Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cheyenne Mountain 50K: 5th Overall, 4:50

After struggling a bit since we moved to Colorado in April of 2010, yesterday's Cheyenne Mountain 50K in Colorado Springs was probably my best race in two years. Going through the mid-way point I was running fourth and feeling strong. Unfortunately, a wicked side stitch with about four miles to go slowed me down and I dropped to fifth, but I regrouped for a strong finish. Fifth overall with a 4:50--my 12th "career" top-5 finish for all distances (5K up to 100+ miles). That's 35 minutes faster than last year's time, so obviously I saw major improvement. My marathon split was 3:58--not bad for a course with 5,100 feet of climbing.

I'm the third one through on the video above--the one in the red. The guys in front of me are Ryan Burch and Jason Koop, who went on to finish 1st and 2nd, respectively.
First and foremost, the weather was great for ultrarunning! It was in the mid-30s and sunny when we arrived at the start at about 7:15, and remained sunny through the early afternoon. By the time I finished, the temperature had risen to the low 50s and it was slightly gusty but not bad. All in all, no complaints--Mother Nature gave us a great day for running! Fortunately, I dressed perfectly, too. I wore calf and arm sleeves, as well as my new Salomon compression shorts (with three pockets), my Hammer Nutrition tech tee along with a compression tank top underneath, a hat and some thin gloves. I wore my Salomon Crossmax trail shoes. I also had on a waist pack with an empty bottle, just in case (more on that below).

The course is on single- and double-track trail and runs along the side of Cheyenne Mountain, which is where NORAD is located. It's a figure-8 course that you complete twice. The "lower loop" of the figure-8 is a bit harder, as it entails more challenging climbs. There are some decently technical sections, but the course is pretty much runnable 100% of the way. All of the 5,100 feet of climbing you encounter is between 6,000-6,900 feet--very manageable compared to, say, Leadville. There's a lot of up and down, which I'm used to, but the climbs are still much longer than what you'd encounter back East. There are no super steep climbs. I'd rate the course as "challenging" but not "hard."
A few observations from yesterday:

1) My downhill technical running has improved dramatically but I still have a ways to go. I'm more comfortable running hard down long, rocky descents--maybe a product of experience but also of confidence. Unless you've run long, rocky descents, you couldn't imagine how hard it is. In my case, it's taken almost two years to turn the corner with downhill running. The descents we have out here in the Mountain West require tremendous skill.
The Start. Photo by Brandon Fuller.

Going up the road with Ryan Burch and Jason Koop in front of me. Photo by Brandon Fuller.

What the hell was I thinking trying to run with Burch and Koop? Photo by Brandon Fuller.
2) At no point yesterday did my quads hurt or weaken. On my weekly tempo runs I'm making a point to hammer it on the downs. I guess it's paying off because my quads were strong yesterday.

Gulping some water, Coke or Heed at the aid station capably captained by Brandon Fuller. Photo by Brandon Fuller.

At that same aid station with Brandon in the background. Photo by Epic Adventures.
3) I ran the overwhelming majority of the uphills yesterday, only hiking a few little areas here and there on the second "south loop." I think the miles I've logged this spring on the trails and interval training have combined to improve my turnover, making me more efficient and capable on the ups (and downs). If you want to get better as an ultrarunner and aren't doing weekly intervals, you're missing out on a key component of training.

Approaching an aid station. I'm pretty sure this was about mile 16. Photo by Brandon Fuller.
4) I went out too fast (what's new?)! For the first couple of miles I was up there with Ryan Burch and Jason Koop--both beasts who finished one and two, respectively (each under the previous course record of 4:09, Ryan in 3:57 and Jason in 3:59)--and had no business with them. I need to go out more conservatively. My first-half split was 2:15 and my second half split was 2:35. I would have liked to see a 10-minute variation at the most.

My fueling plan was simple: A Hammer Gel and 2-3 Hammer Endurolytes every hour. The gels gave me energy and the Endurolytes helped keep my muscles working well. At the aid stations, I drank Hammer Heed (they mixed it perfectly), along with water and Coke. I had two PB&J quarters and a half of a muffin. I carried an empty bottle that I occasionally had the aid station volunteers fill a quarter-full so that I could get my Hammer Gels in my system faster.

At the finish with Anne and Noah. I was glad they could be there! Photo by Jason Romero.
The best part of the race was crossing the finish line with Noah! About 100 feet in front of the finish I grabbed his hand and we ran across the line together while Anne cheered. It was a special moment and I look forward to many more like it.

This was a good race for me and I'm satisfied with the result. But there's more work to do, more miles to log, more mountain trails to hit, and more intervals to runs--before the big race in August.

Next stop might be the Colfax Marathon on May 20. If I do Colfax, my goal will be sub-3 hours. I'm going to give myself a few days before making a decision.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Week Ending 4/22 - Rediscovering that 5th Gear

At the risk of jinxing myself, I’m in a very good place with my running. I have a way to go in being ready for the Leadville 100 and in sub-20-hour shape, but right now my fitness is progressing well and I’m extremely excited about my first race of the year—the Cheyenne Mountain 50K this weekend. At last year’s race, I finished 15th overall with a 5:25. When I crossed the finish line, I’d run something like 102 miles in the last seven days, so I wasn’t fresh going into the race, but I still finished very strong. In fact, my strength in the last 2-3 miles is my most vivid memory from the race. This year, if the forecast holds (high of 60 degrees) and all goes well, I’ll be looking to go sub-5 hours. With a one-week taper, I think that’s a doable goal.

The Cheyenne Mountain 50K is a two-lap course with something like 5,000 feet of climbing and 5,000 feet of descending. It’s moderately difficult but not super hard—and definitely very runnable. In other words, the course suits me almost perfectly. Breaking from a bad habit I’ve developed in the past two years (a bad habit that can destroy your race here in Colorado), my strategy will be to run the first half (loop one) pretty conservatively and then try to pick it up in the second half (loop two) and maybe climb a few places in the pecking order. I think passing runners late in a race is way more motivating—and will keep you going strong—than getting passed. 


Over the past few weeks I’ve made two changes that have really made a difference in how I feel and perform. The first change was getting back to the track after basically avoiding it for the past two years. Although I’ve only done two track workouts so far this spring, already I’m feeling the difference. It’s like I’ve been running with only four gears for the past two years—since we moved to Colorado in April of 2010. I tried a few track workouts early on but got frustrated by my times and how I felt, as the track I use is at 6,200 feet. So I avoided it at all costs and, as a result, got slower. No longer. I’ve recommitted myself to the track and have adjusted my workouts to the elevation, doing anything from 800s to 1200s with some 100-meter striders mixed in. Eventually I’d like to get back up to 3x1600, my old bread-and-butter workout when we lived back East. With a weekly regiment that now includes intervals and tempo running, over the last week I noticed that my stride feels more efficient and I’m faster—like I’ve got a new fifth gear. I’m not sure why I allowed myself to stray from the track when I knew it would help, but I did—and I’m glad I’m now back at it.

I do believe that success in 100s is as much about efficiency as it is about strength. I see lots of ultrarunners out there (I’ve been guilty of this in the past) just doing long, slow distance—which isn’t going to make them faster or better. To really break through, I think you need to develop good efficiency and leg turnover—which come with a commitment to fast stuff. If you have good efficiency and turnover, you use your energy more efficiently and will be able to cover the miles faster. Or so my theory goes. Anyway, I love the structure my new weekly training plan allows.

The second change I’ve made is cutting my coffee intake by 60%. For the past two or three years I’ve been drinking way too much coffee on a daily basis—a huge cup before my run in the morning, then another cup when I got to work, and then a third cup around 2:00 pm. On occasion the caffeine had caused my heart to go wacky (a benign condition), made me nervous and affected my sleep. Now I’m just allowing myself one cup before my run and that’s it. Instead of coffee the rest of the day, I’m drinking water.


For the week ending April 22, I made the decision to cut volume just a tad to begin my taper for the Cheyenne Mountain 50K. I still got in a little over 72 miles. I’m going to get far more out of Cheyenne (mentally and physically) if I’m well-rested and do well there, versus training through it and not being as strong and fast I could have been. Here’s how the week went:

Monday: Easy/recovery
AM: 5 miles in 41:33 on the treadmill. There is something about the treadmill on Monday mornings that I like. I just get on, run the first mile in 8:50 and then eventually ease into 8:00 miles while enjoying Noah’s rambunctious company in the basement. I was surprised that my legs felt so good a day after hammering it down the Barr Trail.

Tuesday: easy
AM: 9.05 miles in 1:12 on the trails around my house. This was to be interval day, but, alas, I was quite tired and my hips were a tad too sore for fast stuff. So, I decided to just go easy and delay intervals to Wednesday. Saw a beautiful sunrise.

Wednesday: intervals
AM: 10 miles in 1:14. On the heels of a pretty horrendous first-of-the-year interval session the week before, this was a pretty decent track workout. I wore my very flexible lightweight trainers, which help me move more smoothly around the track. After a 1.5-mile warm-up running to the track from my doorstep, I did four 100-meter striders and then went right into my intervals. Workout was 3x1200 at 4:16, 4:16 and 4:20, followed by 1x800 at 2:55 (slow!). Fairly happy with my 1200-meter times but quite unhappy with that slow 800. That said, this was only my second track workout of the season. Eventually I want to work up to 3x1600 at around 5:38-5:42 each—not easy when you’re at 6200 feet. Cooled down on the trail loop behind the high school and jogged home. Listened to Mike Morton’s awesome interview on

Thursday: easy
AM: 6.25 miles in 50 minutes on the treadmill. Had an early morning meeting, so I had to start this run at 5:00 AM and only had 50 minutes to work with. For some reason, I wasn’t motivated to run outside this early, so I stayed in and ran on the treadmill while listening to

PM: 4.5 miles in 37 minutes on the Cherry Creek Trail during lunch. Included 7 minutes of barefoot running. Forgot my socks but decided to run anyway and, consequently, developed a nasty blister on my left Achilles, cutting my run short. Not good! You can develop Achilles tendonitis from irritation, and so I washed the area thoroughly when done and bandaged it up pretty well.

Friday: tempo
AM: 7.85 miles in 55 minutes on the Parker roads. I had another early morning meeting so this was all I had to work with for my tempo run. A solid effort.  Splits were: 1) 8:46 (warm up), 2) 6:37, 3) 6:17, 4) 6:13, 5) 6:28 (uphill), 6) 6:17, 7) 7:54  (begin cooldown) and 7.85) 6:43. Quite pleased.

PM: 5.2 miles in 41 minutes on the Cherry Creek Trail during lunch. Ran the single track and enjoyed the beautiful scenery all around me. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that beyond the banks of Cherry Creek is a bustling urban area.

Saturday: longish
AM: 13 miles in 1:40 mostly on the Parker trails and some roads in between. 1,000’. Felt very strong. Nice weather though slightly windy. Didn’t want to do too many miles with the race just a week away.

Sunday: longish
AM: 12 miles in 1:30 on the trail loop behind Legend High School. 800’. Mile 11 in 5:56 (on the Sulphur Gulch Trail on the way back home). This was an awesome run—I felt strong, fast and light on my feet and could have run much, much farther. A good confidence-booster with the 50K a week away. Again, didn’t want to over-tax myself.

Weekly totals:
  • 72.9 miles run
  • ~3,500 feet of climbing (pretty low)
  • Total training: 9:24
  • 9 total runs
  • 7 minutes of barefoot running
  • Averaged 7:45/mile
  • Push-ups and core work
Year to date mileage:
  • 1,024.5 miles run
  • 118 miles biked
  • 2.6 miles walked
The plan this week is to take it easy and be well-rested going into the Cheyenne Mountain 50K. I'm going to still do my quality, but will cut back on the volume and probably take Friday off. What I do the week after Cheyenne is yet-to-be-determined and really has to do with how I'm feeling after the race. Ideally, I'll be back in action.

Looking more long-term, I'm going to keep my mileage at about 80-85/week through May and then will jump up to 90/week in June, followed by some big efforts in July to help get me peaking for the Leadville 100--including an all-night run of 30+ miles in a location yet to be determined. I'll be sure to take recovery weeks every so often to stay fresh. The ultimate tell-tale of whether I need recovery is if I simply can't get in good quality because I'm so tired and trashed.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why I Run

As a regular reader of GZ’s blog, I admit that some of his recent posts have caused me to think in depth about my life as a runner, my motivations and, simply put, why I do what I do. Runners—especially ultrarunners—have a lot in common. Go to just about any race in the US and you’ll see a bunch of like-minded people all getting along pretty splendidly. Most runners run with a goal of finishing. Others have their own unique goals, such as celebrating life, raising money for a charitable cause, setting a new PR, qualifying for an event (e.g., Boston, Western States, etc.) or competing. Whatever the motivation, it’s not unusual for us runners to gather after a race, with beers in hand, and tell war stories while howling at the moon.

I can say with certainty that I run because it’s what I love to do. The desire to run is innate to my being. I’m sure it’s the same way with artists (which I was as a child), musicians, writers (which I am) and the like. If running weren’t in my blood, there’s just no way I could have finished a marathon, much less “graduated” to ultras, enduring crushingly hard efforts such as 131 miles in 24 hours and the last 13 miles of the 2010 and 2011 Leadville 100 races (I'd also be remiss in not including the last 10K of the 2008 Cleveland Marathon, a ~38-minute stretch where my life flashed before my eyes because of the pain I felt trying to get into the finish under 3 hours, which I did). Without love for running, I never could have pushed myself to get better or gotten through more than a few dark moments, much less wake up every day before dawn to train.

My motivations continue to evolve. It all started with my goal of finishing the Ogden Newspapers 20K in the spring 2004—which I did. Then it turned to finishing a marathon, which I did in the fall of 2004. Then it evolved into a quest to qualify for Boston, which I did in the spring of 2005 and have done many times since. Then I turned to finishing my first ultra, which I did in the summer of 2005. Breaking 3 hours in the marathon was a huge goal that I finally accomplished in the spring of 2008. My big goal of finishing a 100-miler soon turned into a goal of winning a 100-miler. I checked both off the list. Check. Check. Today, my two big goals are a new PR in the marathon and to break 20 hours at the Leadville 100. While my goals have certainly evolved, what hasn’t evolved is my constant desire to accomplish new things in this sport.

And yet I’ve tamed quite a bit in recent years. From 2007-2009, I was dialed in—logging triple-digit weeks left and right—and would have run on broken legs and through a brick wall if that’s what it took to achieve my goal. Today, maybe because of the humility living at altitude has forced upon me, or maybe because of an aging body, or maybe because of—dare I say—a little more wisdom, I’m not quite as competitive as I used to be, but I’m still driven and I’ll lay it on the line if I need to (and also bust my ass to hold off a surging competitor). Whereas I used to focus on competing against other athletes in ultras, today my focus is more on competing against the course, the conditions and maybe a specific time (like sub 20 at Leadville).

A life dedicated to running is, in many respects, a life of sacrifices and choices many non-runners just wouldn’t make. Maybe this is what makes us runners odd birds. When not with my family, my idea of a good time is going for a new PR on the Manitou Incline, or running 100 miles through the mountains surrounding Leadville—whereas most other people have a good time by going bowling, watching movies, and stuff like that. I sometimes feel guilty about the selfish nature of what I do. On Saturday mornings, when many dads are eating pancakes with their kids or taking a walk with their wives, I’m out on my long run…logging the miles by myself (which means pancakes with Noah come at lunch, and that walk with Anne often happens in the afternoon). I’m usually asleep by nine ‘o clock every night, when many people are just getting into a groove. And I’m up before dawn every day of week getting in the miles even if it means sacrificing sleep and drinking too much coffee. Every August I drag my family up to Leadville to follow me around for 20+ hours while I try to achieve a personal goal. And I’ve been selfish in what I’ve asked of my body. I’ve run and raced despite severely sprained ankles, blown-up knees, a torn ligament in my foot, bloody blisters, pulled muscles, frayed tendons, black toenails, fevers, altitude sickness, near-hypothermia, the flu, GI issues and other ailments that would have most folks at home in bed or at their doctor’s office. At the end of the day, it’s all about choices.

I think my family supports what I do because they, too, see that it’s in my blood. Discouraging me in what I do would be like taking a brush from a painter...or a surf board from a beach bum.

Maybe I’m a selfish prick for doing what I do and how I do it. It’s entirely possible that I justify it by saying things like, “Well, I’m setting a good example for Noah,” or, “This makes me a better person for my family.” Whatever the case, I don’t think I’ll ever stop running—even when the day comes that I’m barely able to make the cutoffs because I’m too old or broken down. Yeah, I know that one day I’ll be standing in an aid station at the Leadville 100 when the cutoff volunteer has to have that dreaded “come to Jesus” conversation with me. And that’s OK. But for now I think I’ll go for a run.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Week Ending 4/15 (Be Sure to Always Refuel!)

Despite a horrendous interval workout on Tuesday--my first time on the track in 2012--I just completed one of my better training weeks all year, setting a new 2012 high of 81 miles. I was in a bit of a funk going into the week (theory below), and so it was nice to feel somewhat strong again. Here's how the week shook out:
From the top of the Manitou Incline on Sunday.

Monday--recovery pace
AM: 5 miles in 40 minutes on the treadmill.
AM: My original plan was to do 2x1600 and 2x800, with the possibility for 3x1600 if my legs were there. None of that happened. I made many mistakes with this workout. First off, I ran a little more than 5 miles before stepping foot on the track--way too much warm-up (I was waiting for a little more daylight before starting my intervals). Secondly, the shoes I wore were too heavy. I should have worn my lightweight trainers (and will do so this week). Thirdly, I didn't do any 100-meter striders beforehand. The net result was a crappy 1600 in 5:48, followed by a 1200 in 4:24 (ugh!) and an 800 in a God-awful, embarrassing 2:59. I just ran out of gas. A nasty wind from the S/SW didn't help, either. Bottom line is that I didn't feel fluid or smooth on the track. My movements were labored and my breathing was off. I think this was just a bad day (and maybe a wake-up call). There's a lot of room for improvement. Totals were 10 miles in 1:13.
AM: 9 miles in 1:10 on the Tomahawk loop. Fairly easy pace. A bit tired this morning.
AM: On the heels of Tuesday's debacle at the track, I somehow busted out a very solid tempo run this morning--hopefully signaling that this slump I've been in is over. Totals were 10.25 miles in 1:11, for an average pace of 6:57. My splits were: 1) 8:41 (warm-up), 2) 6:24, 3) 6:04, 4) 6:15, 5) 6:27 (uphill), 6) 5:57, 7) 6:25, 8) 3:18/3:55, 9) 7:49 (begin cooldown), 10) 7:55, and 10.25) 1:56.
AM: 9.15 miles in 1:11 on the trails near my house.
PM: 5.25 miles in 41 minutes minutes during lunch at work. Ran the single track along the Cherry Creek Trail and then followed up with 7 minutes of barefoot running in the field in front of my office building.
Saturday--long with a semi-fast finish
AM: 16.4 miles in 2:06 on the Tomahawk loop, as well as the trails and dirt shoulders up in the Parker hills. 1,100'. Felt decent for a Saturday--maybe because I slept quite well last night (Noah didn't get up until 6:45!). Finished "fast" with mile 15 in 6:49 and mile 16 in 6:56. My legs were just tired enough for those two "fast" miles (which really weren't fast) to have been decent efforts.
PM: 4.1 miles in 33 minutes on the treadmill. Legs felt very strong--like I could have run forever. Focused on holding good form. 20.5 miles on the day.
AM: 12 miles in 2:31 on the Incline and Barr Trail. 4,000' of climbing. Did the Incline in 28:27--not that great but solid nonetheless. My legs were a bit tired from yesterday's 20.5 miles. After the Incline, I ran up to Barr Camp and then turned around and followed the Barr Trail all the way back down, taking the Pikes Peak Marathon turn-off to get back to my car. This was one of my better Barr Trail descents--my legs were moving well and (knock on wood) I didn't trip on anything. I'm pretty sure my downhill technical running has improved quite a bit since last year--which will bode well at Leadville when I'm descending Hope Pass both ways. The weather on Sunday was a bit dicey from about 9,000 feet up to Barr Camp. It was very windy (gusts of 40+ mph) and cold and I got chilled in a few spots--not what you'd hope for on a Sunday run in April. There was a decent amount of snow on the trail from last night's storm.
Weekly totals:
  • 81.2 miles run
  • ~7,300 feet of climbing
  • Total training: 11:18
  • 9 total runs
  • 7 minutes of barefoot running
  • Averaged 8:22/mile
  • Push-ups and core work
Year to date mileage:
  • 951.7 miles run
  • 118 miles biked
  • 2.6 miles walked

As fas as why I think I was in a funk, obviously the loss of our dog, Sophie, was a major factor, but there was another factor at work, too. I had fallen off the wagon in refueling after every workout with Hammer Recoverite, and so I'd gotten into a recovery deficit that affected my physical and mental condition. Hammer Recoverite delivers a 3:1 mix of carbohydrates to protein and helps you recover from your workout so you're ready for action the next day. When you're training for an ultra and putting in big mileage, you need that "extra" for your recovery. This is where Recoverite makes a huge difference for me. For the most part, I've been religious about refueling with Recoverite after every workout, but sometimes the mornings can be chaotic and I forget. For the past week I've been hitting the Recoverite after every workout and I've noticed the difference. I won't be falling off the wagon again any time soon. By the way, though I am sponsored by Hammer Nutrition, my endorsement of Recoverite is purely on the basis of my experience with this amazing product. The stuff works. Give it a try and you'll see and feel the difference.

My first big race of the year, the Cheyenne Mountain 50K, is now a little less than two weeks away. I plan to get in about 70 miles this week, with strong quality in my intervals and tempo run, and then taper next week for the 50K. My goal for Cheyenne is have a strong race (duh!) with a super-strong finish, and to take off quite a bit of time from last year. The weather may be a factor. Depending on how I feel after Cheyenne, I may (or may not) register for the Colfax Marathon on May 20.

For now, I'm going to keep gradually increasing my volume, mixing in some recovery, with a goal of hitting peak fitness for the Leadville 100.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Week Ending 4/8

This was not a good week at all. On Wednesday night we had to make the horribly tough decision to put our beloved dog, Sophie, down. A "60-pound brown dog," as we often described her, Sophie was with us for 13 years and brought so much love and happiness to our lives. We (read: Anne) got her from the local shelter in January of 1999, when we were living in Raleigh, North Carolina. At the time, Anne was in her third year of veterinary school at NC State University, and I was about seven months into my first job out of graduate school--making a meager living and taking up residence in a grubby duplex near the trendy Five Points area in Raleigh. Sophie was with us through relocations to Indiana, Ohio and Colorado and was there when we welcomed our son, Noah, into the world in 2008. In her younger years, she loved chasing rabbits, running through grassy fields and going on vacations. Even in the end she loved going on walks and spending time with the family. In the final days, her mind took a turn for the worse, but even then she was still a loving dog, often wagging her tail and greeting us at the door when we came home. To say that Anne and I were and still are devastated over the loss of our "Little Girl," as we called her, would be an understatement.
I miss you, Sophie.
And so the quality and volume of my training last week was not good. I had very little motivation and didn't enjoy running at all, as I was hurting badly deep down. My heart was broken and I'm only now beginning to come to grips with the fact that our beloved Sophie is gone and it's time to move on. Anyone who's had a dog understands what I'm saying here.

As far as training week specifics, I ran 66.2 miles and cycled about 10. That includes about 15 minutes of barefoot running. Zero quality. That brings my year-to-date running mileage to 870.5. My goal this week is to get back to quality, with some track work, a good tempo run and a decent climb, too. My first track workout of the year will be on Tuesday morning and will likely involve 2x1600 and 2x800. If I'm feeling good after that second 1600, I may add a third. We'll see. Planned schedule:

Monday - Super easy
Tuesday - Track - 2x1600 and 2x800
Wednesday - Easy
Thursday - Tempo run
Friday - Easy - two runs
Saturday - Long road
Sunday - Long trail


My first race of 2012, the Cheyenne Mountain 50K, is in three weeks (April 28). I'd like a good effort there, so I'll probably do a one-week taper. I did Cheyenne last year as a training run and had a nice time despite chilly temps. Then three weeks after that is the Colfax Marathon (May 20), for which I'm still questionable. If I do Colfax, which is in Denver, I would have one goal: to break 3 hours. This will not be an easy goal as the Colfax Marathon is run at 5,280 feet. Maybe it's a coincidence, but in 2008 and 2009 I ran spring road marathons, breaking three hours each time, and then went on to have really solid 100-mile performances soon after (4th overall at the 2008 Mohican 100 and 1st overall at the 2009 Mohican 100). Whatever the case, I'm going to stick with track and tempo running all summer long and see where it takes me at the Leadville 100.

I was thinking the other day about the best best races I've ever had. These come to mind (in no particular order):
  • 5th overall with a 3:46 - 2009 JC Stone 50K (road race) (tentatively planning to do the JC Stone again in 2013)
  • 5th overall with a 4:14 - 2010 Greenland Trail 50K (moved to Colorado 3 weeks earlier)
  • 1st overall with a 19:52 - 2009 Mohican 100 (very hot and muggy that day)
  • 9th overall with 130.67 miles - 2009 24-Hour National Championship (stout competition)
  • 33rd overall with a 2:58 - 2008 Cleveland Marathon
  • 1st overall with a 4:36 - 2008 Winter Buckeye Trail 50K (led from the first footstep)
  • 7th overall with a 4:41 - 2007 Buckeye Trail 50K
  • 4th overall with a 17:39 - 2009 Aurora Labor Day Classic 5K
  • 2nd overall with a 17:45 - 2008 Aurora Labor Day Classic 5K
  • 8th overall with a 1:22 - 2008 Spring Classic 1/2 Marathon
  • 5th overall with a 4:49 - 2009 Forget the PR Mohican 50K (104-mile week)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Week Ending 4/1 (Tribute to Micah True)

Before I go into the details of the week ending 4/1, I want to share a few thoughts about a man who was--and still is--revered in the ultrarunning community: Micah True (1954-2012). Micah, aka "Caballo Blanco," died last week while on a trail run in the rugged and beautiful Gila Wilderness in New Mexico. Runners from all over dropped everything to go to New Mexico to help with the search. I didn't know Micah well. I'd seen him a few times in Leadville (he lived part of the time in Boulder and often ventured to Leadville for the big race) and I've always admired his gentle spirit and selfless works on behalf of the Tarahumara Indians. Micah lived his own way. Years ago he walked away from a potentially lucrative career as a boxer/kickboxer and turned to a life of meditation and running, ultimately venturing into the Copper Canyons in Mexico to live among the Tarahumara. Despite the fame brought on by Christopher McDougall's best-selling 2009 book Born to Run, Micah always stayed true to himself, never losing his way or losing sight of his commitment to the Tarahumara, who he selflessly helped through the 50-mile Copper Canyon race he founded. Whereas some have sought to exploit the Tarahumara, Micah probably would have gone to the end of the Earth to protect them. To many, Micah will always be the inspirational leader of ultrarunning and will be remembered as a legend.
Having said that, this tribute, by Brian Metlzer, who is senior editor at Running Times and knew Micah quite well, is to date the best I've read.

And here's an incredible first-person account of when Micah first met the Tarahumara at the Leadville 100.
Here's a wonderful video from the Leadville 100 in 2011 that includes some words from Micah:

Another solid training week is in the books. Here's how the week went:
AM: 40 minutes on the indoor bike trainer at easy pace.

AM: 8.7 miles in 1:07 on the Tomahawk loop in Parker. 550'. This was not a great run at all, as I slept horribly and barely made it out of bed. Also, I was a bit leery about running outside due to the smoke from the fires out in Jefferson County, but ventured outdoors anyway. Turns out the air wasn't that bad after all.
AM: 9.45 miles in 1:13. 620'. Got some decent sleep last night for a change. I decided to delay my tempo run by a day as my ass was still dragging a bit and I felt I needed another day of rest.
AM: A decent, but not great, tempo run, as my splits were slightly off from last week--likely a sign that a recovery week is needed. My splits were: 1) 8:24 (warm-up), 2) 6:35, 3) 6:18, 4) 6:14, 5) 6:27, 6) 5:59, 7) 6:29, 8) 7:58 (begin cooldown), 9) 7:23, 10) 7:48, and 10.25) 1:58. The legs just didn't turn over as well as the previous week. 550'.
AM: 9.5 miles in 1:13 on the Tomahawk loop. 620'. Held a pretty relaxed pace and felt decent.
PM: 5.57 miles in 44 minutes minutes during lunch at work. 200'. Ran the single track along the Cherry Creek Trail and then followed up with 7 minutes of barefoot running in the field in front of my office building.

AM: 14.15 miles in 1:51 on the trails and dirt shoulders near my house. 900'. I was pretty tired even though I slept well the night before. 8 minutes of barefoot running and definitely felt it in my calves.

AM: 17 miles in 2:14 on the trails in Parker. 1200'. Like many, I dedicated my Sunday run to Micah True. Ran all three trail loops in Parker multiple times--the Legend High School loop, Buffaloberry loop, and loop behind house--and also covered sections of Tomahawk, East Parker Road (westbound) and Canterberry Parkway. Pretty windy from the southwest (what else is new?).

Weekly totals:
  • 74.6 miles run
  • ~5000' of climbing
  • 11 miles on the cycle
  • Total training: 10:14
  • 7 total runs
  • 15 minutes of barefoot running
  • Averaged 7:43/mile
  • Push-ups and core work
March totals:
  • 321.8 miles
  • 43 hours, 39 minutes
  • Averaged 8:09/mile
  • 22 miles on the cycle (1 hour, 20 minutes)
Year to date mileage:
  • 804.3 miles run
  • 118 miles biked
  • 2.6 miles walked
It was a good but not great week. I didn't get to the mountains because of time issues, which left me feeling a little hollow about the week since it involved so little serious climbing. Also, I didn't like to see a dip in my tempo run splits. To me, that dip may signal the need for a recovery week.

I'm really getting into barefoot running as a great way to strengthen my feet and improve my form (as well as strengthen my calves). When you run barefooted, you automatically adopt proper form, landing on and pushing off from the forefoot. If you landed on your heel or midfoot while barefoot running, you would find the experience altogether uncomfortable. This all leads me to the conclusion that the human foot (at least in most cases) was designed by nature to run properly. But, alas, built-up shoes have more or less ruined the fabulously designed human foot, enabling us to do unnatural things like heel strike. I have been working on my form now for about 3 years in an effort to further-improve my efficiency, and I have to say barefoot running is a critical part of the process.

Unfortunately, at the age of 38, I'm leery about reversing the effects of the built-up shoes I've been wearing and adopting minimalist footwear, especially as I've had some foot issues in recent years (including a nasty bout with plantar fasciitis that effectively sidelined me for five months in 2010-2011). But I can see that barefoot running has the potential to bring many benefits even to those of us who wear built-up shoes. I may at some point try out minimalist footwear, such as New Balance's minimalist trail shoes, but for now I'm going to continue exploring barefoot running as a way to enhance my fitness, improve my form, strengthen my feet and enjoy the simple act of running.