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...