Saturday, September 26, 2009

An Experiment of One: What's working and what's not?

George Sheehan use to always refer to the runner as an experiment of one. You have to experiment with different training strategies, techniques, shoes or whatever and find out what works for you. Be an experiment of one. The scientist in me gets with this philosophy and in doing so I find myself changes this and that, pushing limits and mixing it up. In the twenty five years I’ve been running I’m still finding what works and what doesn’t due in part to the fact that no matter how hard I fight it my body is not what it is twenty five years ago.

I went for a long run on Friday, which was yesterday. I normally don’t run long runs on Friday but the work load was fairly light and it actually afforded me the time that I could cut out early and get in some miles before the weekend. Not to mention our weekend was going to be pretty busy so it worked out better if I ran now. My goal was to do 26 miles and I ended up doing 25.11 miles. It was close enough and I was pretty much done. As I dragged my sorry ass thru the 25 miles I took some mental notes.

1) Specificity of Training – although roads are harder on the joints than trails. Trails use a whole new set of leg muscles that road running does not. My long run had a 6 mile interlude of trails that just about killed me. My rhythm was all wrong and I actually didn’t enjoy it like I use to. This was my first trail run of the year. Last year I logged about 500 miles on the trails. This year 6! Analysis: Stick to the roads until the ultra.
2) Fuel Up- It could have been because I didn’t eat much all day and my run started at 1 pm. It could have been that I didn’t take enough food for the run but I was definitely hungry. The Garmin tells me I burned 2800 calories. I consumed 4 – Double Latte PowerBar Gels 110 calories each for a deficit of 2360 calories. Analysis: Eat more food. Real food not just gels. Experiment more. On my last ultra by about 30 miles all I had to that point was gels. I was craving real food to which my wife handed me a bagel. It gave me a real boost.
3) Legs felt stiff- It could have been dehydration or loss of electrolytes but I have never been a stretcher. I’ve never stretched pre-run or post-run and for my lack of efforts I probably have the tightest stride you have ever seen. Analysis: Stretch more, do yoga. Philosophy: The looser your muscles are at the start the more they have to tighten to that point of discomfort.
4) Electrolytes – the gels had 200 mg of Sodium and 20 mg of Potassium. I guess I should find out if that is a lot. Analysis: do a sweat test and figure out your electrolyte requirements.

I carried a Camelbak with approximately 70 oz of water. I never refilled it by I did use my standby water bottle for my Lipton Ice Tea mix. I’m not sure if it had electrolytes but I know that it had artificial sweetener which served me well.

I’m slowly getting it. I think for my next long run I’m going to make a checklist something like this:

Electrolyte mix
Water bottle
Peanut butter and jam sandwich (why not?)
Gels 4
Water in the Camelbak approx. 70 oz.

I’m getting to the point where I have to figure out how much water to carry on my first leg of the run. I don’t want to carry too much and I don’t want to carry too little. Experiment!

Garmin Connect - Activity Details for Reservoir Trail Run

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Garmin Connect - Activity Details for H2H Leg 5 Training Run

Garmin Connect - Activity Details for H2H Leg 5 Training Run

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H2H Leg 5 Nicomen Island Trunk Road

I had it all planned in my head. Visualization is the key to a successful run. I was going to wake up at 4:00. I had my clothes all laid out, camelback all clean and ready to go. I even slept downstairs so I wouldn’t wake Jen up. I was going to do Leg 5 of the Haney to Harrison alpine style. I call it alpine style as in alpine climbing where climber makes assaults to higher elevations from base camp and then retreats back down to base camp after setting up a camp higher up. They do it for slower acclimatization I’m doing it for pretty much the same reason to acclimatize to the conditions of the course and familiarize myself with what is out there.

When the alarm went off at 4 o’clock I had to drag myself out of bed. I had to go early because I knew I’d be about 4 hours maybe more. The most important things were to happen later that day, kids soccer game, basketball signup, another birthday party. I let the dogs out the back door to the sound of rain. Lots of rain coming down in all directions and for a brief moment I thought I’m not going out today. Then I thought, it very well may rain on race day so I’d better suck it up. I laced up my shoes and headed out the door.

By the time I hit the Highway, about 2 miles into it, my shoes were soaked. The blisters on the souls of my feet from my foray into barefoot running had just started to heal. This would not be helping.

The problem with discovering a course alpine style is that you have to take the most direct route to the start of ‘the Leg’ you are discovering. The Lougheed Highway is a connector two lane highway that joins all the small towns and municipalities in my area. The H2H route does a good job in avoiding the highway by crisscrossing and using feeder roads. Although Highway 7 as it is also known is the most direct route from Haney to Harrison.

Running along a highway isn’t pleasant at the best of times. Add torrential downpours in the pre-dawn hours of the day and it paints a pretty ugly picture. By the time I made it to Dewdney Elementary, the start of Leg 5, I was soaked. My shorts were clinging to my legs and a steady stream on water cascaded off the brim of my visor down my cheek and down my shirt but at least I didn’t get ‘trained’. The term ‘trained’ refers to those unlucky individuals who whilst running a route that involves a train crossing get stuck and must wait while a 200+ car train makes its crossing. I just missed getting trained by a few minutes, today was my lucky day.

As I ran through the town of Dewdney I started scanning road signs for the turn. There would be no course marshall to guide me. Although I had to laugh because at 5:25 in the morning with the exception of a few choice milk tankers flying by me creating a tsunami-like wave there was hardly anyone on the road. Nobody except some dude in a Golf with a snowboard asking for directions to Hemlock. I found the turn to Nicomen Island Trunk Road and made a soft right.

Nicomen Island is a river delta at the confluence of the Fraser and Harrison Rivers. Nicomen Island Trunk Road is a feeder road to the island’s residents. Most people passing through will drive through Nicomen Island via the highway but the H2H route winds its way though the lush farmland that is home to many of the provinces dairy producers. My plan was to do an out and back so I could scout for landmarks and take in the scenery. Unfortunately at 5:30 in the morning it is about 1 hour before sunrise and there are no streetlights in ‘Farmville’. The only lights were my headlamp and the rather well lit barns. The next hour was spent running barn to barn.

H2H Tip: Know the course
I can see on this part of the course where people could take a wrong turn and end up off course which can be both frustrating and time consuming. Nicomen Island Trunk Road parallels Highway 7 and joins it in several spots via feeder roads but the route actually runs from one end of the trunk road to the other. Your inclination is to join the main highway but keep your sites on it and keep it in the distance for as long as it goes. Eventually the two roads converge near the end of Leg. If you run a 10K in close to an hour you shouldn’t hit the highway until about that.

I hit the 12 mile mark at sunrise exactly. I was still about a few miles from the end of the Leg but I wanted to get home at a decent hour. I turned around as the sunrise slowly revealed some of the most picturesque landscape I had seen all day. Field after field of incredible greens and brown hues and in the backdrop the hilly terrain from which I came, it was so beautiful. And although it was still raining it didn’t dampen the beauty before me.

It’s amazing how a little light changes things. For the first time I noticed how narrow the road actually is. I also noticed that the side streets are marked but the road you’re on is not and how uneven the pavement is from years of patchwork and settling cracks. Slowly I made mental notes of all the benchmarks and stored them in my memory banks.

After I made it back to the highway with the post sunrise traffic now on the roads, I was treated to a never ending parade of fishing boats, campers, and 4x4s out for their weekend fun.

I had no speed left in my legs and I knew that this 10 minute pace would be too fast to run the whole course. I’ll have to practice a tempo run at sub marathon pace. The legs still felt good after 24 miles and I had to do one loop of the cul de sac just to get in an even 24. It was a great start to the day and I can hardly wait until next week. Just keep moving!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Barefoot Experience

My story begins last night; I arrived home late last night probably around 10:00 pm I just got back from Prince George. I was tired, Jen was tired it was a long day. On the days where I don’t get a chance to run in the mornings I always feel kind of blah no matter what the day unfolds. Today was one of those days. Tomorrow I would be driving up to Kelowna. My plan was to get up early and take Koda for a run, take the kids to school and head out. I carefully laid out my running gear for an early morning run the previous day because I knew I’d be getting home late I had already packed for Kelowna.

“You’re alarm isn’t set is it?” My beautiful wife asks.

“Yup, I’m going to take Koda for a run.”

“But you’re going to Kelowna tomorrow. You’ll probably run tomorrow night”

She had a point. I was planning on doing a double; you know two workouts in one day. But I was really tired and could probably use the extra sleep so I turned my alarm off.

I awoke the next morning to the sound of Jen’s alarm. A quick glance at my watch and I had come to the realization that I had about 5 minutes to let the dogs out and make some coffee before I had to yard the kids out of bed. The morning always seems rushed when I sleep late. Coffee’s on, kids are up and fed, teeth brushed, books and lunches packed and damn it is already 8:00! It’s time to go to school. I run downstairs grab my suitcase; out of the corner of my eye I see my Garmin . . . can’t forget that. I throw the suitcase and my laptop in the van before we pack up the kids and walk the kids to school. Smooth!

I always listen to podcasts on the way up to Kelowna. It sure beats music. I probably only own 300 songs and of that only 100 are mine. So podcasts are always new, always varied and always free. I love podcasts. I was listening to Chris Russell talk about the new running movement started by Chris McDougall’s book “Born to Run”. Everybody is talking about this book and how barefoot running can be good for you. Steve from the Phedippidations podcast spent an entire show on the topic. Funny enough the very next podcast I listened to Running with the Pack and Allan and Jeff were talking about the same book. I thought to myself that one day I would like to try barefoot running.

No sooner had I thought that then this dread came over me. “My shoes”, I thought to myself,” My f—king shoes . . . I don’t have my running shoes with me”. I quickly pulled over to the shoulder of the highway and opened my suitcase. A cry of frustration echoed through the mountains through which I was travelling. I brought everything but my shoes. A deep calm suddenly passed over me. I’ll try barefoot running. How hard could it be?

How hard indeed? I thought about where I could run. I ruled out the streets because of the potential for broken glass and other crap. I ruled out the trail because there would be too many stones and rocks. I thought the best place to run would be a track, especially a rubberized track. It would be clean enough, flat enough, and the rubberized surface would offer some cushion. Kelowna was bound to have one.
So after work I quickly checked into my hotel, booted up Google Earth and started scanning for a rubberized track. The Apple Bowl met my requirements and was only a few blocks away. Even though it was a few blocks away I chose to drive for fear of stepping on something prior to my arrival at the track. The stadium is a beautiful facility not only does it has a rubberized track but it has covered concrete stands on one side of the field where aspiring fitness geeks run the stairs flight after flight. On the far side of the field they have more bleachers for the overflow seating. The stadium is the home of the Kelowna Sun, the local junior football team. From what I hear they are quite good. It’s a good thing there was no practice today because then the track would be closed.

I stripped down to my shorts and took off my work boots and socks. The glow from my untanned feet and the distinct line around my ankles signified to the world that I was new to this barefoot revolution. With slight trepidation I walked across the lanes and took a glance at Lane 2. No sense in grabbing the inside lane, I’ll leave that for the faster runners, not that there were any I had the track to myself. Start the Garmin and off I go.

Lap 1 was a breeze. It felt really odd at first suddenly my toes were free, independent of each other. The track was coarse and had a lot of traction to it. Surprisingly my stride didn’t feel much different. Lap 1 went down in 2:08, not bad!? My intent was to get in a good run possibly 5 miles which would be about 20 laps. I didn’t know if I could hold that pace or not. It didn’t feel hard so I just went with it.

Lap after lap went by no aches or pains to report. I turned my iPod on and listened to some music. I checked my Garmin auto lap and the consistency was incredible. As I approached lap 18 I checked my cumulative mileage. I had already hit 5 miles? Could running in lane 2 and 3 add that much more mileage? I told myself 20 so twenty it would be. As I crossed the line to start lap 20 I felt something under my right heel. Could it be a pebble? Nope it started to burn. Damn I think I was getting a blister.

As I completed lap 20 I immediately headed to the infield to sit down and assess the damage. Ouch! I had matching quarter sized blisters on the heels of both feet. And my baby toes new found freedom didn’t bode well for them either, blood blisters for the two of them.

I ended the session with 5.5 miles in the bank. If I had stopped at 5 miles I might have walked away with only a hotspot. The skin on the heel is really thick so I’m debating whether to lance it or not. As I write this I’m resting my feet. The rest of me feels really good no joint pain in the hips, knees or back. I should have done less but I was so eager to get some miles in I over did it. I don’t see this deterring my running the rest of the week. I wouldn’t be able to run tomorrow if I had shoes simply because it is a travel day. I’ll let you know how it goes Thursday!

Just keep moving.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Just Run

I always get a thrill out of Monday. New week! New training plan! Where will I run this week? What days should I take off? I remember listening to a few different podcasts and coached athletes often don’t get their training plans until the week before they are supposed to. In effect being kept in the dark also harbored fewer anxieties or so such was the thinking. I not so sure about coaching and training plans. The rigidity just doesn’t appeal to me. Don’t get me wrong I’m sure there is a fair amount of flexibility built in or at least allowed for but for someone to tell me how far to run and when just means breaking the rules. Being self-coached I don’t have that novelty but my approach is fairly straight forward . . . Just run!

More times than not life gets in the way or what we call ‘the job’. The word job is a
dreaded three letter word that will throw more wrenches into the training machine then I care to admit. Okay I’ll admit it my career job has quite a bit of flexibility I start when I need to, finish when the job gets done. As long as everybody is happy I can go home. On rare occasions people aren’t happy. The other job firefighting is on-call so when the pager goes so do you. There has been times when people aren’t happy and the pager goes off and it is during those times when the training machine comes to a complete stop.

It all centers around the long run. So after I decide on my long run I plan on the rest of the week. I don’t want to call it filler but I don’t do speed work although I did one session and I don’t do Tempo runs so really it’s just to keep my legs going until the weekend Today is Monday and I unfortunately I had to get up early to go to the airport. I won’t get back until late so no run for Monday. I’ll run tomorrow, then Wednesday and probably Thursday. Friday I might schedule rest or if I feel like it I’ll run.

My plan for this week is to have a long run of about 22 miles or so. There is no rigidity if I feel like 25 I’ll do it or if I feel like 21 I’ll do that. One thing is for certain and I’ll build my miles from last week. I’d like to try a back to back long run if time permits. As my long runs get longer I have to wake up earlier and earlier so as not to impede on the family life. Last week I hit the road by 5 am. And was back by 8:30. This week I think I’ll shoot for between 4:00 and 4:30. I always plan my long runs for Saturday but sometimes life gets in the way and I’ve got to push it to Sunday.

The excitement and fun comes from planning on where I will go and to what points of interest I will see along the way. Lately I’ve been getting a huge kick from tracking it on my Garmin and seeing it on the map with Garmin Connect. I saw in Runner’s World where someone actually spelled out words with their running route. I think they were looking for sponsorship but cool idea all the same! The sense of accomplishment is so much more visual when you can see it on a map.

I would like to do a point to point but that would take a fair amount of logistics and a whole lot of planning. Maybe run out to Harrison or the other way out to Haney either way its about 50 K. I think I’ve centered this whole post just literary babble.

Like I said my plan is very simple and fairly straight forward. . . Just Run!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

20 Mile Run

There is something about a twenty mile run that is the epitome of long distance runs. Twenty miles just sounds so much longer than it really is. Nineteen miles sound good but twenty miles sounds better and maybe even better than twenty-one miles. Semantics I am sure but I like twenty, so round, so plateau-ish like I’ve made it to the next level.

Garmin Connect - Activity Details for Dump Run

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I would be using this twenty miles as on more test to see if this old body could handle the rigors of ultra distance training. I jumped into 18 miles last week, a huge leap from my previous long run of 12 miles which wasn’t the week before. This week I wanted to get back to the 10% rule or at least close to it.

My original plan was to start at Municipal Hall and run Leg 3 of the Haney to Harrison backwards to the transition for Leg 3 at Burma Road. I got off to a late start after setting my alarm for 4 and finally crawling out of bed around 4:45. I was on the road at just after 5 am. I plugged in my iPod and listened to an old Trilogy Running Podcast. Nobody makes me smile more than Jason and Shawn. I could listen to those guys forever. On a recent trip to Prince George I drove 8 hours straight and listened to 9 episodes in a row. By the end of it I was listening real hard and talking real good.

Around the 8 mile mark I took a look at my watch and the sign on the road said “Landfill 2.5 km”. It was already after 7 am and I told Jen I’d be back by 8:00. I knew I could stretch 8:30 but 9:00 would be a no go. The landfill is still another 2 miles to the transition, all downhill which means all uphill on the way back so doing the math I had roughly 3 or 4 miles the original destination. It would put me somewhere around 23 miles for the day. Time was not on my side. The distance was not on my side. My legs felt okay I mean after all I was only half way. I decided to change plans and only run to the dump then pick up the pace and try to make it home before 8:30.

The Dump Runners Club
I’ve been listening to the Dump Runners Club, a podcast, for a few years now and although I’ve run to and past the dump a number of times I’ve never taken a picture and submitted it for my official membership. Matt Tartar is the host of the show and I really appreciate his reviews of the Track and Road Racing news. But I digress, to the Dump it would be I would snap a few pictures with my phone and call it a turnaround and I would be part of the DRC.

Finding Flow
At the turnaround I switched to music. I just can’t pick up the pace listening to podcasts. I find myself too into the content rather than the experience. As far as finding flow when you listen to podcasts while running your actions (running) are too separate from your awareness which is in the podcast. In order to achieve flow action and awareness must become merged by concentrating on what you are doing, focus on the run and you will achieve flow.

I did pick up the pace on the way back. For about 7 of the last 10 I was in flow. It was magical! Towards the end of the run my legs started to feel the ache. In retrospect I think I’m down on electrolytes. My fuel was okay I think I might try to eat more next time out. Next week I’m going to run to the Transition at Burma Road it should be about 23 miles. I still have 8 weeks before the race so I think I’m doing okay. I don’t think I want to go beyond 30 miles. I think what I’ll do instead is do 30 one day and 10 the next or 20 one day and 15 the next. The time factor is one thing although to this point I’ve had some really strong support.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Testing the Waters

Well I did my longest run of the year yesterday. I didn’t die but I did hurt a little towards the end. I threw “the 10% Rule” right out the door and on to the street. This was my test of mettle and testing grounds to see I could ramp up my mileage to do the Haney to Harrison Ultra.

The Haney to Harrison is 100K (actually 102km but who’s counting). It literally runs through back backyard. For this run I was able to try out Leg 4 which goes from Municipal Hall to Dewdney Elementary a distance of about 13km. There are I think 9 legs in the race usually run as a relay but for discussion purposes it makes it easier to talk about the legs for my ultra. Most legs are 13 km a few are shorter. I ran out to the start of the leg and ran the most direct route back for a total distance of just over 18 miles.

My longest run in the last 3 or 4 months has been about 12 miles so I increased my distance by 50%. I know why there is a 10% rule now.

Today I hurt. I would call it soreness not a pain. I went for a very easy recovery run today to assess the damage I inflicted yesterday. My knee was yelling at me and my hips said ouch more than once. I walked some and ran some but it doesn’t hurt to walk or bend down. I’m just a little stiff.

The whole idea is to see if I can get my mileage up to a respectable ultra distance before the final registration date when I finally have to commit. The race goes in two months and the final day to register is about 7 weeks from now so I still have time.

Today I expected soreness and stiffness. Tomorrow if I still feel it then that could spell trouble. I’m going to take it day by day. I guess we will see tomorrow

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Podcasters Rehab

A lot of people questioned why I quit podcasting many months ago. Listenership was up at a peak almost. Popularity was high but Podcasting is like Crack. Podcasting is an addictive medium for which a modicum of self control is needed or else you stand the chance of losing it all. There is a certain rush associated with publishing your first podcast. The high becomes elevated after you watch your site meter for the number of downloads or streams. Your ego boosts and you become hooked when you get your first comment back and it is positive. Just like a drug you start looking for other avenues to elevate that high. The social media addiction ensues.

A website for the podcast,
Comments and Feedback
You open a separate Gmail account for the podcast
Get yourself on other peoples podcasts
The Runners Round Table
Podcast Alley
Podcast Pickle
Podshow, The Podsafe music
And In the case of a running podcast like mine there is Nike+ links, Runner Plus, and Buckeye Outdoors which has now spawned GoWagon.

Your vision becomes blurred by the popularity the hype. Sponsors start calling or emailing. Listeners keep commenting fueling that desire, the hunger. Your tired but you’re being held accountable by the social media. You run hurt or sore just to put a show. The show needs content. I can’t change the format now. Bless me Father for I have sinned, it’s been three weeks since my last podcast.

Hey Mom where’s Dad?! He’s on the computer checking his Twitter updates, getting his fix.

In the end you lose sight of the reason why you started the podcast in the first place. Why did I start this podcast because I can’t write worth a damn and I have an opinion that needs voicing. Or at least I felt needed a voice. Why are you listening to me anyway?

Can’t stop now. How do I stop now. Cold turkey. Stone cold turkey. The Betty Ford Clinic for Podcasters. Kill the podcast, kill Twitter, get off Buckeye.


Blog Much?

So why don’t you blog more? The question hits me like a descending cloud fogging up my thoughts to the point where I can’t surmise an adequate answer. I love to express my thoughts in blogs. I love to put it out there to cyberworld for all to see. It’s a lot like fishing really. You cast out a thought, some more personal then others or you share a piece of your life and you see what you get. Sometimes you get a nibble and sometimes you get a bite. I would say that’s really what it is all about. The comments that you get back from the people who read your blog somehow give you a feeling of validation.

In Facebook, you can write a little blurb like a mini blog on your status section. Depending on how many friends you have they will be forced to read it on their own news feed. Some will comment back and now you have the ability to simply click the ‘Likes this” button. Either way it becomes instant validation to your rambling thoughts. I think Facebook has diffused a lot of peoples urge to blog in that they no longer need paragraph after paragraph to elaborate on a thought. They can write a mini blog in their status and get the validation they need.

But for me that’s not the reason why I don’t blog. I guess if what really important I would find time. It can take me hours to write one post. Well maybe not hours but at least an hour. For example I’m writing this one on the train into Vancouver a trip that takes just over an hour.

I think for me it’s that loss of validation. I don’t get anything from it. I know a few people who read my blog. I’ve seen the “Hits” on my counter. They don’t comment and somehow maybe I think they are just storing up the accumulated information into my psyche to use later for public ridicule. Whatever the case there is a certain amount of catharsis from these posts and that’s my only solace. So I write for myself.

There maybe some truth to the fact that I have no time. I remember back when we were anticipating Kallie’s arrival and the journey to get her I would blog late at night well past my bedtime but that would come after a comment from Jenny “Have you blogged lately?” These days I get home from work chase after Kallie, do the dishes, follow up on some work, read my emails (I don’t get access during the day), post some emails, put Kallie to bed. The list goes on and on. But there is time to catch up on Facebook or some of my on line training logs but that is it. The accumulated free time is about an hour but not one hour continuous. After that it is usually bedtime.

I use to podcast. I loved podcasting because I would record on my runs. My runs would be about and hour and I would talk the whole time into my little digital recorder. It’s amazing how clear your thoughts flow when you run. You would think that they would be an hour of rambling but I usually chose a topic that interested me, research it and then share it into the microphone. Nobody else was out on the street and it was typically early morning. But I would post it once a week and every week I would get at least one comment sometimes a dozen comments back. So the next run out I actually felt like I was running with someone. Suddenly I had a running friend who would meet with me every morning on my terms.

I quit podcasting months ago, lack of time, and other commitments, whatever, long before Kallie came home and not a run goes by where I don’t miss my running friend. Like a real running friend podcasting would get me through those lulls those ‘canyons of funk’ that sap your positive energy. I still take my digital recorder out with me and voice my opinions only to erase it forever after the run. Sometimes I feel better but usually I think “What am I doing?” This feeling of despair ensues.