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.



Week in review: April 23-29, 2012

Nothing much got done this week.

It’s not useful for me to assign a “good” or “bad” value to the week; the only thing that matters is the numbers and how I feel.  Right now the numbers are low and I feel even lower.

  • Runs:  1 for 18 miles, 2 hours and 36 minutes
  • Rides:  1 for 35 miles, 2 hours and 11 minutes

That’s the third lowest weekly total for me this year and the lowest in 6 weeks.

My eating was ok for the first few days but poor towards the end of the week.  I slept enough hours, but it’s easy to do that when I don’t care when I get up and I don’t have any workouts planned.  I just sleep until 6 or 7 am.

I blew an opportunity to put in a good amount of volume before the coming week, which I know will be difficult for me from a fitness standpoint.  This week I plan just to run for enjoyment.  No specific workouts, just running for the fun of getting out and seeing places.  I’ll be traveling, so I’m hoping to see some new sights and cities.

Right now, fitness really isn’t on the top of my mind, nor should it be.  I’ve got to deal with this crap feeling that I’ve got.  And it isn’t even physical, it’s more emotional and mental.  I don’t think it will “heal” like a broken bone, so I need to work more seriously at it.

I think it’s time for me to acknowledge that there is something bigger going on here, something more important that’s wrong.  I’ll be writing more on that in the very near future.

Below is the detail on my week in fitness.  It’s a short post.

Monday (April 23)

Zero.  No interest in running today.  The weekend was fun, but it was past.  This was just a lack of motivation to get out of bed and into running.

Tuesday (April 24)

Three days between my last workout and this one.  I was interested to see what would happen.  18 miles by doing 4 loops in Schooley’s Mountain park.  This time I added a twist.  The first two loops I’d run at MAF intensity, the last two loops I would run hard.

The first two loops were slow.  I did not feel good.

On the last two loops, I was weak.  I had very little strength to run hard uphill.

For every loop, on the downhill and walking portions (there are lots of rocks), my heart rate went super-low.  I have no idea why.

Average HR 144 for the whole run, including the hard parts.  Two hours, 36 minutes.

I have no idea what to make of this workout.

Wednesday (April 25)

Got out for a bike ride today, 35 miles.  I felt ok, not sluggish.  But again I just could not generate any force, power or speed.  It was a very different feeling compared to the past few weeks, where I was either sore or sluggish.  This just felt weak and slow.

Turns out that it wasn’t a terrible ride, but it just did not feel good.  Two hours, 11 minutes.

Thursday – Sunday (April 26-29)

Four straight zeroes.

No motivation whatsoever.  On Saturday and Sunday, I forced myself to at least get out and split some wood.  But it was really hard.

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.

Fun with a graph

I’m a big fan of Edward Tufte.  I’ve been to a couple of his training seminars and I’ve got a bunch of his books.  The guy is brilliant.  One of these guys who just thinks on a different plane than most everyone else.  I appreciate his perspective on PowerPoint.  Basically, ditch it.

Or, his invention of the “sparkline,” which is showing up more and more these days.

Sometimes I get inspired to try and emulate Tufte.  Or at least not embarass myself.

This morning I thought it might be interesting to see if I could figure out some way to visualize my workouts for the year.

Luckily, this year I started tracking all my workouts in Excel.  So I have the data.

Here is a graph that I came up with quickly, without much thinking.  I know I have to look at the data more to figure out how to best visualize it.  But this ain’t a bad start.

This graph shows my running and riding for the year.  I normalized my riding into “mile equivalents” – basically I divided my riding mileage by 4 to get something comparable to running mileage.  The riding mileage line is stacked on top of the running line.  So weeks 6 and 8 below are zero or low running mileage but high riding mileage (close to 200 real riding miles per week).  Weeks 13 and 14 are high running mileage but low riding mileage.

What does this graph indicate?

It looks like I’ve had an up and down year.  I recall my foot injury happening during weeks 6-8.  Overall, the up and down wouldn’t be bad – it would indicate a repeating pattern of build up then rest/recover.  However, I think the “rest/recover” periods have been too low and too long.  It’s a bit too lumpy.  Ideally, the blue line would never dip below 20 and the red line would never dip below 40.  And they would only be that low for a week, never two weeks.

I like the upward progression of my volume over the past 6 weeks.  But I don’t think I need to be doing too much more volume.  That is, I don’t think the blue line needs to go much over 60 and the red line needs to go much over 80.  I’d be ok if the red line went higher, but when the blue line hits 70 that’s potential injury time.

I’d like to have more of a steady relationship between my riding and my running.  That is, I’d like the distance between the red and blue lines to be the same throughout the graph, except during rest weeks.  During a rest week I’d expect to ride more, which would increase the distance between the red and the blue lines.

So what’s the point?

I’m not surprised by the look of this graph.  It does give me a better sense of what I should be doing.  Namely, I should be making sure I keep to a minimum number of miles per week, and I should take care not to let the “down” weeks last for too long.

I already knew these things, but it doesn’t hurt to reinforce it through another way of visualizing my workouts for the year.

I recognize that this first iteration is an extremely limited (at best) view of my training.  It could be misleading.  It is completely focused on volume, or quantity.  There is no representation of quality.  And we know that 55 miles per week in 3 high quality runs is better than 55 in 5 low quality runs.  So I need to figure out a way to graphically depict quality.  Not simple to do.

I’m open to suggestions on how to evolve this.


Week in Review: April 9-15, 2012

This was a different sort of week for me, a self-imposed rest week.  Or rest weekend.  After two straight high volume weeks, I decided to take a long weekend off.

It started with my decision to take a day off from running.  That felt good, so I decided to take two more off.  Those decisions were partly based on recognizing commitments and obligations beyond fitness and partly based on the need to simply disconnect from fitness.  I think that’s good every once in a while.  My performance had been slipping, so I’m hoping the rest will give me the opportunity to come back stronger.

I felt sluggish all week.  Not sure why, but one suspect is that I donated blood last Friday.  I don’t know how that affects fitness.  Perhaps it doesn’t affect fitness, but it temporarily affects performance.  How temporarily, I don’t know.

One other consideration – I am in process of transitioning to a higher volume approach to fitness.  More running, more riding.  In the past, I would run or ride only 5 days a week, and it was common for me to take 2 days (the weekend) off.  In that context, taking three days off really is not all that strange.

And I did actually manage to still get in a pretty good bit of volume, even in four days.

  • Runs:  2 for 30 miles, 4 hours 18 minutes
  • Rides:  2 for 80 miles, 5 hours
  • No strength work this week.  I will start to regret that if I don’t do it
  • Sleep:  Close to 7 hours average per night, almost 1 hour more than past weeks…so I did get some “rest”

9+ hours of workout time in a “down” week is nothing to sneeze at.

The other reason why I took the weekend off was a quick peek ahead in the calendar.

Looking ahead, I’ve got two fairly open weeks followed by a week of travel.  So the plan is to go big volume for the two upcoming weeks, making for two big volume (the past two), one down (this week), two more big volume (next two).

Oh, and I don’t feel pain in my right foot.  How about that.

Making my way through Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  It’s been more difficult than I anticipated.

Details are below.

Monday (April 9)

I had planned a longer ride today, but things at work got a little tight.  So I opted for a shorter ride, which ended up a good thing.  Classic spring day in the form of a rough wind…to the tune of 25+ miles an hour.  I would not have enjoyed a longer bike ride.  Riding straight into the wind felt like I was on a trainer.  No forward motion.  It was interesting to see what happened as I came into open fields (there are lots of those around my house with all the farms)—my bike was almost knocked over.  I felt sluggish on this ride, like I could not find my form.  Not sure if it was the wind or why, but I felt off.  35 miles, 2 hrs, 11 minutes.  Really off from a performance standpoint.

Tuesday (April 10)

Another step towards increasing the intensity.  Just getting slowly back into it.  On the flat crushed gravel of the Columbia Trail, I did 8 x half mile, with a quarter mile recovery.  These felt awful.  Like I couldn’t get going.  Times reflected that, ranging from 3:30 per to 3:39 per.  Including warm-up and cool-down, the total was 12 miles in 1 hr, 40 minutes.

After this run I spent a lot of time thinking about what I really needed to perform well at Pikes Peak.  I’m going to elaborate on this in future posts, but I was happy (maybe delusional) to conclude that raw speed wasn’t super important.  I don’t have much of that right now.  In the future, it will be more important to develop strength and endurance than raw speed.  So if I can only run an 8 minute mile now, it’s OK because when I run up the hill I will be running much slower than that.  More on this in the future.

Wednesday (April 11)

Back into the rocky trail at Schooley’s Mountain Park.  I almost feel like my training mantra should be “hills and trails never fails.”  When in doubt, I should just run a hill or a trail.  Hills for the strength, trails for the technical skills.  I really need to just plan for hills and trails each week.

Four loops on the 3.5 mile trail, MAF intensity.  Felt sluggish again, but at least this time I did not fall.  I did roll my right foot/ankle though.  Not sure if this was the pain I felt on Thursday.  18 miles, 2 hrs, 38 minutes (3 minutes slower than the same route last week).  Average HR 144.  The positive out of this run was that I did four loops, two in each direction.  For each pair of loops, the second was as fast as the first.  I hope that’s a positive…I need something positive.

Thursday (April 12)

Riding again today.  Thankfully, less wind.  45 miles, 2 hours 50 minutes.  Again, super slow compared to what I’ve been doing.  Just not feeling strong like past weeks.  It was a beautiful day and the ride was good for the soul.

Another positive about this ride—I have a real reason for wanting to get into the neighborhood of 3 hours for a bike ride.  I’m anticipating that 3 hours is about how long it will take me to run up Pikes Peak.  So any time I can get 3 hours of workout in, I feel like I’m approaching what I might do on Pikes Peak.  I believe this will help me build enough aerobic fitness to feel like 3 hours is not such a big deal.

Friday (April 13)

No workout today, as I described in this post.

So what did we do?  I took the two girls out Friday afternoon for an awesome day…we

  • Watched softball
  • Hiked through the woods to retrieve softballs
  • Invented some sort of game in the bleachers of the football field
  • Walked around a bit and watched some baseball

No question, the girls got more exercise than if Caitryn had been running track.  And they had more fun too.

Saturday (April 14)

Another family commitment for mid-morning.  I could have woken up early to get out for a couple hours riding, but I decided against it.  Just wanting a rest.

Instead, we went fishing.  Three or four fish (blue gills) in 3-4 hours of time, probably 2 hours of fishing.  If they keep wanting to go, I’ll keep taking them.

After we got home from fishing, I tried to burn a bunch of wood in the outside fire pit but stopped.  Too dangerous with dry conditions and a pretty stiff wind.

Dinner outside on the back porch tonight.  Need to do more of that.  It was nice.

Sunday (April 15)

Day off.  Spent the day with the girls and just reading.  Needing a mental break.

Week in Review: April 2-8, 2012

Mileage was the key theme for this week.  This week offered more opportunity to put in some time – my wife and kids were out of town and work was slow.  I put the time to good use:

  • Running:  5 runs for 73 miles, 11+ hours
  • Riding:  1 ride for 64 miles, just under 4 hours
  • strength:  1 strength workout (not counting Saturday)

Together with last week, this represents the highest mileage I’ve logged in a long time.  And I have been feeling fatigue and some aches.  But it doesn’t seem serious.  I should feel better as my body adapts to the mileage.  I could also get a lot of benefit by improving my nutrition and rest/recovery.  It hasn’t been terrible, but I know I’m not eating well enough or sleeping enough.  That will become a bigger and bigger constraint over time until I fix it.

I’m thinking through the balance of mileage and intensity that I need/want to go for.  This higher mileage has been almost exclusively at a lower intensity.  With Pikes Peak just under 19 weeks away, I think I need to start increasing my intensity.  I will probably start adding intensity in the coming weeks.  In last week’s review, I also suggested that 55-65 miles per week was about right for me.  I still think that’s accurate, especially when I’m at higher intensity.

One positive aspect of this week’s training were the back-to-back runs.  I managed to sneak in runs on Monday and Tuesday (this was three in a row considering that I ran Sunday), then again on Thursday and Friday.  Each set of back-to-back runs covered 28+ miles.  On the other hand, my running performance has been worsening over time.  I’m not sounding an alarm bell on that yet…there are too many things changing, especially the mileage (which keeps going up).

I could see next week being either another relatively low intensity week with lots of mileage.  Or it could be lower mileage and higher intensity.  I’ll just have to let it play out.

I’m watching a replay of Paris-Roubaix.  I don’t know what people think of pro bike racers, but I’ve got to give them credit for riding this race.  It’s vicious.

Details of this week are below.

Monday (April 2)

Treadmill “hill” workout.  The treadmill starts to take on an increased importance for me in the coming weeks.  I don’t necessarily like it, but it’s the best way for me to get the effect of a big uphill.  This run was 12 miles, with the last 11 miles coming at grades between 9-15% on the mill.  I was really happy with this, especially since yesterday’s workout was on a hill.  Two hill workouts in a row.  HR average 145, 2 hrs, 23 minutes.  That’s a long time for 12 miles, but it was a pretty steep incline.

Tuesday (April 3)

On the rocky trails in Schooley’s Mountain Park again.  Cool but not cold.  Breezy.  Perfect spring day.  This will need to be another staple run for me–to help develop technical skills.  It’s obvious that I need some work on the trails.  I fell a couple times towards the end…when I get tired, it gets harder for me to clear the rocks and roots.  This was 4 loops on a 3.5 mile loop.  Add the distance to and from the park, and the total is 18 miles.  2 hours, 34 minutes.  HR average 143.

Post-run:  Body weight leg strength workout.  Five iterations of:

  • Jumprope:  50 both legs, 20 each leg (single), 50 both
  • 20 step-ups each leg
  • 20 prisoner squats

Not sure what to expect tomorrow.  This body weight workout usually makes me feel bad.

Wednesday (April 4)

Felt better than expected getting up today–I must be getting a bit stronger on the body weight strength workout.  Glad to get on the bike today.  This was a new route that covered 64 miles, give or take a couple (I got lost).  Rode into Pennsylvania.  Really happy with this.  Even as I get more fatigued, I’m feeling stronger and stronger on the bike.  This has to be a good sign.  3 hrs, 57 minutes.

Thursday (April 5)

Easy running in Schooley’s Mountain Park, with 12 short hill sprints in the middle.  Took the dog and was able to let him off leash.  He’s like a pig in slop when he’s running off leash in a park like that.  He’s great to run with…stays close and is really a joy to watch run.  7 miles, 1 hr 6 minutes.  Did not wear the HR monitor.

Any time I can get onto a trail, it’s helpful.

The hill sprints didn’t feel great, but I wanted to get a bit of intensity going.

Friday (April 6)

Long run today…Columbia Trail to High Bridge.  This is a very different trail than the one in Schooley’s Mountain Park.  This one is flat and smooth.  The one in Schooley’s Mountain Park is hilly and super-rocky.  While this run didn’t help me develop trail running skills, it was nice to get off the asphalt and onto the crushed gravel.  Mostly flat (except the beginning and end).

I decided to kick up the intensity for about 2.5 miles towards the end of this.  Instead of my usual HR range near 145, I increased the intensity to an average of 156.  The running felt labored, even though I was trying to relax.  I felt really bad after this; the rest of the run was terrible.

21 miles in 3 hrs, 17 minutes.  HR average 146.

Afternoon:  Donated blood.  Wondering if I should work out on Saturday…was encouraged not to do anything “strenuous” for 24 hours.  Does a MAF run count as “strenuous?”

Saturday (April 7)

Woke up feeling weak and sore.  Felt better (as usual) after stretching.  Debated a ride, but decided against it.

Instead, decided to do a heavy bit of yard work.  4+ hours in the yard, divided pretty evenly between splitting fire wood and moving a large pile of rocks.  At some point I’ll take a picture of my yard.  I’ve got just over 3 acres.  One “benefit,” if you could call it that, is that I’ve got plenty of rocks to move around in case I want strength work.  I just go outside and lift some rocks.

Although I won’t log it as a strength workout, I don’t feel bad about taking the day “off” in the form of 4+ hours of outside work.

Sunday (April 8)

Debated whether to ride or run today.  I felt good enough to do either.  In the first 6 days of this week, I’d run 58 miles and ridden 64.  I get nervous when the running miles start to hit the upper 60s.  But I decided to run anyway.  The big driver for the decision to run was actually the coming week.  It’s setting up like I’ll be running Tuesday and Wednesday, so I reserved my ride for Monday.

Easy 15 miles, very careful not to risk  injury.  2 hrs, 18 minutes.  HR average 145.  Another beautiful day of weather.

Pennsylvania Riding and TED

Yesterday I rode to this place.

It’s the Delaware River, which separates Pennsylvania from New Jersey.  I actually rode over the river into PA, then back again.

It’s an amazing, majestic thing.

I’ve been itching to increase the distance of my bike rides, and I’ve also been enamored with this notion of riding into different states.  I can get into PA with a ride of about 50 miles, and I can get into New York with a ride of about 110 miles.  This particular ride was 65 miles or thereabouts.

I was shocked when I saw the river.  I’ve crossed it hundreds of times, but always in a car.  This was the first time I’ve ridden so close to it.  I recall climbing up the road that hugged the river, getting to the top of the banks, and looking down on this awesome spectacle.  It felt right to me.  I felt like I belonged in that place, that I had earned the right to see that view, that through my own power I had gotten myself to that high place on the banks of the river, with the hills of northwestern NJ in the background.  It was beautiful.

This morning I dove deeply into TED talks.  I’m late to the TED party for sure.  I had discovered them a while back, but this week I decided to listen to a few.  I got pretty engrossed in it today.  It’s great because they’re only 20 minutes long – a great length.  There are lots of great topics, and the speakers that I’ve seen are good.

This one by Susan Cain on introverts really resonated with me.  There is no doubt that I’m an introvert.  The word that connected most with me was “solitude.”  It actually brought me back to the previous day, when I was riding along that river, with nobody but me out there.  Not too many feelings better than that for me.  Listening to that talk on introverts made me feel pretty good today.  Once again the notion of being myself and being happy about it.

Then I stumbled onto this talk and this talk by Dr. Brene Brown.  These also hit home, but in a much more fuzzy way.  The words “vulnerability,” “shame,” “courage,” “authenticity” are a bit scary to me.  But I think there is something really profound and powerful in the concepts that Dr. Brown introduced.  I’m definitely going to peer into the dark, dusty corners of my soul with these concepts.  I don’t claim to have any answers, but I’m excited to explore that stuff.  If I can learn anything or improve even a little in the areas that Dr. Brown mentions, it’s going to be a big deal.

I’m hoping I don’t develop a TED addiction.  One thing I’m trying to do is reduce the constant sensory assault that comes from information.  I’m an information junkie, so TED has the potentially to really make me crazy.  I’m needing some quiet time, so hopefully I can put TED in the proper place.