Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Life is Never One Event at a Time

Something about a diagnosis seems so official. We hem and haw about what could be wrong with us all the time, but there's some freedom in not really knowing. Ignorance can indeed be blissful, as trite as it may sound.

A couple years ago, I passed out on a run with Kelsey and she took me to the emergency room, where she reported convulsions, spacing out, twitching, and loss of consciousness. Since an EEG came back with no positive signs of a seizure, anyone who wasn't Kelsey was skeptical that it was actually a seizure. I didn't lose bladder control (I'd say if I did, promise), and a few other lingering signs of a seizure weren't present by the time I arrived at the ED. I, along with those I care about, did the requisite mental gymnastics to believe that it was something else- something related to my diet, my sleep, my exercise habits, allergens, whatever. Shit happens, and it was back in 2013.

Summer has been clicking along uneventfully. Working 3-4 days per week provided just enough stimulation and funding to allow some freedom, being off school is allowing for some mental recuperation, and being on an unprecedentedly long uninjured streak has made me feel like a powerful runner. Zane Grey's post-race glow has come and gone, and I'm looking forward to racing the Tushars 93k in late July. Preparation has been going swimmingly with guidance from Chris Vargo, giving me confidence and consistency I've never seen in myself before.

Training and running, moving in the dry spring air, has been happily commonplace. At least an hour a day, up to 8 hours, has been spent in the high country, the depths of the Grand Canyon, or a few places in between.

Long runs from one end of this mountain range to the other are something I'll never forget

Hikes count as training, right? Chotto and I took a hike to Doyle Saddle

I'm sure there's a story here.

Two days later, a trip to the North Rim for 28 miles to the Colorado River and back. The home peaks off on the horizon, 200 miles away.

Dave Eaton, coming from Sea Level for some heat, altitude, and elevation gain. Dude has grit I can only pretend to emulate.

My intolerance of heat may keep me from ever being a true card-carrying Arizonan. 

"Too muddy to swim, too wet to plow" or something like that.

Being a student/underachiever for most of my life has kept me from having too much change lying around, but I fell into a job at which I'm fairly decent. Not "full suspension" level sales chops, but "pretty damn nice hardtail" level to be sure. The trails around here are begging to be ridden fast and seen from a different perspective.
Figured I'd better pick up a bike before getting injured.

I go through life assuming I'm thankful for it. Of course I am, because to not be thankful would be ungrateful or entitled, and those are bad qualities, and therefore not qualities I possess (this how I imagine that inner dialogue goes for most people, myself included. Nobody wants to be an asshole).

I awoke Friday morning, had a bowl of oatmeal and some fruit, and went for a ride while Kelsey had an appointment. A quick 10 miles on the trails, then home. Kelsey returned home, I ate again, and we drove up the mountain to go run the Kachina Trail. I've only got spotty memories from the rest of the day. I vaguely remember jumping off some rocks and passing a group of women who were enjoying some lunch on the trail.

Then nothing

Then I was eating a cookie on a group hike with Kelsey and four women. I had trekking poles in my hands, and I was sure I was going to die but had no idea why I felt this way. I talked to myself as if I was another person, as if I was pacing a runner through the ultimate shitstorm of a bonk. "Just focus. You can get out of here. You can't die here. You aren't done here yet. Focus." We were close to a well-used trailhead, and I was in the company of one of the most capable outdoor athletes I know, who I happen to share a life with, and a handful of compassionate hikers, at least one of which was a nurse. I didn't know who or where I was, though, so that didn't matter at the time.

Then nothing

Back at the car. I was talking. I think I was even laughing. I hugged two of the women who were accompanying us back to the car, and thanked them. I didn't know what was going on, but I knew they were helping us.

Then nothing

The car door was open and I was puking out of the car into the gutter as a couple people rode past on the bike path.
Leads from the EKG

The only superficial damage from the incident, along with a nice bite on the inside of my mouth. For getting dealt shitty hands at times, I'm a very fortunate person.

I have epilepsy. I'm still waiting on the details, but I experienced a partial complex seizure, making it my third one in ten years. Everyone gets one pass, maybe two if you're convinced it's "something else" like my family and I have been. From what I've been told, multiple seizures means epilepsy. Now to wind through the myriad of side-effects and prescription drugs that, so far, are less preferable than seizures. Challenges take on many forms, and this is mine for the time being.

My friends and family have been supportive in the past few days, and I haven't really found the best way to tell everyone, so this is me doing that. Kelsey has been wonderful, just as anyone who knows her would expect her to be.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ambulate and Hydrate: Zane Grey 50 Mile Report 2015

I tend to have some degree of difficulty separating my life into individual pieces. It's hard to think about running, school, work, and relationships as separate entities when they all affect each other directly. For that reason, my trip reports tend to meander. Apologies. 

Kelsey, Cohen and I strolled up to the pine trailhead with about 5 minutes to spare. I pinned by folded, crinkled-up number to my shorts and walked over to the start area (I can't even remember if there's a line or not). It's a competitive race on a relentless course, and I was excited to actually make it there.

Training for the race had gone well, considering the short amount of time that I had. I'd say it "started" with a failed attempt at the Antelope Canyon 50 mile in late February. I had done virtually no running up until that point, and arrogantly tried to cruise a 50 mile race. My state of mind was anxious and irritable, and I was doing things for the wrong reasons. I got caught up in poor study habits, not balancing school, work or training in the least. Life felt overwhelming and just kept doing the same shit that wasn't working, wondering why I felt frustrated. Antelope Canyon was the final blow to my ego, and it was time to rebuild.
En route to a colossal implosion at the Antelope Canyon 50M Photo: Craig Lloyd

I learned that "winging it" isn't always for me. Maybe I'm getting a little more "type A" in my old age or my expectations for myself are just increasing, but constantly wondering how things were going to work out was making me feel that I was losing control of my life. For better or worse, running has become a part of me that I won't let go. It's a positive thing that keeps me from falling into a trap of complacency. Even with 20 credit hours and 30 hours a week of work, it's something I need. To simply want it all and not be willing to work for it is childish, and that's how I was acting.

I needed to get ready for Zane Grey. I needed to do it in six(ish) weeks. I needed it to happen while working weekends, having one 10 hour clinical each week, and other courses to study for. Who would be up to helping me with such a ridiculous task? I reached out to elite ultrarunner, coach, and fellow Flagstaff resident Chris Vargo. We met up and he didn't bat an eye at the idea of helping me with this. Even in my own coaching, I'd be at least a little reluctant to help someone with such a time crunch to get ready for a demanding event like Zane Grey.

Adding structure and accountability to training instantly turned it around. I progressed from my 30-40 miles each week to peaking at 87. My best week of training consisted of only 72 miles, but had a hill workout, several easy 10-13 mile runs, and most importantly, a 4 hour run with 4000' feet of gain followed by a 10 hour shift on my feet at clinical. Tempo runs, intervals, and progression runs peppered my weeks and kept me from getting flat.

It's easy to train when sights like this lie around every bend.

A 20 minute nap separated a long run and a long day of learning hospital stuff. I felt great and alert all day.

Oh, right, this is a race report.

The race start felt eerily similar to last year. Since the race is 100% singletrack, there really isn't anywhere early on for people to "find their place." Excited people were going out hard and slowing down at the first climb. Everyone can and should run their own race, but I like taking the first mile a little slow so that the first big climb doesn't knock me on my ass 2 miles in. Since that's my strategy, the price is having to get around people as we climb. No big deal. It's a long day. I kept thinking about the year before, and how I taped my achilles' and didn't run on it for over a week before the race. I actually felt good this time! No shitty KT tape falling off of my leg. No lackluster training at sea level, no fatigue from driving and flying for two days. It was going to be a good day. I knew that on relatively scant training, my best time would come from staying steady and focusing. Running at a supramaximal effort wouldn't bode well.

I had decided that I had two goals for the day: to maintain focus, and to do exactly what I wanted. I wasn't gong to slow down to chat with anyone, nor would I speed up. Every step was going to be mine. I let my legs feel springy as I cruised the descents, and kept a short, bouncing running gait on all but the steeper climbs. I was having fun. On this crazy ass practical joke of a hiking trail, I was enjoying myself. The first 8 miles went by without feeling too difficult. A quick fill-up at the aid station and a handful of fuel from Kelsey, and I was on my way. I thought the aid stations being relatively far apart compared to other ultras I've run would be a major hindrance, but it made the run more fun. With my inov-8 race vest, I had just enough fuel and water to make it between aid stations. If it were warmer, I may have needed a little more and added the 2L bladder to the pack.

The next aid station at mile 17ish came up pretty quickly as well. I made it there in just a little over 3 hours. According to my terrible math skills, I was on pace for 9 hours. This was the plan A/best case scenario. Considering that such a time is usually reserved for the top 5 or so each year, I knew it was still a long shot.
Leaving Washington Park Aid Station at mile 17
Photo: Melissa Middleton (talented photographer, runner, and fellow former Michigan Resident)
Check her work out here
The next section was by far my slowest and most frustrating of the day. The trek to the Hell's Gate aid station involved very little running, some nausea, and some gross bowel stuff. The last few times this has happened to me, I've gotten pissed and written the whole day off. This time, I was having too much fun to give up. I marched on, eating and drinking as much as I could. It may have been a bit masochistic, but I figured that taking advantage of a temporary slowdown would allow me to cram calories and fluids in. I ate GU packets two at a time and whole packages of Clif Shot Bloks as I grunted up climbs, washing it down with swigs of water and that nasty, minty, chalky electrolye drink (Come on, GU, step up your flavor game). Maybe being tested on fluid and electrolyte balance on a daily basis in school is helping to reinforce their importance. The giant loose rocks of this section stick out in my memory as the worst on the course. At one point, all I could hear were rocks scraping together and me yelling "fuck" over and over again, perpetually tripping. I'd guess that it's what hell is like, but it was kind of fun. At one point on this section, I must have been focusing on the trail a bit too much. I picked my head up to see a cow elk running parallel to me about 15 feet away. Naturally, seeing a 500lb animal running next to me was startling and awe-inspiring. Thanks for not killing me, nature.

The rough patch slowly faded away as I cruised into Fish Hatchery, where I heard Kelsey say "Oh, here we go!" followed by an excited grumbly noise of a Great Dane. I filled up with water and stuffed what was probably a selfish amount of GU into my pack. Seeing Kelsey and Cohen made me happy and I headed out for more. This section was one of my favorites on the course, as it was a bit more buffed out with some crazy steep climbs. There was actual soil and trees in several spots, adding to the beauty and changing the scenery. It was the longest section without aid (I think), but went by pretty quickly compared to the last one. All that was left was a refuel and a 7 mile push.

I strolled into the last aid station pretty nonchalantly, resting a little as I soaked my bandanna with water and ate candy. Kelsey helped by providing a little sense of urgency and kindly told me to put my head down and hurt for 7 miles. I have a slight aversion to being told what to do, so I held my own little protest in my head and ran happy for a mile or so. After the kinks shook out and I accepted that it was just going to hurt for an hour, I started the push. I picked up one spot and did my best to float the downhills, keeping my knees bent and springy. This is a hard thing to do late in a race because it hurts, but once I make myself do it, it hurts less than stiffening the legs and riding the brakes all the way down. If I could see the top of an uphill, I pumped my arms and ran. If I couldn't, I put my hands on my knees and grunted until I saw the top. With all of the seasoned runners entered in the race, I knew I was at risk of being picked off at the last minute. I never looked back, but just used the fear of being chased to get the damned thing over with.

I finished the race in 9:51:03, netting me a 12th place spot. There were 120 finishers, so being in the top 10% of the field feels pretty good. Placing in a race like this almost seems arbitrary, considering that it's relatively small, but competitive. It's kind of the luck of the draw when it comes to who shows up and who drops out. but I showed up that day and I got 12th.

Hours, minutes, and ranking aside, I'm proud of this effort. Prior to this day, I hadn't finished a 50 miler since 2013. 2 years without a finish. I hadn't even realized that fact until I was about to finish Zane Grey. On a long run of 21 miles, I ran negative splits for a 50 miler. The exciting thing is that it happened at a time when my life felt balanced for the first time in a while. It's a good reminder of how elusive being present-minded really is. If I didn't know I was focused until after the fact, then how do I recreate a perfect moment? Just keep trying shit, I suppose. I enjoyed myself, put the work in, and success came out. Each time I nail it, I get a little closer to figuring it out. Each time I swing and miss, I still learn something, even if it's the same damned thing I learned last time.

Miscellaneous notes:
Gear: Nike Racer shorts, cheap cotton singlet from Kohl's, Inov-8 race ultra vest, knotted up rag bandanna, Patagonia Duckbill cap, Suunto Ambit 2 watch.

Food: Upwards of 18 GUs and three packages of Clif Shot Bloks, M&Ms, a banana, and an accidental ginger chew (who the fuck is eating those? Gross).

Shoes: New Balance WT110 v1. Women's size 12 = Men's 10.5. (It would be really cool if NB made a shoe very similar to this again). The men's version in my size is long extinct, so I scoop up the women's. One small blister after 10 hours with no socks.
I only get a few hundred miles out of them before they come unglued or tear across the top, but they're glorious miles.
I'd be remiss if I didn't thank my partner Kelsey for her support. On many occasions during training, she encouraged me to get out and run when I wanted to cut it short. I lean on her more than she realizes.
On a training run in the Grand Canyon before the race. 

I'll try to add more pictures from the race itself if they come about. Anybody have any?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Weekly Recap 3/30 - 4/5/15: A possible peak

10 miles  - 1:10:00 - +/- 0' : A 9 hour day of ass-sitting at work made for a rather uninspired evening of running. I can't seem to find my Black Diamond headlamp, leaving me with a dollar store headlamp that makes a weird noise when I run with it on my head. After drooling over some cool Petzl designs online and procrastinating, I realized that I was either going to have to do the stop/start dance of running around downtown or utilize the treadmill. I also saw a weird YouTube video about a chemical that temporarily gives you night vision, but I didn't have that in my possession at the time. Anybody recommend a really good headlamp?

The run was surprisingly fulfilling, in a fortitude-cultivating kind of way. I was going to zone out and watch the TV in the fitness room, but that was mysteriously not working. I had my phone and a pair of headphones, but the battery life was initially at about 8%. My gym luxuries were fading. About 15 minutes in, the lights turned off because the positioning of the treadmill in the room made it so I wasn't tripping any motion detectors. There I was, in a silent, poorly-lit room, with only the sound of my breathing and my feet pounding on a moving treadmill belt. 10 miles of that shit! Like I said, a character-builder was in order. I eased into it with an 8:20 mile, then cruised at 6:50 pace for a bit. A quick pickup of 1 mile at 6:20, then another at 6:00, and back up to 6:30 for the final three. The whole thing felt relatively easy, which was a solid ego boost. Truly training must be working. Shocking.

AM: 8 miles of cycling

PM: 8 miles - 1:17;00 - +/-1300': an easy 8 miles after class. As much as I love running right from my apartment, the requisite 4 miles of flat gravel warmup/cooldown is starting to feel like "fluff." That being said, I really like the way my legs feel when I get to technical trail with decent climbs. Whenever I try to get right into a run that starts off with a big climb, I feel like I blow up quickly and have to "start over." The easy 2 miles of urban trail to get to the mountains is a mixed blessing, is what I'm saying. for this 8 mile run, 50% of it is easily navigable on a road bike. Another fantastic day to be outside. Just as I turned around, a girl ran up behind me and started chatting, talking about what a wonderful place this was (turns out, shes from BC, Canada). I've only been here for 7 months, and I'm already catching myself getting used to it. These trails are magnificent, and I live 2 miles from them.

AM - 19 miles - 4:00:00 - +/- 5400': Long run day. I had grand ambitions to hop in the car and drive down to Sedona. Of course, I stayed up until midnight the night before to write a paper, do a case study, and clean my kitchen (for some reason). I set the alarm for 4:30, but should've known better. As a stayed supine in bed, hating myself for every second I remained beneath the warm blankets on my dope memory foam mattress (being a mattress salesman has its perks, you know), I recalled the revelation from the day before: I live in one of those "trail runner paradise" places from Outside Magazine, and I'm fussing over driving my car for an hour each way to go to another. The rationale was heat training for Zane Grey, but I convinced myself to put sleep at a premium. Kelsey would be on her way back from Las Vegas by early afternoon, so running from home sounded better and better.

The route I selected, happened to have more vertical feet per mile than the ZG course (by my rough calculation). My ego couldn't help but pick such a route to see what kind of hurt I'm in for. I opted for going up Elden via the Lookout Trail, to Sunset, to Heart, then back around, then the reverse route. The first lap really front loaded all the climbing, ascending about 2500' in 2.5 miles. The reverse stretched the climb out for a gradual, sun-exposed, technical route filled with loose sheets of rock. I did the whole thing on 3 gels and 2 bottles of water, which both pleases and worries me. I'll need to practice eating and drinking more if I'm going to survive 50 miles of sun and heat and rock.
Mount Elden. Twice up in the morning, once in the afternoon. Best Wednesday in a while. 

PM - 10 miles - 2:00 - +/- 2050': Less than an hour after the AM run ended. I was a little short of my long run goal, and Kelsey wanted to get a run in after a couple days in Vegas for work. I merrily went along, assuming it would be 5-6 miles at the maximum (since she's focusing her efforts more on 10k races these days). Nope. 10 miles, summiting Elden again. Elden Lookout Road to Oldham Trail to Sunset to Brook Bank and back to the road. Though not expecting such an outing (and bringing one bottle with no calories), it was fun and rewarding. I actually ran "ultra" distance in one day to prepare for an ultra. What a novel idea!

29 miles and 7450' of gain. I sure as hell didn't do that to prep for this race last year.

3 miles - 23:00 - Ugh. Frustrations mounted as I realized that I had completely neglected to whip up a presentation on evidence-based practice for my clinical group. The morning was intended to be used to knock out 18 miles, giving me back-to-back magical long run powers, but no, I'm an idiot and forgot to make a powerpoint. A quick 3 miles was all I could manage, but it felt pretty easy, even after the long effort yesterday. Instead of 21 miles and 18 miles, It was more like 29, 3, driving to a hospital, and not sitting down for 9 hours. Listen to me. I'm turning into one of those "my life is a marathon" people.

Missing a run aside, I couldn't be happier with the way life is going all-around. Spending time in a hospital, getting more comfortable each time, is reinforcing the idea that I'm doing something I'll like. Even the gross stuff that people don't want to talk about is worthwhile to me. Do I like seeing some dude's giant cellulitis balls or a plastic tube hanging out of a girl's ribs? Not particularly, but walking into a room knowing I'm equipped and motivated to help people in these situations is indescribably fulfilling. In a way, it helps to offset the rather self-centered act of spending time and money on jogging shit. I've said this like 10 times on this blog. I'll stop until I have something more creative to say on the subject.

13 miles - 1:59:00 - +/-1200': The academic debacle from the day before caused me to switch my rest day to yesterday. I ran too long Wednesday, too short yesterday, and thought I'd just go for a medium distance run in an attempt to restore balance to the universe. Easy run on the Arizona Trail from home to Fischer Point Vista and back. This run feels fairly effortless, even on legs with some training under them. There's only one substantial climb, which is almost exactly a mile long before the turnaround. It's cool.
A really flat path leads here.

The last mile brought me up here. Pictured is the spot from which the first photo was taken. 

This trail ventures into Walnut Canyon. I'll have to check it out. 
10 miles - 1:25:00 - +/- 460' - Super relaxed run from home at 9pm. Something about working all day makes me feel decidedly uncreative when route-picking. I just strolled to Buffalo Park and ran laps in the dark. I even stopped on my way home to buy a sweet new headlight, but it needed to charge for 4 hours before I could use it. My old headlight has a clear lens on the bottom that seems to shine equal amounts of light onto the trail and directly into my eyes. The moon was so bright that I just turned it off and ran in the grey. Runs like this make me feel happy to be healthy. In the middle of a pretty heavy training week, I was plodding out 10 miles, feeling only a gentle oscillation and the comfort that came with it. It seemed like the only thing moving as I trotted around were the deer, rabbits, and frogs in the park. Not adventurous, but wonderful.

14 miles - 1:46:28 - Progression run. 4 mile warmup, and it was terrible. I felt dizzy, lightheaded, and disoriented. I could feel my vision narrow if I didn't stop and walk. Since I didn't want to put Kelsey through another loss of consciousness, seizure, and hospitalization, I reluctantly headed home with her. I knew it was behind on eating. The amount of food I have to eat doesn't correlate with my appetite, and the only option is to wait until I feel like shit, or just record my intake and plan accordingly. Obviously, I was doing the former. I'll have to fix that.

I went home, ate two bowls of oatmeal, a frozen fruit bar, and two packages of Clif Shot Bloks and then hopped on the treadmill.

I did the run on the treadmill so I could run a consistent pace that wouldn't allow me to let up without manually changing the speed. 7:30, 7:20, 7:10, 7:00, 6:50, 6:40, 6:30 6:20, 5:50, 5:18. The last two were sporadic because the treadmill stops at a certain interval and has to be restarted. I was pissed off by having my vibes killed, so I let it fly and ran fast. Not exactly a scientific approach. I got caught up in weeks of improvement without any real negative outcome. I made it through the recklessness this time, but shouldn't push my luck anymore. I went from passing out to pounding out a pretty solid workout.

87 miles, 15 hours, and approximately 10,000' this week. A long run with plenty of gain, two faster/flatter runs, and lots of steady miles. I hope I can remember this feeling when I'm not able to do this anymore. Training is going so well that it makes me a little nervous. Doing most of it alone is probably giving me a false sense of accomplishment, given that I can name about a dozen people who'll be attending Zane Grey that will be kicking my ass. Regardless, a week of 20 hours of work, 20 credit hours of school, a 10 hour clinical shift, and 15 hours of training makes me feel more... well, me I guess. Maybe the trick isn't to lighten the load, but just to balance it.

It might be gross, but the fact that my skin is hardening to the elements makes me feel like I'm putting in adequate time. 

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.

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.