Saturday, December 31, 2011

Day 5: Who came up with this idea?

It's starting to feel...less fun to run 20 miles a day. Though nothing really hurts yet(no one thing more than another anyway), it's just getting a bit stale. It makes my more typical weeks of half the mileage sound like more of a blessing. High mileage weeks will have a place in my training in the future, but only when races are approaching or an awesome long run opportunity presents itself. I'm learning quite a bit though, which was the true aim of such a stupid endeavor.

There's light at the end of the tunnel. I ran 3 miles alone at Pigeon Creek, then met up with Jeff for his long run. The weather was great at 40something degrees and bright sunshine. Even as I approach 100miles in 5 days, the hills and sand are much easier on my legs than the pavement.

14 miles total for the morning, leaving 6 to go.

...and then I dipped into my surplus. I ran 4 in the afternoon, falling short by 2 miles. Luckily I had 4 in the bank. Technically, this makes my entire scheme of running 20 miles a day for 6 days a failure. Lucky for me, I'm a morally loose individual, and will continue as if I didn't break one of my self imposed(or not imposed, apparently) rules.

This means that counting Monday, I've run 105 miles in 6 days, and 102 miles in 5 days. Since every step was running, and every run was done at a respectable pace, this is my highest volume week ever, even if I don't run a single step tomorrow. The plan, however, was Tuesday to Sunday. I've got a plan to get my miles in tomorrow.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Day 4: over the hump

Another 20 with Dr. C. today. Some roads and streets over to Calvin College to run on their cc course. I think I graced that course with the slowest loops ever. woo. hoo. Still hit quite a few miles in the standard 7:45, but all the stops slowed me down a little and my ragged legs slowed me down a lot. JC helped drag me along, and wouldn't let me stop running until we got to a legit 20, no matter how many times we circled the drain and passed his driveway. Jerk. All was well after beer, fries, and a grilled cheese.

Keep on keepin' on.

Oh yeah, and the rain made my nipples hurt.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Day 3: Halfway There

Steady as she goes. Starting to feel some fatigue, but no real pains have reared their ugly heads just yet.

22miles on the day, since I got caught not paying attention.
The first run of the day was a 12 miler that turned into a 14er. I was zoning out, staring at a section of road about 25 feet ahead of me. I realized I had missed my turn to go back home. I turned around, saw the road that would take me home(about 30 feet back) and said audibly "fuck it, I've gone too far." I circled the next rural country block, adding 2 more miles to the route. SeƱor Garmin read a 7:47 average. At least I'm staying consistent, for better or worse. For extra He-Man points, I helped my dad push a customer's car into the garage after I jogged up the driveway.

Second run was an 8 miler at Hoffmaster State Park. I met Mark, Stuart, and Sam for a night trail run. I thought trails would feel awful with all the hills, but it was a really nice break from all the monotonous road running. We even ran the loop backwards to mix it up(well, we didn't run it back wards, but in the opposite direction). This got the hillier single track stuff out of the way first.

The plan is to keep doing 20 milers, despite having a bit of a surplus so far. Between foot care, eating more, hydrating, and...ahem...chafage patrol, its starting to feel like an ultra.

A run with J Cataldo in the AM, so I'm headed for a royal ass kicking tomorrow.

By the way, I'm not going to make a habit of daily posts.

Day 2: so far so good.

2nd 20 mile day is in the bag. I realize that there is a plentiful amount of people do this regularly, but I'm just doin' my thing.

Both runs so far have been flat 20 milers with 1 water bottle and one GU taken just after the halfway point. Both runs have been identically paced at 7:45, with the 18th mile being 6:30 so that I could deplete glycogen stores(also because I was getting impatient and wanted to cool down.

My new shoes, the ones I was so enamored with, have given me a few blisters. on my heels and toes. This is probably due to my skin not being used to their unique points of contact with my foot.

Super Glue's original use was bonding skin as a quick way to replace sutures*. Good enough for this guy!

Today, I'm going to break it up into a 12/8 combo for the sake of breaking up the monotony and running with the Hobby Joggas.

this has to be the most boring thing any of you has ever read...right? I just read the owner's manual to my vegetable chopper and it was probably more interesting.

*according to, that's not true. I'm using it anyway.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A 6 Day Challenge

"It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence."


I'm not too deep, I heard that quote from the A-Team movie.

I've realized that I'm not a lazy person, but it is easy to let goals slip away when you're laid back like I am. I want better for myself.

I haven't challenged myself in a while. Running has gotten boring, but its been my fault. Short easy runs (with the exception of the 34 miler a couple weeks ago) have been the M.O. as of late. I'm a damned ultrarunner, and its time to act like it. Time to challenge myself for no damned good reason.

On a run last weekend, my friend Mark commented, "you've got no job, you should be in the shape of your life." A couple hours later I realized just how right he was. No job and running less than I was with a full-time job? Time to stop spending so much time in my own head and get the hell out the door. The weather's great and I'm free.

I'm going to attempt to run 20 miles daily for the next 6 days. These are the arbitrary guidelines for my solo challenge:

Not challenging 20milers, not PRs for 20milers, but treating the next 6 days like a stage race.

Just pick pick random routes and run at least 20 miles on them.

All stops pulled - do whatever it takes to get motivated - ipod, caffeine, multiple daily runs, utilization of friends.

No "depletion training" bullshit - sleep well, stretch, eat well/alot/often, hydrate.

This challenge is not a desparate attempt to lose weight, make huge gains in fitness, prove anything to anyone or garner attention(well, I'm a blogger, and therefore a whore for attention, so take that with a grain of salt.). I just want to do something hard for a change. All too often, I stay in bed or cut my runs short for this reason or that. Setting a clear, short term, yet attainable goal might help me realize that I'm still capable of decent feats from time to time.

Day 1 was a success with a 21 mile road run. Feeling great so far Instead of hopping in the car and freezing up, I cooled down properly, ate a large meal  of unprocessed(or minimally processed) food, took a warm shower and napped for 40 minutes. Hey, I've got no job, I might as well pretend I'm a professional runner, right?

If the weather's decent tomorrow, Sam's in for bike support for another 20miler. An itunes gift card will provide a little more entertainment.

Haven't brought the camera on a run lately, so I give you my finest
"I just got fancy clothes for Christmas" pose.

Monday, December 26, 2011

7miles- I seem to be digging 7milers lately. Good weather for a night run. somewhere between 6:45 and 7:30pace for the most part. Not too hard, not too...soft I guess. Loving my XC streaks. Flat runs aren't fun, but running fast is, so I guess its not all bad. I'm not sure if my tendency to run in the dark stems from laziness or if its just a fun change of pace. It also may have something to do with it getting dark at 4:30pm.

...After Monday, I picked up a pretty nasty cold. I used my remaining energy to endure holiday parties and prepare for more holiday parties. I love my family and friends, but Christmas seems to bring some sort of tension somehow, doesn't it? Must be all the parties being planned. I know my procrastination must irritate the hell out of my family, so I'm grateful to have understanding people around.

3 miles - small amounts of low-medium intensity exercise can help with sickness, so I did a quick three miler to wake me up before a family Christmas party. Pace was around 7:30, but my chest felt heavy and my head felt pretty swollen. Though I love snow, this dry weather is making it easier to lace up mesh running shoes and head out for these quick jaunts.

AM - 7.5(or whatever their typical loop is) miles - A Christmas Eve morning jog with Mark, Stuart, Mike, and Rick(with Mocha, of course). These guys are quick, but usually I can keep up. I'm either a)still sick, but on the mend, b)getting slower and slower, or c)missing out on some awesome training runs.

PM - 3.5 miles - I was feeling like a champ in my newly acquired man-pris, so I decided to fill my gut with vegan burritos(no, not a full fledged vegan, but I'm experimenting) and headed out for another jog. Whittled the pace down to just under 7 minute miles before starting to cool down and curse the gastrointestinal effects faux cheese has on my body. Lesson learned: either skip cheese substitutes altogether, or just put some damned cheese on the burrito.

20-21 miles for the week. That cold really took the wind out of my sails, but  since I decided that attempting the Beast of Burden 100mile on shit training is a bad idea, I'm free to start over again. All is well.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Do what you feel, do what makes you feel.

7 miles - Really slow, really boring. It didn't hurt, but it wasn't the usual warm and fuzzies I get from most runs. It was nice running along quietly in the dark though. The rudeness of some drivers in rural farm country never ceases to amaze me. Nearly had to jump in the ditch. I had my headlight and my blinking red Road ID light on too...bastards. An hour-ish.

7 mo' miles - Felt a little better today. Ran a more normal:(for me) pace, then ran a fastish 1mile tempo just to liven the legs up. Around 6 minute pace, then ran out of road. Jogged the rest of the way home. Didn't start out motivated, but glad I ended up heading out. Just under an hour

Guess what I didn't do. That's right, run. 0 hours

12 miles on the North Country Trail.  I was hiking, though so if you don't count that, I didn't run. Since my lifelong friend Korey happens to be a the hikingest sonofabitch around, I'll count it. Fully loaded with gear, Trekking Poles and all that. I could totally get into this hiking thing. I'm slow enough at running that one could possibly call all of my running hiking, but since I wear little shorts, so its running to me, dammit. 4.5 hours

35 miles - Kal Haven+ Detour.
Ryan and I had the awful idea to run the flat, lonely Kal Haven Trail from Kalamazoo to South Haven. I vowed never to run that whole distance again after my double crossing(68 miles) two Summers ago. I tend not to learn from my mistakes. We made prettygood time on the first half, making to Bloomingdale in around 3:30 or so. The run was great overall. A light dusting of snow fell on us as we trotted down the trail. I consumed only 2 GUs, a Mallow Cup, and a bottle of Mountain Dew. MT110s were way too much shoe for such a flat, smooth trail, but they happened to be in my car. Yes, I drove 1.5 hours without remembering to bring the right running shoes. Ryan's efforts were impressive. Considering his weekly mileage, his finishing of this run was awesome. He's got the stones to be a great runner, so he's got the difficult part down already.

The Kal Haven Caboose. The Kalamzoo end.

This happened more times than I'd like it to.

This is what you'd see from miles 1 to 34.

The only scenic part of the trail. Don't blink. Sorry I got in the way

Shredmeister Ryan Hansard, navigating the super technical terrain.

Ryan, pointing the part of him that doesn't hurt.

...where we picked up some fuel.
I grabbed the Dew and Mallow cup, saving the chocolate milk for the ride home.
Friday night ended up being a great night out with friends. Needless to say, I did not work up the legs or motivation to run. Maybe I was sending all my energy to my friends running the HUFF. Maybe I got a little carried away Friday night. One of life's mysteries(its not a mystery).

6 miles - A really nice run in the backroads near the house. All this flat running has me nervous that I'll be epically screwed once I attempt hills again. Until that day, I'll just keep on keepin' on. I did manage to drop one(1) 6 flat mile when I was 99% sure that I saw and heard a monster. In retrospect, it was very likely a log that I saw, and my beard on my coat that I heard. Call it 50 minutes, but I never ever ever remember to stop my watch at intersections or when I'm done running.

68 miles for the week. Of the past 4 weeks, three of them have been in the between 60 and 70. This feels good for now. About 17 hours of forward motion on my feet. Great times with friends, running and otherwise. Meeting up with some friends in Kalamazoo made me feel great, like I'm still on the right track in life, despite being a little down in the dumps in this post grad/pre job limbo in which I find myself.
Hardly any of my running was fast, but I'll be damned if I'm not starting to feel like me again.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Winter is Running Late

Why don't I just list the days I did actually run.

Tuesday- 5 miles. A fairly boring route at normal cruisin' pace on flat roads. Not exactly a life changing experience. 7:30ish pace. womp woooomp(imagine a trombone making that noise...yeah).

Thursday- 10 miles. Even flatter than Tuesday. Running country blocks is a bit boring. Lifting my eyes up to see the flat road disappear into the horizon makes a ten miler feel longer. While I was wallowing in my self pitty, I realized that a sunny December jog through a quiet farm country could be quite a bit worse. I hadn't eaten or drank anything all day(it was one of those purgatory type days where hours slip away like minutes), and still managed to go run 10 miles at an even(albeit 8:00+) pace.

Friday- 20 miles. I woke up craving a little adventure, so I packed up my backpack with a bladder full of water, a few GUs, my trekking poles, and some chocolate. After a week of being down about my poor training, I realized that I hadn't done one of my favorite training routines in quite some time. The long slow run was once the crux of my regimen. Now it's all been short and fast, hardly the type of running that needs to be done when one wants to cover 100miles over nasty terrain.

I just tucked my watch in my coat sleeve(I only brought it to measure total distance and keep an eye on the time), tossed on my intentionally heavy backpack, and jogged North. My legs were stiff and sore, but I had faith they would loosen up. At about mile 7, they finally did. Just plodded along at what turned out to be about 10-10:30 pace when running, and the occasional hiking just for the sake of slowing down and taking it in.
Coyotes have been hassling my goat...and I recently watched The Book of Eli,
so I may or may not have brought an unnecessarly large knife.

a little winter grayness

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Call to Those With Work Ethic

Its a plateau...see what I did there?

Well, I seem to have hit a slump again. I can usually manage about 3 weeks of decent running, then it falls off for about a week. Several theories on periodization suggest that this is a good thing, but there's one inherent problem with my pattern. Rather than the acceptable and fun week of crosstraining and exercise, the "down" week typically consists of little moving and more moping.

I don't take this as a sign of a total lack of fitness, but it's just not where I'd like to be. I can still string together a decent 5k on a whim and run 20-30 miles without hurting too terribly. Last year, I had a solid few months of training that lead to some success over all running distances. (Broke 17min for 5k, sub 3 marathon, and 7 hours for 50mile). I'd rather be improving upon these times, not struggling to recapture them.

I'm wondering I'm just perpetually unsatisfied with myself. We all tend to romanticize about our "glory days," and maybe this is just me doing that. Looking back on old posts, I seem to have maintained a bit of a frustration with my training, think I'm never as fast, or as consistent, or as dedicated as person x.

Whether I'm being too hard on myself or not, the path to improving upon my current self is going to be paved with consistency. I've gotten where I am, for better or worse, by averaging 40-60miles weekly with sporadic bouts of 80-100mile weeks, typically with a tempo run, a long run, and a (less than typical) track session. For someone who aspires to improve their performance at ultra distances, I'd like to average more weekly mileage.

I realize that an aspiring fitness professional shouldn't act so lost on what to do to get more fit.  The truth is, however, that the intangibles of training go beyond metabolic calculations and biomechanics. Just like VO2 max isn't the sole factor in performance, knowing facts and figures isn't the sole determinant of a good coach. If training were simply numbers based, there would be litte need for coaches, trainers, and doctors. Learning from each other means more to me than maintaining the visage of a perfect specimen.

So, fitness machines, how do you keep the consistency?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Digging Through My Old Stuff

My girlfriend was planning to make me a christmas present out of my old medals. I thought that maybe she was going to melt them down and create an armored, weaponized flying suit. Once I accepted that that probably wasn't going to happen, she told me that she was going to make a windchime. It's a way cooler idea than me just hitting my head on them when I dig my junk out of my closet, and it shows how thoughtful she is.

While looking through the old medals, I found my very first one, from my very first race. It had no ribbon and it was the size of a quarter. It's perfect. A small momento to commemorate the race and nothing more. Ostentatious displays akin to flava flav's clocks seem to be showing up more and more(ahem...North Country). Those of us who love the intrinsic value aren't in it for the swag. A little coin with a string, hung by a string I found in the parking lot will do just fine.

I'm not immune to this need for complication disguised as minimalism. Before starting over as a "barefoot"/minimal shoe runner, I wore one pair of shoes. For everything. I wore them out, modified them, then wore them out again. I now have more shoes than I know what to do with. I didn't own a GPS watch. My Garmin now has 4800miles and some change on it. I feel as though I'm better off now, since I'm running more miles with less injury, but I do remember the days where picking which gear to wear was a bit easier. Which shoes did I wear? The only ones I had. Was it above freezing? I wore my shorts from Target. Was it below freezing? I wore my windsuit pants.  I've started whittling it down, but still suffer from an inundation of shoes and clothing. I'd like to get back down to the following:
Good trail shoes(probably the NB MT110 or upcoming Merrell MixMaster)
Good Road Shoes(Nike Streak XCs)
Great Shorts
A pair of man pris
A pair of thermal tights
A waterproof jacket(Columbia Peak 2 Peak)
knitted gloves/hat
...damn, how did this hobby get so involved?

Shoes are tools. I miss the days when my toolbox contained only a hammer.
I trimmed these down to level them out after I shattered my knee, but before discovering
that barefoot and minimal shoe running existed.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Revisiting the Originals: Vibram Fivefingers Bikila LS review

Is the Bikila LS an upgrade from the KSO?

When I was approached by Vibram's marketing people to review the Bikila LS, I was a bit confused. I've expressed a bit of a disdain for this model because I felt it was a step in the wrong direction. It looked more like a running shoe, which was a surprise from a company known for making the "anti-running shoe." I was, of course, interested in an opportunity to feel for myself.

Trying the Bikila LS on - First Impression
The shoes arrived, and I was excited to try them on. My first impression wasn't positive. I felt restricted in the shoes and my feet felt cramped. This isn't unique to the Bikila, as a foot that fits so closely to the foot is going to feel tight. Nearly all other minimal offerings feature a relaxed fit, allowing for the foot to function naturally in the shoe. Vibram is truly different. Much like my old KSOs, I don't particularly enjoy the fit for casual use. They felt kind of hot, but the uppers felt much smoother than in KSOs.  I Just as with all other shoes, standing in them and looking at them is rarely a valid assessment of performance. They're not hailed as "the original standing around and wiggling your toes" shoes. I hated my KSOs for casual, but racked up over 2000miles on them before they finally wore through.

Advice: You may not be impressed initially, but they really shine on the run.

The Bikila Stands up on its own. This is evidence that its a bit more "running shoe" like when
compared to its sailing-inspired predecessor.

Running in the Bikila LS
I took the shoes for their first run- a 12 mile total run with hill repeats in the middle. Since the shoes felt a little tight, I applied some Vaseline to my pinky toes and a couple pre-existing sores(thanks, 2012 NB minimus zero). After a couple miles of warming up, they felt quite nice. The ground feel was  less than that of the KSO, but still more than most any of the current offerings. The thin sole allowed for a barefoot style gait. What contributes to its prowess as a "barefoot shoe"* is that it fits so closely to the foot. Since Vibram's patent is pending, its going to take quite a bit(and thus far, unseen) creativity to make a shoe feels so much like a bare foot. As they say in their own ads, "The more it looks like a foot, the more it acts like a foot." Sole thickness is important, but for some of us, it takes a backseat to responsiveness. In a shoe like a Bikila, there is no "flopping" or folding, and its so close to the foot that it acts like a thick(maybe too thick) second skin, not a shoe.

I may be a bit biased because the Vibram KSO was my first minimal shoe, after a few months of running exclusively barefoot. This is the reverse of the conservative "transitional shoe" approach, but I put over 2000miles on a pair without getting injured. They also fit my feet rather perfectly, which may not be the case if a runner has a Morton's toe(middle toe longer than big toe), bunions, or just a different foot shape.

My 4th pair of KSOs(left) and the New Bikila LS(right)
Simplicity has been replaced by more technology. Whether that's good or bad is up to you.

The eye catching "podded" design allows for points of flexion while adding some
sole thickness for protection.

Something more recent from Vibram is the lacing system that replaces the standard hook and loop straps. The laces are nice in that they can't be overtightened like the strap. Vibrams have such a tight fit that a complicated mechanism isn't necessary. Laces look pretty sweet. I'm not above favoring a shoe that's easy on the eyes! Since the Bikila is a running specific model, it has reflective stuff on it. I doubt it will keep me from getting hit by a car, but it still looks cool.

The upper is much smoother than the KSO. Though a bit warmer, the inside has no seams. This keeps the runner from suffering the cuts that have scarred my feet as a result of wet KSOs. The buttery smooth inside is almost as good as the KSO Trek(Kangaroo leather model).

Bottom line: Had I bought the Bikilas for a general purpose running shoe, I would not have disappointed

Vibram's Bikila LS is generally a very good shoe. Though I'd like to see a thinner sole for road running, the current sole thickness is versatile. A runner can be on gravel, chip and seal, and non rocky trails and be very happy. If you're fortunate enough to have a foot the same shape as the shoe's last, then they will serve you well. Give them a fair shake that goes beyond putting them on and standing in one place.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A logo-filled week.

I tossed my name into the lottos for both of these fine races. I'm qualified for WS in the legittest of ways, but I went the "please believe me, I can survive your race" approach for Hardrock. It is an option, but since I've yet to run a hundo, its pretty unlikely. I took a shot anyway. I have confidence in my abilities, but understand how it looks on paper. I've finagled my way into prestigious events before. You only live once, right?
Edit: I already found out that I didn't get into Hardrock. Apparently, they had so many applicants with qualifying races under their belts that they couldn't even consider those of us that attempted to convince them. Elite ultra baus Michael Wardian was on the same mailing list I was, so I didn't feel so bad.


a person who pretends or claims to have more knowledge or skill than he or she possesses; quack.

6 miles - Put off running all day so that I could hit the books. I was successful in that I did indeed put off running all day. A little studying, a meeting of the Unemployed Bored Braintrust, and back to reading. Lo and behold, I arrived at home to find out the horse and goat and other barn dwelling creatures needed feed, so I had to go to the feed store. Finally snuck a run in after dark. My legs were a little achy from the tempo 14 the day before, so I just slogged out 6 easy miles on the dirt roads near the house. Caught a little sliver of sun going down.

Tons of ass time in the car as I travelled to take my certification test. All the sitting made me drowsy and I didn't muster up the gumption to run. I did, however, add a few acronyms to my resume.

This should help the job searching along nicely. I don't believe that people are defined by their certifications. I'm the same person I was the day before I took the test, but now I hope it adds a little legitimacy will require less convincing. Little known fact: I actually know how to train people, but happen to train myself in a sporadic nature.

5 miles - Did a little jogging at the State Park to take in the warm air. Some hills, deer runs, and dunes. Chilled out afterward, stretching my achy back(really regretting not running to undo all of yesterday's sitting) on the beach.

9 miles - Still warm out, so I did a little shoeless running on the bike path to the lighthouse. Its been a while since my bare feet touched pavement. Form felt solid, but my foot skin is totally deconditioned. Circled back around for my KSOs and felt better. Yep, I'm a wuss. Great run on the break arm to the lighthouse as some huge waves splashed on the rocks and wind tried to take me out into the water.

AM-12 miles. 3 mile warmup to the track, then a bit of an arduous workout.
3 mile cool down.

5 miles of sub 6 minute mile pace felt surprisingly good, despite the track having ice on it in a few spots. I'm in need of some road/track slippers. It would appear that all I own are trail shoes and 2 pair of Vibrams that are inexplicably hacking the shit out of my feet. Cold weather seems to pucker the seams on my KSOs.

PM - 7 miles at Muskegon State Park with Ryan, fairly easy pace, but the weather was great for December and it was awesome to enjoy the final days of slush free running. A little running on the gravel ski path, steeper hills, deer runs, and the road along Lake Michigan. If life does keep me in West Michigan longer than planned, I won't be as disappointed as I originally thought I would be.
The temp could fool me, but that winter sky is a dead giveaway. It's December.
Photo: Ryan(stolen from facebook...thanks Ryan!)
AM- 16 miles with Jeremiah in Allendale. It started raining on the way there, and I knew I was in for a muddy treat. A road route to some trails near the Grand River, a few loops(containing one treat of a hill that Dr. C insists on climbing repeatedly...damn him), and back to Campus. I've been spending a lot of time in the car to log running miles. Ecologically reprehensible.

10 miles - I slept in way too late to sneak a run in, so I had to wait until dark. My family went to bed, and I hit the road. I was able to run with my headlight off with the moon lighting my way. It was incredibly quiet. The rain had finally quit and the wind completely died off. I didn't look at my watch until I got back. The first and last miles were 8ish, the middle 8 were 7ish. Felt rather effortless.

Total: 65miles. Fell short once again, but I matched last week. The week had all the essential components(easy, long, tempo, and pacework), so the low volume approach isn't all bad.