Monday, March 29, 2010

Lean Horse: Week 2

I imagine at some point I'll come up with more imaginative post titles than "Lean Horse: Week X" but for now I'm being lazy about it. I could call it "Free beer for anyone who comments on this post" but then I'd just have an angry mob on my hands when you all found out that I had drank all the free beer while sitting in the recliner and switching back and forth between the college hockey and college basketball (which was my default post-run activity this weekend). So, you'll have to deal with the generic titles for now.

Anyhow, what the hell was I going to write about? Oh yeah, running.....well wait, how about the thing I like most about the NCAA hockey tournament. It almost never fails that I end up watching a team play whose school I've either never heard of or is from a school that you wouldn't imagine to have hockey. Two examples are RIT (that would be Rochester Institute of Technology and 99% of you are lying if you say you knew that without the aid of Google) and Alabama-Huntsville. RIT is in the Frozen Four and Alabama-Huntsville, the only team from south of the Mason-Dixon line, qualified for the tourney despite a losing record (they won their conference tournament) but then were summarily ousted by the overall #1 seed, Miami (Ohio, not Florida). What makes college hockey even more interesting this year is the fact that I did not get a single Final Four team correct in my basketball bracket. I woulda been better off making my picks based on who had the cooler mascot.

Okay, between all the basketball and hockey watching, I did actually run some this past week:

Monday - Rest. But I played basketball, so it wasn't full rest. Just rest from running.

Tuesday - 9 miles. I honestly don't really remember much about this run, so it must not have been all that spectacular (or all that horrible, for that matter).

Wednesday - 9 miles with 6x800m. I fully intended to do 8 intervals, but after 3 I could tell that that would be reaching and the last 2 were pretty ugly, so I called er good at 6. It's not like I'm training for a 5K anyhow.

Thursday - 6 miles. I fully intended to do 8 miles, but I absolutely could not resist the urge to try out my new trail shoes (Brooks Cascadia 5) and explore a new trail (Lookout Mtn.) all at the same time (and during my lunch hour). As it turns out, the trail was still under snow (knee deep) in the shadier spots and I ended up losing it a couple of times and wandering aimlessly around the mountain before I picked up the trail again. This slowed my pace significantly (we're talking 11 minute plus here), which meant that I ran up against a time barrier before I got to 8 miles, so I settled for 6.

Friday - 25 miles. The temp was just about perfect for running, but the 20-30 mph winds weren't. I ended up running 4 loops around town to try and stay sheltered from the wind. This actually wasn't as bad mentally as I thought it would be and it allowed me to return to the house and refill my handheld with Perpetuem along the way (which worked well, by the way). I did a run/walk ratio of 10 minutes to 2 minutes, which I think worked much better for me than the 25:5 and 20:4 I experimented with last summer. I didn't really start to feel fatigue set in until about mile 22, but even then it wasn't bad. I also set a new record for taking a leak during a run. Between the 70 ounces of water in my hydration pack (I didn't finish all of it, but close) and the four, 22 ounce bottles of Perpetuem I consumed, I was most definitely hydrated. I ended up stopping to pee 6 times during the run.

Saturday - 15 miles. The goal here was to run the whole way at a pace that felt very easy. Again, it was windy so, again, I had to run loops around town. My legs felt pretty good considering and I ended up with a fairly easy feeling run. I started to feel the accumulated miles at around mile 12, but not horribly so.

Sunday - 7.2 miles. I expected this one to be a very slow recovery paced run, but immediately after starting I could tell my legs had more energy than it seemed like they should after covering 40 miles the previous two days. Instead of the 9 minute/mile pace I was expecting, I fairly easily clocked 8:02 pace.

Total - 71.2 miles

My Lean Horse plan generally follows a "hard, hard, medium, easy" pattern, so after two "hard" weeks, this next one will be a little lower mileage followed by a bigger cutback the following week before the cycle starts all over again.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lean Horse Training: Week 1

This was my first official week of ultra training as I started in on a 24 week long plan leading up to the Lean Horse 100 with the Bighorn 50 wedged in as a training run. All in all, it was a good week and, in some ways, actually easier on the body than the basebuilding I've been doing for several months now.

Monday - Rest. Nothing like kicking off ultra training with a bang, huh?

Tuesday - 9 miles. I also took the pack test at work in the afternoon. For those not familiar, in order to be "red-carded" as a wildland firefighter, you have to pass the pack test each year, which consists of walking (no running allowed) 3 miles in under 45 minutes while carrying a 45 pound pack. I no longer fight fire as my primary line of work, but I do work for the Forest Service and have the opportunity to help out with fire suppression and prescribed burning as needed (i.e., the opportunity to rack up some overtime). I also walked/jogged a mile each with the kids after I got home as they started accumulating miles for the Deadwood-Mickelson Kids Marathon in June. The idea is that they run/walk a total of 25 miles leading up to race day and then run the final 2K (1.2 miles) the day before the actual marathon. This will be Caiden's third kids marathon and Chloe's first.

Wednesday - 10 miles w/ 8 strides. Wednesday is supposed to be an optional day for some form of "quality" running (i.e. intervals, tempo, or progression) but I was not feeling it on this day, maybe because of the long day on Tuesday. I compromised by throwing in some strides at the end of the run. I haven't done strides in eons and it's something I really should do more often.

Thursday - 8 miles. I just was not feeling it on this run....much more tiring than an easy 8 miler should be. Plus, all kinds of shit went wrong. My heartrate strap would not stay in position so I had to stop and tighten it. After I did that I ended up with my headphone wire wrapped around it so had to stop to fix that. On the way back, I had the wind behind me so I took off my hat and put it in my shorts pocket. Within 30 yards, it fell out but I didn't notice immediately and ended up having to drive back along my route later that afternoon to look for it (luckily, I found it).

Friday - 6 miles. Again, I started off feeling not so great, but things improved as the run went along. Maybe the pack test on Tuesday took more out of me than I thought it did?

Saturday - 25 miles. I was uncertain how this day was going to pan out. My wife headed to Rapid City early in the morning to run the Dublin Dash 5K and then do some shopping. Knowing that she wouldn't be home until early afternoon, I wasn't sure if I wanted to run the planned 25, which would take up to 4 hours, or if I would just do 15 and then do the 25 on Sunday. She got home at around 2:30 and I headed out the door by 3 planning on covering 15 miles. I ended up misjudging the length of the loop I was running and by the time I got home I had covered 16 miles. When I got there, I was still feeling pretty good and I discovered that my wife and kids had gone to the store, so I made an on the spot decision to go ahead and knock out the 25 miler. I quickly refilled my hydration pack, grabbed some more Hammer Gel and mixed up a bottle of Perpetuem and headed back out. Naturally, my pace began to slow some as the final 9 miles progressed, but not too bad. And, although I started to get pretty tired at the end, I didn't feel too beat up. I did take a few 2 minute walk breaks, not because I felt like I needed to but because I know that I will have to walk quite a bit during the 100 and need to practice not only walking with purpose (i.e. not just casually strolling along) but also transitioning from walking back to running. I ended up covering 25 miles in about 3:45.

Sunday - 15.5 miles. I woke up in the morning feeling surprisingly okay considering I had just finished a 25 mile run at about 7:00 the previous night. I took some time to eat breakfast and get good and awake before heading out at around 11:00 for the second long run of the weekend. My legs definitely felt heavy, especially on uphills, but I didn't feel bad at all. I just chugged along at what seemed like an easily sustainable pace and ended up running a little bit (10 seconds/mile) faster than the day before. 40 miles in less than 24 hours in the books and no worse for the wear.

Total - 73.5 miles

This week was fairly typical of what my training will be like for the next 23 weeks. This is about what my maximum weekly mileage will be, I'll just be shifting the miles around on the weekends a little bit (like running a 30/10 double instead of 25/15).

Hey, maybe spring has actually arrived in South Dakota (do I dare say, or type, that out loud??). A predicted snowstorm on Friday skirted away from us and I had good weather for both long runs this weekend (my first runs in a sleeveless shirt this year...i have a minor sunburn to prove it). And the forecast for this week looks good. Hope springs eternal, but I just know there's a spring blizzard lurking somewhere on the horizon...

Monday, March 15, 2010

The end of basebuilding

This past week was my last one of basebuilding before I officially begin a 24 week training plan for the Lean Horse 100 on August 27th. I guess it's fitting that I close out basebuilding with my highest mileage week in quite some time.

Sunday - 10 miles

Monday - 6 miles in the morning, 5 in the afternoon.

Tuesday - 10 mile progression run. I ran the same loop that I always run for this workout but I ran it backwards. It seemed like it was harder that direction because of where the hills are located, but my overall average pace actually ended up being faster than the last time I did a progression run.

Wednesday - 8 miles in the morning, 6 in the afternoon. I fully intended to run a full 14 in the morning, but I was thwarted by several inches of fresh snow. On some streets, there weren't even tire tracks to follow, I was just blazing my own trail. Eventually, that took it's toll and I was pretty whipped by the time I returned home after 8 miles. By the time I ran the 6 miler in the afternoon, most of the snow had melted off and the streets were mostly just wet.

Thursday - 10 miles. Kind of a repeat of yesterday except the roads were more slick than snowcovered. I would've been better off with ice skates on some stretches.

Friday - 21.2 miles. Finally, the weather broke and it was actually fairly nice outside (sunny, mid-40s). I mapped out a huge 21 mile loop on and headed out. Several miles of this loop were totally foreign territory to me. One of the dangers of running on roads you've never been on before is you don't really know what the terrain is like. The first 8 miles of this looped featured almost constant ups and downs, with more up than down. At one point, just before reaching the high point of the loop, I passed a sign that said "Minimum Maintenance - Travel at Your Own Risk). Awesome. And they weren't lying. The next mile or so of road was sloppy, muddy, slushy, snowy and rutted from where people had attempted to travel at their own risk. It was actually kind of fun. After that section I had a net downhill for the remainder of the run (13 miles) but for some reason I hit a rough patch at around 15-17 miles. Don't really know why, but my slowest splits were in that stretch and then I recovered a little and managed to finish the last few miles fairly strong.

Saturday - 8 miles. Felt remarkably good after the tough long run the day before.

Total - 84.2 miles

So, there you have it. Basebuilding is done and now the real work begins. I probably won't be logging any higher mileage than what I have during basebuilding, I'll just be structuring my weeks differently. Mondays will be rest days and Tuesdays through Fridays will be fairly easy mileage with no runs longer than 10 miles. I plan on doing some sort of quality work (tempo run, intervals, progression run) every Wednesday to keep my legs from getting to used to the slow easy pace I'll be running the rest of the week. The bulk of my weekly mileage from here on out will come on the weekends, with a long run (25-40 miles) on Saturday and a shorter run (up to 15 miles, depending on how long Saturday is) on Sunday. I'd like to start doing some of those weekend runs on trails if the friggin snow would ever melt off. The basic idea is that I need to start teaching my body to move forward for longer periods. Hopefully it wants to learn. Otherwise this is gonna suck.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring? Maybe not...

March is finally here. This is the month where winter finally starts to lose its grip on South Dakota and spring starts to take over. Of course, we inevitably get nailed by one last spring blizzard (or maybe three, like last year) in later March or early April (or even early May). But, for the most part the days are getting longer and the high temps are getting higher (but not too high). This last week was a good example of that. Highs were generally in the 40s all week punctuated by a couple of inches of new snow on Friday night, which promptly melted away when the temperatures rose again on Saturday (but not before my long run, as you will see).

Sunday - 10.3 miles

Monday - 10.2 miles, played basketball at lunchtime (the first time I've done so since spraining my ankle playing three on three last month...I escaped unscathed)

Tuesday - 10 miles w/ 6 tempo. Nothing spectacular. It went reasonably well, but it did feel good to run outside in shorts and a t-shirt.

Wednesday - 14 miles. Did this one early in the morning, in the dark and fog. About halfway into it, I was running down a relatively lonely stretch of highway (all stretches of highway are relatively lonely in South Dakota at 5 AM). As I normally due, I was running facing traffic, but I would also scoot over to the opposite side of the road whenever a car approached me, always making sure I was on the shoulder on the opposite side of the highway from any vehicles. As I was happily cruising along, a cop car pulled up to me, lights flashing and all, so I stopped and the friendly officer rolled down his window to tell me I should stay on the side of the road so I wouldn't get hit. Well, no shit, Sherlock. I told him that's what I was doing and he drove off. Must've been a slow morning in Belle Fourche.

Thursday - 6 miles in the morning, another 5.5 in the afternoon. After the tempo run on Tuesday and the 14 miler on Wednesday, this was definitely a recovery day. The morning run especially was really slow, but I intentionally did it that way. I think I've been running my recovery runs too fast lately just because it felt alright, so I wore my heart rate monitor and made sure to keep my HR under 130.

Friday - 8 miles, more basketball.

Saturday - 18 miles. It had rained off and on all day Friday and when I awoke on Saturday morning I discovered that that rain had turned to snow. Yippee. There was a couple of inches of fresh, wet snow on the ground when I headed out for my run at about 9:30. The footing wasn't great, but it wasn't horrible either. A few stretches of busier road were actually clear, just wet, but the side streets and back roads were snow covered at first and then slushy toward the end of the run, which is even harder to run on than snow. It's not solid, like snow can be, but it also doesn't give way totally and after 16 miles or so, running on it can be pretty damn tiring. Lucky for me, the slushiest section of road I encountered was in the final mile. Up until that point, my feet were still dry but by the time I finished that last mile, my shoes and socks were dripping wet from slogging through the slush. Despite all that, I had a pretty good run with a solid long run pace and amazingly consistent splits. Of course, if I would've waited until after lunch I could've run on wet streets instead of snowy/slushy ones but, whatever, at least I got it over with.

Total - 82 miles

This coming week marks my last week of basebuilding. On March 15th, I officially began training for the Lean Horse Hundred. Hard to believe. It still seems so far away, especially given the weather. But in 25 short weeks I'll be slogging through a hot August day and night wondering what in the hell I've gotten myself in to. Should be a hoot.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Marathon and Beyond

Well, this past week I officially became a published author. Back in 2008, just after I qualified for Boston in Missoula, I sat down and hammered out the story of how I became a runner, and then a marathoner, and then a marathoner trying to qualify for Boston. I emailed it to the editor at Marathon and Beyond and basically forgot about it. A couple of months later, I had a publishing contract and, finally, this past week the article appeared in their March/April issue, which includes a special section on the Boston Marathon. It's not like I can quit my day job anytime soon, but it was pretty cool to actually see it in print. If you'd like to check it out, your best bet is to visit your local running store and see if they carry it (Marathon and Beyond doesn't have the widest circulation in the world). I know some Barnes and Nobles carry it too, but not all of them. If you're really desperate to read it, you can order back issues directly from the Marathon and Beyond website (

I did some running this week too. After three straight weeks of 80+ miles, I took a planned cutback week (although I didn't really feel like I needed it, but I guess the point is to do it before you feel like you need to....kind of like drinking before you feel thirsty). I'm in an incredible groove right now (knock on wood). The majority of my runs lately have been around 30 seconds per mile faster than I normally would run but the pace feels effortless. Don't know why that is, but I really don't give a damn either. I'll just roll with it as long as it continues.

Sunday - Rest. Didn't want to, but I made myself.

Monday - 6.3 miles in the morning, 5 in the afternoon.

Tuesday - 9 miles with 8x800 intervals. Had to run it on the indoor track, which kinda sucked, but it ended up going alright.

Wednesday - 7 miles.

Thursday - 9 miles.

Friday - 16 miles. This one was a doozy. I ran a loop that I pretty much always negative split because of the terrain (all the biggest, longest uphills are in the first half). This time, I didn't glance at my Garmin at all between the halfway point and about mile 13, I was just running by feel. When I did take a peek, I realized that I was running sub-8 pace and that my overall pace was 8:08, over 20 seconds faster than I would normally run a long run. But it didn't feel like I was pushing at all. So, I decided to see if I could get my overall pace under 8 minutes for the entire run and did push the pace for the last 3 miles. I ended up running a 6:35 final mile (that pace was hurting by the end) and ended up with a 7:57 overall pace.

Saturday - 8 miles. Expected to feel a little sluggish after the long run on Friday but I didn't. Ended up running 8:08 pace and it felt like 9:08 effort. When I finished the 8 miles I didn't feel like I'd even really run.

Total - 60.3 miles

Ramping the mileage back up this week and hoping things keep on clicking like they are. I would gladly stay in the this groove for a long, long time if it was up to me.