Monday, September 26, 2011

Weekly Training Wrap - 09/19 – 09/25

This was my first week on the new plan and it was a bear for a few reasons. First, it is one of the higher mileage weeks on the Pfitz 18/55 plan, so not an ideal weak to just jump on. And really all the paces this week (except Sunday) were at or below my GA pace. It was a tough week for both miles and intensity.  Second, I have to get my body used to getting up earlier to fit in MLR workouts during the week. And finally, I was coming off the race week from Lead King Loop and didn't really have a chance to "recover" before hitting some hard miles. I am pleased with my performance this week and definitely think I am stronger for it. The next two weeks offer a little relief from the intensity.

Day Miles Notes
Monday Rest
Tuesday 7 Recovery day at the high end of GA range.
Wednesday 12 An MLR at low end of GA range.
Thursday 10 Tempo run -
10 with 6 miles @ 15K pace: 7:23, 7:18, 7:13, 7:08, 7:13, 7:18
Friday Rest
Saturday 20 Long Run @ low end of GA range
Sunday 5 Family recovery run (extremely easy)
Total 54 About 3340 vertical feet gained*

* - Being a road training plan, my vertical gain will probably decrease slightly in the coming weeks.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lead King Loop 25K

There are so many amazing things that happened this weekend that I just have to call this my best running experience ever. My neighbor and running buddy Tony participates in this race almost every year. His cousin and her husband run it as a charity even for the Marble Charter School. We ended up in a family reunion of sorts because we spent the weekend with him and his family. It turned out very good because they were GREAT hosts and took us in without hesitation. Tony comes from a family of accomplished runners and I enjoyed talking "shop" all weekend with them. But I have to admit, I was a little intimidated as I am not even close to being in their league.

We drove up Friday night right after school. Marble is more than three and a half hours away, so we checked in late. Tony had arranged for us to stay at the lodge that marks the start and finish line of the race.  It was such a great place and a huge advantage to be literally fifty yards from the race start. The proximity allowed us to stroll straight from our room to the start, shower before the awards, and generally just relax. The cabin had sleeping for 5 or 6 people, a full kitchen, full bathroom, and a loft with the beds. Very cute. Here is the beautiful little cabin we stayed in at the Beaver Lake Lodge.


Saturday morning we woke up to pouring rain. It let up a bit in the early hours and allowed Tony and I to sneak in a short run and see a bit of the course. This is a view of the local mountains from our porch.

After breakfast the rain picked up and we decided to hang out for a while and wait for a break to go to the Milton Falls. We finally decided to make a break for it around 11 am and the weather let up nicely so we could get the hike in. Milton Falls was amazing! These pictures don't do justice to how cool it was. (For some reason we all kept thinking about the movie First Blood).

Johanna and I enjoying the falls. The weather was in the 40's, but she gets cold easily.

The entire Wellman clan enjoying the weekend.

Tony was an amazing host and we enjoyed spending time with him. It seemed like it was his personal mission to show us a good time.

Driving back from the falls we saw this cool photo were steam was coming out of the side of the mountain. I was a little bummed because it appears we were one week to early to see the Aspen trees changing. This time next week that same mountain will be exploding with color.

We headed out after our hike into nearby Carbondale, CO for some lunch and to pick up race packets. My kids both decided to run the 2.5K kids race over lunch. As we arrived at the race store to pick up packets and register, we noticed they had a family option where four or more people could register for nearly the same price as one adult and two kids. I had been telling my wife she should run the 12.5K course and it was financially smarter to do it! (Of course she exceeded expectations!). The entire Wellman clan was signed up to run Sunday.

After lunch on Saturday, we helped out Tony's family getting the race set up and then went to his cousins' house for dinner. It turned out to be a feast of spaghetti, wine, and cake (celebrating several birthdays, including my son Dylan turning seven). I talked some with Tony's uncle who ran the two mile in college (I believe 9:04 was his best time) and his cousin (who just completed the Boulder Marathon in 2:59). Wow, what a group of runners.  And of course I have been chasing Tony's amazing 2009 season all summer.

Sunday - Race Day

Tony's family puts on a great race: the 25K course starts at 8:30, 12.5K at 9:30 and kids are at 11:45.  It's a full day of family fun. Leading up to the race I did a bit of comparing to previous years to come up with an estimate for my time and potential placing. I determined that a good race for me was somewhere between 2:35 and 2:45. Historically that time would be good enough for a top 25 finish. Turns out that this is the first year that the Lead King Loop race has been part of a Colorado Grand Prix of events put on by the USATF. (They called it the USATF Colorado 25K Trail Championship). Ultimately this is a great thing for the event as they draw a deeper, more talented field. However, I wound up running a great race and missing the top 25 by a long shot. The USATF is providing prize money to entice runners to show up. The field was so deep this year that the top 4 runners all broke the course record of 1:55.

We got to sleep in and enjoy the morning while waiting for the race to start. This is a great thing because the valley gets sun slowly and is very chilly to start (see below: look I even have long sleeves on!). After we got started, Tony and I hung out and talked for about three quarters of a mile. Then the climbing started and Tony let me go out ahead. Not too long after we split I went into "trail mode" and just started power-hiking the climb. It was obvious early that the race was full of good runners because I was at the back of a pack of nearly 50 people that went out hard. Power hiking allowed me to keep my position at the rear of the lead pack and even pass a few people. I was hoping to average about 4 mile per hour on the climb and managed to do a bit better than that -- good thing because it was longer than expected.

My nutrition was dialed in today. After about 45 minutes there was a brief flat area and I took my first Roctane GU and washed it down with GU drink. I felt refreshed and managed to finish the climb strong. At the top of the climb I was out of drink and refilled with Heed (the race product) that lasted me the remainder of the race. Then I started running downhill! There were parts of the top section that were smooth enough that I looked around and enjoyed my surroundings. I really need to come back at some point and run this course purely for enjoyment.  It is like a slice of heaven -- just beautiful and serene.  In fact, the course takes you through the town of Crystal which is only accessible by Jeep and ATV and is the most photographed place in the United States.  The mountains around us were all capped with snow from the recent cold spell that passed through.

After descending for nearly four miles, the course starts to approach the town of Crystal and gets extremely technical. (My feet are REALLY beat up from all the pounding on sharp rocks). In addition to being technical, the course was very wet. Trying to avoid puddles was futile and I just ran through them, splashing mud and water all over. At this point I was running mostly alone with the exception of the occasional runner I would pass. My iPod had died many miles ago and I was alone with my thoughts. The one thing that kept going through my mind was "don't trip!". I did trip twice, but never fell. It's a good thing because the road was basically a cliff with the river several dozen feet below. After an hour and a half I did my second (and last) Roctane gel and immediately felt some renewed energy.

And finally, as the course started to come back into town, I could tell I had a good time secured. I wound up catching a strong woman runner and slowed to talk briefly with her. She had run nearly the same time last year and finished 3rd overall for women. This year she would be lucky to be top 10 this year with strong runners like Stevie Kremer here. After a bit she told me to run ahead and I sped off to the finish. I briefly wondered if I had left too much in the tank. After some reflection I think that my ability to finish strong just means that I ran a smart race. I finished in 2:35:50 or 36th overall -- but only 15th in my AG. Man my AG is tough!

Tony and I are eager for the challenge. I don't think it is a stretch to say that the only race that compares with the difficulty of this one, mile-for-mile, is the Leadville Marathon. I was surprised at the difficulty and technicalness of the trail. My feet are pretty bruised from the pounding on sharp rocks.

An hour later Johanna was getting ready to run her first out and back event with a big hill (1200 feet over 4 miles).

Johanna was all smiles after her 3rd place women's finish (and 1st in AG).

Here I am finishing at sub-seven minute pace around the lake.  I felt pretty darn strong considering how hard the race was.

Tony decided to make the race an opportunity to enjoy the scenery and the moment.  Part of me was jealous because I missed so much by "racing" it.  Racing a trail event is difficult predicament.  Here you are in some of the most beautiful places in the world, but you cannot stop to enjoy them! One mistake by not paying attention to the trail in front of you and you'll be falling to the ground. I hope to upload some of Tony's pictures to show you all how beautiful this course was.

Here is Dylan about two-thirds of the way through the kids race.  He wound up finishing 6th overall and the youngest kid in the top 10.  He ran an 8:20 mile in school last week, and I think he easily beat that today.

Savannah wound up 16th overall.  It took here a while to get over the fact that her brother beat her, but then she realized that he had averaged an eight minute pace and ran a terrific race.

I am not sure we could have asked for a better weekend.  Be prepared DMers because I plan to recruit heavily for next year's race!

Weekly Training Wrap - 09/12 – 09/18

If you read my goal update, you know that I have finally decided to settle on racing a marathon as my next goal. Thus I have decided to jump back to a Pfitz 18/55 plan as a "guide" for training. This week is a cutback week because of my Lead King race.

Day Miles Notes
Monday Rest
Tuesday 11 A nice GA run to start the day and then some light hiking later.
Wednesday 5 An aggressive paced 5 miler.
Thursday 8 Tempo run
Thursday 4 Recovery run with my wife.
Friday Rest
Saturday 4 Easy warm up in Marble, CO
Sunday 16 Lead King Loop Race
Total 48 About 6400 vertical feet gained

Friday, September 16, 2011

Goal Update

I'm starting to get some clarity on my goals. The key was to break the goals down by duration, specifically short/medium and long term. I've been back and forth in my mind many times (surprise, surprise!) over the past few months trying to decide what I should be doing. And finally, when reading a fellow blogger's interview with Nick Clark, it hit me:  it's not that I don't want to train for a marathon, it's that I need a fresh approach to training. Planning and then executing on that plan is always worthwhile in any goal you set. In fact, when I reflect on my Summer, my proudest achievement is the constant focus to follow one goal and stick with my plan. With that, here are my goals:


As you already know, I have the Lead King Loop race coming up this weekend. I don't have a specific goal for the race.  However, I do plan to give it a hard effort. When racing this type of event it is difficult to predict finish times and it often becomes you versus the course. Depending on the depth of the field, I have a chance to bang out a top 25 finish (or higher).


I am finally going to let my mind embrace the idea of training to "race" a marathon. Frankly, I still haven't really done this yet.  Perhaps I'm just scared to put myself out there and let it hang out. To date I have completed 5 marathons, but I'd be hard pressed to say I have raced any of them. When I ran Denver RnR (2009 and 2010), the goal was really to gain enough fitness and lose enough weight to complete it under four hours.  Both the Colfax Marathon and Steamboat Marathon this year were meant to be training runs on my path to the Leadville Silver Rush 50. I suppose the closest I've come to a race was the Leadville Marathon in July. I gave an all-out effort that day -- in fact I wonder if it hurt my chances for a strong(er) Silver Rush 50 only two weeks later -- but it's hard to compare a road marathon and a trail marathon.

The goal for the Las Vegas RnR marathon on (December 4th) is sub-3:25. My current road marathon PR is 3:34:18 at Steamboat Springs. My last four mile splits were my fastest of the race (average of 7:27 per mile) because I was running above my marathon pace while pacing a friend early in the race. Clearly I left gas in the tank. During my speed work training all Summer I have been using 3:25 as my marathon pace and I have been able to complete all of those workouts.  And, according to this altitude calculator, the drop of nearly 4,000 feet in elevation should help my chances as well.  What's more, my performance at the GTIS half marathon suggested it is possible.

So how am I going to get there? The good news is that I have plenty of miles and a solid (almost 50 mile per week) base to jump into the middle of most any plan. Most likely I will follow a Pfitz 18/55 plan as a guide with some modifications that suit me (or just to entertain me). In particular, I'd like to try some longer interval runs as were suggested in the interview with Nick Clark. If the opportunity comes up, I will certainly still trail run. I am going to have to accept mid-week MLRs: drink some Red Bull and quit whinning!

Now that the goal is out there, help me achieve it by keeping me accountable!


As for long term goals, I think those are still being flushed out a little bit and the situation is somewhat fluid.  I know this much, I probably need one more Summer to get Leadville out of my system.  For some reason I still feel like I have unfinished business there. While I'm not sure it mattered, being sick the week of the race left a lot of unanswered questions. Plus I was just a rookie. And while I don't know that it is the wisest idea, the LT 100 is almost too tempting to pass up. I project as a 26 hour finisher (easily below the 30 hour time limit). In fact, if I was willing to accept the risks (see DNF), it's not out of the question that I could aim for the big buckle and a sub-25 hour finish. Trying for that would definitely not be the wisest idea.

The other idea being kicked around would be to run the Grand Canyon Rim2Rim2Rim. It's a 47.5 mile run with roughly 12.5K of climbing.  While technically it would be an unsupported, non-race event, there is water at various camp grounds along the way.  It is reasonable that I could do this run in 11 - 14 hours depending on how hard I wanted to push it.  Due to the weather, this would most likely take place early in May as a training event for Leadville.  Again, it's fluid and will most likely change.

So those are my current thoughts on goals.  I promise that only the long term goals may change.  Leadville 100 registration opens in late November and usually fills by early January, so that is the next logical point to evaluate my long term goals.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Race Week - Lead King Loop

This week I will be running the Lead King Loop and Quarry Climb in Marble, CO.  This is a wonderful small town race to support the local charter school.  It is a 25K, or as they call it in Leadville, a "heavy half".  The town of Marble is near Aspen and very beautiful.  This time of year is usually good to see Aspen trees changing color as well.  Here is a preview of the Lead King profile.  It climbs approximately 2900 feet in a 4 mile span from .5 mile to mile 4.5 and then descends the rest of the way.  Based on previous years' results and similar courses, I should be able to run this between 2:35 to 2:45.

I'm excited for the race because we are making it a family weekend in Marble.  My buddy Tony secured us some cabins at the Beaver Lake Lodge, which is walking distance to the start line.  We will be heading up Friday night and then we'll enjoy Marble and Carbondale on Saturday before racing on Sunday Morning.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Weekly Training Wrap - 09/05 – 09/11

This was my biggest mileage week since before the Leadville Marathon (June 20 - June 26).  It was supposed to be a cutback week, but my race next week forced me to swap the schedule.  Next week will be easy miles and then the Lead King Loop 25K on Sunday.  Tough week of running and I am looking forward to some easy miles next week.

Day Miles Notes
Monday 10 Unscheduled open space run.
Tuesday 5 Recovery pace
Tuesday 4 Fun run to try out my Hattoris
Wednesday 10 Mile Repeats (6:58,6:53,6:48,6:35,6:30)
Thursday 5 Recovery pace
Friday 2 Easy miles in my Hattoris
Saturday 23 Long run with some MP miles
Sunday 6.5 Easy pace
Total 65 About 4500 vertical feet gained

Monday, September 5, 2011

Weekly Training Wrap - 08/29 – 09/04

As many of you that follow me on the DailyMile know, I am training for two races at the moment. However, I prefer to follow a plan that has more miles on the weekend and fewer miles during the week. Running MLR runs before work just feels like work to me. Thus I have chosen to follow an ultra plan from the book "Relentless Forward Progress" -- the training for a 50K on 50 miles per week. I added a few miles Thursday because it felt right and I was up early in the morning (4:30). Saturday was a tough trail run to keep my vertical skills improving and to prepared for the Lead King Loop trail race. As always I try to do core work (push ups, leg raises, crunches, or Yoga) at least 5 days a week.

The only other big news this week is that I am trying to find a new goal. There has been some movement over the last few days on that. I am not going to reveal it until I feel things are a little more certain. I am hoping to take a small group on this adventure. This adventure will entail 50ish miles with 12K feet of climbing and will likely take place in early May.

Day Miles Notes
Monday Rest
Tuesday 7 GA pace
Wednesday 5 Easy pace
Thursday 10 3 miles at Tempo pace
Friday Rest
Saturday 20 Trail miles with 4200' vertical gain
Sunday 8 Easy pace
Total 50 Almost 6500 vertical feet gained

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Goals and What Drives Us

"Running has a way of possessing your soul, infiltrating your psyche, and quietly becoming your central life force. The difference between a jogger and a runner is that a jogger still has control of his life. We runners have lost it."
- Dean Karnazes

People around me probably know that I've been a little off lately.  I don't think this is all that unexpected as it is common after conquering a big goal to have a little hollow spot in your life that was previously occupied by the pursuit of that goal.   This summer I conquered a huge goal -- my first ultramarathon.  And the high from that experience has worn off.  I am now left with the decision of what to do next.  Sure, I have some races planned, but nothing that "gets my juices flowing".  (I am training for them and expect to do well.)  In reflecting on Dean's quote, I think I have become a jogger again -- running just stay in shape and keep a mileage base.  There is no passion in what I'm doing.

In some ways I think this problem is somewhat amplified by the fact that I am predominantly a morning runner.  It's a little more difficult to be adventurous when the clock is ticking and kids, work, and the real life await your return.  It's harder to enjoy the beauty of the world under a cover of darkness (though magical once in a while for sure!).  Getting up at 4 am to go rock fifteen miles in pursuit of a goal is hard core and invigorating.  Doing the same thing just to run some miles before work is boring and unfulfilling for me.

There was a discussion on the DailyMile a while back about the perfect run length and the consensus seemed to be about seven or eight miles.  And as I recall, the reasoning was something along these lines (or least this is why it would make sense to me):

  1. Time - it takes most runners little more than an hour to run that length.  This means it is not an interruption to life and not a huge strain on your body.  No recovery need, no permission from your spouse.
  2. Balance - it is enough of a run to get your endorphins flowing, burn some serious calories, but not enough to require serious planning or thought.  No need to think about how much water you need or what route you'll take (most people probably just have a standard one).
And don't get me wrong, for many people these goals are enough.  What's more, for many of those people they do run seven or eight miles with passion and purpose and it does fulfill their force.  I know many such friends.  The problem is that it's just not me.  Unfortunately, as Dean says, "moderation bores me".  In everything I do, it's all out or not at all.  There are days when I wish I wasn't wired that way and other days when I think it is one of my best qualities.  I am who I am.

So what's the answer?  I think I need a new goal.  Even if that goal is many months away, I need a reason to get up in the morning and push my limits.  Some would say that a hundred mile race is a reasonable next goal for me.  I trained hard enough to run one hundred this summer.  My finishing time for my fifty miler suggests that I project easily as a sub-30 hour hundred mile runner.  But if I go and run one hundred miles next year, then have I created an even bigger hole to fill after that?  A marathon already seems like it's not enough for me -- unless it's uphill!  If I complete one hundred miles, I fear that running fifty won't be as adventurous anymore.  And frankly, I had some issues during my fifty miler that leave me thinking I couldn't shoot for "the big buckle". Instead I'd likely have to be conservative and aim just to finish my first time out.  I'm not sure my mind will allow me to shoot for that.  Perhaps the answer lies in putting my passion into another hobby (brewing more beer!) until after the Winter.

Any suggestions on what I can do next?  One hundred miles? A destination fifty?  Something else?