Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goals Shmoals

So 2009 did not go as planned, from a fitness goal standpoint. Sub 14 hour Hellgate. 100 push-ups. 20 pull-ups. Oh well. So I didn't make it.


I can do a heckuva lot more push-ups that I could 365 days ago. My sprint endurance has improved. Today I shoveled snow and didn't even get winded.

What's in store for 2010? Not sure yet. But you can be sure the bar is not getting any lower.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

2009 Hellgate: End of a Fun Run

Well, it's official. I'm not running the 2009 Hellgate 100k. My heart and mind were just not into it this year enough to get me there. I told Horton this past week that I was out. I think he knew it anyway. I'm a bit sad, but it's just a race, right?

I celebrated today with a great run on the trails of Mill Mountain. The 12 miles felt almost effortless as we made our way up, down, around, up, and down again. The beauty and spirit of the run today made me question my decision. Six Hellgates in a row. My streak has ended. It was a fun run.

Below is an image of today's 12 miler. Every bit of it, I believe, within the Roanoke City limits.

Good luck Hellgate runners. No full moon this year.

Run hard out there...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Today's Intense Workout

Today's workout:

38 degrees, pouring rain.

Jog to the park, about 1 mile.

I had my timer set to beep every minute, for 20 minutes. On the start of every minute:

10 push-ups
100 Yard Sprint
Rest till next minute.

Jog back downtown.

It's a keeper.

Run hard out there...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gymboss Timer Revisited

Last May I wrote about a neat little timer gadget called the Gymboss. My in-laws bought me one for my birthday and I immediately started using it for timed workouts. I had recently attended a kettlebell clinic in Atlanta, which is the first place I ever saw one of these little timers in action, and I knew I had to have one. There's a popular workout in the kettlebell community designed to raise VO2Max. It is 30 seconds of work, followed by 30 seconds of rest, repeated for 20-40 minutes.

A bit of searching turned up some interesting research on this protocol. A good deal of it is summed up in this article, along with a sample interval workout.

After some playing around with the protocol, here's what I came up with.

The VO2Max To The Max Workout:
  • 30 seconds running (about 90% effort)
  • 30 seconds rest
  • 30 seconds burpees
  • 30 seconds rest
  • Repeat for duration.

The first time we tried this workout we did it for 20 minutes and knew immediately it was a keeper. Yesterday we attempted it again, this time for 25 minutes. This is definitely a workout I plan to keep around. Some of my workout buddies have suggested mixing in other exercises instead of the burpees (jumping jacks, high knees, mtn climbers, etc.). I might consider that next time we do it. And of course, you could just run for the entire time, but I prefer to mix it up and get some full body work in there with the burpees.

The Gymboss timer takes the guesswork out of workouts like this, and it also keeps you honest. Set it to beep every 30 seconds, and to stop at 25 minutes or whatever duration you desire (or unlimited time if you just want to go till you drop). Setting the duration of the workout up front helps to keep me honest. I won't stop till the Gymboss says to stop.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Will Running Kill Me?

I've wondered about this since I had a heart scare in 2006, when I was in the best running shape of my life. Is "obsessive" running bad for the heart? When I heard about deaths in Detroit last week, it rekindled the question in my mind.

The docs over at Science of Sport have a long post about it. Their conclusion:

"The reality is that people who die during exercise have some underlying, probably undetected condition that predisposes them to a cardiac event during exercise.
So in the light of the latest events, and until toxicology reports are in, deciding on the cause is premature. Agreeing that it's sad for all involved, but recognizing that it's not running that killed them, is the way to go!"

Run hard out there...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Exploring the mountains

(all images from Google Earth. Click to zoom.)

Sometimes the best runs are those that are begun without thoughts of time or mileage. Thanks to tools like Google Earth and GPS, it is easy to find places to explore right in your own backyard. As long as you respect private property and Leave No Trace, the world is at your, um, toetips.

My running buddy Jay and I spent most of Saturday exploring Fort Lewis Mountain. This mountain runs from Bradshaw Rd in east Salem, VA all the way to Ironto, west of West Salem. Its ridge line runs about 13 miles, making it one of the longest continuous ridges in the Roanoke area. The highest point on the mountain is around 3300 feet, but we started our run at around 1250 feet on the valley floor. We climbed about a mile through the Forest Acres neighborhood (including the new construction which seems to be continuously encroaching higher and higher). At the end of the asphalt, we left civilization and started our adventure.

4.5 miles later we were at about 3100 feet and we begin exploring the ridge. First we checked out what we thought was the summit to our right. We found a radio tower and some interesting stuff that seemed to be weather station related. As we started along the ridge, Jay suggested that we try to get in 20 miles for the day. 20 miles would be my longest run since March, by several miles. So I told him I would let him know later if that was in the cards.

One of our goals for the day was to find what our map called a "lookout tower." We ran for miles along the ridge in search of, but never finding anything resembling a lookout tower. We were following what appeared to be an old power or phone line, so we kept on running. Just as we were about to give up and turn around, Jay spotted a tall radio tower just ahead. His discovery led us to a complex of FAA towers and radio towers. Pretty neat stuff.

We had come 12.5 miles out and we both had places to be and people to see later that evening. Our goal for the day was to get in a good run and explore this unfamiliar ridge. We reveled in success as we turned around and headed back. The "back" was about an hour faster than the "out," not hard to do when you consider how much of it was down hill.

What a great day to explore the mountains!

Run hard out there.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cold and Miserable

I rode my bike to work this morning. It was dry and 51 degrees. Shorts and a long sleeve wind jacket proved to be too much and I had a good sweat going by the time I got to work (rarely a goal, given that I have no showers available in the morning). By lunchtime, it had dropped 10 degrees outside. It was windy and raining hard.

A few of us ignored the weather and went out for a quick run and a workout. All I could think was how happy I was that Hellgate weather was finally coming to town.

The workout?

1 mile jog to the park, then a prison workout (descending sets) starting at 10 of:
Burpees, push-ups, crunches
Run 50 yards,
repeat until done.

12 minutes later we were done with the workout, and continued for another couple miles back to downtown.

It was cold and miserable. I was in Heaven.

Run hard out there.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fun with GPS

Last week I read an article in the NY Times about using GPS to create artwork. I discussed this with some friends a long time ago, and we never did it. I guess we missed out on an opportunity, so now if we do it, we are just being trendy.

(Michael Nagle of the New York Times)

There are two reasons why I sometimes wish I lived in a big city. 1) so I could ride my fixed-gear bike everywhere (also quite trendy I am told), and 2) so I could do neat art stuff like this.

Inspired by the article, I decided to make some artwork during my morning high intensity sprint/pushup workout.

The workout, in case you are interested was a "prison" workout with pushups.
  • 25 pushups, sprint 100yards, walk 30 yards,
  • 24 pushups, spring 100 yards, walk 30 yards,
  • 23...
  • 22...
  • all the way down to 1.
Brutal. My arms are still a bit shaky as I type this.

Slightly disappointed by my first GPS art effort, I went out for a longer run and captured it for the sake of art. Here it is:

Ok, maybe not.

Run hard out there...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Blue Ridge Parkway Marathon

There's a buzz around Roanoke about a new marathon: The Blue Ridge Marathon. It's scheduled for April 24, 2010. I registered for it last week. It's going to be a doozie, climbing Mill Mountain twice, and running around the "4-mile loop" over Roanoke Mountain, which I've read is the steepest spur road off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Then at 24 miles, it hits one of the steepest hills in Roanoke City. Someone had an evil grin on his face when he designed this course.

I ran the 4-mile loop the other evening, and my quads are still sore from the 2+ mile, 1000' downhill pounding. People who sign up for this one had better train on that loop, or else they will be in for a big surprise.

I'm not sure why they say this one is "on the Parkway," although it does benefit Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Runners will be on the actual BRP for about a quarter of a mile. I guess relating it to one of the most famous drives in the southeast will bring in more runners.

This event is being put on by Ronny Angell of Odyssey Adventure Racing. Ronny knows how to put on races, so it is pretty much guaranteed to be a success.

Seriously, if you are thinking about running this one, make sure to test your legs on the 4-mile loop before race day.

Run hard out there.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Running Through The Wall has lowered the price of my book to a bargain basement price of $10.98. It has been selling pretty good since it came out in 2003. In fact, sales have picked up in the last few years due to the increased popularity of our sport. Today it was ranked #16 in the "Exercise & Fitness: Marathons" category on Amazon. Note that they do not have an Ultramarathon category. Yet.

Post a comment or contact me via email if you want to order a personal autographed copy of Running Through the Wall for $11, shipping included.

When I started working on the book, I never thought I'd run more than 50 miles at one time. I thought those who ran hundreds were whacked. Ironically, a year and a half later, on the day I received the first shipment from the publisher, I was leaving to run my first hundred miler. Interviewing and writing about some of the best ultrarunners in the world motivated me to run like I never thought possible.

I hope Running Through the Wall will do the same for you.

Run hard out there.

Antioxidants, and heading to the beach

I wanted to pass this along from Dean's Newsletter:

Did you know?
ORAC is a measurement of a food’s antioxidant capacity. Oranges have a score of 2,000, Red Apples 4,000, and Blueberries over 9,000. The so-called “Superfruits” (e.g., Acai, Goji, Mangosteen) can have values exceeding 20,000! .

ORAC is the "oxygen radical absorbency capacity," and berries, which are in season right now, have tons of it. Apples, just coming into season are very high too. In fact, if you ate mostly in-season fruits and veggies, you would certainly not be lacking in the ORAC category.

It's been a while since I posted, and it will be a bit longer because I am heading to Hilton Head Island, SC next week for a well needed family vacation. If you've never been to Hilton Head before, I highly recommend you check it out. It is the best beach I've ever seen for running. It's flat, about 100 yards wide, and after a nice rain, you can run for miles without seeing anyone.

My back injury is much better now, and in the last two weeks I've been able to return to some running. I've kept up my biking, so I have not lost too much fitness.

Run hard out there, and eat your superfruits.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Matt and Lily

Matt and Lily are over halfway back home now. They ducked into our place for a couple days to get out of the rain. We shared some good meals and lots of laughs over legos and Wii Bowling. I hope I don't have Matt hooked on video games now. Somehow I doubt it.

Continue to check out Matt's blog for updated photos from their journey. They left here with 14 days and about 530 miles under their belts. We loaded them down with leftover food and drink, and wished them well as they were once again on their way.

Two beautiful people, living the dream...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Out of commission, but here's some interesting reading

I hurt my back a couple weeks ago playing Ultimate with a bunch of 20 year old kids. After a week I was back to about 90%, but then I did too much too soon, and now I'm hurt again. It's keeping me from running, which I don't appreciate at all. I'm going to try to get in to see a doctor today to rule out anything more than muscle strain.

When I'm not running or working out I don't feel much like writing about running and working out. So here are some links to blog entries that have caught my eyes lately.

Run hard out there...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Another Crossfit Endurance success story -- MMT 100!

Great job to Jen on a fine finish at MMT 100. Jen trains crossfit and is a very fine ultrarunner. Check out her blog to read her story.

Congrats Jen!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Good Luck to Matt and others on the BMT

Matt Kirk is doing what he does best... fastpacking. This time he is on the 288-mile Benton-MacKaye Trail. Learn more about the BMT and follow Matt's progress here.

Matt is a high school teacher. What would the world be like if every teacher spent a weekend out on the trail once in a while?

Run hard out there.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Clean Commute Day

Today is National Clean Commute Day, or something like that. Did you miss it? Oh well, there's always next week.

Run, bike, walk, crawl. Just do it.

Run hard out there.

Update: Ran to work today (Wednesday, 5/20). I drive a few miles in and park in a church parking lot. From there, I just pick my route depending on how I feel. This morning I hopped on the Murray Run Greenway for a soft mile or so, then through the Roanoke River Greenway in to downtown. 5.2 miles with a backpack on -- a great way to start the day.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Gymboss Interval Timer

I received one of these last week for my birthday. It is a cool, inexpensive (under $20) gadget for all types of interval training: Tabatas, track repeats, sprints, etc. It can even be used to remind you to take a nutrition or walk break during a long run. It chimes and/or vibrates, and is smaller than a small old-school pager. It also has a handy clip so you can fasten it to your shorts or watch band for hands-free running.

With just three buttons, it is easy to program after a very short learning curve. The first one I received in the mail was dead. I called their toll free helpline, and in two days I received a new fully functional timer with a postage paid return envelope for the broken one. They assured me that this was a rare occurence. Based on reviews I've read, quality control is not an issue.

For any runner who collects gadgets, and especially the runner who is in to speed training, track intervals, HIIT, Tabatas, etc., this timer belongs in your toy box.

I recently learned about a workout that kettlebell enthusiasts believe is the quickest way to improve VO2 Max. It is 30 seconds of high intensity KB swings followed by 30 seconds of rest. They repeat this for anywhere between 20 and 40 minutes. I personally believe this workout can be tailored to any exercise (hills, sprints, stairs, dumbell curl-presses, etc.). I plan to experiment with this some starting next week using my new Gymboss timer.

Run hard out there...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

One workout can improve your life

Want to know how one short workout can improve your life? Read on...

I like to get out at lunchtime and do some crazy workouts. A little bit of running, high intensity bodyweight exercises, hills and sprints, etc. I have some buddies who join me regularly, and occasionally someone new will tag along. One day several weeks ago a new guy decided to join us. I didn't know a lot about this guy's fitness, but I considered him to be the kind of person who goes to the gym a few days/week, puts in 15 minutes on a cardio machine, lifts some weights, maybe follows up with a little cool-down cardio. He was what I consider an "average exerciser."

It just so happened that the agenda on this particular day called for a 1-mile run, followed by sets of hill sprints and burpees with very little rest in between. It was intense -- definitely not your average exercise routine, but the new guy hung in there, did a great job, definitely got a good workout, and claimed to even enjoy it.

But then he didn't come back.

I asked him about it the other day. To my surprise he assured me he loved the workout and planned to come back out. Then he said to me,

"That one workout helped me tremendously!"

I asked him to explain, and he said that the one workout boosted his aerobic capacity and helped him get to the next level. He said he went from running 1 mile on the treadmill to running almost 3 miles! All because of that one workout.

That's a 200% increase in fitness? Just from one workout? What's the number for the patent office?

Ok, we all know that is too good to be true. Or is it?

That one workout DID help him. It definitely increased his fitness level, but not that much. Anytime we stress our bodies that way, adaptation takes place and we come back stronger. But it wasn't the physical adaptation that helped him.

It was all in his head.

Perhaps he was like many average exercisers. They go for a jog or get on the stationary bike or elliptical machine, watch TV or read a magazine. 30 minutes later they feel good about what they have done. And they should, don't get me wrong. That's their workout. This guy's workout at the time included running 1 mile on the treadmill. Good for him. But he was capable of so much more. All he had to do was learn to step outside of his comfort zone.

That intense hill sprint and burpee workout helped him see that he could push his body to a whole new level. And doing it in a group setting helped even more. Had he attempted a hill sprint/burpee workout alone, he might have done it with the average exerciser mindset and worked at a lower intensity or even quit before he really got started. But because there were several of us out there that day who love to explore our "discomfort zone," he pushed himself to keep up. He took his brain out of the workout and allowed himself to work harder. By working outside of his average exerciser comfort zone, even for just 20 minutes, he learned that he is capable of doing so much more. And now he does so much more.

Believe it or not, this directly applies to ultrarunning. How many ultrarunners really get out of their comfort zones? Many runners are happy with the slow steady-state training runs. Then in races they stay toward the back of the pack, talking with others, enjoying the time on the trail, all the while marvelling about the front runners wondering "how do they do it?" The difference is that most of the front runners push outside of their comfort zones every day. They have trained their minds to allow their bodies to call the shots. All of our bodies are capable of amazing things, we just need train our brains to let it happen.

So yes, one workout can change your life.

Here are a few I recommend:

These workouts, done completely and intensely, will take you out of your aerobic comfort zone and help you get to the next level. Pick one and do it. It just might change your life.

Run hard out there.

Friday, April 3, 2009


When I was in Atlanta last week, I met with a personal trainer for a kettlebell clinic. It was fun, rewarding, and I hope to post more about it soon.

Kettlebells are showing up everywhere these days. I caught a glimpse of one on The Biggest Loser last week, which means they are now an official fitness gadget. A local YMCA is looking to start a KB class similar to Body Pump. It kind of flies in the face of traditional Russian kettlebell training, but at least they are helping people get off the elliptical machine and get in shape.

Here is a great deal for the ultrarunner looking to start a kettlebell regimen.

Okay, maybe I'm a couple days late on this one...

Run hard out there.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

100 Burpee Challenge

I came across this on one of the crossfit sites I follow: The 100 Burpee Challenge. It's simple. Start a timer and see how long it takes to do 100 burpees. I tried it for the first time two weeks ago and was a bit disappointed to finish in just under 10 minutes. Today I did it in 8:40. That's good enough for a top 50 time on Sherdog. But I know I can do better. I think I am putting form over speed. I'll try this weekly, and once it gets easier I'll move up to a 150 and eventually a 200 burpee challenge to simulate the stress of a fast 5k.

The first quarter of 2009 is almost gone. What about those goals? I really need to start working on those pullups. With Catawba behind me, it's also time to focus on the 5k training.

Run hard out there.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hill Repeats

(click graph to zoom)

Hill Repeats. You run up, then down, and you never really get anywhere. But for some reason I love them. You should too.

Today I went to the park for my lunchtime run and did 11 repeats of a 0.2 mile hill. I was not sprinting it, but I did run every bit of every hill. I also did 10 push-ups at the top and bottom of each repeat. At the top of the last hill I did 20 push-ups. So in less than an hour, I ran 1 mile of warm-up and cool-down, 2 miles uphill, 2 miles downhill (recovery) and did 240 push-ups. It was a very nice way to spend a lunch hour.

Oh, the image is courtesy of my GPS and Check them out.

Run hard out there...

Monday, March 23, 2009

One of my favorite reasons to visit Atlanta...

Piedmont Park

(click to zoom)

Intervals on the 800m cinder oval. Hill repeats on the grass above the lake. It makes running in the heart of the city fun. And wearing a Garmin Forerunner so you can see where all you went makes it even more fun.

And it's all about having fun.

Run hard out there...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Prison Workout

Not too long ago the officials who run prisons decided that allowing prisoners to work out with weights all day long was a bad idea. Seems that the guards were just sitting around doing what it takes to pass federal and state physicals, and the prisoners were doing what it takes to survive in prison: pounding iron. Eventually the officials found themselves on the losing end and made the official decision to officially ban weights.

So the prisoners came up with a new plan. The Prison Workout. Burpees baby. Have you tried Burpees yet? Watch Mike Rowe, from Dirty Jobs explain why you should be doing burpees.

So today, when most of my lunchtime running buddies were planning to run on the treadmill, eat, or even go shopping, I came up with a new plan: We would do a Burpee prison workout.

Here is what we did:

Jog to the park (about 1 mile)
At top of hill, Do 15 burpees
jog down and back up hill
do 14 burpees
jog down and back up hill
repeat (descending sets all the way to 1 burpee)
jog down hill and back
jog home (about 1 mile)

This was 120 burpees, and 15 hill repeats. Very little rest. All in about 22 minutes.

Talk about the Happy Face! I was happy from this workout for the rest of the day.

Have you tried burpees yet?

Run hard out there.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

I finished Catawba Run Around, now what?

2009 Catawba Run Around: 35 miles, 10:30

For most of the hikers I saw on the Appalachian Trail yesterday, it was a perfect day. Who could ask for anything better than 78-degrees and lots of sun on an early March day?

I'd rather have had 45-degrees and raining.

The 2009 Catawba Run Around is over. I finished, in a slowest time ever of 10:30 (two hours slower than last year). But it was a tough run from the get go. Here are my excuses (you know what they say about excuses, right?):
  • I started out too fast. Note to self: ascending Dragon's Tooth early in the race in the top 6 is not a good idea.
  • It was hot. No lie. I bet it hit 80-degrees in the mid-afternoon. And there was not a cloud in the sky.
  • I wore the wrong shoes. Where was all that mud I predicted?
  • Nutrition: I didn't eat enough early in the race and ran out of water 4 miles short of the 3rd aid station
  • The reverse direction is TOUGH! The climbs seem so much steeper in that direction. It's not just my imagination either. Run organizer Keith said the same thing.
  • My training? I don't know. I finished ahead of some great high-mileage ultrarunners, but could I have done better with more training mileage?
I do know that I am not sore today. I have no injuries from the run. My legs were strong most of the way (except for some of those climbs!). I credit that to the sprints and squats I've been doing.

I really feel like my biggest adversary was the unexpected heat. When you do all your training in 25-40 degrees, 65-80 degrees is a bit much.

I felt worse than I have felt in a race for a long time, and mentally it was a big challenge. But on a day where many dropped, (Yo Adrian!) I finished.

For now I'm going to keep training the way I've been training. Short, high intensity runs and lots of non-running workouts. I need to start focusing on that 5k goal. I have a 50k to run in July, but it is on very forgiving trails compared to my other ultras. I think I can do well there on 25-mile weeks and high intensity training. As Hellgate approaches, I need to spend more time on the mountains. That is the one element that I think was missing from my training for Catawba.

At least I can count on more comfortable temperatures for Hellgate.

Run hard out there...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Great run in the snow!

Okay, so what is looking to be the biggest snow "storm" of the winter of 2008/2009 provided the perfect conditions for my last hard run before Catawba. I hit Fishburn Park for 4 tough miles of running in about 6 inches of snow. It was absolutely beautiful! I must start carrying a camera while running. I have a birthday coming up (hint hint).

I wore my Nike ACG running shoes.
These rugged beasts beat any other shoe I have ever worn for running like this. Problem is, I don't know where to find them anymore, and that picture is not even of the shoe I have, although I think it is the same model. It was these same beasts (an earlier model) that I screwed screws into the year that I ran my PR at Hellgate -- also in snow and ice. Lots of it.

Right now the Catawba trail is completely covered by at least 10" of snow. Most of it will likely melt before this weekend -- maybe. The current forecast is for 60-degrees by Saturday. Perfect

Absolutely perfect.

Run hard out there.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Holiday Lake 50K on how many training miles?!?

When I heard about this one, I immediately chalked it up to youth and desire for bodily harm, but then I read more. The guy in the white shirt is Adam Eidson. Adam, 34, just finished the Holiday Lake 50K ultra in a fantastic time of 5:19. That put him in 75th place out of 257 starters. He finished ahead of some very fine ultrarunners. It turns out Adam is a very fine ultrarunner too, although his training is a bit atypical.

Before Holiday Lake, Adam ran a total of 7 miles. Really. 7 miles.

Adam runs RARE Crossfit in Fredericksburg, VA. Here is some info about his training, quoted from his website:

This race was about 34 miles long and preparation for it consisted of running a total of about 7 miles and doing CrossFit on a daily basis. Yes, you read it right, Adam has only run twice since October of 2008. He ran 3.1 miles on Thanksgiving morning and 2 weeks before Holiday Lake he ran 3.8 miles. All other training was CrossFit.

Adam also plans to run the Terrapin Mountain 50K, Promise Land, and Bull Run. Stay tuned to see how he does. I hope to talk to Adam soon to learn more about him, his training, and his ultrarunning goals.

P.S. Today's workout: Run to the park, warmup with 20 burpees,
then with a 15 minute timer running, repeat the following with no rest between exercises:

  • Sprint 100 yards 100% effort
  • 5 push-ups
  • plank 20 seconds
  • 10 jump squats
  • hold squat position for 20 seconds (this was tough)
  • repeat

The 15 minutes went by pretty quickly, but the "run" back downtown was a challenge. Total run about 4 miles (1.7 miles of sprinting).

Run hard out there.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

More ultrarunners, less mileage

I stumbled across this story of a 22-year-old woman who just finished the Rocky Raccoon 100 in 25-hours on very low training mileage. Yes, she is another Crossfit success story.

Speaking of that, I ran 13.5 miles on the AT today (my longest run since early December. In fact, this week was a 29-mile week, my longest training week since just before Hellgate). It was a cold, windy run with a mix of sun and snow flurries. I reached McAfee's Knob in 51 minutes, a recent record for me. Then I stormed the descent and continued a couple miles toward Tinker Cliffs before turning around and running back. I met a guy coming off the Knob who was carrying a 45-pound backpack, training for some mountaineering. I was impressed.

If I can get just one more power run up there on the AT, then I know I will be ready for the Catawba Run Around. I think the next training run will be on North Mountain. It's been almost a year since I've been up there.

Run hard out there...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Today's workout -- no running

(photo taken from

Today's workout did not involve running at all, so only read on if you are interested in a good one. It really wiped me out and I just have to share it.

Working continuously for 15 minutes (that means no rest),
repeat the following circuit:
  • 5 push-ups
  • 10 squat jumps
  • 5 pull-ups (I used a pull-down machine)
  • 10 dumbbell snatches

I was sore from yesterday's hill sprint/burpee workout, so this one started off rough. Once I warmed up, however, it started to flow. Five minutes into it, I was sweating profusely wondering if I would make it through the whole 15 minutes. At 10 minutes I was in a zone, and 15 minutes was there before I knew it.

The exercises:

Push-ups: 5 reps seems low, but you are doing 5 reps about every minute for 15 minutes. It adds up.

Squat jumps: You squat down, and explode up so that your feet leave the ground. It starts to burn after a few sets.

Pull-ups (or pull-downs). I did not have a static pull-up bar available, so I did pull-downs at 120#. I don't have the strength yet to do that many reps/sets of much heavier.

Dumbbell snatches. If you don't know this one, you almost have to see it. Squat down with a dumbbell on the floor. Explode up with your legs as you raise the dumbbell over your head, arm extended. See it here, along with some other great lifts.

Snatches and jumps are very aerobic when done quickly. Especially the snatches because your heart is forced to pump blood to both your lower and upper extremities. That really gets the heart going fast.

And I thought a runner's high was good!

I felt so good after this one. I'll pay for it for a couple days, but exercises like this, especially when done with high intensity, carry over to running in so many ways. Since I've started working out like this my hill running has improved greatly, as has my overall strength. I hope to prove it in the upcoming Catawba Run Around.

Run hard out there...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Run Commute

(image courtesy of

When I really want to peak for a long race, I turn to the Run Commute for that extra challenge.

I live about 10 miles from where I work, so that is too far for me to run without having to get up at 4am. Plus, a 20-mile road run commute would put an end to my running pretty quickly. So, I get up around 5:30, and drive a few miles in to a convenient parking place. From there I shoulder my Hot Shot laptop backpack, turn on my Garmin Forerunner 205 GPS, and head towards town. The nice thing about the GPS is that I can select from any number of routes, and still know my exact distance.

I usually get in between 4 and 6 miles in the morning, then a more direct 4 miles in the afternoon. Carrying a laptop, along with the twice/day run, really challenges my body and gets me race ready.

I don't do this more than two days per week, and usually only within a month or so before a big event. I've used the Run Commute to train for all of my big ultras. It's a lot of pavement pounding, so I tread lightly and get off road every chance I get.

The Run Commute is not for everyone. But if you can swing it, give it a shot.

P.S., an update on The Interval Challenge. I've done this workout twice since I wrote about it in January, and taken almost 2 minutes off of my finishing time. Today when we finished (13:58 vs. starting time of 15:52), we joked about how we might have to start doing it twice!

P.S.S. I have changed my Bike to Work goal for the year to include running. My goal is now to Run OR Bike to work more than 90 days this year. With my run in this morning I am up to 5 days. Slow start, but warmer weather and longer days are coming.

Run hard out there...


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Hurricane Training

I read in the March issue of Men's Health about trainer Martin Rooney. He has a book out targeted toward mixed martial artists, ultimate fighters, etc. called Training for Warriors. Now I'm no warrior, and the average ultrarunner is about 100k from Rooney's target audience. But, I like to challenge my body and workout hard. So after reading the article this morning over breakfast, I decided to incorporate what Rooney calls the Hurricane Workout into my morning run. The idea behind the workout is that you go from one exercise to the next with no rest. After 5 exercises, you rest 2 minutes, then do it again for a total of 3 sets.

Here's how my workout went:

Run to the park (3 miles)

Hurricane workout:
3 X
  • 1 min sprint
  • 1 min bench jumps
  • 1 min crunches
  • 1 min pushups
  • 1 min squats or lunges
  • rest 2 minutes

Jog home (3 miles)

Holy cow. The "Jog Home" was more of a walk/jog home. That's all I could do after getting hit by the hurricane.

I recognize that this type of workout is geared more for training fighters. Intense 5 minutes of work (e.g. a round in a fight), followed by 2 minutes of rest. I'm not training to be a fighter. I'm a long distance runner. Runners, especially ultrarunners, don't need that kind of fitness. Right?

I guess that depends on on what kind of ultrarunner you want to be.

Give this kind of workout a try sometime. You might like it.

Run hard out there...

Friday, February 6, 2009

1 minute intervals

Today's workout was 10 1x1 (1 minute intervals with 1 minute of rest).

I warmed up by slowly jogging to the soccer fields where I run a lot of my sprints.

Then, using my Garmin Forerunner's "interval" workout, I ran 10 sets of 1 minute sprints with 1 minute of rest. The rest periods were mostly spent bent over, hands on knees, followed by a little bit of walking. I covered 2.36 miles over those 10 intervals. The intervals were between .18 and .21 miles each.

Then I ran a slow cool down for a total of 5 miles.

1 minute intervals. If you go out all, they are intense. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Run hard out there...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Running with your Dog

Dogs love to run. There is no doubt about it. Now that I am running shorter distances on most of my runs, I am more often able to include one of my favorite running partners, my dog. Yesterday she even did a sprint workout with me. For the first 3 or 4 sprints, she challenged me to keep up. After the first few, however, I had to shout words of encouragement ("Let's go girl, come on!) to keep her motivated. Then on the last sprint (8 total, about 120 yards each), she surprised me and stayed ahead of me. Or maybe I was slowing down more than I thought.

If you have a dog, and he or she is healthy enough to run, give it a shot. Be sure to break her in slowly, and just as you would a new runner, pay attention to her response and know when it is time to quit. Here are some more tips for running with your dog.

  • Have her checked out by a vet first. Make sure there are no conditions that would limit her.
  • Start out slowly and with short distances. I hear of people who take their dogs on very long runs. My Spots is only good for 3 or 4 miles right now.
  • Bring some extra water, a bowl, and some treats/snacks. I find with Spots that if I can take a break and allow her to play in a creek for 2 minutes, she's good for another uninterrupted mile.
  • While your dog might be obedient enough to run unleashed (mine is not), keep her leashed anyway. If is for her (and your) own good. But be mindful of where she is. If you go on one side of a tree, and she goes on another... you get the point.
  • Watch for signs of overuse. Check your dogs foot pads regularly. If they appear torn or raw, stop running and see a vet. There are sprays and even boots that your dog can wear if this is an issue. If your dog appears sore (trouble getting up stairs, etc.), it could be a sign of arthritis or pad wear. Take it easy for a few days, and if it does not improve, see a vet.
  • Watch for signs of overheating. Excessive panting, vomiting, drooling, are all signs that you should stop, rest, and hydrate.

Have fun out there with your dogs!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Myofascial release with a foam roller or massage stick

It's a fact of life with running or any repetitive exercise: things will get sore and tight if we let them. I used to feel how hard and tight my legs were and think that was good. That was until I got hit with my first real case of ITBS. I went for some physical therapy and learned that my thinking was all wrong. If they are too hard and tight, then something ain't right.

Now when I get a bit of pain or tightness, I go straight to my foam roller or The Stick. These tools are great ways to work out the knots via soft tissue massage and Myofascial release.

Here are a few sites I found that show good technique for using these tools:

And a couple books I have found:

I get real good results using these tools and techniques on my ITB and lower legs (front and back). And believe it or not, all it really takes is 10 minutes. You'll feel the difference immediately. The Stick now travels with me to all of my races. It's great for warming up, and post race massage.

Run hard out there...

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Interval Challenge

(photo courtesy

Today's workout comes from, home of Ross Enamait. Ross has trained many athletes, including professional kickboxers, MMA fighters, and even track and field athletes. Middle distance Olympian, Shannon Rowbury (pictured above) has this to say about one of Ross' programs.
Most runners just focus on logging miles. I never feel more tired than when I finish one of your Minute Drills, but I have found that the core and upper body strength, as well as explosiveness, that it has helped me to develop has been instrumental at the end of races, allowing me to maintain form and kick rather than break down.
Ross' methods are what many would consider unorthodox. To quote the subtitle of one of his books, Ross "puts the work back in workout."

The Interval Challenge is a short workout that consists of 6 repeats of the following circuit:
There is no prescribed rest time. Basically, the goal is to complete that circuit 6 times as fast as possible, rest when you need it. Believe me, you will need it if your intensity is where it should be.

My interval buddies and I did this today at lunch. After a short warmup jog to the park, we started our stopwatches, and got started. It occurred to me about halfway through the squats that pacing would be key to even finishing this workout. At some point during the second set, I wondered if I would make it to 6. But I did. We even kicked in the run on the last set and it might have been the fastest circuit. Knowing the end was near helped.

For me, the difficulty in this one came from the squats and the high intensity of the whole workout. Maybe it was because I rode my bike to work today, maybe it was just the cold air, but my knees were barking a little on a few of the deeper squats. On top of that, my cardio system felt like I was running a fast 5k the whole time.

In the end, my time was 15 minutes, 52 seconds. I can't wait to do it again and see improvement. It is a great workout, and I encourage you all to give it a shot.

Run hard out there...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Biking to work

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." -- Albert Einstein.

I've heard that the only time Einstein was photographed smiling was when he was on his bike. I don't know if that is true or not, but I know biking makes me happy.

One of my 2009 goals is to bike to work more. In fact, to meet my goal of 90+ days, I pretty much have to average 2 days per week (due to vacation, holidays, telecommuting, etc.). Eleven days into the year, I've only ridden once. It is supposed to be 27-degrees here in the morning, but I will be biking, and loving every minute of it.

One of the thrills I get from cycling to work are the comments from my co-workers who just don't believe it is possible. Sure, it ain't always easy, but like ultrarunning, sometimes the hardest days are the best.

We all have good excuses... I live too far away, It's too cold, I have to wear a suit, I'm an ultrarunner, not a biker...

They are (almost) all good excuses. But even a good excuse is just an excuse. Here are some sites to help you overcome your excuses for not biking to work. Check out the links and see if any of these help to change your mind. Just be sure to dress smart, put some lights on your bike, and wear a helmet.
US News and World Report article article on bike gadgets
BikeCommuteTips Blog (you'll never say it is too cold again)
Google "Bicycle Commuting"

Ride your bike. It will make you a better runner and who knows, you might even smile more!

Run hard out there.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Workout with a Dog

In Crossfit terminology, WOD is the workout of the day. But for ultrarunner Catra Corbett (aka Dirt Diva), WOD has a new meaning. Catra regularly writes about her crossfit experiences and her love for her dog Rocky. Now she has found a way to bring the two together.

WOD = Workout of the Dog.

Read her blog post for more pictures and the full details, but here's her workout:

run 10 min. 50 squats with Rocky
run 10 min. 4.0 minute walk carying Rocky
run 10 min. 30 push-ups
run 10 min. 20 lunges carrying Rocky
run 10 min. 10 burpess

If you have more than one dog, I suggest you pick the smallest. An alternative would be to carry a sandbag, a dumbbell, or a big cat.

My workout today was short due to time constraints, so I did a fartlek 5k. That's a 5k with some mile-pace fartleks thrown in. Despite a couple short walking breaks (to recover from the fartleks), I finished just over 20 minutes, averaging 6:30 per mile. I'd have gone a lot faster had I not been carrying that dog.

Not really.

Have fun out there...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Ultra Adventures (

Most of you who follow my blog probably read Mike Day's Ultra Adventures site already. For those of you who don't -- you should. He is doing a series on overtraining. Here is the first post, and the second. It is worth the the few minutes it will take you to read, especially since it could save you from serious injury.

Mike has recovered from Achilles tendon repair surgery and gone on to finish some great races, so he knows a thing or two about overtraining, diagnosis, treatment and recovery. He also writes equipment reviews, race reports, and more.

Mike has assured me that if I run his Sweaty Butt 50K this summer, he will return to Hellgate. I ran the first Sweaty Butt, but due to the extreme heat, most of us cut it short at 22 miles.

Mike is a good friend, a great guy, and an excellent ultrarunner. I look forward to seeing him on the trails in 2009.

Take a look at Ultra Adventures when you can.

Run smart out there...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Fitness Goals for 2009 - a work in progress

Not all of my goals for 2009 are ultra-related. In fact, only one is. Here's the list:
  • Sub-18 minute 5K
  • Sub-38 minute 10K
  • 20 consecutive pull-ups
  • 100 consecutive pushups
  • Bike to/from work more than 90 days
  • Run a Hellgate PR (sub 13:48)
I've been wanting to get some speed back into my running for some time. And since 2008 was not a good long distance year for me, I think it's time to turn my attention back to shorter, faster running.

(OK, 2008 was a good long distance year for me, I just did not achieve all of the goals I had set due to injury.)

I will start with a fast 5K. Earlier I joked about running a sub-5-minute mile. I don't see that happening, but with the speed training for a 17-minute 5K, anything can happen. I'm picking an April race for my first attempt at the 5K PR. We'll see what happens.

From there I will progress to a fast 10K, hopefully before the heat of summer sets in. If the spring goes well and I am running fast into summer, then I may train for a fast fall marathon. That's what I did in 2005 when I turned in my fastest ever Hellgate. I might even go for a fast 50K in the fall as well.

Other goals include increasing the number of consecutive push-ups and pull-ups I can do. These two exercises are perhaps the best ever total body exercises. If you don't believe me, do 5 sets of 2 pull-ups (manageable by most, maybe), and see how sore your abs are the next day. I also want to increase the number of days I ride my bike to and from work (10 miles each way).

I read a great post recently about goals. In summary, we need to define reasonable goals, make sure they are measurable or quantifiable, put them in writing, and review them daily. To that end, I am posting my 2009 fitness goals to the right at the top of this blog. I will update them occasionally with my progress.

I encourage all of you to set goals, make them public, and make them happen.

Run hard out there.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

My favorite Christmas present

Thanks to my parent-in-laws for my Patagonia Wool 4 Hoody. I usually have to run very long races to get anything from Patagonia. Now, if just the weather would cooperate. It's almost 60-degrees today.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Review of a Crossfit Endurance Interval workout

Today I did the Crossfit Endurance Interval workout posted on the CFE site on 12/31. In general, this workout consists of short time trial (TT) intervals, followed by brief rest. The only instructions are to cover as much distance as possible during the TT intervals. I guess the "rest" is up to us. I prefer to rest in motion (jog or walk), but as you will see, that is sometimes hard to do. Here's the workout:

6 minute TT, 3 minute rest
4 minute TT, 2 minute rest
1 minute TT, 30 second rest
30 second TT, 15 second rest
15 second TT

The recommended warmup is a 800m easy jog followed by a few short sprints to prepare the legs for hard running.

I warmed up as recommended (0.52 miles), then my workout went as follows:

Segment Time Miles Pace
6 min TT 6:02 1.02 5:54
3 min rest 3:01 0.25 12:19
4 min TT 4:01 0.67 6:02
2 min rest 2:01 0.14 14:25
1 min TT 1:00 0.19 5:16
30 sec rest 0:30 0.03 18:11
30 sec TT 0:31 0.11 4:53
15 sec rest 0:16 0.02 18:05
15 sec TT 0:17 0.05 5:21

Total 2.48

After a short cooldown, the total workout was 3.47 miles, just over 27 minutes. Here's how it went:

The first and longest TT (6 minutes) seemed to go on forever. I went out a bit too fast in the first 3 minutes, and struggled to hold on for the duration. I chose to walk the rest period, and recovered enough to allow me to hit the 4 minute TT pretty hard. Or so I thought...

The 4 min TT seemed easier (duh, it is shorter), but when I see my times I see that I did not hit it as hard as I thought I was.

It was much easier to go "all out" on the shorter TT intervals. For the rest periods following these intervals, I pretty much just stopped and tried my best to catch my breath. It's interesting that the 30 second TT was my fastest, because that one was on a slight incline. I think I ran that one so hard that the last TT was tough for me, even though I knew it was the shortest and my last.

It was all I could do to keep walking after my last interval. I stumbled into a short 800m cooldown feeling like I had really given it my all. This was a good workout that left me feeling like a hard workout should.

Give it a shot sometime, and let me know what you think.

Run hard out there...