Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Keeping the Right Company

Tip One: Keep the right company.

As an ongoing series I reference “Leadville for Scratch” by Dougald MacDonald with my own insight into the world of ultramarathoning.

In his article the author advises to keep the right company or to run with people of your own ability. Author’s motivation for the tip is motivation. It can be demoralizing to run with people who are leaving you in the dust constantly as stated in the article.

I haven’t had a running partner in 8 years or so. There are definitely days when I could have used some butt kickin’ motivation.

I remember one running partner I had. Steve lived next door; right next door how convenient is that. We both lived at home and he was training for Ironman Canada. His motivation was always a little more than mine so that was great. His pace was similar to mine albeit maybe he was a little bit faster. After Ironman he kind of stopped training for a little while and I eventually moved out. Good times while it lasted. I wonder what ever happened to Steve? Maybe I'll Facebook him? That was the one of the last training partners I had.

The last training partner I had was Mike. We were both training for our first marathons and we did our long runs together. I truly struggled with Mike because he was incredibly fast for a newbie. I think he place third in his age group or something like that in his first marathon. It was truly impressive. His time was 2:45 or something and mine was like 3:57. So you can imagine our training runs his easy pace was my marathon race pace. That was my lesson in demoralizing.

Since then my training partners have always been dogs. When you get up to run at 5 am its not easy to rally and takers on a 7 miler. Koda however is always willing to go. His tail starts wagging as soon as the Timex Ironman alarm goes off. It drives my wife nuts if I take more than a minute to roll out of bed because tails are whacking the walls and little Miniature Schnauzer is pawing the bed. I’m amused, my wife . . . not so much!

I think if I had the opportunity to run with a group or even a partner I don’t think I would. Taking my dog for runs is motivation enough and besides he always lets my set the pace.

Keep the Right Company. Yep! I got this one down.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

How far can your dog run?

How far can your dog run?
I recently read a post by Bad Ben, the Kansas City Trail Nerd. His journeys and musings about the ultra world just plain old fascinate me. But the post that made me cry was one that eulogized his dog. An obvious dog lover I empathized with him and questioned my personal pursuits with my dog’s ambitions and motivations. Was I doing him more harm than good?

My golden retriever is a great dog. A running dog, he is close to three years old and together we’ve put in a couple of thousand miles or more. Lately I’ve pondered the question how far is too far for a dog. When people hear about how far we run they say that that’s too far for a dog to run.

Several factors I keep in back of my little brain in our training for an ultra distance event.
1) Build up mileage gradually. Koda and I have a good base we taken quite a few months to build up to our 20+ miles on Saturday. And for now we are completely resting the day after. We run about 45 miles a week in total.
2) Hydration. I’ve tried bringing collapsible bowls and his own water supply but it’s like the old adage says “you can lead a dog to water but you can’t make him drink”. Many gallons of water have been hauled around for not. These days I make sure I run by clean running streams no deeper than his paws. Koda is a swimmer and will lie down in puddles if I let him. He doesn’t always drink but I still give him ample opportunity to drink something.
3) Nutrition. Like me Koda has to re-fuel on the run. I prefer gels but have recently explored the gel blocks. I never use to think this was a big deal until I started feeding him Sharkies. Koda loves Sharkies and I prefer Clif Shot Bloks. It got to be pretty expensive as we literally shared 50/50. So due to my needs I was buying twice as much as I needed. Yesterday’s long run I bought dog biscuits. Nutro Lamb & Rice the same brand of food that he eats. I also checked the label to make sure it is high in protein, 23% by weight. It didn’t seem to upset his stomach so I think we’re on track.
4) Heat. So far are build up has been gradual and during the fall, winter and spring months. Last summer I was only doing 10 milers on Saturday. But I also run at 5 am before sunrise so its cold even in the summer here on the west coast. My concerns with heat are dehydration, over heating, and blistering his paws. All these can be concerning but I run more trails in the summer and there is usually streams and ponds to cool off in. My golden retriever is usually a brown retriever after a few pond swims. I think its funny, my wife . . . not so much!
5) Age. Like I said Koda is only 3 years old. As a big dog I know he won’t be around forever. But I also know that keeping him active will keep him lean and help prevent things like arthritis and hip dysplasia and other ailments for big dogs.

Eventually I know that there will come a time where I’ll have to leave him at home. I am not looking forward to this and I know he will put up a huge fuss. But in the mean time I plan to live in the moment and enjoy every run and laugh at every pond swim and take care of him all along the way.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Magazines are like treasure

I always keep my back issues of magazines. The cheap part of me won’t let go. Much like old running shoes who end up in the shoe closet after their useful life, magazines pile up in all the likely spots: the bathroom, the bedside table, under the coffee table, and the glove compartment of my minivan. I figure I paid as much as $8 for these conduits of information and although the information has passed from page to brain cell I just can’t discard and recycle. It drives my wife nuts as the stacks build up over time. Secretly I know she tries to recycle them while I’m not watching but luckily for me I take the recycling out the curb. Many a TrailRunner magazine has been save from the clutches of the big blue recycling truck.

On a recent shopping trip, shopping for my wife, I elected to sit in the car, I rediscovered an old TrailRunner with an article about running your first hundred miler, “Leadville from Scratch” by Dougald MacDonald. An excellent article with some great tips I’m going to explore before I run my ultra.

I liked the way that it had the subheadings and a short vignette into his own experiences. I think over the next couple of months I’m going to explore each point and give my own interpretation of the tip. To summarize without re-writing the article the tips were:

1) Keep the right company
2) Build a base
3) Focus on the long runs
4) Learn to walk
5) Eat right
6) Experiment with gear
7) Run at night
8) Train on the course
9) Use a crew and pacers
10) Take a break
11) Try, try again

The magazine has proven to be a good reference long after I first bought it two years ago. If only I could see eye to eye with my wife on these treasures of information.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Shoes

Oh the shoes! The shoes. I wear one type of shoes Asics Gel GT 21##. I call them the ## because the last two digits change every year and every ten years they change that second digit too. I’ve more or less run in these shoes since they were GT 2010s. They are currently at 2130 so that’s about twelve years. I’ve strayed away once or twice lured away by some clever marketing scheme but I always come back. And of course during the summer I do a lot more trails so the trail shoes come out on the steep, muddy and rocky stuff.

I usually read every magazine article on shoe reviews and I always hunt for a bargain. But I always stick with what I know and don’t leave much to experimentation. When you have five mouths to feed, shoes can become quite an expense. I always try and get the most mileage I can out of my shoes. Usually near the end of the life of the shoe an unusual ache or pain crops up and that is the end of the shoe, on to a new pair. I use to get about 300 miles out of a pair. Now with being more consistent in training and a lot more frugal I can stretch it out to nearly 500 miles. My current pair is just over 400 miles so they are due for a change. Psychosomatically after looking at my mileage I can feel my shins ache.

I don’t know what it is but I guess the cushioning loses it rebound. I know that the outsole does wear thin and you end up with less tread. But my argument is this, if the shoes wear out gradually over time and there are barefoot runners out there with even less cushioning then my shoes. Why does my sorry ass have to change out shoes every 400 miles. I mean come on if I could run barefoot I would but I can’t but why can’t this gradual degrading of my cushioning end with my toes coming through the bottom instead of shin splints or sore knees. But I digress.

Up here in Canada, shoe retailers haven’t caught on to the fact that it is a global economy. Our Canadian dollar for the longest time was worth less than the US dollar at one point as low as 60 cents. These days it is about at par with the US dollar, dollar for dollar. My 2130s up here retail for about $149. I’ve seen them as high as $159 in the spring and as low as $139 in the winter. I live about twenty minutes from the border or the UPS guy knows to leave packages inside the door. In either case the same shoes are $95 USD. If I pay duty, I’m still ahead of the game

Ouch there goes the shooting pain in my shin. It doesn’t happen until after the run. Oh well. Good bye old friends it off to the shoe closet.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Mileage Junkie

What’s wrong with being a mileage junkie?

I’m a bit obsessed right now. I think all runner’s are bit obsessive compulsive in nature. Not to make light of the psychological disorder I am very serious. I don’t believe that in this world or pigeon hole labels that there is black and white merely differing shades of gray. So when I say I’m obsessive compulsive, that brings about the qualifying question of “To what degree?”

Well thank you for asking. I am currently obsessed with mileage. More is better, right now more feels better. I’ve been doing twenty milers on the weekends and I just love it. Now I just want to get more miles in the week. I’m not a rookie runner I know there will be a breaking point. The key is to back off before you break.

I’ve always been fascinated by world class runners or even the recreational hardcore runners who do 100 miles in a week. It sounds insane when you currently run less then half of that. It sounds impossible when you are running less than a quarter of that.

Three months ago I probably ran 20 to 25 miles week. I would run five or maybe six times but usually five times. My week would consist of four 4 milers and an 8 to 10 miler on the weekend for a total of 24 to 26 miles. If I missed a run because of work sometimes it would drop down to less than 20.

So when you hear about people running 100 miles in a week you wonder how. Some run twice a day. A lot of them run everyday twice a day. And of course they run a lot farther than 4 miles at a time. It’s more like 10 miles in the morning, 5 miles in the afternoon for five days a week and then a long run of twenty something and an easy 5 miles to fill it in.
That would make a hundred. That would kill me.

But I am obsessed with increasing my mileage. My key now is to increase the duration of my mid week runs. I’ve been doing the same loop for a while now it is 4.3 miles. It has become kind of fun, you know to compare your times run after run at certain checkpoints and to see if you can duplicate the exact distance on your Nike+.

Now I’m ready for a new challenge. From this point forward none of my mid week runs will be less than 5 miles. In a couple of months none of my mid week runs will be less than 6 miles. That’s probably where I’ll draw the line. I know past that point my body will start to break down. I will throw in the occasional mid week 10 miler but not too often.

My long runs I want to build up to 30 miles. Like I said before I’m getting pretty comfortable with 20 milers and I’ve found a great out and back route that I can add the extra miles on to.

So do the math, if I can get four runs of 6 miles and a 30 miler in one week that totals up to 56 miles. If I do an extra 6 miler that’s 62 and that is where my junkie-ness will be satisfied.