Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bighorn 100 Plan

After months of saying "I'll worry about that later," I'm finally starting to get serious about the Bighorn 100. In this post, I'd like to share a few early thoughts on strategy.

First, the basics
Held June 19 and starting at 11am, Bighorn is a very challenging 100-mile foot race taking place in Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming. The course is an out-and-back with some 76 miles of rugged single-track trail (yay!), 16 miles of rugged double track (yay to that, too!), and 8 miles of gravel road (boo!). A Hardrock and Western States qualifier, Bighorn has approximately 18,000 feet of climbing and 18,000 feet of descent. It appears to all be between 4,000 and 9,000 feet, which, to me (living at 6,200 feet), looks very manageable. From what I've read, it's in remote country, where wildlife sightings (e.g., moose) are common and confrontations have even happened. Runners may experience hot and cold weather, mud, snow, stream crossing, rain, thunderstorms, etc. There is a 34-hour cutoff.

Initial assessment
On paper, Bighorn might look similar to Leadville--out and back, mountains, about the same amount of elevation change, etc. But initial looks can be deceiving. From what I can gather from race reports such as an excellent 2014 report by Shad Mika, Bighorn is much more rugged than Leadville. Plus, while its total elevation change may be similar to Leadville, it seems to have bigger climbs and bigger descents. It looks like within the first 10 miles you gain ~4,000 vertical feet, much of it in the heat of the day. Then, from miles 30-50, as the sun is beginning to set, you gain what appears to be ~4,500 feet. You then lose that 4,500 feet from miles 50-70, which you're running at night. A little after that, you have a ~2,300-foot climb. At Leadville, the biggest single climb is the frontside of Hope Pass at ~3,400 feet, though I believe the backside climb of ~2,600 feet is far harder due to its steepness and the downhill traffic. Be that as it may, it looks like Bighorn has some big climbs and huge descents. It's too early to say which race is harder in my eyes--I won't know until I've done Bighorn! But it'll be interesting to compare the two.

To me, the single biggest factor that might make Bighorn more manageable is its elevation. I am usually quite OK below 8,000 feet. The vast majority of Bighorn is below 8K. The elevation at Leadville, and not the course itself, has been a killer for me over the years. Though I always seem to finish Leadville in under 25 hours, the elevation has destroyed my stomach and left my 100-mile confidence in shambles. So, while I know Bighorn is a monster and is considered one of the tougher 100s out there, I come to it wanting to turn over a new leaf. I need to get through a 100-miler with my stomach in good shape. I really need that. What I don't need is more puking, more fainting spells, etc. While I'm sure at Bighorn my stomach will have its ups and downs, I am hopeful that I can keep it in a good place overall. And it'll be great to have more aid stations at Bighorn.

Plus, I'm just really stoked about the mystery of Bighorn. That mystery has helped me rekindle some lost passion.

What I'll be focusing on in my training
In light of what I know now about Bighorn, here are a few things that will be on my mind as I really ramp up my training. The overarching goal of my buildup is to be super aerobically fit (which is now under way), but here are some specifics:

1) Bulletproof quads. I'm actually less concerned about the big climbs and more mindful of the huge descents. Why? Because you will lose a huge amount of time on descents if you suck at them. It's been the big reason I never did break 20 hours at Leadville--I suck at descending Hope Pass both ways (altitude does have something to do with it). If my quads fall apart as they did at Leadville in 2014, it's going to be a death march. So, I will be working to strengthen my quads and improve my descending. I was bombing descents in my training in the summer of 2013 but all of that fell apart when I shredded by ankle a few months before Leadville. I'll be looking to do some hard runs down mountains in my Bighorn training. From a time standpoint (2 hours round-trip), it's hard to get to Pikes Peak but I'm going to need to make it a priority. No mountain trashes my quads like Pikes. Other great places to trash the quads include Mount Falcon, Mount Herman, Roxborough State Park and Deer Creek Canyon.

2) Heat training. I have always run well in the heat and was born in the deep south, where the heat and humidity are stifling. But I'm sure that, living in Denver, my heat tolerance has gone down. I still remember how I felt going into Winfield last year, when it was starting to get "hot" (mid to high 70s but super sunny). So, I'll need to be ready for the heat at Bighorn. That means some mid-day runs and I'll also get some benefit from super long runs of close to 30 miles (as I did last summer). I have other tricks up my sleep (like driving in my car in the summer with the windows up and heat on).

3) Footing. Mud from snow melt and rain is apparently a big factor at Bighorn. I'm not a fan of mud (who is except those crazy Tough Mudder people?) but I've done my fair share of muddy races and I've had a few solid performances in the mud. I'm going to need to find some shoes with good traction. I've heard good things about the Hoka One One Rapa Nui, a trail shoe with solid grip. I'm also going to need to be mindful of controlling and preventing blisters in these wet, muddy conditions.

4) Uphill hiking. One of the really dumb things I do in my training is run up mountains that, in a 100-miler, I'd normally be hiking along with everyone else. I can cruise up the frontside of Hope Pass in a training run but in the race I'm hiking up the mountain like everyone else. So, in my Bighorn build-up, I'm going to try to take the pressure off myself when it comes to hiking up huge climbs. It's OK to mix in some hiking and not consider it failure--especially when in the race I'll be hiking the big climbs. In other words, more specificity in my training.

I'll also be mindful of nutrition. I now have a full line of hydration equipment, including a hydration vest that holds bottles, a belt that holds flasks, handhelds, etc. At this point, Generation UCAN is my go-to. That may change but for now it's good. Of vital importance will be keeping the salt intake up. Over the past few years, I've gotten away from salt intake in races and I think it's cost me. I used to be really good about it. Salt not only helps with absorption but it also helps keep the stomach happy.

About that 11am start
The 11am start is very interesting. Here's how it'll break down:

11am-9pm - Light (10 hours)
9pm-5am - Dark (8 hours)
5am-9pm - Light (16 hours)

So, a whopping 77 percent of the race is in the light. I'll need to nonetheless make sure I have a very good headlamp with two backups on me at all times so I don't loose too much pace at night. I'm not at all concerned about the cold; I know how to deal with it, having done Leadville five times. I'll also make sure I have an emergency poncho on me at all times.

As far as pacing, Scott Schrader, who finished Leadville last year in under 25 hours, will be on hand. I have another buddy from Cleveland (will keep him anonymous for now) who is also interested. As always, I am eternally grateful to anyone who takes time out of their busy schedule to come help me run 100 miles.

What's a race without goals? Here are mine:

1) Finish - always the #1 goal with EVERY 100-miler I do. I respect the distance and come to 100s with a healthy level of fear and humility. The mountain doesn't care. That means I have to be at my best.
2) Under 24 hours
3) Compete for placement (top 20, top three masters, etc.)

If you're a Bighorn finisher or veteran, please chime in with advice. It is most welcome!

Onward and upward!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Training Week 2/16-2/22 - 18 Weeks to Bighorn

This was a solid week of training despite a very busy schedule at work, with two consecutive late nights at the office (Wednesday and Thursday). Admittedly, the miles didn't come easily as I've been battling fatigue (a product of stress and cold weather, or so it is with me). On Thursday morning, I woke up with black bags under my eyes. I'm honestly not too worried; this, too, shall pass. Besides, I'm feeling better now, as I type this.

I have said it before and I'll say it again: In ultrarunning, while I'm in awe of the exploits of some of the most prolific performers, it's the guys and gals working full-time, attending to family, getting maybe 7 or 7.5 hours of sleep a night per night, and STILL finding the time to train and race well who I most admire. If I could get 10+ hours of sleep a night, I can only imagine what a difference it would make.

The goal at this point in my Bighorn 100 build-up is to lay down a sold aerobic base, with a little anaerobic stuff thrown in here and there just for good measure. But the overall goal is aerobic development, which I need to go 100 miles. I am getting VERY excited about hitting the real trails soon. I have some exciting runs planned, including an 8+ hour jaunt on mountain trails in mid-May.
Monday: Goal: Easy/recovery
AM: 4.3 miles/MAF
PM: 4.3 miles/MAF
Working from home, I was able to get in a lunchtime run in addition to my morning miles. Good to start the week off this way.
Total miles for day: 8.6

Tuesday: Goal: Quality
AM: 8.85 miles at tempo pace on the treadmill (HR hit about 160-165)
PM: 0
A solid tempo run. After a 2-mile warm-up at 8:20 pace, my splits were: 6:52, 6:42, 6:33, 6:25, 6:27, 6:51 (began cool-down) and, for that last .85 miles, 6:20. Felt pretty good. At this point in my build-up, short tempo runs are all that's needed.
Total miles for day: 8.85
Wednesday: Goal: Easy
AM: 7.45 miles with Nick at easy pace/MAF
PM: 0
Just an easy effort with Nick (note: Nick is my almost 3 year-old golden retriever). Kept the pace relaxed. My legs were a little beat up from the previous day's effort.
Total miles for day: 7.45

Thursday: Goal: Easy
AM: 7.05 easy with Nick/MAF
PM: 0
Well, this was supposed to be quality workout (maybe a MAF test) but I woke up extremely fatigued. Not only had I not slept well but, the day prior, I presented to our board and I think the experience left me a little hung-over. I also had some stressful stuff to attend to related to the ad campaign I run at work. So, given all of that, I woke up with black bags under my eyes and nearly bailed before even getting out the door but got myself out the door for some local trail miles with my pal, Nick.
Total miles for day: 7.05

Friday: Goal: Lots of miles, including a night run
AM: 4 miles easy/MAF with Nick
PM: 19.05 miles with Mark T., Matt C. (2014 grand slam champion), Mike W., and Scott S. With "snowmageddon" rolling into the Front Range, we started at my house at 8pm and ran all of the local trails, with a good bit still on pavement. By the end, we were all wet and cold. My legs were tired by the seventeenth mile. This run was timely as the weekend's snow fall and freezing temps would make long efforts quite difficult. As Bighorn approaches, I'll be going on several more night runs.
Total miles for day: 23.05
Saturday: Goal: Easy
AM: 5 miles easy/MAF
PM:  0
Pretty damned tired from the previous night's action. I didn't get in bed until midnight and then tossed and turned from 6-8am, after Noah and Anne were up. So, I got only 6 hours of sleep. Between getting Noah to karate, taking the family to lunch, doing a Target run and basically lounging around, the day saw "only" five miles.
Total miles for day: 5
Sunday: Goal: Tempo
AM: 10.25 miles at tempo/fartlek/progression
PM: 4 miles at MAF
With over a foot of snow, high winds and single-digit temps, I hit the treadmill for this one. This was kind of a hybrid progression/tempo/fartlek affair. My splits were: 8:50 (warm-up), 7:26, 7:07, 7:01, 6:31, 6:58, 6:32, 7:23, 6:50, 8:04 (begin cool-down), and, for that last quarter-mile, 2:00. Once again, my hamstrings were singing.
Total miles for day:

Total miles for week: 74.25
Total miles for year: 493.95

So, all in all, not a bad week. As far as aggregate mileage, I'm over 70 miles more than I was at this point last year, Next week is a ski week, so the goal will be around 60 miles. The following week, weather permitting, I'll be gunning for 80 miles.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Training Week 2/9-2/15 - 19 Weeks to Bighorn

I'm going to try to start providing training week recaps only a weekly basis--not that it'll interest you or anyone else. The weekly recap is a great way to hold myself accountable. I have always believed that putting yourself out there is a great accountability tool. I just hope I have time to keep these weekly updates coming....

Several years ago, when I was a halfway decent runner, I posted weekly updates (here's an example). That was back when I was running lots of miles and actually feeling good about my race results. It's also when I had a lot more time to train. These days, time is limited, which requires constant creativity in terms of finding opportunities to run. Sometimes I'm motivated to capitalize on this opportunities; sometimes I'm not.

With my goal being the Bighorn 100, all weekly recaps will include in the title how many weeks out the big race sits. With last week being a "ski week," the mileage was a bit down. Here goes:

AM: 4.2 miles easy (about 9:00 pace)
PM: 0 miles
Coming off of a 70-mile week and 35 miles over Saturday and Sunday, so this was a super easy effort. On Mondays, I usually hop on the treadmill for a few easy miles and that's it. As my Bighorn training progresses, I'll need to boost my Monday mileage to hit my week goals, but Mondays will always be super easy efforts.
Total miles for day: 4.2

AM: 6.5 miles with Nick (about 9:00 pace)
PM: 0 miles
Got out of the house later than usual due to drawstring issues with my shorts. Yeah, I know, lame excuse. The drawstring on my new North Face shorts is pretty thin and tangles easily. Anyway, while Nick is a great training partner, it's becoming clear to me that I'm going to need to limit his running as I increase my mileage, because he simply doesn't like to move that fast, especially on the hills (unless a rabbit is in sight).
Total miles for day: 6.5

AM: 8.8 miles solo at steady-state pace
PM: 0 miles
Was nice to get out and run a decent distance for mid-week. Still not feeling great--pace is slow and legs are kind of unresponsive. Much of this run was at 7:10 pace--just couldn't seem to get below 7's.
Total miles for day: 8.8

AM: 7.1 miles with Nick in about an hour (easy pace)
PM: 0 miles
Legs feeling better than in previous days but still not there.
Total miles for day: 7.1

AM: 7.7 miles--first three with Nick, last 4.7 solo
PM: 4 miles kind of fast on a local trail loop
Really enjoying this beautiful weather. Hit the local trails as much as possible today.
Total miles for day:11.7

AM: Skied all day
PM: Quick 4.3-miler with Nick after getting back from skiing
Total miles for day: 4.3

AM: 14.3 miles easy in Parker
PM: 0 miles
Total miles for day: 14.3

Total miles for week: 56.7

Not a high-mileage week at all. Coming off a few weeks of 70+, and given that we skied on Saturday, I decided to dial it back and rest a bit. The goal next week is 75 miles, including a night run of at least 3 hours. I'll continue to be on an alternating schedule--mileage down on ski weeks, mileage up on non-ski weeks. By April 1, I'll be in full swing. I have every intention of hitting triple digits with my weekly mileage in May. Not every runner needs volume; I do--lots of trial and error has proven that to be true.

I haven't yet started running "real trails" in my Bighorn build-up; for now, the goals are to get super aerobically fit, rack up decent mileage and be ready to put in some quality miles on the trails in the weeks ahead. My plan is one quality workout per week--be it hill repeats, tempo runs or intervals.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Truth About Fluoride in the Water

This is in response to some factually incorrect statements about fluoride in water made in a recent podcast interview between Endurance Planet and Dr. Phil Maffetone (whose approaches have been very instrumental in my own training):

Fluoride is NOT a chemical; it's a mineral that is naturally occurring in just about all water sources. The amount of fluoride in community water sources is increased to a certain level (0.7 parts per million) to help prevent tooth decay. This practice has been around for 70 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called community water fluoridation "one of the 10 great public health achievement of the 20th century."

Tooth decay is the #1 chronic disease of childhood today. It's a disease because it's caused by bacteria. While community water fluoridation is effective in helping to prevent decay, the sad fact is that it's often not enough in this day and age when we have so much added sugar in our diets--sugar that is rotting our teeth. Kids need to consume less cavity-causing sugar (juice, soda, etc.) for better dental and overall health. BUT, if we took fluoride out of our water systems, decay rates in the US would skyrocket. 

Decades ago, it was contended by a small few that fluoridation of water was a communist plot. Today, the arguments against fluoridation as "carcinogenic," a "chemical," a way to "medicate" us, etc. are just as baseless.

Community water fluoridation is wholeheartedly endorsed by:
  • American Medical Association
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
  • American Dental Association
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • World Health Organization
  • Many other highly reputable groups

Arguments against fluoride in water are baseless. Community water fluoridation has been making a difference for children and adult’s teeth for over 70 years! If you want to keep all of your teeth into your golden years, be sure to drink tap water. 

But don't take my word for it. Here are some sources you may want to check out to learn more about community water fluoridation:
  • (operated by the American Academy of Pediatrics)
  • More on the American Academy of Pediatrics' stance on community water fluoridation
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's info on community water fluoridation
  • American Dental Association's statement on community water fluoridation
  • American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry's guidelines on fluoride, including community water fluoridation

Monday, February 2, 2015

Tradeoffs, Training and 2015

This is my first post of 2015! So far, the year has gotten off to a pretty good start. With life constantly getting more and more complicated (especially from work and family scheduling standpoints), I continue making adjustments to keep things as simple as possible. That reminds me: Check out Duncan Callahan's latest interview as well as his "Burden of Self Improvement" blog post. I don't identify with all of what Duncan has included on his list, but I think we'll all agree that he's onto something.

When I think about my life now versus my life in 2007, before I was a dad, it's hard to believe the changes that have taken place. I didn't realize then how much free time I had! Being a dad is the greatest job in the world. It's not always easy, but the love I feel for my son and all of the joy he brings my wife and me and our entire family are beyond description. It's more fun than anything else. Every night, when I'm reading to my son, I realize that one day he'll be too old for his dad to lay in the bed next to him with a "Curious George" book in hand. So, I try to relish every moment. But I also realize that the good times will continue even when he's grown--just in different ways.

Whether we want to admit it or not, parenting requires tradeoffs. In order to be the dad (and husband) I want to be, I've had to give up certain things that were sucking up time or creating distractions. For example, I rarely have the time to join in on group runs anymore. It's just too damned hard to commit to others right now, especially when on Saturday mornings I'm often too tired to get out of bed before 6am to drive 45 minutes to the mountains (those runs are far better for me on Sundays), or we have stuff on the schedule. Over the past few years, I've also cut down on my racing schedule. I'll enter about a half-dozen races this year, with just a few of them being marathons and ultras. I also don't watch much TV. I've never been a big TV fan but these days I watch so little of it that I'm not at all informed about the latest shows, etc. The only things I do watch are the "news" and, occasionally, sports (that said, I am a Tour de France junkie and am glued to the TV in July). I also find it hard to keep up with my running magazines. I used to read them cover to cover; now I just glance over them and read only the articles that really interest me. Movies? It's hard to stay up-to-date on movies when I'm in bed early every night.

A big change I made recently, and am so glad I did so, is severely reducing the number of "friends" I have on Facebook. I've always thought Facebook was dumb and a waste of time, and yet I use it anyway. It had gotten to the point that my Facebook feed was littered with content from people I didn't even know. So, I went through my "friends" list and cut it down to the point that the only people I'm now connected to are people I personally know (family, friends, etc.). It's not that I didn't value the connections I had when my "friends" list was much bigger than it is now; it's just that I got to the place where I felt disconnected from what I was reading and who had posted it. Now when I log onto Facebook, I see content posted by people I know. I feel more of a connection.

Admittedly, my decision to cull my Facebook "friends" list wasn't arbitrary in the least. A few weeks ago, I allowed myself to become embroiled in a political debate on Facebook that got quite ugly. I was debating two guys who I didn't even know all that well. Suffice it to say, we hold very different political views. I see this kind of stuff frequently on Facebook--people arguing over this, that or the other thing when in really it's all a waste of time. As a friend told me after the above-mentioned dust-up, it's highly unlikely you'll change someone's mind on Facebook. And yet we hide behind our keyboards and argue with each other in ways that we'd never resort to in person. So, with that heinous episode behind me, I decided to sever connections with people I didn't know personally and with people whose content I found negative and toxic.

I'm also trying to find time to read. Over the past month or so, I read "Unbroken" and "Killing Kennedy." It's been good to put my devices down and read an actual book. Books unleash the mind in ways devices cannot. Louis Zamperini instantly became a hero of mine after I read "Unbroken." I admire the man not just for what he endured as a POW but also for living his life with faith, love and hope. As for Kennedy, though an imperfect man (as we all are), he remains one of my political idols.


So, there you have it--how my 2015 has gone so far. On the running front, my training is progressing nicely. I just logged another 70-mile week--my second 70+ mile week of the year. A few weeks ago, while in Dallas, I logged an outstanding 5x1-mile workout, going sub-6 on the last three with quarter-mile recoveries. Every week, I try to do at least one quality workout (intervals, tempo, etc.). I'm trying to keep the mileage at a decent level (70+) on weeks that we don't ski. And then on ski weeks, I'm allowing the mileage to come down a tad as I'm missing an entire day of running (Saturday). I don't sweat it too much; skiing delivers a heck of a workout anyway.

I honestly haven't thought a ton about Bighorn except for what my training will look like going into the big race on June 19. I have two events on my schedule leading up to Bighorn: 24 Hours of Palmer Lake Fun Run on April 11, and Cheyenne Mountain 50K on April 25 (my fourth Cheyenne). As tempting as it is, I'm not doing all 24 hours at Palmer Lake. Instead, I'll be running 6-8 hours and mostly focusing on getting in 30+ miles and testing my new nutrition "plan." Lots of other folks, as I understand it, use Palmer Lake in a similar way. It's at 7,300 feet--perfect early season Bighorn training.

Beyond those two events and maybe a spring half-marathon, it's going to come down to getting out on the trail for some long runs and logging some quality workouts here and there. I do like my chances at a solid result at Bighorn. First off, I have a knack for racing well in June. June just seems to be a good month for me. Second, the elevation at Bighorn isn't that bad, though the course is on technical, single-track mountain trail (which I like). And third, I seem to be on the right track with my diet. Carbs before a long run don't work for me. Instead, I'll have something along the lines of eggs and sausage or perhaps full-fat, plain Greek yogurt with berries and maybe a banana (admittedly, some of that includes carbs).

Whatever your race schedule in 2015 looks like, may it be epic!