Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Next Steps...

Well, it's been a week now since the epic adventure of the Psycho Wyco Run Toto Run snowy insanity. It certainly took its toll on my body, so this week has been interesting. When I woke up Sunday morning (the day after the race) I was quite sore. Ironically, my left ankle (the one I twisted countless times during the race) felt perfectly fine, but my right ankle was quite painful. My quads, calves, shins, hamstrings, hips, back, and shoulders all felt the strain of the beating they took in the race. Seriously, that 20.7 miles in the snow took a greater toll on my body than any 50k I've ever completed.

Luckily, I'd had the foresight to set an appointment with my chiropractor and ART specialist, Jared Wisner at Wisner Chiropractic. Jared is an accomplished marathoner and a good friend. His knowledge of what distance running does to us has been beyond helpful to me. He did an excellent job straightening out my issues and really helped with my recovery. He even fixed the right ankle that was hurting me so much. I've said it before, and I'll say it again; Jared is the greatest thing to ever happen to my distance running. If you live in the Kansas City area, I highly recommend checking him out. I didn't do much working out this week, just some walking, weight training and yoga.

Now that my recovery week is behind me and I'm feeling pretty good, it's time to set my eye back on the future. So I need some new goals and a new focus. I've spent the last 27 weeks training for, running, then recovery from the race. So basically, 6 months of focusing on cardio (running) workouts. I want to switch up that focus for a while. Of course, I love running, so this time has been great, but it's important to change up the routine from time to time, so it's time to transition to a different focus. My next target race won't be until the Pensacola Marathon on Nov. 9, so I have more than 5 months before I'll even start training for it. Until then, I want to put my focus on the following: 1: Strength training/core training; 2: General fitness; 3: Get back to running in my VFFs; 4: Focus on faster, shorter runs. I'll detail my plans for each of these goals so that I can be successful. By implementing this focus, along with continuing to watch what I eat, I will be able to ensure that I am in excellent condition when I start training for Pensacola. My first marathon (2011 Napa Valley Marathon) remains my PR at 4:36:19, so I would like to break that PR finally. I need to be in better overall shape when I start training to make that happen.

#1: Strength / Core Training: This is going to be a huge key to my success and probably the most challenging part of my plan. I enjoy strength training, but I always struggle with doing it consistently enough to see the results I really want. I'm hoping to finally change that. The plan is to start the Strength Training II Plan that I got from the JCCC Weight Training class I took a few years ago. It was designed by Istvan Javorek, who is the school's head strength training coach and a former Olympic coach. It is a 3 day per week plan that I will start tomorrow (Mon. Feb. 17) and will do Ab Ripper X with each of the workouts. Also, one additional day a week I plan to do one of these P90X videos on a weekly rotation: Chest & Back, Legs & Back, Shoulders & Arms. On Friday, I did the 5 rep max test to get my starting points since the Javorek plan is based on percentages of max. This is an excellent strength training plan and in conjunction with Ab Ripper, it will really get me into outstanding condition. I don't want to become a big, muscle-bound guy, and that's not what this is designed for, but good muscle tone will help drop some of my fat and really does help with distance running.

#2: General Fitness: This is kind of a broad category, but all distance runners know "cross training" is critical to success, even if they don't do it they still know how important it is. The plan is going to start with yoga. I've set up (on the urging of a friend) a 30 Day Yoga Challenge starting Mon. Feb 17. The idea is 30 days straight of yoga, at least 10 minutes of stretching poses, or up to a full class/video. After the challenge I plan to continue doing yoga at least twice per week. I also want to incorporate cycling, P90X Plyometrics, hiking, walking, etc. Doing these things will help my balance, endurance, explosiveness, and strength.

#3: Get Back To Running In My VFFs: For those that may not be aware, VFFs are Vibram Five Finger minimalist shoes. When I ran in them, I felt light, fast and mentally strong. I stopped wearing them early in 2013 because I had a few triathlons on the schedule and I wanted shoes I could slip on and off faster than I can the VFFs. It takes some transition time to go from regular shoes to VFFs, so I'm going to start transitioning back into them. It won't take long since I've done over 1600 miles in VFFs in the past, I just need to re-acclimate. I have VFF Bikilas for paved runs and VFF Treksports for the trails. I'm VERY excited to get back to running in them regularly.

#4: Focus On Faster, Shorter Runs: Sure, I've worked on and been successful at getting faster since I started training for the Toto Run, but I still have a ways to go. I'm really not going follow a running plan, just trying to run regularly. I'll still do some long-ish runs, but the primary focus will be trying to run faster. If I want to PR the marathon I need to get faster. It's cliche', but the only way to run faster is to run faster. I will try to maintain around 20 miles per week, and at least one speed-oriented run each week. If I stick with this, I will definitely be in good position to be faster when I start training for the race.

If I stick with this plan and follow through, I will be in pretty great shape. I'm excited for the change in focus and I'm hoping my friends will help hold me accountable to these plans. Looking forward to an awesome rest of the year!!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Psycho WyCo Run Toto Run Race Report

Well, this was certainly one of the more interesting races I've ever been a part of. I started training for the 50k 26 weeks ago and it went amazingly well. I got thinner, I got faster, I got stronger. I really felt quite strongly that as long as conditions were good I'd be able to set a new 50k PR. Conditions were not so good. About a week before the race we got a big sleet storm that left everything icy, but runnable because it was not smooth ice. Then, just 4 days before the race, we had the first big snow storm of the year. At first I thought it'd be a good thing. The course is hilly and rocky, so I thought a good, packed down layer of snow would help make sure the rocky hills weren't too slick. Not so much how it worked out. It turned out to be about a 12-14 inch deep, light, powdery dry snow. There's no packing down that kind of snow. It was going to be an interesting race indeed. Leading in, I had high hopes and a great plan. I was going to run the race with my friend and fellow Trail Nerd/Mud Babe Emily Royal. She is an amazing runner, so I knew running with her would be a huge help. My goal was a new PR, which meant beating 7:00:29, but my stretch goal was 6:30-6:45.

It was a cold morning, but practically warm compared to many of our training long runs. It was about 22* with a forecasted high of 31*; not bad at all. Cold enough for my Husky, Katya, who was running the race with me, but warm enough to be tolerable for me. My awesome wife Kristy was volunteering at the main aid station, so we got up to the race pretty early; about 6:30 with an 8:00 race start. We pulled up to park right next to one of my biggest encouragers, Sherrie Klover (amazing ultrarunner). She gave me a nice pep talk while I was getting Katya's harness on and before she headed over to volunteer. It was great to see her and get some encouraging words. I am so grateful for all of the amazing runner friends I have.

We got over to the start area and friends started to roll in. One of the best things about running Trail Nerd races is having so many friends there. We all congregated and chatted while we waited for the race start. Everyone was quite positive about the race, but also a little anxious with the snow. Would the snow pack down and be runnable? Or would it stay loose and make it much tougher? Hard to guess; I'd never run in this kind of snow or this deep of snow before. Oh well, nothing I can do about conditions, I'd just stick to my plan until/unless conditions decided otherwise. We were just all ready to get started; we were all loosing feeling in our toes waiting!!

Eventually race director Ben Holmes called for us to go to the start line and Katya, Emily and I found a spot. At the start of this race, you go through a long field, up a small road, then turn onto the trail. Normally the field spreads out through the field, then bottlenecks as it enters the single track trail, but in the deep snow it was single file from the start. It made things interesting. If you needed to get around someone, you had to go through a foot+ of snow to do it. I was in a decent position, passing a few, but mostly I seemed to have started in a pretty good spot. Despite the snow, the first section of the trail seemed quite easily runnable, other than when we were passing, so we were carrying a decent pace and feeling good.

I had decided that I would start my Garmin watch at the beginning, then ignore it and run by feel. I wasn't sure what my pace was, but I felt like we were moving well and I was at a relatively low effort level, so I stuck with it. This section of the trail is generally pretty fast with only a few quick uphills that I walk when doing multiple loops. It was fun getting lots of compliments for Katya as the field was bunched together. I was really struggling to find a decent stride in the snow. Even with all the runners in front of me, it just wasn't packing down. It was staying soft and fluffy, which means slick. It seemed with every single step you slid at least a little. Even the screws in my shoes weren't helping.

After a few miles, we came to the Triangle aid station. The Triangle is an interesting section, but in my opinion, the most fun part of this course, no matter what the conditions are. It is about a 3/4 of a mile off-shoot from the main trail. Basically, you take a right, run 3/4 of a mile, then come back out on the main trail about 50 feet from where you turned off. You run that far to get 50 feet further on the main trail! But it's a tremendously fun section. Lots of good, fast downhills, just a few short, tough uphills, lots of quick switchbacks, and tree trunks to jump over. It's a fast fun section. Anyway, in the short section between the entrance to the Triangle and the exit is an aid station, so you get to it twice as you start, then finish the section. This station was being manned by my friends Deb, Heather, Amber, Darin, and a few others. On our training runs we've been stopping after the Triangle for water and food, so we would do the same for the race. As I passed the station, Heather asked if I needed anything and I told her we'd catch her on the other side. Even with all of the snow, the Triangle held true to form. Fast and fun. Katya and I both were having fun taking this section fast and jumping trunks and sprinting downhills. We both really enjoy bombing the downhills without regard for safety. It just seems to come naturally for us both and it sure is fun.

As we exited the section, Deb and Heather were there to ask what we needed. They are great friends and outstanding volunteers. At this station I gave Katya some special dog food. It is somewhere between canned food and solid food; think summer sausage-type consistency. After I gave that to her, Heather gave her some water while I grabbed a cup of water and a few peanut M&Ms for myself. I thanked them for the aid station workers for their help, then got back on my way. Emily was right with me as I left the station, so I commented that I wasn't sure since I hadn't checked my watch, but felt like I was on a good pace. She said were going pretty fast, so I thought about slowing down a little, but I really felt comfortable, so I just stuck with what felt good and kept going.

As we continued on, conditions remained the same. I was so disappointed that the runners going over the snow wasn't packing it down and making it easier to run. I was still slipping with most every step, and passing remained difficult because you had to go through the deep snow. The next little bit of the trail is again fairly non-nondescript until you get close to Fall Down Hill. There is a short, steep, fast down hill, then a bit of a steep uphill, then the infamous Fall Down Hill. It is well named. It is a pretty steep drop down from the top of the hill down to the bottom of the dam. It's fast running in good conditions, with lots of quick switchbacks to watch for. In good conditions, I like to say this hill makes me feel like a little kid. If you are confident in your ability to make the quick turns, it is a blast flying down this hill. Even in the snow, it was a fairly fast hill and Katya and I both had fun with it. I took a quick glace at my watch at the bottom of the hill and it read 1:01, which would have me on pace for about a 2 hour loop. Not bad in these conditions.

After Fall Down Hill, you come out on the bottom of the dam, run across to the other side, then trudge up the steep dam hill to the road where the mid-course aid station is located. This station is sponsored by Ultramax Sports (a running store) and assisted by my friends Erica and Carol. At this station I gave Katya what I have come to know as her power boost food. It is a GU-type gel food that is designed for athlete dogs and given via a little syringe-type dispenser. She loves it. The aid station had a bowl out for dogs and we gave her some water and I grabbed some M&Ms, water, and a Coke for myself, and as we left I grabbed a few Pringles. The next section of the course is a half-to-3/4 of a mile hilly road. We walk the uphill parts and run the downhill. As we walked the first part I ate some of the Pringles and gave a couple to Katya. Finally we got to the end of the road section and turned back onto the trail for Speed Demon Ridge. As the name indicates, this is normally another fast, fun section, but in the snow it wasn't nearly as fast. It's also where things turned bad for me. Not long after we got on the trail, before we could even get to the fast part, I turned my left ankle funny. It hurt. About 50 feet later I turned the same ankle. This would become a trend throughout Speed Demon Ridge and Fester's Wander. Turning my left ankle over and over.

Immediately after Speed Demon Ridge, before you start Fester's Wander, is Broken Leg Turn. There is a very long, steep, straight, rocky downhill that goes slightly toward the right, then right at the bottom there is a very sharp left turn. This hill is one I like to take fast, although you have to be careful with the turn when you do that. The turn was named after my friend Chris Nicely took the hill fast and caught his foot funny on the turn and broke his leg. Luckily even with the snow the hill was fast and had decent footing, so I was able to take it fast and make the turn. At that point I'd only turned my ankle a couple times, so it wasn't hurting too bad. Then we were on to Fester's Wander. This section has a couple huge uphills so steep you need ropes to get up if the trail isn't dry, but also has lots of fast flats and downhills. In good conditions, this is another fast, fun section for me, but in anything less than good conditions it is slow and a bit torturous. In this section I turned that left ankle several more times and started having to take more walk breaks to stretch it out and try to keep it loose. With every bad step it hurt a little worse.

After Fester's, there is a pretty decently runnable section of trail that helped settle my ankle down some before getting to the last aid station on the course at Shelter 10. This station was being manned by my evil twin Bryan, Corey, Shane, and a few others. This was a GREAT aid station. They were having lots of fun. I gave Katya more of the summer sausage-like food, water, water for myself and some chips for us both before we got back on our way. I think I stopped for a fraction too long, though, because as I left the station my ankle was quite sore.

From that station, you have the satisfaction of knowing you are only a few miles from finishing the loop, but the terror of knowing the 3 Bitches are coming up. These are three very steep hills, two of which are not runnable for me even in the best of conditions, but all three are torture when icy or snowy. With my ankle starting to hurt and the snow, I knew these three hills would live up to their name. They did. Every step seemed to make my ankle hurt a little more and wear me down a little mentally. Katya was doing well here, though. Normally she struggles up these hills, but she was trucking at a pretty decent forward pace through them which really helped me. Shortly after these hills you come to the finish line and the main aid station before starting the next loop. I'd finished the first loop in 2:19:37. Much slower than I needed for my goal, but with the conditions any my hurting ankle, I'd given up my PR goal anyway. At this point I had decided to just try to finish.

Working the main aid station were my awesome wife and good friend Wael. Wael saw me coming in and going to the drop bags, so he came over to offer his assistance. I told him I was good for the moment and he offered some encouragement. I gave Katya some more of her super-powered gel food, Kristy got her some water and I grabbed my handheld water bottle to take with me for the next loop and asked Wael to fill it for me, which he gladly did. I thought Katya would drink better out of that than she had been cups on the first loop. I told Kristy that I wasn't doing great and had given up my PR goal and just wanted to finish, but I didn't mention my hurting ankle. I'd hoped that by not mentioning it maybe it'd go away. I grabbed some Nutella wraps and kind of wasted some time standing around not wanting to get back in the terrible conditions. Finally, Emily and I started back out. I was hoping the flat, smooth field would offer a moment of relief for my ankle, but it was so slick through there that every step was a slide, which only made it hurt worse. Finally, I told Emily that it was really starting to hurt pretty bad and she encouraged me to hike as much as I needed to, but to hike "with a purpose"; meaning keep your arm moving and hike at a quick pace. I did just that, and we ran some as well.

Unfortunately, I continued to roll that same ankle. Maybe I was thinking about it too much, because normally rolling ankles isn't a problem for me on trails. By the time we got back to the Triangle, I was really hurting pretty badly. Deb, Heather, and Amber greeted me at the station and I told them what was going on and they offered lots of encouragement and support. Nothing beats my Trail Nerd friends when it comes to aid station support. I gave my handheld to Heather and asked her to fill it and I'd get it from her after we finished the Triangle section, then a moment of joy came in the midst of my misery. I noticed a box of Mike & Ikes laying on the table! I LOVE Mike & Ikes!!! They are my favorite, so seeing them at that moment was great! I didn't even ask if they were for us, I grabbed the box and dumped a bunch of them in my hand. I made a joke to Deb as we were heading back onto the trail that it'd probably take me an hour to do that short 3/4 of a mile Triangle section. Of course, Emily was having none of that. She got on the trail ahead of me and told me to try to run whenever she ran. I said okay and followed her lead while tossing Mike & Ikes in my mouth. They were near-frozen, so they were tough to chew, but they still made me tremendously happy. It's the little things that brighten your mood when you are struggling with pain in a tough race!

Emily led us through the Triangle slower than I had gone the first time through, but it still felt like we were moving pretty decently. We ran more than we walked. We came out of the Triangle and were back at the aid station welcomed again by Darin, Heather, and Deb. I started giving Katya her summer sausage-like food. Deb said, "well, it didn't take you an hour like you thought. That was only about 45 minutes." Now, normally I would have been quite aware she was not serious, but when you are tired and in pain, knowing you are struggling, you will believe almost anything. I responded, "Son of a bitch!! Are you serious??" She laughed and said that she was, of course, not serious. I shot her a nasty look, had it been anyone else I would have been pissed, but Deb is one of my best friends, so I smiled and laughed a little. I think there was a bit of a moment of tension for everyone between my look and my laugh. I'm not sure if they knew whether I was mad or not. Luckily it was Deb because I did need a moment of humor. It is really so great to have friends at a race. I got my haldheld back, grabbed some food for myself, said thanks and told them I probably would see them again. I was pretty sure at that point my ankle wasn't going to hold up for a third loop. They shouted some encouragement and we got back on our way.

I continued running when I felt like I could and walking when I thought it was hurting my ankle too much. It actually started to hurt a little less through this section through Fall Down Hill. Even with twisting it a few times again climbing the dam, overall it was hurting slightly less. We got to the aid station, I gave Katya her gel food and we started up the road and back onto the trail. I started thinking that maybe I'd be able to do a third loop after all; my ankle was hurting slightly less. Then I twisted it a couple times again and that crazy idea was gone. I was only doing two loops.

At some point, I don't remember exactly where, Emily's husband Matt caught up with us. He had been running the 20 mile with our friend Janee'. It would've been her longest run to date, but like most of us the conditions forced her to drop at 10 miles. Matt continued on without her, and when he got to the Triangle they told him I was struggling, so he sped up to catch up with us. I really hated hearing that Janee' hadn't made it, but it was nice to have Matt with us. Fester's was a tough section with the jacked up ankle, but we got through it. I did my best to run whenever Emily ran, so really, considering my ankle and the conditions we were keeping a relatively decent pace.

We got to the Shelter 10 aid station and I was quite pleased. I needed a break and I knew they had some beer at their station. Okay, if you've never run an ultra or a Trail Nerd race, you may think beer at an aid station is odd, but it's not here. My buddy Dave had joined them working the station after he ran the 10 miler, and he offered some encouragement and poured me some Boulevard Single Wide IPA. I bitched a little about my ankle hurting, gave Katya some summer sausage food and finally we got back moving. At this point, all I could think about was climbing the 3 Bitches again.

Well, we got there and it sucked. It seemed like every step on my left foot slipped. That didn't feel good. My ankle was absolutely killing me at this point. Honestly, I am happy with how I did in the conditions, but as we got closer to the finish, the disappointment of not finishing the 50k, much less setting my PR goal, was setting in and I was a little pissed. Finally we came over the last hill and I semi-limped over the finish line. Ben gave me a 20 mile finisher's medal, gave one to Katya, gave me a 20 mile finisher sticker, and gave me a word of encouragement. As I walked past him, I saw my good friend Matty. This is the moment where my disappointment got the best of me. I guess I just needed to let it out for a moment. Matty put his hand up to give me a high-five and said, "congrats, man, way to go!" I gave him a nasty look, didn't return his high-five, and said, "congrats for what?" Then I walked right past him. It wasn't until later that I realized what an ass I'd been in that moment and apologized. Anyone that runs races has been there, so he understood, but I still felt like an ass. As I walked down to the aid station, I slipped, twisted my ankle AGAIN, and fell. SERIOUSLY??? I got pissed again and threw my water bottle and may have yelled some profanity. Oops! That got everyone's attention. My wife, and my friend Megan were coming over and tried to help me up, another guy working the station tried to help me up, Ben started to come see if I was okay and the race medic Gay was making a beeline over to see if I was okay. Finally I got up and started limping over to the benches.

I told Gay what was going on with my ankle and she asked if I wanted her to look at it. I told her that would be great and sat down. She asked how long it had been since I first twisted it and I told her 15 miles. She gave me a confused look and said, "You did the 20 miles, so... 3/4 of the race ago?" I said yes, and realized how well I'd done given the conditions. I finished the 20 miles in 5:32:57, so my second loop was 3:13:19. Not terrible given the type and depth of snow along with an ankle injury for most of it.

After than I tried to warm up, had some chili and beer and talk/joked with my friends that were already there and as they came through the finish themselves. It was crazy how many people were dropping distances. After a while, Kristy and I headed home. So, here's how I look back on this race. I did the smart thing. Stopping when I did, my ankle felt much better later that evening and fine the next day, so I had avoided the damage I might have done with a third loop. That's something worth being proud of. Also, I had completed 20 miles on the toughest course I've ever run in the toughest conditions I've ever run in race or not. Together that is well worth being proud of. My training for this race was the most productive and successful training in my entire time as a runner. I lost a lot of weight, got a lot faster and stronger, gained a ton of confidence, and and had managed to follow a schedule for 6 months without any real aches or pains or major setbacks. That is, without a doubt, something to be proud of. I cannot let the weather; which is completely out of my control, ruin my pride in the accomplishments I made over the last 6 months. I've never been more proud of not meeting a goal. I'm excited about my plans moving forward, but that's a topic for another post. Runs like this are why I am glad I have this blog. As I've said before, I mostly do this blog for myself because I like to look back and read my old reports and remember the details about these crazy events. This is a prime example. I didn't hit my goal or even finish my distance, but this run was so epic I will be telling the story for many years to come.

HUGE thanks to everyone that supported me out there. Special thanks to Emily for sticking with me and keeping me moving during that last loop when I mostly just wanted to curl up and quit.

Here is an album of photos from training and the race. And here is my Garmin data for the race.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Training Is Done...

My final long run for the Toto 50k is done. I'm through with the core of my training and I'm on to taper. Wow. It honestly feels like I just started training, but it also feels like I've been doing this training forever. It's been a pretty positive experience training for this race. I've gotten faster, I've gotten stronger, I've gained better endurance, mental toughness, and discipline. I feel, for the first time in a very long time, quite confident in my running and my fitness. When I decided to sign up for the race, I set out a plan for my training and I've followed it. I started with training for 13 weeks for the Pilgrim Pacer Half Marathon, then another 13 weeks of training (starting the day following the race) to train for the 50k. Why do it this way? Two reasons. First, I hadn't decided to run a 50k yet, my goal was to run the half. I wanted to train well for the half marathon. Second, I hadn't run further than 13.1 miles since Nov. '12, so I needed to build back to longer distances.

Training for the half went quite well and I was feeling strong on race day. Heck, it must've gone pretty well since part way through I was signing up for a 50k. The race wasn't as fast as I'd have liked, but it was a great day. I got to spend the time running with my good friend, Katie, at a run organized by my club, the Trail Nerds, with the support of many friends volunteering. To me, that's a great day. From that road race, I started my 50k trail training. The very next day, I met up with a great group of friends from the Trail Nerds to run the 10.35 mile loop at Wyandotte County Lake Park where the race will be held. It's a tough loop. We ran the loop in 2:39:52, which is a 15:23 avg pace. That was my starting point. I felt good about it because I finished the loop feeling strong and I did that just one day after a race that was equal to the longest run I'd done in 10 months at that point. I would use this run as a measuring stick for the rest of my training. A decent starting value.

From there, I ran that loop almost every weekend, often on both Saturday & Sunday, and often with additional miles after the loop. My normal weekly schedule was pretty great, surrounding myself with friends. Mondays: Mud Babe Mondays at Shawnee Mission Park as a recovery for my two weekly long runs - Tuesdays: Rest Day - Wednesday: Trail Nerds run at Shawnee Mission Park - Thursdays: Trail Nerds B.A.R. run at WyCo (Wyandotte County Lake Park) - Fridays: Rest Day - Saturdays: Long Run at WyCo, generally the shorter of my two weekly long runs - Sundays: Long Run at WyCo, generally the longer of my two weekly long runs. Also, during the work week, I did approx. 5.24 miles of fast walking per day throughout my workdays, and weight training on Wednesdays. I was also doing some hiking, yoga and indoor rock climbing.

The great thing about these group runs, which almost all of my runs were, was spending so much time with my friends. It also gave me the opportunity to try to run with folks much faster than me. How do you become a faster runner? The almost stupid sounding, easy answer is: run faster. I would hook up with someone much faster than me and they would run an "easy pace" as I would be running as hard as I could just to keep up. As training went on, it became easier and easier to run with those folks as I got faster and faster. That certainly made me feel good! That was true even on my long runs. Four times during my training I actually managed to run the race course loop in 2 hours or less. Before my training, I thought that would be impossible for me. Turns out, it was definitely not impossible. I started thinking about the race differently. The original goal was to finish the race, but it eventually evolved into a goal of setting a new 50k PR. My current PR is 7:00:29. I was losing weight, getting stronger, getting faster and getting more confident. I was even training my Husky, Katya, to run with me. Add to that, my good friend Danny offered to pace me for my last 10.35 miles of the 3 loop course. Pretty great to have good support from my friends. I don't know how it'll work out, since Danny is still fighting to recover from his recent 100 miler, so he may or may not be able to pace me, but I love that he was willing to make the offer.

After all the training, it finally came to my last training run. My friend Leia & I decided we didn't want to do yet another run at WyCo. After so many loops out there, we were both tiring of it and it is such a tough course that we didn't want the extra pounding. We decided to move out run out to the Clinton Lake trails instead. My original plan was to do this distance at Coleen's Annual Frozen Ass Run so I could have some support and aid out there, but for whatever reason & without announcement, the event never took place, so we were on our own. No worries, I really love the Clinton trails and I love running with Leia. We were just going to do an easy pace; I was mostly doing the distance to let Katya experience 26.5 miles before the 50k. I didn't feel like I needed more than a 20, but a 26.5 wouldn't hurt.

It was a gorgeous morning to spend out on the trail with a good friend and my Husky. We went out on the white trail and came back on the blue trail and planned an out-and-back to get the additional miles (the white & blue together are about 21 miles). We made it through the 21 mile loop strong. Leia & I, along with Katya, were all running pretty strong, taking our time and enjoying one another's company. I was really feeling confident with how easily I was covering the distance with little effort, even with how slow we were taking it. We stopped at our cars after the loop to grab a snack and refill our water packs, then we were back off for our 5.5 mile out-and-back. We were still going strong and both of us were pretty positive. Unfortunately, Leia took a bad step and twisted her knee. I convinced Leia to turn around and we walked back to our cars. Her training had been really good to that point and I saw no reason for her to injure herself for a few extra miles right before taper. Luckily she didn't argue much and I walked back to the cars with her and continued out with for the rest of the run with just me & Katya.

It was a great run and an awesome way to end the core of my training. From that run it would be three weeks to race day. I will spend this time tapering. I feel like my training was really excellent and I'm in a great position for race day. Of course, I am nervous about a PR attempt on the toughest race course I've ever run, but my training was good & I will have a lot of friends out there for support. I think race day will be a fun, successful adventure.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Review/2014 Goals

What can I say about 2013? It was an interesting year. I ended 2012 completely burnt out from too many races I didn't really run for myself, so I pretty much took a lot of 2013 off from organized training. I decided I wouldn't run anything more than a half marathon this year, and really couldn't see myself running anything longer than that ever again. In 2012 I had come to hate the long distance races. Sometimes you need a rest day, sometimes you need a rest week, sometimes you need a rest year. I was in desperate need of a year not running every race anyone suggested to me and just enjoying life a little.

I took things pretty easy as the year started, basically working out when I felt like it and not working out when I didn't. No set training. I was working out most every day, but my workouts were generally shorter distances, weight training, and unstructured. I just mentally wasn't into it and the more time went by, the more I felt like I had no interest in running longer distances than half marathons again.

One of the great parts of 2013 for me was a trip to Pensacola, FL in May. It was the second time I'd been to Pensacola and third time in Florida; the most recent having been about 11 years before. I loved Pensacola the last time I was there, but this was my first time visiting as an active person. It's almost hard to believe what all an active person can do with a week in Florida. I surfed, stand-up paddle boarded, ran (including a run on the beach), rode my bike (which I had taken with me), snorkeled, and even did yoga on a stand-up paddle board! Kristy & I ran in a race while we were there; the Fiesta 5k/10k. Kristy ran the 5k, I ran the 10k. It was a great race and an amazing vacation. It really helped remind me why I enjoy being an active person.

We came back home to Kansas and I got back to random working out. Again, when I felt like it I worked out, when I didn't, I didn't. I did spend a lot of time volunteering this year, which I truly love doing. One event I volunteered at was the Rock On! Lake Perry 50k a couple days after getting home from Florida. The highlight of that event for me was getting a chance to run with my friend Leia. She was running her first 50k and I was working a mid-course aid station. When she came through our station I ran out with her a little bit, then ran back to the station. After the last runner came through, we cleaned up our aid station, then I made my way over to the last station. There I met up with her and ran her last 2 miles of the loop with her. I wanted to be there to offer her some encouragement. She is a very positive and encouraging friend, so I was happy to help her a little.

I did end up running a lot of races this year, although almost all were done just for fun:

1/5/2013- Coleen's Frozen Fat Ass Trail Run (Olathe, KS) - 9.3 miles in 1:47:43 (11:32)

3/16/2013- Aggieville St. Pat's 2 Mile (Manhattan, KS) - 2.0 miles in 14:37 (7:19) - New PR

3/16/2013- Aggieville St. Pat's 10k (Manhattan, KS) - 6.2 miles in 53:54 (8:42) - New PR

4/20/2013- Garmin Half Marathon (Olathe, KS) - 13.14 miles in 2:04:16 (9:31)

5/4/2013- Fiesta 10k (Pensacola, FL) - 6.23 miles in 52:32 (8:27) - New PR

5/18/2013- Kansas City Corporate Challenge Half Marathon (Overland Park, KS) - 13.1 miles in 2:02:38 (9:23) - New PR

5/29/2013- KC Corp. Challenge Bike Race (Kansas City, KS) - 3 miles in 8:27 (21.3 mph)

6/3/2013- KC Corp. Challenge Track Meet 400m (Overland Park, KS) - 400 meters in 1:19 (5:16)

6/4/2013- KC Corp. Challenge Track Meet 1 Mile (Overland Park, KS) - 1 mile in 7:05 (7:05)

6/5/2013- KC Corp. Challenge Track Meet 100m (Overland Park, KS) - 100 meters in 0:15 (4:02)

6/6/2013- KC Corp. Challenge Track Meet 800m (Overland Park, KS) - 800 meters in 3:16 (6:32)

6/16/2013- KC Corp. Challenge Triathlon (Shawnee, KS) - 500 meters swimming in 11:41; 9.02 mile bike in 31:04 (17.4 mph); 3.22 mile run in 28:28 (8:47) - New PR

8/2/2013- Psych Night Trail 10k (Kansas City, KS) - 6.2 miles in 1:24:14 (13:38)

8/10/2013- Coleen's Sweaty Ass Run (Olathe, KS) - 8.6 mles in 2:04:19 (14:27)

8/25/2013- Midwest Meltdown Triathlon Long Course (Paola, KS) - 1500 meters swimming in 35:55; 20.56 mile bike in 1:10:57 (17.4 mph); 5.15 mile run in 58:43 (11:19) - New PR

9/2/2013- Bike 4 The Brain 75 Mile Bike Tour (Mission, KS) - 75.65 miles in 6:08:44 (12.5 mph)

10/5/2013- Pumpkin Run 5k (Olathe, KS) - 3.11 miles in 24:36 (7:54) - New PR

11/9/2013- Pilgrim Pacer Half Marathon (Shawnee, KS) - 13.1 miles in 2:14:44 (10:21)

11/28/2013- Ward Parkway Thanksgiving Day 5k (Kansas City, MO) - 3.11 miles in 24:03 (7:42) - New PR

12/14/2013- Alternate Chili Trail Run (Kansas City, KS) - 10.35 miles in 1:56:17 (11:19) - New PR
 I had some really good, some really fun and some new race experiences this year. I got to set a few new PRs, I got to race my bike on the track at the Kansas Speedway, I got to set a new longest bike ride ever. It was a good year from this standpoint.

As for mileage, here's how things ended up: 916.89 miles running (509.34 of which have been since 9/1), 1630.46 miles cycling, 41.05 miles trail hiking, 73.72 miles swimming, 283.06 miles walking (although I only started counting my walks during the last few months of the year), 4.61 miles SUP, 28.81 other miles (SUP, kayaking, etc.). 2975.23 total miles.

In September, I finally started to get my head back into structure running and training. I'd started my training for the Pilgrim Pacer Half Marathon when my friend Brandon decided he wanted to run his first 10k and he started running with me (other than my long runs, of course). Running with him helped me get excited to run again. Then I volunteered at the Lake Perry Rocks! 50k (there are two Trial Nerd 50ks there per year) and got to again witness several friends run their first 50ks. I was fired up after that and decided to sign up for the Psycho WyCo Run Toto Run 50k. This would be my toughest 50k to date, but I was ready to really challenge myself again.

In late October I got a second opportunity to visit Pensacola. This time I got to do some trail running with my friend Jamie who lives out there. I really enjoyed running through beautiful Blackwater State Park. When I got back home, I ran the Pilgrim Pacer Half Marathon with my friend Katie, then the very next day started training for the Toto 50k. I even decided to train my Husky, Katya, to run it with me! It's been great running the trails again and it's been great spending so much time running with my Trail Nerd and Mud Babe friends and with Katya. I'm currently on track to meet my goals of getting my weight to 165# by the race (2/8) and set a new PR at the 50k.

So that leads me to my goals for 2014. I'm setting goals a little differently now. No mileage goals, no long list of race goals. I am now on a plan of one target race in the first half of the year and one in the second half of the year. Between the two, I will focus on general fitness and having fun. I have three goals for my fitness in 2014:

1. Get into the best shape of my life. Part of that is my weight, part is strength, etc. A lot of things will play into this, including time between race goals.

2. New 50k PR at the Toto 50k in February.

3. New marathon PR in the fall.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2013 Alternate Chili Trail Run Race Report

Katya & me pre-race
Right now, my activities are singularly focused on preparing for the Psycho WyCo Run Toto Run 50k on February 8, 2014. To that end, I signed myself and my Husky, Katya, up for the Alternate Chili Trail Run on December 14, 2013. This race is one loop (10.35 miles) of the Toto 50k course, so it is an excellent chance to get a training run in under race conditions. I've been running the loop each weekend, often both Saturday and Sunday, so although it is a tough trail, it is becoming more manageable for me. The first time I ran this loop this year I did it in 2:39:52 and over the weeks I'd gotten that time down to 1:58:04.

Another shot of Katya pre-race
I was hoping to finish the race in less than 2 hours, but the day before the race it rained all day then the temps dropped drastically and it turned to snow overnight. That meant that more than likely, the trail would be icy and slick. Well, at least it's not knee deep mud! The fastest time I'd done the loop with Katya had been 2:18:17, but she's quite a runner so I was confident she could get through in 2 hours if I could. The race director, Ben, had requested that as many people as possible car pooled to the event due to lack of space, so I met up with a couple Trail Nerd friends and we all rode in with Josh. A funny thing happened when we got to Wyandotte County Lake Park, though. Instead of going into the park and to the parking lot, there was a long line of cars at the entrance. Turns out the park rangers hadn't shown up to unlock the park when they were supposed to. We had a long wait for them to show up.

Finally, they did show up and let us in, but due to the delay the race that was set to start at 8 am did not start until 8:50 am. I have to give a big tip-of-the-hat to Ben and all of his volunteers for getting things set up so quickly and get the race started in less than an hour after the gates were opened. We finally got going and Katya & I settled in behind my friend Eric. He is a pretty fast runner, so I thought if we could keep up with him we'd be well ahead of our 2 hour goal. We kept up with him mostly easily through the WyCo Triangle section of the trail (almost 3 miles in). That section has a lot of quick, short hills and turns. The trail through this section was very slick and it took a lot of work to keep Katya from pulling me down. She doesn't understand that 2 legs don't stop or turn as easily as 4! I fell probably a tenth of a mile or so behind Eric through that section. We were both still doing very well, though, so I gave her a quick snack and some water and we kept moving.

We caught up a little closer to Eric again as we got closer and closer to Fall Down Hill. As long as he was in sight, I knew we were doing pretty well on our time. As we reached the top of Fall Down Hill, I knew this could get interesting with all the ice on the trail. Fall Down Hill is very steep with lots of quick switchbacks. Katya & I both LOVE to run this section as fast as we can, but these conditions were not the time for that. She wanted to sprint, so I was doing my best to keep her slowed down. A little out ahead of me, I heard Eric's voice, "Careful! This turn is VERY slick!" Then I saw the guy in front of me basically skate around it. I slowed as best as I could, but Katya took the turn easily and as I carefully navigated my way around, Katya yanked on her leash. Down I went! Not a bad fall by any means. In fact, without the hard, frozen ground I probably would have barely felt it. I landed on my knee and the frozen ground made that quite painful. No big deal, but it hurt at the time. We made it the rest of the way down Fall Down Hill without incident and we started on our way across & up the dam. Surprisingly, Eric was still not too far out ahead of me, so I took the opportunity of fall, unfrozen ground on the dam to glance at my Garmin. I don't remember the exact time at the moment, but I remember being surprised to see how far ahead of 2 hour pace we were. Things were going very well, especially considering the conditions.

As went crossed the dam I was getting closer and closer to Eric, Once we got to the top of the dam, there is about a half mile section of hilly road that you run to get back to the next trail entrance. During that half mile, I got steadily closer to catching Eric. By the time he entered the trail I was within probably 20 feet of him. I wasn't trying to race Eric by any means, but shooting for sub-2 made him a nice person to judge how well I was doing by. There was an aid station at the trail entrance and they had a bowl of water for dogs, so Katya and I stopped for a moment to let her get a good drink and a quick snack, then we entered the trail for the Fester's Wander section. Normally, this is one of my favorite sections and a place I make up a lot of time. It has lots of quick but runnable uphills, fast downhills and fun switchbacks. But with all the ice on the trail, I knew this section would be slick. I hoped I wouldn't lose too much time in this section where I have come to normally gain so much time. I quickly saw that I would lose lots of time. It was probably the slickest section of the entire course, so we walked much of it just to keep from falling. I gave up on the idea of sub-2 hour. It wasn't worth trying to keep pace through this very slick section.

I ended up more or less solo through this section. Eric & the rest of those ahead of me ended up WELL ahead of me and those behind me were far enough behind that they they were out of sight and hearing. No worries, just me & my Husky! We continued on and I ignored my watch completely. I ran as fast as I could when the trail wasn't too slick and walked when the footing was too questionable. Katya was beginning to get a little tired, but she was troupering on. She'd never run this so fast, so she was tired, but she certainly wasn't giving up. Finally we got to the Three Bitches. This is within the last mile - mile and a quarter of the course. It starts with Bertha, a long, VERY steep uphill that is more or less not runnable at all. Katya was so tired that she lagged behind me a bit, but did her best to keep up. This hill is a beast because not only is it super-steep, it is also unending. You get to what looks like the top about 3 times before reaching the actual top.

My friend Kim and another guy had caught up to me and would pass me on each uphill, then Id run past them on the downhills. Not unusual. I struggle with those big uphills and love the downhills and Kim is the opposite. Then you get to the second of the Three Bitches. It's barely a tough hill, but coming on the heals of Bertha, it;s not that easy. Normally I'd run up this one, but it was slick and Katya was too tired to run it, so we hiked it. Again, on the downhill/flat side, I passed Kim and the other guy again. We got to the third of the big hills and yet again, Katya slowed, I slowed, we got passed. We got to the top and off we went. Only a very short distance to the finish from there, so I knew we were still going to be able to finish sub-2, so Katya & I started trying to go as fast as we could. Finally, we crossed the finish in 1:56:17!! (Click the link on my time to see my Garmin data) Katya & I got our medals. I gave her a bowl of water and some food, then I got some chili and one of Ben's home brewed beers. Not a bad way to finish a race!!

I'm quite proud of setting a new fastest time on this route in conditions such as they were, and I'm proud that Katya could as well. It's really a tough trail, so getting to the point that we can run it so successfully shows how hard I've been working. Between the time I ran the Pilgrim Pacer Half Marathon to start my 50k training (11/9) and the Alternate Chili Run (12/14), I had lost 10.2# and gotten much faster. I'm well on my way. My goal was to be 165# (started training at 191.6#) by the Toto 50k and to set a new 50k PR at the race. My current 50k PR is 7:00:29 (Blue Springs 50k on 10/30/11). I have 8 more weeks after the Alt. Chili run to make it happen. I feel good about this race and I feel good about how I'm doing. I am confident that with 8 more weeks I will be more than ready to meet my goals. This was definitely a confidence builder for me.