Saturday, April 28, 2012


I was on the phone with my mother (who is not a runner.  In fact, I can't say that I've ever seen her run) today when she told me that I shouldn't run so much.  (I don't think I run that much.  Only about 40-50 miles/week which is about half of what a competitive runner logs.  It only sounds like alot to non-runners because they run zero miles/week.)  She says that running is "hard on your body."  Respectfully, I chose not be contrary to her and held my tongue.  I'm amazed that anyone can think this but I'm sure that many people do.   I won't argue that running a long distance can be hard but to the human body it's a quite natural activity and its difficulty is simply a matter of the effort one puts into it.   In my humble opinion, it's much "harder on your body" to sit on the couch and watch television or sit at a desk for hours on end (ow, my back!), to overindulge on shitty food or alcohol or drugs, to stay up late or to sleep all day or to walk around a mall buying crap that you don't need and don't value and call it "exercise."

In my life, I have been athletic enough to play baseball as a kid, play soccer, football and win state titles in weightlifting in high school, play rugby for three years, finish two triathlons,  run two marathons and break 5 minutes for the mile in college, make it through Navy SEAL training "Hell Week" and learn to multi-pitch rock climb as a young adult.  I've also been an avid mountain biker and I've become a pretty good freeride snowboarder over the last 20 years and more recently, a splitboarder and a mountain trail ultramarathoner.   However, for a solid decade, from ages 26 to 36, I hardly did any of that (except go snowboarding during the winter when I moved to Colorado).  In fact, I did all the things that I mentioned before and engaged in plenty of idiotic behavior that was "hard on my body."  I've also been known to just get up, go to work, go home tired and fall asleep at a reasonable hour.   So, I'm definitely qualified to speak on both lifestyles. 

What I think I've learned is that what is hard on one's body is a product of what is hard on one's mind.  I can't pretend to know what is the "right" way to live or that living one way is better than living another way.  I'm not the kind of person that tries to convince everybody that they need to start running to change their lives even though I believe that they would benefit from it.  I've done enough stupid shit in life to I know that I'm no expert on anything.   Everyone is different and everyone has a different perspective.  But, if you are not happy with the choices you make, then you will be hard on yourself, and, therefore, hard on your body.  I like to believe that my running has made me a stronger person, physically and mentally.  (A better person?  I'm not sure about that.)  Particularly, when I run with consistency and focus, I feel really strong and recover from hard workouts quite quickly.  I find that I eat and sleep better, which helps me think more clearly and puts me in a good mood, at least on most days (after all, I'm only human).   When I don't run/exercise, I find that just the opposite is true and I feel like something is missing.  For me, running is never hard, it's a pleasure.  It is freedom.  For me, the hard part is going to work a job and being up for 12+ hours before I get to go and do the thing I actually enjoy doing.  I should've tried to explain this to her but I'm not sure if she would understand because she hasn't had athletic experience.   I guess I just would've liked it more if she had said, "Son, I see that you really love to run.  Keep doing what you love to do (but don't get hurt doing it)."

So, thanks to my Mom, for making me think about this a little bit, helping me sort out what I should have tried to explain to her and giving me something to write about on my blog.  If I felt like I could ramp up to 80 miles/week and still maintain balance in my life, I'd do it.  Then, if someone said I was running too much, I might say, "Yeah, you're right." but then I don't think I'd have any time left to write about it!  Allow me to encourage you to go out and do the things you love to do.  And if it's going for a run (or hike or ride), give me a shout and we'll go together. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Desert RATS 25 miler Race Report

Ironically, it took not going for a run today to allow me the time to write a race report for last Saturday's outing, which turned out quite well.   I headed down to the Grand Junction area on late Friday afternoon with Aaron Baker, who was cool enough to invite me to stay at his parent's house for the weekend.  The drive down was stunning as we paralleled the Colorado River and Aaron's company was hilarious, as usual.  We fueled up on some delicious Mexican food courtesy of Los Jilberto's and I got a great night sleep in a comfortable bed, rather than sleeping in my truck.

I woke up around 4:30 a.m., early enough to get to the race start area, check in and then run a couple miles on the course to warm up.  I returned to the start area, grabbed my vest and water bottles, took a few pictures and jumped into the last quarter of the pack of about 200 runners (both 25 and 50 mile racers).  The first mile was on a wide gravel road and I slowly worked my way to mid-pack before the course turned onto single track.  I kept the pace very manageable but still found myself moving faster than the people I was running with, so I picked my way past small groups when the trail was wide enough.  After passing one small group, I heard someone whine, "Let people know what side you're passing on!"  Gee, I thought this was a race.  "Right on." I replied.  The climb continued on for about a mile before we hit an awesome rolling, technical, slick rock section that went on for 3-4 miles.  After cresting the ridge, the views of canyons and the Colorado River below were spectacular.  I was still able to pass every now and then but I noticed myself being overly cautious about passing when OW! I rolled my right ankle and heard it make a popping sound.  The pain was immediate and I started to consider dropping from the race before I even hit the first aid station.  Damn. Not an auspicious beginning.  I slowed a bit but kept moving and reassessing whether or not my ankle was OK to continue and finish.  As I ran into the first aid station, I decided to keep going and see how things would play out.  On the next climb, I felt like the pain would be manageable and was determined to finish.  After that, I would only experience an occasional sharp pain when I ran downhill.   I decided to just stick to my original plan and run slow, hike all the hills, take some pictures, enjoy the views and concentrate on staying hydrated and nourished.

From there, my run played out really well and I felt good the rest of the morning (with the exception of my ankle and, later, my tender feet).  I had started eating gels after the first half hour and continued eating one every 45 minutes as well as drinking water quite often and eating something quickly at each aid station (chips, a banana, M&Ms, etc.).  As a result, my energy levels never decreased and I didn't get tired during the race.  I maintained a moderate pace that was still fast enough for me to keep catching small groups of runners, pass them, then keep working away until I got to the next group.  The beautiful desert rock kept me inspired the entire time.  Around the 10 mile mark, I hiked, then ran, for a couple miles with a guy named Rob (Ganger) from the Denver suburb of Englewood and struck up a conversation.  It turns out that he will be running all of the ultra-trail races that I'm doing this summer.   I enjoyed his company and the pace he was running so it was a pleasant to continue with him for half an hour or so.  He was doing the 50 miler, so his pace was a little slower and I passed him in the late teen miles and pressed on by myself.  Around the 20 mile mark, I hit another aid station, where I had my water bottle filled for the third time and also had my electrolyte bottle filled.  The morning had been pretty cool but it was starting to warm into the high 70s/low 80s, which felt quite warm to me.  After that, the course began it's last major climb, about 800 feet back to the top of the Mack Ridge.  I was still feeling so good that I reeled in at least 6 more runners before hitting the top.  It was clear to me that staying fueled early was really paying dividends at this point in the race.  Everyone I passed looked so fatigued and was really struggling.  One guy pleaded, "I'm a road runner!" as he slowly hiked up the rocky trail.  I couldn't help but feel like I knew something that my contemporaries were not privy to, so I just kept the tempo even.  The only issues I had at this point were that my feet were feeling pretty tender from miles of rocky trail that I wasn't quite accustomed to after running on dirt roads and snow all winter.  The final descent, perhaps a mile and a half or so and very technical and steep was a little painful and I was glad to get back to the last mile of gravel road as it was just slightly less rough on my feet.  As I neared the finish, I didn't really charge to the end like I usually do, but rather casually jogged it in, wondering if I should do the 3 extra miles I had planned on doing before the race started.   I did about a half mile and decided I just wanted to stop, relax and enjoy the scene at the start/finish area.  I milled about, ate some post-race food and talked it up with some of the other runners.  When I saw Rob going back out on his second lap, I ran out to wish him luck and told him I'd be looking for him at a future race.  I stayed around for another half hour or so, took some more pictures then decided it was getting too hot out for me and it was time to head out and begin my recovery. 

In all, it was another wonderful celebration of running and worth the time and energy to come and run in another beautiful Colorado location.  I ended up with a 28.29 mile/5:04:30 total effort and race result of 25.5 miles/4000+' in 4 hours, 22 minutes.   In the following days, my quadraceps were very sore but I've recovered nicely and went for a hike/run last night for about 45 minutes.   Since Quad Rock is in only 3 weeks, my plan from here is to get some decent 2-3 hour runs in the next two weekends and keep my weekday maintenance runs very modest or just rest altogether.  At this point in my training, most of my fitness base is already set, so I don't have anything to gain by running hard, especially so close to doing a 50 miler.  Looking ahead, I think Quad Rock is going to be a really tough race, with alot of elevation change (+/- 11,000') and, probably, high temperatures, so it could turn into a death march if I'm not careful! 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Weekly Summary: Apr. 9 - Apr. 15

4/9 - Rest.

4/10 - 6.84 miles.  :56:29.  Stagecoach.  PM.  Little after-work rally. 

4/11 - 4.96 miles.  :45:32.  Stagecoach.  PM. 

4/12 - Rest.

4/13 - Rest.

4/14 - 11.18 miles.  1:37:01.  Stagecoach.  AM.   Colder and cloudy morning after a little snow last night.  Ran down to the south shore of the reservoir before jumping on Elk Run Trail.  Then, ran out to CR 14, got a little hill workout and turned around and worked my way back home.   Did some pretty uptempo running at times but cut back on the distance so that I might go a little farther tomorrow when the trails finally open up.  Running is sometimes my chance to be alone and introspective and think about what's important to me and the things in my life that deserve contemplation.  Lately, things have been getting interesting and today, I needed to run more for mental health than physical.  While I ran this morning, I couldn't help but wonder if I was a runner because I want to run from the demons of my past.  Certainly, when I'm on the trail or road, I feel like I'm putting my problems behind me, but, in truth, I'm only putting them off.   Hopefully, the time I use to sort them out translates into action. 

4/15 -  11+ miles.  1:47:11.  1000'+.  Spring Creek Trail.  PM.  Four minutes warming up on the way to the trail head then a steady effort to within a mile of Dry Lake.  Then, quick 4.9 mile effort back down to the trail head and easy again for a .7 mile cool down.  Super glad to be running on single track again and Spring Creek is some of the best.  I got to experience all four seasons in under two hours as I started out in some cool, semi-cloudy weather and ran through a couple of snow squalls and finished in the sun.  The trail was in perfect shape.  Tacky dirt and rocks, mostly, a little mud and a few puddles and two short snow sections between the last couple bridges.  I love running in the mountains. 

Total: 34 miles.

Well, I blew it this week...sort of.  For over a month now, I've been planning on going to Fruita this weekend to run a 25 mile race, only to find out on Thursday that the race is actually NEXT week.  What a bonehead!  Anyway, I turned this week into a tapering week, took a little more rest and reduced my mileage so that I might run a little harder next weekend instead of just doing a training run.  Then, it's another easy week followed by a 3-week build up culminating at the Quad Rock 50 in Ft. Collins.

Sunday, April 8, 2012 Summary: Apr 2 - Apr 8

4/2 - Off.

4/3 - 7.00 miles.  :57:47.  Stagecoach.  PM.  Down to Elk Run Trail on the south shore of the lake.  Up tempo running on the rolling, gravel trail. 

4/4 - 5.01 miles.  :47:14.  Howelsen Hill.  PM.  Short but hard effort run on the quickly-drying trails on Howelsen.  I got reminded how steep trails can get especially compared to the flat roads I've been running this winter. 

4/5 - 5.67 miles.  :57:11.  Stagecoach.  PM.  Easy out and back on trails and dirt roads around Stagecoach.  Then did another mile of slow running in Vibram Five Fingers. 

4/6 - Rest. 

4/7 - 18.33 miles.  3:00:05.  Stagecoach.  AM.  Long lollipop loop run around the lake from the house.   Fueled my run with ClifBloks and gels, taking one gel every hour and Bloks every half an hour, roughly.   One 22 oz. bottle of water, one 18 oz. bottle of Gatorade.  Cold morning had me starting out with a vest over my long sleeve shirt but I warmed up enough to take off the vest, my beanie and gloves by the time I hit the lake (4 miles).  The run around the lake was primarily on nice, wide dirt trail, with a couple miles of dirt road and I took an even, comfortable, cruising pace.  Felt strong right up to the end.  I'm looking forward to getting 31 miles in the desert next weekend. 

4/8 - 5.74 miles.  1:13:19.  Spring Creek Trail.  PM.  Early afternoon trail run with Benihana.Great run for me and the dog, I had great tacky footing and he got to wade in the creek several times, which is pretty important if you're a Husky.  Easy running on the warm up and cool down miles with only about 1.5 miles of uptempo running in the middle.  Beautiful spring day.  A little barefoot running in the grass afterwards.

Weekly Total:  41.75 miles

Another solid week.  I'm stoked to be:  healthy, getting quality miles, plenty of rest, eating well, in love and generally, very happy.   I'm really looking forward to heading to Fruita next Friday, not just to go running in the desert but also to just be around other runners and attend my first Desert RATS Trail Running Festival.  I guess the race is also known as the Spring Desert Ultra or Fruita 50, if you're doing the big boys' run.  Even though I'm only doing the 25 mile race but technically running an ultra that day (with my 6 bonus training miles), I guess I can call the race by that name, too.    And even though it is just a training run for me, it's exciting to have the trail running season underway.  Next weekend, local trails will also be opening up and, thanks in no small part to our dry winter, be very runnable, at least up to 8,500'.   That gives me a full 4 months of running on trails in preparation for RRR.  I can't help but think that in that time I might be able to get into good enough shape to run in the front of the Tortoise pack and finish around 24 hours.  For my first 100-miler, I really shouldn't be thinking about that,  I should just focus on finishing.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Weekly Summary: Mar 26 - Apr 1

3/26 - Rest.

3/27 - 7.18 miles.  1:07.12. Stagecoach.  PM. 

3/28 - 2.80 miles.  1000'v.  1:00:38.  Stagecoach.  PM.  Snow run up Stagecoach Mountain with Benihana as a farewell to winter.  Super punchy and actually pretty brutal conditions.  Thrashed my shins up pretty good punching through the spring snow.  Which, although deep in spots, won't be around much longer.   It's amazing how fast it's all melted.  I think it only took a little over a week.  If it weren't for snowmaking, I don't think there would be any snow below the gondola.  In my few years here, I've certainly never seen anything like it and from what I've gathered, you'd have to go back quite a few years (like a hundred) to find a winter so dry.  I'm all good with it as a trail runner but I don't want to see the forests burn this summer because we have no water. 

3/29 - Rest.

3/30 - Rest.

3/31 - 12.83 miles.  Stagecoach.  PM.  My GPS battery died about a mile into my run so I had the opportunity to run for a couple of hours by feel instead of checking my pace/distance/time constantly.  I found it rather liberating.  I ate two Clif Shot gels and a clementine and drank almost a full 21 oz. bottle of water and a little more than half a bottle of Gatorade.  It was a fairly warm day, probably in the 60s, and mostly sunny and breezy as I ran on dirt trails and roads around a quickly thawing Stagecoach Reservoir. 

4/1 - 14.05 miles.  2:08:31.  Stagecoach.  AM.  Ran the same route as yesterday to measure the loop.  Then did a little over a mile on the road and some trail wearing the Vibram Five Fingers.  Ate two gels and a clementine (again) and drank about 3/4 of my water bottle and half a bottle of Gatorade.

Weekly Mileage:  36.86

Took an extra day off, did a snow run this week and did back to back long runs on the weekend.  Felt good to mix it up and spend a little more time at home.  I like that.  Looking forward to the Desert RATS race in Fruita in a couple of weeks.  It'll be a nice quick getaway and cool running in the desert.  I need to make sure I figure out what food I'm going to carry.  I'll need to carry 6-8 gels also and two water bottles, one with water and one Gatorade.  I'll refill at every aid station.  I probably won't carry water on my back unless it's really warm.   I'm not going to set a time oriented goal, but rather just run an even, conservative, comfortable pace.

After that, I should be able to start logging a ton of trail mileage through the rest of April and early May in preparation for Quad Rock.   I have a feeling it's going to be pretty warm in Fort Collins in mid-May.

Also, I officially registered to run the Silver Rush 50 miler in Leadville in July.  It'll be a tune up race for Run Rabbit Run and I think it's far enough out from RRR that I can actually race it.  The course is at high altitude (10,000 - 12,000') but is on alot of runnable roads so a smart race could result in a PR.  I would be really happy if that PR were under 10-hours.   After that, I think I will pass on a couple of races (probably still run Continental Divide) in August in favor of a couple long runs in the Flat Tops and the Zirkels and then start my taper the last week of the month.