Tuesday, January 31, 2012


January totals: Ran 204.7 miles / 26 hours, 48 minutes, 41 seconds. Ordinarily I'm at 300 miles of running in January, but coming back from injury (info on that below), this is solid. Also cycled 49 miles in 3 hours and 56 seconds. At this point, I'm encouraged.
Life is about change. Those who are able to embrace change as opportunity usually find greater success than those who resist change. With that said, I'm excited to have accepted a new job with an organization whose mission I deeply believe in. In a few weeks I'll be transitioning to the Colorado Health Foundation, where I'll be working in communications for the foundation's Health Care and Health Coverage initiatives. The Colorado Health Foundation is a really good fit for me. One of its big initiatives is fighting obesity--a cause that is close to my heart. Colorado, while still the "thinnest" station in the nation, has seen a nearly doubling of its obesity rate in the last 20 years. My personal belief is that obesity, which can lead to cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, joint problems, and a whole host of chronic conditions, is the single greatest threat to our health care system today. Rarely in life does a job align with one's personal convictions. In this case, that unique alignment is there.
Over the next three weeks, as I wrap up my current job, I'll be taking a few days off here and there to have some fun and enjoy extra time with Noah. I'll be going on outings to a few places I haven't yet been--the Incline in Manitou Springs, the very difficult Sanitas loop in Boulder and maybe, if the weather cooperates, Mount Bierstadt. I can't wait! I'm open to suggestions for other places to visit. But it won't all be fun. I also need to get my Colorado driver's license....


With my amazing new job comes the need to revisit my 2012 racing schedule. I won't be able race out of state for several months, as I'll be working to get up and running at the foundation, and so almost all of my events will take place in Colorado. Here's how things look so far:

4/28: Cheyenne Mountain 50K
6/15: Mount Evans Ascent
6/30: Leadville Trail Marathon
7/15: Barr Trail Mountain Race or Leadville Silver Rush 50M
8/18: Leadville Trail 100M
12/29: Across the Years 24-Hour

I was hoping for a marathon PR effort at the Georgia Marathon in Atlanta on 3/18 but this case of poster tibial tendonitis, which seems to (finally) be clearing up, really threw a wrench in those plans. So the Georgia Marathon is off.

With a somewhat lighter racing schedule than last year, I hope to feel fresher going into the Leadville 100 than in previous years and return to form in time to gun for 140+ miles at the Across the Years 24-Hour in late December. I wanted to make the US 24-hour team in 2009 and missed the mileage cutoff by 4 miles. I believe it's entirely possible for me to flirt with 140 miles if I'm having a good day.

More importantly, I just want 2012 to be a good year of racing. I've been in a two-year "slump," of sorts, and really want to get back on track and see some good results.


Injury update. I suffered what I considered at the time to be a major setback on Sunday, January 22, when my shin went south on me during a planned 16-miler on the paved Cherry Creek Trail. I felt discomfort at about 5 miles and pain by mile 8--a sure sign that my posterior tibial tendonitis had flared back up in a big way. After an internal bitch and moan session, I  decided to cut my run short at 10 miles and hobbled to the nearest Target, where Anne and Noah picked me up. At the time, I was so discouraged, thinking I'd totally wrecked my recovery and was now back to zero. The rest of the day I stayed off my leg and iced my shin quite a bit.

Since that time, my shin *seems* to be improving. I just completed a 57-mile week (pretty low by January standards) and my shin feels pretty good. I've returned to physical therapy, too. Best of all, I seem to have figured out what triggers discomfort, allowing me to avoid problems. At this point, running on dirt seems to protect my shin. If I run on pavement or concrete, invariably I'll feel some discomfort. Also, if I run on a surface that turns my leg inward and stresses the posterior tibial tendon, I'm going to feel pain. I've also found that KT Tape works nicely in providing support. Now that I've figured all of this out, I'm running on surfaces and in areas where I can get in the miles virtually pain-free. On Sunday I headed to Hidden Mesa Open Space in Castle Rock and enjoyed a relaxing 12.5-miler on the trail, climbing 1,100 feet and dropping 1,100 feet. I'm confident my shin is improving and that I'll be able to run wherever I want in a few months. Until then, it's a good thing I know my limitations.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

In Defense of Hokas...and My Analysis of "Minimalism"

In the running world, all you have to do is utter the word "minimalism" and suddenly everyone has an opinion. If I had a nickle for every Christopher McDougall/Caballo Blanco-inspired runner I've seen at the Leadville 100 clad in Vibrams (or even huaraches), I'd be a rich man and could retire today...but not as rich as McDougall himself!

Although many would say "The Book" has been a primary driving force behind the burgeoning minimalist and "barefoot" movement, the fact of the matter is that modern-day running shoes have endured many trends over the years--from light and basic to big and clunky and everything in between. When you look at what many runners especially in the 1970s and even 1980s wore (pretty low-profile racing flats but nothing like Vibrams), what folks wore in the 1990s and early 2000s (big, clunky shoes) and what's hot these days (Vibrams and barefoot running), you could easily argue that what we're experiencing now is really "minimalism 2.0 on steroids."
The Bondi B's
Amid the minimalist movement, shoe racks full of Vibrams, and market share-savvy companies like New Balance and Nike jumping on the "less is more" bandwagon, along comes Hoka One One, a European outfit that has introduced innovative--and super-expensive--shoes that appear quite bulky and heavy and are sometimes dissed as looking "clown"-like. Ah, but looks can be deceiving. As almost any proud Hoka owner would attest (I'm on my FOURTH pair of Bondi B's and will likely be a lifer), Hokas are anything but bulky, heavy and Bozo-like. Yes, they have a lot of EVA, but EVA is light, soft and protective. The uppers are pretty simple, contributing to the relative light weight of Hokas. Ultimately, what you have in Hokas is tremendous responsiveness and a surprisingly light, comfy pair of shoes suitable for all distances--from 5,000 meters to 100-mile and 24-hour races (though I prefer light-weight trainers in "sprint" races like 5Ks). In many respects, Hokas are in a category all to themselves.

No matter what Hoka lovers may say, the minimalists and barefooters out there are undeterred, and God bless them for it. Maybe they're the lucky ones and those of us who wear Hokas are the less fortunate...or even unenlightened. Many of the minimalists contend that we have been sold a bill of goods by the big shoe companies (aka "Big Shoe") that want us to believe more support is better and will help prevent injury. Alas, some of these same big shoe companies have recently begun adding minimalist products to their lines, only feeding the confusion as to what's best for the runner. We are, the minimalists say, born to run barefooted, and so why impede the natural movement of the foot with tanks like Hokas?

For whatever it's worth, here's what I think: We weren't born to run per se. We were born to be active and work hard for what we need. It could be said that running was to "prehistoric" beings a means to an end. In "prehistoric" times, when there weren't King Soopers and Safeways around every rock, we put a lot of physical effort into hunting and gathering...because our lives depended on it. Meat was a big deal; you had to work super hard to kill an animal, sometimes running dozens of miles until the exhausted animal collapsed and died. But that was only part of the effort. You had to work almost just as hard bringing the bounty back to your loved ones and defending your catch from invaders. And animals weren't just a source of food; furs and hides were used for clothing. Most of the time, you ate vegetarian fare--and it sufficed. And when you weren't eating, you worried about things like fortifying your shelter, staying warm (or cool), protecting your family and friends, finding clean water, etc. All of that required some level of activity, including running and hiking.

But our ancestors didn't run for fitness. If a "caveman" ran 20, 30 or 40 miles, it wasn't training; it was to chase down a deer, evade capture, maybe deliver a message or get back home. And those who did the running were usually the best athletes, i.e., the ones who were the most physiologically gifted. No one even knew what fitness in the modern sense was back then. Being fit was part and parcel of survival; the best athletes reigned supreme and brought home the bacon. Also, they didn't have paved roads like we do. Their pursuits took them across pastures, meadows and calderas, up and down mountains, along treacherous ridges, and over downed trees and big rocks (all of which the Jemez 50M and Hardrock 100 deliver). Well-groomed trails were rare. Their feet, unlike ours today, were conditioned from childbirth to withstand tremendous punishment and were strong in muscle and connective tissue. Our feet today are none of that, in large part because we've been wearing supportive shoes since birth, sitting down a lot, driving our cars to King Soopers for food instead of chasing down and/or picking our grub, living in relatively low-maintenance shelters, etc.

All of that said, no one really knows for sure whether minimalism today is a good or bad thing, or even the "natural way." People who run in Vibrams, New Balance's line of minimalist trail shoes, and the like swear by them. By the same token, people who run in Hokas believe their way is the best way (especially for older runners). So essentially what shoes you wear, if you even choose to wear shoes, is a matter of personal preference. Me? My preference is Hokas, thank you very much.


And now let's enjoy an awesome tune that always gets me fired up and ready to get 'er done.

Friday, January 20, 2012

What Happens When You Take Two Weeks Off?

The good news is that I'm on the comeback trail. The posterior tibial tendonitis in my right leg is starting to taper off. I had a hunch it would go away once my Achilles was back to 100%, which it is--thanks to the two-week shutdown I was forced into a few days before Christmas (what a Christmas present that was!). I'm still icing my shin and ankle as a cautionary measure.

The reason I'm blaming my Achilles is that this whole case of post-tib was triggered by heel lefts I wore to try to take pressure off my ailing right Achilles, which flared up on Thanksgiving weekend. Unfortunately, the heel lifts created some instabilities in my lower right leg, resulting in a nasty case of tendonitis that felt like someone was pounding my ankle and shin with a sledgehammer. Honestly, my right ankle was a mess. Two days before Christmas, my doctor ordered a two-week shutdown from EVERYTHING--not just running but also cycling (my second love), walking and swimming. Yes, even swimming. Needless to say, it was hard news to take, but I understood that my doctor knew more than I did and I'd better heed his advice, which I did. So here I am today, on the comeback trail yet again and with (delusional?) visions of doing crazy-good things in Leadville this August.

Last week I ran about 54 miles and this week I'm going to close in on 60. That's fairly low mileage for me, but it's something, and I've always felt anything 60 and up is decent volume, with 80+ and preferably 90+ being my sweet spot. The key right now is patience. I'm gradually building back up to decent mileage, focusing on restoring my aerobic capacity and endurance, which took a huge hit during the two-week shutdown (more on that below). Then in February I'm going to start implementing quality. The Georgia Marathon on 3/18 is a total question mark at this point.

I have to say that my first run after the two-week shutdown was...not too fun. I had a bad cold at the time but, beyond my nasty case of the sniffles, I was huffing and puffing and my legs were as heavy as steel beams. For the next few days I saw very little progress. But even as I struggled to get "it" back, I was having a blast--because I was running again! Besides spending time with my family, there is nothing I love more than running and living the gift. When you've just endured a  two-week shutdown and you live at 6,200 feet, you can count on returning to running not being easy.

The good news is that I'm now really seeing gains. My aerobic capacity, while not back to full strength, is much better than it was. I'm suffering from a mild case of dead legs, but overall my leg turnover is improving by the day. My endurance, which plummeted from the shutdown, is improving. Last Saturday I ran 12 miles in 1:32 and then on Sunday ventured out for an 11-miler and it wasn't too rough (did it in 1:24). This weekend I'm planning a 15-16-mile run. Overall, my body feels good and ready to start training hard, yet again.

This summer I'm probably going to tone down my racing schedule and really focus on the Leadville 100. I didn't register for the San Juan Solstice 50M or Jemez 50M because I think 50 miles in the mountains is a lot of volume when you're training for a 100. For me, 50 kilometers is the threshold--I can run 50K (or 31 miles) and recover fast and see nice gains. Fifty miles is a whole different game. I really want to do a 24-hour race this year and so the trick is getting in the training for a great Leadville and having enough left in the tank for 130-140+ miles at Across the Years in 2012. I feel a serious drive to do a 24-hour again and see if I can surpass 140 miles. I know I left at least 5-6 miles on the course at the 2009 USA 24-Hour National Championship (130.67 miles). I think I have good-enough cruising speed to nail some decent mileage in a 24-hour.


One of the things I really like about the new Western States 100 documentary, "Unbreakable," is the music. Below is a song, "The Shrine / An Argument," by Fleet Foxes, that I really love. It has a unique sound and I don't usually like songs like this. It's definitely not something you'd hear on the radio, but rather in independent coffee shops in Boulder that cater to Bohemian graduate students driving old Volkswagen buses (deep down, I have a Bohemiam side and a part of me would love to drive around in a VW bus with a peace sign and a call to action for everyone to run trails together and spread love :-) ).... Anyway, this song (specifically the part starting at 2:15) adds a lot of drama to the Geoff Roes/Anton Krupicka "chase" scene at the end of "Unbreakable." Enjoy!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Fueling for Your Best Performance

When we lived out East, I had my training and race-day nutrition pretty dialed in. In 100-milers, I'd consume just about anything, especially soup, bananas, pop, gels and sports drinks of all kinds. When we moved out West and I started doing really demanding races like the Leadville Trail 100-Mile, run between 9,200 and 12,600 feet in the Rockies, I suddenly realized that what worked back East wasn't going to necessarily cut it in tough mountain races at elevation. It took me a little while to figure out what worked, but eventually I came to the conclusion, through trial and error, that there's one line of products that is heads and shoulders above the rest: Hammer Nutrition.

The great thing about Hammer is that they have products for athletes of all levels and from all sports. For me, as an ultrarunner, here are the Hammer products that make the biggest difference in my performance:
  • Hammer Gels: At the Leadville 100 and other races, Hammer Gels fuel me mile after mile. They provide the energy I need and, as an added bonus, they taste great! I prefer the vanilla and espresso flavors. Usually one gel an hour works for me, but occasionally I'll do two gels if I'm feeling really fatigued.
  • Hammer Perpetuem: Simply put, Hammer Perpetuem is the best sustained energy fluid I've ever used. Mixed with water, it provides about 270 calories a serving. At Leadville, I turned to Perpetuem in the last 60 miles and it really did a nice job of fueling me (I only wish I'd done such a good job with caffeine late in the race). Whether I'm racing or on a long training run of 3-5+ hours, Perpetuem keeps me moving, thanks to its nice mix of carbs and protein. I've also used Perpetuem Solids and they're great, too.
  • Hammer Endurolytes: I've been using Hammer Endurolytes for years and I think they're the best capsule-based source of electrolytes out there. Depending on conditions, I take anywhere from 2-3 Endurolytes every hour to help keep my muscles functioning well and cramping at bay. If I feel any cramping coming on, I pop a few Endurolytes and the problem usually goes away. I also pop a few Endurolytes before my long workouts.
  • Hammer Recoverite: If I had to pick one Hammer product I love the most, it would be Recoverite. Especially out here in Colorado, where I'm running at over 6,000 feet on a daily basis, recovery between workouts is vital. I take Recoverite after every workout and the stuff works beautifully. The maltodextrin, whey protein isolate, L-glutamine and other ingredients provide the nourishment your tired muscles need in the recovery process. I swear, too, that the stuff helps speed up healing in soft tissue injuries. All I do is mix two scoops with some water and then nurse it over the next 10-20 minutes. I wake up the next day feeling way better than I would without Recoverite. If you do nothing else, take Recoverite between your workouts. My favorite flavor is strawberry.
A few months ago I approached Hammer for an athlete sponsorship because I believe deeply in the quality of their products. I'm super excited to now be a part of the Hammer team and help the company continually build awareness in the endurance world. This year, as I take on races like the Leadville 100, Hammer's excellent products will once again be my fuel of choice.

If you're still trying to figure out how to fuel for peak performance, give Hammer's excellent line of products a try. And go beyond what I've recommended above and also try Hammer Sustained Energy, Heed and their many other products. What works for me may not work for you, but I can nearly guarantee you that Hammer has something for everyone--and it's all great!

Shop Hammer today by clicking here!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pushing Your Limits

First, some inspiration. Below is what I recently wrote on Facebook in response to an old college friend who just ran 7 miles in the rain being told he's too old for such antics and needs to be careful with his aging body:
I'm 38 years old and almost 39 and I run 100 miles a week and run races of 100+ miles in the mountains here in Colorado. I once ran 131 miles in 24 hours on a 1-mile paved oval (this was at the USA 24-hour national championship and I did it not only to compete but also to raise money for our local children's hospital). I run anywhere from 7-10 races of marathon to 100-mile distance a year--sometimes more. Sometimes I run 2-3 marathons or ultramarathons in a period of 5-7 weeks. I know people who have run 6-8 races of 100 miles or more in a year...and most of them are north of 40. Playing it safe is boring and uninspiring. I do what many people say is unthinkable and unwise and, yeah, sometimes I go through injury, but believe me when I say I've probed my soul on long runs and know what I'm made of--and I've built a strong mind and body that can withstand many things that would cripple the average person. I applaud any man or woman who, like Dan, is testing their limits...because you never know what your limits are 'til you push yourself beyond the boundaries society has artificially set for us.
Heck yeah!
I can't say enough about how important is to push your limits. Here were some personal limits I once perceived and ultimately crushed:

~2003: At the time about 40 pounds lighter than my all-time high of 220 pounds, I ran 7 miles on a treadmill at the gym, wearing Famous Footwear shoes and cotton from head to toe (I didn't know any better). Anne was there, and I was so ecstatic that I was practically bouncing off the walls afterward. I felt like I'd just accomplished something incredible. And, at the time, I had.

~2004: Not only did I complete my first distance race--a 20-kilometer event in Wheeling, WV--but I also ran my first marathon, finishing Columbus in 3:22. I cannot put into words how intimidating 26.2 miles once was to me. And while I still very much respect the distance, to me the challenge is no longer finishing a marathon; it's doing the 26.2 in a fast time--say, a new PR of 2:50 or better.

~2005: I qualified for the Boston Marathon with a 3:05, a feat I never thought was possible. Since then, I've BQ'd in every marathon I've run (except for the Erie Marathon in 2007, which was a training run). Not long afterward I finished my first ultra--a trail 50K in Cleveland that scared the heck out of me at the time.

~2006: Having been bitten by the ultrarunning bug, I ran my first 50-miler. Again, this was a seemingly unfathomable feat.

~2007: At the time more than 50 pounds lighter than my all-time high, this was the year of breaking through. I did my first 100, finishing 6th overall at the Burning River 100, and in the process transitioned to a high-mileage runner. I really questioned if my body would hold up. Guess what? It has.

~2008: Three major accomplishments: 1) I won my first race--a 50K in the dead of winter in Cleveland, 2) I broke 3 hours in the marathon for the first time, and 3) I nearly won the Mohican 100, finishing 4th overall despite a blown-up knee and stomach.

~2009: Now ripped and in ridiculously good shape (for me, at least), I finally did it--I won the Mohican 100. If you'd told me two years prior that I'd eventually break the tape in a 100, I'd have laughed at you. A few months later, still in really good shape but wracked with stress due to our upcoming move to Colorado, I surpassed 130 miles on a 1-mile oval course in my first 24-hour race. The thought of running for 24 hours on an oval terrified me, but I ultimately loved it!

~2010: I finished the Leadville Trail 100 in under 25 hours, earning the coveted El Plato Grande buckle.

~2011: I once again finished the Leadville 100, this time in 22:35, to earn another El Plato Grande buckle. The year also included a finish at the brutally tough Jemez 50-Mile.

~2012: ?

The above races truly tested my limits. Yes, we all have limits, but 99.9999% of us have never come even remotely close to "the edge." I haven't reached the edge of my limits yet. Goals for the next few years (in order of importance):

  1. Sub-20 hours at the Leadville 100--goal #1
  2. Sub-2:50 in the marathon
  3. 140+ miles in a 24-hour race
  4. Hardrock!
  5. Leadman!!
Injury update: My leg, which was hit with posterior tibial tendonitis in November, is doing pretty well. Last Thursday I started running again, covering about 29 miles that week. This week I should surpass 50 miles, which is pretty modest for me, but it's a start. I'm using an Ace ankle wrap that's providing nice support, icing my leg/ankle after every run and also at night, and continuing with my physical therapy.
Get 'er done!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Film Review: Unbreakable: The Western States 100

"Unbreakable: The Western States 100" tells the story of the 2010 "Super Bowl of Ultrarunning," following four elite ultrarunners in their quest for the coveted cougar trophy. Produced and distributed by Journeyfilm and directed by JB Benna, whose previous work includes "The Runner" and "Ultramarathon Man," "Unbreakable" was released in December, with private showings nationwide, and has captured great interest in the ultrarunning community (trailer below).

Having watched "Unbreakable" three times, I believe this is a very good film--just as good, if not better, than "Running on the Sun." In fact, "Unbreakable" seems to get better with each viewing. The main characters are Kilian Jornet of Spain, Hal Koerner of Ashland, Oregon, Anton Krupicka of Boulder, Colorado, and Geoff Roes of Juneau, Alaska and Nederland, Colorado, as well as the founder of the Western States Endurance Run, Gordy Ainsleigh.

Going into the 2010 race, Jornet, Koerner, Krupicka and Roes were the four men many predicted would duke it out for the win. And did they ever. We now know that Roes prevailed in dramatic, record-setting fashion, passing a still-strong Krupicka late in the race, while a dehydrated Jornet faded to third (only to win the 2011 race) and an injured Koerner dropped. Hardly could better drama have played out for Benna and his production team on that hot June day in the mountains and canyons of Northern California.

But "Unbreakable" is far more than a blow-by-blow of that epic 2010 Western States race. At various points throughout the film, we see the heroes living their daily lives. We see the ever-popular Koerner, a small-business owner working hard to grow his specialty running shop while training with his ultrarunner girlfriend, Carly, herself an accomplished athlete. Krupicka, when not running those spectacular, well-traveled Boulder peaks shirtless, is a graduate student who loves spending time with his girlfriend, Jocelyn. The somewhat camera-shy Roes, in the midst of a historically great stretch of wins at the time, works at a natural grocery store as a cook, loves hanging out with his girlfiend, Corle, and her daughter, and running with a small group of Juneau-area ultrarunners who call themselves "the geezers." We see the young Spanish-speaking Kilian, whose scenes are subtitled, doing the unimaginable on difficult mountain trails and telling of how his parents shaped who he is today--the best long-distance mountain runner in the world. Benna goes to great lengths to welcome us into these athletes' lives, providing critical context around the 2010 Western States race. Along the way, we are treated to unique contributions from the likes of Scott Jurek (seven-time winner of Western States), Tim Twietmeyer, Dave Horton, Ainsleigh and others. A shirtless Ainsleigh, standing on the course itself, tells us how the event evolved, emotionally recounting his struggles to finish a 1974 100-mile horse race on foot--marking the start of the Western States Endurance Run.

Benna deserves credit not only for the skill with which he tells and shows the runners' interesting stories, but also for the care he took in bringing the viewer right into the action. The dramatic cinematography, the on-trail footage, the on-the-fly interviews with crew and spectators along the course, and especially the music add rich flavor and greatly enhance the drama unfolding before your very eyes. The scene when Roes, having just taken the lead from the seemingly unbeatable Krupicka, explodes out of the woods and enters the Highway 49 aid station full of energy and determination, shocking onlookers, is perhaps the high point of the film's drama. What we see--what we experience, feel and hear--in this one moment in time is Benna at his very best.
I have but a few complaints about "Unbreakable." Most notable are the misuse of apostrophes in some of the subtitles in the Jornet scenes. For example, there are a few occasions when "its" should be "it's." (Follow-up note to reader: According to Benna, "Most of the Kilian footage already had subtitles burned in by the French production team, so not much we could do there.") I also think the text in the beginning looks a bit amateurish when compared to the professional-looking film itself. These are small issues--and they are quite inconsequential when compared to the great quality of this interesting, compelling, fascinating and endearing film. (I hereby offer my proofreading, editing and writing services to JB for future projects.)

To JB Benna and the Journeyfilm crew, I say, "Bravo!"

"Unbreakable: The Western States 100" is highly recommended for both ultrarunners and the general public and is on sale for $24.99 plus shipping at http://www.ws100film.com/.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Blessing in Disguise

Today marks day eleven of my doctor-imposed two-week shutdown because of posterior tibial tendonitis, or "post-tib," in my right leg. My leg is doing much better. I no longer have tendon pain running up the inside of my calf. My ankle is better, but still not 100%--a gentle reminder that I'm not yet over my injury. My Achilles, which is where this whole injury originated (compensation led to my post-tib), is doing very well, too. I occasionally feel some discomfort in my Achilles, but, all in all, it's healing (pun intended).

On Friday I'll resume running, going for an easy 4-miler, or less if my post-tib acts up. If all goes well, I'll gradually increase my mileage, taking a few days here and there to cross-train, with a goal of being back in action by the start of February. I'm not going to worry about quality until February, assuming all goes well. Looking way ahead, I want to be at 15-17 hours a week (~90-105 miles), by June and totally locked into the Leadville 100.

It's really quite amazing that I average one significant/semi-significant injury per year:

2011: Posterior tibial tendonitis while training for the Georgia Marathon
2010: Plantar fasciitis while training for the Leadville 100, but I still got 'er done, as usual
2009: Heel bursitis (felt exactly like Achilles tendonitis) after the USA 24-hour national championship in the fall
2008: Wicked runner's knee (patellar femoral pain) after finishing 4th at the Mohican 100; nasty hamstring pull in the fall while training for the Columbus Marathon (still went sub-3:00)

I was pretty healthy in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007, save a case of hip bursitis in 2006 that gave me problems during my Boston Marathon training and the race itself, and a brief bout with IT band syndrome in 2007. Hamstring tendonitis has been an ongoing deal for me, but it's never been disabling, thank goodness.

Anyway, I think this shutdown is a blessing in disguise, and I say that not from rationalization but from pure reason. I've been racing 100s since 2007 and eventually the mileage and punishment catch up to you, especially when you're knocking on the big 4-0 and live at 6,200 feet, where running takes a lot more effort. I'll be 39 this June and maybe a few weeks off each winter going forward will do me some good, physically and mentally. Right now I feel mentally recharged and ready to get back to running with a goal of having my best year ever (that's saying a lot because I had a decent little run in 2008-2009). Physically, we'll see. But I do believe these two weeks have helped bring some much-needed, long overdue healing to my body, especially after a pretty aggressive 2011 racing schedule that included demanding events like the Jemez 50-Mile, Leadville Marathon and Leadville 100. I've read that ultrarunners like Scott Jurek and Yiannis Kouros take time off each year, and recently I read that Geoff Roes is going to take the winter off from running (but will stay quite active). A little time off each year, I think, is a key to longevity and staying healthy.

It's hard for non-ultrarunners to really understand what we put ourselves through. The back-to-back 20s, the early morning long ones, the monster climbs and never-ending descents we hammer, the races themselves, the roots and rocks that twist and turn our ankles and feet in all directions--it all adds up after a while. The volume stresses not only the joints, muscles and bones, but also the mind and endocrine system. If you ever find yourself struggling with sleep, apathy, burn-out and, yes, decreased libido, it's probably because your body is telling you to take some time off. So take it before you come down with an injury!

I love watching this sport and following the exploits of a few notable athletes and friends. I see a lot of ultrarunners out there right now who are on or near the top of the sport, but seem not to incorporate any real recovery or time off (a trap I fell into for years). They may be running well now, but my guess is that they'll flame out because of injury. I think this can all be avoided by taking time off. Yeah, some fitness will be lost in the short term, but you'll be able to get that fitness back fast, while benefiting from a well-rested, recovered mind and body.

I guess that's all a long way of saying I feel ready to get out there and get myself ready for an awesome year. I truly believe I have what it takes to go sub-20 at Leadville.

Totals for the year:

Running mileage: 3,407
Running time: 474 hours
Cycling mileage: 360 (most of it in the past two months)

A down year mileage-wise. Normally I'm at 3,800+. Oh well.