Saturday, January 25, 2014

Training Week and Forge Dirty Soles 10km (1/19-1/25)

Sunday (1/19): 7 miles
Easy seven followed with barefoot and form drills. Then core strengthening at home.
Monday (1/20): 10 miles
Hill repeats at Tunica falls. Two mile warm-up. 16X300 meter hill repeats with a 1:1 speed to recovery. Average: 1:29 a repeat. Two mile cool down.
Tuesday (1/21): Day off
Wednesday (1/22): 10 miles
Tempo run on flat at sports park. Two mile warm-up. Six mile tempo at 36:30, 6:05 min/mi pace. Followed with two mile cool down. Toned down the intensity a little.
Thursday (1/23): 8 miles
Easy eight on the Beast with Grits. No barefoot drills, too cold and too much rain. Core strengthening at home.
Friday (1/24): 6 miles
Easy six in the ice/snow on the Beast with Grits.
Saturday (1/25): ~13 miles
Ran the Forge Dirty Soles 10km, followed it with 6-7 miles.

Weekly Total: 54 miles

Forge Dirty Soles 10km Race Report
The original plans for this weekend's race never came to fruition. We had planned on camping Friday night but having spent two hours driving to Baton Rouge in messy winter weather was enough driving for one day. The race start got pushed back to 9:30 on Saturday so we left at 7:00 am hoping the interstates would be open; unfortunately, they weren't. It took two hours and forty-four minutes to make it to the Northlake Nature Center in Mandeville from Baton Rouge. I was getting really anxious sitting in the car knowing we weren't going to make the "official" start. Finally we arrived at 9:44, much to my surprise and relief people were still walking towards the start line. I quickly gave Maureen a kiss then basically ditched her (sorry dear) and ran off. My warm up consisted of running from the parking lot to the bushes to pee then running to the start where I dropped my warm-up clothes and put on my racing shoes. I managed a few strides during the pre-race meeting and we were off!

Immediately a few of us separated with me leading and not surprisingly we missed the first turn! Now we were stuck in a large pack and I quickly found an opening and ran to the front, the other two guys immediately followed. The course is mostly wide open sections that are flat throughout the woods, very similar to a cross country style course. However, there are a few technical single track sections which were the only spots I was able to open up a gap. Its pretty difficult to open up a gap on a four minute miler but I was trying and my only hope were those single track sections. Every time the trail opened up he quickly reeled me in. There were a few tight unexpected turns we quickly over ran and had to slightly back track. There were also numerous boardwalks and bridges that were extremely slick making it difficult to maneuver on at high speeds. The pace was pretty consistent and quick but at twenty-five minutes he took off, after the hard week of running I had nothing to answer with. Suddenly, I felt demoralized, tired, and sloppy. It became a difficult effort to not let him out of my sights. We hit a water crossing with approximately a mile left, we were supposed to cross, touch a specific tree covered in flagging, then head back across the water where we came from. Well, we both touched the tree but he didn't turn around. I was so focused on chasing him that I didn't turn around either. Then people started yelling at us to turn around so I quickly turned around realizing what I was doing wrong and headed back for the right trail. He was running so fast he disappeared into the woods quickly and they basically had to run after him yelling at him to turn around. After getting back on track it was a long flat straight away to the finish. This part was mentally tough as you could see the finish from way off and had to battle a head wind the whole way. As you got closer to the finish a quick dip back into the woods really pissed you off! The whole time I just imagined him catching me but I held on to come across the line first.

I love racing and the competitive aspect of running but I really don't enjoy winning this way. I was clearly beat had he not gotten lost. Winning in such a way doesn't give you the same feeling of winning out right, it felt like I didn't earn the win. I understand that a large part of trail racing tests your ability to stay on course. I made a decision today that at the time seemed right. I received mixed emotions from some and I can understand the argument. I'm sorry if that decision offended anyone, that was not my intention. I know that today I was beat. After all it was only a race and who won was of little consequence. What is most important was that despite all the bad weather and setbacks we were all able to come together to enjoy some trails and friendly competition all in the goal of having a good time. A special thanks to everyone who participated, volunteered, Forge Racing, Jeffrey Beck, Brenton Day, and Cesar Torres with Q50 races for promoting trail racing in Louisiana. Another thanks to all the runners that I've had the joy of competing against at the past few races, I'm fortunate to be able to test my abilities against some fast people.

Photo credit: Miriam Thompson

Photo credit: Miriam Thompson

Friday, January 24, 2014

Snow Day!

I went to bed the previous night thinking about how terrible this morning's run was going to be. I hate waking up early to run in the morning, especially when the forecast is twenty-six degrees with cold rain. Coffee and breakfast are a necessity for me before running. We were planning on camping for Dirty Soles and I knew we would be leaving town late, so I was forced to get my run in early. I woke up at 5:45 to snow and ice everywhere. After finding out that school was cancelled, I went back to sleep for another hour of shut-eye. After breakfast and coffee, I hit the trail. I found myself traversing a Louisiana winter wonderland. I ran through my usual trail feeling that I was somewhere else entirely, as parts of the trail were dusted with a light snow and ice. Despite feeling unfamiliar, there was also something special about this run. The gentle sound of crunching snow underfoot, the fleeting sense of being in another place, and the general beauty of the woods covered in snow turned this morning into one I will never forget. I may never have another opportunity to run the Beast in snow again, but I can assure you this summer I will welcome the chance!

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Hill Workout

Down south we've been experiencing some fantastic weather this past weekend. After suffering through months of ridiculously hot and humid weather, these are the days we long for. Since I had the whole day off, I figured why not take a drive up to Clark Creek Natural Area and get off the track for the week. If you live in this part of Louisiana, Tunica falls is the place to go for major hills. The park was very crowded due to the holiday and great weather. Tunica is an amazing place, if you've never been you are really missing out. I was slightly jealous of all the hikers enjoying the amazing views, weather, creeks, and waterfalls; however, soon I would be joining them after I completed my task.

If you think a hill workout at Tunica is a way to get out of a tough track workout, you are dreadfully mistaken. The great Frank Shorter once said,"hills are speed work in disguise." These are the workouts that break you down into a mouth foaming, snot running into your beard, lung gasping, and shuffling practically walking crazy looking person, of course being half naked only wearing one inch inseam galaxy print shorts doesn't help either. However, these workouts also harden your will, strengthen your lungs, and turn the heart into a finely tuned machine. These are my bread and butter. The hill is one of the toughest yet most run-able hills there. The repeat distance is exactly 300 meters, measured with my magical unicycle as described by a young boy, who I tried to explain to that its used to measure things. Despite my best attempts, he still insisted it was a unicycle. The goal was to complete three miles of uphill as strong and quickly as possible. Quickly is a very relative term at Tunica. This hill starts off with a quick dip making for a fast start, followed by a very steep uphill section possibly pushing over a 40% grade. Then a relatively long but steady uphill section halfway through which turns very steep, then once over the top a small downhill makes for a fast finish. This downhill near the end teaches you to run up and over the hill hard. Many people want to run slow after a hill to allow for recovery, in a race this practice will not get you a win. Every repeat leads to oxygen debt and lactic acid build up earlier than the last. I knew I was in for trouble when I was struggling to complete number eight, only halfway through. Fortunately when you reach that point of exhaustion things get blurry. Lungs gasping, legs exhausted, heart about to explode, oh God I feel like I'm dying repeats. In the end, you survive, you get stronger, and strangely you're addicted, you find yourself coming back for more. The only problem with Tunica is that no matter where you run you can't escape the hills, they are there on your warm-up, your workout, and your cool-down. Finally during my cool down, I got to enjoy what everyone else was out there for; nothing beats watching the sinking sun soak the woods and hills in its golden rays as you enjoy some beautiful yet challenging trails. Tunica, I'll be back.

Last rays of the sun from the trail.

Halfway to the top.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Training Week (1/12-1/18)

After dealing with blistering issues and no running for a week, I was ready to explode. The blister finally healed up well enough to run on Sunday so there was no holding back from there. I typically make workout schedules months in advance leading up to a big race, with race focused driven workouts to get me ready. I'm already a week behind where I should be but that is okay. So, this week was the first week of speed and tempo work. Here's the breakdown:

Sunday (1/12): 5 miles
Easy on the grassy flat at sports park. Followed with barefoot drills, strides, and core strengthening at home.
Monday (1/13): 10 miles
First speed workout of the year at the local high school track. Two mile warm up. Drills and skips. Then 8X(200-400) with a 1:1 speed to recovery ratio. Two mile cool down. Goal for this workout was to run each interval relatively fast but focusing on maintaining a smooth and proper stride. Here is the breakdown:
(34, 1:13)
(35, 1:10)
(35, 1:11)
(35, 1:12)
(37, 1:12)
(35, 1:12)
(35, 1:11)
(35, 1:10)
Total time for 3 miles: 14:20, avg mile pace for each interval 4:46. That's a noticeable improvement over last year. Last May I started speed workouts for the first time since college (2005). I struggled to hit 5:20 pace for my intervals in the beginning and by the end of last year I was averaging 5:00 pace. I think the pace of this workout is based on three factors: one, I'm getting faster (I hope!), two, my legs were fresh, and three, I ran it too hard (which was what actually happened). We'll see if I'm able to maintain this pace from week to week.
Tuesday (1/14): Day off.
Wednesday (1/15): 10 miles
First tempo workout at sports park on flat grass. Two mile warm up, six mile tempo, and two mile cool down. Tempo is run on a one mile out and back course mostly flat with a few dips here and there; terrain is typically grass throughout with sections of gravel road, dirt and roots, and some occasional mud. Turn around points definitely slow my times; I will have to design a new course that limits tight turn around points. Legs were very tired from Monday. Here is the breakdown: 5:48, 6:00, 6:06, 6:06. 6:07, 5:52 and total 36:03 with an average right at 6:00 min/mi. The goal is to run right at aerobic threshold. I was running these a lot faster in between Moab and Cajun Coyote (5:45 min/mi) but my legs were more fresh then but I accomplished what I needed to.
Thursday (1/16): 5 miles
Easy mileage at sports park followed with barefoot drills, strides, and core strengthening.
Friday (1/17): 5 miles
Easy mileage with Grits at the sports park.
Saturday (1/18): 15+ miles
Two loops at the Beast with two loops around the top of park. Breakdown: 1st Beast Loop (51:00), 2 miles (15:11), 2nd Beast Loop (53:55), 2 miles (14:01), Total (2:14:09)

Weekly Total: 50 miles
Overall a great week, very excited to be running again. Next week is going to hurt with an increase in mileage and intensity. I have Forge Dirty Soles 10k on Saturday, it will be my first 10k in over a year, I'm looking forward to trying the shorter distance again; however, it is to early in the year to taper so I will attempt three hard workouts next week. Speed on Monday, tempo on Wednesday, and tempo/race followed with mileage on Saturday. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Rough Training Week (01/05-01/11)

Well, this week wasn't the best, after last weekend's long run at Chicot State park the blister on my heel was so bad I couldn't even wear shoes. So, I decided to take some days off from running to let it heal. Running is what I love to do so when I can't do it, I get quite cranky. Just ask Maureen. However, sometimes we have to make difficult choices and it just isn't worth the risk of making your injury worse just to reach some arbitrary weekly mileage goal. So the story of the week was the stationary bike and lots of movies that I have watched a million times. I made a doctor's visit on Tuesday as my blister was turning some unsatisfactory colors and taking a long time to heal. Apparently, I was risking an infection of my Achilles tendon, not good! After some antibiotic cream and no shoes for a week, I'm now back in action. Anyway, I tried to mimic my running workouts on the stationary bike. The goal wasn't mileage but duration and intensity of exercise. Duration and intensity are really the only two characteristics that you can use to equate the different disciplines.

Sunday (01/05): 1:00 hour
Monday (01/06): Total time 1:20 hour, 20 min warm up, 15 X 1:20 min (all out effort) with increasing resistance and pace every 5 reps and 1:00 min rest (reduced effort) in between reps, and 20 min warm down. Core exercising and strengthening.
Tuesday (01/07): Day off.
Wednesday (01/08): Total time 1:20 hour, 20 min warm up, 40 min Tempo with increasing resistance and pace every 10 minutes, 20 min warm down.
Thursday (01/09): 1:00 hour, Barefoot drills and barefoot strides at sports park.
Friday (01/10): Day off.
Saturday (01/11): 2:20 hour, moderate pace, thank you Lord of the Rings! Still boring though!

Weekly Total: 7:00 hours of cycling
Not quite as much time as I spend running on a normal week but pretty close. I don't think I lost much fitness if at all. All ready got one run in this weekend so it looks like things are getting back to normal consistency.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Motivational Literature

New Years is a time of rekindling motivational spirits by setting resolutions and goals for next year. Many people aspire to lose weight, finish a new race distance, and other similar goals. Some will succeed and some will succumb to outside pressures (i.e. a whole pack of Oreos) and not reach their goals. For some it’s hard to stay focused, for others it seems as if they never falter or struggle with the early wake ups and long runs. Unfortunately, I am one of those that struggle to stay motivated at times. I would like to share one of my solutions with you. It’s not a magic pill, or elixir, it comes in the form a book. If you are like me and you love running and reading, then you’ll love reading about running! Last year I read a lot running books. I thought I would share some of these with you all and give a quick run-down on each one. If you would like to borrow any of them just get in contact with me. If you have something I haven’t read, well I would like to read it, maybe we can do a swap.

Once a Runner – John L. Parker Jr
By far my absolute favorite running book, I originally read this book in high school and read it at least two times a year ever since. This is the story of a fictional collegiate runner, Quenton Cassidy, who is searching for the elusive sub 4 minute mile. Very well written, Parker is an excellent author; however, I will warn you, only read this book during tough training times as it will make you want to go out and slaughter some hard workouts.

Again to Carthage – John L. Parker Jr
The sequel to Once a Runner, it is definitely not as motivational or good but still worth the read. In this book, Quenton begins training for a sub 2:10 marathon. The parts about running are great but he covers too much stuff outside of running with the other characters from the books. Still a good read.

Running the Rift – Sophie Benaron
Not necessarily a true running book but an incredibly inspiring story nonetheless. Benaron is a beautifully gifted writer as she blends a fictional character into a non-fictional story. This book is about a boy growing up in Rwanda during the Rwandan genocide. It tells the story of his childhood and how he became an Olympic hopeful in the 800 meters while dealing with all the horrors of the genocide. This book is definitely a tearjerker, as it’s horrible to think of what humans are capable of doing to each other. Whatever problems you might be dealing with will look small and insignificant (to a point of course) compared to the struggles of the main character and fosters appreciation for your current living conditions.

Running with the Kenyans – Adharanand Finn
Finn was a decent runner in high school but never really trained hard, after winning a local road race in his 30s, he decided to move his family to Kenya for six months to learn from the best and figure out why Kenyans dominate distance running. It was a very interesting read and motivational at times.

Run or Die – Kilian Jornet
Anyone into trail running has heard of Kilian and all his accomplishments, who is perhaps one of the best trail runners of our time. This book was a great read as it gives one an inside view as to how he lives, trains, races, and most importantly his mental attitude towards running and being in the mountains.

14 Minutes – Alberto Salazar
Salazar was once a huge American marathon star, running his debut marathon at New York in 2:08. This book follows his life from an early age to his unexpected death to life again. He suffered a heart attack on the Nike campus, where his heart quit beating for 14 minutes. A very motivational book, as you learn how aggressive and competitive he is and how hard he trained. Also offers a look into his faith, values, and coaching of Galen Rupp and Mo Farah.

The Lure of Long Distances – Robin Harvie
The book is a pretty decent read throughout and can be motivational at times; however, it’s a let-down and I will not tell you why. Read it if you want.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – Murakami
Murakami is an excellent writer and I had no clue that he was such a runner. This is actually a memoir or running diary of sorts. An interesting and intellectual read that really goes into question of why we run and what he thinks about while running.

Born to Run – Christopher McDougall
This book is an excellent and extremely motivational piece of literature. I guarantee you that you’ll be thinking about signing up for an ultra in the near future after this one. The book is based on one man’s journey to discover why his foot hurt. What he discovered was one crazy world of running.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Training Week (12/29-1/4)

Well the week started off just fine. Then on Monday I got some new shoes and things went down hill from there. I was so excited about running in them immediately I didn't take the time to break them in so about 5 miles in my blisters from the Thunderbird Half, a few weeks ago, decided to start hurting again. I thought they had fully healed as I took a full week off after the race and last week I had no problems for them, my only thought is that the new shoes were too stiff. So instead of running ten miles on Monday, I only ran five. I was also really looking forward to running Chicot this weekend, which I did but full of pain from the blister on my heel. I taped it enough to make it through sixteen miles but afterwards it looked rough and HURT! Well I managed to get my miles in for the week but I may take a few days off from wearing shoes if possible and just get on the stationary bike to mimic some of my running workouts because I need this thing to heal quickly.

Sunday (12/29): 5 miles.
Easy 5 miles with Grits at the sports park on grass. Followed with Barefoot strides and form drills. Then core strengthening and balance board work at home.
Monday (12/30): ~5 miles.
Cut short due to blisters.
Tuesday (12/31):  Day off
Wednesday (1/01): 14 miles.
Two Beast loops in the AM with the Forge Ales n Trails group. Then another two miles on the flat. Originally was supposed to run ten on Monday and ten today, so I had some miles to make up. Total time: 2:00.38, Break down: 1st Loop 53:14, 2nd Loop 52:18, (1:45.32 for 2 loops), and 2 miles on flat in 15:05. Good start to the new year.
Thursday (1/02): 5 miles.
Easy five on the flat grass at sports park. Then barefoot strides and form drills, with core strengthening and balance board work at home.
Friday (1/03): 5 miles.
An enjoyable five miles on Chicot trails, around 7 minute/mile pace.
Saturday (1/04): 16-17 miles.
Other than dealing with pain from my blisters on my heel this was a great run. I have a lot of respect for Chicot, this run kind of made me wonder how I managed high 6s for 20 miles out here. I ran the trail in reverse from trail head and started counting mileage at mile marker 19 then ran to 11 and turned around. Went out in 1:05, then returned in 1:00. Allowed myself a little fun on the return running low 6s for the first 4 miles.

Weekly Total: 50-51 miles.
Other than dealing with blisters for the past few weeks, this felt like a great start to the year. I will take the time I need to allow them to heal and deal with them properly to prevent more from occurring. It takes a lot for me to sacrifice a workout but sometimes you have to step back and realize that continued running may only worsen the problem. Normally I would run through any injury like this one but I have been dealing with this same blister since the end of November, I ran through it during Cajun and just made it worse at Thunderbird, I don't want to deal with it through all of 2014.