Sunday, April 22, 2012

Week 2: Sequels are never as good

Mornin' - 17 miles - Planned an awesome route this morning. Flagstaff to the Green Mountain Lodge to Long Canyon to West Rigdge to GreenBear to Bear Canyon to Mesa to Chatauqua to Gregory Canyon. I  swear each mile of this place has it's own name. The route is on the easier side, hooking lots of runable climbs to smoove descents. The backside of the mountains still had a few inches of snow from last night. And me without my YakTrax. One habit I'll have to break to increase performance is stopping so much to look around. I sort of just...forget to keep running. I suppose in this preliminary base building phase, longer shuffles and time upright are most important. Maybe tomorrow I'll do a shorter, steeper run.

Afternoon - 30 minutes of biking, and some water aerobics. Yes. Water aerobics. Don't hate. I teach a class. Loosens up my tight legs and provides a little resistance too, so judge away! I think it was one of those unnoticed things from last Summer that kept me healthy. I've been hurt more from rusting than breaking. I keep putting the "AM" and "PM" on my log in hopes that it will prompt me to double and head out for a jog around town, but alas, I made soup and listened to reggae music. Still about 4hours of exercise on the day. which is a hell of a lot better than when I was home.

Morning - 6 miles - interval work.
 2 mile warmup
2 mile cooldown
Kind of a rough estimate for mileage, but I think its a conservative guess. I didn't bother setting my watch up for intervals. Nice headwind on the return trip, so I slowed a little. Still around 6:00/mile overall for the intervals. Since I had a long jog the day before, I'll take a little comfort in the fact that my legs weren't sore and I was able to go sub 6min/mile for a bit. Even uptempo runs like this are tough solo. I took more rest than I should have between efforts. Something to work on for next time.

Afternoon - 5 miles of slightly fast running on the Boulder Creek Path. Headed west for 2.5 of slight,constant uphill, then picked up the pace on the way home with a little help from gravity. 7:20 pace with warmup and cooldown included. Double fast(er) runs felt pretty good today. Hopefully some fresh legs will await me in the morning.

Approx. 40 minutes of cycling thrown in too.

0 miles. Woke up feeling sick. I kept putting the run off until I felt better, but the day slipped away. Still meandered downtown to the bookstore and rode my bike to run some errands, but no actual running. Some might call it a hangover, I'd rather call it a...well, hangover I guess.

AM - 10 miles - Stroll up to Gregory Canyon, Flagstaff trail, then over to the Saddle Rock trail via Greenman.
I'm 90% sure that this is the reason it's named the Greenman trail.
The standard 40 minutes of bike commuting.
PM - 12 miles - an 11 miler with an additional mile thrown in there. I had to go around CU's campus because the police kept people out. Festivities and all that from the 4/20 "holiday." Flagstaff to May's point, down Gregory Canyon to Chatauqua. Though I hadn't eaten in a while, I felt a little sharper on this run. Though I really dislike heat, I'll have to make sure to do afternoon runs when it gets hot to get some heat training in. Biked around town for 30 minutes or so.

0 miles Coaching a Special Olympics Swim meet kept me off the trails today. An 8 hour workday?!? How absurd. Still got about 40 miniutes of cycling in as a commute, but that's about it.

10 miles - A super slow shuffle up Mt. Flagstaff to my favorite lookout spot. Just wasn't feeling well. Nothing hurt, and I didn't feel sick, but just sort of "off". I sat there in the sun, wondering why I felt so down and sluggish. I realized that was alcohol.
40 minutes(ish) on the bike.

60 miles of shufflin'
6ish hours on the bicicleta cruising around town.

Despite the low number, the week wasn't without it's merit. A rather long training run felt great, I followed it up with two speedy efforts the following day, and I still managed 12 miles a day with two rest days. If this is my lowest week until I start tapering, I think I'll be ok.
As one could infer, the week kind of got sloppy. I've learned a few things about myself that will help for training in the future, provided I don't have to keep learning them over and over.

- Breakfast should just be eaten after the run. Even on days where I ran 2-2.5 hours, I still subsided on a couple GUs and felt fine. On mornings when I ate breakfast, it was difficult to get out the door afterwards. I like to wake up on my way to the mountains. The jogs up there have been slow, and don't require a gutful of toast, coffee, nutella, and fruit.

- No coffee before the run. I'm not sure what's changing with me, but my "garbage disposal" days seem to be coming to an end. I don't get sick and vomit, but the body's starting to speak up about what it wants.

-Both days this week that I haven't felt like running have been preceeded by nights of overindulgence. I couldn't say whether its a lingering effect of altitude, a change in my body, or my current(rather lonesome) living situation, but I think I'll lay off the sauce for a while. Without the external motivation of others asking me to run, I'm all I've got. If something is draining my motivation, I'd better leave it alone.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Not All Obstacles Are Rocks

I sit here in my empty apartment, sunlight pouring in through the windows and skylights. The clock has just shown 12:00. I intended to get up for a run this morning, but have since managed to daudle, to do shit I never thought I'd get around to doing- filling out my day planner for the next coulple weeks, laundry, check for my new running shoes to arrive at the door repeatedly. Anything but get out and run to the trails.

This is what I came here for, isn't it? I've already rested a day this week, and physically I feel fine. No matter how many days in a row, or how many feet I climb, I wake up feeling rested. As usual, the culprit is my mind.
I ascend from town into the canyons, and am quickly reduced to a hike. The endless stairs and rocks remind me that I'm not a "natural" anything. I'm reminded that a long torso and short legs aren't meant for springing my way up to the summit of a mountain. My tingling legs and light headedness confirmed what lab data from school told me already, that after years of training myself for endurance sports my VO2 max worked it's way up to "slightly above average."

Even as I write this, my mind is changing. I thought of my frequent stops to catch my breath. I had my hands on my knees, breathing like I'd been shot. What I didn't do, I've just realized, is turn around and head home.  There has to be something to that. I've just got to put my pride away and keep going. When working toward an individual goal, the workload rests on the individual. Others will do what they can to help, but ultimately, nobody really cares how many miles I run this Summer or what kind of person I am. Keeping this blog helps immensely, but I have to keep questioning my own motivations.

The only thing that will determine whether this is the chronicling of a fizzled out failure or a genuine accomplishment is the author.

That's why I clicked "publish" and put my shoes on.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Back in the Saddle

I left the steel-toes at home. The shiny ones are getting used more now.

This week was a total surprise. I expected a lackluster return to training in earnest, and this week blew me away. My leg speed isn't great, but I can blame altitude, right? I'm living alone until Samantha comes out for her internship, so I've just been bumming around, immersing myself in a town known for it's serious athletes, eccentrics, wild college kids, and outdoor enthusiasts. I've been called all of these things, so looking like less of a tourist should have been easier. In the past seven days, I surpassed my highest mileage training week and my longest training run of last Summer's Boulderian(is that a word?) adventure. Work has been sparse, but it'll pay the bills for the time being. I came to run, find out what I can live with(and without), and help people along the way. Not a whole lot of need for monties*
My first view of the mountains. Hazy airplane window at DIA.

AM - 10 miles. The plan was to be out the door by 7am. Of course, I left at 8am. Even an awesome new trail playground can't get my lazy ass out of bed. Left my place and plodded through CUs campus and up the hill to Boulder Mountain Park for some much overdue mountain running. Gregory Trailhead up the Flagstaff trail to the overlook. I think it's called the summit, but it's not pointy. I feel like summits should be all pointy and what not. Crossed the road and took Gregory Canyon down. I think more of this run was road than trail, but I don't have a car or I get a nice warmup in.

This run didn't feel as difficult as I remember. Granted, it was slow and steady and gawking at deer/vistas, but the whole thing only took an hour and fifty minutes. It's probably because it was 45 degrees instead of 95(the last time I climbed it while training for Pikes.) I really wanted to head over the the Green Mountain summit, but I don't want to bite off more than I can chew in these first weeks. I'm coming from low volume training weeks, and getting too excited could spell disaster. Perhaps tomorrow.
View from Mt. Flagstaff. Not the greatest quality with the phone,
but my camera might pull my shorts down.

PM - Rented a Boulder B-Cycle and got a workout just getting to and from work. Fell asleep early. I thought I was secure enough to ride around on a red rental bike with a huge basket on the front, but the stares were just a bit too much. Did get some wicked air off of a bridge on the Creek Path though. A search for my own temporary cruiser has begun.

AM - Call it 10 I guess. 3.5 to the Rec Center, then an interval workout with the track club. 2x3min, 3x2min, and 4x1min with rest intervals of 60-90sec. 3.5 back home. The hard intervals were 5k pace or so, which felt good. The group is full of great runners and cool folks, so I think I'll join on a longer term basis. Another great advantage is how early the morning sessions are. It could help nip my inherent laziness in the bud and keep me from sleeping in 2 days a week. I felt great running with a group. Though nobody could ever replace the comeraderie of my college friends, the guys and girls helped me get my hobbyjoggin' ass movin'. Beautiful morning for a group run with the Flatirons in the background.

Noon - 3 miles - Had a couple errands to run, and I'm too impatient to wait for a bus or walk. Bikeless and carless living will be good for training, but I may have to find a pair of shoes to reserve for situations where stank** must be minimized. Perhaps socks are in order...and longer shorts for the trips to the store. Boulder's a cool town, but not all are cool with the cheek chillers.

AM - 12 miles - Left the apartment, cut through CU campus, waved at the Frank Shorter statue, climbed some stairs near the stadium, and headed for the Gregory Canyon trailhead. Either I'm getting tired, altitude is getting to me or that trail is one tough bitch. I assume a combination...and that I'm slow. The views through the mist were as great as I remember from last Summer, but with more snow remaining on the peaks. Parts of the Ranger trail still had snow on them, which made me think of the painful ass cheek sliding that would occur if I were to lose my footing. I'm not sure if it was the extra feet of climbing, but I got tightness in my chest for the first time since my arrival. Oh well. I came out here to suck wind and train, so suck wind and train is what I shall do. No time to feel sorry for myself.

PM - 4 miles - Headed east on the Boulder Creek Path and circled around on some of the city's greenways. Also hit up the old freeride trails at the research park. The small singletrack hills could make for an interesting workout in the future. My pace was erratic, so bailed on the remaining miles of the run. I intended to use it only as recovery from the AM, so I didn't push it. Pace ranged from 6:40- 9:00.  on flat ground. My legs must have been fried.

...all I ate today was a bowl of oatmeal, a GU, and a large quarter pounder with cheese meal (Large, of course), so maybe I should get my shit diet together.

14 miles - I woke up feeling a bit tired, which is weird since I slept well for the first time since moving. Felt a bit sluggish on the plod through campus, but I remembered a few streets that would lop off the boring street miles to the mountain park. I ran a whole mile next to the same bus as it sped up and slowed down to pick people up. It was kind of fun chasing it, and it helped wake my legs up. I opted for the Flagstaff trail since the canyon was a bitch the day before. Shed my shirt once I hit the trail and started to feel a bit better. I'm not too speedy on these trails, but even at a crawl, I know I'm strengthening my legs, heart, and mind. I continued to zigzag up the trails, then reached the Flagstaff Nature Center(or whatever). I found a little trail to May's point, a large rock formation that protrudes from the pines and allows for an unobstructed view of the distant snow covered mountains. I sat on the rock cross legged for a bit, enjoying the last of an old ass stash of pre-production Expresso Love GU. The air was so cold I could see my own breath, but the run and the sunshine kept me warm as I wondered how the hell I got here, and how far I have to go.

I played around on a couple small loops on Flagstaff, then headed over to Green, where I too Greenman to Saddle Rock and back down to Chatauqua. Total elapsed run time was 2:40. I've decided to never stop my watch since I forget to restart it 9/10 times. Came home fairly exhausted and hungry.

AM  - 14 miles(estimate) - 2.5 to Chatauqua, Then met up with my long lost pal Ely (with retriever Archie in tow) for some shuffling on the mesa trail. After catching up and chatting on the Mesa, we took a hard left up into Fern Canyon. To call it running would be a stretch for me. It wasn't a full on heel-toe hike, but those rocks certainly got the better of me. Having Ely up ahead making it look easy kept me from standing around. We finished the canyon, I rambled off my list of excuses, he listened intently, and I suggested we tag the summit. Why would I want more ass beating? That's the beauty of running. It only takes seconds to let the lactic acid dissipate, then you forget just how much it hurt. Onward and upward we went, clawing at rocks and trees on the steep climb. Ely killed it on the way to the tip top, and he and Archie were waiting for me for a minute or so. We had a seat on the rocks and tucked out of the hellacious winds, gazing out over the range and plains. The return trip was much more enjoyable, as it tends to be. I've got some work to do to get my technical trail legs back under me, but I'm cool with that kind of work.

AM - 2 miles...not counting it in the total, but I did my "coach's workout" since my Saturday mornings are reserved to help some other folks exercise. Special Olympics track and field practice.  My scrounging for part time work hours has been fruitful, and my old internship supervisors have been wonderful about staffing me for great programs. I get payed(closer to "peanuts" than "cashews," but it's the best job I've ever had) to coach runners and field athletes with developmental disabilities on a beautiful track, soaking up the sun. Woe. Is. Me.

PM - 11 miles - Mountain Park again, but just did a little exploring and no summitting today. Looked around on the flatirons and royal arch trails. Maybe I'll become jaded in due time, but I liked seeing all the people in the park. As my friend Evan once told me, humans are animals too. I'm also one of the newest transplants to this growing area, so I'm the very last one who could bitch about the parks being busy(I'm sure someone moved here this week, but whatever.) Ominous thunder and clouds loomed over the mountains as I pushed my way up the trail, but it held off until I got home. Just barely.

3 miles - I've never woken up on my 6th consecutive running day without any aches or pains. I thought about taking my morning, running 20 miles, and nailing a 100mile week right off the bat. I decided not to. If I were only here a short time, or my race were in a month, I would have crammed it in, bragged about it on facebook, and taken a nap. Instead, I decided that I'd rather build off of an 80 mile week than recover from 100. The nice little cruise around town to run errands was all I needed to keep the mojo going. I went to Denver with Jen and Jayden to check out the city and see the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Great cap off to my first weekend back out West.

Now, I'll sit on my balcony and read a book

miles: 83
elevation: Garmins suck at measuring elevation, that's how much
enjoyment: quite a bit.

*monties: I just made you scroll down here for a "Madea" reference. Hellerrr!
**stank: noun. hellacious stink that, due to its atrocity deserves a modified syllable.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Ever Changing Blogscape

I've tried a professional tone. I've done a few posts of random pictures that are better suited for a tumblr account. Posts that reveal lesser known parts of my mind to total strangers. Running how-to(or not to)s. Polite. Vulgar. Clean. Dirty. I have a hard time staying consistent. After a little soul searching, I've figured out why.

I'm complex, just like you.

I have my own little space on the interwebs to do or say whatever I want. At times, I'm inspired to use it to advance myself professionally, obtain sponsorships for running, or put on airs and pretend I'm some super athlete. Maybe it's time to accept the idealistic idea that I can do some good in this world by just being me. If somebody is considering me for a job and finds this blog, should I be concerned that I've written the occasional post about butt crack chafage, or a posted a picture of me with crazy hair and a beer in my hand? I'd like to think not. There are plenty of people who expect potential employees to have spotless records, squeaky clean personalities, and no real passion. With all due irreverence, I don't want to work for anyone like that.

People aren't robots, and to expect them to be is just wrong. One of the pursuits in my life is to live out loud, to give the people and things in my life everything I've got. Comprimising and taking the middle road on everything makes us stand out to no one. Mistakes are fine, but mistakes of apathy are far worse than mistakes of enthusiasm. Everything we do makes us who we are, whether we show it or not.

I occasionally have rediculous adventures with friends

I also have an ultrarunning problem

I can even be professional when duty calls.
Check the tie and tall building.

Ultra Coaching: Some Others Got Me Thinking

This great post by Vanessa, about this great post by Geoff Roes on irunfar, has prompted me to share my own thoughts.

I'm preparing for my first 100miler, the Tahoe Rim Trail 100, this Summer as I train in Boulder. For ultrarunning, I have no coach. That doesn't mean I'm uncoached. I've joined a track club with which I'll be doing 5k/10k training as a supplement to long distance running. The combination of fast, leg beating track and tempo sessions and long mountain grinds has worked well for me for 50mile and 12hr races.
While extrapolating that to 100mile distance is a bit presumptuous(maybe even arrogant?), I feel compelled to keep doing what has worked. I ran a sub 17:00 5k in the same season that I ran a 7hr 50mile. Coincidence? I doubt it. After a long winter of doubles and indoor track workouts, I ran 78 miles in 12 hours. Again, likely related. These aren't as good as the times posted up by Geoff, but they earned me 1st place medals and I was surprised by my performance.

In a nutshell, My plan to measure my short runs in terms of pace, my long runs in terms of hours, and visualize the hell out of a solid race. I also plan to liberally apply lube to my ass crack.

But I'm a coach? Doesn't that make me a hypocrite?

I suppose in some ways it does. Personal trainers believe in the value of what they do. Does every personal trainer in the world have their own personal trainer? Not likely. Most of us are too broke for that. It's all about mixing different personalities and strengths to make the world a better place. I'm capable of fixing my computer and getting my own coaching site up and running. I'd rather pay my IT guru friend Ryan to do that. He's got skills I don't have, and rather than bumbling through it and doing a half assed job, I'll ask him for help and pay him for it. That train of thought makes me wonder where the animosity toward coaches came from. Do you pay for oil changes? It's one of the simplest tasks in the world, and people pay 3-4 times the cost of materials for the service every day. I do it myself, but I don't look down on folks who choose to hire it done. We all choose how to budget our time.

I don't feel that ultra coaching is like coaching shorter distances. To help an athlete find success at an ultra, a "here ya go, follow this schedule" approach may not cut it.  I think an ultra coach could be a member of a team. Example: I take on a client. She is the main foundation of the team, providing the determination, time, and willpower to train the race(80% of the work in an ultra). I, as a coach, help eliminate some of the guesswork, provide support when thengs are rough, and apply the knowledge I've learned in school and in the field to help her maximize the hard work she's doing. Not everyone loves to exhaustively research and would rather someone provide some guidance. This is why I've decided to do my little coaching project for runners of different distances and abilities.

This may sound offensive, but it's truly not my intent. I'm not trying to coach people to make a ton of cash. I hate being sold things as much as anyone else. That's why I don't aggressively market coaching services. I worked in a gym where I had to sell personal training packages. I felt sleazy and I quit to go work in a foundry. I'd rather get burned by molten iron than dupe people out of their hard earned money and hand it over to a manager who sees them as no more than profit. The opportunities I've had to help people achieve more than they assumed they could have been rewarding beyond monetary value. I currently have one client. I love sharing the ups and downs that come with the self-discovery of running.

But hey, its just a project for now. I'm not attached to outcome, but would rather just see where it takes me.

Thanks for the cool post Vanessa. It got me out of a writing dry spell helped me take a look at myself.
My misty view this morning as I contemplated this topic.
All blog posts need at least one picture.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Little Bragging for a Friend, if I May

A post not about me? Surely I jest!

Go from being a non-runner to finishing in the top third of a trail 25k? Well your name must be Jeff Vander Kooi.

Jeff Vander Kooi ran his first race ever on April Fool's day, 2012. The Fool's 25k is a trail race in the Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio, some notoriously tough trails.

Jeff clocked a time of 2:26, earning him a 16th place overall.

I coached jeff with online coaching and a few runs in person. I surely take no credit for his accomplishment, but I was incredibly proud to hear about his success. I provided some workouts and a training schedule, but the determination was solely a product of Jeff's enthusiasm and tenacity.

From a personal standpoint, this couldn't have come at a better time. Just when I start having doubts about my own running, I'm reminded of why we do what we do. The human spirit can accomplish great things when our hearts are in the right place. Jeff remined me of what running in its purest form really means in our society. Strip away gadgets, money, and all that isn't our bare souls, and you've got the essence of physical activity. We do it to see what we're made of.

After a little time in this game, I had lost track of that. Thanks to being tiny part of Jeff's success, My vigor has been renewed. It's not about a flawless training record, nor is it about course records or ostentatious medals. Using a combination of brains and heart, he now possesses something that no one can ever take away with words or actions.
Jeff ran the race in his only pair of running shoes, Merrell Trail Gloves.

Jeff was the first person to allow me to coach them, and I'm thankful beyond words. I'm now even more certain that coaching is the path I want to take in life, and that my own weird way of doing it is going to work if I continue to polish it. No gimmicks, no pressure, and no bullshit.

Check out Jeff's training journal here at

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Break and a Break Out

One of the lowest mileage weeks I've had in a really long time. After the Kal Haven race not going so swimmingly, I decided just to chill out and do a little thinking.

I thought about the times when I've enjoyed running the most. Some of these times were fast runs that put me on or near a podium, some weren't at all. I looked back at my first ultra, the 50k at Run Woodstock in 2009. I had never run anything near that far, and was truly just aiming to finish. After running a time of 5:46, I was elated to add ten miles to my longest run, meet some great people, and know that I had truly pushed myself further than before. I was exhausted and sore for a week. I "knew" I had performed to the best of my ability. I didn't care where I finished, but used the motivation of the other runners to squeeze the best out of myself. It hurt, but each step was a milestone.

A year later, I ran the 50 mile at Run Woodstock. It was three weeks after my first 50miler at North Country, so I was just looking to run a similar time and have a fun experience. It seemed too close to my last long effort, so I had no expectations for this event. Much to my surprise, I found myself in the lead. I kept watching the tough trail miles tick off one by one, smiling to myself and wondering if I could do one more without blowing up. Each one felt perfect- not easy, but exactly matching my abilities for that terrain and distance. I was truly running my own race, but without taking it easy on myself. This flow state has been elusive, only found in fleeting moments since then.

In retrospect, that feeling came from humility. I know I'm a runner of only modest talent, and should behave as such without selling myself short. Feeling like I "deserve" to run certain times has tainted the experience and turned me into something I'm not. I'm a whole hell of a lot of things, but a overconfident egomaniac isn't one of them.

...So there's a little content to make up for only running three times this week.

2 miles - I was curious to see if my legs survived the flat 34 mile beating, and they did. I felt great. Wasn't running fast, but enjoyed a little cruise. Still decided to rest and see what a week off felt like. I had one week left of work, and just decided to keep my nose to the grindstone. Barely thought about running until Sunday.

...six days later...

AM  - 20 miles - A great hilly run on the hills of Cannonsburg Ski and Game Areas with Jeremiah. He's been hitting the hills hard, and I got a little crash course after my 6 weeks or so of flatlanding. I had forgotten just how much I love the long climbs and singletrack. We tacked on a couple repeats of the tall ski hill before heading out for beer and cinnamon rolls.

A little short shorts Kung-Fu posing after a sweet run with Jeremiah "Docta Jones" Cataldo.

PM - 5 miles - met up with Ryan for an extra 5 miles for no good reason other than a few laughs and a quick blast up all the stairs at Kruse Park on Lake Michigan. Another great run and my first double in quite a while. Feelin' good.

Total: a whopping 27 miles, 25 of which were in one day.

I'm done with my job at the foundry. I left on a good note, volunteering to work an additional 8 hours on Saturday. I learned a great deal about myself and my work ethic. Turns out, it does indeed exist and even impressed a few people. Life is what you make it, and if for some unforeseen reason I had to go back, I'd do it and make the best of it. I have an even greater appreciation for my father, who worked his way up from shoveling sand to management to take care of our family.

Boulder is a week away now. I've made enough money to pay rent for the Summer, allowing me to be a mountain bum and work part time for the love of helping those with disabilities. Beyond the Summer? One thing at a time. I'll find a way to keep the dream alive, whatever that dream may be.
See you soon, Mount Sanitas.