Thursday, May 24, 2012

No Hardrock

Thanks to everyone for the helpful and encouraging comments in response to my last post. Many of you were very dead on in your recommendations and observations. I had my Iron levels retested last week and was pleased to learn that I have been absorbing the supplements quite nicely. My ferritin levels rose from 33 to 97 (the doctor I saw in January suggested I should shoot for getting it up to 100).

I'm back in Alaska now and my plan is to begin the gradual process of getting my strength and fitness back to where I know it can be. I intend to take it fairly easy in the next couple weeks and then begin to incorporate some weight training and some intentional speed work, as my body hopefully starts to feel like it has more energy. It's been so long since I've done any consistent training below 9:00/mile (due to the altitude I've been living at), that even getting out on some mellow 7:30-8:00/mile runs will be a much needed jolt to my system.

I went ahead today and officially pulled myself out of Hardrock! I'm super bummed to have to do this, but I know that I can't be ready to run that race the way I want to run it, and I just don't want to dig myself any deeper into a hole. I think I have a plan in place that could get me back in top racing shape in a 4 or 5 months, but if I tried to run Hardrock in the middle of that it might set things back another several months, and I'm just not willing to do that right now. It's been about a year since I was last able to run fast and feel good doing so. I feel pretty good just plugging along at a mellow pace, but for now I'm not content to only plug along at a slow pace. I want to run fast sometimes too, and I'm quite excited about the challenge of teaching my body to do so again.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Post Transvulcania

Back in the States now after my trip to the Canary Islands for Transvulcania. Certainly my race didn't go as well as I had hoped for. I started out feeling pretty good on the climb up from sea level to over 6,000 ft. In all we did about 7,000 ft. of ascent in the first 12 miles, but when things levelled out and became a lot more runable I began to feel really slow. I basically felt like I was running in several inches of mud, when in reality the trail was quite smooth and runnable. The further I went, the worse it got. Gradually my stomach also started to be less than ideal. It wasn't that I was sick, but I just wasn't processing calories as fast as I knew I needed to. After a couple hours of fading gradually back into the field (was probably running in about 15th place at this point) I linked up with Seb Chagneau who was having very similar struggles. Seb and I ran together for another 90 minutes, but when we reached the aid station at about mile 35 (the high point of the course) we both decided to call it a day. From there it was an 8,000 ft descent back down to sea level before another thousand foot climb up to the finish. Certainly I could have finished, but my body was working so inefficiently most of the day that I was completely worked over at 35 miles. I would have almost certainly been walking most of that descent and struggling just to keep putting one foot in front of the other. In some cases I am happy to push myself to that point, but this race wasn't one of those cases. I wanted to run fast in this race, but I was primarily approaching it as a training run, and continuing on any further than I did would have been a training setback rather than a benefit.

I have now had 3 or 4 races like this in the past year. Races in which I thought I was in pretty good shape and then when I tried to run fast (i.e. race) I felt slow and weak. It's not a fun place to be. No one ever wants to be in a position where they feel like they can't run anywhere near as fast as they could 12 or 18 months previous. More and more I have begun to feel this in my training also. I seem to have plenty of energy and endurance, but my muscles just seem to be weak, slow, and slow to recover. I had some bloodwork done in January and discovered that my iron was quite low, but after 4 months of fairly aggressive iron supplementation my body doesn't seem to have responded. I'll get my iron levels checked again soon to be certain that I'm absorbing some of the iron I'm taking.

My best guess about all of this is that I have been living too high since moving to Colorado. Not so much that i have been living too high, but that I have been training too high. I live at 8,600 ft. and virtually all the training I do is up from there. My body has felt somewhat flat ever since moving to Colorado and over time it has become steadily worse. What I think has happened is that I have been running so high all the time that I consistently train quite a bit slower than I would if I were down lower. Over the short term this isn't a big deal, and can even be a benefit due to the improvement in heart/lungs from high altitude. Over the long term though, I think my muscles have weakened from always running slower. There is also the possibility that my appetite has been suppressed enough due to the altitude that my body has been forced on occasion to use my muscle protein for fuel without me even feeling unusually hungry. The result over time is that my muscles are essential just a fraction of what they once were. The crazy thing is that I can even see it and feel it in my legs. The muscles in my quads are soft, small, feel very weak when I use them, and just don't seem to have the capacity to run hard at all.

The good thing is that I am going to Alaska and will be living/training below 5,000 ft. for most of the summer. Also, when I return to Colorado in August I am going to be moving down from 8,600 ft to about 5,400 ft. If my conditioning over the past 21 months has been negatively effected by living so high, then my upcoming living situation should naturally work things out in time.

Going to Alaska always feels very restorative to me, but this time around it might be a lot more tangible of a restoration than ever before. Not sure how long the whole process will take to rebuild the muscle that I have depleted over the past 21 months, but it feels good to know that the process has now begun.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


It's been a hectic few weeks getting packed up to move out of my place in Colorado and back to Alaska for the summer. That's all finally done with and now I'm off tomorrow morning for the Canary Islands to race the Transvulcania 50 miler. I have had just enough time to get back into good enough shape to go give a hard effort. I'd feel a lot more confident if I had 2 or 3 more weeks of solid training behind me, but I'll make the best of what I have. No matter how it plays out it should be really fun to go to a tropical island and race against many of the best trail runners in the world. In reality I'm approaching this as nothing more than a "training race" for Hardrock, but I've run plenty of really good training races in the past so, who knows, maybe I can pop a good one on Saturday. It's certainly going to take one of the best races of my life to be anywhere near the front of the pack in this one.