Monday, December 29, 2008

Fitness goals for 2009

"Set your goals high, and don't stop till you get there." -- Bo Jackson

Goals for 2009 (I hate the idea of a "resolution," so these are just goals):

Average 2+ days per week biking to/from work (100 days)
5k PR
10k PR
Run a sub 5-minute mile
Half-marathon PR
Marathon PR
Hellgate PR
100 consecutive push-ups
20 consecutive pull-ups
Explore the art of Free Running (or Parkour)
Learn Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)
Become a certified personal trainer
Sprint more
Sleep more
Eat and Drink less (too much like a resolution)

Ok, some of these are real, some are not. Some will stick, some won't. I'll post back in January with the final list. What are your goals?

Set 'em high, and run hard in their direction.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Nike + iPod, first impressions

First off, let me say that I love my new iPod Nano. This is the first "Apple" audio product that I have used (I've used several other less expensive players), and it does seem that Apple has this market figured out. This is an amazing little player.

Today was my first run with the Nike + iPod. For those of you that don't know, this relatively inexpensive running toy includes an add-on for the Nano (a little chip that you plug into the bottom of the player), and a pod that you put into your shoe. Nike would have you believe that these things are only compatible with their shoes, but that is not true. I made a little pouch out of duct tape that allows me to integrate the pod into my shoe laces much like you would a timing chip. No problems there.

The small instruction manual that came with the product mentioned something about calibrating. "Nike + iPod is quite accurate for most users. You can improve the accuracy by calibrating Nike + iPod to your natural running and walking styles."

Basically, you choose calibration from the menu, select a distance, then go run and walk that distance. Then the system is calibrated. I decided to skip this step and see just how accurate it was out of the box. I used my trusty Garmin Forerunner for comparison. I am visiting family for the Holidays, so I do not know the "real" distance that I ran. Here's how today's run turned out.

Nike + iPod
Duration: 45'23"
Total Miles: 7.04
Avg Pace: 6'27"

Garmin Forerunner 205
Duration: 48'25"
Total Miles: 6.11
Avg Pace: 7'55"

Given that I did not calibrate the system, I expected some discrepancy. But this is more than I expected. I felt like I was running pretty hard, but not quite as hard as the iPod display was telling me. Based on the distance that I can estimate from Google maps, the Garmin is pretty darn close for the overall distance. And I cannot explain the time difference. The Garmin is a stopwatch even when it is not getting good satellite reception, so I trust its timekeeping ability. I did need to pause the Nike+iPod workout mid run to change the music I was listening to, but not for 3 minutes. I tried to start and stop them at the same time, so this one is baffling.

So far the jury is out on this one. It definitely needs calibration before it can be trusted. I do not like the fact that I need to pause the workout to change music. I think I can get around this one by learning how to use the overall system better. So I will calibrate it before my next run, and make a better effort to run a course with known mileage.

I like my toys.

Run hard out there.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas everyone

I hope everyone got a fun toy or two for Christmas. I got a unicycle. I'm not sure what to do with it yet.

Oh, I also got a nike+ ipod thingy. I'm not a big fan of the swoosh or the apple, but I understand it is a fun training tool, and I'll post a review next week.

In the mean time, check out my "mini" over here to the right (be patient, let it load). Commercialism at its finest.

Run hard out there...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

First run in a week

Every time I run a tough ultra, I promise myself throughout the last tough miles that I will take a week (or sometimes two) off with no running. But usually I get a couple days before I have to get out there again.

This week I did it. I went all week without running a step. I did a couple quick circuit workouts, and got back into doing pull ups again, but no running.

But you know how obsessive we runners can get. I sat around this morning after a breakfast of French Toast and fried apples, thinking about how out of shape I have become because I haven't run or worked out hard for a week. So I did it. I went for a short run. It felt good to get back out there.

Some have asked about my recovery from Hellgate. It has gone really well. I had some DOMS in my quads for a couple days. My feet have been sore, but not bad. My biggest complaint was with my big toe, which I hurt when I tripped on a limb pretty early into the night. It was swollen even a couple days after. It was stiff at the beginning of the run this morning, but it loosened up nicely and feels fine even now.

Time to start thinking about goals for 2009. I've shared a few of mine with some of you, and I'll post more later. I think my first goal is going to be a 5K PR.

"We need speed. Speed's what we need. Greasy fast speed."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How I trained for Hellgate

"Neal Jamison probably should not even be here."

That's how Hellgate Race Director David Horton introduced me at the pre-race briefing. He knew that I had been injured since early summer. He knew I had been forced to drop out of the races I had planned for the fall. He knew that I had only decided to run Hellgate a week before this very night. But what he didn't know was that I had a secret.

2008 started out as a great running year for me. I was consistently running 40-50 mile weeks leading into the spring races. I finished almost all of them strong, turning in a couple PRs along the way. I was running strong with the tough Grindstone 100 in my sights when I got a little over ambitious and ran a hundred-miler in early June. I ran a good time, but paid for it. I developed tendinitis in both of my feet, a condition that would possibly change my running forever.

I tried to get the wheels turning again in August, but after a couple "long runs" of 15 and 11 miles, I gave up. The tendinitis was winning. Knowing that it would take time for me to heal - time I could not be training, I contacted David Horton and told him that I was out of Grindstone, Masochist, and quite possibly, Hellgate. Frustrated by injury, I lost the motivation to run. I don't run for "exercise." I run for fun. I wasn't having fun anymore, so I stopped. I hardly ran at all during September and October. I had one 18-mile week, the rest were under 12-miles per week.

Because I do enjoy getting outside and pushing my body, I turned to other things. I started lifting weights again. I began biking again. I rediscovered "Crossfit." While I don't follow their workouts to a T, I began to really enjoy the type of metabolic conditioning workouts that Crossfit prescribes: fast circuits of bodyweight or weighted exercises with very little rest. The feeling I got from those circuits reminded me of when I used to do hill sprints or track workouts. So much so, that I started incorporating sprints and hills into my workouts again. My total weekly mileage rarely topped 15 miles, but I was running again. Sprinting, running fast up hills, all out efforts. My daily run went like this: a 1.5-mile jog to the park, 20 minutes of sprinting, pushups, lunges, squats, planks, whatever felt good that particular day, then a walk or jog (if I could still jog) back. I was running hard, the way I like it.

Then I read about a guy named Carl Borg who ran the Angeles Crest 100 in a decent time with a long training run of 13 miles. That intrigued me. Knowing that my feet were still not ready for long training runs, I decided to see what Carl knew that I didn't. Through Carl, I discovered Crossfit Endurance: a group of accomplished endurance junkies, marathoners, Ironman triathletes, and ultrarunners. But where most endurance junkies run endless long slow miles, these guys run hills, intervals, and sprints. And they lift weights. Heavy weights.

I'll be honest here. I was looking for an easy way out. I couldn't put in the miles needed to train for Hellgate. At least not the way I used to train. In previous years I would ramp up to 60-80 mile training weeks in the last six weeks before Hellgate. There was no way my feet would take that this year. I needed an alternative.

What Carl was doing gave me hope. I was working out like that! I didn't know if it was getting me back into ultra shape or not, but I felt good, and I was having fun doing it. My body was buying into this Crossfit Endurance idea, but my mind just wouldn't go along. I was still convinced that without the long training runs, Hellgate would not be possible.

Then I got an email from a running buddy, Marc. He convinced me to go for it. Run, walk, crawl, do whatever it took. Just give Hellgate a try. I had a streak going there. Five finishes. Only eight others could say that. So with a few weeks to go, I upped my mileage a bit, and threw in lots of walking and a couple trail runs (the first in quite a while). My longest week leading up to Hellgate was 37 miles total, and it included two hill workouts, two interval workouts, two short runs with my dog, and the rest walking. Three weeks out, I ran an 11-mile run on the AT. This would be my longest run since August, and my only long one before Hellgate. I ran it hard, and when I got home and started comparing times, I realized it was a great run. Two days later, I ran a 5K time trial in one of my fastest times in years. Then the following week I ran a favorite 5.6-mile trail, in my third fastest time ever. I now knew my fitness was dialed in. But what about my endurance? Would it be enough to get me through?

Much to my surprise, it was. I'm still processing all of this and determining how it will influence my training in 2009. For now I'm a research project with one test subject. And it's kind of fun.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I did it

I finished the 2008 Hellgate 100K (66+ miles) in my second fastest time ever, 14:45. I'll post more about this later, but I do want to say thanks to Sophie for helping pull me through this one. We ran together for about 40 miles. I got a finish I wasn't sure I'd get, and she got a PR!

Check ExtremeUltrarunning for results.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thanks Marc.

Below is an excerpt from an email from one of my good running buddies Marc Griffin. Marc and I spent many hours on the Hellgate course last year training together. This is the note that got me back on track with respect to my running.

...I have to send you this email to get your butt in gear. You have a little over a month to get ready. Run a few miles each weak and keep biking. Since you are already signed up come out and run with me. This will be a lot slower then you are used to and hopefully we can get you to the finish. We can run it together, this will help both of us. Let me know what you think. If its one race this whole year I would love to see you finish ...

And then again today:

One thing to remember and I believe this with out a doubt,

70% is physical and in the training,
30% or more comes from the heart, if you want it bad enough you WILL do it.

All that is left now is to relax, rest up and eat good. There is nothing you can change now so why worry.
Remember if i come running up and catch you, I am going to drag you to that finish so be prepared, also if i see you stopped at an aid station i am not leaving without you!

Hopefully neither of these two will happen and we can celebrate together sometime Saturday afternoon!

I got lots of support from others too, but these stand out in my mind for some reason. It helps to have good running friends to support us along the way.

Thanks Marc. I'm looking forward to seeing you out there this weekend.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Long Run (or lack thereof)

A week away from my most important event of the year, and I have to ask: Am I ready for Hellgate? Have I put in the training to get me through 66 cold mountain miles?

The chart below shows that in the last 6 months, I have had a total of 4 runs over 14 miles. The longest run was 18 miles, in August. Following the standard ultramarathoning mentality, that ain't gonna cut it. But, what if there's more to it than just the long run?

What if the guys at Crossfit Endurance, or the guys behind the best selling book Run Less Run Faster are on to something, and quality is much more important than quantity?

Can I finish my 6th Hellgate on a long run of 18 miles (and a more recent long run of just 11 miles)? Since the end of August, I've only run longer than 10 miles twice. Is it possible? It's been done before. Can my determination and experience win out in the end? Will my knowledge of the course, my experience with race nutrition, and my general strength and fitness get me through?

I ran three time trials in the last three weeks. First an 11-mile tough run up to McAfee's Knob and back on the AT, in what might be my fastest time ever. Then just two days later, a 5K in 18:44, my fourth fastest recorded 5K time. Yesterday I ran a favorite 5.6-mile trail in my third fastest time ever. My fitness is there. What about my endurance?

Only time will tell.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The next full moon...

I was out running tonight as the clouds cleared to reveal a beautiful 17% of full, waxing crescent moon. It occurred to me that on the eve of the next full moon (December 13), I will run my 6th Hellgate 100K. The first Hellgate was under a full moon. There was snow on the ground that night, and there were many sections of the course that were so bright that we turned off our lights and ran under the light of the moon. I noticed this morning that there is snow in the mountains already this year.

Will there be more snow (or ice!) on the course in two weeks? Might be!

Will it be cold? Might be!

Will it be slick? Might be!

Am I staring to sound like Hellgate Race Director, David Horton? Might be!

Will I be ready? With less than two weeks to go, I don't have the answer for that one yet.

For those of you who are not familiar with this Hellgate of which I obsessively blog, check here to learn more.

Run hard out there...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

So what if you eat too much

It's Turkey Day!

So many blogs that I follow are offering tips on how to get through the Thanksgiving holiday without eating too much, gaining weight, or otherwise blowing the diet. It's crazy. "Drink a big protein shake just before you sit down to the table." "Fill up on raw veggies first." One blog I read suggested that we just skip the big meal altogether.

You know what I say? What's the big fuss all about? So what if I have a day or two (or three or four) each year where I stuff myself with thousands of calories worth of great food? What's the problem with that? As an ultrarunner, I also have many days where I burn thousands of calories too. I say, it all works out in the end. Plus some.

But if you still want to fuss about it, the solution is not to avoid dinner or fill up first. The best solution is to make sure that the huge meal does not become a habit. And make sure that you dedicate a good hard workout or two to the memory of that turkey and all those poor green beans and sweet potatoes that made your dinner possible.

For the truly obsessed, has a calorie calculator that lets you pick your Thanksgiving day menu item by item, then it tells you how many miles you need to walk (or run) to work it off. Ridiculous.

Enjoy the day with people you love.
Be thankful for what you have, and forget about what you have not.

Run hard out there.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cold snowy run on the AT

(Steve Pero on McAfee's Knob, March 2005)

That picture is from the 2005 Catawba Run Around. I think Keith Knipling took it. I stole it from his site, so I'm giving him credit regardless. I was up there today, and it was snowy, just not quite that snowy. It was about 30 degrees, the wind was strong, and a flurry blew through that coated the entire mountain in a nice thin layer of white. I actually saw 6 other people (3 separate couples) up there, which is pretty odd for a Tuesday morning in cold weather.

It was a great day for a mountain trail run. 2400' of gain in just over 11 miles.

Run hard out there. Winter is almost here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Breakaway Friday: Joel's Story

Endurance Planet has recorded another podcast from Running Through the Wall.
"Running Through the Wall by Neal Jamison is a terrific compilation of ultramarathon stories. On today's Endurance Planet, a Breakaway Friday edition, we hear one of those tales. It's called Joel's Story and it's written by Robert B. Boeder. It's about the life of Joel Zucker, a 3-time finisher of the Hardrock 100-Mile Endurance Run, who died the day after completing the 1998 Hardrock. He was the only runner to die during or immediately following one of these events. But, as you'll hear, Joel is remembered for much, much more than his untimely death at the age of 44."


What a difference 6 months makes...

Here's a graph of my weekly mileage for 2008 to date.

This chart is a feature of, one of the best online sites I've seen for logging runs. Anyway, what should be obvious in the chart is the difference between my mileage for the first half of the year, and my mileage from June on (and especially after August, when I decided to take my injury seriously).

If you know me or have followed this blog, you know I started the year with some big goals. This was going to be a breakout year for me. I set PRs in almost every race I ran for the first half of the year. But then I jumped into the Old Dominion 100 a bit under-prepared. I had a fantastic race (sub 24 hours, top-ten finish) in brutal conditions (99-degrees that afternoon), and I am very glad I did it. I would never give up the exhilaration of racing for that buckle.


It came at a cost. After the OD100, I was mentally and physically broken. What I lacked in motivation I made up for in tendinitis. I went from averaging 50 miles per week to struggling to find excuses to run at all. From June to August I tried to push it too far too soon, and I paid for that too. In fact, I still am to some degree.

But you know what? So what if I missed Mountain Masochist (A race I absolutely despise due to the early start and the logistics of getting to and from the start/finish). So what if I missed the inaugural Grindstone. Those races mean nothing to me. What really bothers me is that finishing another Hellgate is in jeopardy. I've enjoyed five successful years there. Without a doubt some of the most memorable moments in my ultrarunning career happened there. I recall spending hours on that course with some of my dearest ultra friends Dan Lehmann, Mike Day, Cat Phillips, Kevin Townsend, Doug Blackford, and too many others to name. And finishing every year to find my wife and son waiting for me, it's more than any man deserves.

I am not ready to give that up. I will not give that up.

I have my work cut out for me between now and December 13. But I am willing to give it every ounce of passion I have. The reward is there, all I need to do is run smart and claim it. And that's exactly what I plan to do. Just before midnight on a cold December night, I'll stand at that gate one more time, shivering with anticipation as we pray and sing the National Anthem. Then, with the shout "Go!" and a chorus of nervous cheers, I will join 120 others and run into the darkness.

To be continued...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hellgate revisited

One of the "what ifs" has been removed. Now what?

Is it really all up to me?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Hellgate What Ifs

What if I could get out of the funk I am in and convince myself that I really could finish this great race one more time.

What if I could cram months of training into 4 short weeks?

What if I could forget about finishing it fast, and just go out there to have fun and finish?

What if the race director would let me in at the last minute even though the race has been full for weeks?

What if...

Hellgate. It is the only race that I know so well I can visualize almost every mile in my head. I have had some of my best (most fun) times out on that beautiful and challenging course. I've run it fast, and I've run it slow. But I've always run it.

It offers so much. Am I really willing to give it up without a fight? The picture above was from Hellgate 2005. I trainined that year for a sub-three-hour marathon in the fall. That speedwork carried over and allowed me to have my fastest Hellgate in what was perhaps the worst weather year. Footing was hard to find. But what I did find that year was the courage to go out there and do my best.

Maybe muscle memory can help me get back into ultra shape in 4 weeks. If only I could remember where I put my courage.

Run hard out there.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Lifting Weights Improves Running Economy

If you guys don't follow the Conditioning Research blog, you should. The latest post is about a study that shows that weight training improves running economy.

If there is one thing an ultrarunner should want more of, it's running economy. Mine is in recession. But I have a bailout plan...

Run hard out there.

Monday, October 27, 2008

More riding, less running

I was a long distance cyclist before I was an ultrarunner. Getting back to basics for me usually starts with a ride to work or a long ride in the mountains. The breeze is never fully at my back these days, but any ride is a good ride.

I laced up my Lemond Poprad this morning for a ride to work. It was windy, not too cold. A nice reminder of how much I used to enjoy those mornings with 30-miles under my tires before even getting into town. I long for those mornings. They are just around the bend.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cold ride to work

In an attempt to reclaim my "inner badass," I cleaned up my single speed road bike and decided to start biking to work again. I picked a beautiful, 32-degree morning to start. There's no better way to clear the morning cobwebs.

I love the changing of the seasons, and Fall is just about my favorite time of year. Cool weather, football, apple picking, and turkey roasting.

Enjoy yourselves out there...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Withdrawn from MMTR, Doubtful for Hellgate

I don't really have much to say about it. I had a great first half of the year, ran 100 miles in less than 24 hours for the fifth time, then it has been all uphill from there.

Running used to be my passion, my way of expressing myself and having fun. When the passion is gone, it becomes more work than fun. I hope the passion returns someday. I've taken breaks before, and each time come back stronger. Will this be one of those times?

Best of luck to everyone. Thanks all for reading my blog and my books.

Run hard out there.


Monday, October 6, 2008

Congrats to all Grindstone Finishers!

Early predictions were that very few would finish under 24 hours. Nine runners did. Hats off to Harland Peelle, Chris Reed, and Keith Knipling for running such a strong and competitive race. 84 runners and only 12 DNFs! Am I reading that right? This year's Massanutten (MMT) had 55 DNFs out of 156 starters. Hellgate last year had 23 DNFs out of 105 starters, and that was a good weather year. Harland Peelle finished Grindstone 2 hours faster than he did Massanutten. Incredible. It's awesome to see how ultrarunners can step up their game when so much is on the line. Tell us it is impossible, and we will prove you wrong. Tell us it is tough, and we will show you that we are too.

Man, I wish I could have been there... Great job Jay, Sophie, Dan, Marc, Bill (first hundred!), Vicki, Sniper, Rebekah, Mike, and everyone else.

I'm dreaming of Hellgate.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Training when there is no time to train

I'm out of town again this week for some company sponsored training and "networking" (organized socializing). With planned activities from morning until after dinner, it's hard to find time to train. I managed to find a little time today between class and the next required social event. I spent 20 minutes in the hotel gym doing some high intensity dumbbell work. Then I ventured outside for a short run around the hotel. It was not ideal ultramarathon training, but it was enough to make me feel better about the calorie heavy "networking" happy hour and dinner that would follow.

Even when it seems there is no time to train, there really is. You just have to look for it, and make it happen. If you make training a priority, you will find a way to get it done.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Good News for Ultrarunners!

Eating dark chocolate reduces inflammation.

Race Directors take note: We demand only the best dark chocolate at aid stations. And while you are at it, a little red wine would be nice.

Run happy out there.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Crossfit Endurance -- Carl Borg finishes AC 100

34 year old Carl Borg finished the Angeles Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run (AC 100) this past weekend in a time of 29 hours, 31 minutes. He finished 52nd out of 98 finishers (135 starters). Carl subscribes to the Crossfit Endurance methodology that emphasizes functional training over long slow sport specific training. From what I've read, Carl's longest run before the AC 100 was 13 miles.

See an older post or two for more on this somewhat controversial subject.

I'm looking for more information about Carl and his training, and would love to even get a chance to talk to him to learn more about his training and get an idea for how he feels as he recovers from that tough run.

Congrats Carl on a great finish! If you read this, please drop me a comment.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


I'm out of town for the week in training (computer, not running). Still healing. My goal this week is 15-20 easy miles. I ran about 3 at lunchtime yesterday, and felt pretty good. Baby steps. I did get in a very high intensity weight workout first.

Thanks to all who have contacted me regarding my injury, blog, and book. I love hearing people tell me that they find Running Through the Wall motivating. We all need motivation sometimes. Hearing that others have found the book motivating motivates me. I thank you for that.

If you get a chance, go to and leave a review (you'll need to login first). Perhaps your review will help motivate others.

Happy and healthy running everyone...


Friday, September 5, 2008

Peroneal Tendonitis

What does it feel like? For me, it feels kind of like Plantar Fasciitis. A dull ache in the arch of the foot. The pain is mostly on the outside of the arch, halfway between the toe and the heel. The peroneal tendon comes down around the ankle and attaches to the bottom of the foot in that area.

Google it for more info.

I can run fine for several miles. Then it gets angry. If I'm running on uneven terrain, it gets worse.

NSAIDs are very effective. But at what cost? I did get a prescription for a Ketoprofen cream (basically an NSAID that you rub on the affected area). It works too. But my insurance doesn't cover it, and it is about $40 per ounce. That should last me a couple weeks, and with the allowable refills, I will definitely have some magic cream in my next 100 miler drop bag.

Rest is working for me. I'm hitting the weights and relaxing. It's nice to end the summer knowing that I don't have to run 100 miles anytime soon.

But then again, MMTR is just around the corner.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Get your bike tires pumped up...

If Gustav has his way, gas prices are really going to pop. Plus, it's a great way to crosstrain while recovering from those running injuries.

UPDATE: Gustav has eased. But biking to work is still great exercise. And a whole lot more fun than driving!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Grindstone update

I'm out.

-----Original Message-----
From: Neal Jamison
Sent: Thursday, August 28, 2008 11:56 PM
To: Clark Zealand
Cc: Horton, David
Subject: grindtsone


With many regrets, I'm out of Grindstone.
Good luck with this epic event.
See you at MMTR.

I have a bit of peroneal tendonitis.
It really acts up on uneven trails.
I need to heal.


Good luck to all of you in the last few weeks of training. See you at MMTR and/or Hellgate.

Run healthy out there.

Monday, August 25, 2008

I'm heading to the Podiatrist

I had a great 60 mile training week last week up until the last 8 miles. Most of my miles were on the flat, paved bike path in Duck, NC (at the beach). I also did a good deal of walking, as well as a few sets of sprint intervals on the beach. I had virtually no pain in my feet all week. Sure there was some soreness, but nothing that a few rolls on the tennis ball and a dip in the Atlantic didn't solve.

On Sunday I headed up to the AT for a 20-mile solo run. 7 miles into it, my right arch started aching again. It started as I ran over some of the rocks and roots that mark the AT in this area. Is it bruised fascia? Or Plantar Fasciitis? Most likely. Is it a stress fracture? Probably not, but I should rule it out. It's a nagging pain. Not one that makes me stop, or even causes a limp. But if it hurts after 7 miles, what will it feel like 50 miles into my next hundred?

So I called all of the local podiatrists today, making appointments with all of them until I finally got an appointment for this week. Wednesday, 3pm.

I have 4 good training weeks left until Grindstone. My fitness is as good as it has ever been. But it's hard to get "time on the feet" when the feet need time to heal. So this week will be mostly metabolic conditioning training with weights. Zero miles until I see the doc, and maybe none until this weekend. Labor day weekend is traditionally a big training weekend for me. I'm heading into this one with fingers crossed.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

54 miles on the Duck NC Bike path

54 Miles on the Duck, NC bicycle path has reassured me of one thing...

I'm hitting the AT tomorrow!

Run softly out there...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

La Playa

Today was the first day I've ever been happy to miss the Thursday sprint workout. In between sprint sets we usually do some other form of cross-training exercise. Today, in my absence, the group decided to do walking lunges.

I hate walking lunges. Thank goodness for business travel.

But then again, I'm sitting in the airport in Atlanta. I just ate a very small pizza which with a bottle of diet coke cost me about 9 bucks. So far all of the flights have been running late. This place is the most crowded place I've ever seen, and everyone is in a hurry to get nowhere.

Come to think of it, I'd rather be doing lunges.

Tomorrow I'm heading to the beach for a spell. I'm not coming home until I learn to surf.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Running with GUTS

I had the great opportunity to run the GUTS Tuesday night run with the Georgia Ultrarunning & Trailrunning Society. Starting and finishing on Janice Anderson's porch, we did a beautiful 6.2-mile loop on the trails in the rain around Kennesaw Mountain. Great run. Great post-run social. Great pizza on the way home.

Thanks GUTS runners for a great run.

Tommorow I'll be back with the Yardie boot camp in the park.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Fitness Bootcamp in Atlanta

I'm in Atlanta on business, and when here, I always love to run in Piedmont Park. This evening I got bored running around the track, so I ran through the park to a favorite grassy hill for some repeats. The hill I chose, I did so for a few reasons. First, it's about 75 yards long and pretty steep. Second, there was a group of women doing some exercises nearby, so I had some company.

These women were taking part in a weight loss boot camp put on by a group called Yardie Fitness. Watching them work on that hill reminded me of episodes of the reality weight-loss hit show, The Biggest Loser. These gals were not obese like many of the contestants on the show, but they were all a bit overweight, and doing something about it. They were out there busting their butts on that hill -- running up, walking down backwards, jogging up carrying dumbells, returning to the bottom for pushups, situps and so on. I was motivated just running on the same hill with these gals. It's not everyday you see seemingly sedentary people doing hill sprints.

I was about to quit, and they noticed I was leaving, so they called out.

"Hey, don't go! We were trying to keep up with you, and we have 7 more to go!"

That's all I needed to hear. I trotted over to where they were, and introduced myself. Over the next 20 minutes I ran 7 more repeats with these gals, and had a lot of fun doing it.

Were they running hills to train for a 5k or ultramarathon? No.
Were they running hills to get faster at running hills? Not really.

They were running hills for one reason: To improve their fitness.

Tomorrow I hope to join Janice Anderson and the GUTS for a trail run. But I told the Yardie Fitness ladies I'd be back on that hill on Wednesday.

Find a good hill and give it a try sometime.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Back on the mountain, again

Tuesday's lunchtime run found me back on one of my favorite training grounds, Mill Mountain. As I reported before, this popular lunchtime run takes me from downtown to the top of the city and back in right at 6 miles. The first 1.5 is a relatively flat warmup to the base of the mountain. Then it is a steady climb, about 1.5 miles (up the "old road") to the star overlook. The total elevation gain is just under 1000', most of which is in that 1.5 mile climb.

I've never really tracked my time up this route, but I thought that might be a good way to judge my fitness as I head into the last few weeks (Yikes!) of Grindstone training.

Tuesday I was at the top in 28 minutes, total run 51 minutes (970' of gain). I did not run the whole climb up. Treated it more like intervals: ran moderately hard for a couple minutes, then walked for a brief rest period before running again. Next time I will run the whole way and see how the time compares.

Run hard out there...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

22 miles of road running

22 miles of road running this weekend taught me one thing...

I have to get back on the trails.

Run hard out there.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thursday sprint workout

Jog to park
1x200 sprint
30 pushups
2x200 sprint (20 secs rest)
30 situps
30 squats
30 pushups, 30 situps
30 squats
jog back to start

Total running distance: 5 miles

Cross training for the injured runner

There's been some good discussion herein and elsewhere about GPP vs. SPP (general physical preparation vs. specific physical preparation) for endurance training.

The hardcore GPP believers feel that one can train for a marathon, triathlon, or even an ultra by doing little more than GPP exercises Crossfit, cross training, metabolic conditioning weight training, etc.

My question is this. Can a runner who is already in ultra aerobic condition, but injured to the point that 50+ mile weeks are out of the question, train for and successfully complete an ultradistance race (50-100 miles) on a combination of GPP and sport specific training?

How about a plan like this:

  • M-F: GPP training (cycling, rowing, metabolic conditioning, swimming, crossfit, sprinting, hill repeats, Tabata intervals, etc.)
  • Sat-Sun: SPP (LSD, running on forgiving surfaces, long slow trail runs, etc.)

Total weekly mileage would be around 30-40 miles, all from two or three runs.

Is it possible?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thursday is Sprint day

Today's workout:

Sprinting makes me Burpee.

Jog to park
10 burpees
5x220, 20 second rest
10 burpees
5x220, 20-30 second rest
10 burpees
1 more 220m sprint for good measure
Jog/walk back to start.

That's 1.5 miles of 95% effort sprinting. And quite a fun workout.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tuesday's workout

Not much time to post, as Wipeout is about to come on.

Today's workout:

  • Run 2.25 miles to park
  • 5 repeats up and down steep grassy hill (about 100 yards in length)
  • 50 push-ups in sets of 10, resting in plank position
  • Run back to downtown.

Total distance about 5 miles. It was 95-degrees hot.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Crosstraining for Ultrarunners (pt 2)

Let me first say that in yesterday's post, I was not saying that we should all give up running long in exchange for sprints and pushups and still expect to be successful ultrarunners. In fact, I thought I was presenting some interesting opinions with a hint of skepticisim, and emphasizing my personal belief that too much long slow running in the absence of speed, hill, or strength training is not ideal.

I hear many runners, ultra or not, lament that they just keep getting slower and they don't understand why. The most obvious reason (beside the inevitable fact that we are getting older) is that their training is day after day after day of slow running. Specificity is a key principle. You have to train long to run long. You also have to train fast (sometimes) to run fast. There are, however, other principles.

Tabata (or sprinting in general), I believe, has a place in any athlete's toolbox. Sure sprinting down a football field at 100% effort 8 times might not be the best interval workout to improve ultradistance speed. But just try it once and tell me honestly that you don't think it would improve fitness. Studies show that it improves aerobic and anaerobic fitness quicker than steady-state exercise.

Ultrarunning is oxidative, and it does require "training in the oxidative pathway." But the argument that some ultra-endurance athletes who have adopted the "Crossfit principles" are making is that strength also plays a role in ultradistance performance and recovery.

The strength that I get from sprinting, squats, pushups and other bodyweight exercises might not directly help my endurance. But will I be better off 19 hours into a hundred miler than my fellow runner who has done nothing more than run LSD? I think so.

Another aspect of this type of crosstraining is that it keeps running interesting. Go out for your daily run or even your LSD, but halfway through it, drop down and do 30 pushups, or sprint HARD up that hill a couple times, or run up and down those steps 5 times. Then finish your run. You are still getting the oxidative training, but you are also having fun. One of my running buddies today told me that her running was feeling kind of stale. But she also said that today's workout was a lot of fun. Which brings me to today's workout.

  • Warmup Jog to the park (1.25 miles)
  • 5 x 200 yard sprints (95% effort up and down a groomed soccer field) rest 30 seconds between sprints
  • 50 pushups
  • 50 squats (bodyweight only)
  • 50 situps or crunches
  • 5 x 200 yard sprints (rest 30 seconds between sprints)
  • Cooldown Jog/walk back to starting point.

It was a little more than 4 miles of running -- about what we would normally do during a group lunch run. But it included over a mile of sprinting. And it was fun. And if it helps me run a better ultra, then that's icing on the cake.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Crossfit for Ultrarunners (or, no more LSD?)

Is it time to trade out the long slow run for 20 minutes of sprints, pushups, and squats? The ever-growing Crossfit community thinks so. But who is this Crossfit community anyway? A bunch of cops, firefighters and soldiers? What do they know about ultrarunning.

You might be surprised.

Crossfit Endurance is a group of endurance athletes, Ironmen and ultramarathoners who believe that LSD does little more than slow us down and make us look like a bunch of overaged, emaciated drug addicts. I don't know about the drug addict part (I look more like an overaged beer drinker), but I have preached for years that too much long slow running will turn us all into long slow runners.

Consider this quote from Crossfit Endurance specialist, Brian Mackenzie:

While our approach starts with mechanics, it is based on strength and conditioning... Or CrossFit. The endurance training is a supplement. Our athletes eat the conventional endurance geeks for lunch every time... And we have story after story that explains how their friends either stayed the same, got slower and can't walk after the race. When we are the exact opposite. On almost a 1/3 of the training. How is this not a better approach?

Endurance geeks? And this teaser from the Crossfit Endurance site:

Why should I start training this way?

Are your times CONSISTENTLY getting faster at ALL distances (what was your last 5k time compared to a year ago)?

How high can you jump? (Many marathoners cannot jump onto a 12 inch box).

How many push ups/pull ups/squats/etc can you do? We can do more.

Have you or are you suffering from chronic use injuries (plantar fasciatis, IT Syndrome, runners knee, etc)?

How many hours do you train a week? How many hours does your spouse/family wish you trained? (This program only requires 6-8 hours per week to COMPETE at Ultra/Ironman distances.

Hmmm. Want to learn more about how running shorter and faster *could* make us better ultrarunners? Conditioning Research has a nice post on this very subject.

From my own personal experience, I've incorporated more "crossfit" style workouts into my overall training in the last year, with positive results (e.g., PRs at some tough races, more muscle, less fat) averaging just under 40-miles of running per week. That doesn't prove anything, and I'm not about to give up those epic-long training runs, but I am sold on the idea that too much LSD makes a long slow runner.

Try it for two weeks, and judge for yourself. I'll post a daily workout (not Crossfit per se, but something along those lines), follow along if you want. You might be sore at first... but soreness turns into strength. Strength turns into PRs in running, and other places too.

Run hard out there, and run long too. But run harder more than you run longer.

Monday, July 14, 2008

I hope you're watching Le Tour!

The Tour de France is about to get exciting... Starting today with Stage 10.

Watch it. Stretch and do sit-ups/push-ups during alternating commercial breaks. Keep track of how many you do, and let me know!

Update: Great stage! I did a sprint interval workout before, then 200 each push-ups and sit-ups. Fun stuff.

Run hard out there...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Today's workout: 1 mile of sprinting

Wow! Thursday is interval day for our lunchtime running group. My first inclination was to do hills, but then I remembered an old favorite: Tabata Sprints.

Here's the protocol:

Run at 100% effort for 20 seconds
(that's a bit longer than a football field for me)
rest for 10 seconds
Repeat for a total of 8 repetitions.
Emphasize 100% effort and be strict on the 10 seconds of rest.

It's a 4-minute all out, minimal-rest workout that will leave you grabbing your knees.

Studies have shown that this protocol alone will boost aerobic and anaerobic fitness quicker than steady-state exercise. Skeptical? Try it for yourself. Or at least google it. At a minimum, it will improve your speed. I've been doing these sporadically for over a year now, and my running has improved at all distances.

Anyway, I digress. So here was the workout today:

Jog to the park (1.5 miles)
Tabata sprints.
50 pushups
50 air squats (body weight only)
50 crunches
another set of Tabata sprints.
Jog back to start (1.5 miles)

We did our sprints along the length of a very well groomed soccer field. It was so smooth -- one of the kindest running surfaces we have around town. Over the course of the workout, we did 16 lengths of that field -- or about a mile of all out sprinting. Then we walked home. Literally. We did not want to run for more than 2 blocks at a time after this one.

It was one of the hardest (and most rewarding) workouts I have done in a while, and it only lasted 45 minutes from door to door. The hard part lasted less than 20 minutes. But then there was the EPOC (excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption: the part that leaves you huffing and sweating as you are changing back into your street clothes). That's all part of the protocol and one of the reasons it works. Your cardiovacular activity is elevated, as it would be in steady state running, even as you are standing in the shower. It's the same thing you might feel after a hard 5k. If you really run it hard. One of my running mates was still sweating 20 minutes after returning to the office. Tabata. EPOC. What a way to spend a lunch hour.

Run hard out there...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Back at it

Over four weeks after the OD 100, I am finally back to 90% running ability. After a weekend of about 20 miles in three runs, I went out for a 10 mile trail run this evening, and despite some PF in my right foot, had a really good time. We got caught in a pretty severe thunder storm, but we felt protected in by the trees, and I really enjoyed the downpour. I'm about to snuggle up with an ice bag on the foot (I'd rather be snuggling with my wife, but she does little to diminish the swelling in my foot, and after 15 years of marriage, foot massages are hard to come by), watch Le Tour stage 4 time trial, and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that 50 mile weeks are just around the corner. I hope.

Run hard out there...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Grindstone Training

Sophie is organizing some training runs for the 2008 Grindstone 100 Miler. Let me know if you need contact information for her, or better yet, post a comment to her blog. Also be sure to follow along as she blogs her training for this beast of an event.

July 12, meet at noon for run from Elliott's Knob to Rte 250. We will figure out cars, etc. as it approaches. Should be fairly easy to do so. Total run, 24 miles or so.

Saturday July 19 Trayfoot Loop in SNP (near C'Ville) 21 miles, 4,000+ feet of climb.

Sunday July 20, TWOT loop, 25 miles, 8,000 feet of climb.

Saturday Aug 2, repeats of Elliotts Knob. I want to run as many as I can in three hours.

Sat/Sun Aug 9, 10 Horton is planning a Gstone training run (I think).

Sat Aug 16 Dennis is directing JET 50 (Jerkemtight 50 mile) on the original Gstone course (south of Rte 250).

Labor Day weekend Aug 30, 31...
Sat. run from TWOT parking to Grindstone turn-around and back (30 miles).
Sunday run a loop of TWOT (25 miles).

September 13 or 14: Priest/Three Ridges (24 miles).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Time on the feet

I've decided not to run the Burkes Garden FA this upcoming weekend due to some lingering tendonitis in my lower legs and feet. I'm focusing on a very strong Grindstone, so I need to heal and get back on the mountains. Pushing myself too soon would just prolong my down time.


Here's what hurts: The arches of my feet have hurt since the moment I finished the OD 100. I blame this on a lack of "time on the feet" training. At about mile 50 of the OD 100, I told Jay my feet were hurting, and he said, "Oh yeah. Time on the feet." What he meant was that I hadn't put enough hours into my long training runs. At that point in the day I had run my second longest run in 6 months. I had not put in enough "time on my feet." And he was right. Ultimately my consistent 40 mile weeks were enough to get me to the finish, but they were not enough to really prepare my tendons and joints for a hard 100 mile effort.

Lesson learned.

My Achille's tendons are still sore. Not bad, but a lingering soreness that was there even before OD 100. Enough to make me think... And just behind my left ankle is a nagging soreness that has been there since the day after.

Time on the feet. Lesson learned.

All of these get better every day. If I bike too hard or jog a couple miles, they tend to be a bit worse the next morning. Ibuprofen totally knocks them out, so I don't think it is anything serious -- just some nagging, post-hundred-miler pain.

A direct result of a lack of training. Not enough time on the feet

There has been a big discussion lately on the big ultra list about preparing for 100s. Many suggest building up to 100 mile weeks before the big day. I am able to run a hundred miles in under 24 hours on 40 miles per week. But at what cost to my body? Jay puts more time on his feet, and he can run three hundreds in 6 weeks. With my training, I'm good for one per summer.

Lesson learned.

Meanwhile, I'm walking daily, riding my bike to/from work (saving ga$), and doing my "metabolic conditioning" interval workouts. If past hundreds are any indication I'll be back to it in no time. Stronger than ever.

Run hard out there... but be sure to put in the "time on the feet." Or else your feet will put some time on you.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Endurance Planet -- Tim Twietmeyer podcast

Endurance Planet does a weekly podcast from great endurance sports books. Last Friday they put up Tim Twietmeyer's essay from Running Through the Wall, "Fire, Ice, and Competition."

Other Running Through the Wall excerpts from their archives include:

Blake Wood and David Horton
Kevin Setnes


Monday, June 16, 2008

Back to running -- almost.

My OD100 run really took a toll on my body. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) was minimal. Chafing (monkey butt) was fine by day 2 into my recovery. But my feet were definitely the big complaint this time. And my Achilles tendons to some degree. The worst pain was in my right foot. After a week of icing, contrast baths, and Ibuprofen, it still hurt on the outside of my arch when I walked or tried to jog.

I had a doctor look at it (my neighbor, out in the back yard). He said that I probably had a dropped cuboid. With a quick manipulation he put that darn cuboid back where it belonged, and to my surprise, the pain relief was immediate. But then it hurt again the next morning -- more of an ache this time. I resumed my Ibuprofen treatment, and today, 9 days into the recovery, I felt like running again. I planned a 2-week hiatus from running after this one anyway, so I'm biking to/from work, walking and doing some crossfit exercises this week. If all goes well, I'll get back to running just in time for the Burkes Garden Fat Ass at the end of the month.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Updated: Old Dominion 100 Mile Endurance Run

Results are posted!

The 30th running of the Old Dominion 100 Mile run is in the history books as one of the hottest on record. It hit 99 degrees around 3pm, just after we crossed 50 miles. I was able to get out to a good start, back off a little in the heat of the day, then finish strong. At both medical checks my weight was up 3 pounds. That was a first for me, but the medical staff said that was great, so I kept up with my hydration and kept on running.

Memorable Moments (or moments I wish I could forget)

Watching the weather forecast in the days prior to the run, my fear grew along with the projected high temperature. On Friday morning, the final race-day forecast was for 97 degrees, with a heat index of over 110. And I'm supposed to run 100 miles!?!?

I tried to relax and get some sleep Friday night, but that's a tough job when it is still 80 degrees at 9pm. I sweated so much that evening that I was sure I would be 2 pounds down before we even started.

I looked at my watch at 3am and thought, "Good, I can finally get up now."

We started with an easy jog through Woodstock, reaching the beautiful and familiar river crossing (which I could not see because my glasses were fogged up from humidity) before I knew it. I felt relief as we started climbing Woodstock Mountain. I also felt a hint of a cool breeze.

Jay and I ticked off the miles for the first couple hours. When Jay stopped for a bathroom break, I got a competitve bug and actually sped up a little. I told a few people over the next hour that I wasn't sure what happened to Jay. "Don't worry, he'll catch you," was their reply. And he did.

We crossed 50 miles in 10:31. All systems were go. Very shortly thereafter I took my first dip in a stream. Actually laid down and let the water flow over me. I almost felt chills when I stood up. It was 99 degrees with no shade. I was feeling fine.

Jay was struggling with stomach issues. On the switchbacks up the ATV trail, I yelled down to him. "You okay?" I asked. "Just threw up," Jay replied. "Do you feel better now?" I asked. "Don't know yet." Jay had talked me into running the OD100, and I asked him to help get me in under 24 hours (he's done it 5 times). If you finish under 24 hours you get a sterling silver buckle. If you finish over 24, but within the 28 hour limit you get a duffle bag. No thanks, I already have a duffle bag. Jay got me this far, but I knew from this point on I was on my own. His last words of advice were to enjoy the nice gentle descent after reaching the top of the ATV trail. I was off and running.

After reaching the top of the ATV trail I started what seemed at the time to be the rockiest, muddiest descent I've ever run. Jay must have been really sick.

Running just minutes ahead of Jay's 2007 splits, I came into Elizabeth's Furnace aid station, grabbed my spare flashlight and some food, and took off for the climb up Sherman's Gap. A climb I had heard a lot about in the previous 24 hours. I had a marathon to go, and I felt okay. Really.

The first couple miles of this 6-mile Sherman Gap section were not too bad. "What's all the fuss about?" I thought. Then the real climbing started. Look above you, just where the wall meets the ceiling. Now imagine you are climbing up a trail in the dark, and the next chemlight (marking the trail) is 50 yards ahead up there where you just looked. You finally get there, and another 100 yards ahead, just as high in the air, is another. This happened again and again and again then I was at the top. I hit the windchime (at least one other person mentioned the windchime, so I was not imagining that), and took off on an equally steep and treacherous descent. Next stop, Veach Gap.

The climb up Veach Gap was much like Sherman's Gap. As Kent Gallup said at the awards breakfast, he now knows that if it has the word Gap in it, it's going to be bad. Look up at the ceiling again, imagine the chemlight, and move on.

Jay had told me that in 2007 he reached Veach Gap West (87 miles) at midnight and had to really run to make it just under 24 hours. I knew I was cutting it close. Tom Worthington caught up to me just as we crested Veach Gap. We discussed it briefly and decided to push each other to the finish. He was determined. So was I. I already have a duffle bag.

We reached the Veach Gap Aid Station at midnight exactly. Jay was there, showered, napped and dressed since I saw him last. He gave us some words of wisdom and Tom and I were off. Thinking we were still cutting it close, we ran the next 3 miles at near 10K pace. I'm not kidding. Some of my fastest miles came between 80 and 90, when I thought I was in jeopardy of missing the 24 hour "buckle" cutoff. It's amazing how motivating a silver buckle can be. Before long we did the math and realized that if we pushed it to the next aid station, we would have 3 hours to cover less than 10 miles. Oh man. We were going to buckle.

We enjoyed the 90.95 mile aid station (2 cups of coke for me), then walked briskly up Woodstock Mountain for the last time of the day. We ran most of the road down the mountain, met up with Kevin Dorsey on the roads into town, and had a real good time over the last few miles as we literally walked and talked our way to a sub-24-hour finish. Tom, finishing his first hundred, took the honors of finishing first. Kevin and I crossed together. We were done.

It is amazing how quickly the body shuts down. 12 miles earlier I was running 8-9 minute/mile pace comfortably. As soon as I knew I was going to finish, my body began to revolt. Within minutes of crossing the finish line, I could hardly walk to my sleeping bag. Tossing and turning for the next couple hours took more effort than it was worth. I found more comfort sitting in a chair in the cool night air, watching as the next few runners trickled in. 50 runners started. In the end, 12 of us buckled. 10 more finished under the 28-hour limit. Many of the finishers were first time hundred milers. That says something. I'm just not real sure what yet.

Congratulations to all who toed the line on that warm Saturday morning.

Run hard out there...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Hot and Bothered, Part 2

And I thought it was hot at Promise Land... I'm running a hundred miles next Saturday and the extended forecast predicts temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s. With the varying temperatures that we've had lately, acclimation has not been ideal. We go from 80s to 60s within a matter of days. As I sit here and look at the weather bug on my computer, today's high is supposed to be in the 70s, Friday's in the 90s.

Remember this chart?

When it hits 90-degrees on Saturday, my running will be degraded by 20-40%. Of course recent acclimation, while not ideal, will help with this. But then again, I will have run around 30-50 miles before it starts to get real warm on Saturday... So my performance will already be degraded before the heat starts to take its toll.

OD100 starts at 4am. That gives us the opportunity to run a good chunk of miles before the heat really starts to climb. Jay points out that many runners go out too fast, neglecting the fact that they have the toughest trail and hottest temps yet to come. But I wonder if it might be smart for me to go out fast (not too fast) and build a good base. That would allow me to slow down once it got hot, then hopefully have some gas left once the sun goes down. Jay agreed that this could be a sound strategy, if done carefully. He still plans to start slow, then pass everyone who didn't once they bonk.

Searching for some tips on how to handle the heat, I decided to hit up some of the hottest races. Badwater, known for its heat (way beyond what we will see in Virginia this Saturday), turned up some good articles.

The Dangers of Hot Weather Running, by Claudio Piepenburg
Dangers of Running in the Heat, by Jason Hodde

And from another hot one, Western States 100. Lisa S. Bliss, MD, writes about hydration issues in the participant guide.

Maintaining Hydration and Peak Run Performance, by Kim Mueller, provides information on how dehydration affects our performance, a breakdown of electrolytes, a case study and much more.

And then those scientists from Science Of Sport have several good articles on heat and exercise that challenge some of the traditional thinking.

Basically, here is what I hope to do to get around the potential heat issues this weekend:

Start smart. Eat & drink early, try to get some good miles in before it gets hot. Don't get too crazy in the early hours, but enjoy and take advantage of the cool weather while it lasts. Don't forget the sunscreen before it's too late!

Slow down a bit once it gets hot. Eat while I still feel like eating. Seek out foods with high water content (fruit). Dress smart. Stay cool by pouring water on my skin. Use ice if available. Drinking does little to lower body temperature. Shade, application of cool water, and wind are much more effective at lowering body temperature.

Look forward to sundown. If I'm lucky and I've paced wisely, I'll have some energy in reserve and be able to pick up the pace a little.

What other tips do you have for running hot hundreds? Please post to comments. I need all the help I can get.

Stay cool out there...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Old Dominion 100 Miler -- tips from an expert

One of my best running buddies, Jay Finkle, talked me into running the OD 100 coming up on June 7. This will be my first hundred in over a year and a half, so I'm a little nervous about it. Jay and I got into ultrarunning at about the same time, but Jay has taken his running to the next level. He used to tell me back in the day that he wanted to get "super fit" to the point where he could just go out and run 100 miles whenever he wanted. Well, he is there. I don't know how many hundreds he's run, but I know he's run over 100 ultramarathons (as has his equally great running wife, Anita). He's run several hundreds on back-to-back weekends, and the man is indeed, super fit. I take his advice whenever I can get it, and I take it to heart.

This morning Jay sent me a very detailed list of tips and tricks to help me do well at OD 100. I plan to start the run with him, and rely on his crew. My only goal is to finish healthy in under 24 hours. Jay has done that 5 times.

Anyway, here are Jay's tips to running the OD 100.

- don't go out too fast. the early miles, up to mile 32.55, are generally the easist. a little bit of trail, but mostly country dirt roads in the early morning. very scenic and pleasant. but the heat of the day and the hard trails are waiting.

- at mile 32.55, fill up on water and calories and fill your camelback or bottle or whatever you have. this is a good aid station. the hard trails are next and the next two aid stations are small.

- after mile 32.55 you go to camp roosevelt and climb a trail to the top of the mountain and run a paved road back down to camp roosevelt. then you enter Duncan hollow trail. the aid station at the entrance to duncan hollow trail is minimal. I think last year it just had sports drink and i declined and went into duncan hollow with about 20 ounces of water. i bonked in duncan hollow and never fully recovered.

- duncan hollow trail is many a runners undoing. it is long, hot and hard to run. you need to run as much of this as possible without burning yourself out. the race organizers try to set up an aid station halfway through this trail, but the volunteers have to bring water in on motorcycles and usually run out by the time I get there.

- after you get out of the duncan hollow trail, you get to an aid station with the first weigh in. hopefully you didn't dehydrate and lose too much weight in there, because you will have to sit and gain weight at the aid station.

- next you run back to four points aid station again and after that you pass the 50 mile mark. the 50 mile mark is written across the road. you need to pass this no later than 10 or 11 hours into the race to make 24 hours, although i think one year i passed this at 11 1/2 hours and still squeaked under 24 hours.

- from four points #2 to edinburg gap is in the heat of the day, exposed dirt roads. much of it uphill. some people bonk here.

- after the edinburg gap aid station is a bigtime climb. very steep with false summits. but after the summit is a long, fun to run, gradual downhill on a jeep trail.

- next is little fort aid station. good food here and a good place to eat.

- more dirt roads and trails until elizabeth furnace aid station at mile 75.

- you want to get to elizabeth furnace asap because after that is shermans gap and veach gap. the more of these two gap trails you can do in daylight, the better. i usually get to elizabeth furnace at 8:30 pm. this is a weight check in so drink all of your camel back before entering here. get food and drinks here because the hard trails are next. this is also where i get my lights and maybe a long sleeve shirt.

- shermans gap trail is awful. it is steep and long both up and down the other side. then you get on a short but very hilly road to veach gap. veach gap is about 70% as hard as shermans gap.

- after veach gap west aid station, there are no more trails. you do have to cross fort valley and woodstock mountain though. you need to leave veach gap west aid station by no later than 1:00 am to have a chance at being under 24 hours.

- these last 13 miles are where the course marking vandals usually strike. You may want to have your turn sheet directions or run with someone who knows where they are going for these miles.

- the climb up woodstock mountain is torture and the run down woodstock mountain is worse. you have to run down the mountain to break 24 hours. your legs won't want to, but you have to. no one who walks down the other side of woodstock mountain breaks 24 hours.

- once you get to the dam at the bottom of woodstock mountain, you will probably know if you will make it under 24 hours or not. you still must run the course back in. don't go off course. runners have been disqualified in this portion because of going off course. it doesn't matter if vandals took took the ribbons. i think race leaders have been disqualified because of this. this is the root of some bad publicity for old dominion.

- the last part of the course is the 1/2 mile circle of the horse track. Factor this into your time estimates.

- other than the vandals, the course is the best marked, point to point race I have run. you still need to pay attention. it seems like runners go off course each year.

Thanks Jay.

Run hard out there.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Lost Weekend

Many ultra training plans prescribe a training methodology commonly known as the Long Run Sandwich. This is a two or three day period of back-to-back long runs, thought to improve fitness better than just one weekly long run. Benefits of the sandwich include:
  • Simulate running on tired legs
  • Simulate metabolic load of longer events
  • Practice pacing
  • Get some serious mileage in
  • Acclimate to conditions
  • Practice eating/drinking

Here's now my weekend sandwich developed:

Friday: I went out on my normal lunchtime run (Friday has become an 800' ascent "TGIF" day for the small group I run with at work). We can get from downtown to the top of the mountain and back (6 miles) in just about an hour.

(view of Mill Mountain summit from downtown area)

Not a bad way to spend a lunch break. Due to the fact that I had been oncall for almost two weeks in a row, I decided to take the afternoon off so I could get a long run in before resuming my oncall duties for the weekend. So after reaching the top of the mountain and running back down with my friends, I said goodbye and headed into the woods to explore some of the trails of Mill Mountain and the surrounding area. Thanks to GPS, I was able to track my distance as I mindlessly ambled through the woods. I discovered a new trail that winds along the Mill Mountain low country -- and 18 miles later I decided to call it a day. 18.6 miles

Saturday: Work woke me up and wasted most of my morning. Then I watched VA Tech softball, mowed the lawn, and pretty much declared Saturday as a rest day. (Wait, doesn't mowing the lawn count for anything? Like 5.2 glasses of wine, or half of a Big Mac?!?!?)

Sunday: Church followed by an afternoon VA Tech softball doubleheader spent on the couch left my legs restless. I left the house around 5pm, and drove to the Blue Ridge Parkway (about 10 minutes from my house). I ran a mile south on the parkway, then galloped along a horse trail that eventually brought me back to the trails that I had explored on Saturday. 7 miles later I decided I'd better turn around or I'd be finishing in the dark. 14.1 miles

Absolutely done with oncall, I decided to get the most out of what was left of the weekend and turn this sandwich into a whopper. I left from the house with my GPS for a long road run. Nothing like an asphalt thrashing to beat the legs into shape. It was a hot one too -- temps around 85, no wind to speak of, relentless sun. Random route out 10 miles (thanks GPS), a stop for a V8 and Dr. Pepper, and mile 20 found me at the local swimming pool for a dip before the final 2 miles home. Just in time to shower, dress, and head out for a family cookout. Nothing like a long weekend of running to build up an appreciation for family, not to mention a real appetite. 22 miles

Now I rest, eat clean, and think happy thoughts. OD 100 is on the horizon. I'm not exactly where I would like to be in my training for a hundred miler, but I've consistently put in 40-50 miles per week all year, and run a few PR times. My fitness is better than it ever has been. If I can rest, recover, and hold this level of fitness, I should have a shiny new buckle come June 8.

Run hard out there.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Iron Mountain 50-mile Trail Run

I've not done it, but I have been on a lot of the trails. This is a great run, with great support.

Check it out... See their training plan here.

Deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains there is a man… An Iron Mountain man…

Registration opens June 1st ...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hard days vs. Easy days

I've been reading Lyle McDonald's blog recently because he has some good things to say about interval training, fat loss, etc., all of which are topics that I like to read about. He recently did a series of articles about interval training vs. steady state running that was a real eye opener for me. But that's not the point of today's post. His most recent post is about hard training vs. easy training, and how if we don't do the easy training the right way, easy, then all of our training will warp into medium training because we are too tired to train hard. Did you get that?

The full blog entry is here. But I'm including the meat of it below.

But most people aren’t satisfied doing that kind of [easy] training. They don’t like doing the short duration (an easy/active recovery workout might only take 20-30 minutes). They figure that if they took the time to drive to the gym, they should do a full workout session. So the duration starts to climb.

Then there’s intensity. Proper ‘easy’ training should feel utterly easy, like there’s no effort at all. And the obsessive don’t like that, not at all. It doesn’t feel like it’s accomplishing anything (No pain, no gain, right) so the intensity starts to climb. Where it should be an easy 130 heart rate or lower, it’ll start climbing to the aerobic range or higher. Suddenly, what should have been easy days start becoming medium days.

But it’s even more insidious than that: these medium days end up being too easy to really stimulate fitness, but too hard to allow complete recovery. It’s this weird no-man’s land that doesn’t accomplish anything good.

Which has another major consequence, without the ability to recover sufficiently, the hard days can’t be as hard. Because you can’t do a quality session when you’re tired. So the hard days start becoming medium days as well. And it all goes wrong.

The hard days can’t be hard enough, the easy days are too hard and the whole week ends up being this weird sort of medium intensity across the board.

Get it now? It sounds like a familiar trap to me (not that I, or any ultrarunner for that matter is "obsessive"). I see it with my running friends, and I definitely see it in my own training. Lately I've adopted the mentality that if I'm going to train, I might as well train hard. Every run becomes an attempt at a PR for that course. I push myself to the brink of injury, then wonder why my body and my daily performance suffers. On the flip side, this high intensity training has produced some PRs for me this year. So where is the trade-off?

How many hard days should be followed by how many easy days? That, my friend, is the question that only you and I can decide. I have no problem running three hard days in a row. When I travel to Atlanta for work (once every 2 months or so), I run intervals every day because I have a love-hate relationship with the 0.52-mile track at Piedmont Park. But by that third or fourth evening my body is starting to talk back to me. I'm usually dealt a rest day as I travel back home. But then I hit the ground running, ready for more intensity. As I reflect on my training log, I think three hard days followed by one easy day is what works for me. But as Lyle's blog article states, this needs to be a really easy day. I will always struggle with that, but I will try to try harder... er, make that easier. Whatever!

How much does a taper week before a big event play into this too? If we train like madmen and madwomen leading up to an event, can the taper offset our lack of easy days? I'll try to look into that later as I get closer to June 7.

Run hard out there, but don't forget the easy days.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I mailed it... (Old Dominion 100)

Well, I did it. I dropped my entry for the 2008 Old Dominion 100 Mile Cross Country Run in the mailbox today. Then I jogged across the street and ate a Big Mac.

Today's run was the Trail Nuts 10k (ran the 10k instead of the half-marathon so I could get some volunteer hours in for Grindstone). I managed to get 2nd overall with a slow 46:45, and received a very nice award -- a 10-pound, engraved stepping stone to commemorate the day.

Overall, a very nice day. Then there's that Old Dominion thing looming... More on this later. I need to collect my thoughts.

Run hard out there...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Running Through the Wall -- a review from

I stumbled across this review of "Running Through the Wall" at

The Complete Running Network is a collection of over 1,700 running-related blogs. Man, it's going to take a while to get through all of those! If you have a running blog and are not part of the network, add yours today.

Happy reading.

Monday, May 5, 2008

40-year old aversion

I turned 40 on Saturday. Some people think milestone birthdays like this are bad. Not me. I'm in better shape than I was at 30 and 35, so I say "Welcome 40, bring on 45!" In an attempt to drive this positive thinking home, I ventured out for a 40-mile birthday run on Friday.

I drove about an hour from my home to Draper, VA to run on the New River Trail. The NRT is a rails-to-trails path that runs through the New River Valley for 57 miles, give or take a few. It is a mostly flat, scenic run on a forgiving surface. I love to go there for long, fast training runs.

I filled my 64-oz pack with nuun and took off. I knew very quickly that it was going to be a warm day on the trail. After a few miles, I decided to return to the car, change into lighter (faster) shoes, and drop the pack in favor of a handheld bottle.

With just over 10 miles under my belt, I headed back down the trail, bottle in hand. As the miles started to build, I knew 40-miles was asking too much. I was experiencing a bit of soreness from the punishing Promise Land 50k just 5 recovery days prior. And my mind was just not in it. To make sure I got at least 50k I decided to run out 10 miles from the car, forcing myself to come back 10 miles for a total of 31 on the day. At the time I made this decision, I was drinking conservatively, and although I knew it would be close, I thought I'd have just enough water.

Now that I had decided to cut the run short, I picked up my pace. I was running 7:45-pace down the trail, loving every minute of it. Visions of a 50k PR were dancing in my head as I drank to keep my body fueled. But I was about to get into trouble. By the time I got out 10 miles my bottle was almost dry and I was fatigued from the continuous running. I turned around and began the 10-mile slog back to the car. Within a mile or so I was out of water and bonking fast. Mentally I was okay. But physically, my body was beginning to shut down.

Water water everywhere, not a drop to drink. That was the challenge for the next hour plus as I tried to keep up my pace along the beautiful yet unclean New River. Drinking out of the river was not an option. I did dunk my head a couple times, but resisted the strong urge to gulp it in.

Moderate running turned to slow running turned to walking. I asked myself, "what would Survivorman do?" Slow down to conserve energy and keep body temperature under control. That's what I did. That, plus another dunk in the river (now the upper neck of Claytor Lake), and before I knew it, I was at the car.

I quickly chugged 12-20 ounces from the tepid hydration pack. Then after eating some fruit, I crossed the street and bought some cold water and a Pepsi from the local store. Those were gone in minutes. On the way home I stopped to refuel at ye olde local "Omelette Shoppe" where I chased down two eggs, sausage gravy and a biscuit with 2 glasses of water and 2 cups of coffee (Noakes recommends drinking coffee or beer after a long run to stimulate the kidneys -- beer was out of the question with several driving miles yet to go). When I got home I weighed myself, and I was still 3lbs down from where I started the day. It took me a couple more hours to get my plumbing back to normal, but luckily I suffered no ill effects.

Lesson learned -- Current thinking is that it's better to drink too little than too much, but there is a difference between "drinking to thirst" and "going thirsty for 2 hours." I made an unwise decision to run further and faster than my hydration plan allowed. And I paid for it.

Saturday was a recovery day (very lovely birthday hike with my family), Sunday was a great 12-mile trail run with one of my best running buddies. I was a bit tired for the 12-miler, but nothing unusual for 2 days after a hard 50k run.

On a positive note (I guess), I've just about been talked into running the Old Dominion 100 for the first time. More on that later.