Week in Review: March 26-April 1, 2012

Another week gone by.  Amazing that it’s already April.  The Spring Classics are upon us.  Tour of Flanders this week, Paris-Roubaix next week.  Sweet.

I’m abandoning the listing of all the food I eat in a week.  It’s not helping.  Since it’s not helping, I’m not going to subject myself to the tedium of writing it all down.  I have something else I’m going to try in an attempt to get my eating habits under control.  I think this could work if I do it consistently.  I will describe that later if it actually starts working.

I finished both The Fountainhead and Blah, Blah, Blah:  What to do when words don’t work.  I’ve already written about The Fountainhead.  I’m still trying to decide about Blah, Blah, Blah.  If you never read Back of the Napkin, I would definitely recommend Blah, Blah, Blah.  But if you already read Back of the Napkin, I’m not sure Blah, Blah, Blah is worth it.  I actually plan to use some of Dan Roam’s tips and techniques for thinking through a problem I’m dealing with right now at work.  I may have a better idea of whether I like it after I try a few of the recommendations.  I’m 100 pages into Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  It started slower than I expected, but it quickly picked up speed and is really moving now.  I’ve got a goal of finishing that book in 10 days, which means I need to average 50 pages a day.  I think it’s achievable.  I need to do it; I have so many other things I want to read…

Since it’s April 1, I should probably also report some sort of monthly fitness totals.  Here they are:

  • 15 runs for 185 miles (average over 12 miles per run).  Almost 100% of this was at low to moderate intensity (HR in the 140s).  Effectively no speed work.  2 runs over 20 miles.
  • 7 rides for 336 miles (average 48 miles per ride).  All between 35 and 60.  Not bad, but I’m itching for a longer ride.

The month was odd for me.  It started slow, since I was just recovering from my foot injury.  Between travel and the flu-like thing I had for about 10 days, I never really got into a groove.

I hope this week starts me on a good streak.  It actually was sneaky good for me, fitness wise.  I started out in the doctor’s office, but finished nicely:

  • 4 runs, 67 miles, over 10 hours.  Long runs.  Nice.
  • 1 ride, 54 miles, 3 hrs, 20 minutes
  • one mini strength workout.  Seems mini but caused a lot of pain the next day…

Two days off this week.  I hope to take fewer off days but I’m being conservative given recent history.

Looking ahead to next week, I hope to repeat my running but increase my riding and strength work.  I think I can get by on 55-65 miles per week, especially if I can ride 2-3 times and do 2-3 strength workouts.  I plan to keep the intensity low-moderate again next week.  I’m under 20 weeks to go to Pikes Peak, so I will need to begin ramping up the intensity shortly.  Before I get too much into that, however, I’m looking to stabilize my mileage at low intensity.  Hopefully my legs will feel better in the coming weeks.

Details on this week are below

Monday (March 26)

Woke up feeling like the truck that had hit me for the past 2 days had left and gone somewhere else (like my wife who was starting to get sick).  I stretched in the morning and was ready to go, but I decided against it.  One more day of rest and a doctor visit before I get back after it.  Definitely feeling better though.

Doctor prescribed an inhaler for my cough, a “backup” antibiotic (which I never filled) and a heavy duty cough syrup for night time sleeping (which I never used).  I did the inhaler for a few days but then stopped when I felt better.

Tuesday (March 27)

Experienced the spring season in it’s full glory.  Went out in the afternoon.  Brilliant sunshine, breezy, temps in the low 40s.  Just perfect for running.  Did 3 loops in the rocks of Schooley’s Mountain.  Kept the intensity moderate, just hoping to avoid feeling sick and injured.  14 miles in 2 hrs, 5 minutes, HR average 145.

Wednesday (March 28)

Back to back days of running.  Today I was up and out at 5 am so I could get back before my 7-year-old got on the bus.  My bones were aching.  I was stiff and sore, which I attributed to covering 29 miles in less than 24 hours after covering only 17 TOTAL the prior week.  I knew I was running more than I had…I could feel it.  15 miles, 2 hrs 10 minutes.  HR average 144.

Thursday (March 29)

Another day where I was experiencing the spring season in its full glory.  A bit of everything on this 54 mile bike ride.  Overcast grey clouds, a passing shower, wind, bright sun filtering through.  At one point I remember looking to my right and seeing sunshine about a quarter mile away (while I was riding in cloud cover).  Just awesome.  Stronger than I expected, especially considering that I hadn’t spent much time on the bike recently and I’d just run a lot.  Covered the 54 miles in 3 hrs, 21 minutes.   Stretched in the afternoon which felt great.

Friday (March 30)

Back on the Columbia Trail heading to High Bridge.  Definitely feeling stiff and sore, but very pleased with this.  It wasn’t sickness, it was just volume.  I’ll take that any day.  Ended up feeling surprisingly good until about 20 miles into this.  Then it was difficult.  The elevation chart for this run is interesting.  Looks like a big bowl.  When I start to ramp up the intensity, this will turn into a great tempo run.  This time, 23+ miles, 3 hrs, 20 minutes.  HR avg 146.  You may note that the mileage is slightly over 21.  When I map a run, I always start at a place that’s a mile from my house.  It makes it more accurate, as I can’t pinpoint my house on a map.

In the afternoon, I took my 7-year-old to track practice.  And I also had my jumprope.  I felt good enough to do a bit of a body weight workout for my legs.  Four sets of:

  • Jumprope:  50 both legs, 20 right, 20 left, 50 both legs
  • step-ups:  20 with each leg
  • prisoner squats:  20

That was enough to put me into a good sweat.  Also wondering if I had over cooked it after running 23 that morning.

I’d love to be able to do more with the strength work, like actually use weights.  But at this point, I think adding weights would really cause trouble.  I’m not strong enough.  I’m planning to make that a goal after Pikes Peak is finished.

Saturday (March 31)

Sure enough, I woke up this morning having a very difficult time moving around.  50+ miles running, 50+ miles riding and an added mini strength workout was a lot for the past 4 days.  I didn’t feel bad taking a day off.  If it hadn’t been raining cats and dogs, I might have tried a ride.  But given the past few months, I felt good just to be healthy and not sick.  I didn’t want to push it.

Sunday (April 1)

Up early again today because I knew I had to get something done before 8 or the day would be lost.  Four sets of down/up the steepest hill I can reach quickly by running.  Distance-wise, it’s 1.5 miles.  Elevation gain is 630 feet over the 1.5 miles.  Four sets is about 2500 feet of elevation gain and loss.  Good stuff.  15 miles total in 2 hrs, 24 minutes.  This felt better than I expected, especially the uphill.  More importantly, the times were remarkably consistent–downhill went 10:39, 11:18, 11:24, 11:27; uphill went 18:24, 18:27, 18:11, 18:23.  HR average 144.

The 1.5 miles of this run is the part of that elevation chart I showed above — it’s from the 19.1 mile mark to about 20.6.  Just to give you a sense of the elevation there.

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Recap of February 2012

Too many zero-days in February (zero on 12 of 29 days).  Particularly problematic was a stretch in the middle of February where I zeroed on 7 straight days.  Ouch.

The foot pain that I experienced at the beginning of February didn’t help.  The good news there is that I’m feeling better, and I was forced to figure out ways to stay fit (or even improve without running).  The injury may have opened my mind to new possibilities that will help in the future.

The workouts I did were pretty good.  I’m especially happy with the rides.

  • 7 runs, 82 miles (average 11+ miles per)
  • 9 rides, 513 miles (average 57 miles per)
  • 1 day of “swim and gym” which included swimming, deep water running, weights

I’ve started a running log on a spreadsheet, which will be really helpful going forward.  The zero days stand out like a sore thumb.  I’m searching for a way to graphically represent the data.  For a while now, I’ve been an immense fan of Edward Tufte.  The guy is brilliant.  He invented the sparkline.  By next month I hope to have a visual way to represent my training, potentially with sparklines.

Quick sidebar – I just finished Resonate:  Presenting visual stories that transform audiences by Nancy Duarte.  I’ll have a more detailed review later, but the short version is that you should get this book if you need to do presentations.  This book will not be too far from me in my new job.  It’s really amazing.  Next up:  Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

In March, I’m sticking with building a foundation and trying to avoid injury.  I’m pretty certain that once I hit 65 miles running in a week, my injury risk goes up.  For the time being, I’m going to stick with about 65 miles running per week, which I think is 4-5 runs.  The rest of the days I plan to use the bike, the pool or the gym.

Another step I’m taking to avoid injury is to reserve my more intense efforts for safer situations (bike, pool, gym).  I’m far enough away from a race that I don’t want to risk it.  So the non-running workouts may be even more intense than the runs.  Most of the runs will be MAF type.

I expect that I’ll start to incorporate double-workout days into the schedule.  I plan to take this easy at first, but hopefully I will be able to increase the frequency and intensity of double-workout days.

Two keys for me in March:

1.)  Eliminate (or limit) the zero days.  Get out for something every day if possible.  I lose too much fitness by skipping days, and skipping a week is unacceptable.

2.)  Fix my mental state.  This is probably the most important thing I can do for myself, for fitness and every other aspect of my life.

I’ve ranted a bunch of times on this blog about my eating habits and how bad they are.  I’m not going there again.  I’m still working on them, but more and more I’m convinced that my brain has a bigger role than I ever anticipated in my eating habits.  My goal this month is to learn as much as I can about the connection between the brain and eating.  I’m sure I won’t have it all figured out, but what I learn should be really valuable.  More on that as I discover stuff.

All in all, a decent month.  Improvement is definitely within reach.  I just need to make it happen.


October into November 2011…finding consistency

Fewer workouts this month.  Most of them longer.  I took more days off this month.  Not super-motivated.  I think the relatively high average distance reflects a desire on my part to just get out for some longer, slower workouts and adjusting my priorities a bit.

This month’s workout totals:

  • Running:  177 miles on 12 runs (average just under 15 miles per)
  • Riding:  158 miles on 3 rides (average 52 miles per)

Sometimes I look at life as if it were a puzzle.

When I’m working on a hard puzzle, I break it up into smaller sub-sections.  I put those subsections together, then I start to bring them together into a whole picture.  Sometimes it’s easier to get a subsection right when you’re only looking at that one part of the puzzle.

I guess the notion of breaking things up and re-assembling them applies to more than just puzzles.  It’s the way to build most everything—make sure you’ve got a sense of what the whole looks like, then break it up, assemble the pieces separately and eventually put them back together.

In life it’s a bit more complicated.  You can’t get it completely right, since things are more interconnected.  But looking at life as a group of pieces can sometimes be useful.

I spent much of October working on a few specific pieces.  The biggest one was getting some consistency in writing this blog.  I wanted to write something every day.

I’m starting to get some rhythm and energy going again.  These past 6 months, I’ve learned that it’s easier to get into a rhythm when you’re busy.  When the job went away in the spring, I was super excited—I’d have a ton of free time to do everything I ever wanted to do.  I found that when you don’t have a good rhythm, it’s hard to get momentum to do anything.  It’s almost like my rhythm and energy just ground to a halt when the major element of that rhythm (the job) disappeared.

So, as simple as it sounds, setting the goal of posting every day for this blog forced me back into somewhat of a rhythm.  Writing every day is one of those “puzzle pieces” that I’d like to keep into the future.

In November, I’m hoping to put most of the puzzle together.  The pieces include:

Oh, and I’ll get ready for my race later in November.  I plan to skip tapering for this race.  I may back off a bit in the week before the race, but I’m viewing the race as a long training run.  So no need to get crazy.

All of these pieces coming into focus is giving me some good energy.  I’m hoping to experience the paradox of adding more to my plate, yet seeming to have more time.  I know that paradox eventually stops working.  But I don’t have too many things on my plate yet.

Time will fly in November, so I hope to take it one day at a time, getting more consistent each day.


September into October: Fog

A typical September 2011 morning in Long Valley

The word for September—fog.

Just about every morning started with fog on Schooley’s Mountain.  I cannot remember a September with worse weather than 2011.  It seemed like we got rain every single day.  It got so bad that schools were closed due to flooding.  The streams are so full these days that even the slightest rain causes flooding.  The back yard is a swamp.

I put in a lot of miles in September…here are the totals:

  • Running:  293 miles on 20 runs
  • Riding:  136 miles on 4 rides

The fact that I only had 4 rides in September indicates how wet it has been…I don’t ride in the rain.  I run instead.

The term “fog” also summarizes my September workouts.  Very sluggish; not much energy or speed.  I’m guessing the sluggishness is my body adjusting to a higher mileage routine, but it could also be due to weak nutrition and rest.  I’m doing more of the little things right these days, especially with nutrition and rest.  Getting better but not quite where I need to be (yet).  My plan is to continue the high mileage routine through my next race (late November), then evaluate how it went.  You don’t develop strength overnight.

As October sets in, my workout routines will not change much.  I hope the weather cooperates and I get more opportunities to ride my bike.

I plan to increase my workload in one area during October—this blog.  I plan to post once per day for the month of October.  Writing is like running.  The more you do it, the better you get.  I’m considering a crazy idea for November, and I need to improve my “writing endurance” to make it work.  So I plan to post here frequently during October.

I hope you’ll join me by subscribing or checking back frequently.


August into September 2011: Fueling a breakthrough

August was a month of transition.

After descending through June and July, I finally stabilized in August.  I gained control of my eating habits, re-started consistent workouts and even got a bit inspired.

This is the first time I have calculated the total number of miles I’ve run in a month.  I frequently calculate the total number of miles per week, but I never extended the idea to the month.  I was actually shocked when I saw the totals for August:

  • Running:  252 miles on 17 runs
  • Cycling:  350 miles on 9 rides

The total mileage feels good, but the number of times I got out the door (26 of 31 days) feels better.  It confirms that I’m starting to get the consistency back.  It’s interesting to compare August with July…in July I mustered the strength / discipline / resolve to do a meager 11 workouts.

In August I experimented with adding an extra easy running day to my week.  My weeks have had the same profile for the last 10 years—running 3 days, cycling 2 days, strength / flexibility work 2 days.  I decided to add the extra running day because I’m convinced that:

  • More running (done right) leads to faster running
  • I can manage the potential for injury from increased mileage
  • Shorter, more frequent strength and flexibility work is better than allocating two whole days

And you don’t get breakthroughs without trying new things.

So far so good.  The extra day of running hasn’t negatively affecting anything yet.

In September I plan to increase the intensity of my workouts (most of them anyway).  I’ve got a strong enough base that I can add intensity without risking too much injury.  I don’t plan to increase the miles.

My Big September Challenge…Nutrition

In September I intend to crush a 30 Day Primal / Paleo Challenge that I issued myself.  The rules are as follows:

  • Eat Primal.  Eat vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds, meat and healthy fats.  The good news (for me anyway) is that I already eat these items.  I’ll need to make some changes however, like eating more fish and evaluating the “quality” of what I eat in these categories.
  • Avoid eating junk.  This is where it gets interesting.  I’m completely avoiding my key vice, the 5 Cs (Cookies, Cake/brownies, ice Cream, Candy, sugar Cereal) and as many other processed foods as possible (including pretzels, popcorn, chips, soda, bread, pasta).  What will I eat as snacks?  I have no idea.
  • Focus on sleep.  I average five or six hours of sleep per night.  For the next 30 days, I’m aiming for seven hours of sleep per night.
  • Play.  I’m going to play more actively.  Hopefully my two kids and dog won’t wear me out within a few minutes.  If things go well I may even get stronger.

I know 30 day challenges are trendy and this might seem a little extreme, but I’m eager to see how my body responds.

And you don’t get breakthroughs without trying new things.

To accomplish my 2011 and 2012 running goals, I need to master the art and science of recovery.  My current nutrition strategy just isn’t effective enough.  It’s constraint that I must eliminate.  I’m hoping to go all in on a new nutrition strategy, and now is my chance to experiment.  I’ve been reading about Paleo / Primal for two months.  I recently picked up The Paleo Diet for Athletes and it looks promising.

After circling around for the past 3 months (really the past 12 months), now’s the time to take a real step forward.

Does anyone want to take up the Paleo / Primal Challenge with me?  Got any experience with Paleo / Primal that you’d like to share?