Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday Evening's Random Thoughts

Well, my calf is still tweaked but it is getting better each day. I've been treating it with ice, self'-massage, Traumeel ointment, epsom salts baths, and as much time off of it as my mind can take.

I tried running yesterday morning but after only 2 miles it was clear that it's just not ready yet. The good thing is that I can bike with little to no pain and I can also cross country ski with little to no pain. The bad thing is that the weather this week hasn't been very good for either one.

Despite the fact that my girlfriend rides her bike in every imaginable type of horrible weather I just don't have that same willingness for suffering.

The skiing was pretty good today but the temperatures have just been hovering in the low to mid 30's and it's been raining and or snowing all week. What snow we have is just so dang sloppy that the skiing is fairly marginal.

Today would have been quite nice classic skiing except that I put on too soft of a kick wax so I was getting some pretty annoying icing up going on. I really need to get some waxless skis for conditions like these but that's one purchase I probably won't be making until next winter. The skate skiing was pretty good today too. Kind of slow and punchy but still pretty fun. The only problem is that I just haven't been that interested in skate skiing this year. For some reason I just feel like I always want to classic ski, even if the conditions are better for skating.

So until I can run again (I'm hoping Monday or Tuesday) it'll have to be a combination of skiing and biking on the stationary bike at the gym (I really don't see myself actually going out for a bike ride in the next several days since the forecast calls for more wind, rain, snow, and temperatures in the 30's).

I'm not yet too concerned about this little setback, but the ITI does start 4 weeks from tomorrow and is BY FAR the most difficult foot race I have ever attempted, and I have run less than 30 miles in the last 14 days. I've still got a little more time in which to deal with this calf problem, but if I'm not running pain free in another few days, or by next weekend at the latest then it definitely becomes much more of a concern. I'm very optimistic that this will heel up and be of no concern going forward, I just want it to do so ASAP. A little extra rest here probably hasn't been a bad thing, but at this point I am 100% recovered from the HURT 100, and pretty much was 3 or 4 days ago. Now that I've fully kicked the stomach bug I had earlier in the week I'm feeling very healthy, energetic, and raring to go... if only my right calf felt the same as my left one.

Oh, and tomorrow's the big day. No, not the Super Bowl. The lottery drawing for the Hardrock 100! It'd be sweet to get drawn in but more than anything I'm looking forward simply to knowing whether I'm in or not because the entire middle of my summer racing schedule will be affected by whether I'm doing Hardrock or not.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Some Weeks You Just Don't Have It

Pretty soon after my last post on Monday morning it became very clear that I was getting sick. I went into work at noon that day, but by the end of my shift 6 hours later I was feeling horrible. I slept 12 hours that night and after some intense stomach pains during the night I woke up yesterday feeling quite a bit better. However I still had no appetite and my overall energy level was very low from not eating anything all day Monday. Thus I took yesterday off from any training (as well as Monday) figuring that I should then be back to normal and feeling strong today.

This morning my stomach still didn't feel totally back to normal, but I was able to eat a decent breakfast and headed out for a run around 10:00, excited to be "back in the swing of things." Unfortunately I only got about a mile down the road and I strained my right calf muscle. I didn't do anything specific. I was just running along on smooth pavement and suddenly one step later my calf was much too sore to run. Now I'm stuck with icing and massaging and hoping. I hope it's not anything that lingers for too long. A few days will be no big deal, but if this injury pushes very far into next week it becomes a pretty large concern with the Iditarod Invitational just over a month away. So if you all have any tips for treating what I presume is a minor calf strain I'm all ears.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Some Days You Just Don't Have It

I suspect that I'm not as close to fully recovered from the HURT 100 as I thought I was. I did about 13 miles of running and 8 miles of biking (to and from work) yesterday and felt pretty good through most of it. My plan was to get back into normal training load beginning today, but then I woke up this morning feeling like I ran another 100 miler yesterday. I don't have any soreness or anything like that, but my body just feels exhausted and I have a horrible headache. I might be getting sick or I might just need more recovery time, it's hard to tell right now. Either way I think today will be better spent mostly indoors giving my cats the attention that they have missed since Jill and I were gone to Hawaii for almost two weeks.... Maybe I'll hit up the gym if I'm feeling better after work.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Halfway Serious (and thus halfway joking) Ego Trip Rant

With my sidebar poll now closed I should mention (for those that aren't yet aware) that a couple weeks ago Ultrarunning Magazine released their results for runner of the year and performance of the year. Looks like the voters on my blog were fairly in tune with the "anonymous" panel that chooses the award for the magazine. In both cases Kyle's unbelievable Hardrock run were clear winners.

Click here to check out Ultrarunning's tally

Being as new to the national scene as I am (2008 was the first year that I ran any ultras outside of Alaska) I didn't really expect to draw much attention from whoever makes up this anonymous panel, and well, I guess I got what I expected. Perhaps I just had a very lucid dream that I won Wasatch with one of the fastest times in the race's long history.

I did get a handful of votes for runner of the year, but I would have thought that winning as many 100 milers (2) as any male runner in the country would have perhaps gotten me a little more attention on that front as well. Then again the only other guy to also win two 100 milers (Karl Meltzer) got even fewer votes than I did so who am I to complain?

Anyhow, It is what it is - not something to get all uptight about. It's time I draw this shameless self indulgent rant to a close before I make myself sick. It would have been some nice icing on the cake to get a little more attention/respect for my accomplishments in 2008 but that's over and done and I'm super excited to push myself harder in 2009. And of course I'll gladly trade the lack of attention my performances in '08 got me with this anonymous panel for the fact that I've now (with the first 100 miler in '09 in the books) won more 100 mile races than anyone in the country in the past year.

Friday, January 23, 2009

HURT 100 Race Report

I went into this race not really certain of what to expect. I did not approach this as a "focus" race so I didn't even take the time before hand to check out any of the course, instead I spent most of the 3 days that I was in Hawaii before the run hanging out at the beach and doing runs that were pretty mellow, but a bit running more than I usually do the few days before such a tough race. Basically I was looking for that fine line between being as prepared as possible, but without forcing my body into too much a valley and then a peak such that it would throw too much of a kink into my Iditarod Invitational training.

Because this was my approach I was able to sleep much more the night before the race than I usually am. I had very little performance anxiety about this one so instead of laying in bed thinking about every last detail for hours on end I actually slept for about 5 of the 8 hours that I was trying to sleep (about twice as much as my average the night before a race). It felt weird the next morning to drive to the race feeling pretty well rested. Usually I feel like a train wreck as I'm making my way to a race.

I stuck with my usual approach though of showing up as late to the start as comfortably possible. Nothing worse than standing around in the dark, freezing your ass off, wishing you had slept an extra 30 minutes so you didn't have to stand there for so long.

And then we were off. I started somewhere near the back of the pack because I didn't want to get caught up in the mindset of racing right off the start. I figured the more removed I was from the leaders early on the more likely I would be able to actually hold back as much as I hoped to for at least the first couple laps. I stuck pretty well to this plan until heading into the first aid station (mile 7). The way the course is laid out (out and back stretches leading into 2 of the 3 aid stations on each 20 mile lap) you pretty much see the entire field every couple hours. At this point I was pretty surprised by how far ahead of me a few guys were. I knew that we were all running much faster than any of us could possibly sustain but it seemed very odd nonetheless.

For the rest of that first lap I tried as best I could to hold back but I ended up getting to the start/finish aid station in 3:45 (about 30 minutes faster than I assumed I would). Surprisingly this still put me about 15 minutes behind Paul Hopwood who was running in the lead.

On the second lap I didn't speed up at all, but I also didn't slow down as I wanted to. I was trying to slow down but I ended up running about the exact same time on the second lap as the first. I was a lot more relaxed on this lap because I did take over the lead at about mile 28. This was certainly earlier in the race than I wanted to be pulling away from the entire field if this really was to be a "training" run, but I just went with it because I began to feel much more warmed up and comfortable with the idea of likely being able to maintain a similar pace for most of the race.

I did have a really tough stretch on the second lap climbing up out of Jackass Ginger aid station. For about 3 miles (around race mile 34-37) I felt really depleted and weak. I was pretty concerned about this at the time but I really focused on getting down as much liquid and calories as possible and within about 30 minutes I was feeling much better.

Lap 3 was when I really started to pay attention to my potential for a great finishing time if I could sustain anything close to the pace I was cruising along at. I decided early on in lap 3 that I would run that lap with the same effort as the first 2 laps and assess my chances at going for the course record based on what my lap time for lap 3 was. I could feel that my 3rd lap wasn't going to be quite as fast as my first two, but I also knew that if it was anywhere below 4:15 I probably had a shot at breaking the course record.

Heading down into Jackass Ginger on the 3rd lap I ran into my buddy Dave Johnston who was climbing up out of there on his second lap. Dave's one of those guys who is always in a good mood with a huge smile on his face. I don't know that I've ever seen anyone who so obviously loves ultra racing as much as Dave. Problem is Dave looked really beaten and it was clear that he was struggling. I later heard that he dropped out at the end of his second lap. Bummer. I suspect he'll be back to tackle that beast another time.

I finished lap 3 in 4:00 and although I had slowed down a little bit I was actually beginning to feel even more comfortable with the much faster than planned effort that I was putting in. The course was very technical, but also very similar to the trails I run here in Juneau in the summer time. When I get in a groove I can move through roots and mud like they're not hardly there. By about mile 50 (middle of 3rd lap) I was really getting into that groove. I was also getting my aid station routine perfectly dialed in. Throughout most of the race Jill was biking back and forth between the start/finish aid station and the Paradise aid station so twice per lap she was there with my drop bag items spread out on the ground for me to get anything I wanted almost instantly. While an aid station volunteer was filling my water bladder and/or bottles I'd grab a flask of gel, a bottle of perpetuem, and anything else I might need. Typically I was in and out of each aid station in 90 seconds or less.

By the middle of lap 3 I was also finally running my race and not focusing too much on the racers chasing me from behind. Now that I was thinking about going for the race record I didn't even really pay attention to how far the "chase" group was behind me. Looking at the splits now I see that they were less than an hour behind me at mile 60 so there was still a potentially close race going on if I slipped up much at all.

It got dark on lap 4 which was just fine with me. I really like running in the dark. Even though I know it slows me down it always feels like I'm running faster. Everything outside the beam of my headlamp just fades away and I feel like I'm running into a narrow tube with the sides just whizzing by me faster and faster as it gets darker and darker.

Dropping down into Paradise aid station (race mile 67) I met another friend, Evan Hone who was climbing up on his third lap. He was just about halfway through his race and he was sounding really good. To see Evan so upbeat at mile 50 was really exciting to me. Evan is a really strong runner who has had a tendency in the past to get pretty frustrated with himself (usually half jokingly and half seriously) during the tough stretches that everyone faces when racing an ultra. I was really rooting for him to have a breakthrough race and I was really stoked to see that he appeared to be well on his way to doing so.

The rest of that lap I just kept moving forward and feeling very relaxed. Time was dropping away quickly and I was doing a great job of sticking to my 300 or so calories per hour and drinking tons of water (I probably drank about 6 or 7 gallons throughout the entire race). I finished my 4th lap in 4:20 (the darkness probably accounted for most of my slowdown from lap 3).

I started my last lap with about 4:50 to break the course record. I knew I had a great shot at it, but it was close enough that it wasn't going to come without a solid last 20 miles. This would be my first lap run completely in the dark so I knew this would probably slow me down another 5 or 10 minutes from my previous lap so I really only had about 20 minutes to spare. If I faded by much more than that then I wasn't going to make it. The first half of that last lap I still felt very strong but at about mile 90 I began to have some really weak and dizzy feelings (very similar to how I had felt earlier in the race around mile 35). I was tired and I wasn't taking in enough calories. Even though it seems completely ridiculous now, I remember at about mile 85 I started to think that I would just finish on the calories I had in me and not bother to consume anymore of the fuel that I was kind of getting sick of. It's amazing how dumb one can be under the drunken spell of 85 hard miles. Luckily I snapped out of it around mile 90 and took in about 500 calories of gel all at once and that brought me back around. I popped in and out of Jackass Ginger aid station and now I only had 7 miles to go. I didn't let up, but I was slowing down as more fatigue crept in. Finally with just a few miles to go I knew I had the record in the bag and just relaxed and shuffled into the finish. The funny thing is that as soon as I slowed down I was having a terrible time staying on my feet. I never took a single fall the entire race until the last 2 miles when I fell 3 times and almost fell a few others.

I made my way down to the finish line with a 4:35 last lap, 20:28 total time, 15 minutes ahead of Matt Estes' 2007 record time. Jill, Anne, and Pam (all from Alaska) were all there when I came into the finish (even though it was the middle of the night). It felt good to be done, but as usual I didn't want to leave any time soon. I wanted to sit there and take it all in and root for other racers as they came through.

About 2 hours after I finished Evan came through with the end of his 4th lap. I was very relieved to see that he was still very positive and was heading back out entirely confident that he was going to finish. He ended up finishing in 10th place, just under 29 hours. Pretty kick ass for his first 100 mile finish. Check out his race report here.

I finally got up and made my way back to my hotel for a bath and a few hours sleep. I wanted to get back to see Evan finish but he ran his last lap too damn fast so we missed him come in by about 30 minutes. I suspect this won't be the last 100 miler I'll be seeing him at.

Obviously I ended up running this race harder than a "training" run but I'm very happy with how my body has felt afterwards. I did not push myself 100% into the ground the way I would in a "focus" race and now, 6 days later, I feel pretty near fully recovered and ready to move forward with my Iditarod Invitational final preparations (just over 5 weeks until that one starts).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

70 Degree Drop

Flew back into Juneau this morning after a pretty horrible flight through the night from Honolulu to Anchorage (lots of crying babies, puking drunks, and a lady sitting next to us almost passing out before an EMT on the flight helped her out and gave her some oxygen).

80 degrees when we left Kona yesterday afternoon and about 10 degrees here in Juneau. It actually feels nice though. It's a beautiful sunny day, but unfortunately I have to go to work. I want to just go to bed for the rest of the day and then out for a short run in the evening. We'll see how I feel after work and maybe we'll get that short run in before bed. I haven't run yet since the race but I feel fully recovered as far as muscle soreness goes. I'm sure there's still a lot of fatigue there but I suspect I'll be back training 100% by the weekend.

Thanks all for the congrats and kind words following my race from last weekend. I'll try to write up a decent race report tonight or tomorrow. Probably nothing too exciting. Basically I started running at 6:00 Saturday morning and at just before 2:30 Sunday morning I was done with the 5th loop. Other than that it was one of those runs that I really don't remember all that well. It went by very fast and for the most part very smooth. But as I said, more details within the next day or two.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

For 4 For

I was fortunate enough to remain undefeated at the 100 mile distance.

Now for some sleep. Full race report to come when I get back to Alaska. For now I'll let the results speak for themselves.

Thanks all for following along.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Follow Along... Unless Of Course You Have Something Better To Do This Weekend

The Hurt 100 will be updating race progress throughout the race on this webpage.

It sounds like the updates will be coming in about every 15 minutes throughout the weekend and the race starts at 6:00 AM Saturday, Hawaii time (that's 11:00 AM on the east coast).

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hawaii Bound

Jill and I leave early tomorrow for Hawaii. I've never been to Hawaii before so I really don't know exactly what to expect. It's been awhile since I've gone somewhere so new to me as Hawaii will be. It should be exciting, not just because it'll be so warm and sunny but also because it'll be something completely new.

We don't have much of a plan. We're taking stuff with us to be able to camp (which we probably will most of the time). We're flying into Honolulu tomorrow, I'm running The HURT 100 on Saturday, then we're flying down to "The Big Island" on Sunday, and back to Alaska next Thursday. I've got car rentals lined up in Honolulu and Kona but that's pretty much the extent of our plans. Other than that we'll just see where we end up and what we end up doing.

I really don't even have much of a plan for the race. I haven't focused much on the course and race details and I haven't decided yet just how much of an effort I'm planning to put into it. I'll just kind of let all that fall into place over the next several days. The one thing I am not willing to do is anything that is going to be a significant setback for my Iditarod Invitational training. If things feel good and smooth on Saturday I'm going to go with it and "run to win" if at all possible, but if things aren't going smooth for whatever reason I'm not (hopefully) going to push beyond that threshold that I would normally be willing to push beyond in a "focus" race. That is the threshold beyond which my body will be severely broken down and need significant recovery from. Sometimes I'm able to run a 100% effort and never go beyond this threshold (Wasatch) and other times there seems to be no way to avoid it (Miwok). I'm in great shape right now so I really hope that I'm able to stay below this threshold while still putting in a near 100% effort. I just wish it wasn't going to be about 70 degrees warmer than it's been here for most of the past month. I better be sure to be drinking lots of Nuun.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I can remember in high school when a "Long Slow Distance" (LSD) run meant about 90 minutes. Never more than 120. Now I don't think of a run as being long unless it's at least 3 hours and fairly often I do runs upwards of and, on occasion, over 5 hours. The psychology of these long runs is interesting to me. I almost never am excited about an upcoming long training run, but I almost always end up feeling very satisfied after doing one. Today I got in about 35 miles and I must say that I was not at all into it until about mile 20. After that though it became slowly more and more enjoyable and by the end of it I actually thought for a few minutes about staying out for two more hours to make it a nice even 50 miler. Ultimately I opted for the 35 miles that I had planned to do all along, but after almost cutting my run short several times in the first 20 miles it was kind of ironic that in the end I almost added 15 more miles onto it.

Anyway, the point is that there's something about long slow training runs that are almost always my least favorite runs to look forward to, but often my favorite runs to look back upon. When I do hill workouts, tempo runs, or intervals it's almost always the opposite. I'm usually very excited for these runs before hand but they often leave me feeling somewhat unsatisfied afterwards. I guess it's sort of like a movie that I hear lots of bad things about that ends up pleasantly surprising me. I often wonder if I had heard lots of good things about the same movie would I have liked it as much? Probably not. Perhaps my dread (that's a bit strong of a word most of the time, but today I was in fact dreading my long run) of long runs is why I end up usually liking them so much in hindsight. To finish a 4 or 5 hour run and suddenly realize, "wait, that wasn't so bad. That was actually kind of fun." Perhaps that's some of what's going on there.

What does all this mean for me? Well, no matter how much I enjoy these runs in hindsight they are still unenjoyable for me to look forward to. For this reason I have found myself doing fewer long training runs this year than last year. My way to still get the endurance (both mental and physical endurance) that these runs help develop has become to do a lot more "training" races between my "focus" races, and use these "training" races to replace the long (often dreadful) training runs. I did this over the summer leading up to Wasatch with "training" races of 25, 26, and 100 miles all within 6 weeks of the race. I'm also more or less in the middle of doing this now in preparation for The Iditarod Invitational. The HURT 100 next week and The Little Su 50k in February are both going to function primarily as "training" races for me. I've also discovered that long runs that also serve the purpose of getting me somewhere that I want to go are much more appealing to me to look forward to than long runs (like today's) that I do simply for the sake of getting in lots of mileage. My 6 hour course recon run on the last 25 miles of the Wasatch route in late August was so much more exciting to look forward to than a run like today.

I certainly go through phases with this, but for most of the past 6 months I have been in a phase where I would rather just race every month or so such that I don't feel like I need to be out running 40 or 50 mile training runs to build the endurance that I want to have for my next "focus" race that might be 2 or 3 months away.

I'm interested in how other ultra runners feel about this (or endurance athletes of any sport). If you're at the level where a long run is 30 or more (and sometimes many more) miles do you actually look forward to these runs? Or do you find yourself doing as I do and try to replace them with "training" races and/or runs that serve some agenda other than simply getting in the mileage?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

New Poll

There's been a couple of fun polls going around the Ultra Running blogosphere the past few weeks so I decided to add another one to the mix. This topic of performance of the year was being discussed several weeks ago on Karl's blog and last week on Paul's blog, and I suspect there will be more discussion of it in the coming weeks. Also coming in several weeks will be Ultrarunning magazine's choices for Runner of the Year and Performance of the Year. In the meantime I thought it'd be fun to throw a poll out here for curiosity's sake. 2008 was a year where no male ultrarunner really stood out in terms of runner of the year (in my opinion), but it was a year with a handful of kick ass individual performances that deserve further discussion/acknowledgement. For this poll I'm sticking with just trail races. There were some very impressive road ultra performances last year as well, but in my book that's a completely different conversation. I've picked out 4 that stand out in my mind, but please leave a comment with any suggestions of other noteworthy performances and I'll add them to the poll.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Winter's Got It's Hold On Juneau

We are in the midst of the longest stretch of constant wintry weather that I have experienced in years. I can remember winters like this growing up in the snowbelt east of Lake Ontario, but that is also based on my childhood memories which I'm sure are likely to be exaggerated. Even the one winter I spent in Homer, Alaska which was by far the snowiest winter I have ever experienced never had a stretch that I remember where the weather didn't warm up and calm down for this long. For one month now it has been well below freezing and very snowy. When it's not snowing the wind kicks up and the temperature drops down near zero with windchill around 30 below zero. I'm just glad I don't live in Fairbanks where it's been around 40 below zero most of this time.

I am now, after a month, finally getting accustomed to this weather. It's almost beginning to seem normal. I can't imagine how abnormal the 80 degree temps are going to feel in Hawaii next week!