, entrepreneurs.

Then I started thinking about my past experience through this new lens — and a lot of previously confusing things started to make sense.  Why in the world was I never able to succeed working at two big, bureaucratic companies?  Why did I migrate away from road racing into trail/mountain?  Why was I so motivated for my first Pikes Peak when I wasn’t for my second?  Why am I able to run for hours without needing to listen to music as a form of “distraction?”  Why do I treat my kids as if they are my equals?  This offered a bit of an explanation.

For the past few years, I’ve been in a pretty deep funk.  I thought I was really messed up…and at least one doctor had me believing I was suffering from depression.  Medication, psychologists, the whole nine yards.

Through this new lens I think that was wrong.  Sure I felt like crap but in my case it wasn’t some sort of disorder.  It was just my way of dealing with the world — I was hyper-focused on the negative stuff.

I’ve come to believe that I have this sort of “hunter” genetic profile….and even more important … that’s not a bad thing.  It’s not a disorder, and I’m not messed up.  There are just times when who I am conflicts with the environment I’m in.

As I started thinking about this, I felt this huge weight just start dropping off my shoulders.  I’ve got a whole new outlook on things, and my major goal over the next few years is to get rid of all these disconnects between me and the environment I’m in.  That means changing the environment, as I’ve spent enough time trying to fit in.

From a running / fitness perspective, I’m starting to explore the spiritual aspects of running and riding.

NOTE:  I realize that mine is an over-simplified version of ADHD and even depression.  I’m understand that there are people at the extreme ends of the ADHD spectrum and people who have severe forms of depression, for which this logic might not apply.  Here I’m just talking about my own experience.  Please don’t read this as any sort of expert opinion on ADHD or depression; it’s only one guys opinion on his situation.

 


What I think about when I run or ride

People who run or cycle have lots of different reasons for doing it.  I’d guess that one of the most common reasons is mental or emotional.  It’s good to just get out and clear your mind of all the stuff that floats around in there while you’re going through your life.  It might be physically tiresome, but most would say that running or cycling is mentally and emotionally invigorating.

I’d agree with that.

A few years ago I worked for a guy who knew I liked to go on long runs.  The day or so before I ran long (usually on a weekend), he’d literally sit down with me and throw a few ideas out there.  He was hoping I’d spend some time on them while I ran.  He eagerly looked forward to the following week when he’d sit down with me again to get my thoughts on those ideas.  That worked pretty well as I usually had a handful of suggestions to make his ideas better.

For a while now, though, I really haven’t been getting those mental or emotional benefits.  Why?  It has a little something to do with what goes through my mind as I’m out there.  Most of the time my brain gets hyper-active when I’m out running or riding.

There are so many ideas bouncing around my mind it’s hard to actually control it.  Typically those ideas fall into one of the following categories:

  • Obsessing about something that happened during the day.  I churn and churn on something that happened, trying to figure out why it happened and what I should do about it.
  • Self-analysis.  “Wow, I’m really out of shape.  How did I get this far out of shape?  How did I let this happen?  I’m just feeling really heavy right now and I can’t stand this.”
  • Planning big things for the future.  “Here’s how I’m going get back into shape.  I’m going on a strict dietary program.  I’m going to work out every single day for the next 30 days.  If I do all that, I should be able to drop X pounds every week, so I can probably get back to normal weight in Y days.  That isn’t too bad.  I can do that.”
  • Checking the data.  “What is my heart rate right now?  How many miles have I gone?  What is my pace?  I’d like to be able to kick the pace up, but I really shouldn’t right now.  How far do I still need to go?  When should I kick up the pace?  What time is it?”

It isn’t too hard to figure out why I’ve struggled to get out there consistently with these kinds of things rumbling around in my head.  When I get back from a workout I’m mentally and emotionally drained.

I should say that the occasional insight still pops into my head.  Every now and again I come up with an interesting idea, but those have been few and far between over the past few years.

Today I got on my bike for the first time in 2 months.

I decided to change the mental approach — to go for mindfulness as a primary goal.  That meant letting all those random thoughts that typically bounce around in my head just float away.  Instead of fostering the typical incessant dialogue, I decided to make it as much of a sensory experience as I could.

  • Sight.  What new things could I see that I haven’t seen before?  The sky in the southwest was filled with clouds, but in the north it was clear blue.  Someone installed new roadside cameras on Rt. 173 in Bloomsbury NJ.  I saw a section of I-78 that I had never seen before.  I saw hundreds of American flags, an 800-pound pig and open fields that had been full of corn the last time I passed.
  • Smell.  Lots of people burning fires — I love the smell of fireplaces burning (not forests burning).  Each one has a different smell.  I passed lots of farms — distinctive smell there too.  I smelled some dead animals; luckily I couldn’t see most of those.
  • Sound.  Mostly the wind in my ears.  I also pay attention to the sound of cars on the road — it’s the best way to know when one is approaching.  But I also heard the sound of trees and reeds blowing in the wind.
  • Feel.  The wind was different depending on the direction I was going.  At times it was straight in my face, and at other times it was at my back (much better that way).  My hands were cold until I changed gloves.
  • Taste.  Not much here … water, that’s it.

Making it a sensory experience had a dramatic effect on my overall enjoyment of the ride.  Taking an outside-in approach helped me avoid the brain overload that I’ve experienced in the recent past.  It reminded me of some of the mindfulness meditations I’ve been exploring in the past 6-8 months.  Whenever I found myself drifting into one of the negative cycles, I tried to re-center my focus on the senses.  I was really happy with the outcome, and when I got back I felt much more mentally and emotionally recharged.

It’s going to be a focus for me in the coming weeks and months.

 


The year in fire wood

It’s been a while since I posted anything up here.  I wasn’t sure I actually wanted to get back to this blog, but I think I’m gonna give it another go.

I won’t be explaining the past year in a single post.  But I did want to to illustrate one thing I’ve been working on for a good portion of the last year.

A little over a year ago, Hurricane Sandy made her way through my neck of the woods.  It did some pretty big damage to my property, although luckily nothing hit the house.  We lost power for about 2 weeks, but (again luckily) we had the generator to carry us through.

Here is what the yard looked like in the days after Sandy.

Looking southeast from my back deck

Looking southeast from my back deck

Closer view of the mess of trees to the southeast

Closer view of the mess of trees to the southeast

Looking due south from the back deck

Looking due south from the back deck

Then the cutting began…

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2013 01 Tree in back

On to the splitting and stacking …

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Here is the latest … starting to get some real wood stacks …

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Got a good variety in those stacks — ash, hard maple, oak, hickory, sassafrass.  We have a wood stove in the house, so the wood will get put to good use once it’s seasoned.  I’m also looking into a wood burning furnace and hydronic radiant floor heat — then things would really be cooking.

All of this moving, splitting (by hand) and stacking has left me with quite the strong core.  My aerobic strength sucks and I’m still over weight.  I can address all of that stuff in due time.  I still have plenty more wood to cut, split and stack.  Soon I’ll be at a steady state where I can get back to my regularly scheduled programming (running & riding) and use the work with wood as strength training.  It’s much better than going to a gym.

One last thing…as part of all this, I discovered this amazing place for info on fire wood, wood stoves, etc.