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.

 


New running goal

Things work better for me when I’ve got a goal in mind.  The harder the better (to a point).  It helps me stay focused and motivated.

Thoughts about my next running goal have been going through my mind for a while now.  So much so that I’m concerned I’m not being open to all the possibilities.  And maybe I’m not being realistic either.

But at this point I’m feeling pretty strongly about my next running goal, so I might as well get it out there.

My new running goal is a 50 mile race.

That being said, I’m reluctant to commit to anything right now.  It’s just too early.  I’d like some time to relax and just enjoy running and riding my bike, without worrying too much about a specific goal.

So I’ve been trying to figure out how to balance the need to start training for a 50 mile distance with my desire not to get too locked in too early.

Here’s the tentative plan:

Aim for a spring 2013 50 mile race.  That ought to give me enough time to adequately prepare for it.  I’m already exploring a few possible races, but registration hasn’t even started so I’m under no pressure to make a decision.

Start training now, focusing on getting out every day to do something.  The tentative training plan looks like this:

  • September-November:  build a base, go longer, start to develop strength
  • December-February:  focus on strength and speed, maintain base as much as possible
  • March-April:  increase distance again, lots of long tempo runs

All of this will include lots of hill work and climbing (as much as possible here in NJ).

I’ll probably take checkpoints at various times throughout the next few months, and I won’t hesitate to adjust my goals if things aren’t going well.  However, I need to be serious enough that I don’t just blow off training.  I guess that’s part of what I’m trying to assess–how serious am I about this?  I need to be serious enough and enjoy it enough that it doesn’t take plunking down money for me to be motivated.  It has to be intrinsic.  If it’s not, I’m backing off.

I’m really stoked about taking a crack at 50 miles.  There is no reason why I can’t do well at that distance.  And it’s cool to be thinking about a new distance and a new kind of race.

One thing I’m pretty sure about — I don’t see myself going back to road marathons any time soon.  I’m just too intrigued by running trails and longer distances right now.

Beyond the 50 mile race in the spring, I’m not sure what’s out there.  Thoughts of a better run at Pikes Peak are percolating, as are thoughts about even longer distances.  And every once in a while I think about a triathlon.

But all of those are for the future.  I don’t even want to spend a bunch of time thinking about the 50-mile race.  Sure, I will come up with a plan or approach to training.  But I’m not going to obsess about it.

Rather, I’m looking to just take it one day at a time.  Just stay in the moment, enjoy my workouts, take care of myself (eating, sleep, stretching, etc.) and look to make progress each day.


Progress

It’s been a while since my last post.  I always figured I’d get back to posting, but I guess I wasn’t ready until now.

I was in a pretty deep ditch a few months back.  I’m not sure if I’m still there.  It feels wrong to say I’m in a ditch–in a lot of ways it’s self-created.  That’s what I’m working through, one step at a time.

Every day brings a set of challenges, and sometimes I wonder why it seems like so much work just to get through a day.  But most days I feel pretty good.  It’s up and down.  I’m learning how to make it work, figuring it out on a daily basis.

Three weeks from now I’ll be sitting in a hotel room in Colorado Springs on the eve of the Pikes Peak Ascent.  It’s the first race of the Pikes Peak double.

I’m nowhere near where I had hoped to be at this time when I signed up to race the double.

My fitness for the past three months has mirrored my overall state–up and down.  For three weeks in May I ran a total of 7 miles, that’s it.  Starting in June I had six weeks of solid workouts, but those provided merely the start of some basic fitness.  The past week was spent on a backyard project (which I’ll get into some other time), so no workouts.  I ran yesterday for the first time in a week, and today I could barely walk when I got out of bed.  I spent the day in my walking boot.

I have no idea what the next three weeks will bring, or what will happen when I toe the line for the Ascent.

I plan to take it one day at a time.

But I’ll be there.  I’m actually stoked about it, despite my crap level of fitness.

A few months ago, when I authored that last post, I was pretty sure I was backing out of Pikes Peak this year.

Progress.

 


Week in review: April 16-22, 2012

This week was supposed to be a higher volume week, but my weekend family obligations sort of derailed that.  And I’m ok with that.  Caitryn had a once-in-a-lifetime event (first communion), and we had 30+ people to the house for a celebration of that plus 3 other birthdays.  So a big deal.  I traded volume for making sure I didn’t screw that up.  And 12 hours of workout time for the week should be enough for me to make progress.  Expecting more might be a bit greedy.

Here are stats for the week:

  • Runs:  2 for 26 miles, just over 4 hours, including the most intense run I’ve done in 6 months
  • Rides:  3 for 143 miles, 8 hrs and 21 minutes
  • Strength:  1 session that I probably won’t be doing again (more on that later)

If I had figured out a way to get the runs in this weekend, it would have been a great week and exactly to plan.  But I’m not going to go nuts thinking about it.  I’m just going to continue on Monday, trying to make things work.

I probably should report something about my efforts to “stay in the moment.”

From the not-a-surprise department, it works!  I am having much more fun putting my kids to bed, especially Callista (the two-year-old).  She’s crazy like any two-year-old who is just starting to figure things out.  Soon she’ll be running the house.  I used to stress out during that 60+ minute routine of putting her to bed.  But I’ve discovered that it’s actually pleasant when I just focus on that instead of trying to get it over with so I can do whatever I had planned to do next.

But it is hard for me to always stay in the moment.  This week, it was especially true for work, where I’m currently doing some computer-based training that’s pretty boring.  I (re-)learned that when I’m bored, I eat.  I expected some bumps in the road to focus, and overall my focus was better this week than in the past.  So progress there.

Details are below.

Monday (April 17)

This ride eliminated any concerns about the effects of few days off every once in a while.  It was the strongest I’ve felt in a long time.  63 miles in about 3 hrs, 30 minutes.  And while I realize that training workouts should not completely be measured by performance (they’re more about trying to evoke a response from your body), it’s nice to see an improvement in performance every once in a while.

Tuesday (April 18)

Went exploring today in Teetertown nature preserve.  Several of my runs include the ravine part of the reserve, but there is so much more to it.  My recent fishing trips with the kids motivated me to explore more of the preserve, as it is really interesting.  There are a few different types of workout I can get in this place, including:

  • Flat to rolling runs over longer distances in open fields
  • Trails with medium degrees of technical difficulty and short to medium but steep hills
  • Gravel surfaces for longer hills with medium grade inclines:  something like 1+ miles on a ~6% incline
  • One extremely steep trail section (12-15%) that is a tenth of a mile or two

In short, this place will be great for a bunch of different kinds of workout over the next 4 months.  I have no idea why it took me so long (almost 5 years) to discover this place.  Maybe it’s the sign that said:  “Caution:  Hunting allowed from September through February.”  But since it’s now April I’m not so worried about that.

Total time was about 2 hours, 47 minutes.  I’ll call it 17 miles but I don’t have any idea how long it really was.  I kept the intensity at MAF level.

Afterwards I did a strength workout that I regretted until Saturday.  3 iterations of:

  • Jumprope:  60 both legs, 25 each one leg, 60 both legs
  • Step-ups:  30 each leg
  • Single-sided stone squats:  7 with the stone on each side (total of 14 per iteration)

As the picture below suggests, I have a million rocks on my property, of all shapes and sizes.  So I have a ton of choices.  And does anyone need any rocks?  The rock I chose is in the center of the picture below.

I have no idea of the weight of the rock I decided to use.  That should have been a red flag.  My legs were sore for the next 3 days.  I need to re-think the objective of strength training for me, now that I’m about 16 weeks out from Pikes Peak.  I don’t think I should be doing anything new or crazy with strength workouts.  As I discovered this week, it might not help that much and could really disrupt my other training.

Wednesday (April 19)

My legs were really feeling sore from the workouts yesterday, so I cut short my planned ride.  Went 35 miles in 2 hrs, 12 minutes.  Given how sore my legs were, I tried to focus on easy gearing and high cadence.  That helped for a while, but I really suffered in the second half of this workout.

Thursday (April 20)

My legs were still sore, but I was ready to get some intensity in today.  I think yesterday’s bike ride really helped with recovery.  Enough so that I could do something today.  I returned to a staple training workout for my 2010 Pikes Peak effort, but I modified it slightly.  The workout was 3x over and back one of the hills in Schooley’s Mountain park.  The degree of technical difficulty on this trail is much less than the one I’ve been running on Schooley’s.  Each “over and back” includes:

  • About .6 mile hard effort (mostly uphill, some downhill).  Each of these lasts about 5 minutes.
  • About .3 mile recovery (downhill).  Each of these lasts 2-3 minutes.

So with 3 “over and back” repeats, I got just over 3.5 miles (6 x .6) of hard running in about 30 minutes.

My aim for these is what Jack Daniels calls “VO2max intervals,” which should be 95-100% of your max HR.

HR average for each of these hard efforts was 166-168.  So they might not be at 95-100% of my max HR yet.

I also put in a bit of progression work on the run home from the park, with my HR increasing every 3-4 minutes over the course of 17 minutes.  I maxed out at 175 in the sprint down my street to finish my run.

My legs weren’t feeling great at any point during this workout, but I was pleased with the intensity I was able to achieve.  I need to be able to sustain it for longer though.  That’s a major focus for the next three months.  About 9 miles in just under 1 hour, 21 minutes.

Friday (April 21)

Back to riding today.  My legs were actually feeling better than expected this morning.  The soreness from those ill-advised stone squats was finally subsiding, and yesterday’s interval session caused less lingering pain than expected.  So I added some intensity to this.  Again trying to focus on high cadence, easier gearing.

45 miles in 2 hrs, 39 minutes.

Saturday (April 22)

For a brief moment, I considered trying to sneak in a workout early in the morning.  But I had stayed up late the previous night (preparing for the party), and I was tired, and I didn’t want to take any chances.  So I skipped it.

Sunday (April 23)

More family stuff mid-morning through mid-afternoon.  Callista is in that mode where she wants to skip her afternoon nap.  Given her late bedtime last night (and no nap, and a ton of activity), she absolutely needed one today.  So I decided to make it a team effort – I took an afternoon nap too.

I probably could have figured out a way to get something in today, but I was mentally 0ff with no interest in fitness.  Hoping this is just a passing wave of dis-interest.  Took a zero today on fitness.


When to not run

Recently I’ve started to ramp my weekly mileage up.  The past two weeks I was in the 65+ mile range.

My personal history suggests that 65+ miles per week is about when I start to risk injury, so I’ve been paying more attention than usual to how I feel.

Sure enough, on Thursday morning (the morning after an 18 mile trail run), I woke up with a bit of pain in my right foot.  The pain wasn’t too severe, but I have been conservative.  I rode my bike Thursday morning, which didn’t seem to affect the pain at all.

Friday morning – it hasn’t gone away.  I scrapped my planned run.  At this point, it isn’t worth risking more injury just to get another run in.

I’ll ride on Saturday, then take another checkpoint on Sunday.

I’m not willing to risk another injury just to get a run in.  Perhaps I’m starting to learn something?

=====

On another note related to not running, my 7-year-old Caitryn (figured it was time to start using her name) decided to quit the track team this week.  After speaking with my wife and I, she concluded that she didn’t really like being on the team.

My wife and I actually initiated the question of whether she really wanted to be on the team.

For the past 3 track practices, Caitryn had experienced ‘injuries’ that kept her from running.  The most recent ‘injury’ was the strangest – it struck right before we left for practice.  At practice she could only walk the warmup and do the running drills.  Nothing else.  The injury (miraculously) healed in the car on the way home, to the point where she was excited to run up our driveway, a 30-40 foot elevation gain over a tenth of a mile (not trivial).

It had become pretty clear that she just didn’t want to be on the team.  She also recently decided not to play soccer this fall.

That’s perfectly fine with me.  Track, and actually any organized sport these days, just isn’t for her right now.  And I don’t want to force her into something and cause her to end up hating it.  We did wrestle with the concept of quitting vs. making a commitment.  We wanted to make sure that Caitryn understood what it means to make a commitment and keep it.  But in the end, the concern over Caitryn hating running was too high – we decided to teach her the commitment lesson another way.

Also, it is still important for her to be healthy, fit and strong.

So instead of track team, we’re going to have some fun.  We’re going to do more play…things like playgrounds, bike riding, walking/hiking, maybe even a trampoline in the back yard.

As a parent, it’s easier for me to schlep my kid to a 2-3 hour track practice twice a week than it is to take an active role in her daily activities.  Sometimes I think organized sports is more useful for me as a parent than it is for my kid.  And I’ve been a coach as well as a parent.

Well, we’re trying something different now.  Now we’re spreading the 5 hours per week we would ordinarily spend at track practice over the course of a week.  Maybe adding more hours.  And taking a more active role in getting out with the kids and having fun.

Today we’re going to a high school softball game that is located in the same place as the track meet that Caitryn would have run if she were still on the team.  Ironic.

I’m really looking forward to it, more than if she were running in the meet.


A new way of thinking about goals

“I know there’s a balance, I see it when I swing past.”

John Mellencamp, Between a Laugh and a Tear

I’ve been thinking about my goal for my next race ever since my original goal went out the window.

Like most things, I’m probably thinking too much about it.

I’ve been wondering whether I should set my goals based on a rational process or whether I should just discover (or uncover) them.  If the key to achieving a goal is being motivated and committed, it’s better to just listen to what my “inner self” is saying.  Those urges, and the stuff I find interesting, will probably motivate me more than anything I can cook up.

At least it’ll be better than saying I want to do something that seems reasonable until I actually have to get out and do it.

Along those lines, here is a preliminary list of concepts that I’ve been exploring, the things that are most interesting to me right now with respect to running:

  • Dial in on a new nutrition strategy.  I’ve written a lot about my eating habits and my exploration of Paleo.  It’s occupied much of my attention over the past 3 months.  I believe nutrition is the foundation of fitness.
  • Explore new training strategies.  These strategies include higher mileage running, shorter but more frequent strength work and different allocations of workouts over the course of a week.
  • Rest (sleep) more.  This isn’t overly complicated, but it does take more time!
  • Enjoy the experience of running.  No explanation required

Looking at this list, I think my current focus is on resetting the foundation of my running.  I did well in a couple of races in late 2010 and early 2011, and that led me to think bigger for the upcoming years.  But to get to those bigger goals, I need to build a better foundation.  I might have been able to PR on my old running foundation, but it was showing cracks.  I don’t know if I could have gotten much farther beyond a PR.

Recently I’ve also been thinking about whether I should (or how I can) bake running more effectively into my every day life.  Be more steady and consistent about it.  Get to the point where it doesn’t dominate for too long, and it doesn’t hibernate for too long either.

Right now the effort I put into running is a bit too extreme—it’s either unsustainably high or ineffectively low.  I emphasize 1-2 races a year and put a big effort into getting as fit as possible to race them.  Then, after a race, I let go and decompress.  I need time to recover from the effort I put into the race.  I don’t run much and I regress in my level of fitness.  Then, for the next race, I end up re-covering a lot of fitness ground that I’ve let lapse.

Compare that with what might happen if I focused more on the every day aspects of running as opposed to 1-2 races.  What if I just ran because I love to run instead of because I need to get faster for my next race?  What if I didn’t completely restrict eating junk food, but I didn’t go overboard either?  Could I create a sustainable running/fitness workload that I could manage for extended periods of time?

I wouldn’t stop racing.  But instead of using races as the prime motivator for all things fitness, they would be more like checkpoints where I would test my fitness.

I don’t remember ever cramming for a test during my four years in college.  Not once.  I didn’t have to cram—I had a routine of consistently studying and dedicating time to learning.  Taking a test was just a checkpoint along the way.  I didn’t need to find extra time to do it.  The time was just there.

I don’t remember ever worrying about a test either.  In my opinion, I either knew the stuff or not.  If I felt like I knew the material and still bombed the test, that was ok.  If I did great on the test but didn’t feel like I knew the material, that would be a problem.  My thinking was longer term than the next test.

These weren’t the thoughts of a normal college kid, but I still did well in school.

I’m thinking I should adopt a similar perspective on running as I had on studying.  That is, the first priority is to create a good, sustainable set of habits.  When races (tests) come, I’m going to rely on those habits to carry me.  I can do really well with a good, sustainable set of habits.  Sure, I might need to increase the intensity before one or two particularly big races, but I won’t do it for long enough to burn me out.

Adding it all up, I wonder if my goal should be to create a set of fitness habits that I can sustain for longer than 4 months.  It might mean running shorter distances more frequently.  It might mean getting away from a complete restriction on junk food (followed by the inevitable binge).  It might mean I run in the middle of the day sometimes (instead of only in the morning).  I’m not entirely sure what it means.

As for this race in November, I’m not going to set a time goal for it.  I’m going to run whatever I can.  If I can create a set of good, sustainable fitness habits by the time the race arrives, that would be a good enough outcome for me.  I’ll get back to worrying about my PR in 2012.


Relaxation…not just during a run

I have vivid memories of a baseball practice about 25 years ago.  My coach grabbed a bat, gripped the handle tightly and banged it against the bleachers.  The bat sounded dead, lifeless.  Then he relaxed his grip and banged it against the bleachers again.  The bat sounded entirely different; it rang out loud and strong.

My coach was making a critical point—when you grip the bat too tightly, you choke the life out of it.  By loosening your grip, you make the bat work more effectively for you.  A relaxed grip is the best for hitting well.

That relaxation principle applies almost universally.  Have you tried riding a bicycle with your hands tightly gripping the handlebars and your arms locked?  Have you tried driving a car with a tight grip on the steering wheel and your arms stiff?  Same idea—relaxing almost always leads to better performance.

Running is no different from hitting a baseball, riding a bicycle or driving a car.  When you’re tense, you can’t run your best.  Your energy goes to the wrong places, your breathing is labored and your stride is off.  By relaxing you can almost always run faster.

Relaxing can also help on a daily basis outside of the act of running itself.  Sometimes I get wrapped around the axle with all the aspects of my training program—runs, strength work, nutrition, rest/recovery—it’s overly regimented.  When I perform poorly in a workout, miss some stretching or get insufficient sleep, I sometimes over-react.  I get overly upset about it.

Does the extra stress keep me from being at my best?  Yes.

Learning to relax during a run is difficult but leads to better performance.

For me, learning to relax after a run is just as difficult (if not more).  Once I learn how to do it, things could improve dramatically.