Extreme cold--that was the story of this week. For me, January is a month of rest and recovery, a time for my joints and muscles to recuperate and get ready for the 2009 racing season. Unfortunately, it's kind of hard resting and recovering when the temperature drops below zero and you're forced to expend tons of energy trying to stay warm as you run. When I started the week, I looked normal. By the end of Sunday, here's what I looked like:
This week I found something out about myself. I can run in zero-degree weather and maintain a good attitude about things. But once the temperature drops below zero, that's when I draw the line, especially when it's dark outside. On Friday morning when I woke up at 4:55 for my regular early-morning run, I looked at our thermometer to find a reading of negative 8 degrees. Realizing that it was very dark and dangerously cold, I elected to run inside, hoping my ailing treadmill (bad front roller) would hold together. Regrettably, it did not, and my run was cut short at 7.35 miles when the warped front roller caused a bad tear of the belt. I was dumb for even attempting a run on my damaged treadmill.
With February fast-approaching (the month my speedwork begins), I called in a service appointment for my treadmill and received the wonderful news that I'm still still covered by a parts warranty. That means my only obligation is labor. They're going to replace the front roller, belt and deck. When a belt goes bad, that means you have to have a new deck as well. So I figure in a few weeks my treadmill will be as good as new and I'll be able to get cranking on my intervals and tempo runs as scheduled.
So UltraRunning Magazine named Jorge Pacheco of Los Angeles, California, and Kami Semick of Bend, Oregon, its Ultrarunners of the Year. As noted by UR:
"Pacheco won six of the eight races he competed in during the year, including the 135-mile Badwater Ultra across Death Valley in July and the Rocky Raccoon 100-Mile run in Huntsville, Texas in February.
"Semick won five races during 2008, and placed second in the IAU 100km World Championships in Italy. She was the winner of two of North America’s most competitive events, the Miwok 100km race and The North Face Challenge 50 Mile, both in northern California."
Mike Wardian, 34, of Arlington, Virginia, who brought home not one, not two but three USA Track & Field national championships this year (50K road, 50 mile trail, and 100K road) and was the top American finisher at the 100K worlds, finished third in the UltraRunning Magazine voting for men behind Hardrock 100 winner and record holder Kyle Skaggs of New Mexico.
How does a guy who wins three USATF national championships in one year finish third for male ultrarunner of the year--the same guy who was recently named ultrarunner of the year by the USATF? I don't get it.
It's clear that road ultrarunning is suffering from marginalization. This year, no one has stepped forward to host the 100K national championship--an embarrassment. In recent years, we've seen three once-preeminent Eastern road ultras disappear--the Edmund Fitzgerald 100K in Duluth, Minnesota, the GNC 50K and 100K Challenge in Pittsburgh, and the Olander Park 24-Hour in Sylvania, Ohio. Those races, which once drew the sport's best, are no longer. Ultrarunning has now morphed into a trail and mountain running sport with one exception--the Badwater 135 is still big-time. Guys and gals who excel at road ultras that are not named Badwater are now marginalized. Which is troubling because the greatest ultrarunner to ever live, Yiannis Kouros, is a road and track warrior.
There's a runner in our group--we'll call him Ken--from whom I've learned a valuable lesson. Ken is one of the most intense runners--if not the most intense runner--I know. He is a low 2:30s marathoner and a very smart runner at that. Ken had a strong 2008 and finished the year with a 180-plus mile, multi-day adventure out West followed by a 2:40 marathon. After this physically and mentally punishing challenge, he more or less shut down for a few months and only recently began gradually building up his mileage in a highly disciplined manner. I imagine that by the spring Ken will be back and better than ever with fresh legs.
My decision to cut my miles back this January, while emphasizing core and upper-body strengthening, was inspired in part by Ken. Granted, cutting my mileage back to 50-60 per week was no where near as drastic as Ken's decision to shut down for a few months. I've read that even great runners, like Yiannis Kouros and Scott Jurek, have times during the year when they scale back or shut down. Well, January is my time to scale back. I can only hope the pay-off will be fresh legs going into February and a thirst for 100+ mile weeks come March.
Bottom line: There's a time to run hard, and a time to rest. For me, January is a time of rest. At 35 years-old, I have to incorporate some recovery into my training if I'm to stay in this game for years. I don't want to flame out.
The cold notwithstanding, this was a pretty humdrum week mileage-wise. The week went like this:
Tuesday--8.1 miles. My calves were still a little sore from Saturday's snowy trail run but they felt great by the time I finished.
Wednesday--8 miles. Even though it was 2 degrees, I stayed pretty warm thanks to proper attire and no wind. I saw no one out that morning except for some folks driving to work. One lady slowed down and shook her head at me.
Thursday--8 miles. The temperature when I started was 1 degree. Despite a mild wind, I still managed to stay warm. Unfortunately, my Yaktrax didn't survive this run and shredded mid-way through the romp.
Friday--7.35-mile tempo run on my treadmill. Not wanting to risk frostbite or death at the expense of my wife and son, I elected to stay inside and run on my treadmill. I held a very manageable 6:40 pace until mile 7.35, when my treadmill stopped due to a sliced belt from the warped roller. I have a work order for it to be fixed. I also bought some new Yaktrax later that day.
Saturday--10.5 miles around the Chagrin Valley. The temperature was negative 1 degree when I left the house. One guy drove past me, pumping his fist to encourage me. About 5 miles in, I ran into a friend of mine, Jeff T., who was driving to the gym, and he could barely understand what I was saying due to my cold-induced slurred speech. Anyway, I was cruising along until I headed up Washington Street with only about 2.5 miles to go. With a bad headwind that was worsened by cars and trucks zipping by, the windchill must have been negative 20, causing me to abruptly crash. Things got so bad that I stopped for a few seconds to regroup. I haven't had a mental breakdown like this in I can't remember when. It was awful--just awful. I am amazed that Tim C. got in a 2 1/2 hour trail run in South Chagrin and felt bad that I wasn't there to run with him.
Sunday--15.5 miles in Solon with the Southeast Running Club. With the temperature a balmy 20 degrees, I figured this would be an easy run. Wrong! We fought slick roads most of the way, such as when I was struggling up Hawthorn Parkway with Frank D., and then we got hammered by a nasty headwind on on the parkway after we crossed 91. By the time I finished I was trashed. I hate my Brooks Adrenaline 8's and will never wear them on a long run again.
Total miles for week: 57
Total miles for month: 161.38
Total miles for year: 161.38
Speaking of running shoes, a few days ago I ordered some new Saucony Grid Omni 7s and they should be here soon. They're the bomb. In a few weeks I'm getting some new Asics 2140s and closer to the Lt. JC Stone 50K will have some new lightweight trainers. I've decided to run most of my intervals and tempo runs with my current lightweight trainers (Asics DS Trainers; about 125 miles on them) and will use my new lightweight trainers for races only.
My goal this week is 60 miles and continued upper-body and core strengthening. I also want to watch what I eat as I fear I may have put on a few pounds. I have only two weeks until I began ramping up for 2009--a year when I plan to be leaner, meaner, stronger and faster than ever before.