Monday, December 30, 2013

Weekly Training Wrap - 12/23 - 12/29

This was an interesting week with the Holidays. I managed my third week in a row of 30+ miles, but this time mostly just on frequency. There were no "long" runs. I have now accomplished both my running goals for the month of December -- a thirty mile week (I had 30 of them) and a 100 mile month (125 and counting). In addition to the odd week of running, I really didn't do much as far as strength training. I decided this was a good week to take that easy as well. I don't usually give it the credit it deserves, but strength training is another source of stress that needs to be managed.

The best run of the week was my run on Friday where I pounded out some intervals. Now, I admit that it was an easier interval session (with recoveries as long as the intervals), but I nailed it. The design of the workout was to do 6 repeats and between 6:36 and 6:56 (roughly 10k). My splits were a consistent 6:33 to 6:39 and my HR was a consistent 163 - 168, which is on the low side of a 10K effort (probably more like 169-172 for me). This proves that my fitness is not all that bad despite the off year and relatively low miles of late.

I think what I really need is to sign up for a race. Overall my knee feels fine, not perfect, but fine. There isn't really much doubt in my mind that my meniscus is fixed. That part is fairly to figure out since I accomplished both my December goals somewhat easily. The only outstanding question is whether this cyst/bump that has formed is an issue. Nonetheless, I think I can sustainable train at this level, and maybe even a slightly higher level, through the winter as I allow my body to realign and re-balance. The impulsive part of me desperately wants to just pull the trigger on a race, but I have an outstanding doctor appointment that the analytical/smart part of me thinks should happen first. We'll see which side wins!

Day Miles Notes
Monday OffRest
Tuesday 3 Easy with my kids
Body Weight Strength Training
Wednesday6 Christmas Morning Trails
Thursday7Zone 2/Easy
Friday7 6 x 2 min w/ 2 min recovery
Saturday 9Coyote Ridge Trails
Sunday OffRest
Total 32

Monday, December 23, 2013

Weekly Training Wrap - 12/16 - 12/22

A few weeks ago, I said that I would like to break 100 miles for the month and 30 miles for one week. I have now logged back to back 30 mile weeks and am pretty much a lock to get 100 miles this month. Overall I feel pretty good. I think I will take advantage of the holiday week to do some easy trail running and take the week off of strength training, at least with weights. I enjoy mixing in some Yoga for flexibility and body weight strength training.

Right where I want to be....

These past few weeks have been full of mental games. This time of year is always tough for me to find motivation and enjoyment in running. Winter has settled in and I don't much feel like getting up and running alone in the dark. The motivation will return, so I am just trying to be patient. (Signing up for a race always gives me a burst of motivation, more on that in a second.) The other issue is my knee. It sill isn't 100%. However, I am not sure it is supposed to be. By all accounts, I am ahead of the curve for my recovery. And there was simply no way I could have run 30 miles a week back in July. But, there is still a fair amount of low grade, non-specific pain and discomfort. My assumption/hope is that this part of the process and it will clear up, eventually. I did find a small bump on the lateral part of my knee -- could be some type of scar tissue or cyst?  It isn't painful, but I am not sure what it is. Thus, I have made an appointment with my surgeon in the New Year. If he isn't concerned about it, then I will likely take the plunge and sign up for a race. I have to get back on the horse eventually. I am suffering from a lack of confidence right now and just need to push onward and see what happens!

Day Miles Notes
Monday OffYoga
Tuesday 6 Open Space Trails
Body Weight Strength Training
Wednesday7 Solo 4 in the AM
Easy 3 with the kids in the PM
ThursdayOffFull Body Weights
Friday3 Easy 3 with the Dog
Saturday 13Deer Creek
Sunday 4Recovery
Total 33

Saturday, December 21, 2013

2013 Year in Review

Where do I start? I could whine and complain about my knee injury, and subsequent surgery, and just write this off as a bad year. But that would be just lazy, there was a lot of good things that happened in 2013. Let's start with the stats:
  • I will finish the year with something close to 1275 miles, down nearly 50% from my past two years.
  • Vertical gain will be something like 135K for the year, also down about 50% from previous years.
  • I completed a PR in the 50 mile distance at Old Pueblo in March, finishing 20th overall
  • I set a PR in the mile (6:01)
  • My first ever DNF was in April
And now here are few things that are highlights of my year (and things to be thankful for):
  • I summited two more 14ers, including the 2nd tallest mountain in the continental US (Mt Elbert)
  • Four new runners entered the ultra community because of my influence, two of them are planning to run 100 milers in 2014
  • I have am beginning to understand the best way for me to train
  • My first experience as a crew member happened in 2013
  • I did something that scared the crap out of me and rode in a 50 MTB race
  • Both of my kids are regularly running 5Ks and participate in a run club
  • I drank a rare beer at the summit of Hope Pass

Old Pueblo 50

In March, I went down to Arizona and ran with my buddy Steve in his first ever 50 miler. I finished 20th overall and set a PR despite being off course and lost for nearly 30 minutes.

Another belt buckle for my collection.

Leadville Guys Weekend (6/21-6/23)

On Friday, we ran the first half of the Silver Rush course to see it first hand.

On Saturday, we climbed Mt Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado (14,439 feet)

At the top of Colorado -- literally!

On Sunday, Chuck and I ran from Powerline back to May Queen. It would be along the Colorado Trail that I finally realized my season was likely done. By the time we returned for the Leadville Silver Rush weekend, I already had surgery scheduled.

Leadville Silver Rush Weekend (7/12-7/14)

On Friday, we hiked Hope Pass and split a Sixteenth Anniversary Ale by Firestone Walker.
100 milers to be: Chuck (on the left) and Steve (on the right)

On Saturday, I rode in my first MTB race, 50 miles and 8K of vertical gain.  Said my buddy JP: "First thing I did this morning was laugh at u going on a 50 mile bike race, untrained and with a Walmart bike."  I finished!

I wasn't smiling on the inside.  At least I wore a helmet.

On Sunday, I crewed four sub-10 hour finishers in the Silver Rush Run, including the 6th place runner.

Jon, Mike, and Steve all finished in under 10 hours. It was Mike and Jon's first ever 50 miler.

Chuck finished in under 7.5 hours, 6th overall

Mt Bierstadt

Dylan and I summited Mt Bierstadt with some friends on July 20th.  It is his second 14er (Gray's Peak) and my third (Gray's Peak and Mt Elbert).

Dylan climbed Mt Bierstadt once before, but we didn't summit due to weather.


On August 7th, I had arthroscopic knee surgery. The doctor removed scar tissue from the medial side of my knee, removed some of the fat pad from the front of my knee, and repaired my lateral meniscus. I was able to start doing some light running 7 weeks later. Overall my knee feels much better know. However, I am still struggling to find the confidence to trust strength of my knee and push it. Every niggle and twinge sends me into dark corners in my mind. Hopefully I can start 2014 with the courage to sign up for some races again.

2 days post surgery, moderate swelling.

What's in store for 2014?

If I have to be honest with myself, 2013 was always going to be a let down. Both 2011 and 2012 were HUGE years for me. Lots of racing and epic adventures. I was lucky to make it through the Leadville 100 and it took me quite a while to get right. My greatest hope is that my knee injury is a thing of the past and that I am something close to 100% by the Spring time. Short of injury, I plan to race two more ultras, including my second 100 -- Bear 100 -- in 2014. As is the case every year, I hope to continue to find more balance in running and life. 2013 really pushed me to "put running into perspective".  Running has given me so much -- family adventures, personal adventures, health, happiness, kids that enjoy being active, etc... But I also need to learn that there is more to life than running. That is a daily struggle for an obsessive guy like me. If I had to pick goals for 2014, they would be to qualify for Western States 100 (again), and to get to the start line 100% trained and healthy of some race, any race, by June.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Weekly Training Wrap - 12/9 - 12/15

Pretty good week overall with consistent workouts in all varieties. And I broke the 30 mile per week barrier. While the outcome didn't match the effort, I gave a race effort at the 5K on Saturday. Sunday was another hard day due in part to the vertical and in part to the so-so conditions of the trails on Mt Falcon. I was pretty beat Sunday evening and will ease into this week. My quad are a tiny bit stiff/sore from all the breaking on the downhill segments, I clearly need to re-acclimate them and work on my downhill running again.

I have a good start (60+ miles) already in my goal of breaking 100 for the month. Hopefully things continue on a positive track because I am going to have to start signing up for some races soon and I really don't want any negative thoughts heading into that.

As a comparison, I have been tracking my training using Joel Friel's Advanced Trimp score, which basically seeks to measure the training stress placed on your body. The score weights time in higher heart rate zones at a multiplying rate to indicate additional stress on your body. You sum the scores each week to measure the training stress. When I am doing even moderate running (4 days a week and 25 miles), my scores tend to be 300-500. A typical base type week will be around 600 and peak weeks are usually over 800. My training this week was a 640, thanks largely to the large amount of time I spent in Zones 3 - 5 this weekend. I guess the point of that is to say that this was a decent week overall.

Day Miles Notes
Monday 5Easy w/ strides
Full Body Strength
Tuesday Off Rest
Wednesday7 6 x 20 sec Fartkleks
Full Body Strength
Thursday4Recovery with Johanna
FridayOff Rest
Saturday 4Santa Stampede 5k
Yoga for the Core
Sunday 11Mt Falcon
Total 31

Monday, December 9, 2013

Weekly Training Wrap - 12/2 - 12/8

A solid week of training that was more or less unplanned. My hamstring has been slow to recover fully, but is allowing me to keep moving. The OCD side of me wishes I was running more miles, but I am thankful to at least be running consistently. I have a soft goal of hitting 30 miles in one week and 100 miles for the month of December.

The lottery process didn't workout for me again this year. That primarily means that I need a WS100 qualifier for next year. Given that the new requirements are for a 100k or 100m race, that limits my options quite a bit. I am pretty confident I will go do the Bear 100 as my qualifier, but maybe not as a goal race. The rest of the year will be built around that. Hopefully with 3 tickets and a new lottery qualifiers, my odds at getting into Western States in 2015 will be dramatically better.

Day Miles Notes
Monday OffRest
Tuesday 5 Easy
Full Body Weights
Wednesday6 Run in Snow
Thursday5Easy with 30 sec Fartleks
Full Body Weights
FridayOff Rest
Saturday OffRest
Sunday 10LSD midlong
Total 26

Friday, December 6, 2013

Weekly Training Wrap - 11/25 - 12/1

My training has tapered off a bit the past few weeks due to a hamstring pull. I was kind of waiting to see what setback I would encounter first and that was it. Between the strength training and mileage build up, I was bound to find a weak spot. It has been a nagging injury, but a good one to remind me that I have to build back up slowly. While I am currently dreaming of 2014 races and goals, the emphasis really has to be on consistency and patience day to day. Anytime you embark on a big race, the sage advice is to start slowly, let your body and mind get comfortable, and then build momentum as you go. That example is surely something I can follow right now.

Probably the best news to report is that I really have not thought much about my knee the past few weeks. I am reasonably confident in saying that it is fixed. In reality, it will probably be another month or two before I am totally recovered, but the early returns are very positive.

Day Miles Notes
Monday 2Gentle Hamstring test
Full Body Strength Training
Tuesday Off Drove to St George, UT
WednesdayOff Rest
ThursdayOffSkipped St George Gobbler
Friday5 Easy 5
Saturday 5Easy 5 before leaving UT
Sunday 4Recovery Run
Total 16

Monday, November 11, 2013

Weekly Training Wrap - 11/4 - 11/10

Not a whole lot to say this week, it was a good week with some additional miles and continued progress without pain. I hope to keep with this current plan for another 2 - 4 weeks and see where things are after that.

Day Miles Notes
Monday OffYoga
Tuesday 6 Mile Repeats (6:49, 6:56, 6:59)
Full Body Strength Training
WednesdayOff Rest
Thursday5Recovery Run
Full Body Strength Training
FridayOff Yoga
Saturday 10Long road run
Sunday 5Recovery Run
Total 26

Monday, November 4, 2013

Weekly Training Wrap - 10/28 - 11/3

After my workout on Monday, I wrote: "The good news is that this is the first time since June that I can honestly say my knee was a non-factor in a run (a real run longer than a mile or so). I am not sure how to explain that, so I'll just be happy about it for now." While that no pain situation continued through the week, I am still not ready to call this thing complete. It has been eight months since I first experienced ITB-like symptoms and I want to continue to rehab smartly and gain a high-level of trust in the process before I change things up. I will continue with my current plan for another month or so and see how things progress. While I plan to continue to be guarded in my recovery, Saturday's trail run was quite demanding, and the fact that I did it with zero pain was by far the best news I've had since at least May.

A huge part of my plan right now is strength training, and not just walking around the gym doing 3x10 of any available machine. I have have believed for sometime now that endurance runners should train like "athletes", not just runners. The demands we put on our bodies are intense and it will eventually break down. I finally found a book -- Men's Health Power Training by Robert dos Remedios -- that is a quality guide to strength training as an athlete. The programs are presented in a way that covers the entire body and ensures that you are training functionally (as an athlete) and not in isolation (like a body builder would). Many of these exercises are the same exercises that CrossFitters do. However, this is not CrossFit. This program is designed for strength, there is a concerted effort to go slow and recover in between sets. My belief is that runners should get their high intensity training running, not lifting weights. I am not competing against the clock or any other athlete. My goal is to be a stronger version of me; a version of me more prepared to handle the demands of training 50-70 miles a week. If anyone is interested, let me know and I will happily share the details of my plan. Or, buy the book, it is worth the money.

Day Miles Notes
Monday OffYoga
Tuesday 5 Mile Repeats (6:59, 6:59, 6:59)
Full Body Strength Training
WednesdayOff Rest
Thursday410 x 200 meter on 6% grade (average was about :57 secs)
Full Body Strength Training
FridayOff Yoga
Saturday 7Trail Run at Deer Creek (1500 ft of vert, technical)
Sunday OffFull Body Strength Training
Total 16

Monday, October 28, 2013

Weekly Training Wrap - 10/21 - 10/27

It feels strange to be writing one of these, the first in about 4 months. This was the first of 8 weeks that I have planned to do some high intensity training. Hopefully I can get fit(ter) and stronger while I continue to rehab my knee. I had made previous plans to do a trail run with a friend on Saturday, so I skipped out on doing a HIIT session. Other than that, this should be my routine for the next 8 weeks and then I will re-evaluate.

In other news, the WS100 lottery opens in about a little more than a week. Unfortunately, with a cloud still linger over my health, I am uncertain if I want to enter. The odds of getting in are still low (roughly 15% based on last year), so I'd like to take a shot and have more entries next year. However, if I got in, I fear that I'd be under a lot of stress to get healthy and get prepared by June. I am likely to enter the lottery, but it is not the lock it was 12 weeks ago. I thought I would be running miles like Dean Karnazes by now.

Day Miles Notes
Monday OffYoga
Tuesday 4 Half Mile Repeats (8:00, 7:30, 6:40, 6:54)
Upper Body Weights and PT Exercises
WednesdayOff Yoga
Thursday46 x 400 meter (1:36, 1:30, 1:47, 1:38, 1:51, 1:33)
Olympic Weights (Squat, Dead-lift, Leg Press, Overhead Press)
FridayOff Yoga for the Core
Saturday 8Easy Trail Run
Sunday OffSome PT Exercises and Running Specific Strength
Total 16

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Doing It A Different Way

There is so much history to this that I cannot properly do it justice without boring you and/or writing 10 pages. Let's just say that I am a training geek and constantly tinker, learn, and form new opinions on the way to train. While I have not done it, I am familiar with CrossFit and have some fairly strong opinions about it. However, I am intrigued by the idea of using High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) as a way to get more fit. In fact, I have experimented with using HIIT in my weight workouts in the past. Yesterday, I rediscovered this article on the topic by Ben Greenfield yesterday and decided to dig a little deeper. It is worth noting that he uses these techniques and frequently goes sub-10 hours in an Ironman. Bob Africa also used this style of training to finish with the second fastest ever Leadman competition, including a Leadville 100 PR.

A quick bit of background: the predominant theory of training for endurance is widely considered long-slow distance (LSD) or aerobic. We use lots of terms like Maffetone or base building for this style of training. And I don't plan to debunk the idea that it is the best way to get prepared for an endurance event. Nor do any of the authors who advocate HIIT. I am the biggest fan of aerobic training. That said, the problem with aerobic training is that it requires extreme discipline (which sometimes leads me to boredom) and lots of volume (time and mileage). The time crunch leads many runners to ignore important elements of training like proper warm up, cool down, cross training, strength training, etc... We become singular focused on running, even more specifically aerobic running. I think almost all coaches would agree that runners should train as athletes, and not ONLY as a runner.  But I digress....

In scouring the Amazon book shelf, I came across the book Speed, Power, and Endurance by Brian MacKenzie. I found this quote early in the book that stuck with me:

But that's when things started falling apart. Hamstrings, tendons, nerves -- everything became vulnerable to injury. I saw physical therapists and I chiropractors, I did ever "core" or "functional" exercises asked of me, I lifted weights -- yet the injuries kept coming and kept getting worse.
As a former football player and avid weight lifter, this quote also resonated with me:
When I trained with my father in the 1990s, I could squat more than 300 pounds and had perfect range of motion. Now, as an endurance athlete, I couldn't squat half that weight or drop my hips below my knee crease without compromising form. I thought, Here I am in in the prime of my life and I can barely squat my own body weight -- what the hell have I done to myself?

I guess the long and the short of this post is that I am going to experiment with a High Intensity style of training. Frankly, I don't know that I have much choice given the limitations that I have with after knee surgery and the need to continue to rehab and strength train. I want to get fit, but I cannot currently run for 8 - 10 hours a week. And I am not sure that would be the best thing for me right now anyway. Instead of CrossFit Endurance, I still plan to focus on running. My high intensity work will be running and I will continue to do weight training for power (low reps, big weight, proper form) and functional movements (Yoga, core work, etc...). I will aim for a blend of something like 2 strength sessions, 1 pure HIIT session, 1 Hill session (also HIIT) and 1 longer structured interval run per week (another HIIT session), along with 1-2 bouts of Yoga per week. I may also tinker with doing a HIIT session of weights (almost like a CrossFit workout) once a week and make the weekend long an easy/aerobic workout.  So something like:

Day Workout(s) Notes
Monday Cross TrainingYoga (maybe a HIIT weight workout)
Tuesday HIIT running, Heavy Weights Intervals and Olympic Weights
WednesdayCross Training Yoga and PT exercises
ThursdayHIIT running, Heavy WeightsIntervals and Olympic Weights
FridayCross Training/Rest Yoga or Rest
Saturday HIIT runningLong Intervals (unless I do HITT on Monday)
Sunday OffRest

Honestly, this is kind of scary and exciting for me. I like to try new things and have often felt I don't spend enough time in the "pain cave" to be a good short distance runner. Maybe with this style of training I can finally break a 6 min mile and 20 mins in a 5k? They key to high intensity training will be keeping the volume reasonable (something CrossFitters often neglect), like 15-30 mins per week. And the other key is that it has to be genuinely hard, almost to failure, not just uncomfortable. I have seen some crazy hard workouts, for example 6 x 800m @ goal marathon pace on a 10% incline. Ouch.

In an ideal scenario, I can use this style of training to stay motivated, get fit, and rebuild my body for 2014. I would love to enter 2014 healthy, strong, and ready for an aerobic-based training plan, unless I decide HIIT is the only way! But I doubt that, I love running in the mountains too much. And if I get fully healthy, I am sure that by Spring my motivation to get outdoors and run will be sky high.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Training Wrap: September

It was a banner month, I ran 21 miles in eight outings after running a total of 13 miles in July and August combined. Sure, that is nothing close to normal for me. But, it is a start. I am getting out regularly to enjoy some easy Fall running. My knee feels better but not great. I am eight weeks beyond surgery and still in the zone where I have to be careful not to tear my stitches. Each run feels a bit better than the last, but there is some random pain and stiffness that I must work through in order to break up scar tissue. I am told this is all normal, but it sure does test my patience and discipline. In addition to short runs every other day, I am doing a pretty good regimen of cross training to keep my legs strong and help stabilize the quad and knee. And, I have pretty much put the bike away for the year.  It was getting annoying and I rode far more miles (600+) than I ever intended this year. Hopefully October continues to see my progress improve and I am ready to start a decent build up in November!

One last note, I think about a race schedule and training options on a daily basis. But, I really won't have any clue what 2014 looks like until after the Western States 100 lottery in early December. It sure would be nice to make my return to racing in Squaw Valley!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Is Altra Growing Too Fast?

A year ago I became a HUGE Altra fan after discovering their Instinct 1.0 on sale at In fact, I applied to be an Altra Ambassador and decided to to go all Altra in my training and racing. After only a few months, I owned five pair of Altras for myself. I have recommended Altras to at least half a dozen friends and my wife and son. Buying a pair for my son was a big deal: they were $50, more than double what I normally spend on shoes for him. After all, he is 8 years old and tends to wear out or outgrow shoes every 6 months. Only three weeks after purchasing them, the shoe literally fell apart. Admittedly, he is a boy and hard on shoes, but come on? Look at the photo below. Yes Altra replaced them, to their credit. But it just one example in what is becoming a trend in quality complaints for them.

Last night I was commenting to a friend how much I love my Instinct and was making plans to buy a pair of Instinct 1.5 for myself. Then I started doing some reviews and discovered that they are getting ripped on their own website for a shoddy upper that is wearing out. I had to write this email to my friend this morning:
Steve -
I know you seemed intrigued by my post last night about the Instinct. If you like the Lone Peak, then you'll love the Instinct. I wear mine everywhere -- the gym, cycling, work, around town, etc... -- and they are durable and comfortable. They have 350 miles on them and probably 2x that in equivalent wear from all the cross training.

That said, if you want to get a pair, I highly suggest getting a pair of the 1.0 from a discount/liquidation site. That is the version I have. I Googled and found a few lying around. The new 1.5 have received pretty poor reviews for durability, many people complaining the upper is wearing out after less than 200 miles, some as little as 100 miles.

I am frankly a little disappointed with Altra right now. They had a really good thing going with just a couple of well made, high quality shoes like Lone Peak, Instinct, and Provision. After one year, they doubled their models with new shoes like The One, 3-Sum, Instinct Jr, Olympus, Superior, Torin, and growing. The quality seems to be going downhill with this explosion in models.  Dylan blew out a pair of Instinct Jr in less than a month. The entire out sole just cracked and fell off the shoe. My Torin have held up to less than 100 miles so far, but they feel cheaply made and there was a manufacturing goof where some shoes went out with 6 eyelet and some with 7 eyelet. We'll see if they last. My Superior are starting to shred on the lateral side after 235 miles.

Anyway, I love the Instinct, but would not recommend the 1.5 unless you get a screaming deal and can tolerate a blow out after 200 miles.
There you have it, I went from being one of their biggest fans to being nervous about recommending them to my friends in less than one year. It is worth noting that I am the one who convinced Steve to buy his Lone Peak and watched him destroy the Leadville Silver Rush 50 course in them, wearing a pair of my own as I crewed for him.

Is their insane growth responsible for these issues? I think it contributes. As a fan, I would love to have seen some refinements to the existing models, including new colors and a little more stylish look. But I cannot help but wonder if all the new models were necessary. When I compare their rise to a shoe with a similar cult following, the Hokas have only recently added a 4th model. In fact, they used to offer their shoes in unisex sizes. They started by building a few shoes really, really well. (UPDATE: Hoka is now also making an insane number of shoe models.)

Whatever the case, I really don't care why this has happened, but I know it makes me disappointed. I maybe just a midpack runner with a small blog, but I sure hope my experience with Altra help other runners steer clear of expensive mistakes. I love some of their shoes and the idea on which they created them. But I certainly don't want to continue to spend $100 on shoes that fall apart. And it will be very hard to convince my wife to buy another pair of them for my son if his Instinct Jr don't hold up for at least six months. Make no mistake, I am pulling for Altra, but I am a skeptic of the explosive growth and change right now.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Training Wrap: August

Well, knee surgery is almost four weeks behind me and I am on the mend. Everything thus far has been extremely positive. In fact, the doctor told me on my post-op visit that I am "the best she has ever seen" two weeks after a knee scope. I have about 90% of my range of motion back and about 80% of the strength I had before. However, there are still some kinks and niggles as I erase the remaining inflammation, break up scar tissue and re-adjust to having a biomechanically correct (I hope!) knee again. It takes a while to unwind the compensation and atrophy from months of not using things correctly. I have entered a period where I feel almost myself, but know the last 10-15% will be the hardest to get back.

The doctor's orders aren't super limiting, which is a good sign. I cannot do any squats below 90% and cannot really put any pressure on my knee at a sharp angle. Just about any exercise that is inline and does not go below a 90 degree bend is ok. I'be been hitting the gym about twice a week to lift weights, been riding my bike regularly (nearly 50 miles since surgery), went for a long hike the other day, and even did a short test run today. So far, the weights seem to be upsetting my knee the most. While I certainly consider myself lucky at this point, I am growing eager to put this phase behind me. The doctor encouraged me to ease back into to things. But, for someone that has spent the better part of 2.5 years redefining his own limits, it is really hard to be patient right now.

So the month of August was one of my worst since I began running regularly in 2011 -- 8 hours, 64 miles of biking, 4 miles of running, and 8 miles of hiking. I am off to a pretty good start to September and hope to be near 100% by the end of the month. I did back out of the Lead King Loop race for this year -- I just need to remain patient with things. And I plan to acquire some Hokas soon, in preparation for future ultras.

Plans for 2013 continue to evolve, but here is what I think I know now:

  • I will very likely run a 100 miler
  • Western States 100 is the race if I get in
  • If not, Leadville is likely out
  • Hardrock is in a dark corner of my mind
That is about all I really know! There are several other hundreds I am thinking about and even a few 50 milers depending on what time of year my hundred lands. I know that I have fallen in love with ultra running. I think it suits me and goals to live a healthy, full life. And I think I have some untapped potential to be brought out.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Update: Knee Surgery

It has been a while since I blogged, because I really don't have much to say other than injury updates. I have been battling what I thought was ITB since March. Finally, last Wednesday, I had my knee arthroscopy and the surgeon repaired my lateral meniscus. (The fact that it was a repair is significant, more on that later.) 

I am not clear where I hurt it. There was a moment in the OP50 that I distinctly remember twisting my leg (along the AZ trail). After that, my IT Band began hurting, but I am not sure if that is when it tore my meniscus. Some meniscal tears are a result of overuse, so it is possible that I just overdid it. In any case, I returned home from Arizona and tried running, possibly too soon. And I had what seemed like a definite case of ITB -- all the classic symptoms. I treated the ITB aggressively with no success. Then, after a few successful long runs, I DNF'd my first race in mid-April. At that point, I decided shutting down was the best thing. My buddy Tony tried to convince me to get a shot before I shutdown, I assume to allow the shot to really take effect. Instead, I shut down for 2 weeks and skipped the shot, feeling guilty about always going for the easy solution. Immediately after returning to run, the pain returned. I gave in and got a cortisone shot in early May.

During the customary three days after I shot, I did some bike riding and then I began slowly testing my leg. It felt great. And I did probably the dumbest thing and immediately resumed hard training (50 mile weeks with 10k of vertical gain). After a long weekend in Leadville training, my knee had finally had enough. Less than a month after the cortisone shot, I was back on the sidelines. I don't know that it would have helped, but if I had it to do again, I would get the shot and then take the two week recovery, sort of doubling my efforts to be conservative over that period.

Despite already being a long and costly injury, I broke down in the middle of June I began getting dry needled and had an MRI done. The dry needling did magic for the ITB symptoms along my hip, glute, and quads. (I now swear by dry needling as the best release technique available to runners.) That was the good news. The bad news was that the MRI was quite clean and I was still in lots of pain. Despite those that insist running is bad for your knees, mine look very good. There was significant bruising on the lateral side of my knee and fluid around the joint, both symptoms of my injury, but no real evidence of the cause. The surgeon's theory was that there is a small tear in my lateral meniscus, which is why the bruising was so pronounced on the lateral side. I went back and forth with friends and family discussing my options. Naturally, there were many of them. In the mean time, simple things like bike riding, walking my dog, and hiking became extremely painful. Things far outside the scope of ITB (typically). Instead of the Leadville Silver Rush 50 run, I switched to the MTB race because running was too painful. Not long after that point, I decided to go ahead and let the surgeon go in and see what was going on.

When I woke from surgery, the surgeon (Dr. Andy Motz) explained that he had found exactly as he expected, a small tear. He repaired the tear with a couple of anchors. In many menisectomies, surgeons will just remove part of a torn/frayed meniscus. In the case that they just "clean up", the risks post-surgery are mostly just inflammation, which we runner folks are used to battling! However, in the case of a repair, there is a risk that the stitch comes undone. Thus, I need to be a bit more cautious over the next 4-6 weeks. And, if you follow my blog, or even just this post, cautious is not how I normally work. 

The left is before and the right is after. I don't see much on the right, but I see the tear on the left.

Car ride home from surgery.

Nice and swollen with three incisions to show for it! Notice my note to the doctor that my left knee was the correct one to operate on.

I am four days post surgery now and quite stiff and sore. However, the soreness is pretty tolerable. In fact, I have been in much more pain in my life, like the last 13 miles at LT100. I have started a small PT regimen just to keep things "firing" and to try and avoid too much stiffness and atrophy. I am not sure yet what the next few weeks hold, but I am probably already doing too much. September 18th is officially 6 weeks post-surgery and I hope to try a run on or near that date (short of course).

In closing, I really don't know what has gone wrong. I am starting to believe more and more that I had two injuries. The ITB symptoms were too perfect and the remedies I tried there were working well for that to be a phantom injury. My guess is that this meniscus tear happened in March at OP50 (or possibly during my fall back in November) and that it just took enough miles and time for the bruising to rear it's ugly head, essentially creating a second injury that had similar symptoms as the first. And the cortisone shot provided the catalyst for me to push hard enough to make that happen. Hopefully, both are gone when with a long layoff over the next several weeks.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Silver Linings

There is a lot to say and this could be a long, rambling post. Sorry, but I hope it is worth it.

The first thing to say is that my knee is a wreck. Things I used to be take for granted -- like easy hikes and long dog walks -- now cause me pain. Sometimes intense pain. It hurts more or less all the time right now, just in varying degrees. I am convinced something is structurally wrong and not just a case of ITB. The bad news is that an MRI was mostly inconclusive. The major components appear to be in good condition (all the major ligaments, cartilage, etc...) other than some significant bruising at my source of pain. Given that I have been patient with this injury since March, I have decided for a more aggressive plan and will have it scoped on August 7th. The surgeon's theory is that my lateral meniscus is partially torn, allowing my knee to move laterally and causing the bruising. If he is right and surgery goes smoothly, I will be pretty limited for the 6 weeks following surgery and won't realistically be 100% for at least 12 weeks. In other words, 2013 has been a bust other than my great run at Old Pueblo back in March.

One thing the PT pointed out is that my left calf is smaller than my right and my muscles in the front of my left leg along the shin appear to be showing signs of atrophy. The implication is that I have likely been favoring that leg for sometime. Certainly that gives me something to work on as I rehabilitate from surgery and rebuild. It seems that things likely aren't "firing" right on my left side -- quads, glutes, etc... I will certainly have to work with her on a plan to get those things back in order.

After that introduction, are wondering why I titled this "Silver Linings"? The reason is that I am seeing more clearly now than I have in some time. I can no longer just push through this injury. There is no option other than to stop and take inventory of things and where I want to go next. How motivated am I to rehab? Does running mean enough to me to have surgery? Why do I let my outlook hang on the balance on how I am running? Some hard questions to face.

The good news is that I am already looking ahead to 2014. And with all this time off and watching my friends kick butt last weekend, I am starting to get rejuvenated. There are some hard days ahead, but I can plug away. It is pretty clear now that I have let running occupy too much space in my life and, in doing so, have lost the edge I once had. Going back to training for LT100 last year, the training has really started to feel like work and like it is taking over my life. Hundred milers are brutal and I have seen quite a few runners get spit out by them. As a consequence, I started to rethink the way I train. I honestly believe I can run 20-25% fewer miles during the course of a year without dropping any performance. And I can find more balance and hopefully get re-engaged with a love of running. I enjoy weight training, bike riding, walking with my wife, and even just sleeping in once in a while! All of those things suffer when I am "training". I am tired of worrying about the weekend weather forecast starting on Wednesday.

Probably the most honest thing I can say, I sleep better right now than I have for at least a year. Some of that I attribute to no longer stressing about training. Some of that is attributable to keeping normal hours, waking up when my body is ready and not to an alarm clock. There have been signs of fatigue that I have been ignoring for several months now. Duncan Callahan writes of this topic in a recent blog, culminating in a great quote: "The ego satisfaction of going all-out, all of the time, will only last until you can’t do it anymore." His blog is great because it touches on some many of the topics I blog about and kick around in my own mind all the time -- getting enough sleep, the use of caffeine, low carb dieting, etc....

Once I am healthy enough to run some, hopefully by late-September, my first priority will be to regain some consistency to my training. If things come together quickly enough, I'd like to race a 5K and maybe a 10K over the winter to try and regain some speed and power in my running. Both of my PRs at those distances are pretty soft anyway. Training in this timeframe should be dominated by form work, hills sprints, strides, and lots of short but hard workouts.

I will save 2014 plans for a future post, particularly because it is likely to change a lot over the next 6 months. But I would say there is a strong chance I run a hundred, which one depends on lotteries (Western States mainly). I am starting to entertain a few things that I never thought I would consider (Hard Rock). At this point, I am not feeling super motivated to return to Leadville.  There are too many quality ultras out there, each of them different. But, maybe? The Pacific Northwest has a strong appeal to me right now. If I don't do a hundred miler, then I will almost certainly do a destination fifty miler to some place fun. And, if I come up bankrupt in lotteries, then I might consider a shot at a BQ at Colorado Marathon. That seems like a long shot and I wouldn't know for sure until after lottery season (December). I think the only significant thing I said in that babbling above is that I am likely to do a hundred miler next year. Other than that, most everything else remains on the table.

I am in a good place. The grind of four months of fighting injury has pushed me to a point where I am at peace with things. And I genuinely think it is for the best, even if it isn't what I wanted.

My Thoughts on Training

I first posted on this topic in my post-mortem from last year's Leadville 100, then again during my Old Pueblo training, and finally during my post-mortem from Old Pueblo.

The basis of this post is what I have learned from more than two years of ultra training. I will disclose that I don't know it all and that training should always be fit to the strengths (and weaknesses) of the individual. But, I think I can definitively say that I was doing more work than I needed to for 2011 and most of 2012. And, I was not a balanced enough runner, which has likely contributed to my recent run of injuries.

Here are the stats compare my 2013 Old Pueblo 50 and 2011 Leadville Silver Rush 50 and prove my theory*:

Old PuebloSilver Rush
Avg Miles Per Week4962
Max Weekly Miles5880
# 20+ milers713
# 22+ milers47
# B2Bs37
Avg combined B2B miles30 miles40 miles
Total Vertical74,00076,000
Race Pace11:1512:55

* Note that according to these races are similar in difficulty (a factor of .95 +/- .02)

I think the table speaks for itself. Other than vertical gain, I trained significantly less for the 15 weeks leading up to Old Pueblo and ran 1 minute and 40 secs faster per mile. Astounding. I will agree that some of my gains from 2011 to 2013 are not explained by the variables above: factors like lifetime mileage/base and better nutrition and hydration. In fact, I would say a better understanding of nutrition and hydration alone made a significant difference in my results. The point is that I trained less and ran a much better race in 2013.

Here are the grounding principals behind my argument:
  • Somewhere not far beyond 50 miles there is a diminishing returns to training UNLESS you can handle huge weeks, like 100+ miles. Once you reach that point of diminishing returns, talent matters more than training. Followed closely by nutrition and race day execution.
  • Even at the ultra distance, intensity matters. Once you have an aerobic base in place, you get fitter by running harder. (Of course, you should still follow the hard/easy principal.)
  • Proper recovery is essential to continue to making fitness gains. And to run harder, you need to allow for more recovery. Recovery includes sleep and downtime, not just short, easy runs. 
  • Most weekend warrior runners do not have enough time to balance 80 miles per week plus life plus cross training and still recover properly.
  • More well rounded runners make better ultra runners. If you improve any pace from the mile to the marathon, you are improving your ultra times as well (assuming an adequate amount of specificity).
  • You can overdo specificity training. Most marathon programs only have you do about 3 twenty mile long runs. Likewise, you don't need to do B2Bs on the trails every weekend to be ready for an ultra.
  • You can supplement specificity with creativity -- do eccentric quad workouts to prepare for long downhills, get on the stair master or a steep incline treadmill to prepare for long uphills, etc...
  • Think of yourself as an athlete, not just a runner. Train all aspects of your body and in all planes of motion.
The specific things that I did for my Old Pueblo training cycle included:
  • Lots of MAF/base-building runs where I ran by a HR of 145 - 150. The pace of these runs dropped from 9:15 min early in my cycle to around 7:50 by race time.
  • Lots of "light quality" in my base runs -- strides, progression, etc... (See Brad Hudson's book)
  • Fewer, more intense long runs.  I did most of them in progressive fashion where I would start in Zone 1 for 60 - 90 mins, then Zone 2 for 60 - 90 mins, and end up in Zone 3 or 4 by the end.
  • I alternated between hard road runs (like the above) and then specific slow-distance runs on the trails
  • More 2 - 3 hours runs instead of 3 - 4 hour runs
  • Speed work (intervals, hills, tempos) every 7 - 10 days, again after an adequate base is built
There are a few things I will look to change in my next training cycle:
  • Lately, I have also been using the bike more to keep an aerobic base with out the stress of the repetitive motion of running.
  • Add some tempo runs on the trails, specifically going hard uphill. I think I get a little too comfortable hard hiking hills. Similar to alternating between hard long runs and easy long runs, I would alternate between hiking hills and running hills (in different workouts) to get trained for both.
The bottom line for me is that I am not elite. Nor am I twenty five years old with a lifestyle built around running. I don't have a team of people -- nutritionists, physical therapists, chiropractors, etc...  -- looking after me on a regular bases. I only engage these people reactively when something has gone wrong. So why the heck would I try to train like someone with that profile?! I believe the content of this post will serve most runners well. It is unconventional logic to those that believe more miles equals more success, but it should be seen as good news. You can train smarter, not harder.

Guest Post: Silver Rush 50

by Steve Poling
(Thanks, AJ!)

The Silver Rush 50 Mile Race weekend was shaping up to be epic fun.  I was excited to fly out to Colorado as I’d never been there before.  I knew it would be a blast to hang out with friends and run a tough ultramarathon in the mountains of famous Leadville.  The main event for the weekend was the Silver Rush 50 Mile Race, which takes place on an out-n-back mountain course from elevations of 10,000’ - 12,000’, with nearly 8,000’ of climbing and 8,000’ of descending.  

A huge thanks for AJ for making this weekend possible.  After picking me up at the airport, AJ began telling me about the area and took me to his place for dinner with his wonderful family.  After a restful night, with AJ’s dog Rufus keeping me company, we got up early and got ready to head to Leadville.  Chuck, his daughter and Jon arrived at AJ’s and we were off.  AJ’s daughter, master crew chief of Leadville endurance events, also joined us for the adventure.  I think AJ’s daughter has more experience in Leadville than most endurance athletes who have been there.  The drive to Leadville was so scenic.  It’s hard to describe the beauty of Colorado.  Definitely the most beautiful place I have ever been.  I rode with Jon and he told me lots of stories about the areas as we drove through the mountains.  He may or may not have gotten pulled over (or pulled himself over) and talked his way out of a speeding ticket.  The highlight of the day was the planned hike up to Hope Pass.  You don’t normally go on a 3.5 hour hike (with 3,350’ of climbing) two days before a race but this was a special hike to a spectacular pass.  I loved it!  AJ brought a special beer to toast the epic ascent.

Chuck, AJ, and I on Hope Pass.

The view from Hope Pass was spectacular.  I was cold and it was windy but I could’ve taken in this view all day. (and I was often cold this weekend....being from sunny, hot Arizona!)

We woke up Saturday ready to crew for AJ racing the Silver Rush 50 Mountain Bike Race.  Jon, Chuck, and I ran an easy 30 minutes after breakfast.  It was my first time running at 10,000’.  The elevation didn’t negatively impact me as much as I feared.  Mostly, it was harder to run easy and my heart rate was elevated by the easiest of running efforts.  Once my mind adjusted to those realities, I didn’t worry as much about the altitude negatively impacting my race.  Due to his knee injury, AJ couldn’t run the 50 but decided to tackle the challenging MTB race.  We had a great time cheering and crewing for AJ.  It’s a testament to his uber endurance athlete skills that he could perform so well in the race despite being a newbie bike rider.  It was fun to witness.

Mike, Jon, Chuck, and I crewing for AJ.

AJ at Printer Boy inbound downing a Red Bull.

On Saturday night, our pre-race dinner was Chuck’s famous homemade lasagna.  It was delicious.  We enjoyed the evening and then hit the sack for some restless sleep before the race.  I tossed and turned before my alarm went off at 3:45 am.  I had my usual pre-race breakfast of a peanut butter sandwich and coffee around 4 am.  My stomach was a little upset as I was a little anxious about the race.  Runners usually talk about everything and often share TMI so I’ll just briefly say that usually after coffee and breakfast, I hit the bathroom and take care of the main bathroom needs before a long day on the trails.  As race day anxiety would have it, I couldn’t go to the bathroom before the race.  Bummer.  I was just going to manage this later on the course.  I finished preparing my gear and drop bag and tried to take in some calories of Hammer’s Perpetuem around 5:30 am.  We took the short drive to the start line and were ready to roll.  Chuck, Mike, Jon, and I gave each other a quick good luck and we were set.  In no time, the gun went off and we were hiking up Dutch Henry Hill, which is the tradition in Leadville, a short, steep climb to reach the race course.  I ran with Jon and since we didn’t see Chuck or Mike, we chatted and settled in for the long day.  We took it easy early, with miles in the 9:00-11:00 minute pace depending on the climb.  Miles 1-10 are a steady ascent going from about 10,000’ to 12,000’, for the first time of the day.  

Other than yesterday’s easy run, this was my first time running above 10,000’ elevation.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Probably the biggest difference for me going up to 12,000’, besides being cold, was that even though I ran easy, my heart rate was elevated.  It takes getting used to since runners usually go easier to keep the heart rate down.  It wasn’t really possible to keep the heart rate low when you run from 10,000 - 12,000’.  Around mile 4, my stomach was still upset and my body was telling me it was time to go to the bathroom.  I’ve spent enough time on the trails that this wasn’t a problem.  I didn’t panic but started to look for a tree so I could squat and hopefully feel a little better.  I think one of the keys to being a successful ultra runner is staying calm and keep problem solving on the go.  I’d spend enough time in the mountains during training to be ready for the quick squat behind a tree.  I always carry a few baby wipes in a sandwich bag for just such an occasion.  Sometime after mile 4, I told Jon that I had to find a tree and that I would likely not see him again.  He assured me that we would be running together again soon.  I left the trail, found a decent tree, and went to the bathroom.  I felt much better and was happy to see that I was only delayed a little over 2 minutes.  I figured that I wouldn’t see Jon or Mike again so I chatted with another runner and then put on my headphones.  It was great to ease into the race, take in the amazing scenery, and listen to some good tunes.  Before I knew it, I was at the first aid station and refilled my water bottles.  The trail got much steeper as I left the aid station and headed toward the top of this climb.  Before long, I saw two runners ahead that looked like Jon and Mike.  Sure enough, I came up on them and expressed my surprise at running with them again.  We had fun chatting and taking in the scenic climb to Iowa Amphitheater.  It was spectacular.  After climbing to 12,000’+, we began a 3 mile descent into the next aid station, Printer Boy.  

I was looking forward to seeing AJ at Printer Boy.  We thought we would give AJ a surprise and not only come in together but come in holding hands and running in unison.  We did just that and all had a good laugh.  We arrived at Printer Boy around 2:30 into the race.  AJ had warned us to be patient on the way out to Stumptown, the half-way point.  The course is tougher on the way out, around 4,600’ of climbing compared to the 3,200’ of climbing on the way back.  After a brief stop at Printer Boy for some water, we were off to the next section that had a steep ascent we were warned about.  It was neat seeing LT100 founder Ken Chlouber out there.  He is famous for saying "you are better than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can!". 

Ken Clouber at Printer Boy during the MTB race.

A little celebration on the timing mat at Printer Boy outbound.

 I ran with Jon and Mike briefly during this next section.  There was a descent and then ascent before we hit the main section, which was about a 3+ mile and 1,100’ climb.  I quickly got into a rhythm of power hiking and soon left them behind.  I felt strong climbing.  I really spent a great deal of time training for such a climb.  I paced this section fairly comfortably in miles of 14:55, 14:24 and 12:32, which took me back up to 12,000’ elevation.  That climb ended up being not as hard as I anticipated.  I think this was the case because my legs were still fresh with only being about 3 hours into the race.  The next section was an undulating trail around Ball Mountain.  This section was at the elevation of around 11,000’ and then went over to the drop towards Stumptown.  The several mile drop down to the turnaround at Stumptown and the climb back out was the toughest part of the day for me.  For the first time of the day, the sun came out from behind the clouds to heat things up.  I hit the turnaround in about 4:29, saw AJ, exchanged my gel flasks, and kept moving.  It was great to see AJ again, and I saw Mike and Jon coming in as I was headed out.

Coming into Stumptown to refill.

So far, I had stayed on top of my hydration and fuel.  I aimed for between 250-275 calories of Hammer’s Perpetuem and gel, 1-3 Endurolyte capsules, and 16-24 ounces of water per hour.  I was on target.  I hit a rough spot leaving Stumptown and climbing back up Ball Mountain.  I was hot and feeling tired.  The toughest was the last mile, which had about a 600’ climb and I struggled with an 18:49 mile.  I kept hiking and repeated the mantra: I can do this, I’m a good climber.  Over and over.  Finally the climb was over.  It felt like forever.  I recovered as I eased around Ball Mountain and back up to the aid station at 12,000’.  I knew there would be a sweet downhill after the aid station and I just hoped to have some legs under me to hammer it.  I remembered AJ’s words before the race, be patient getting to Stumptown and then smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.  I actually had to be patient till I climbed out of Stumptown but then I sure hoped that I had ‘em.  I got some water at the aid station and kept moving.  All day, I spent less than a minute at each aid station.  I tried to be quick and be gone.  I got some momentum going on the downhill and the cloudy skies rejuvenated my spirits.  The next mile, mile 30, was in 8:26 and I knew I was back in business.  I got excited.  The next mile flew by in 7:56, and the next as I headed up and down back into Printer Boy was in 9:39.  I was tired but hopeful for a strong finish.  

I was excited to see AJ again and came into Printer Boy about 6:30 into the race.  I dumped most of my gear as it was annoying me, kept a water bottle and gel flask, and kept moving.  I knew that I had one more tough climb back to 12,000’.  I figured it would take me about an hour.  From there, I wasn’t sure I had it in me to finish the race in 90 minutes and keep 9 hours in play.  I was going to give it my best shot.  I was tired and struggled up the last climb.  I was hoping to have some energy to be able to hammer the last 10 miles, which had the sweet descent to the finish line.  It had been raining for a while now, which was nice - a bit chilly, but welcome.  I got to the top of the climb and looked to get some momentum going as I headed to the last aid station.  After a 17:07 mile at the top of the climb, I hit an 8:25 mile to start the descent.  I was hanging on for dear life.  Just needed to get to the finish line.  It’s been said that one trait common to all ultrarunners is an incomparable tolerance for discomfort.  I think this is true.  There is nothing comfortable about running this late in such a long race.  But that is part of the challenge and part of the adventure.  If this were easy, then it wouldn’t be so alluring.  You have to stay focused on your goal and just keep pushing.  The next miles flew by in 8:52, 9:28, 8:22, and 9:21.  I was pleasantly surprised to keep the legs turning over this late in the race.  It was a mind warp for me to be running these splits after 40-ish miles of racing.  I haven’t had this experience before but didn’t dare slow down as I just wanted to collapse at this point.  I was beat.  My stomach was upset and I didn’t feel like taking in any calories.  But I knew I needed some calories.  I sucked on a couple of peppermints, which helped my stomach settle a bit.  I took a gel, chased with water, and was looking forward to some coke at the aid station.  Nothing like some liquid sugar and caffeine to keep me going.  There were a couple hills towards the end and I was exhausted.  The last couple miles were in the 10:00-11:00 pace.  I already knew that finishing in 9 hours was not in play but had been pushing to stay under 9:10.  Why?  Just because it sounded better to me to finish in the single digits above 9 hours.  Silly little things like that keep you pushing towards the finish line when you are exhausted.  I hit the top of Dutch Henry Hill and heard AJ yell my name.  I raised my arm to celebrate and made my way down the hill to the finish.  I threw my stuff on the ground at the bottom of the hill and ran to the finish line. I was so happy to be able to stop running.  I was also thrilled to run a solid ultramarathon.  I finished in 9:09, a 10 minute positive split, and in 61st place out of the field of 449.  I accomplished my main goal of running the race I thought I was capable of running.  That’s a great feeling.  I was dead tired and had an upset stomach for the rest of the day but it was worth it.  We had fun celebrating the successful day that all the guys had on the trail. 


I continue my learning of ultrarunning.  My hydration and nutrition went pretty well.  My plan is closer to being where I want it.  About the only thing I would’ve changed in this race is more gels late in the race and less Perpetuem.  In the last two hours of the race, I couldn’t choke down the Perpetuem without fear of vomiting.  The gels go down easier when my stomach is queasy.  The gels are also easier to chase with water.  I also would’ve drank a coke earlier in the race, probably at Printer Boy.  The extra sugar and caffeine late in the race would’ve helped me.  Overall, I took in about 3/4 of my calories from Perpetuem and 1/4 from Hammer gels.  I would keep that again for the first half of the race and change the second half to maybe 1/2 and 1/2 and down the stretch, just gel.  My training plan ended up being adequate.  Of course, I wish I had a longer period to train.  After recovering from the OP50,  I had a solid 10 weeks of training.  This included lots of 3+ hour runs and two runs of 4-5 hours.  I also had some quality back-2-back runs.  I did lots of climbing and really focused on being a better climber in the midst of long mountain runs.  I did some reading and watched some Youtube videos to learn some climbing techniques.  I’ll keep working on this.  Surprisingly, my feet were in great shape at the end of the race.  No aches, blisters or any problems.  The DryMax Trail socks and Altra Lone Peak shoes were golden.  Everything else in my hips and legs, particularly my knees, were achy and sore, which is to be expected.  I hope to run more ultras in the future.  They are a blast.  For now, my next races are the Tucson Marathon in December and then the Boston Marathon in April.  After that, I’ll likely be done with marathoning and turn my focus to ultramarathoning.  I love being in the mountains and going on long runs.  It makes me happy.
Thanks to the guys for making this a special weekend.  It was awesome being with them and their families.  And thanks to my friend Kathleen for helping me with my fuel plan and helping me deal with what to expect at higher altitudes.  And special thanks to AJ for this great weekend and for getting me into ultra running.  I couldn’t have done this without him :) 

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Thank you AJ Wellman

July 14th, 2013 

Silver Rush 50 ~ Race Report

After a few days of good fun with great friends, race morning was finally here. A short nights rest and I was up at 3:45 am and getting ready for a big day with much anxiety. With everything packed, I ate a calorie laden drink for breakfast and my wife gave us a short ride over to the race start. A big kiss to the wife and it was time to try and stay warm and relaxed with Jon, Steve and Mike (my fellow warriors in battle) at the start.

As we were standing there shooting the bull, my stomach was wrenching with much more anxiety than I care to admit. I wasn’t sure what I was in for or if I was trained enough to even complete what lay ahead.

Start Line to Black Cloud Outbound (7 mile aid station) ~

One last handshake to the boys and with a gunshot (a real rifle shot), we were off and climbing Dutch Henry Hill. None of us wanted part of the silly race up to the top so we just forged on. After seeing my wife, daughter and AJ at the top, I put my earphones in and kicked up the volume. I started with what felt like a decent pace (not too hard, not too conservative) and found myself passing people early, which I expected as many people start too far up in the pack to start many races.

Those first seven miles were not nearly as hard as I expected them to be and I found myself not stopping to hike even once all the way into the Black Cloud aid station. The pack was thinning and I stuck with two runners who were setting a sustainable pace (one of them being “Tom” who I ran almost 90% of the race with). Nutrition and hydration were going “ok” at this point and I was feeling fresh. As we approached the aid station, we found that it was still being set up and I hadn’t taken in enough fluids yet to need replenishment so I kept moving on. Tom stopped to use the Porta-potty and the other runner stopped to pick up trash he dropped leaving me alone for a few miles.

Actual Time – 1hr 3mins

Black Cloud to Printer Boy Outbound (13.5 mile aid/crew station) ~

I worked on eating a Bonk Breaker Bar, refueling on electrolytes and Roctane after leaving Black Cloud, quickly realizing that NONE of them were appealing in the slightest. Tom finally passed me again (a much stronger hiker than me) and I just tried to stay within 50 yards of him up to the high point turn (mile 10).  At mile 9, I couldn’t sustain running any longer with the incline significantly rising (375+ feet of elevation gain in each of the next two miles) so I worked a one minute run/walk strategy.  The view of the amphitheater bowl was gorgeous and worth the effort. At the high point turn, I caught Tom and we made some idle chit chat before I turned on the speed. I left Tom behind and focused on staying vertical at a fast pace (one small misstep could have ended the day). I bombed down the frontage road for the next 4 miles at a fast quip (two of the miles splits were 6:19 and 6:15).

As I ran into the Printer Boy crew station, right there to greet me were AJ and Savannah (AJ’s daughter) with smiles. AJ’s first words were, “Dude, you’re running in 4th place”. I was utterly shocked and in denial as AJ replaced my bottles with more fluids. I had AJ grab more food out of my back vest pocket for the next stretch knowing that I was already behind on nutrition. I saw my wife and daughter at the base of the exit hill out of the crew station and gave each of them a big kiss.

Goal Time – 2hrs 10mins ****  Actual Time – 1hr 59mins

Kissing my sweet Mia

Tackling a small hill out of Printer Boy

Printer Boy to Rock Garden (18 mile aid station) ~

I was already worried about this stretch of the race (miles 14 to 18) as it involved very little views to inspire you, it had harder terrain to run on and it was the point where the day just started to warm up. I stuck to the one minute run/walk strategy through here and just tried to keep the 3rd place guy in my sights immediately recognizing that my competitive side just kicked into high gear. He knew I was on him and he pushed the pace even harder. Tom caught me and the 3rd place guy and left us in the dust. This stretch was hard, but not nearly as hard as I expected, so I was pleased running into the Rock Garden aid station. Once again, I was NOT interested in eating or drinking much and when the aid station crew guys asked me what they could get me, I said “anti-nausea pills” half way joking …but I wouldn’t have turned them down if they did have some. I refueled on both water and Roctane (lemon-lime – BLAHHHH) and geared up for the next hard stretch up Ball Mountain. I caught the 3rd place guy (now 4th after Tom passed us both) and once again decided to settle in behind Tom.

Actual Time – 2hrs 42mins

Rock Garden to Stumptown (Half way point aid/crew station) ~

As we left Rock Garden, we were once again treated to some sensational views looking back down into Leadville and up into the Ball Mountain/Mosquito Pass Bowl. There was a mish-mash of running terrain mixed with some hard climbs. Sticking with Tom was a good strategy so far, so I continued. Another guy now passed me and Tom up the final Ball Mountain ascent and he looked VERY strong. I didn’t really care at that point and just kept Tom in my sights. When I finally peaked Ball Mountain, I said to one of the race crew, “That was brutal”. His response “Yeah, that f-ing sucks, but you’re kicking ass” appearing to have done it himself at some point in the past.

Renewed and focused, I relied on my good downhill running ability to catch up with Tom and make up some good time lost hiking up the other side of Ball Mountain. This section was hard to bomb because of its huge descent, but I did well. This was the first time in the day that I really felt my quads barking. I kept using excuses as to why I wasn’t eating at this point (not hungry, too hard to eat and run, blah, blah, blah), but knew I wasn’t doing well in that regard and I was going to have to fess up to AJ when I came into Stumptown. This was the ONE thing AJ emphasized most in training …CALORIES. Once I caught Tom, we BS’d the last mile into Stumptown as I found out he was using this race as a training run for the LT100. We talked about family, where we were from, how we were feeling and just how happy we were to be half way done.

I rolled into the crew station not feeling very good and the first thing I said to everyone was, “This is HARD”. I then fessed up to AJ that I wasn’t eating at all and not feeling super well. His response, “You’re going to fast …borderline irresponsible”. It was at that point that I realized I was almost 20 minutes ahead of pace for an 8hr finish. AJ asked me if I needed anything and I’m pretty sure I said “NO” to everything until he asked if I wanted my energy drink, at which point I gratefully accepted. I knew as I was standing there sipping on my drink that I was getting very comfortable not moving and said, “I need to get going or I’m going to sit down and not get back up”. AJ’s very fatherly-stern advice was, “Slow down, hike the up-hills and EAT”. For the first time that day, I was worried about a DNF (Did Not Finish) and was very concerned about my nutrition (or lack thereof). One more kiss to my wife and I geared up for a MONSTER climb.

Goal Time – 3hrs 50mins ***  Actual Time - 3hrs 34mins

Rolling into Stumptown

Drinking my Bing energy drink and trying to keep my composure

Stumptown to Rock Garden Inbound (30 mile aid station) ~

Knowing what I just came down, I struggled to stay positive as I went back UP. I crossed paths first with Steve, who looked happy as could be descending into Stumptown. I next saw Mike who asked how I was doing and I said “not well” and I’m sure I didn’t look well either. I then saw Jon and when he asked how I was doing, I think I said “I’m struggling” …and probably looked like I was struggling on this un-runnable stretch. After letting Tom and one more person go out of Stumptown ahead of me, I started to give less and less power to my competitive side and got back on the “just finish” band-wagon. I kept Tom in my sights and just mimicked his run/walk strategy, which FINALLY got us up to the top of Ball Mountain again. I was neck and neck with Tom rolling into Rock Garden where I saw Michael Aish (two time New Zealand Olympian) sitting on a camping chair drinking a can of Coke. He said, “Nice hat” (I was wearing a Run CO hat from his running store) and I said, “AISH”. We chatted for a few moments and he informed me that he wasn’t racing today, but rather just training for the LT100 and that he’d see me later. I grabbed a cheese rollup, took a bite and struggled to swallow it for the next 5 minutes. The rest of it went to the forest creatures as I tossed it.

Actual Time – 4hrs 33mins

Rock Garden to Printer Boy Inbound (34.5 mile aid/crew station) ~

The best part of this section was going DOWN the original 14 to 18 mile segment that plagued my dreams days before. I caught some good momentum down this stretch, but was still struggling with the knowledge that I was NOT eating correctly and tried to focus on making sure I drained my Roctane and tried a PocketFuel (almond butter paste). Bad idea. It was the first time in the day that I started to gag because it was so thick and my mouth was so dry that I had to eventually wash it all down with straight water in one gulp. I was a little deterred by that and when I made the turn back into the trees towards Printer Boy, I started to really feel the up-hills. I had little strength to push hard so I stuck with the plan to run/walk. One strong runner came flying by me (sand bagger) and then a few minutes later, Aish came right up on my side with a happy greeting. I said, “Go get ‘em Mike”. His response was silent as he showed me his watch wasn’t even on at that point and I was reminded I was NEVER in his league. He was out there having fun as I struggled.

As I came into Printer Boy, I was VERY encouraged by the cheers of my family, friends and spectators. When I came upon AJ, I wasn’t given the choice for sunscreen …he just sprayed it on me, which I was grateful for because I’m not sure I could have made smart decisions like that myself. I ditched gloves, arm sleeves and extra food. AJ offered me some food, the first of which was another PocketFuel and I emphatically said “NOOOO”. I grabbed 4 gels, AJ refueled my fluids and told me that I had one final push to go and then it was all down hill. One more big kiss to my wife and a kiss to my daughter, who wasn’t really interested in any more kisses from her sweaty, smelly dad.

Actual Time – 5hrs 12mins

Feeling hot, but "up" coming into Printer Boy Inbound

Trying not to fall down the steep little hill at Printer Boy Inbound

Printer Boy to Black Cloud Inbound (40 mile aid station) ~

On the way out of the aid station, I could see Tom and Aish ahead of me chatting. Aish dropped back for a second to meet up with me and said, “no need to run alone. Come up and run with us”. What I wanted to say was “Piss off Aish”, but instead I said, “Don’t wait for me. I’m going to take my time”. He promptly went back up to Tom and ran with him for a few steps and I could tell immediately that Tom must have said the same thing because in seconds, Aish was almost a half mile ahead of us. It was clear that both Tom and I were struggling up these HARD four miles and it was easily the most hiking miles of the day. As I lumbered through those 4 miles, I pushed on knowing that AJ was right …this was the last hard push of the day as my gluts and quads were screaming. About 50 yards from the peak/high point, Tom slowed down so I could catch up with him. He congratulated me on a great first ultra and told me he wasn’t going to push the downhill coaxing me to push as hard as I could the rest of the way home. Stand up guy through and through.

As I turned the corner to go down, I could immediately feel that my quads were wrecked and I couldn’t bomb this section like I had hoped. It was a challenge to keep the wheels on all the way down to the Black Cloud aid station. It was a muddy and technical section and I almost went straight into a mud bog as I took a bad step, but I recovered quickly. It was right after that when the hail started. The tiny little pellets at my back, neck and exposed arms were never a problem, only a nuisance and it only lasted about 5 minutes.

The biggest struggle for me in this section was expecting the aid station any second, but it just never felt like it was going to come. I finally ran into the aid station and was greeted by about 8 race crew members. They asked me what I needed and I said, “Nothing …I just want to stop for a few seconds”. I walked a few steps, cleared out all my trash and grabbed a gel, which I threw back down my gullet. Time to tackle the final 7 miles.

Actual Time – 6hrs 23mins

Black Cloud to the Finish (HOME) ~

I knew the next 7 miles were going to be a struggle because the descent slowly eased up and my legs were slowly losing the ability to pick up, which caused more of a shuffle. With about 6 miles to go, I somehow got a rock stuck in my sock down against my big toe. I struggled with that for about 2 miles and couldn’t get it out. I couldn’t bring myself to sit down and get it out worried I might not be able to get back up and get my muscles firing again. I finally noticed a new pain in the tendon along the top of my big toe running up my foot towards my shin. This pain out weighed the pain of the rock and I quickly stopped worrying about the one pain and focused on the other. Each mile ticked down very slowly and for the first time I was CLEARLY aware of the distance I had run and how many more miles I had left. I was alone the entire last seven miles and was hungry for company and to see someone …anyone. I rounded one of the corners, which was manned by the Ken Chlouber (Founder of the LT100) telling me there were women waiting for me at the finish. I laughed and said, “I thought this was the finish line”.

After the laughs were done, I made the final push home. Much to my delight, it started to lightly rain as I crested the top of Dutch Henry, which I saw over 7 hours earlier. I heard the cheers of my family and friends below not knowing what they were saying, just encouraged by their cheers. I rounded the corner and headed down a steep hill to see my daughter first, then AJ, then my happy wife and friends Heidi and kids. I raised my hands up high with pride, joy, relief and satisfaction. Coming out of the finishing chute I was first greeted by AJ with a hug …something AJ swore he’d never do and did. I was a rookie and was very pleased with my debut performance. I finished in 6th place overall and 1st place in my age group and crushed my original goals. I started the day with anxiety and ended the day with a gratitude for the love and support of my family, friends, fellow racers and especially for my health. This is a day that I will never forget.

              Actual – 7hrs 29mins – 6th place overall – 1st place in Masters Age Group

With rain coming down, I was relieved to see family and friends

Officially done and ready for my award and to just sit down