Sunday, January 29, 2012

Retreat and Reload

0 miles. Bad weather. Aching Achilles from the long run. Started new job at 6am. That covers my bases as far as lame excuses go.

10 miles - 8 miles at hoffmaster, plus 20 hard minutes of stairs at Coast Guard Park. Focused on the hills and really went hard on the stairs. I was short on time, and running with intensity was a great change of pace from last week. Felt strong for the first time in a while. The lengthy bout of stair running reminded me just how much I need to train for a Tahoe. Prolonged climbing is incredibly different than hill repeats.
The stair loop at Coast Guard Park.
8 miles - The usual loop with Mark and Rick at Hoffmaster. I'm glad those guys run consistently, because I sure as hell can't seem to lately. I'm the remora to their shark. Winter has been so light that I forget it's almost february. Our days are getting longer already.

7 miles - A flat road loop near my house. Nothing special, other than it's sunny for a change. Suprisingly, a fast run took place! Hit the pavement after 2 miles of glare ice and the pace sped up. Ran progressively faster until getting back on my glare ice road again. Like a built-in warm up and cool down.

Worked overtime. Got lazy afterward. I did, however come up with a plan for next week.

This was one of the worst weeks I've had in a long time. Even posting this stings just a little. Am I really one of those "My life is a marathon" people? I think not.

Time for a new random-ass challenge to kick myself into gear. I shall call it, "The Workin' Man's Challenge." 100 mile week+ 40(or 48, depending on if Saturday is mandatory) hours of working. 14 miles a day seems possible after doing 120 a few weeks ago.

What the hell, right? Hit a good week, coast through February, and start the real training plan for Tahoe Rim.

My Decision to Become a Coach

I'll admit, a long haired hippie child who seldom wears a shirt or socks doesn't fit the whole "running coach" profile.

Coach George Dales and members of Western Michigan University CC team

I started out my own running career as a totally unfocused 19 year old. I knew I liked running, but never wanted to take it seriously. I transferred to WMU in 2008 at the age of 21(or whatever year Obama got elected. Don't bother me with details). After spending some time with people who ran competitively in high school and college, I realized that I wasn't all that different. Abbey Goetz, a close friend of mine, finally convinced me to join our school's running club. I went reluctantly, and I told myself it was to be social and spend time with other runners. I didn't want anything to do with track workouts, tempo runs or any of that. I was an ultrarunner(I had just completed my first 50k), and didn't think it was necessary.

At my first running club practice, I met a small, portly older gentleman. Immediately after shaking my hand, he told me to touch my toes. I reluctantly did, but only because I didn't want to be noncompliant. I reached my feet, despite feeling snap, crackles and pops that aren't normally heard by a 21 year old. The man decided I was ok, until he looked down at my Vibram Fivefingers that looked like they had been plucked from the garbage. All this man knew about me is that I run long and really slow, don't like running fast, and don't wear running shoes.

For a few weeks, I showed up to the club on "easy days" to goof off and run with my friends. I somehow managed to have "things to do" on days when they ran hard. One day, somebody changed the schedule and neglected to tell me. I felt like I had been ambushed with a surprise speed workout.

800m repeats.

I had no choice. I didn't have the cajones to walk away, and I didn't have the legs to run this workout. Some of us run long to mask the lack of fortitude it takes to admit that our speed could use improvement. I was once one of those people.

I suffered through the workout, until Coach pulled me off the track and told me that that was enough. He probably had enough of seeing my red face bounce awkwardly along the track and hearing my asthmatic lungs wheeze by him. I felt awful. I was sick. I felt defeated. I was the slowest piece of crap on the track.

I was addicted.

Like any other addiction, it felt bad at first. Remember when you had beer or coffee the first time? Did you ever think it would be something you'd use to get yourself awake in the morning or something you'd enjoy with friends after work? There's something about it that brings us back. We may not like how it feels initially, but we love the effect.

It probably didn't help that I had great training partners. I grew and learned with a group of runners that shared my desire and drive, even if I didn't know that I possessed it. We had no cross county or track team to hope to try out for. No scouts looking at us. No scholarships on the line. All we had was our small group, and our wise old coach. I'm not sure if I maintained a love of running because of college or in spite of it. Whether I'm out to make any good in this world or not, I owe a lot of my happiness to people like Abbey Goetz, Alex Poulsen, Evan Groendyk, and James Webber.

If you're scrolling down to find the point of all this...this is the general vicinity.

Only later did I realize just how great my coach was. George Dales, unbeknownst to me, is one of the most influential people in collegiate cross country. In my own little world, he was my first and most influential running coach. He came down to the field house on his own time to coach a bunch of misfits who just loved running. We were often irreverent and aloof, not wanting to follow his instruction. The more we ran, the more we trusted him. He led countless athletes in both collegiate and Olympic running to their potential. Who were we to disagree?

I was still an ultrarunner at heart, so I decided to represent our little club at the Kal Haven Trail Run. The team set up a fast relay group, and I ran the distance solo. I planned on being incredibly slow, as my last ultra was a bit abysmal. Long story short- I ran harder and faster than I expected, winning my age group, and nearly running a Boston qualifying time in the first 26.2 miles of the 34mile race.

The day I realized that being a "real runner" is whatever you want it to be.
The team did exceedingly well at their respective distances, and I surpassed my expectations for the ultra. The lesson I learned, even if it wasn't for a couple years, is that structured, quality training is a perfect supplement to wandering and enjoying running. They aren't mutually exclusive, but rather have the ability to inspire the polarizing sides of us - the drive for self improvement and the desire to spend time with our thoughts in the outdoors.

What does this have to do with me wanting to be a coach? I feel that everybody has a niche to fill. Mine is unique, just like anyone's. I love being a recreational athlete, but I feel that the best way to have fun is to give it your all. I've been on all ends of the spectrum. Holding off on athletic endeavors until early adulthood gave me an understanding of "starting at the bottom." Running two-a-days in college helped me understand the importance of dedication, training, and passion. Training while working full time helps me understand the plight of the working class hero.

Knowing you've put the effort into an upcoming event makes it even more fun. I want to help people achieve that feeling. Peak performance doesn't always have to involve course records or gold medals. I want to coach a person to reach their potential.

I'm starting an online coaching project. It's not a "get rich quick scheme" I cooked up to avoid a real job. It's a way for me to channel my drive to help. Call me an idealist, but I truly believe that a focus on movement and getting in touch with our more dedicated, passionate selves. I've found it to be the case with me.

I also need something fun to do with my American College of Sports Medicine Certification and Bachelor's in Exercise Science (there. I didn't exceed my self prescribed 2 line maximum for credential-dropping). is up, but I'm still working on it. As readers of my personal blog, I consider you very valuable consultants. I value altruism above nearly everything, so I want people to know that I value the client coach relationship as a partnership. If there's any suggestions, let 'em fly! "Truth over harmony," as I've been told.

Jeff Vander Kooi has done me the honor of being the first athlete I coach. He's been doing an amazing job since November. I can't take credit for his drive and dedication, but I do send him his training plans weekly and provide feedback. He's keeping a log of his training for a trail 25k on April 1st. Check it out here:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

My Body Has No Odometer, Only a Watch.

The goal for the week: a modest 14 hours. Pace or mileage be damned. Forward motion is all that counts this time. A little base-building never hurt anybody. I've been feeling like a slave to the Garmin, so I'm not going to use it. Yeah, another attempt to mix it up.

1.5 hours - Postholing in the snow and slush at the Park. Most of the run was in the dunes, so it was slow going, yet high heart rate and burning legs were ever present. I enjoyed the run, especially when I fell off a ridge and went sledding on my back. The epitome of the "off season" run, I ran, looked at the lake, and did all of the tough hills that my ego makes me avoid because it was slow(maybe I'm more of a road runner than I admit). These are the kinds of runs I wish I did more often...and will incorporate into my training. Works for Geoff Roes, right? Sure...other than his "slow" is my "holy shit my legs are burning."

Off topic: MT110s are great snow shoes. Even with 7 months of running on them, the ragged lugs still grip the hard pack snow. YakTrax XTRs help when it's really bad.

0 hours - The 14 hour goal gave me room for a rest day. My achilles felt a little tweaked, so I took it easy.

1.5 hours - super slow run on roads in the ankle deep snow. Running slow and strong feels good. Silent run in the dark as the snow fell on me. I'll try to remember how effortless it feels to not feel my legs the next time my legs hurt.

7ish hours - Okay, I was snowmobiling. Not exactly running, but my legs were beat up nonetheless. The trails weren't groomed  and the bumps were big. Imagine several consecutive "mini squats" while holding onto a 400lb+ machine. Wandering around the trails for hours seems to have been bred into me, since I've been doing this since age 12(and clinging to my dad for 7 years before that, since he rode like a madman whether I was attatched or not). This cut into my running time, but I figure it's cool. All the signs of a long winter run were present. Achy legs and arms, elevated HR, frostbite, and a craving for food and drink from the pub.

I'm the one in the background...not that it matters.
 Great day in the snow with family and friends
1.5 hours - Took Abbey on my dune route at the state park. Temps in the teens, but we were working hard to stay warm. The sun even popped out for a little. None too shabby. In the snow, this little peice of land is my favorite place to be. Dune ridges, root-laden trails, generally pretty tough stuff. Abbey the road warrior did well.

5.5 hours - 34ish miles at the Paint Creek 50k. Arrived 20 minutes late. Thank goodness it wasn't a race. Churning along in the snow, and chugging up the slimy, slushy hills. A rather boring run, but it's tough to turn down a free long run with a little aid station support and some cool ultrarunners. Great weather and a difficult run. Definitely a good strength builder. I ran the first 7 miles or so fast with Rich, another guy who showed up late. He was really fast, and helped me figure the course out. We got separated, and I slowed up quite a bitcxv f  Inspired by my friend Phil, my aim in the off season is to run with consistency and hit ultramarathon distance once monthly. No official time, and no official place. 2 unlegit.
Running through the more affluent areas in the state offered a change of scenery. Instead of a meth head attempting to run me over in his '83 F-150, industry moguls showed disregard for my life with the grilles of their Audis. Douchebaggery transcends socioeconomic status.

As far as physical activity goes, it was around 17 hours. Of course, its a bit arbitrary since I doubt there is a precise MET value for "aggressive trail snowmobiling." I feel refreshed today, despite some sore legs from Saturday. Dare I shoot for a triple-digit week and make it a monthly occurrence? I start a factory job where Im on my feet running a grinder, so it's not likely. Structured training isn't really my thing lately. There will be time for that in March/April and beyond. I'd rather invest the time to save money for the upcoming move at this point.  Yeah, I have a 100 to train for. Isn't being young and arrogant awesome?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My only plan as of 2012.

A couple years ago, I was crewing for Jason at the Burning River 100. Watching a 100 before actually doing one was a surreal experience. I had the chance to feel the excitement, the hope, the fear, the pain, and the elation of the ultra's ultra before actually doing it. That was two years ago.

I had my opportunity to experience it firsthand a few months ago, when I attempted the Hallucination 100 over in Pinckney, MI. Though ultimately it was a lingering injury that did me in, I've decided after (too much) reflection that the day was never mine to begin with. My ego was inflated by a successful Summer, and I forgot why I partake in this sport to begin with. It has nothing to do with standings, places or medals.

I've been humbled by training solo. The only races I've done since Hallucination are low key holiday 5-10k distance races. Life has been feeling boring and broken, and it's time to fix it.
You only live once, right?

On the running front(less important, but generally the focus of this blog): Tahoe Rim Trail 100. I signed up New Years Day at 4am. I awoke from a dead sleep(I don't have to explain New Year's Eve festivities, do I?) and realized it was time to start my life again. Waiting around for some bullshit job to come through so I could feel like a productive member of society was killing me. I have dreams. They started with running, but spread and infused themselves into the fabric of my being. Ambition is contagious. Making one bold move will lead to more. That's how I want to live, not sitting idly and waiting for some semblance of a life to come to me. Never mind that I have no idea how I'll get there, how I'm going to cover 100miles at altitude, or how I'll fund all the shenanigans that take place between now and then. Great stories aren't about plans.

As you can see from that last paragraph, running is more than running to me. I don't think I've effectively hidden the fact that I moved to Boulder last Summer primarily to run, and secondly to work. The bold decision to test myself in a new environment led to growth on so many levels. I discovered a passion for working with people with disabilities, which was something I had no idea existed within me. I found out that independence isn't being 100% ready for what lies ahead. Independence is knowing that what lies ahead is never insurmountable. The last few months have consisted of waiting- waiting for a job, waiting for motivation, waiting for inspiration. No more.

My goal for 2012 and beyond: Less mistakes of sloth. More mistakes of ambition.

Samantha and I are moving back to Colorado. Adventure is imminent.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Keep on Truckin'

I think training logs are for people who train, but habits are hard to break.

4 easy. Did a hard 17 miler with Evan the day before, and I was feeling it this morning. Some hip flexor pain, but cruising pace was acheived. Only one hill. I've got to get to some trails soon.

3 easy. Sitting is the enemy. No wonder sedentary people stay sedentary. Running will free up my back and hip flexors, but they hurt like the dickens in the process. Exercise is certainly an effective medicine, but like lots of medicine, it tastes bad sometimes.

14 miles - Met up with Abbey and Evan in Grand Rapids for Abbey's weekly long run. All the commuting is killing my body(and my wallet). I don't think I felt comfortable until mile 7, but after that, I finally felt like a runner again. Great run overall. Its amusing to run with people who train with speed as their cheif concern. I tend to goof off on longer runs and run slow, but diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks.

Sick. Incredibly sick and vomitting violently. My innerds were being wrung out like a dish cloth. Gross.

7 miles - I love fresh snow. A big storm blew into the lakeshore area, so I headed to the trails for fun run. I arrived at 4, and the sun would be setting a little after 5. I forgot my headlight, so 1 hour was perfect. Ran the snow covered dunes, where the drifts were over knee deep in some spots. All the road running I've been doing made me forget just how much I love difficult climbs. No GPS, no real knowledge of pace. I ran for 77 minutes, so I just guessed conservatively and assumed 11 minute miles. I imagine there aren't too many people who wouldn't have enjoyed this run. The weather was perfect and the snow made it fun. Seeing all the kids at the park on sleds made me realize that playing in the snow is something we only outgrow if we choose to.

3 miles - Worked a shift that swallowed up my day. Yeah, I know, full of excuses. Without any time to get to the state park and enjoy more snow, I did a quick 3 miler on the road with Libby(my sister's dog that I was watching). We both slipped all over the road. The dirt road I live on was glare ice, and the road is crowned. I got frustrated and went home.

1.5 hour run. State park again, and a little more fresh powder to play in. I hit the singletracks that snake around the dunes, ran along the Lake Michigan Beach, and post-holed along the tree covered ridges. Great run, but I'm glad I forgot my watch. The slow pace would have been a really demoralizing cap to the week. Callin' it 8 miles.

39 miles for the week. This seems pretty bad, and it is when compared to what I'd like to be doing. The only redeeming part about this training week is 3 weightlifting sessions, and 3x 30minute "hill interval" sessions on the Arc Trainer(eliptical type thing at work). The trail runs have been a departure from the typical flat road sessions I've been doing as of late.

Let's see if I can do a little better next week. I'm thinking a long run on the weekend and some hours in the snow, provided it sticks around. Time(as opposed to mileage) based training will mix it up.

Happy Winter!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

I sit here writing this as a total bum. I got out of work with every intention of going running immediately afterward. To my dismay, I forgot my wallet, food, or any other means to get calories into me. I’m still adjusting to this whole commute/job thing.

I arrived at home, ready to get my ass moving and go for a run or bike ride. The air had finally chilled a little, so I moved quickly to get from the car to the house. My legs hurt, specifically in the hip flexors. This had me confused and, well, a little pissed off.

I ran 120-something miles last week. Other than being sore, I suffered no injuries whatsoever. A week later, I have pain during hip flexion? Despite my irreverent nature, I’m inclined to agree that rigorous training is wasted if not coupled with adequate rest. Why the hell do my legs hurt at the end of a rest week? The only answer I can think of is a generic one:

Even rest can be overdone.

I should have kept moving instead of taking consecutive days of little movement. Sure, I didn’t spend the week in bed, but I only ran a couple times, lifted weights just enough to go through the range of motion of my joints, and did some core work. This was only a fraction of my usual activity, and I feel rusty as hell. The extensive sitting I’ve done this week has tightened up my knees, hips, and back. A few minutes of activity won’t suffice to free up this tin man.

Doing two weeks of the extremes(activity and inactivity), I’ve learned some things. Without structure, things tend to fall apart. Last week, I had a plan to run 20miles per day. There were rules, there were deadlines, and there was motivation. This week, I “rewarded” myself the liberty to train strictly as desired. Needless to say, this doesn’t bode well for a natural born slacker with a recent sense of entitlement from accomplishing a goal and becoming employed. I’ve learned that if I’m going to train with any resolve, even the rest weeks need to have a bit of a plan.

You’d think I would know this already…right?

So, for my next hair brained scheme, I’m going to buy a calendar. A real, paper calendar, perhaps with cool pictures of cars, trees, or naked ladies(that’s what adults do right? You should see my grandpa’s workshop). On this calendar will have training goals on it. Weekly totals, scheduled dates to run with friends who are less flaky than I…which is just about anyone, and planned runs to hammer out solo.

Does planning my runs out mean I’ll be a slave to a calendar and cease to enjoy myself? I hope not. My intent is to limit the stress that comes from not knowing when or where a run will take place, to just make it a part of my day, albeit the more enjoyable part. We shall see what comes next. I’m not attached to the outcomes, but more or less an observer of myself

Immediate plans? I’m bagging the run today in favor of a couple vanilla java porters and some head clearing.

Welcome to the inside of my head. Watch for falling ideas.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Success can be bought with foot skin

This week seems to have gone out with a whimper, rather than a bang. I finished out the challenge, giving me a 120 mile week.
 My first run was just before dark, finishing in a blinding snowstorm on the flat farmland around my home. Several inches of snow piled up in the 1.5 hours I was out. Salt trucks blew by on some of the busy roads, blasting me with salt and slush. The back roads were calm and peaceful, since the 2-3 inches of powder hadn't been touched by plows or even tires yet.  Ice hanging from my beard and hair, I pulled in with 11 miles on. The run started out painful, and took nearly 6 miles to loosen up. My pace had slowed due to fatigue and icy roads(race flats provide little traction). The adverse conditions made it fun, but it would have been more fun on fresh legs.

I ate an overly huge dinner of pasta, garlic bread, and shrimp. I then made a fatal mistake - I sat down on the couch.

I sat until 11pm. Realizing that I couldn't lose motivation when all I needed was a mere 6 miles to break an even 120 miles in 6 days. Finished up some work on the computer and headed out the door. I ran a loop I knew to be 7 miles. Not a single car passed by as I ran silently in the snow. It hurt. I guess that's what I wanted from this tedious break from my mediocrity- to see if I could keep going when nobody was around. Nobody cares if I keep going. Hell, I'd bet most would rather I stop. I silently walked the last half mile or so, just because it was nice to watch the snow fall on the road for a minute. I approached my door, realizing it was well past midnight. Another flaw that technically disqualifies my efforts, but I'm ok with it.

"Some of you might think 'any idiot could do that.' Well, it was hard for be so back off"
-Adam Sandler, Billy Madison

A few stats
123 miles this week(Monday-Sunday)*
10 runs total
Average pace- 8:00mile
Elevation- absurdly low, negligible
Shoes: Nike XC streak, Merrell Trail Glove

The week was held together by superglue(to hold the band-aids on my feet)
and a couple cool books for inspiration.

* I ran with three people with Garmin GPS watches. Mine came up 5-10% short on each of these runs. Not sure why mine is consistently reading low, but I just went by the final readout when I finished my runs. It's consistent, which I suppose is more crucial than accuracy.

I had a nice thought about how this week of triumph finally showed a chink in the armor of my mental weakness, but I forgot it. I should carry a pen around or something.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Day 6: Home Stretch

I still haven't run, and its about 3:30pm. Debating whether to run before or after dinner.

The weather has taken a turn for the chilly, and its snowing pretty heavily. This is perfect. Snow beats rain any day, and makes for something more aesthetically pleasing while I plod out these final miles. A quiet, long solo run is going to happen, taking me into the week the same way it started.

I'm pleasantly surprised by how great I feel after an easy 18. I didn't think 2 miles or a slower pace would make much of a difference, but I feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle the last 20miler of the week. I'll write up more of what I learned later, but the most important has been the value of proactive blister care. My feet look awful as I glue together blisters that started small and grew quickly.

I can't help but feel that more accomplished runners could read this and think that I'm being a self-indulgent ass clown for documenting such a trivial thing as a slow low quality/high volume week like this. I realize that such feats are accomplished by several people in my social circle on a regular basis. Truth is, it's just to keep me on pace and help me do something I know I'm capable of. My limits lately have been self imposed products of complacency, and announcing my goals to even a few people has helped make me accountable, even if my mother likely accounts for the majority of my readership.

Enough musing, its time to get running.

If I don't post by the end of the day...just wait longer.