Monday, March 30, 2015

Weekly Recap 3/23 - 3/39/15 : Bumps in the road

8 miles of commuting on the bike - in a t-shirt. Warm weather is awesome.

12.5 miles - 1:48 - +/-1253'  - Feeling super "meh" from staying up late the night before. The aforementioned research paper came down to the wire, of course. I drank some magic Vega Sports Pre-workout snake oil placebo powder (it might be legit - I don't care either way) and headed out the door with no real plan. The beautiful combination of having a GPS watch and having someone telling me what to do allows me to just run until I hit 50% of the prescribed distance, then head home. As usual, the run became more enjoyable the further I got from the really familiar area surrounding my apartment. I hadn't run away from the mountains in a while, so I took the Arizona Trail South. Some gently rolling and sparsely technical trails felt perfect for the slightly tired mood I was in. I got exactly to 5 miles on my Suunto, and was standing at a sign that said "Fischer Pt. Vista 1.2 Miles." I was supposed to run 10 miles, but I just can't resist a good vista. The rolling, open spaces quickly turned into a technical 1 mile climb to one of the more awe-inspiring views I've seen lately. Sedona is beautiful with its red rocks, but the midwesterner in me will always love greenery. All of a sudden, I've got a new favorite route from home.

8 miles on the bike again, to and from campus.

8 miles - 1:08 - 5 road miles to get Kelsey's car from the shop with her. I felt a bit dizzy and confused, so I went home with her instead of putting three more in alone. I grabbed a GU and some orange juice. I've been oddly prone to hypoglycemia symptoms lately, and some quick-acting sugar seems to perk me up. I think my eating habits aren't quite catching up to my running habits. Running at a "base building" or "long run" pace seems to decrease my appetite. Anyway, I felt better after a few minutes and cranked out the last 5k of the run in a little over 21:00.

8 miles of bike commuting to/from simulation lab, where I attempt to not kill plastic humans with weird blinking eyes.

11 miles - 2:00 - +/-2400' - Attempted long run was an utter bust. Kelsey had been having some cold-like symptoms for a few days, and I was optimistically thinking I could avoid catching it because I'm so healthy, what with my shitty eating habits, irregular sleep patterns, increased training load, and general tendencies to be sick often. I caught it, but thought I could grind the long run out anyway. "It will be good for me. If I can get through this, it will make racing that much easier and boost my confidence." As I drove down to Sedona, I was beginning to understand that doing a 19 mile loop on a trail this tough alone, trying to beat the sunset, was probably a bit foolish. After about 1 mile, I consumed most of my water and still felt dried out and exhausted. I trekked up the Wilson Mountain Trail anyway because it was beautiful, but surrendered the long run in favor of a leisurely hike. I wished Kelsey was with me, as these are usually our favorite type of outings, but I found some peace in the solitude.
As long as I kept the intensity low, I could sustain movement. Nothing keeps intensity low like taking pictures of flowers and shit. 

These views don't really get old. Trust me. I've been here like four times.

"Precariously and pensively sitting on a rock" photo: check. 

Rest day - Intended to be a rest day after the long run, but instead is was the peak day for this cold. It was convenient, since I had to drive to my clinical rotation anyway, which takes up a whole day in itself.

Should I even keep logging the bike commute? Seems redundant. 8 miles, though.

12 miles - interval workout - 4 mile warmup, to Buffalo Park/USFS trails, then 10x1min at 5k pace. This went surprisingly well, considering that being sick has consumed my life in the past few days. I think I'm on the mend. Workouts seldom provide a whole lot of scenery, but I really enjoy the experience of feeling my body run. Long, slow runs make me observe the environment, whereas more intense workouts make me observe myself. I like the balance.

9 miles - 1:15:00 - Just a cruise on some two tracks, some urban trails, and some sidewalks. Just one of those runs that had to be done. The route was decidedly not creative, but 8 miles easy is 8 miles easy. Some quiet time and a little exploring the outskirts of town. Worse ways to spend an hour certainly exist.

12 miles - 1:40ish - Although I typically do 10 day cycles, the Sunday night run usually makes me feel like something is coming to a close. Maybe it's something as simple as the term "miles per week" making me quantify and qualify my running and life accordingly. 8.5 miles with Kelsey around town and campus, then 3.5 alone on the mesa. The moon was bright enough to light my way without a headlight. When my eyes adjusted, the world became pale and surreal with only dark and black. It was different, or least my state of mind was, from the usual. Gratitude for being able to move like this was almost overwhelming.

64.5 miles of running
12.5 hours of total activity, all things included.

I recently peeped someone else's training blog and found it boring and self-indulgent so I'm posting this with some hesitation.

Enjoy yourselves and each other.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Redundant Training Log with Photographs

8 miles  - 1:14:00 - +/-627' - Another night run from home to the USFS trails. The paths back there seem to spiderweb and rearrange themselves when I'm not looking. I can always find my way home, but usually by stumbling upon a familiar intersection that calms my mounting concern that I may have to start bushwhacking and hope for the best. A fun and slightly unnerving aspect of these solo night runs are reflective green eyes in the woods. When on the mesa or in the park, I'll illuminate several (up to 20 so far) sets of eyes at once. When my eyes adjust, I can see the silhouettes of deer and all is well. On this particular evening, I was at a slightly higher elevation along the boulders at the base of mount Elden. I saw one solitary set of green eyes staring at me for what felt like several minutes. Neither of us looked away. I didn't die and nothing came of it as usual. Probably a small cat or something, but I can't always resist the urge to indulge my own imagination.

3 miles - 25:00 - Immediately after getting home, I realized I had promised to buy toothpaste. Funny how the last 1% of a tube can last two weeks. You haven't been broke (or lazy) until you've taken a pair of scissors to a tube of toothpaste. Anyway, I didn't want to get my car all muddy or shower so I added bonus miles.

AM - 7.5 miles - 1:15:00 - +/- 469' - Kelsey and I ran the iconic West Fork Trail near the village of Oak Creek. We had been in search of a run that felt more like home. As much as I like the challenge of rocks, dust, and sun exposure, I'll admit that a gently rolling, nontechnical trail near water was just what I needed. A beautiful creek with lots of greenery and grandiose red cliffs, along with 14 crossings to splash through, felt like a small vacation. The trail was far from secluded, but sharing a place with other people is understood in such a popular spot.

PM - 4 miles - 45:00 - We hopped in the car and figured there was time to get a peek at Devil's Bridge before heading home. Some rugged dirt road to a trailhead, then a short uphill rock staircase to the turnaround. Being new to an area and seeing the requisite sights has been good for running.

Totally staged. The trail goes nowhere. Cool, right?
20.5 miles - 3:50:00 - +/- 3100' - This run meant a great deal to me. Multiple failed attempts at solo long efforts had me concerned that I just didn't have it in me anymore to do this. I worried that I lacked the attention span or the discipline to get out and not come back until the goal distance was met. I had 20 miles on the Calendar, and feared that I'd come up with a reason to quit. The long, solo run in the trails is the crux of ultramarathon running in my mind. Being able to enjoy and focus on a long, sustained effort is what makes the sport unique, and this is my first time doing it in quite some time. For the last couple years, I've taken some pride in my ability to quit when things aren't fun. I rationalized that it was me "being true to myself" and that I could be successful by doing exactly what I want and nothing more. The truth is that it doesn't work that way. I'm learning (or perhaps re-learning) that joy and satisfaction come from the toils that we donn't quite think we can endure. I occasionally considered calling it a day, or going home to get some food and resuming the run later. Not doing so, I believe, came from having a real plan. Today was long run day, and tomorrow was rest day. If I put the rest of the run off until tomorrow, I'd cut into an important rest period, which cuts into the hill repeats the day after that.

The run itself was enjoyable, with no set route in mind. I jogged the two miles to Buffalo Park, then up the Oldham Trail to Lookout Road. It's 7.5 miles of mostly climbing. I attempted to posthole through the  snow on the Sunset trail, but quickly got frustrated when the ice was drawing blood on my sockless ankles and calves. Well, that, and I lost the trail and ended up on the side of the mountain. I scrambled back down to the road and continued to the Rocky Ridge Trail, where I did a couple miles out/back. Oldham/Buffalo Park/urban trail home. Though I'm supposed to be in a base-building mode, I felt a strong urge to be off of a flat, boring trail and ran the last mile in 6:40.

OFF - Rest day on the calendar, so I abstained from running. The slight lethargy I felt in my long run also encouraged a day off. A bike ride to lunch and back was all the activity my body saw. It felt good and weird. I had the whole day off of school and work as well, so I didn't really have anything to build my day around. This was evident by me doing nothing productive aside from cleaning the kitchen and obsessing over when my new running shoes would get here.

10 miles - hill workout - 4 mile warmup with Kelsey to and around Buffalo Park, then my first workout in a few weeks. 8x60seconds with approximately 90seconds rest (or the time it took to scuffle back down to the start). 4 miles easy to cool down. Workouts are a nice distraction from the fact that I'm out jogging 10 miles. Breaking it up into a warmup, workout, and cooldown made it more manageable in my mind. The workout itself wasn't incredibly strenuous, but made me gasp for air and shake the dust off.

I sit here now, attempting to write a research paper and wonder why I can't. I've scrutinized running, nature, and my life to a great degree of late. The deadline is fast approaching, and I keep shying away from the word document. "Early Ambulation compared to Late Ambulation in Post-Operative Patients" is fairly interesting to me, but I can't seem to grind the paper out. It makes me wonder if I have any say-so at all about what I become fixated on. Stakes are relatively high, and I'm aware that this work will be reviewed by a notoriously tough grader. Instead of facing the problem head-on, I'm avoiding it, and wondering why. Sure, it's banal nonsense that strikes me as a feeble attempt to make things seem harder in order to justify its own existence, but I have to do it. More importantly, I have to do it so I can get it the hell out of the way, freeing me up to do things I enjoy. I'm fairly clever, but my laziness outweighs it in most circumstances, like this one.

AM - 6 miles - 50 minutes - +/-430' - Easy six miles on the same route I've been running. Got as far as the Pipeline trail before the watch told me to turn around. The sun was warm and I had my shirt off while crunching ice beneath my feet. The realization that I was pretty much naked while water could still be in a solid state made me fear the upcoming Arizona summer and Zane Grey. I'm such a bitch in hot weather. Were I more attractive, I could be used alongside those polar bears to warn everyone about global warming...or something.

7 miles - 57:00 - +/- 560' - I couldn't spare much more than an hour today, given that a research paper owned my soul for a couple days. Getting out for a run gave a short reprieve from hunkering over in a wobbly chair at my kitchen table. Seeing sun and feeling warmth, this run was more of a therapeutic effect than a training one. Usual gravel urban trail jog to the singletrack, then turned around. Maybe its the fresh legs from the low mileage in the last couple days, but I'm feeling a bit more confident on the technical stuff.

Total: 66 miles, 11:08:00(ish). The good news is that I put in another week of real running. The slight downer is that my overall pace for a week was 10min/miles or so. I guess taking it easy will do that.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Incremental Last Minute Progress

Starting to feel a bit obsessive. It's a nice break from complacency.

Scheduled day off, and a perfectly timed one at that. I went to bed and almost immediately spiked a fever, chills, nausea, and sweating. I could barely breathe and considered going to the ER. Moral of the story is that humidifiers are the devil. Seems like something I should know already, given a history of hospitalizations from lung disorders and extensive schooling in biology, but I make no claims to be smart.

AM: 4 miles - 22:00(cycling)- Just the typical chilly bike commute to school. I know I said I'd be run commuting, but I had too much stuff this time, and planned on double-digit mileage in the afternoon.
PM: 4 miles - 25:00(cycling) - Pedaling home. Two Med/Surg texts and a drug guide are a bit much for one sunburned shoulder and a messenger bag.
PM 2: 10.6 miles - 1:25 - First day of putting the blinders on and being coached. The decision to ask for help and get a real coach is a whole post in itself, I suppose. More on that later. 10 miles of gravel bike paths and sidewalks. Knowing I was done in ten miles, and that all I had to do was get it done made it go by much faster. I just enjoyed picking my way around the east side of flagstaff, finding as much dirt as I could to put my feet on. 8:00/mile pace felt a little harder than I thought it would, but I didn't check the pace until it was over to keep myself from running too hard.

Daily total: 2:12 of activity. Bike, exam, lecture, lab, bike clean, run roads. Some days just have to be investments in the future, but this was still a good one.

AM: 10 miles - 2:00:00ish - Drove down to the Bell Trail with Kelsey for some exploring. We bought a touristy book of "50 favorite hikes" for this area. Truth be told, the wide-eyed newness of tourism suits me. I'm not too cool to be excited and have no idea where I'm going. This trail, just a 4-5 mile jog to a turnaround, had a wide variety of terrain and views. It started out with a flat, rolling trail along a creek, then crossed the creek to a pretty technical climb with outstanding views and wound up on a mesa with a very faint trail. It's a real gem of a trail, especially considering that it has actual flowing water.
Running trails with this kind of scenery that aren't insanely difficult is great

Seeing Oak leaves by this creek made me nostalgic for home

The trail ascended from the canyon pretty abruptly.

The home mountain range off in the distance

I complain, but I love the steep, technical trails
PM - 8 miles - 1:00:35 - would liked to have done the full 18 on the Bell trail by doubling it, but had to get home. Ground out 8 miles on the hilly streets of flagstaff and the gravel urban trails, already thinking about where to do the next long run. Roads make trails more fun, and trails make roads feel really fast. Ideally I'd shift the ratio more to a trail bias, but sometimes, even in Flagstaff, doing a run on 100% trails involves more driving than I'd like. If I can reserve the car for a couple of weekly trips to sedona and not drive for day to day stuff, I can justify the expense and fuel.

PM 2 - Weights - 40:00 - I felt pretty weak, but accompanied Sarah and Kelsey to the gym to do a workout. Hit each muscle group twice and then ate a whole pizza, bread ball/bite/stick things, and a bottle of soda.

Daily total: 3:40 of activity

8 miles 1:04:00 - Really fatigued after the previous day's 3+ hours of exercise, but shook it off and made it home in time to rush off to the hospital for clinicals. A product of running more in the last couple weeks has been feeling my running economy improve a little. I no longer feel like I'm bounding along in disjointed steps, but rather gliding a bit more with a straighter back and little bird steps. It feels cool.

AM - 8 miles - 1:16:00 - A morning off for Kelsey and me, so we jogged along highway 180 for some somewhat flat, easy miles. Living on a small mesa means at least 300' of loss/gain when we run from home. Adjusting to actually running consecutive days in a row has been pleasant. "only 8 today? sweet!"

PM - 7 miles of cycling - Just a cruise around town to kill some time and run some errands.

Daily total: 2:00

10 miles - 1:41:00 - easy trail running at night from home. Left at 8pm for Buffalo park, rambled around in the trails for 6 miles, then shuffled home. Running trails alone in the dark is always a little unnerving for me when I first start. Once I've gotten all the scary thoughts out of my head, it becomes a peaceful, quiet experience.
The scenery at night is a little less breathtaking.
3/15/15 - 5 miles - 41:00 - easy stroll around the neighborhood to cap off the week. It was "optional," but I felt good and felt like taking advantage of not having any pressure to run. The pace was so mellow that the only benefit was some conditioning of my foot skin.

 My mind wandered, but I remember feeling happy about how a 59 mile week felt. I don't even know if I had a 59 mile week leading into Zane Grey last year. I could probably find out, since that's supposedly the reason I keep this blog. This week was just fun. I feel like a committed runner- like I have a shot at breaking out of my current performance level for the first time in 3 years. Surely that's very optimistic of me, considering that a mere 59 mile week is commonplace for anyone who owns as many half-used running shoes as I do. I'm sleeping better, my weight is slowly decreasing, my running gait seems to be smoothing out, and my feet are starting to look a little fucked up. All good signs.

Totals: 59 miles of running, 11.5 hours of total training. This is the part where I don't take a period of relative success, get overly ambitious, and ruin it.

Monday, March 9, 2015

For the millionth time, I'm attempting to log things

...which is easier to do when I actually run.

AM: 7.2 miles, 1:13 - Flagstaff got hit with a pretty substantial winter storm, making travel by bicycle, at least the skinny tired variety I'm mounted on most days, a bit sketchy. This coincided with a desire to plow some snow on my feet. Earlier in the academic year, the thought of run commuting was stopped in its tracks by 1) laziness, 2) some strange notion that I needed my laptop, mostly because 90% of my class uses them, and 3) forgetting how valuable multiple runs per day with a backpack on can be. If I want to run all day, which is essentially what an 8 hour mountain 50 feels like, I have to go to bed feeling like I've run all day. I've gotten so soft in the last couple years, that I'm not only out of shape, but I'm no longer chafe-resistant in crucial places. I chafed during a half marathon. A half goddamn marathon breached the integrity of my supple thigh skin. That's unacceptable. The last straw. So, I'm run commuting every chance I get now.

PM: 5.64 miles, 40:00 - Hopped on the treadmill of my apartment complex's fitness center for a 20 minute tempo effort. I saw an article saying Sage Canaday suggests them, so I figured it would be something worth doing. 10 minutes at varying easy paces, then 17 minutes at 6:00/mile. Closed the effort with some 5:15 pace for three minutes, feeling comfortably difficult (that's the phrase people use when they lie about shit being hard, right?) Treadmills feel weird, so I don't know if this is really the true pace. Oh well, 10 minute cooldown and then shoveled the steps off again.

AM: 3.5 miles, 39:00 -  Up at 6am (okay, 6:30) to make a huge breakfast and digest it as I shuffled to class. The slush had frozen in place overnight, making for a a great opportunity to test the range of motion of my ankles in every direction possible. Of all the shoes I've received and purchased over the years, the pair I'm gladdest I keep around are my winter versions of the MT110. They're pretty much waterproof, which keeps my feet from getting soggy on these commutes. A classmate pulled over and offered me a ride. I was really grateful for her generosity, but declined. This was a subtle reminder that I might be weird. I'm not sure whether to be proud or embarrassed. It was well below freezing as the sun was coming up. Most of the time, I can barely scrape myself out of bed to ride or drive to class by 8am because I'm lazy. I'm happy to be feeling different this week, and I feel more awake when I get to class.

PM: Skiing at Snowbowl, 1200', 1:13 - Some vert with low impact, a high heart rate, and a rewarding glide back down sounded perfect. Really slow going as I took a new route and took advantage of the perfection of having such a wonderful place to be.

AM: 4 miles, +/-  ~1700, 1:37. Not our speediest ascent of Elden by any means, but Kelsey and I had a nice hike up and shoe-ski slip and slide on the way down. The snow and the warm sun gave a nice outing and a break from the "I have a day off but have a lot of shit I should be doing" stuff.

PM: Weight training 1:00 - Hit each muscle group a couple times in the gym. Weighted lunges (forward, left, and right) with curls, Chest press, decline sit ups with weighted punches, Leg press, lat pulldowns, tricep dips, and some core exercises. Wanted to squeeze in another run, but this tired me out.

0 of anything, unless I count walking around at clinical. I don't. That's dumb.

AM - 8 miles, 39:00 - Just a bike commute to a study session. Only had 25 minutes to get there since it was a last minute decision to go. Bailed on a morning of sun and snow for a study group? Maybe I'm growing up just a little.

PM - 5 miles, 1:30 - Mount elden run/hike/crawl. The trail was mud at the bottom, and knee-deep snow at the top. Frequent missteps had me falling almost up to my hip. It was fun in a frustrating way, but the only way to get stronger is to keep going. Another quiet, peaceful sunset on my favorite in-town route. It's literally right across the highway from a mall, so that's weird.

slow going, but it'"strength building."

Why do I think I'm exceptional enough to take selfies? Look around me or through me or whatever.

Wind whistling at the summit. 

Socks would have been a grand idea. 
PM 2 - 4.25 miles, 30:00 - Feeling a little obsessive over the 23:00/pace crawl, I thought I'd sneak in a little cruise on the treadmill. As much as I aspire to be some kind of mountain running extraordinaire, I really don't mind grinding some miles out indoors a couple days each week. The consistency in pace has to have some value as a supplement to stomping around in the snow or walking like a penguin over icy sidewalks.

AM - 20 minute commute to work on my bike.

PM - 20 minute commute home. I know. Lame.

PM 2 - 4.3 miles 30:00 - More easy miles on the treadmill. Mostly an attempt to wake myself up from a rather monotonous day in sales. The usual dance of warming up at 7:45 pace and cruising at 6:40 pace, then cooling down for 5 minutes at 7:30 pace. Afterward, weighted lunges, Bulgarian squats, bicep curl to shoulder press, and weighted back extensions. Something has to be done to counteract my newly acquired ravenous appetite, and some junk miles won't cut it. I've either entered training mode or acquired diabetes.

6 miles, 2:00:00 - A "run" up Bear Mountain in Sedona with Kelsey. The trail is largely steep and rocky scrambles with intermittent running mixed in. We were looking forward to a nice, runnable couple hours on rolling trails, but ended up grunting out ~1700ish feet of gain over three miles. The sun burned me up pretty well, but I suppose that's to be expected since my last run in the sun with no shirt on was in October.

Kelsey, off in the distance, probably being all pensive and stuff. 
Compared to Michigan, it's kind of a brutal landscape for recreation. I do love it though.

Only about 40 miles of running, but combined with skiing, weights, and cycling, I put in roughly 13 hours of training this week. Don't tell anyone who thinks I'm supposed to be busy doing other stuff.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Mulling Things Over After a Month of 2015

The Sedona Half Marathon was the first race of 2015. The full 26.2 was cancelled due to the USFS dirt roads being impassable (or something). I found out the day before that I'd be running a half marathon instead of a full. I felt a slight sense of relief, and guilt for feeling it. I have a hearty fear for the road marathon, and I was hoping to face it and really gut out hilly road race so I could remember how to hurt. It was going to be a feet-first return to running in earnest so I could attempt to push the pace at ultras. It was out of my hands.

I left work Friday night and Kelsey and I went to a play. Something I appreciate about her is that she helps expose me to things I wouldn't normally expose myself to. I know a marginal amount of things about wine now. I put a napkin in my lap most of the time, not because I don't believe in my ability to keep food off of my pants, but because it's polite. I don't not like theater, but I don't take the time to go. She's helped me grow.

The performers were great, and the show was impressive. During the play, I marveled at the thought of a group of humans taking upon themselves to tell a story. To memorize an entire script and take the time to get it just right. It wasn't a school assignment, it was something they wanted to do with their time to express themselves. They weren't doing it for a grade or credit, but rather just because they wanted to perform for their community. I really had to ponder that for a moment to let it sink in. Nobody would know or care if these people decided to do something else with their time like drink beer or watch Netflix. There isn't anyone telling them that they're lives need to be different or creative. Have I repeated myself enough yet? Of course, I'm lame and related this back to myself and running.

elevation chart from the race website
Maybe it was because it was the eve of a race, but I thought about how these actors, choreographers, directors, stagehands, theater people didn't half-ass it. They totally whole-assed it and it was cool. I wanted to apply it to what I do. I think more about artists being totally immersed in their art because nobody remembers the artist who kind of sort of fucked around with art, and they sure as hell don't make much money for it. In my life, my "arts" are running and nursing. Nobody wants to be a half-hearted artist, no matter what their art is. The big struggle is to remember that although working for ten hours straight in a hospital for free while I pay a university out-of-state tuition for it really sucks, I'm practicing my art. Likewise, in spite of being an amateur runner who struggles with motivation, I'm not a fat kid in gym class (anymore). I've chosen these tasks to be mine. Perhaps choosing a profession that directly contributes to the comfort of others in times of distress will balance out the relatively selfish act of expending energy for the sake of running fast, or maybe it doesn't matter at all.

Even with the marathon being turned to a half, I was still nervous. I awoke every hour, wondering what time it was, hoping it was time to get up. I was happy to be a little nervous. It felt good to care. Kelsey and I hopped in the car and made it to Sedona with literally two and a half minutes remaining for her to sign up for the 10k. I dropped her off and found a parking spot, then jogged to the start to find her. In typical road race fashion, I anxiously and hurriedly got ready, then didn't know what to do with myself for the remaining minutes. The usual dance of nobody knowing what they're doing or where they're going is pretty much unavoidable.

The race itself was actually enjoyable. I held an even pace, took a couple gels, and didn't make any of the wonderful aid station volunteers look like they sat in the front row at Sea World when I snagged cups of water from them. I took off out of the corral a little fast because I started too far back. At mile 4, Ian Torrence casually strolled by to reinforce that point. Even splits and a conservative start seem to be the key when an out/back course is this hilly. 45:18 at the turnaround, 1:31 for the finish. A 12 second (ish) positive split makes me feel pretty good about the marathon attempt that never was, as do the fresh legs I feel the following day.

Kelsey knocked out a top ten finish in the 10k. She's quite a talented runner, and I hope this helps her realize that. She doesn't train in any fashion that doesn't fit her desires, and her running is improving because of it. We could all learn a thing or two from that.

I'd be remiss if I didn't thank my sponsor for the race. My employer, the Mattress Center of Flagstaff, sponsored my run and worked with my schedule so that I could participate in the event. Working there has been a great experience and helped me transition to a new town. The chance to represent a local business that has helped me in so many ways is a privilege. They've taught me a great deal about being successful with an altruistic drive to fill a need in the community. I won't get into a sales pitch about product or prices, but the only rule that's ever been impressed upon me while working there is to do the right thing. Putting people before profit has made the business successful.

Up next is the Antelope Canyon 50mile. In three weeks. Better get a long run in.

I'm starting to come to terms with the truth that I'm a dork.

For the next three weeks leading up to Antelope Canyon, I'll attempt a streak. I won't miss a day of running until the race, Even if it's an easy 30 minutes before bed. I'll still continue to swim and lift weights, but adding the challenge of doing a real run at least once a day will help get me used to a higher volume of motion.

That's all.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Back at it With a Motivating, Fear-Type Emotion: 2015 Prospects

I'm back at this jogging thing again, and 2015 shows some promise. I've hopped on this new (but not new) uphill skiing bandwagon. Maybe it's not new, but I care about it now, so it must not have existed before. School has certainly cut into mountain time since the break's end, but as usual, it will stabilize once I learn what I can get away with. Trips to the gym have been frequent. I'm unaware of my actual body composition, but tipping the scales at 160lbs is the norm these days. Thanks, second puberty.

Hiking with friends with a knack for capturing moments is nice.
Fitting some climbing skins to make Mike's old skis suitable for uphill travel. Also purchased these to keep using alpine bindings.

The only ski-worthy snow in the area is on the groomers at the Arizona Snowbowl. Beautiful views and some hard-earned vertical. 
Fatness aside, I've decided to face a running demon from a few years ago and run an actual road marathon. The last road marathon run in earnest was Grand Rapids in 2010. I was reasonably fit, but came down with some pretty gnarly stomach issues the day before in the form of what I assume was gas station hot dog-induced food poisoning. A 2:57 with 4 or 5 stops in the humid plastic toilets was all I could muster that day, and it hurt. My vision was stifled and I was dizzy upon finishing, and I was in and out of the bathroom constantly for days afterward. Let's hope a little more wisdom and a little less invasive bacteria will grace me next weekend at the Sedona Marathon. It's hilly, but should be a good opportunity to run hard, which is something I'm actively trying to seek out. Trying to avoid the trap of delaying effort, I'd like to not think about races after this one. Shrugging and saying "this is just a training run for the next race" takes away from the special moment that exists when we participate in an event. All races are training for the next race, just as all experiences in life make us who we are when we approach the next one. The pounding of the roads and the repetitive, constant pace is the antithesis of trail running from a physical standpoint, but the mental state of putting in constant effort in spite of discomfort has a pleasant feeling of universality. Track workouts with the Team Run Flagstaff group have helped increase the turnover and get me some time below race pace, as have a few tempo runs in the 20-100 minute range. Race day is upon me, so I'll do the best with what I've got.
The marathon is a distance I've revered more than others. I attribute this to it being more objectively measured than an ultra. With all of the variables like terrain, weather, nutrition, elevation gain/loss on trails, we're able to hide our relative performances from the masses. If you aren't on a particular trail ultra course on a particular day, saying whether a time is fast or slow involves an increased amount of bullshit. Road races are more standardized leave less to hide behind. For those of us that care, there are even qualifying times for races like Boston and New York to shoot for. Either way, runners know what a good marathon time is, and what isn't. Something about bearing myself for the world to see is intimidating, yet simultaneously liberating. I have an image or reputation as a runner, but I'm not really even that good. This will at least provide some semblance of accuracy in measure.
Not a likely PR course, but I'm still looking.
Since ultras fill up quickly (and expensively, in most cases) some forethought is required. I've been a little quiet about it because I can't seem to find a way to promote a brand on social media that isn't, well, slimy, but I'm excited to be an ambassador for Ultra Adventures, LLC this season. This involves me promoting and writing about my experiences at their races, as well as spreading the word in my community. Their emphasis on the community aspect of distance running and their zero-waste approach is something I unabashedly support. Since they are helping me afford to participate in my favorite pastime, I'm looking for ways to do my part and help them get the most of their investment in me. Here's a video preview of the Grand Circle Trail Series:

Clearly, these are some beautiful places to see on foot. I'll be doing at least two of their events this year, starting with the Antelope Canyon 50 miler on February 21. The others are up in the air as far as expenses and availability for travel go, but the Tushars 93k (maybe 100 mile?) looks so beautiful that I find myself fantasizing about it. The Grand Canyon race is another that is close to home and will be sure to provide a wonderful experience. I'm at the will of the nursing school and money gods for the time being, but time will tell and a man can dream. 

I haven't forgotten about Zane Grey, and feel a great deal of excitement about getting back on the Highline Trail again. These events should get me back into a racing groove and feeling ready to take the technical, undulating mountain trails.

With a few gaps yet to be filled in, I could potentially have a race of some sort each month. That allows for plenty of recovery of my legs, academic life, and bank account. I haven't posted since Thanksgiving, so the disjointed nature of this post leaves a little to be desired. More reflection might be good for me, so I'll try a little more of my old habit of mulling things over in an unnecessarily verbose way.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Promise on a Sunday for a Better Week

        How many times am I going to do this? I got caught in the end of the semester funk and prettymuch forgot about running. 15 miles last week, 13 this week. Impressive, innit? I wish I could diagram these awful funks that overtake me from time to time, because I think they are one of my biggest barriers to improvement. Then again, failing to show up for a clinical is worse, so I guess I can't be faulted for choosing one over the other if that's all my unfocused mind can handle at the moment. Triage might not be the right word, but it works.
        I realized today that I have an opportunity for something really special every day. I can, if I so choose, get up and race the sun to a beautiful spot, watch it rise for a moment, and head back down to start my day. How much more perfect of a start could a day have? To not do that at least a couple days per week is just...well, it's shameful. I've been fantasizing about running up a peak as the sun goes down, watching it sink down behind the horizon, flipping my headlamp on, and heading down to earth in the dark. It doesn't have to be a grand adventure reserved for epic magazine articles or books. It can be my every day. In Michigan, it could have been my every day. Beauty is all around us, and we get caught up in something else. I can't even explain or describe what that thing is, but days disappear. Some sort of misconception that extraordinary things can't just happen on a Wednesday afternoon. I, for some reason, have built a trap for my own mind. I've decided to work less so I can enjoy my time here. A good job will come with time. What do I do with this glorious abundance of time? Sometimes I can't even say. I can do better.
        My goal for this week is to prioritize tenacity. It's the small things that catch me and don't let go. My computer, my phone, or my lack of planning. A fulfilling life doesn't happen by accident (I suppose it could, but I'm almost done babbling. Stay with me). A voice in my head is telling me that I've been "just settling in" long enough. I've been in transition in one way or another for years now. I probably sound repetitive, and I hope this struggle with transient mindlessness can end in my favor someday, but for now I'll be thankful that I wake up as often as I do. Improvement from my current self is all I can hope for. Dress for the weather. Stay moving. Quit bitching. Live life with some vigor.
        How long did the motivation last? Here's the weekly log, starting with 11/24.
7 miles, 1.5hours +/- ~ 2500' : A short day of clinicals, prepping for assessments, and some reading nearly got the better of me. I drove almost the entire way to the Elden lookout trailhead on fumes, then realized I forgot my wallet. Back home, took Cohen out, and grabbed my wallet. Deciding not to mess with the traffic on Route 66, I went to the less steep route of Oldham Trail to the Elden Summit. I wanted to make it in time to watch the Sun sink down and run by headlamp on the way down. I barely made it, but had a great deal of fun shuffling alone up the trail. Though it's barely 3 miles to the Summit, I ran every step, including the loose/technical/steep sections. Maybe a little improvement is taking place afterall. A quiet, peaceful end to a pleasant day.

7 miles, 1 hour track workout: Typically my longest day of class, I was on campus from 8-3:30. Still not even a full workday for most. I nearly bailed on the workout, but decided to head down for the sake of consistency. It's the only thing I've consistently done recently, and I feel great when I get done. 3 miles to the track, then 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 minutes of "interval pace" (about 5:45-5:50/mile) with half rest in between. A small turnout for the workout, and the group doesn't "regroup" during fartlek runs, so I ran mostly alone. Having the coaches calling out splits every 200m and focusing on the person ahead of me helps keep me moving, so it's still a great way to give some variety in my usual trail shuffles. A foreign feeling is to not be completely depleted after a track session, though. I'm either doing it right, or doing it wrong. Maybe a road 5 or 10k is in order for the sake of assessment.
0 miles. .5 hours of cycling - I awoke in the morning and felt fine, only to immediately fall back asleep until it was time to get up for work. I'll have today be my rest day. Such a shame, however, because it was beautiful outside.
2 miles - Yep. two miles. Turkey Trot at Buffalo Park with a few strangers and some acquaintances. Though it was fun to mingle and get a quick tempo session in, my heart was elsewhere. In years past, my family attended a YMCA Function in Muskegon to raise canned goods for shelters nearby. As one may know from reading this blog in the past, we lost my cousin Mike on the eve of Thanksgiving 8 years ago, and my family started doing the Turkey Trot firstly to forget about being awake at dawn to hear of his death, and secondly to honor his memory. To not be there was painful, more so than I anticipated. Being one of the only family members to leave home has its difficulties. At least my niece was there to carry on a tradition, as evidenced by a photo message from my sister.
A heart-breakingly adorable reminder of what I'm missing at home.  
The run in Flagstaff was a "prediction run," meaning it was more about strategy than all-out competition, two things I equally suck at. I predicted 13 minutes for a gravel 2 miler with one decent hill, and shuffled in at 12:25. I attempted to set a figurative cruise control, but maybe hitting the track once a week has lowered that pace a little. Better to be pleasantly surprised, of course.
12 miles ~ 3hrs. +/- 3600'. A leisurely outing in unseasonably (I'm assuming) warm weather. Up Oldham to the Elden summit, down the Lookout trail to Fat Man's Loop, up the Heart Trail and back down via Oldham. I had been thinking of this route for quite a while, and had to take advantage of lots of daylight. I felt pretty light and easy-going for most of the run after my blood sugar evened out, consuming less than a liter of water and no gels. I loaded up on fries beforehand.
On the way to the actual Summit

My phone has a self-timer. How wonderful
After heading down the Lookout trail, I got a little turned around in the Sun. I wandered off the trail at the bottom of the basin and had to do a little scrambling to get back up to where I kind of sort of figured the trail was. 
        I realized that this is one of the longer sustained runs I've done in a while, and it felt pretty good. I'd like to get to to a point in which I can make a 20-30minute climb with no rest or walking, even if it's slow. The technical stuff it what slows me down to a crawl. Oh well. The time has to be put in if I expect to improve. 10,000 hours and all that Malcom Gladwell bidness. This loop is filled with some diverse beauty with its Aspens on one side, Ponderosa Pine on the other, and views of the city to the south with technicality and tough climbs all around. I couldn't really ask for more. 
An 8 hour shift right in the middle of the day tends to throw me a little off when I try to get a decent run in. Getting up early leaves little time for leisurely coffee drinking, and night runs are cold and lonely (and I'm going to get attacked by a monster I just know it), so my bicycle commute of 20 minutes with a 120' climb has to suffice sometimes. 
9 miles, 7 hours, +/- 3400'. A great hike with Kelsey, Sarah (whom I borrowed the photos from unless mentioned) and Eric on Humphreys Peak. Started at the trailhead and steadily made our way up. The wind was about as wild as I'd care to deal with above treeline, pushing 60mph or so in strong gusts. On my own, I may have quickly and stubbornly crawled the last 40-50' to the actual summit, but with a couple of newer hikers in the group, it was kind of stupid and unnecessary to keep going. I have foolish pride from time to time, but didn't see the need to suffer when it ceased to be fun. The best views can be seen without the actual summit anyway. The chance to do a genuine hike and not a walk in running gear was great. The slower, deliberate pace allowed for enjoyment of the scenery and an opportunity to take note of more detail of our surroundings. Though not a run, I still fell asleep early and felt that post-long run fatigue that 7 hours in the elements will produce. A great day and unique experience.

Photo: Kelsey

Photo: Kelsey again

Totals: ~37 miles and 16 hours on my feet, and a couple hours on the bike. 3 outings in real trails, a track workout, and a timed 2 mile. I'll call it a success in spite of a relatively low number. Thus concludes a week of outdoor stuff. Next week will likely yield less since finals week and work are crammed into 4 days to accommodate for travel to San Francisco to support Kelsey at the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 mile. Less running, but still exciting.