Monday, January 27, 2014

Weekly Training Wrap - 1/20 - 1/26

Tough week. Early in the week I started feeling a cold/virus coming on and by midweek I felt steamrolled. By Thursday, I was sleeping in a fetal position under the covers and shaking. This has to be the worst I have felt since the week before I ran my first 50 mile race -- Leadville SR in 2011. I am very fatigued, congested, and have lost five pounds. After three days of rest, I tried to make a comeback on the weekend and felt sluggish and tired both days. Despite super easy paces, my HR was about 10 beats per minute too high for each run. Good thing these kinds of weeks don't happen often. The other good thing was that I had a chance to bank some good early week miles with Monday being MLK day.

The positive thing happening is that my knee is feeling pretty strong and there have been no setbacks despite pushing an average 35 miles per week for two months now. I am starting to want to push toward 50 miles per week and possibly six days of training. In fact, I had hoped to do that last week before I got sick. To make up for the additional running, I am going to try to do a little cross training each day instead of scheduling days for it. The goal would be to do fifteen to thirty minutes or four to six exercises five or so days a week.  I can easily fit this kind of work in while I watch TV or at lunch or whatever -- it is just a question of making it a priority. I guess that is always the case with cross training. Another goal is to make sure I am doing it in a way where I am not sore all the time.

Day Miles Notes
Monday 10Ridgeline Trails
Tuesday 7 Easy/Base
WednesdayOff Strength Training
FridayOff Rest
Saturday 7Easy/Sluggish
Sunday 11Easy/Sluggish
Total 36

Friday, January 24, 2014

Altra Lone Peak 1.0 Review

I have been wearing Altra shoes for over a year with some ups and down. In general, I really like their shoes, primarily their flag ship shoes -- Instinct and Lone Peak. (My primary complaint is the somewhat regular quality problems with some of their newer makes and 1.5 models.)  But I have wide feet and love me a wide toe box. No one does wide toe boxes like Altra. No one. When I purchased my Lone Peak last Summer, I intended for them to be my ultra length trail shoe.  Due to injury, have not had much of a chance to test them out until the past few months. Out on a run today, I decided I should write up my thoughts on these great shoes.

A little background first, I have been trail running for three years now and have yet to find a shoe I love on the trails. I am a relatively large runner and generate quite a lot of force coming down onto sharp/pointy objects, but I still prefer a shoe with some ground feel and responsiveness. The shoe I first tried was the New Balance MT101. That shoe was a home run and I ran 50 miles pretty much out of the box with them. They completely redesigned it when they made the MT110 and it was never the same (primarily due to the lateral build up that gave my post-tib fits). My next shoe choice was Brooks Pure Grit. I love everything about that shoe -- some cushion, minimal upper, no real features -- but my feet took a pounding during the San Juan Solstice 50 without a rock plate.

Later that same Summer (2012), I began a serious hunt for trail shoe to get me through the Leadville 100. My requirements were that the shoe be minimal enough to give me a feel without unnecessary features and weight while having a beefy enough platform to protect my feet. One of the members of the Leadville 100 User Group board suggested the Lone Peaks. If only I had listened.... Instead, I went with some Saucony Peregrine and wound up with horrible underfoot blisters in two ultras in them.

At long last I got some Lone Peak....

The Positives:
  • The best thing I can say is that they are a very comfortable shoe for hours on end
  • Lugs are responsive for most conditions, including snow and ice
  • A very good "stone guard" and plenty of cushion
  • Weight is 10 oz, but they don't feel heavy or "clunky" me
  • The price is not bad, though I have to love a shoe for $115
  • Maintain some ground feel, primarily sockless and without the footbed
  • With the footbed and the optional Altra Stability Wedge, the shoe suddenly has quite a bit of cushion (25-27 mm) and some stability. This could be beneficial in the late stages of a 100.
  • A responsive and flexible sole for a shoe that is non-minimal and has a rockplate.
The Room for Improvement
  • Not great at draining water (improved in the 1.5 model)
  • I'd like to see the upper streamlined a bit (maybe a seamless upper) to cut a little weight and dry faster (also improved in the 1.5 model)
  • Not sure of the purpose of the mud flap on the back. I am tempted to just cut it off.
  • The laces are a bit long, but I used them to create a runner's loop on the last eye lit and really cinch down the midfoot

Overall, I would call this a Goldilocks shoes.
Lugs still look new after 150 miles

Selling the stability wedge separate for any shoe was a brilliant move by Altra

My only signs of wear is some stitching in coming undone inside. Near as I can tell, this won't impact the viability of the shoe.

Ultramarathon Nutrition and Hydration Revisited

Previously I discussed methods for determining how many calories you need to eat during an ultra and various strategies to get there. I believe the method outlined before is still the method used by the majority of the athletes in a race, elites and back-of-the-pack folks alike. But my personal experience has given me some reservations about this strategy.

My primary problem is that I believe I am drinking too much, as much as 24-40 oz per hour. Depending on consuming so many carbs via beverage forces me to drink a ton. Worse, on hot days, the sugar in my beverages leaves me with a feeling of cotton mouth and makes me want to drink more. During the Leadville 100, I was the same weight at the end as the start of my race. And I was urinating every 45 minutes or so, particularly in the middle of the night. If you have followed the work of Tim Noakes in his book Waterlogged, then my description above probably strikes you as excessive and maybe even a little dangerous. Noakes suggests that we should be a little dehydrated and that the dehydrated athletes often do the best by going into a state of temporary dehydration as their body adapts to the stress of racing. Transient dehydration is temporary and our bodies can remain in this state for some time (like 4-8 hours) without being in jeopardy.  And, if we listen to our bodies, we'll probably become thirsty and forced to slow down at about 2% dehydration. The mantra among those that follow Noakes has become "drink to thirst" and forget salt. (While Noakes suggests salt is not necessary, he acknowledges that moderate amounts don't hurt either.)

The other problem that I have with the previously laid out nutrition plan is that I am a relatively large athlete. My 190+ pound racing weight translates into a very difficult to accomplish goal of 350-400 calories per hour in a long race. Not much tastes that good and cramming in 400 calories is awful during race conditions. And, many of the high carbohydrate sources begin to give athletes GI problems in portions that high over long enough time periods. These GI problems are individual to everyone, but it is not uncommon to experience them during or after a race.

Enter the "Holy Grail" of nutrition plans, as described by Ben Greenfield. A similar strategy was used by Jason Schlarb to win the Run Rabbit 100 this past September, where he reportedly ate only 1500 Kcals in 17 hours! Sure, he probably weighs 135 pounds and runs 100+ miles a week, but still, that is ridiculously low. Also, see Timothy Olsen's nutrition plan.

So what is this Holy Grail plan? The summary is that you go into extreme fat burning mode and consume only the most slow burning carbs (such as Generation Ucan*), easy to digest fats, and water. The trouble with sugar or maltodextrin sources of carbs is that they spike your blood sugar, which causes your body to prefer to burn carbs, requiring you eat more carbs. It is a vicious circle. Ben Greenfield also recommends Master Amino Acid Pattern, which I have been taking for over a year. These pills basically provide your body with easy to absorb amino acids that help protein synthesis to stave off central nervous system fatigue and muscle wasting. I use these pills with ANY nutrition strategy. When you put all the pieces of this plan together, it is possible for a well-trained athlete to consume only 100-200 Kcals per hour and perform.

What's the catch and why doesn't everyone do it? Well, the first problem is that your body has to be extremely fat adapted. This typically starts with your everyday diet. Both Ben Greenfield and Jason Schlarb follow a low-carb-high-fat (LCHF) diet. They do not subscribe to the theory that you must eat disproportionate amount of carbs to train at a high level. It can take months to transition to this type of diet, not a small undertaking when you are trying to train for a race. The good news is that I have been following the Paleo diet for nearly two years now, and the Atkins diet before that. So, I am somewhat familiar with low-carb.  Ketosis is a totally different animal. Similarly, training to get to this level of fat adaption is going to feel sluggish for a while. Personally, I like to do 85% of my running across a given year in Zone 1 and Zone 2 to ensure that I am nearly totally aerobic and burning mostly fat. This type of training requires a lot of time (at least 8-12 hours a week when training for a race), a heart rate monitor (and an understanding of what that data means), and extreme patience and discipline.

The other difficulty with this plan is that Generation Ucan is not cheap and not particularly easy to work with. Because it is a super starch, it comes in a really fine powder that is hard to mix, particularly on the run. It also doesn't taste tremendous. Ben Greenfield's solution -- which I aim to try -- is to mix several servings of the plain flavor into a gel like consistency with a flavor adding agent into a small flask/handheld. A flask or handheld should provide many hours of sustained energy in a relatively small container. Take one mouthful every 30 minutes and you are done! Of course, if your plan is to run 100 miles, you'll have to have more of it ready to go in crew stations.

Another viable option, and one I think many people will likely end up doing, is to start with a Ucan based plan for the first half to two thirds of a race and then switch to an "anything that sounds good" plan for the remaining portion of the race.

* A quick little side note to acknowledge that Ucan has many uses and endurance racing is only one of them. Many athletes prefer it as their carbohydrate source for shorter distance racing, CrossFit, etc.. My purpose here is just to illustrate the difficulties facing an athlete that plans to race for longer than a marathon and up to twenty-four hours.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Weekly Training Wrap - 1/13 - 1/19

This week was a continuation of my plan to run with no real plan. I am loosely following the 50 mile race on 50 miles per week plan from the book Relentless Forward Progress. But that is mostly just to give me markers for my long runs and minimums for my weekly mileage. This week didn't offer much structure from day-to-day and I am continuing to just run mostly easy. Once in a while I throw in a hard workout, usually when the weather pushes me to the treadmill. Anyway, my body is continuing to respond well (mostly) and I'll keep building easy mileage for at least a little bit longer. Hopefully my body and my motivation start to line up for some harder training by mid-March. Motivation is always a little low for me in the winter. But one thing is undeniable, I prefer the trails right now, even in less than ideal conditions.

Obviously, the biggest run of the week was my first 20 miler in seven months. I used to run 20-milers nearly every weekend, nearly two-dozen times in each of 2011 and 2012. That number dropped to 6 times in 2013. That distance remained an elusive mental barrier, until now. By the time I was done, I was stiff, sore, and pretty gassed, but it went pretty well all things considered.

I was talking with my buddy Chuck on our run today and my knee isn't "right", but I am not sure it is "wrong" either. There are good days and bad. Things are continuing to progress as I build mileage and balance XT. But there remains constant reminders that I need to go easy. I am not running through pain that is irresponsible, mostly a 1-2 on a scale of 10, and it never gets worse on the run. In fact, many days, it feels better if I run. However, there is low-grade aches that are seemingly everywhere. Some days they are behind my knee. Some days they are the front. Some days it is along my shin. Rarely is it ever on the side, where it resided quite extensively last summer. The long and the short of it is that I continue to rehab and rebalance (I think my quad and hamstrings are sort of out of balance) while I wait for things to feel full go. I honestly think the track I am on is normal and that day will come. In the mean time, I just need to find the confidence to keep pushing and not worry about the bad days.

Not shown in the table below is the amount of rehab work I do. While I have designated days for Yoga and strength training, I lots of stretching and PT/rehab exercises each day. I am struggling mightily to get my left hamstring to loosen up and my left my quad to strengthen and "fire" so I can handle some real vertical.

Day Miles Notes
Monday 6Night Run on Trails
Tuesday Off Strength Training
Wednesday6 Lunch Time Trails
Yoga for the Core
Thursday6Easy with my wife
FridayOff Rest
Saturday 20Cheyenne Mtn Trails
Sunday 4Recovery
Total 424400 feet of vert

Monday, January 13, 2014

Weekly Training Wrap - 1/6 - 1/12

Another solid, even if unspectacular week of training. I intended to make it a cut-back week, and I think I honored that. Overall, it was only 5 fewer miles than last week, but it was one additional run as well. So the mileage per run dropped significantly. I did nail a hard TM workout on Wednesday called Faster/Faster from McMillan running. Here is the description of the run from my Strava log:
TM workouts, it's called Faster/Faster. The idea is to w/u. (I did 12 mins with two fartleks to get the legs going).  Next, do a quarter at "easy pace" (I avg'd about 7:30), then a quarter at "tempo pace" (I avg'd about 6:40), then a quarter at "speed pace" (I avg'd about 6:15), then a quarter at recovery. I repeated that sequence four times, all at 1% grade. Then I cooled down for 10 mins and did some light stretching afterward.
I was happy with result of the workout in that I could nail the paces, mostly on the faster side, and my HR data lined up well.

Another good run was my weekend, hilly, road, mid-long. I was intending to do this workout at 8:45 or 9:00 pace, but wound  up pushing it so about 8:20 with some friends. The good news was that it wasn't that hard, as indicated by my HR data. In fact, we were even getting progressively faster as the run went along. However, my left hamstring still gets a bit annoyed at these long road runs (not so much on the trails).

One last note, I signed up for my second race of the 2014 season, Quad Rock 25 miler. Honestly, I wasn't prepared to sign up for a race this soon, but it filled up faster than I wanted. In fact, I got the last spot in the 25 mile race. I felt like I needed a Spring race to give a little purpose to my training and to start focusing my mentality away from being injured. My original plan was to run a Spring marathon, but I realized that my only goal would be BQ and, if I did BQ, it would create a scheduling conflict between Boston 2015 and Western States 2015. Long story short, I decided against doing that. I wanted to think about QR a bit longer, but I wasn't given the choice. The other deciding factor was that the climbs are similar to the Bear 100 so I can count this is good practice. And, I have great respect for Nick Clark. I am excited to see what kind of race Nick puts on.

Day Miles Notes
Monday OffYoga
Tuesday 7 Easy with Fartleks
Strength Training
Wednesday7 4 x Progressive Mile (McMillan Faster/Faster)
FridayOff Yoga
Body Weight Strength Training
Saturday 13Road Mid-Long
Sunday 4Recovery
Total 34

Monday, January 6, 2014

Weekly Training Wrap - 12/30 - 1/5

Sort of a strange week to end the Holidays. I had only four runs, but managed my biggest week in a long time. Overall things feel pretty good and I am starting to hunt for 2014 races and plans. While I have not signed up, I am starting to eye the North Fork 50 and may begin an unofficial training plan for that race as early as next week. As I mentioned in my 2014 goals, a good 50 mile race has appeal to me. That one fits my schedule and matches my idea of a good race.

Day Miles Notes
Monday OffBody Weight Strength Training
Tuesday 9 Fartleks and Progression
Wednesday13 New Years @ Deer Creek
Thursday6Zone 2/Easy
Body Weight Strength Training
FridayOff Yoga
Saturday 11Blizzard Mid-Long
Sunday OffYoga
Total 40

Friday, January 3, 2014

2014 Running Goals

It is that time of year and so I will play along! I am feeling as healthy as I have felt in many months and my optimism is high. My goal in having surgery last August was to be 100% and ready to attack 2014. I think I am more like 85-90%, but trending the right way.

Measurable Goals

  1. Finish my 2nd 100 mile race (Bear 100) - I never planned to run a 100 in 2013, so that is one thing I did right! I knew I needed a year off from the challenge and I am glad I took it. But now I am ready. And I am ready for a different scenery besides Leadville. Of course, I need it to qualify for Western States 100 too...
  2. Run 2500 miles and 215K of vertical - Done right, I think these numbers are both attainable and in my wheelhouse. In the past, I have entertained thoughts of being a 3-4K mile guy, but I am not. I get injured. I lose motivation. I miss my family.
  3. PR in the 50 mile distance (8:59?) - the 50 mile distance is sort of the tease for me. I don't have enough experience, nor do I train enough miles, to feel like I can "race" a 100. But for some reason, I really believe I have a good 50 mile race in me. I came close last year at Old Pueblo. I would love to break the 9-hour barrier in a reasonably hard 50 (at least 6K of vertical?).

Less Measurable Goals (Resolutions?)

  1. Be kinder to me - I tend to beat myself up about little things. If I get injured, I get upset with myself for not cross training enough. And I cross train more -- and more intelligently -- than just about any runner I know. When I have a bad day of eating, I do the same thing. A very good goal for me in 2014 would be to accept that bad things and bad days will happen and that I cannot control/fix/avoid them all.
  2. Be more versatile and flexible - this stems from a training post I wrote a while back and many conversations that I have had with friends since then. The point is that I have often get rigid in the way I think about training, cross training and nutrition. I have gone through numerous iterations on all these topics. One of my goals for 2014 is to be a better runner at all distances from the mile to 100 miles. So I need variety in my training. I don't need to constantly pound out back to back 20s on the trails every weekend. And, I'd like to be more flexible with my cross training -- mix it up. That is after all the point of cross training! And finally, this relates to the little things everyday. I am so used to having a plan on paper and then forcing a workout in. I'd like to just take more of what each day gives.

Bear 100, It is On

I took the plunge on December 30th and signed up for my 2nd 100 miler, Bear 100 on September 26th, 2014. The race is nearly 10 months away, so the wave of emotions isn't quite the same as it was for Leadville two year ago. Other than the fact that I am running with a couple of good friends, I don't know too much about what the race experience and training journey will be like. If you ask me now, the journey is about enjoying a tremendous race, returning to health, and qualifying for Western States 100. Ask me after a few months of good training and the answer might be different.

I have already begun to break down the race. There are a few things that stand out right away. The first is that the race is harder than Leadville (my only other 100), by about 8% or probably one to two hours of running time all things equal. It is a totally different race than Leadville in that the altitude is not as much of a factor. The majority of the race is from 6000 to 8500 in elevation, with an average in the low 7000 range. Considering that I live at 6500 feet and train mostly between 6500 and 8000, that is a great thing for me; I don't need to seek out high elevation training runs. Rumor is that eating is easier at lower elevations. I sure hope that is true for me.

The other big difference is that Leadville is more of a running race and Bear is more of a climbing race. Bear has roughly four thousand feet more of vertical than Leadville. And, the vertical comes in the form of more climbs that are generally more steady. Leadville really has five climbs that get your attention, but two of them comprise the majority of the vertical in the race (Hope Pass). Bear doesn't have anything as steep as Hope Pass, but lots of climbing between 5 and 10% grade. I count double the number of climbs that are in Leadville. The short story here is that this is also a benefit for me as there are more hills around that are 8% grade than 15%! It will be easier to specifically train for the elements of Bear, even if it is a harder race.

This race comes highly recommended and have high expectations for a great time!