Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Week Ending 8/25: A trip to Lake Superior

I can't believe that Summer is coming to an end. Though I felt a bit sad about not returning to Boulder, it's been more of a "get your shit together" kind of season. Running has been on the back burner, and I've been borderline obsessive about polishing my turd of a resume into something a Doctorate program admissions person would look at and say, "looks legit." Another semester of classes has started today, this time at Grand Valley State. Eyes on the prize.

No ultra races for the summer, with only a smattering of shorter distance things to keep me moving. When I think about running this year, I wonder if I'm thinking too much. I question my motivation for running long distances. I'm not incredibly good at it, and my attempts at 100s seem to have broken my spirit. I do know, however, that spending time outdoors has always been a therapeutic activity for me. A break from racing may not make me faster, but my soul needs more nurturing than my ego. 

In spite of a fondness for long mountain outings, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan has always been special to me. My family has made numerous trips over the Mackinac Bridge for Winter snowmobile rides. Days of over 200 miles are normal on the wide, sweeping trails, and I've long suspected that my affinity for long treks stems from being brought up this way. From age 6 to age 11, I was clinging to my Dad's back as we rode through the snow to reach destinations. At age 12, the legal age that one can take to the trails on a snowmobile, I began to rack up miles as a rider and not a passenger, exceeding 200 miles per day in some instances. A few of our trips would take us to the Munising area, where beautiful views of Lake Superior and the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore were plentiful. 

Since hearing of the hiking trail on the Lakeshore several years ago, I've had the desire to check it out. It always seemed like too far to go for "just a run." After a summer with several reminders of how finite our time is on this planet, "just a run" can be the difference between a life lived fully and a live squandered. 

Because trips are better with company, Jeremiah agreed to come along. We both needed a little decompression before the start of the academic year, he as a professor and I as a student. 

The trail is one of the most spectacular things I've ever seen, even compared to the Rockies and the Tahoe Area. It has its technical spots and the occasional rocky climb, but for the most part is very smooth and runable. The singletrack often gets dangerously close to cliff edges with huge drops, but an inch is as safe as a mile. We took nearly every opportunity to escape the heat and jumped in either an inland lake, a creek, or Lake Superior, adding some extra distance to the adventure. We also accidentally added adventure to the distance by running out of palatable food and water. Yes, I know. Stupid.

A mishap with our shuttle service put us about an hour and a half behind our projected 9:30am start. Instead of a light breakfast and hitting the trail, we had a light breakfast followed by wishing we had lunch. We were confident that it wouldn't be a huge deal. GU and Clif bars would see us through. The snag, however, is that after 4 GUs, I couldn't stand them any more. Each attempt to eat one would make me puke. Same with the dry, sticky Clif bars. 47 miles on 3.5 GUs and 1.5 Clif Bars? No FKT this time. The hunger of the last half was not pleasant, but it 

This trip was an incredible experience. I'd suggest anyone in search of a good destination run give it a try. Now that I've run it in one day, I'd be more interested in breaking it up into two days and camping. 

My weekly mileage total was about 65 miles, most of it being this day.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Week Ending 8/18: Summer of Awesome

Monday: 3 Miles. 30 minutes on the beach. Slow, slow, slow, but after a 15 minute warmup, I decided to throw in alternating 60 seconds of high and low intensity. Though the heart rate spikes, it's easier to cover ground if swing the arms and go like hell. Even though the rest periods were slow, still a negative split on the out/back.

Tuesday: 14 miles. I have no idea how long this run actually was. 2+ hours with Evan on technical, sandy, log-laden single track and beautiful Lake Michigan coastline. Calling it 13 because it's a decent guess.

Wednesday: zip. 11 hours of work would be a solid excuse,but I had plenty of time to run. Just felt tired.

Thursday: no running, just core work and water classes.

Friday: 16 miles. Flat as hell run on dirt roads and bike paths by my house. 1 hour each way. I felt a little off when this run started. Anxious, a little hungry, and hot. Brought my two new handheld bottles, but neglected to bring any calories with me. Hadn't eaten for a few hours prior, so this was a particularly draining run. Still, I'll be happy with a casual 16 miles in 2 hours. A little core exercise after that.

Saturday: 22 miles. Woke up to realize that I either need to practice drinking, or I'm not a kid anymore. Kind of hungover. Drove to Yankee Springs for a 30 miler with Kelsey and Zack. 22 miles of exploring the areas beyond the mountain bike loop, and called it a day at 22 miles. Not sore, or exhausted, but just felt the same shittiness that I felt at the start. Fun day on the trails, topped off with a pretty awesome veggie wrap from the local pub.

Sunday: 5 miles. Same route I always run from home, but it felt great for some reason. The slight ache from the "long run" was ever present, but I liked it. For the first time in a while, the hurt made me feel accomplished instead of defeated.

The latter part of the day was spent Kayaking on the Muskegon River and Muskegon Lake. 3 hours of paddling. Not incredibly intense exercise, but some peace and quiet outside.

60 miles for the week, plus the other activity. Not exactly the dedication of a champ, but overdoing it could be worse than slacking.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Week Ending 8/11

Another week in the books. No real breakthroughs on the training front, but rather steady volume increase and a couple good workouts. Wait...steadiness and real workouts are breakthroughs for me. Oh, the joys of slackerdom. Setting the bar low is the key to success, I tell you. Cracking 50 miles for the week, though quite pedestrian for the average ultrarunner, helps me feel like I'm contributing to my fitness not just drawing from base fitness to get me through.

Monday: No running, but core work and a 40 minute bike ride. No fancy lycra-clad cycling, just the long way to the bank to deposit my big fat shelf-stocking paycheck.

Tuesday: 11 miles. Water exercise classes, then high-tailed it to Yankee Springs for a night run with Kelsey, Joe, Erin, Lauren, and Shawn. A fun, low key effort in the dark for no reason other being asked to join. Driving from one's night job to a night run, only to get home at 3am and get up at 5am for the morning job is hardly a reasonable thing to do, but coffee cures all(temporarily). Laughs, tweaked ankles, empty Red Bull cans.

Wednesday: No running again. Tired from the sleep deprivation. Since I'm not training for a 100mile death march this year, I'll leave the zombie running to others. Push ups, pull ups, sit ups, and planks because my latest theory involves using upper body muscles to a)help keep the core strong to run well and b)look less gross while shirtless.

AM: 10(?) miles. Up before dawn to meet up with Evan for a track workout. 1 mile warmup, followed by: 2 mile tempo(12:30ish), walk/jog recovery, 8x1000m(3:32-3:45) with 200m rest interval. I loved this workout. I tagged along with Evan's workout, but this happened to feel really appropriate for my purposes too. 6 minute pace isn't incredibly tough, but still has applications for someone like me looking to run a hard 50 mile on a flat-ish course. I don't plan on any running at that pace for a 50, but I do want my cruising pace to be as fast as possible. I felt good for all but the last interval, where Greezy dropped me like a sack of crap and I held on to shuffle in a 3:45.

PM: 3 miles. I had some time between commuting from Grand Rapids and starting my aquatic classes, so I stopped at the State Park for a quick stair session. 3 repeats on the stairs with a mile each way to and from the car. I'm not sure which is harder: keeping the legs turning over for "running" the stairs, or high-stepping and powerhiking them. Hopped in the car for 4 hours of water exercise.

Friday: No running...again. No real excuse here, but felt like some strength work and some rest would be better. One legged step ups onto my tailgate, pull-ups, and push-ups. With all the credentials and superfluous acronyms and bullshit I've acquired with exercise science undergrad, I still like basic workouts. I guess if I was a desk jockey, I'd seek more variety. Wood splitting/stacking, dragging pallets at work, and doing water exercise keeps me in enough variety, so I like the idea of simply adding basic resistance training. Maybe it's just my aversion to whey protein chugging "fitness factory" bullshit.

AM: 16(?) miles. Another impromptu jog at Cannonsburg with Kelsey. Set our sights on 3 hours, but fell short because we're both late for everything all the time. Easy pace, but no real stopping to speak of on all the hills the ski resort loop and the state game area had. One charge up the chairlift hill for good measure. I really love running at this place, and wish it was less than one hour away. If I run next to a chairlift, that's like running mountains, right? A solid long run with good company.

PM: 3.5 miles. Regular out/back from home. Nothin' special, just enough to round out the day. My legs felt surprisingly good.

AM: 3 miles. Not quite a run, but I covered ground on foot and got sweaty. Sand dune hike with Samantha at Muskegon State Park.
Ankle-deep sand for an hour or so.
PM: 8 miles. A flat and relaxed, but faster, run from home. Warmed up, then whittled the pace down to a 5:50 mile. Slowed a bit to cool down, and did a fartlek back to the house. Finished up with step ups on the tailgate again. May as well ride this "functional fitness" wave while it lasts.

54 miles. Hey, not bad considering the 3 days of not running at all and no real long run. Even typing this silly blog is starting to feel good again. The balance that I struggle with mentally seems to be achieved at the moment. It's not a selfish, stupid activity I often mistake it for. It's a way for me to clear my head, spend time with great people, and push myself while I spend time outdoors.

Have a great week!
actually from last week, but I like the picture. Thanks Ryan.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Two Week Catsup

Monday: 8 miles. Slow strength builder on all the steep backdune hills I could scramble up. Deer runs, fallen logs, etc. Went about 45minutes north and then took the beach back with no shoes. I felt exquisitely shitty. The previous day's run must have bustes me up somethin' awful. Beautiful day in the sun and heat, so Im better off than most.

Tuesday: 8 miles. Slow ass shuffle to Riverside Park for a hill repeat or two, only to find the onliest good hill covered in thorns and deer flies. Turned around and shuffled over to the high school soccer field for some jogging sans shoes. This was the field I was escorted off of, one of two who didn't make the high school soccer team. Showed those fuckers. I peaked in my early 20s instead of my late teens.

Thursday: 5 miles. Just an easy flat run around home before heading to work. Averaged a 7:00ish minute pace, which was a nice surprise. I keep finding myself wearing my trusty old MT110's for everything. After buying a bunch of different road flats, "barefoot shoes," and such things, I get sick of even having to choose from my shoe rack. Aren't I supposed to be poor? Why do I have so many shoes? The 110's seldom give me blisters, have enough cushion for the road, have adequate traction on trails, don't weigh very much, and last longer than anything else I've had. My current pair was purchased in January and still has the obnoxious "KEEP UP" printed on the lugs. My last pair, shit you not, lasted from 2011(a test pair from NB that was sent for Pike's Peak). As much as I like shoes, I sure get a ton of miles out of a pair- more than the average person.

Saturday: 15(?) miles. Met up with Jeremiah in Grand Rapids for a jog around the city. Neighborhoods to a city park with dirt trails, then over to East Town for a couple repeats on the track. For a couple of out-of-shape hacks, a couple of 5min/mile paced 400s didn't feel to bad.

Sunday: 5 again. Nothing too special, but a nice jog in near perfect weather.

35 miles on the week. Not great, but an improvement over last week. It all felt pretty easy, so I'll creep the mileage up again.

Monday: 14 miles. 3.5 miles to Joe's House, 7.5 miles on the bike path with him, and 3.5 miles back.
Doing runs like this, with their relaxed pace(Joe is getting back into running after a significant layoff), remind me why I like ultra training. Slow "junk miles," if you believe in such things, beat the legs up and seem to have some benefit to them. Instead of fretting about pace, I'm glad I've come back around to getting out the door and logging miles.

Tuesday: 8 miles. Maybe one of the best runs I've ever had in my life. Sat on the beach and sipped coffee for what felt like way too long. I didn't feel like running at all, and enjoyed the relaxing sounds of being outside and not talking. After the coffee disappeared, I figured I might as well try a run. My calves were tight as piano wire, so I took a long, long time to stretch them and roll them out with a stick. The more I stretched, the more I realized that I'd be going slow, and that I shouldn't bother.

Then, I felt awesome. I shook off the ego and remembered that I started running trails because I like being in the woods but get bored with walking. I shuffled off, kept my steps tiny, and kept my back straight. I took a flat but root-laden path out to Muskegon Lake to shake the rust off. After a mile or two, I loosened up and felt nimble and springy for the first time in a quite a while. I probably wasn't going fast, but that's okay. I heard those subtle sounds in the woods that we hear when we focus our attention on the task at hand and stop thinking about other things. Time really flew by and I felt rejuvenated.

Wednesday: 8 miles. I'd call it a tempo, but the fast guys I ran with called it an easy run, so that's what it was. Evan and Rob came uo to jog the trails on the lakeshore. Hills, sand, and stairs. A dip in the lake at the halfway mark, and a great run overall. I'm reminded that the social aspect of running is what helps fill the gaps between moments of intrinsic motivation, and helps restore the mojo too. I've got little desire to actually make a living at running, but it does improve my life.

Thursday: Day off. Lacko of tine rather than motivation.

Friday: 8 miles. Friday 5k. 15minute jog warmup, ran the course, and then ran it again to pick up the course marker flags. 21 minutes or some such nonsense. To be fair, 2 of the 3 miles were in sand and hills. This course was pretty cool, and it gave me an opportunity to run hard without doing a solo workout. Even if I had the ambition to run to the track, I find it quite hard to push myself to give it everything I have. These Friday 5ks give a great group tempo atmosphere with enough competition to help us push each other, but in a way that is by no means stressful or intimidating for anyone. It's a reminder that many of us run not to flaunt our fitness or feed our egos, but just to celebrate and appreciate health. It's evident here. Physical exertion feels great, and it makes us all smile afterward. In our modern, overly-convenient world, appreciating and nurturing our vitality is a necessity.

Saturday: 2 miles. Yep. 2. 2 miles. Aimed for a long run, but my legs weren't impressed with the idea. I strolled to the end of the driveway, took my first running steps and thought, "Nope." I paused, then tried again. A few more steps this time. "Ouch. Shit." No one thing in particular hurt, but I felt as if I'd never run before in my life. Ankles, knees, quads, back, shoulders, eyeballs, etc. "Could I be that wrecked from a 5k?" Probably. Getting up the next morning at 5am to stack 12packs of bubbly corn syrup and gallons of milk probably exacerbated it. I went with plan B: A slow jog to the end of the road, where a faint deer run darts into the woods. I followed that to a trickling little creek, where I sat for a bit and thought about nothing. Isn't that a reason we run, just to turn our brains off for a while? After a few minutes of sitting silently, a few turkeys and a deer meandered by. I realized that this was better than a long run.

Sunday: 8 miles. I think. Met up with Ryan after work to do 90 minutes of hills. No pace or distance, but rather just a rolling watch and mutual prodding to keep moving. My bodily aches from the previous day were gone, and I was enjoying that weird thing between running and walking; the sweet spot where one could travel all day, and the heart and lungs can't tell whether the ground is flat, pointing up, or pointing down.

48 miles for the week? Hot Damn! This is actually a pretty good feeling for me. My runs were all great in their own ways, I had some quality in there, and the mileage is coming up steadily.

In other news, which is no less uninteresting,

I've decided to give my favorite distance another try. I registered for the Hungerford Games 50 mile in the end of September. Will I be competitive? Probably not. Too many fast people out there to expect to win handily these days. What I can do, however, is run as smart as I can and run steadily. My last ultras have been of the Run-Walk-Stop-Eat-Change Shoes-Run-Walk-Finish/Drop out variety, so I've got nowhere to go but up. After seeing my friend Dave relentlessly cover 100 miles at Kettle Morraine this year, it reminded me of why I love ultras of any distance: It's a long ass way to go, and if you cover it steadily and swiftly, the feeling is irreplaceable. Which brings me to the next cool thing:

I'm tentatively planning on running the 40-something mile Pictured Rocks Trail in Michigan's Upper Peninsula this month as a training run for the aforementioned 50miler. A self-supported one way traverse on the Lake Superior's coastline sounds like a pretty good "mini training camp" before the Fall semester starts. I'll attempt to log normal mileage in the days leading up to the trip, and tack on the 40miler as a peak. The following weeks will be spent doing academic bullshit, so a taper will happen naturally. That brings me to another cool thing:

The hay is damn near in the barn for graduate school applications. Observation hours are near completion, remaining prerequisites are scheduled, and schools are being selected. A few more t's need crossing and i's need dotting, but once I send the applications out, it's up to the choosy deities of the land of academia to decide my fate around the turn of the year. Some may find this stressful, but to me, it's just the imminent splitting of the trail. If I get into grad school this year, great. I'll have the path to a solid career as a Physical Therapist before me, which will help me finally get this "adulthood" bullshit going. If I get passed over,(I literally stared at the screen with fingers over the keys for several minutes just now and realized I have no plan B. All in, I guess).