Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Training Week 2/21-2/27 / Quality over Quantity

The quality is paying off. I feel strong and fast(er) and my foot, which was hurting a little last week, is much better.

It would appear I've come a long way in adjusting to the elevation and climbs here in Colorado. But it's about more than just physical adaptation and the fact that I'm running more than 60% of my miles on dirt roads (far more forgiving for an aging guy like me). I've also made some fundamental changes to my training. If there's one thing I've learned over the past few months, it's that quality trumps quantity. Don't get me wrong; I am a firm believer in high mileage (the term "high mileage" being rather interpretive) and my mileage will be up there going into the Leadville 100, but I think nothing but long, slow distance (also known as LSD) gets you no where! I look back on my training from last April on and that's all I see--LSD (if you count 7:30-7:45/mile as LSD)! However, I think LSD was in order for a guy who just moved out West and was getting used to living way up there.

For me, the greatest benefit of quality is my legs turning over much more efficiently. Every time I commit myself to quality I see results, and yet so often I get off track and go back to LSD. No more! Yes, I'm faster now, but I've noticed much greater efficiency, less effort exerted with every step and definitely more power on the hills. I simply cannot NOT do quality if I want optimal results. I plan to stay with quality for the rest of the year, even when I'm training for Leadville (fast hills will be a big part of that assuming my foot cooperates). To ensure that I'm able to get in the necessary quality, I'm likely going to reduce my peak weekly Leadville 100 mileage just a tad. I think running 90 miles/week with great quality is far better than running 100-110 miles/week with zero quality. More on that later, because for now I'm all about being ready for the Eisenhower Marathon on 4/9.

Bottom line: My running has purpose right now. Every workout has purpose, whether it's intervals, tempo, going long, going easy, etc. With purpose comes direction, and with direction comes success, and with success comes confidence. It's a cycle, and if you lack purpose and direction with each run, well, you're just kind of an aimless ship at sea.

So I think the outlook for my 2011 racing season is getting better by the day.

For the week of 2/21-2/27, I covered 76.2 miles with solid interval, tempo and long efforts. I also had a nice fast finish at marathon goal pace on Sunday. This was a good week.

AM: 6 miles/49:05 on the treadmill at home. Legs pretty tired and flat at first from the previous day's 20-miler in the hills, but I loosened up nicely and felt reasonably strong by the end. Kept the treadmill at an easy pace. Noah came down to play halfway through my run and we had a nice time watching the Sprout Channel while he played with everything in sight.

AM: 9.2 miles/1:07:17 on the HOA treadmill. Was planning to go to the track but it was a tad too cold (19 degrees) and I didn't want to risk injury working so hard in frigid temps. So I headed to the HOA gym to max out one of the three treadmills. Legs still a little tired from Sunday's 20-miler, but I didn't want to delay my intervals and then force a Wednesday/Friday quality workout schedule since Friday needs to be an easy day. After an 18-minute warm-up, I did 3x1 mile at 6:00 each (treadmill max speed), plus an 800 at 3:00, followed by a cooldown--all with the treadmill at a 1% grade. The first mile was rough--I guess I needed to get some oxygen flowing. The second and third miles were pretty solid. I wanted to do a fourth mile repeat but my legs were pretty toasted, and so I did 800 instead.

AM: 9 miles/1:07:42. I ran the Tomahawk loop, which has 2,100 feet of combined climb and descent mostly on dirt roads between 6,100-6,400 feet. My legs felt fantastic and turned over nicely. I had to hold myself back in a few places when I found myself "accidentally" going 6:50 pace when I should have been at easy pace. Excellent run but probably too fast for an easy day.

Thursday - TEMPO RUN
AM: 9.15 miles (5 at tempo pace)/1:06:53. Although my legs were still a little tired from Tuesday's intervals and my left foot was a little sore, I still managed to bang out a pretty solid tempo run. The extremely windy conditions compelled me to opt for the HOA treadmill for my tempo run. After an 18-minute warm-up, I held a tempo pace for 5 miles, progressively getting faster. Splits were: 6:39, 6:35, 6:30, 6:26, and 6:21. Felt very good and seemed to get stronger with every mile. Foot OK during and after run. These are the runs that make you better.

Friday - EASY
AM: 1:11:41/9.25 miles. Ran the Tomahawk loop, which brings about 2,100 feet of climb and descent. Foot much better today than yesterday when I woke up. It loosened up as the run progressed. Legs turned over nicely and I was strong on the hills--sure signs that the quality if paying off.

Saturday - LONG RUN
AM: 2:15:18/17 miles.I ran the Tomahawk loop, and then headed down Tomahawk and turned left/west on E. Parker Road, and then headed up Canterberry and did a few laps around the trail loop bhind my house. Total climb and descent 3,990 feet. This was to be an 18-miler but, as any Denver-area runner who got out on Saturday morning would attest, the wind from the south/southwest was nothing short of horrendous. Gusts of 40-50+ mph, really wearing my ass out, especially in the last 5 miles.
PM: 25:53/3.25 miles on my treadmill. This was just a shake-out. OK, so long as we're being honest, this was about getting to 20 miles for the day!
Total miles for the day: 20.25

AM: 1:41:08/13.15 miles back on the Tomahawk loop. Total climb and descent 3,400 feet. Legs pretty tired at first but I got stronger with time. I was very pleased with my fast finish splits: mile 12 in 6:43 and mile 13 in 6:37. That's right around my marathon goal pace. Not bad considering I ran 20 miles the day prior. I couldn't have done this type of fast finish 10 months ago from an elevation standpoint. Also, I completed this run at 8:00 a.m., meaning I'd run 33.4 miles in the previous 24 hours.

Totals for the week:
  • 76.2 miles running
  • 9 hours, 45 minutes of running
  • 8 total runs
  • Stretching, yoga exercises, core strengthening and push-ups.
For the year: 500.1 miles

This week I have an early morning meeting and then over the weekend my good friend from Cleveland, Ted, will be visiting. He has business in Colorado and on Sunday we're heading to the mountains for a long run/hike. So things will be a bit different this week--a good thing! With that said, my goals this week are:
  • 60-65 miles
  • 10+ hours of running
  • Long run/hike in the mountains with Ted (likely Green Mountain and Bear Peak in Boulder)
  • 5.5 miles at tempo pace
  • Quality interval session
The following week I'm going to make a push for 80 miles.

If you're struggling with your running, I would suggest you work in some quality to shake things up. Try tempo running, a fast finish, intervals, hill repeats or even fartleks and maybe you can get out of your rut.


I am so looking forward to getting into the mountains this summer. I'll have vacation time come April, and so my plans for the summer include some Friday outings to the mountains. I am committed to summiting all of the Front Range 14'ers this summer--with the posssible exception of Longs Peak unless I can get a Longs Peak veteran to accompany me since it can be a dangerous mountain. I might also make summit pushes for both Mount Massive and Mount Elbert and I'm planning to hit the top of Mount Hope (a 13'er) on my of my Leadville training runs. I have this crazy fascination with La Plata Peak, too.


For whatever reason, I listened to "Stranglehold" by Ted Nugent a lot this week. It's such an amazing song. I don't like Nugent's obsession with guns, but I do have to say Nuge back in the day could rock it like few others. This song is an all-time rock 'n roll classic from the 1970s and it makes me want to kill long, hard climbs.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How to Beat Plantar Fasciitis

For a few weeks now I've been wanting to write a post on how to beat plantar fasciitis but, honestly, I didn't want to jinx myself. Well, at the risk of a jinx, here goes.

I'm no doctor, but my understanding of plantar fasciitis is that it's basically a torn ligament in your foot. Specifically, it's a tear to the fascia under your foot. It starts with a dull pain in your heal, especially when you wake up in the morning. Oftentimes the pain gets better as the day wears on. But if you're a runner who ignores the signs and keeps pounding out the miles without attention to your injury, you are setting youself up for a nasty, long-term battle. I know runners who've battled PF for years.

Let me say it again. Plantar fasciitis is a torn ligament in your foot! When you look at PF in that light, it seems kind of ill-advised to think one can run through it. It takes rest and therapy.

Here are some tips for dealing with plantar fasciitis, based on my own experience with PF.

At the first sign of suspected plantar fasciitis pain, reduce your mileage and, ideally, take at least 2 weeks off from running. Cross-train instead. Most of the time, you cannot run through PF. If you try to run through it without proper management, you are in effect playing with fire. If you refuse to shut down, at least avoid hills, reduce your mileage, avoid fast stuff for a little while, ice your foot daily, massage the heel and arch, and investigate over-the-counter inserts that support your arch and heel. Do NOT overstretch the injured foot! Would you ever stretch a torn ligament?

Seek Medical Evaluation and Treatment
If the pain doesn't go away after 2 weeks of rest, see a doctor--preferably a sports medicine or foot specialist. He or she will examine your foot; do X-rays to rule out a stress fracture, heel spur, etc.; and, if indeed you do have PF, prescribe treatment--usually a night splint, perhaps an orthotic, maybe physical therapy, possibly a cortisone shot, or all of the above. Prescribed rest will likely be in the mix, too. Don't fight it. Submit to your doctor's course of treatment, but do be informed, ask questions and express any concerns you may have. Above all, set expectations. I told my doctor up front: "Dr. Ng, I run 4,000 miles a year and have big plans in 2011. I want to be able to run again. What can we do to get there?" He heard me, understood where I was coming from, and helped me get back to running. (Click on the link above or here for Dr. Ng's info. He is an excellent doctor and I also send huge props to Rob Marchant at Physiotherapy Associates. He's an Ironman triathlete and very supportive and expert.)

If Your Doctor Gives You a Cortisone Shot....
A cortisone shot is your golden opportunity to get better. But it's where I made a critical mistake that set me back several months. If your doctor gives you a cortisone shot, REST FOR 3-4 WEEKS! Do not resume your training just because your foot feels fantastic from the cortisone. The cortisone quickly reduces the swelling and boosts healing. Allow it to work and rest while it works. I didn't and I paid for it. After the cortisone wore off and my foot was painful again, I was back to square one. You cannot get multiple cortisone shots in your heel or else you risk fat pad atrophy, a rupture to your fascia, and other complications. It is a one-shot deal, but a very effective treatment--so allow it to work and don't be stupid like I was.

Get a Night Splint
When you get out of bed in the morning and feel that terrible pain in your foot, you are in effect re-injuring the fascia. You must prevent re-injury. And the best way to do this is to get a night splint. A splint will keep your foot stretched out while you sleep, allowing the fascia to properly heal. As a result of a night splint, you will notice that your foot hurts less in the morning--a good thing because it means you're not re-injuring the fascia every time you get out of bed. I tried the Strassburg Sock and hated it. It was incredibly uncomfortable and clumsy, but maybe it'll work for you. What has really worked for me is a more sturdy, robust night splint given to me by my foot specialist. I had to pay for it out of pocket ($85) since my insurance provider wouldn't cover it. Whatever you do for a night splint, be sure to massage and gently stretch your foot before you get out of bed.

Go to PT and be Patient
If your doctor prescribes physical therapy, do it. Unfortunately, I have a $1,000 deductible for PT, and so the 6 or 7 appointments I had were basically out of pocket. But it was well worth it. Through PT, I was able to access dexamethasone treatments, ultrasound therapy, electrical stimulation, deep-tissue massage, stretches, strengthening exercises and good old-fashioned moral support that made a huge difference. You have to be patient with PT. As my therapist told me, many folks with PF conclude their course of physical therapy still hurting, but in a few weeks or months they are much better. PF takes a lot of time to heal and physical therapy isn't an overnight remedy.

If You have a Serious Case, Get Custom Orthotics
I resisted custom orthotics for a long time because I have pretty anatomically sound feet and am a mid-foot striker--all good things. My PF wasn't from a structural flaw or poor gait; it was from an acute injury to the fascia or perhaps overuse. Everyone who examined my feet told me how sound they were. And so, with that thinking, I resisted orthotics because I didn't like the thought of a device "realigning" my feet. But I ultimately got the orthotics, shelling out a few hundred bucks, and I wear them at all times EXCEPT for on my runs. I know that sounds crazy. I've found that my Sole-brand inserts work well for runs and the custom orthotics are perfect for my work and casual shoes. I refuse to allow my orthotics to be a permanent solution; they are temporary and my goal is to be out of them in a year or less. That said, if you're prescribed custom orthotics, do what works for you. You may need them 100% of the time. I do think first checking out Sole-brand inserts is worth it, though. (Update: I now wear my custom orthotics on all runs and they're great!)

Do NOT Go Barefoot
Going barefoot or just in socks around the house, especially if you have hardwood floors or tile, is incredibly damaging to a foot with PF. Wear supportive sandals or shoes, but do not go barefoot...ever...until your foot is 100% healed.

Practice Self Treatment
Stick with your physical therapy regiment and also do some self treatments at home. I have found that massaging my heel and arch makes a big difference in keeping the foot loose and breaking up inflamed tissue. I have also found that the downward dog yoga stretch is wonderful for keeping the calves loose and my foot stretched. I would not recommend the downward dog stretch until you start seeing big improvement with your PF. Do NOT over-stretch the foot when you're still in the early stages of pain.

If You're Willing to Go the Medical Route, Be Ready to Shell Out a Lot of Money
I had to spend a lot of money to get better. Between my physical therapy, orthotics and night splint, the costs added up. I'd do it all over again. If you asked me, "Wyatt, I can only afford one treatment. What should I do?" I'd recommend a cortisone shot and 4 weeks of rest--as in no running at all. If you can't see a doctor, then I'd recommend a night splint and rest. Cycling, elliptical, etc. will have to do and, really, some time off will do your body some good.

The Biggest Lesson I Learned
I waited too long to get treatment. My PF manifested in July when I was at the height of my Leadville 100 training, knocking off 100-110 miles per week. I trained through it and even finished Leadville, but in the process I developed a chronic injury that would take 7 months to begin to heal. The key to beating PF is managing the injury at first sign. Rest. See a doctor if rest doesn't work. Wear a night splint. But do not try to run through it. You have a torn ligament. Face that fact and put your ambitious race plans on hold for a while. If you don't, you could literally end your "career" as a runner. There were days when I thought the party was over.

I know plantar fasciitis is a hot topic with many runners, and a difficult injury to manage. So please let me know if you have any questions.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Training Week 2/14-2/20 - Full Steam Ahead!

The week started on a rough note as I battled a nasty virus that was two parts head cold and one part stomach bug. But I got through it and by Friday was much, much better. For the week, I completed 79.2 miles, training for over 10 hours for the first time since late summer. I am all about preparing for the Eisenhower Marathon on 4/9. Everything I'm doing right now is focused on breaking 2:55 at Eisenhower. And right now I'm starting to feel really good--better than I have in probably nine or ten months.

Monday - EASY
AM: 6 miles/46:53 on my treadmill. My foot, which had ached a little over the previous weekend, felt good. Noah came down and hung out with me for the last 3 miles of my run. We had lots of fun. This was a nice, enjoyable run at a relaxing pace.

AM: 9.1 miles/1:09:35. Felt horrible due to this nasty virus. My stomach was twisted up and cramping badly and my nose was blocked up. Despite feeling horrible, I went to the track for intervals but it was still snow- and ice-covered, and so I ran around the area and then finished up with 2 fast miles--6:24 and 6:34. My stomach was a wreck. I barely made it to work afterward.

AM: 9.3 miles/1:10:18 on the Tomahawk loop. Still feeling horrible from this cold, but managed another fast finish. 7:03 for mile 8 and 6:35 for mile 9. Aerobic capacity pretty compromised from the virus.

Thursday - TEMPO RUN
AM: 1:08:58/9.4 miles on the HOA treadmill. Aerobic capacity still pretty compromised from this cold but yet I managed to hit my goal for the day--4.5 miles at tempo pace. After an 18+ minute warm-up, my splits were: 13:06/miles 1-2 (split button malfunctioned), 6:27 for mile 3, 6:26 for mile 4, and 3:11 (6:22 pace) for mile 4.5. I worked fairly hard on the last 1.5 miles. Next week's goal is 5 miles at tempo pace, right around 6:20-6:30 (I'm adding 0.5 miles each week, which will get me to 8 miles at tempo pace going into Eisenhower). I have come to grips with the fact that, whereas my tempo pace in Ohio was around 6:10-6:20 with the occasional sub-6:00 mile,  here in Colorado it's about 10 seconds slower per mile.
PM: 36:25/4.6 miles on the treadmill at easy pace.
Total miles for the day: 14

Friday - EASY
AM: 1:06:47/8.6 miles on the HOA treadmill. Too damned windy to run outside. Probably didn't go at an easy-enough pace. Legs a little tired at first but livened up nicely for a solid recovery run.

AM: 1:31:21/12.1 miles on the Tomahawk loop, hitting about 6,400 feet of elevation and 3,100 feet of combined climb and descent. Took in a spectacular sunrise. Really enjoyed this run and felt very good the whole way. Fast finish went well. Miles 10 and 11 at 6:46 and 6:45, respectively. That's just a little slower than marathon goal pace.

Sunday - LONG RUN
AM: 2:36:04/20.1 miles in the Parker hills with a little over 4,100 feet of combined climb and descent. Yes, the goal for Sunday was 20 miles and I nailed it! From Tomahawk, I headed east on East Parker Road, and then north on Delbert. I turned around on Delbert at about the 8.5-mile mark. The return trip, which included an added section to get me to 20 for the day, wasn't too fun; the wind from the south/southwest was rough and really took it out of me in a few places. But overall I was very pleased with how this run went--7:46 pace for 20.1 miles all at 6,100-6,500 feet. Not bad. Very pleased. Enjoyed some fresh-baked buscuits with Noah afterward.

Totals for the week:
  • 79.2 miles running
  • 10 hours, 6 minutes of running
  • 8 total runs
  • Stretching, yoga exercises, core strengthening and push-ups.
For the year: 423.9 miles

My goals this week are:
  • 75 miles
  • Quality interval session at the track. The weather looks favorable.
  • 5 miles at tempo pace
  • Long run of 17-18 miles on Saturday--maybe in Boulder

The Eisenhower Marathon is on 4/9 and then the big, nasty Jemez 50-Mile in New Mexico is 5/21. I am going to work some hill repeats and mountain trail running into my training over the next six weeks but, honestly, a fast time at Eisenhower is the focus. I figure it'll take me two weeks to recover from Eisenhower, which will mean my Jemez training will begin on Monday, April 25 with lots of hills and mountains. That'll give me three weeks (plus a taper week) to get trail ready for one of the toughest 50-milers in the nation. Yikes! I think what this means is that Jemez will be a long day in the mountains just having fun and getting some time on the feet. We'll see.


I just got word that the Leadville Trail 100 is about to close out, meaning 750 runners have signed up. I'll bet half that number signed up because of a certain best-selling book. The trails at Leadville will once again be cowded this August...with runners and litter. To put it all in perspective, I signed up for the 2010 LT100 back in April and registration remained open another two months or so. This year, the race is going to close out in February! How can ultrarunning stay on what is clearly an unsustainable course?

I am sure glad I registered for the LT100 back in November!

But, let's be real. Of the 750 who will have signed up for the LT100, 100 will get cold feet or get injured and not show up. That leaves 650 starters, of whom half will finish. So 325 runners will cross the finish line. Not too bad.

I think the LT100 needs to institute a qualifier.


Two remaining notes. I have signed up for the Leadville Trail Marathon on 7/2. This is a hugely important quality training run for me.

Unfortunately, the Mount Evans Ascent on 6/18 is now tentative. Anne has a professional conference going on and so we have childcare issues that Saturday. I may try to get a babysitter while I'm at the race, but right now things look dicey. Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Eisenhower Marathon

I have registered for the Eisenhower Marathon. The race is in Abilene, Kansas on April 9 and is named in honor of Dwight Eisenhower, the great American president and Army general who lived in Abilene.

This is a huge race for me because a marathon PR is supremely important. I was so amped up about the 2010 Boston Marathon but never made it to Beantown because the race conflicted with our move to Denver. So I never got a shot at a new PR in Boston.

The 2011 Eisenhower Marathon is my shot. If the weather cooperates, my training stays strong and I'm healthy, I do believe a marathon PR is possible. My current PR is 2:58:28, set at the 2008 Cleveland Marathon. Since then, I've run two 2:59s--one of which was on a blown-up hamstring.

Eisenhower is an out and back run between 1,100-1,300 feet of elevation. So it's pretty much a sea level event. It has a few rolling hills, from what I understand. Living at 6,100+ feet, my hope is that the sea level air will be a huge benefit to me. Hard to say--we haven't gone to sea level since moving here.

My specific split goals for a sub-2:55 at Eisenhower will be in place as the race gets closer. But I would imagine my first-half split goal will be 1:27. My 20-mile split goal will be in the neighborhood of 2:13. It will not be easy! Hopefully the wind won't be a factor! But I do have some motivation--a time of less than 2:55 will virtually guarantee me a spot in the 2012 Boston Marathon.

Until then, lots of mileage, lots of speedwork and lots of tempo runs!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Boston's New Standards are Right On

Major props to the organizers of the Boston Marathon, who today announced new qualifying standards that will surely leave many angry and yet others (me included) jumping for joy. Among the changes:
  • A new rolling admission system that puts the fastest runners in every age group at the front of the line. If your qualifying time is 20 minutes or faster than your age group standard, you can register on day one! If it's 10 minutes or faster than the standards, you get to register a few days later.
  • All qualifying times for both genders have been reduced by 5 minutes.
  • That extra 59 seconds for all times, which have gotten many to Boston in recent years, will be gone for the 2013 race!
You can read the details here. Unfortunately, while the Boston Athletic Association gets major props for its changes, it get a grade of F for its Web server. The BAA's Web site has been so overwhelmed by traffic today that it's crashed. Unbelievable, especially when you consider that its servers also crashed on day one of registration for the 2011 race. The irony is almost hilarious.

In recent years, the Boston Marathon has reached a point where demand has clearly outstripped the available 25,000 spots. The 2011 race sold out in less than a day (see my commentary on that here). The new standards announced today, which begin to go into effect in 2012 and will be in full effect for the 2013 race, are a step in the right direction for the greatest marathon of all. The standards ensure continued excellence and a high-quality field, of which I intend to always be a part.

For me (and that's how many runners are looking at this today--"How does this affect ME?!?!?!?!?!"), the new standards mean that if I can continue running a sub-3-hour marathon (which I've done in the past three road marathons), I should be able to get into Boston. We'll see. If I run below a 2:55 at the Eisenhower Marathon this April, I should be golden for the 2012 race since that'll be 20 minutes faster than my age-group qualifying time of 3:15 (qualifying times for the 2012 race will remain the same; the 5-minute drop goes into effect for the 2013 race, which means my BQ time goes down to 3:10, but then I'll be 40 in 2014, when my BQ goes back to 3:15).

The Larger Issue at Work
When you look at American society, it seems everything has gotten too big. It used to be that the Boston Marathon was almost always accessible to those who qualified. Not that long ago you could enter a month or two before the race! There used to be quite a few "last chance before Boston" races that were run a few months befor the big race, but recently became useless and charmingly anachronistic. The days of registering when you got around to it are over. The days of driving to just about any race on a whim and paying at the table are over, too. This trend has hit ultrarunning in a big way. But, in a larger sense, everything has gotten too big.
  • Neighborhoods are now sprawling developments.
  • McMansions are everywhere (many foreclosed on). There are now closets the size of small houses.
  • Shopping malls are huge, expansive and repulsive magnets for all-day shopping, excessive spending and wasted time.
  • There's either a Starbucks or McDonald's on every corner.
  • Food portions are out of control (have you ever seen the portions at Cheesecake Factory?).
  • Our bodies are now bigger than ever, creating a health and obesity crisis, the likes of which we've never seen. Bigger bodies=smaller lifespans.
  • Google and Facebook have gotten so big that they're now the most sought-after collectors of consumer information.
  • Corporations are now colossal multi-national enterprises, and, in some cases, "too big to fail."
  • The government is so bloated that it can't even move anymore. It's just stuck.
Everything--from the Boston Marathon to the fries you get at McDonald's--is bigger. But here's the news: Bigger is rarely ever better.

So props to the Boston Athletic Association for bucking the "bigger is better" trend and opting instead for quality and excellence.

The take-away from today's announcement: Don't like the new standards and afraid you'll never get back to Boston? Then work harder! Run more miles! Get to the track more for those intervals! That's a hard message for a society so coddled and used to mediocrity.

May the BAA's example serve as a bellwether for others.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Song that Really Speaks to Me

Very explicit, yes, but awesome. This song speaks to me, especially the Eminen section. Many of us have been the kid in this video, and yet others have been the antagonizers. The video is powerful. If you're someone who is offended by explicit lyrics, look beyond the foul language and you'll hopefully see what this song is really about--standing up for yourself and believing in yourself. I have come to really appreciate artists and thinkers who say the things many of us think, but would never utter. Not every great message comes wrapped in shiney paper and a big, red bow. Warning: Very explicit lyrics!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Training Week 2/7-2/13

I just wrapped up my highest-mileage, most quality-packed week in quite a while, completing 73.4 miles. I fell just short of my goal of 75 miles because, quite honestly, I was dead tired on Sunday. More on that below.

Monday, 2/7 - EASY
AM: Ran 5 miles easy on the treadmill and cycled 5.2 miles on the stationary bike at the HOA gym. Monday is traditionally my easy day.

Tuesday, 2/8 - INTERVALS
AM: Ran 9.0 miles, doing my intervals on the HOA treadmill since the temperature outside was a rather crisp minus 5 degrees with plenty of fresh snow and drifts to boot. As previously mentioned on here, the treadmills at the HOA gym max at a rather slow 6:00/mile, and so I do what I can. My goal is always to do my intervals at the track, but this hasn't been possible lately due to snow and ice. I did 3x1 mile at 6:00 each and with 1/4-mile recoveries. Aerobically, I felt good. Unfortunately, my hamstrings--both of them--were very, very tight. I am beginning to think I've been over-stretching. I'm sure the extremely cold weather hasn't helped, either.

Wednesday, 2/9 - EASY
AM: Ran 9.1 miles at easy pace on the HOA treadmill due to a rather chilly minus 8 degrees outside. My hamstrings were still a little tight, but overall I felt decently strong--way better than last week after my intervals.

Thursday, 2/10 - TEMPO RUN
AM: Due to lots of snow and ice and cold temps, I elected to get in the year's first tempo run--once again--on the HOA treadmill. I ran 9.2 miles, feeling really strong the entire time. Since this is my first tempo run of the year, I'm starting conservatively. After an 18-minute warm-up, I went for 4 miles at tempo pace, progressively getting faster with each mile--6:39, 6:35, 6:30, and 6:24. I was working fairly hard on that last mile, but was never red-lining it. This is a good start. I will continue to lengthen my tempo runs each week and drop the pace, maxing out around 8-9 miles with some longer marathon-pace (6:40-6:45) workouts in there, too. In Ohio, my tempo pace was around 6:10-6:20/mile. Can I do that here? We'll see.

Friday, 2/11 - EASY
AM: Ran 9.1 miles, once again on the HOA treadmill due to adverse climactic conditions and specifically dangerously icy roads. I felt fresh as a daisy and the leg turnover was excellent. For the first time in a long time, I felt "in shape."

Saturday, 2/12 - MEDIUM LONG RUN
AM: Ah, much warmer temps! Ran 11.5 miles in the Parker hills. Man, I was dog tired! Anne had to leave for work by 7:10 a.m., so I was out the door by 5:30 with only about 90 minutes to run. I was so tired that I barely made it out of bed--way more tired and groggy than usual. I nonetheless got in my 11.5 miles, averaging 7:48 pace with a combined 2,600 feet of climb and descent all at 6,100 feet and higher. Unfortunately, my foot was hurting a bit, tugging on my morale. More on that below.
PM: Ran 4.5 miles on the treadmill, feeling a bit more chipper. Foot felt very good.
Total for the day: 16 miles

Sunday, 2/13 - LONG RUN
AM: Ran 16 miles in the Parker hills, once again feeling dog tired, out of gas and a little discouraged because my foot still hurt just a tad more than it should have. This was most unfortunate because the weather was fantastic! I was weak on the climbs and just not myself. I'm experienced enough to know this wasn't about being out of shape; something was not right, and so I aborted a planned 18-miler and headed in after 16.

Totals for the week:
  • 70.2 miles running
  • 5.2 miles cycling
  • 9 hours, 39 minutes of training
  • Stretching, yoga exercises and push-ups.
For the year: 344.7 miles, way below where I was last year (466.5 miles) due to 2011 starting off with a shut-down as I healed from plantar fasciitis. I am confident--very confident--that I'll close the gap and that this year will be a great one!

It's OK and much better as I write this post. Noah had a bug this week (lots of coughing) and Anne and I had to get up a lot throughout the night from Sunday-Thursday. Every night I wear a splint to keep my foot stretched out, so that it can heal. When you have to get out of the bed multiple times and you have PF, you're not doing yourself any favors. So my theory is that I tweaked my foot while getting up so much. I don't think I "re-injured" it; I think I just tweaked it. My orthotic is the God-send of God-sends!

Why I felt like garbage all weekend:
I was dog tired all weekend and not sure why. I questioned whether I'd pushed myself too hard all week. Getting up to check on Noah probably wore me out, too. I even wondered if I was low on iron since we eat so little red meat. This morning, when I woke up sick, it all clicked. I was tired and feeling sluggish because I was fighting something off. Now I have my answer. I caught my little boy's virus!

My goal for this week is 75-80 miles with intervals and 4.5 miles at tempo pace. But we'll see what I'm capable since I have this bug taking over. On Sunday morning, I might head down the flatter parts of Parker for some marathon-pace miles. I'd love to get too 300+ miles for February.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Hardrock 100 and the Worsening Problem of Race Demand Outstripping Available Supply

Today I looked over the roster of entrants for the 2011 Hardrock 100-Mile Endurance Run, along with the list of the 100 wait-list runners. The lottery drawing took place last weekend. My understanding is that those who are on the wait list have good reason to be hopeful. Congratulations to the lucky few!

Those weren't the only Hardrock lists I looked over. I also reviewed the list of the several hundred would-be Hardrock entrants whose tickets weren't pulled in the lottery. Damn, that's a lot of unlucky people who got disappointing news. I didn't count, but it looks like far more people didn't get in than did get in or at least make the wait list.

Running in the Hardrock 100, like the Western States 100, is a personal dream of mine. Hardrock is generally considered the #1 most difficult 100-mile race in North America, unless you want to throw Barkley into the mix. Hardrock brings a combined 68,000 feet of climb and descent--all at an average elevation of 11,000 feet with a high point of 14,048 feet. It takes place in Colorado's spectacular San Juan Mountains, which I haven't yet visited (but will hopefully this summer). I've heard people say it's the ultimate mountain ultra...and inconceivably hard with never-ending killer climbs, quad-busting descents and plenty of thin air. But Hardrock has something else--tradition, community and uniqueness.

Because Hardrock is so difficult, my plan was to work up to it over a period of a few years--first trying to nail Leadville a few times. Unfortunately, based on what I saw with the huge list of Hardrock lottery rejects, it looks like I may be waiting for a long, long time to get a crack at this storied, legendary race. By the way, even if you're elite, you still don't get special treatment with the Hardrock lottery. There are some amazingly talented runners whose name didn't get drawn. In a way, that gives me hope, because then I know my lottery ticket carries the same weight as that of the elites.

This issue brings to light the larger issue of demand outstripping supply in ultrarunning. I got into the sport in 2005, when demand was starting to sore soar (spelling corrected per reader comment). But now demand and supply are so far apart that you have a situation where people may have to wait years before they get into a race, unless they don't get in at all. The odds of getting into Hardrock and Western States are getting worse every year. Lots of big races are selling out in less than a day.

So what to do about this situation? Some options to consider--and please chime in with your own:
  • Tighten the qualification standards, especially for Western States. This will reduce the number of entrants and ultimately enhance the quality of the field. You should have to complete a 100-mile race within a certain time or win a qualifier to get into Western States.
  • Have multiple wave starts over a period of hours a la the Boston Marathon. For example, let the elite guys and gals start at 5:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, with the non-elites starting in waves an hour or two later. This will allow more people on the course, provided the "authorities" sign off (more on that below). Granted, more people on the course isn't possible for some races, such as those in pristine alpine environments. Wave starts isn't a novel idea; the Boston Marathon does it and they have it down to a science. Technology can make wave starts very feasible.
  • For the above to work, you have to bring the forest service and related agencies to the table and get their buy-in on increased capacity. This is a tough proposition on two grounds: 1) The government is rife with backward, status-quo thinking and it's hard to get access to the "right" decision makers. 2) These are the same folks who assume trail runners are going to trash the joint. They need to know that most of us really respect nature and would never do anything to harm the trails or environment (unfortunately, littering was apparently a huge problem at the 2010 Leadville 100, though I didn't see much discarded trash). We are truly stewards of all things green and races actually work to nurture respect for the environment and increase awareness of our wonderful parks system. But for those jackasses who choose to litter, have stiff penalties for intentionally throwing crap on the trails, such as a lifetime ban from the event and a stiff ticket from the park service (I say "intentionally" because sometimes things can accidentally fall out of our pockets during a race). When I won the Mohican 100 in 2009, a few times I stopped--while in the lead--to pick up stuff (wrappers, etc.) I accidentally dropped. We're all bound to do that.
  • Add more races. This is already happening and it's probably the #1 tactic right now for trying to meet demand. But this tactic doesn't solve the problem of deserving runners not being able to get into the Western States 100, Hardrock 100 and other big races. On this point, I go back to the idea of wave starts. Also, there's an unintended consequence to adding more races. More races are going to work to water down the competition, which might irk a few. I can see how elites would be opposed to more races. They want to square off against each other on the biggest stages, get into whatever race they so choose, and contend for big prize purses. This exposes another huge issue in ultrarunning--the conflict between the wishes of elites and the wishes of the rest of us. I don't want to see ultrarunning fall victim to what's happened with Ironman triathloning, so I think ultrarunning should side with non-elites in the spirit of the best traditions of the sport. Which means I think more races should be added--but maybe we could have a Super Bowl of races for the elites.
Unlike a few out there, I ABSOLUTELY am 100% against raising registration fees to reduce demand. That is the worst possible idea. Ever. We want ultrarunning to be accessible to people of varying economic means. I can afford increased registration costs, but maybe the next guy or gal, who loves the sport just as much as I do, couldn't. We need to keep the costs of racing down and think of other innovative solutions for bringing demand and supply in better sync with each other.

Until then, my dream of one day running in the Hardrock 100 may just remain that...a dream. An unfilled dream bcause I wasn't lucky enough for my name to be drawn in a lottery.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Training Week 1/31-2/6

I am continually amazed that a post I wrote back in 2009 on hamstring tendonitis continues to get major hits. It is the most highly visited page on my blog. Interesting.


Growing up in South Carolina, I was (and still am) a huge Clemson Tigers fan. My dad's held football season tickets at Clemson for 40+ years. Clemson's in my blood. When I read this story about Clemson football legend William "The Refrigerator" Perry, my heart really sank. I don't understand why some people, despite how gifted they are, seem bent on destroying their own health and themselves, and in the process breaking the hearts of those around them. Sometimes I think an extreme gift, such as Perry's athleticism and charisma, can also be an extreme weakness.


The week of 1/31-2/6 marked my first week of quality and 70+ miles in a long time. The plan was to do an interval session and tempo run. But as you'll read below, the tempo run didn't happen. My body isn't used to going fast, and so Wednesday's speedwork session kind of left me sore and tired for a few days afterward. But, all in all, this was a solid week.

AM: 6.65 miles/54:27 on the treadmill, plus 15:30 on the stationary cycle, at the HOA gym. I still refuse to take for granted how my left foot is feeling (pretty good), and so I felt a moderate effort along with some cross-training on Monday--after two long runs in the previous weekend--were in order.

This was one of those rare days when getting in a run was next to impossible. I had a 7:00 a.m. meeting at work, had to work all day, and then had a 5:00-7:00 p.m. work event. "Well, you could have run after getting home," you might be saying. I wanted to spend time with Anne and Noah. I hadn't seen them all day. "Well, you could have woken up at 3 or 3:30 and gotten in a run," you may counter. True. But why do that when I don't have to (yet). Been there, done that. I'll save that for May, June and July.

AM: This was speedwork day--my first speedwork session in several months. With the temperature a crisp negative 17 in the Front Range, I opted for the treadmill at our HOA gym, thinking I could get in some nice intervals at around 5:35-5:40 pace. To my dismay, the Life Fitness treadmills in the gym max out at only 6:00/mile. Someone obviously adjusted them to avoid excessive wear and tear. Damn, I thought. So I made the most of the situation and cranked out the following over a distance of 9.1 miles:

Warm-up: 8:01/1 miles
Mile: 6:00
800 meter recovery: 4:00
Mile: 6:00
400 meter recovery: 2:00
Mile: 6:00
400 meter recovery: 1:56
Mile: 6:00
400 meter recovery: 1:57
1200 meters (3/4 mile): 4:30
400 meter recovery: 1:58
800 meters (1/2 mile): 3:00
400 meter recovery: 1:58
400 meters (1/4 mile): 1:30
Cooldown: 16:05

My foot felt great and I felt great--maybe too good. At no point was I ever really working super hard, which isn't what you want in an interval session. You want to work hard. And so my hope for next week is to get to the track assuming Mother Nature cooperates. If not, I'll head back to the treadmill and "McGyver" a speedwork session on one of the 6:00/mile treadmills.

AM: Man, I was sore this the hips and legs. And to top it off, the temperature was negative 2 degrees. So I headed back to the HOA gym for treadmill work. 8.75 miles in 1:08:29. The level of soreness I felt strongly suggested that my legs haven't yet caught up with my aerobic capacity. Tuesday's tempo run wasn't that hard from an aerobic standpoint, but it obviously torched by legs.

AM: The plan today was a tempo run, but I woke up still a little too sore from Wednesday. The good news was that the temperature was *only* 17 degrees and we had about 2-3 inches of fresh snow. So I headed out for 9.3 miles in 1:16:39 and had a great time on my dirt road loop course, which got me up to 6,350 feet. The snow made it hard to go much faster than 8:00/mile.

AM: 16.25 miles/2:06:05 in the Parker hills. My goal was to maintain a steady pace for the entire run, which I did. From my doorstep, I ran up Canterberry and Buffaloberry, and then headed east on Parker Road. Then I turned north on Delbert and west on Buck Board and got back onto Tomahawk via some hilly dirt roads. Just shy of 4,000 feet of total climb and descent--all at 6,100-6,400 feet.  Overall, I felt pretty strong and steady.
PM: 4 miles/31:47 on the treadmill with some yoga.
Total for the day: 20:25 miles

AM: 12.5 miles/1:49:39: Tomahawk loop. Very snowy, slick conditions. Impossible to go fast. The higher points of Parker got about 6 inches of snow overnight and the roads, especially going back up Buffaloberry, were slick. I should have worn my MicroSpikes--they would have made a huge difference. Overall I had a great time except when running against the nasty wind coming in from the north. Total ascent and descent about 3,600 feet all at 6,100-6,400 feet.
PM: 3.5 miles/27:49 with some yoga
Total for the day: 16 miles

Totals for the week:
  • 70.2 miles running
  • 4.0 miles cycling
  • 9 hours, 33 minutes, 6 seconds of training
For the year: 271.3 miles. This time last year I was at about 400 miles! But on the bright side, my foot, while still far from perfect, is much better. The new orthotics are working well for me and I'm confident that I can continue to increase my mileage over the next several months. I'm also thinking the yoga I've been doing is paying off, though I've dealt with some tightness in my hamstring tendons over the past several days. So, all in all, I'm happy with how the week went, especially given the slow start and a total miss on Tuesday.

My goal for this week is 75 miles with intervals and a tempo run.


I just registered for the Mount Evans Ascent on June 18. This is a very popular 14.5-mile race that takes you to the summit of 14,264-foot Mount Evans just outside of Denver. The road you run is the highest paved road in North America. I am obviously really stoked about this race. Since June will be my mega-mileage month, I may turn the Mount Evans Ascent into a nice training run and run back down to my car.

My race schedule for 2011 is mostly finalized with a few question marks. One of the big question marks is the Eisenhower Marathon on April 9 in Abilene, Kansas. I'm not yet ready to decide whether or not to run Eisenhower. It depends on my foot, the weather forecast (especially when it comes to the wind), and if I think I can set a new marathon PR. If I think a marathon PR isn't possible, I'll skip the Eisenhower Marathon. But I'm really anxious to see how I'll feel going hard at sea level....


On Friday night, Anne and I watched the movie "Secretariat." I'll rate the movie a strong B. Anne is very passionate about horses--as passionate about riding as I am about running. Secretariat (the horse) was spectacular. He won all but one race, including the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes for the Triple Crown in 1973--the same year I was born. Check out the video below of Secretariat at Belmont--probably the greatest effort by a horse in all of history. He won by 31 lengths and never slowed down--he wanted it badly and wasn't going to let any horse get in his way. The heart of a champion, indeed.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Memories, Part 1

As we descended Big Hill, the pain of running nearly 99 miles was radiating through my feet and legs. My legs felt like they’d been pounded a thousand times by a sledgehammer, and my bloody, blistered feet like they’d been assaulted with sandpaper and a vice grip. Even with my headlamp on full-blast, I could barely see in front of me. The descent was so steep and the pain in my quads and feet so acute that awareness of my surroundings was virtually impossible. I wailed out of agony, but at least I was still running, and at least I was winning this race. Wracked by the paranoia of being passed even this late in the race, I kept asking Tim, Kenny and Dan if anyone was behind us. No, they kept answering.

Finally, when we got to the bottom of the descent we continued running down the dirt road toward the finish, my shot quads getting a reprieve from the massacre at Big Hill. This was Wally Road, and we were in the middle of beautiful Ohio country most people would describe as nowhere. The finish was close, but in my fatigued, foggy mind it was in the next galaxy. “You’re twelve hundred yards from the finish,” Kenny told me. “How do you know that?” I asked him, hoping Kenny would have a reassuring answer. “I measured it by car earlier today,” he answered. I smiled. That was Kenny – he always did his homework. Twelve hundred yards was just three laps around the track, I thought. Easy enough.

Finally, I saw the lights of the campground and knew that this great journey, which had taken me 100 miles and nearly 20 hours, was minutes from being over. With the finish line in sight, I entered the gravel driveway and picked up my pace. “Be sure to hold those arms high when you go in," said Tim, a winner of many ultras himself. “Absolutely,” I replied. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I was about to win a prestigious 100-mile race…me, a regular guy.

Approaching quickly, I saw people beyond the finish line and heard their cheers. Was I really the first through? A camera flashed as I crossed the line with my arms raised. I wanted these few seconds of finishing—of winning a race—to last forever. I wanted to freeze the moment in time and relish the feelings of accomplishment, victory and ecstasy to last forever. But these few seconds would come and go, leaving me with memories that I would one day share with my son, Noah.


One of my favorite movies is “Field of Dreams.” At the seminal point in the movie, Doc Graham, played by the great Burt Lancaster, says, “You know, we just don't recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they're happening. Back then I thought, well, there'll be other days. I didn't realize that that was the only day.”

I knew when I crossed the line at the Mohican Trail 100-Mile Run that winning the race was one of those special moments in life that don’t happen very often. For some, they don’t happen at all. But as I look back on the years, I can see that my life was full of special moments—many that I failed to recognize, a few that I didn’t fully appreciate and several that I over-estimated in value. This is a record of those memories. And may this record not only bring clarity to my life, but also inspire you to look back on yours and reflect on those special moments that changed the course of your being.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Difference between a 50-Miler and 100-Miler is WAY More than 50 Miles...and Some Thoughts on Dean Karnazes

Although I'm not a Dean Karnazes fan by any stretch, last night I read a few excerpts from his forthcoming book, Run!, in the latest issue of Runner's World.

First of all, let me share some thoughts on Dean. I admire his ability to run great distances. I respect his many top-10 finishes at the Western States 100 and his wins at both the Badwater Ultramarathon and Vermont 100. I admire his charitable pursuits and passion for helping kids through his foundation. And, I really admire how he's successfully marketed himself and built a brand. That last compliment may sound like a back-handed compliment, but it's not. I truly admire Dean's effectiveness in promoting himself in such a way that running now pays the bills. Few of us who work for a living and run on the side (our true passion) wouldn't give anything to have Dean's "job" and, oh by the way, his North Face sponsorship. For years, I've been nagging myself to write a book because Dean has clearly shown that you can make a living through running and telling great stories. Here in Colorado, the stage is set for me to tell captivating stories. I just need to get off my arse and give it a go! So there's a lot about Dean that I do admire.

Now for what I don't admire about Dean. I don't admire the fact that he never paid homage to the sport of ultrarunning in his first book, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of An All Night Runner. The net result of this is that you now have legions of Dean fans who think he's the first and only guy to run super-long distances. No where in his book does Dean talk about the great ones, like Yiannis Kouros or Ted Corbitt, or the roots of going long. He kind of made it seem as though he IS ultrarunning. In truth, he's the first ultrarunner to have ever really crossed over into the mainstream. But he's not the first ultrarunner, and he surely isn't the last, and he certainly isn't an all-time great in terms of results. He's not in the same league or even close to the same league as Kouros, Corbitt, Scott Jurek, Eric Clifton, Stu Mittleman, Bernd Heinrich, Ann Trason et al.

There are some great ultrarunners out there who could have huge brands except for the fact that they either choose not to effectively market themselves or they don't know how. Meanwhile, Dean is the best-known ultrarunner in the world--and this irks the hell out of many an old-school ultrarunner.

I also don't think Dean is particularly humble, though he loves to come across as Mr. Everyman. Dean seems to enjoy telling people his body fat percentage. And he can be a little condescending.

As for his new book, Dean does get one thing right. According to the excerpt in Runner's World, he says that a 100-miler isn't twice as hard as a 50-miler; it's more like 3 or 4 times harder. I agree. In my view, there are four distinct stages of a 100-miler.
  • Miles 1-30: Getting warmed up and finding your groove. This isn't so bad!
  • Miles 31-60: Damn, this is getting hard. And you still have a ton of miles in front of you.
  • Miles 61-90: Lots of DNFs in this stage. For me, this is when the race really begins.
  • Miles 91-100: You'd think this late in the race a finish is in the bag. But really it's gut-check time. How badly do you want it?
I have a friend who says that nothing good happens after 50 miles. True in many respects.

What happens after 60 miles is hard to put into words. For most of us, you have to dig deeper than you ever have in your whole life. You are stripped down to nothing more than your soul. Everyone on the course is hurting when they reach this point in the race. Look into the eyes of a 100-mile runner late in a race and you'll see what I'm talking about. Those who finish are the ones who either avoided serious injury or found it deep within themselves to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. It's really a matter of refusing to quit.

I've been in different situations after 60 miles. At the Mohican 100 in 2009, late in the race I was killing the hills and eventually took and kept the lead with nothing but fire in my eyes. The previous year, I endured a blown-up knee and massive diarrhea. At the Leadville 100 after mile 80, I was on a death march. In 2008, I paced a friend who was winning his 100 but had a medical condition after 80 miles. He recovered and regrouped and still managed to finish first overall. I've see 100s from different viewpoints--blown up-knees, altitude sickness, a wicked case of the trots, an electrolyte imbalance, a near-nirvana state, you name it.

If 100s were easy, everyone would do them.

Yeah, Dean got it right.