Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Great Divide

The last couple years, before I decided that I was going to ride in The Great Divide Race this coming summer I would have felt more compelled to voice my opinion on the current "great divide" of The Great Divide. It's funny though, now that I'm actually riding in the race this year I really don't care so much. The only thing that bothers me is that with all the dispute going on between the GDR and The Tour Divide there now seems to be a choice that anyone who wants to "race" the GDMBR needs to make, and on some level one will be judged on that decision. This is unfortunate and hopefully those that are more passionately attached to one race or the other don't judge new people like me on which race we choose.

For me there are reasons that the GDR seems more appealing and there are reasons that the TD seems more appealing. Ultimately though I feel more drawn to the GDR, partly because it is the more established event that will likely include more riders, but mostly because it starts a week later and I am going to need all the time I can get to be ready for this with The Iditarod race going into early March, and with the Miwok 100k that I'm going to be running in early May.

Time will tell if both races can flourish. I kind of doubt it. I think that most people are drawn to events like these because there are going to be other like minded people lining up to ride the same race. If this weren't the case everyone would just go ride the Great Divide Route on their own. People want to compete with and share the experience with other people. Over the next few years one of these two events will, for various reasons, draw more riders and eventually this fact alone will cause more and more people to choose the "more popular" race and the "other race" will struggle to draw more than a few stubborn idealists. As far as which one will be which, I really don't care. You'll almost certainly only ever see me lined up at the start of whichever one I feel is going to have more riders (and especially more top riders) to test my abilities against. Whether that means starting in Banff or Montana I really could care less.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

First Video

Took my first little video clip with my new camera today. It's not great quality, but keep in mind this camera is about the size of a matchbox and weighs about as much as a quarter.

Here's me running with my sled up the Dan Moller Trail:

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I'm In Miwok

I didn't get into the Miwok 100k a couple weeks ago because it filled up in less than 15 minutes, but I put myself on the waiting list and now I'm in. I'll have about 8 weeks between the Iditarod Invitational and Miwok and then another 6 weeks between Miwok and The Great Divide Race. It's hard to say just how much focus I'll really be able to put on Miwok. That will depend mostly on how quickly I recover from the Iditarod Invitational and how much biking fitness I can build up in March and April while also trying to focus my training on The Miwok race. I'm not willing to significantly alter my GDR training but the Miwok will be the deepest field of quality runners I've ever raced against so I'm going to be pretty motivated by that factor.

By the way, there's less than a day left on my current poll and Pete and Jay are in a tie. Be sure to vote if you haven't already.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Earning A Little Rest

I've just completed what is likely the most ambitious 20 days of training in my life. Since the beginning of the year I've run 292 miles; XC skied 95 miles; biked 93 miles; and spent over 5.5 hours weight training. Total is over 66 hours of training so far in '08.

Best thing about it is that my body has handled it all with no problems to speak of. Despite feeling great though I'm going to take a mellow week this week and then try to put in 7 days straight of at least 20 miles of running next week. The idea here will be to simulate my race pattern of putting in long steady day after long steady day. There's obviously a big difference between putting in ~20 a day and 50-60 miles a day as I'll hope to do during the race, but at some point one must draw the line at how much volume of training is actually helpful. I think my body will comfortably handle 140-150 in one week of training (I've already had a few 7 day periods this month in which I've done over 120 miles with some other forms of training mixed in), but if I were to try much more than 150 I think my body might suffer negative effects from it. I've got to save those negative effects for February 24th.

It's a good feeling to be in such strong physical condition. Runs that would have taken a large amount of energy out of me just 6 or 8 weeks ago feel like recovery days right now. An example that comes to mind is the 20 mile run I did on Saturday dragging my sled full of gear. Total weight was 36 pounds and it didn't seem to slow me down at all. I was a bit tired out after the run but within an hour of stopping I felt completely recovered and my heart rate was back to it's normal resting rate of 40-43. At any other point in my life a 20 mile run would be my long day of the week and now I've worked so gradual up to this point that a 20 miler is more of an active recovery day.

I've still got a lot of work to do to be ready to take that first step on the 24th of February, but I sure feel a lot closer to being ready to handle this race (both physically and mentally) then I ever imagined I would be.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sick of the Primary Election Nonsense? Vote Here For Something That Actually Matters.

I've got a fun new poll in my sidebar. This one could make for a long conversation amongst enduro mountain bike riders but I thought a simple little poll would be fun too.

For those unfamiliar with these riders/events here's a little about them:

Iditarod Trail Invitational - 350 miles on snow in Alaska in February... very dark and very cold.
Pete Basinger's Blog

Grand Loop - 360 miles of very remote, rugged terrain in Western Colorado in June
Dave Harris' Blog

Great Divide Race - 2490 miles along the continental divide from Canada to Mexico in June
Jay Petervary's Blog

Colorado Trail Race - 530 miles of serious mountain riding (over 300 miles of singletrack and over 60,000 feet of climbing) through the Colorado rockies from Denver to Durango in July.

Each of these riders set a new course record in 2007 and every one of these was a very impressive performance. If you're not familiar with these events or riders take the time to read some of the above links. If you search through the race links and/or blogs you can find some race reports from these performances. Great stuff. Once you're done reading don't forget to come back here and vote in my poll.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Most People Would Not Tolerate This, Let Alone Enjoy It...

I just got in from a mellow 15 mile run tonight. The running conditions right now are about as miserable as possible. 34 degrees; heavy wind; rain, mixed with snow; standing water (on top of ice); and of course being that I didn't start my run until after dinner it was as dark as can be. In some ways it was pretty miserable (my fingers and toes were numb by mile 5), but overall I kind of really enjoyed it. There's something strangely satisfying about a run like this. I simply lower my head and just keep moving forward, and somehow after a few miles I really start to enjoy it. I guess my response to this kind of run makes me even a bit more optimistic that I might be able to find the patience and stubbornness to actually finish the Iditarod Trail Invitational. I'm sure there will be no shortage of moments when all I can do is just lower my head and keep moving forward... and somehow the thought of this seems really comforting to me.

Monday, January 14, 2008

60 Mile Weekend

I've always felt that how quickly I recover from hard workouts is the best indicator of what kind of shape I'm in.

I ran 30 miles on Saturday. It was a pretty good run. I had a stretch in the middle (from about mile 13-20) in which I felt pretty horrible but before and after that I felt pretty good.

I then got up at 7:00 on Sunday to go out for 20 miles. I was pretty tired by the end of that... but mostly just hungry. I came home and rested for 4 hours, eating about 2,000 calories in that time. At 2 pm I headed back out for 10 miles as well as some time at the gym. The amazing thing was that I felt great in this afternoon session. Almost no fatigue and my legs felt very fresh and quick. After that I went to work (on my feet) for 5 hours and still didn't feel tired out much at all when I got home at 10:30 pm.

I had run 60 miles in 28 hours and felt 100% recovered before going to bed. This morning I feel great. No fatigue. No soreness. I basically feel like I took a couple days off.

Apparently my body has learned to recover from 4+ hours of running with just a few hours of resting, hydrating, and eating. It's a good feeling to be 6 weeks away from the toughest physical challenge of my life and know that I am in the best shape I have ever been in.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Anatomy of a Sled

This has been a great week of training. A little new snow has led to some of the best skiing yet this year (I've XC skied 40 miles this week as well as the usual 80+ miles of running) and I've had a chance to get out a couple times with my sled full of gear. Today was a very good test run with my sled. Pulling 30 extra pounds is just plain hard work but as I make small adjustments to my sled it continues to become slighter easier.

I've had a few people inquire about the specifics of my sled, and I'm sure it will evolve further before February 24th, but here's a breakdown of what I'm pulling behind me right now:

The sled itself is a basic $10 kids sled that I bought at the local drug store:

I've attached a pair of youth cross country skis (110 cm) to the bottom to reduce friction and allow it to slide easier. The blocks of wood raise it up for a bit more clearance in case there is some depth to the snow:

I laced some cordage around the perimeter of the sled and attached webbing and buckles to this that I use to secure the load in place:

Also in the above picture you can see a strip of velcro all the way around the perimeter of the sled. I am currently sewing together an old rain poncho to form a cover that will velcro over my load and zip in the center. This will keep any loose or falling snow from filling up in the sled.

Here's a picture with some gear loaded in it:

The pole is 2 cross country ski poles (160 cm) that are clamped together to form one pole and the lower 18" of each pole is bent (using a conduit bender to avoid kinks) outward about 4 inches so they attach to the front outer corner of the sled:

At the top of the poles I have attached two 18" pieces of flexible tubing which then attach (with duct tape) to the harness which I built out of webbing, an old z-rest sleeping pad, and duct tape. Right now I have vinyl tubing on there but I'm going to try to replace it with silicone tubing so it doesn't get so stiff (and potentially breakable) at cold temperatures:

The poles are attached to the sled with perlon cordage that runs through the length of each pole and ties through holes drilled in the sled.

The end product is a sled with great control (unlike my system I used last year this sled is almost impossible to flip over and it tracks perfectly straight behind me no matter how uneven the trail is). I'm still tweaking it a bit to try to minimize the amount of shaking where it attaches around my waist but my new addition of the flexible tubing has helped greatly with this. I'm hoping silicone tubing will be flexible enough to absorb all of this shaking but not so flexible that it causes less control of the sled.

In all it's a pretty basic setup but it has taken me more than a year of testing and brainstorming to get to this point. I don't even want to know how many hours and how much money I have put into this thing. Almost every modification I have made evolved from an earlier attempt at the same modification that didn't work out so well. I've tried 3 different pair of skis, 2 harnesses, and 3 or 4 different pole systems. Hopefully the snow cover that I'm currently making works out ok on the first try because I've already spent about 2 hours working on it and I still have to sew a zipper in it and sew the velcro around the edge of it. I don't really want to deal with making a new one.

In the sled I'll be pulling all the gear to survive in interior Alaska in February:

  • negative 20 degree down sleeping bag
  • bivy sack
  • insulated sleeping pad
  • stove
  • fuel
  • cooking pot (mostly for melting snow)
  • extra clothing beyond what I'll be wearing (wool socks, liner socks, down jacket, waterproof/windproof shell, neoprene socks, down booties, neoprene booties, extra base layer, expedition weight thermal underwear, insulated ski pants, mittens, goggles, ski mask, expedition weight ski mask)
  • sled repair kit
  • multitool
  • small first aid kit
  • foot first aid kit
  • water (up to 6 liters at times)
  • food (up to 3 or 4 days worth at times)
  • basic toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, toilet paper)
  • lighter
  • emergency firestarter
  • chemical hand and foot warmers
  • extra batteries for headlamp, camera, and mp3 player/radio.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Miwok Blues

I've been trying to decide for the past several days whether to run the Miwok 100k in May. I went to bed last night still not sure but when I woke up at 6:59 this morning I decided I may as well just get up and register for the race as long as I was awake anyway. Registration began at 7:00 but it felt really nice to just relax in bed for awhile and it's not like 250 people were going to enter by 7:15 if I just waited a bit. Famous last words. When I finally got up at 7:20 the race was full!! I'm now on the waiting list but I don't expect anything to come of that.

The smart thing to do would be to take this as a sign that I shouldn't do a race in May at all and should just be focusing at that time on preparing for The Great Divide Race. Truth is though I'm thinking pretty seriously about running the Jemez Mountain 50 miler in New Mexico on May 17th. I guess the reason I feel an urge to run a race in May is that I'm not certain of how my body will recover from the GDR. It's entirely possible that I'll be too thrashed to make a serious attempt at a quality race in the late summer or fall. Then again I may have the same problem in May as a result of being too thrashed from the Iditarod Invitational.

The campout went OK the other night. I don't really like winter camping all that much but I did learn some things and actually got a pretty good night of sleep. Best part was that it was entirely clear that night and for my first time ever in Juneau I got to fall asleep looking up at a star filled sky.

I've got some work to do on my sled. For some reason it felt "heavier" than last winter loaded with all my gear but I didn't really have any more stuff in it then I did during the Susitna 100. It also seemed to jerk around on my back more than last year. Through a series of trial and error I'll get it dialed in. I just wish we had more snow so I had more options for training with my sled. Right now my only choice is to take it to the XC ski trails at the Mendenhall Lake Campground. Problem here is that the entire trail is only 1.8 miles and currently probably only has 2 or 3 inches of snow on it.

Friday, January 4, 2008

No More Annoying Stats...

My training log can now be found here. I'll also add a sidebar link soon. This makes more sense than filling up space on every post with boring statistics that most people probably don't care about. This also allows for a lot more detail if anyone is interested in that kind of thing. It breaks down all of my training by activity and calculates pace, 7 day totals, and other random stuff like that. for a few years I've kept track of all these things in a notebook but with this I can eliminate the notebook and the statistics at the top of my blog.

Also, check out the poll I added to the sidebar. I'll try to throw up a new poll every few days and I'll try to make them more exciting than this one.... but I just don't have much time to think about it right now.

I'm going to get some dinner in me now and then head out "The Road" (this is what we call the only road that goes more than 10 miles out of Juneau) for an overnight out by Herbert Glacier. This will be my first time camping with all my Ultrasport gear, my first time using my sled with it's new pole system that I recently finished, and my first time running in any kind of cold with the sock, shoe, overshoe setup that I'm hoping to use in the race. Should be a good test on several different levels. It's supposed to be about 20 here in Juneau tonight which means it should be about 5-10 degrees out where I'm headed. Not super cold but it is the coldest weather we've had to work with in several weeks.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Things Learned and Things Unlearned...

Run 50 miles

Classic ski 12 miles
Bike Commute 3 miles

A brief look back at '07:

Mileage logged:
  • XC Skiing - 397 miles
  • Running - 2,434
  • Running by month:
  • January - 259
  • February - 175
  • March - 66
  • April - 137
  • May - 237
  • June - 197
  • July - 196
  • August - 129
  • September - 154
  • October - 184
  • November - 308
  • December - 392
  • Biking -3,145
  • Biking by month:
  • January - 63
  • February - 75
  • March - 165
  • April - 534
  • May - 404
  • June - 539
  • July - 141
  • August - 190
  • September - 194
  • October - 393
  • November - 290
  • December - 157

    A few fun things I learned:
  • How to skate ski
  • That I'm not nearly as naturally strong of an endurance biker as I am an endurance runner
  • With hard work though I can be a strong endurance biker (hopefully)
  • How to mostly ignore angry political rhetoric (I've always been one who gets very bent out of shape when I hear someone politically speaking their mind on something I don't agree with, but this year I found myself much more able to simply tune out and ignore the madness - I guess having a president who more or less forces me to cringe every time he speaks kind of forced me to ignore political rhetoric.
  • How to save more of my competitive streak for when I actually want it. I actually ran a few low key, "just for fun" local races this year in which I didn't push myself to the limit as soon as the race was underway. I think this helped me be more determined in the races that I focused on.
  • How to chop and prep food all quick, neat, and fancy the way you see them do it on TV. This is an easy one. You get yourself a good knife and a job in a kitchen and pretty quickly you look like a pro. Not sure what this is worth but I guess it's kind of cool.
  • There are a lot of great people out there who are just as much or more into endurance training / racing as I am. I knew these people were out there but it was nice to meet several of them - notably Pete, Dave, Dave, Chris, Karl, and Lynda. Being able to match a personality to these name makes me feel a little less alone in what I'm trying to do.

Most memorable racing moments:

  • Running into Pete B. with about a mile to go in The Crow Pass Crossing. He seemed to "know" that I was going to win that race but I was so certain until that point. It sunk in really quick though and I got to enjoy a victory lap type feeling for that last mile.
  • Last lap of 24 Hours of Light. I felt pretty strong through most of that ride but as I began my last lap I just felt like I just wanted it to be done. I was convinced it was going to be the worst lap of that ride but no more than 2 miles into the lap I began riding with a team rider for awhile. Turned out she was riding almost the exact pace as me and we stayed together the entire rest of the lap. We pushed each other to a faster lap than either one of us would have ridden alone and what looked for certain to be a struggle to the finish turned into my favorite lap of the entire race.
  • Finish of Resurrection Pass 50 miler, and the next 48 hours to follow. The finish happened so quickly. I thought I still had at least a few miles to go and suddenly there was the finish. I felt great and pushed a short sprint to the end. I didn't feel as though I had run more than 20 miles and I had run about an hour faster than I really felt possible. The process of coming to terms with all of this took the better part of the next 2 days, but that was a confusion I'd be happy to experience again someday.
  • Lining up for the start of the Susitna 100. Even though I won this race, and broke a course record what I remember the most fondly was the feeling of lining up with the other riders to start the race. I was about to run twice as far as I ever had in my life and I was surrounded by so many experienced and accomplished racers (most notably Pete Basinger and John Stamstad). I felt at once so intimidated and overwhelmed, but also strangely confident and certain that things would go well.

Some favorite new gear discovered:

  • Montrail Odyssey - Used 4 pair of these this year and now I'm trying to find a good deal on several more
  • Nuun - If you haven't tried this yet you're missing out. I'm hooked to the point where I pretty much take some on every run.
  • Surly Karate Monkey - Only got a few hundred miles on "my monkey" before winter hit but that was enough to know that I'm definitely going to like this bike
  • Nathan running vest - can carry 50 ounces of water, a small camera, and 800-1000 calories of nutrition and not hardly know any of it's there.
  • Western Mountaineering Sleeping bags - I'm a fairly cold sleeper. I was very concerned that the highlite 35 degree bag wasn't going to be warm enough for me unless it were 40 or warmer. I had heard good things and I went for it though and it kept we plenty warm at least 5 times below freezing. Pretty impressive considering that it weighs 16 ounces.
  • Hammer Perpetuem - I think of this stuff as liquid gold anytime I'm training or racing for more than 5 hours. I'm sure it's psychological but I usually feel like I get a burst of energy just as soon as I swallow it.

A brief look ahead at '08:

Things I hope to learn:

  • How to swim
  • If I really can run 350 miles in about a week
  • If I really can ride 2,500 miles in about 3 weeks
  • How I stack up against top level ultra runners
  • How to get my debt paid off without working (this has been on my list of things to learn for about 10 years now)

Anyway, enough about all that. I had a great New Year's Day 50 mile run. Got to run it all on firm packed snow and I felt really good. Here's a few pictures: