Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Zero Week: North Face Endurance Challenge

I am as ready as I will ever be for this Saturday’s 50k.  This past training cycle went off the rails and I would like more run fitness than I have but such is life.  Mileage was low on account of losing a week to food borne illness and another to nursing some knee and calf tenderness.  All was not lost though, I can handle distance better than 10 weeks ago and have been adding intensity.  This base building period went in fits and starts but the future is promising.

Changing a flat tire on the climb to the 401

This week is naturally taper, prior to zero week was where the action took place.  My woman and I got in some high altitude training in a vacation to Crested Butte Colorado.  The whole trip was epic and involved plenty of mountain biking with a side of running.  There were cross country rides on the 401, Monarch Crest, Upper and Lower loops of Crested Butte, and downhill mountain biking at the Evolution mountain bike park.  

Single track on the 401

On the running scene there were lot of trail runs featuring plenty of climbing and one last recon run of the race course.  I dialed in nutrition and race day strategy.  I will be taking this 50k easy with no other goal than even pacing and a finish.  Luckily the race loops on itself in case I need to pull the plug in the case of unnatural knee or Achilles pain.  Everything is in place for a great weekend and now comes execution.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

5 Weeks Out: Recon

The past two weeks were packed full of hard hitting training, sleep, and meats and vegetables, all part of the mission to get back into 50k shape for the now 5 weeks out North Face Endurance Challenge. Things are looking promising after running 72 miles with a healthy mix of hills, tempo, long runs, and course reconnaissance in all variety of summer weather. I also threw in some biking and kayaking because variety is the spice of life as the saying goes.

My woman running the Scuppernong Trails

After losing a week of training the idea was to fit three weeks into the past two weeks. I pushed my limits, and am happy with the increase in fitness that has occurred. The key runs were three long runs with the first taking place in soupy humidity the second in extreme heat, and the third and best having decent weather for race course recon.

Monday: Long Run 16 mi, 2:10:18
Tuesday: Recovery Run 5.3 mi, 44:34
Wednesday: Kayak 3.4 mi, 53:46
Friday: Bike, 6mi, 1:00:00
Saturday: Long Run 13 mi, 2:14:59
Sunday: Recovery Run, 7 mi, 58:38

Tuesday: Hill Run, 7mi, 58:38
Thursday: Tempo Run, 8.4 mi, 1:04:50
Saturday: Long Run, 16.3 mi, 2:28:00
Sunday: Bike, 51 mi, 3:00:01

Good training with the highlight being a Saturday trip out to the Scuppernong and Ice Age Trails. These portions of the race course are fast. The Scuppernong trails are wide groomed ski trails with some elevation variation but nothing horrible. The single track of the Ice Age went fast too with some added technicality and steeper climbs.  Come this weekend I hope to hit up the entirty of the Ice Age section. 
More Scuppernong



Friday, August 3, 2012

Seven Weeks Out: Lost Training

It is real lame to lose an entire week of training to preventable illness.  Really, really lame considering my goals of getting back into 50k shape.  My tale of woe flows like this:  compromised nutrition and recovery led to gastroenteritis which led to dehydration and after the two days it took to clear those hurdles it took 3 more days to regenerate my stomach and eat real food.  Don’t let it happen to you, take care of yourself. 

Hesitation Point IMBA Epic Brown County Indiana 

Dehydration was the worst, with it came full body cramping and an overwhelming thirst that could not be satisfied.  Being heavily resistant to seeking medical help and fancying myself an amateur doctor I skipped the IV solution and rehydrated by limiting my water intake to sucking on ice cubes and taking shots of pedialyte every 5 minutes.  Take note, that information could save your life or someone else’s if medical help is unavailable.  Pearls.

So I didn’t get any miles in and I went five days without food.  That there is a loss of fitness but all I can do is move on and skip lamenting about what could have been.  What to do?  Jam two weeks into one maybe, make up for lost ground?  Laughable.  There is risk in making up for lost ground and it is best not to, but I will take the risk and mitigate it by putting three weeks of training into two weeks.

MTB + Camping IMBA Epic Brown County Indiana

The upside of the week was when I got around to finally feeling good I got in a previously planned trip to IMBA Epic Brown County Indiana for mountain biking.  I also booked a campsite at Ottawa lake for race weekend.  If you have not signed up for the North Face Endurance Challenge you should.

Click Here to Register for The North Face Endurance Challenge

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Eight Weeks Out: Endurance Challenge

This week was an exercise in increasing miles goldilocks style, not too little, not too much but just right for the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k.  I hit this elusive target in that the miles I put in were challenging and I feel recovered enough to put in more challenging miles.  All the runs were of the hot and humid variety and while Tuesday and Thursday featured AM runs it was of little increased comfort.  In order to make the most of time constraints my long run was a two a day effort and likely the best approach in this heat.  The rest of the week was filled out with swimming and biking.

M:  ½ hour swim (1500 m)
T:  1 hour run  (10 mi)
W:  ¾ hour bike (14 mi)
F:  1 hour run (8 mi), and 1 2/3 hour run (13 mi)
S:  1 hour mountain bike (8 mi)
S:  1 ¾ hour bike (28 mi)

Sunday’s social ride in the heat was one day too many.  It is difficult to say no to a beautiful woman.  Starting Friday evening my recovery began being compromised in the interest of social standing.  I have paid for it.  There has been no training this week after I came down with a dose of food poisoning Sunday night and I have not eaten a full meal since then.  With Endurance activity comes a compromised immune system and the need to take nutrition, hydration, and sleep very seriously.  A 5k might kill me right now.  This week has been about fighting dehydration and restarting my digestive system.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Nine Weeks Out: Endurance Challenge

My calves ache and my feet have taken a pounding in recent days.  When I wake up from a good night’s sleep and take my first steps I can feel the good ache in my legs and feet as my contracted muscles stretch out.  This past week I ramped up my running in preparation for the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k.  27 miles marks a five week high and I got in two good time trial efforts in the form of Milwaukee's Bastille days 5k and the Dances with Dirt half marathon at Devil’s Lake.

Devil's Lake Dances with Dirt Elevation story

The week started out with early AM runs of 5 and 6 miles in the heat and humidity on Monday and Wednesday.  These were slow miles with the dog and having not run in the AM for a while I was still acclimating.  Thursday night was the always fun Bastille Days 5k running through downtown Milwaukee.  There is always a fun atmosphere with lots of hot bodies on display and good eating.  I did not know what to expect for performance.  I felt strong, went out fast and gradually faded with mile splits of 5:41, 5:54, 6:36 and a final time of 18:49.  It was a good time trial and puts me about a minute slower than where I was during my spring training cycle.

Pre race dinner hickory smoked beer can chicken

Come Saturday I had another race effort, this time the Dances with Dirt half marathon in Devil’s Lake.  I drove up Friday and camped with some friends.  During the hot night before the race I woke to a few Charlie horses.  There was a lot of climbing in those first few miles of the race and my calves were still destroyed from the 5k two days prior. I walked most of the uphills and wondered if I would be able to knock this race out in less than 3 hours. The embarrassment of being passed by what felt like everyone was a little much. After the initial climb I sped way up catching most everyone that owned me on the climb. The downhills were wide open without switchbacks which I loved. Good race, and a good wake up call to my current running fitness, would do it again.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Next Big Thing: North Face Endurance Challenge

My mission to get stronger / faster specific to running has been going sideways these past few months. The decrease in volume and intensity in training was a much needed physical and mental health break laying the ground work for the next period of growth. Sometimes it just feels good to take it easy with no plan other than if it feels good do it after a long stretch of busting ass.

alt="Click Here to Register for The North Face Endurance Challenge"

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The next big thing in my life is the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k nestled in the scenic Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest of Wisconsin. My love and I camped and knocked out the ½ marathon last year and it was awesome, wrote all about it here too.  The plan this year is the same, camp and run, probably mountain bike that weekend too.  It is time to get serious about running again to knock this out.

2012 thus far

As it stands right now I cannot do a 50k.  Turns out you actually have to run consistently to maintain 50k level fitness.  My last 50k was at the beginning of May and this race is in the middle of September. I am no mathematician but can count on my fingers and that leaves ten weeks to get back into 50k shape. I know where I want to be and I know where I have been so planning a course of action to bridge the two is all that remains.

Mountain biking in the Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest

I will ramp miles up to my sweet spot of 30 - 40 miles a week over the next couple weeks and load most of the miles into the same 24 hour period. I see a lot of base building long runs with some tempo work but will lay off the intervals. I see myself hitting up the kettle moraine state forest a lot for race day specific terrain and I can also mountain bike there. Did I mention I have been spending a lot of time mountain biking? Yes, yes I did.  It is like trail running, all off road and all good.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Spring 2012

Back in April peak athletic performance coincided with peak social neglect. Since then I have been taking care of my extrovert. A lot of awesome has taken place in that time frame. I paced my love for her 10K PR and was her mule for her first marathon. Don’t mistake me for being nice, these were selfish acts of needing to get miles in and lacking any motivation to run on my own. I ran the Ice Age Trail 50K and it rocked but my heart wasn’t in it. My heart was in the RAGNAR and it was a pleasure to train with the team and we were able to achieve greater things than I ever could as an individual. My only motivation to run was social and these past months I traded a lot of run and swim fitness for cycling fitness culminating with my first century ride. 

Super Number One Ultra Engineers.

In order of awesome the RAGNAR stands out the greatest accomplishment for me in the endurance sports space yet. Our coed ultra team made it the 198 miles from Madison to Chicago in 27 hours 31 minutes. I could write a book about the experience but no one would read it and the pictures tell a better story anyway. The team was awesome and everything went very smooth with great performances running and supporting by everyone.

Somewhere in Illinois during the RAGNAR

The Ice Age Trail 50K was my priority race for the spring but things change. I peaked early, ran my dream half marathon, cut training and checked out a month before this race. The course and weather were beautiful and well supported. I raced the first 10k with the 4 hour group and lived for the downhill before slowing myself down. The first thirteen miles of single track on the Ice Age Trail were the best. The course became much less technical on the Nordic trails and I cruised to mile 24 where I fell apart and my body cut pace for me. No amount of smart pacing could have helped me, I did not put in the required miles prior to the event. I pulled down a 5 hour time and have never hurt so much.

Early evening running
The Wisconsin marathon was run on a cold overcast day a week before the Ice Age 50K. I ran alongside my love pacing her at 8 minute miles until mile 13 where they began drifting higher to 9 minute miles and come mile 18 she found the wall. I am not sure if it was skeletal calories, muscle failure or both but I stayed positive and kept her moving as we ran walked the remaining miles. I was hoping to get her in under 4 hours but our finish time came out to 4:04:32. She did good for not having put in the miles to run a marathon. The first one is just to finish, doesn’t even have to be good. The course was flat and plenty beautiful, a good spring marathon for the future.

Run, drive, sleep? sums up RAGNAR nicely

My loves 10K the week before her marathon went real well and provided a good data point for future potential at other distances. It looked like a bad day, cold and rainy with wind but it was really a good day for running and a PR of 42:19 for her. She went out aggressively and lead the race until mile 3 where she cut pace and was passed. She finished the remaining miles strong and caught the lead lady in the last mile. They passed each other a few times but my love couldn’t out sprint her into the finish. 

Most recently the Door County Ride for Nature Century marked a triumph where I had failed in the previous year. Turns out riding 100 miles takes a lot of riding leading up the big day. The first 2/3 of this were very enjoyable, the last 1/3 was purely for the sake of riding 100 miles. A strong south wind added an hour to the day. Awesome ride.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

South Shore Half Marathon

It has been 4 months and 500 miles since I raced my last half marathon.  I have been looking forward to this race since that time.  This is my home course, mere blocks from my front door.  I know every turn, every hill, and every mile marker - front and back.  My familiarity goes well beyond knowing the route to understanding how the wind, temperature, and sun all play into my run.  I enjoy running new courses in unfamiliar places but absolutely love the familiarity of this beautiful lakefront course nestled in the Milwaukee county parks.

There comes a time when it feels good to wind down a lengthy training cycle and rest up for the day that speed and endurance far beyond the everyday are realized.  My two week taper began with a salival gland infection and featured little training and a lot of taking it easy – zero miles ran.  Race week was about building confidence and keeping my legs and mind fresh.  I did a mile time trial Monday and half the race distance at race pace Wednesday, filling out the week with Jiu Jitsu and swimming.  The results met expectations and I felt as if I could double Wednesday’s run, which, was the idea.

The event day weather was near perfect with the only challenging condition being a 10mph wind for the out leg of the course.  There was no way the day could go bad on account of weather and it was one less thing to worry about, sunny and 45°F.  The race organization and start was handled brilliantly with utmost efficiency and precision.  After the singing of the national anthem the race commenced.  I placed myself in the front behind something like ten runners that appeared faster than me, it proved to be about where I belonged. 

A handful of runners passed me that first mile as I locked in what felt like my half marathon pace.  I was content running my own race that first three miles while observing the field settle around me.  I could have easily gotten caught up in the rush given how amazing my legs felt and ran a 5k effort to start, I am glad I did not.  When I saw my first mile split come up 15 seconds fast on a stretch that featured a large climb and headwind I figured today was going to be awesome or I would fall apart but at least I would have gone for it.

Half way, out in front, and overdressed.  It should have been short sleeve day.

The wind was blowing into the second and third miles making me thirsty.  Mile two was about 10 seconds fast and I was feeling good.  I had a nice core twist going to minimize my body area that the wind could push against.  Mile three was a monster.  I knew it would be tough going with a large hill followed by a gently graded climb on a winding path for the duration but this mile was along the lake and the headwind was pronounced.  When I saw my split come up 15 seconds slow and 30 seconds slower than the previous two miles it shook my confidence.

I flipped the switch to competitor from this point of the race forward.  I caught a sparse runner or two in miles four, five, six, and seven while knocking out a pace 5 seconds fast.  I never did look behind me but pieced together the pack I was running with over the next few miles.  The path was very curvy and I made every effort to take the shortest route curve to curve.   Everyone else also took the shortest route and being a nice guy pushover will really lead to finishing last in this situation.  It only took being maneuvered to the outside curve and then behind someone once for me to figure out crowding and boxing out is the name of the game.  From that point I out maneuvered everyone that did not aggressively pass.

The level of competition was unlike any I have experienced.  I ran shoulder to shoulder for a drawn out stretch before a different runner engaged in a never ending battle of leap frog.  My strength on the up and down hills was countered on the flat stretches; advantage me as this is a very rolling course.  Catching a runner didn’t always mean they would not be seen again, sometimes they just joined the pack.  It was notable how quiet everyone was from footsteps to breathing, almost everyone was in stealth mode.

The course was out and back and as always the turnaround was very enjoyable.  I took inventory of the runners in front of and behind me and counted off the women for when I would see my wife.  Over the course of the next few miles it was a beautiful thing to see so many people out running early in the morning and I had a few friends among them.  I was done with the pack and took the hairpin turn like a soccer player and made my move to drop them.  Mile eight featured a climb out of the turn around and I attacked it with a split 10 seconds slow but strong in context and caught a runner.      

I celebrated the half marathon with 10 miles of mountain biking later in the day.

I caught a couple runners in miles nine and ten and was happy to be turning out miles ten seconds fast and be on target for a negative second half split.  After three miles without him my leap frog nemesis came up alongside me at mile ten much to my surprise.  He commented we had no one left to catch and it was true, I could not see anyone out in front and this was a very open stretch.  He took a small lead but mile eleven was all downhill and I opened up on him turning out a split 25 seconds fast and the fastest split of the race.  There was a turn at the bottom of a hill leading into mile twelve that I looked behind me for the first time since the turn around to admire the lead I must have opened up.

You can imagine my horror when I saw my lead amounted to at best a few second edge on four runners, some of which I had not seen since mile three.  Someone must have smelled fear because like that a strong move was made, everyone followed and I was passed by all of them.  It took a while to comprehend what had just happened.  Here I thought a negative second half split guaranteed victory but everyone in this group was running a negative second half.  Consistency alone does not win, ten miles of consistency plus a 5k race effort wins. 

Two of them were real fast turning out a pace that would have required me to go 35 seconds fast those last two miles.  I may have been physically capable of hanging on and I feel I held back during this part of the race but I have never attempted or experienced this dynamic.  The other two remained in reach.  Mile twelve was uphill and my head was still processing the events that had transpired.  I turned out a mile ten seconds slow.  Mile thirteen I got my shit together passed my leap frog friend and focused on the next runner but ultimately could not close with a mile ten seconds fast. 

My finish kick and that last 0.1 were real fast and I knew I had held back.  My friend told me I looked GQ with the wind blowing my hair, shirt open, and the collar popped.  When I saw the clock at the finish ticking in the 1:21 range I couldn’t help but display a huge shit eating grin.  I knew I could run a 6:30 pace and pull down a 1:25 half marathon.  I thought if I had a real good day I could run a 6:20 pace and pull down something just shy of 1:23 and that was my target.  My actual finish time of 1:21:40, a 6:13 pace was awesome, good for 16th place, and over a ten minute PR.

Friday, April 6, 2012


March was yet another glorious month of training on the mission to get stronger/faster. The weather was unseasonably warm and I made sure to get out on the bike a lot. I continued to get in quality time running but cut a key workout every build week to accommodate cycling. After a rough first year I have fallen in love with swimming and continue to improve albeit at a slower rate than before. Jiu Jitsu has been going sideways but I still reap the muscle building effects even when I fail to improve. 

The month consisted of a three week build period sandwiched between two recovery weeks. In retrospect a three week build is a bad idea, two weeks is my limit. Cycling and running have quite the overlap and I am thinking I will alternate my focus from cycling to running every other week in the future. I also got my first bizarre overtraining induced illness following the three week build, a salival gland infection.

41 hours from 27 Feb 2012 – 1 Apr 2012.  Poorly thought out Periodization in practice: recovery week, three build weeks, recovery week.          

The salival gland is officially named the parotid gland and it makes saliva.  Having an infected parotid gland can only be described as lame.  Endurance athletes are more prone to this infection than the general population as a function of becoming dehydrated and rehydrating constantly.  It is also possible to get stones.  So pay attention to any tenderness or swelling behind the jaw and below the earlobe because that is your saliva gland crying out.  I ignored mine to my own folly.  I will say that I enjoyed every minute away from training and made good use of that time.

Running was awesome the first three weeks of the month. I got in a good recovery week that laid the foundation for some awesome interval and tempo work that exceeded expectations and I felt as strong as ever after my long runs. I did not quit the build phase soon enough and I completely lost interest in running by the last two weeks of the month. The plan I created was flawed in what it called out and while I cut from it on account of cycling I needed to cut more than I did. I learned a little something; when in doubt leave it out. I am well rested now in the middle of taper and ready to take on my spring half marathon.

140 miles for the month with the majority of them long run and recovery miles.

Jiu Jitsu
Jiu Jitsu has been good to me. Even when my skill goes sideways I still reap all the muscle building benefits and the changes in body chemistry. Tearing up muscle does wonders for confidence and makes me a more social creature. I got some instructional DVDs to study to improve my skill. Thing is I found a few things that worked well and have stuck to them effectively stopping improvement. I need to learn and try new things out of my comfort zone.      

I feel real comfortable in the water these days and don’t swim enough. I suspect I will be trading run fitness to work on my swim in the very near future. The water is enjoyable perhaps even more so because of the work I put in to earn it. I can’t complain about the ways swimming sculpts my upper body and improves my posture.  

Like I said the weather was unseasonably warm. I commuted to work and put in a few time trials to evaluate equipment and assess bike fitness. My bike fitness is good for one hour efforts, about where I left off last year but I need to start putting base miles in to accomplish goals. Mountain bike trails are now open and I plan to be out this weekend. I put in a lot of time researching bikes and gear and aerodynamics.

As always, this month made possible by meat and vegetables.

smoked salmon, spinach, avocado, berries

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Juice: Kale Kiwi

I bring to you another delicious juice.  This is not an original creation, a local grocery store sells this as the Kale Kiwi.  Genius was not required to figure out how they make it, the ingredients are all listed at the store and they make no effort to hide the juicing process as if it were intellectual property.  You can be assured this is delicious as it has proven successful in the marketplace.  I praise whoever thought this juice up.  Experimenting with the juicer is hard work and I don’t have the patience for it anymore.   

Kale Kiwi Juice

4 kiwis
1 small lime
Small bunch Kale (5 leaves)
3 Granny Smith apples

Scoop the kiwis out of their hairy skin with a spoon.  Combine all the ingredients in the juicer.  For best results I went in the order of apple, kale, apple, kiwi, lime, apple.  Shake the juice with ice to chill and serve.  I make juice on the weekends and some weekdays but also don't mind buying it during the week.  It comes down to convenience and the never ending push pull of time vs. money.

Kale Kiwi Juice Ingredients

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Winter Running

Winter running in a northern climate is surprisingly not horrible.  I would like to tell you this is because I am hardcore, genetically superior to the treadmill loving folks at the gym, but that is bullshit.  With the right gear and mindset winter running on the road or the trail can be quite comfortable and enjoyable.  This winter has been mild in comparison to others but there have still been plenty of days of bitter cold, strong winds, and snow to gain experience in challenging conditions.

My dog is naturally well equipped for winter trial running with a fur coat.  I am not so lucky at best I can grow a beard.

The winter is perfect for base building - long runs at a low intensity.  Winter running will never be as fast as running during the other seasons but it can feel good to slow down.  The cold temperatures don’t lend themselves well to pushing freezing air in and out of the lungs at tempo and interval efforts for any duration.  Snow and ice are generally present degrading traction further complicating things.  These elements can greatly improve a runner’s biomechanics and strengthen many muscles in the effort to stay balanced in the challenging conditions.

As for what constitutes the right gear, it is a nuanced topic for sure and specific to the individual. The right gear changes with temperature, wind, duration etc...  I found the following worked well on long runs (2-4 hours) for me over the course of the winter:

On runs over 2 hours my M.U.L.E. Camelbak®   came with.  Hydration was a must and I packed warmer gear and dry socks in case I needed them.  On the flipside I could always store things if I overdressed.  There are smaller and better suited packs but I bought this mountain biking pack years ago and it worked good enough.  The Gatorade® in my Camelbak® froze once after a few hours but other than that I had no issues. 

During the work week the short days mean the only option for getting a run in is running at night.  The Petzl® Tikka XP2 is great in that I can see and be seen.  Multiple intensity settings and a diffuser film give plenty of settings.  The light does not weigh much and is very comfortable to wear.  I also put a strobing red bike light on my dog’s collar so he can be seen.

Thermal Pant
In below freezing temps I always take the Brooks® Utopia thermal pant.  My legs have never felt cold, even at 0˚F with 20mph winds.  The pants are too much once temperatures climb above freezing and are uncomfortably warm.  Shorts are not appropriate when temperatures are below 40˚F and I rely on North Face Apex Climateblock® tights to bridge the gap.  The NorthFace tights breathe very well but are not enough for the coldest, windiest days. 

Anywhere from 0˚F and 20 mph winds to 60˚F and rainy I can go to the light weight North Face Better Than Naked® jacket.  It serves as a great light weight shell and keeps me shielded from wind and moisture while breathing quite well – awesome in fact.  The hood is great for the most challenging conditions and convenient pull strings are everywhere to adjust the fit.  The pocket is horrible, it ripped open from the stress of a house key, and should not be included - but otherwise nothing but good things.

Base Layer 
At a minimum I always wore the North Face Better Than Naked®  ¼ zip to retain warmth.  The thumb holes were nice and gloves nicely overlapped the sleeves.  A pocket would have been nice.  Depending on the cold, underneath I wore some combination of layers from fall and summer clothing.  I grew out a thick mane of chest hair for the John Dick 50k that I cut down afterwards in the interest of swimming faster.  Once this rug was gone I needed additional layers.  

The North Face Skully Beanie is the only hat I needed for all conditions.  It provides full coverage for my ears and breathes something awesome.  It even has holes for sun glasses.  I don’t know why it is marketed only for men, women deserve this hat too.  My wife always used mine and eventually bought one.

The North Face winter runners glove works with the Garmin 410 touch bezel which makes it awesome.  It has a mitten that can add extra warmth.  The gloves breathe well but come up short in the coldest windiest conditions.  The Pear Izumi Pro Softshell Glove fills in well when the cold and wind really bite.    


I am sure any brand of similar gear would work but I can only speak to what I have purchased and used.  I am really looking forward to putting all this winter gear away come summer.  In the past week there has been a snow storm and a couple of 60
˚F days so winter isn't over yet.  Cost adds up but anything that gets me outside and active is money well spent.  I find specifically designed athletic gear is definitely superior to the cotton I used to train in.    

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


February was another hard hitting month of training on the mission to get stronger/faster. The month started with an epic 50k followed up by some rest before flipping the switch and training like a beast all over again. After much thought I drafted up a spring 50k training plan that featured time trial and speed building phases that took place this month. In an amazing development, cycling on the indoor trainer is not quite so lame anymore thanks to Sufferfest and I got time in on my road bike. The month would not have been complete without plenty of Jiu Jitsu, a little racquetball, and time in the pool.

41 hours from 30 Jan 2012 – 26 Feb 2012.  Periodization in practice: race week, recover week, and two build weeks. 

Not everything was awesome all month long. A few days were quite awful, after the 50k I came down with a sleep deprivation induced sinus infection. That is what happens when good food, rest, and sleep don’t get respect. The infection featured all out sensory deprivation and a bumping headache. It felt like a vacuum in my head and I could hear creaking and popping, my vision was blurry, hearing was muffled, smell was gone and taste muted with it. I was going mad but time and rest heals all and I came out of it. I have since better dialed in my nutrition timing and macronutrient intake and will be sleeping rather than living it up following big races.

The John Dick Memorial Crusty 50k was glorious and marked the completion of my base period. It also marked the beginning of Ice Age Trail 50k training. I am still in the discovery phase of this training and trying to get a handle on what I am capable of but it is a lot faster than 4 months ago. It appears embracing high mileage aerobic training has really paid off. It seems today’s half marathon pace is last year’s 10k pace and similarly today’s 10k pace is last year’s 5k pace. I am excited for the spring half marathon, 10k, and 50k races coming up. 

140 miles for the month with the majority of them long run and recovery miles.

Jiu Jitsu & Strength Training
During the taper Leading up to the 50k I did a lot of Jiu Jitsu. It kept me off my legs and I thought the metabolism changes and increase in testosterone from tearing up muscle might translate to a better performance race day. I have no clue if this theory is legitimate but it did not seem to hurt. I didn’t lift much at all on account of introducing intervals to running and swimming. I would like to get in chest and delt work as that seems to be the only area that does not overlap with everything else. I expect I will be spending more time on Jiu Jitsu and strength during recovery weeks from the run.

The ridiculous gains concerning my swim have slowed but I continue to see improvement. Any ambitious expectations I had for improving my swim have been surpassed. I mixed up my sessions from tempo only to intervals, tempo, and distance efforts. The highlight of the month was cutting down my 3x 500m repeat pace to 2:00/100m which translates to a 32:00 mile swim. I imagine in a wetsuit this will be less than 30:00. I will continue putting in the hour at the pool a week I have been.

The Sufferfest videos for indoor cycling rock. I have them to thank for the 7 hours I put in on the bike this month.  No real plan here other than getting in two sessions a week.  I am looking forward to the spring and getting the bike outdoors for tempo sessions and the introduction of the long ride.

A cramped bike torture chamber.

As always, this month made possible by meat and vegetables.

Beef Tenderloin and salad with avocado and blueberries.
Thanks for reading.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Swim: Struggle to Proficiency

This is my story of how I learned to swim. A lifetime can be spent refining the swim and I still have much to learn and improve. I am by no means an authority on the swim but I want to share this story for aspiring triathletes challenged by the swim as I was a year ago.  It is possible to go from struggling in the water, unable to find a rhythm to mastering longer distances while gliding through the water.

Open water swim in Lake Superior last summer.  Final prep for a sprint triathlon, my first.

I found success swimming is built on a foundation of good stroke mechanics. Combine mechanics with a strong back / core / legs made possible by separate strength training and huge gains are possible with minimal training hours. Since I started swimming January of 2011 to today I have put in 40 hours at the pool and cut pace from 3:40/100m to 2:00/100m for a mile swim. Separately I studied video and read about swimming for 10 - 20 hours over the year. Work smarter not harder, right?

In January of 2011 I began swimming by tackling a 1500m in 55:14 or 3:40/100 m. At this point I realized I had long confused my ability to survive in the water with an ability to swim. This is a very noncompetitive pace and I hated every minute of it. My mechanics were horrible and I was not breathing right, I did not exhale completely forcing air into my stomach. I could not find a rhythm.  I muscled my 100m pace down to 2:40/100m for a much shorter 500 m with seven hours of if it feels good do it swimming and hated every minute that too. After that I got worse and went sideways and gave up swimming until mid summer.
All the gear needed for swimming.

My second attempt at swimming was done with the guidance of the Total Immersion Perpetual Motion Freestyle DVD. I did lots of drilling before attempting laps and focused on stroke count and efficiency. In six weeks and 15 hours in the pool I accomplished a 500m swim in 12:30 or 2:30/100m. The pace wasn't much better than self taught but I actually enjoyed swimming this time around as my mechanics were much more comfortable and I could breathe easy. After my sprint tri I gave up on swimming again until this January. I felt weak on longer distances because I had no strength. At the time I was doing endurance only work leading to muscle wasting and not enough testosterone. 

This January and February have been ridiculous. I suspect the combination of a lot of upper body strengthening from Jiu Jitsu / throwing big weights around, and the foundation of good stroke mechanics laid in the summer has led to huge gains. I have been swimming 1600m regularly and feeling strong doing it. At the beginning of January my pace was 2:35/100m for a mile swim and now after 10 hours at the pool it is 2:00/100m for a mile swim. These gains have far passed any ambitious goals or expectations I had. 

A wetsuit is the most expensive swim gear ever but swimming in cold water like Lake Michigan and Lake Superior makes it necessary.

Swimming is very nuanced for sure, hand position during any cycle of the stroke, head position relative to spine, rotation, breathing, kicking, etc... The Total Immersion DVD builds the stroke up one piece at a time and has lots of drills and accompanying theory for how and why to streamline and swim more efficiently/faster. At $30 it is not pocket change but it doesn't require financing either. Like all self coached things it takes patience and inner drive. I am sure there are similar swimming DVDs and learning materials that focus on mechanics that are comparable. What is important is that an intellectual pursuit and critical thought accompany the swim.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spring 50k Training Plan

Dominating running from the 5k to the 50k, on the road and the trail, during the summer and winter doesn’t come easy. Hard work can get me some of the way there but it will also take rubbing some brain cells together to make the most of that hard work while avoiding illness, injury, and negative returns. Forcing adaptation and getting faster is an intricate balance of purposeful workouts, good nutrition, and rest. I don’t have room for stubborn routines and quotas that compromise this balance.

I laid a good foundation of strength and base miles down the last 4 months and now I am ready to push all my limits on the mission to get stronger faster. There is a nice spread of spring races on the horizon and I have strength and speed in me to realize before that time comes. I want the biggest return on investment and that is what planning is all about.

I still have Jiu Jitsu, biking, and swimming to fit in, and triathlons to compete in.  That is why every run I do has a purpose and no run is redundant. Call it adaptive training, what works today won’t work tomorrow. There are many different paths to getting faster and taking all of them lets me increase frequency and intensity and minimize fatigue. Every week features an interval, tempo, distance, and recovery effort. Every effort has so many nuances and variations they won’t even look or feel similar.

Spring 50k Training Plan.  This will be the third week.


Intervals are about a lot of pain and suffering in a short time, running fast to run fast. The pain meter reads 8 to 9 out of 10 most of this effort and 10 out of 10 by the end. This is about near maximum heart rate and being out of breath. I prefer distance intervals ranging anywhere from 200m to 1600m. Between is a rest interval, 400m most days, maybe I run it, maybe not. Once I feel recovered I hit it again in an attempt to turn out consistent efforts. Intervals take place on the road, on the trails, on the uphill, on the downhill, on the track, and on winding paths. Intervals are not always about hitting time or pace targets and can’t be when accounting for weather and terrain.


Long intervals transition to short tempo seamlessly. Tempo is about moderate pain and suffering for the duration at a consistent but ultimately unsustainable effort. The pain meter reads from 7 to 8 out of 10 most of this effort, optionally culminating in 9 out of 10 by the end. Tempo starts at a moderate heart rate but quickly drifts up around 90% max heart rate. Some tempos are broken into multiple efforts with recovery intervals and some are one big effort. Tempo can cover any spread of distances and effort will vary accordingly. Tempo can and should take place anywhere, just like intervals and unless it is a time trial or road race pace doesn’t matter.

Long Run

The long run is about pushing total time and distance limits and exhausting calories at a comfortable sustainable effort without cardiac drift. The long run is about packing a lunch and bringing something to drink. The long run is a laboratory for trying new things and making mistakes so they are not made race day. The pain meter starts at 0 out of 10 but may find its way to 10 out of 10 hours later. The long run needs to take place under circumstances similar to race day. Not all long runs build distance, some build speed too, enter the progression run, a long run with a tempo thrown in. The long run isn’t about pace it is about running smart because weather and terrain have the greatest effect here out of all the runs.


The recovery run is about running the day after a big effort when it feels better not to move. Effort is low, real low. The first mile is the hardest but as they roll by they get easier. By the end of the run the legs feel better than the start and the body will continue to adapt and grow stronger from the key run the day before. I like making this a social run and place it after the long run because the long run is my weakness.

Anyone can get in a good workout. The other 20+ hours of the day are what will give me big gains in comparison. Lazing around, eating plenty of nutrient dense fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables and getting plenty of sleep means I can hit it harder more often and feel good doing it. Periodization, planned and impromptu means pushing to the limit some days and weeks and throttling back to recover others. Jiu Jitsu and strength training means I will have more testosterone and all its performance enhancing effects. This is some hard hitting, high volume training with a high risk of illness and injury so I will need to be very honest with myself and abilities every day.    

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

John Dick Memorial 50k

I ran my first ultra this weekend at the Badgerland StridersJohn Dick Memorial 50k and it was glorious.  For all the preparations I took I was still unprepared for the actual experience.  For everything that went well there was plenty that did not, but being hardcore I pressed on.  In the end it was an awesome day with some awesome people.

Freeze thaw action leading up to the 2012 John Dick Memorial 50k left the course covered in thick ice.

The weather was downright balmy for February with this sunny day starting out just a touch below freezing and warming to high 30s (°F) later on.  The course started and ended at the DJ Mackie group picnic area in the Kettle Moraine Southern Forest, took place on snow mobile trails, consisted of five loops with an out and back leg, and featured 3159 ft of climbing/descent.  As the day progressed I became increasingly familiar with the course and enjoyed being able to spectate, and race at the same time.

Course map and race details from Garmin Connect.  Satellite reception was lost a couple times leading to a mile lost in the data.

My plan was to keep my heart rate solidly in the aerobic zone for greater than the first half and run it up into the anaerobic zone to finish the race if I had it in me.  I failed miserably in executing this plan.  I ran the first fifteen miles like it was a half marathon and exhausted my skeletal calories.  My legs were fresh from taper and I got caught up in competing.  The next nine miles I was mentally and physically exhausted grinding out miles in the aerobic zone.  Come the final six miles I found my second wind and finished strong in what felt like a 10k effort.

My lovely wife came out and ran three loops for close to 20 miles, the longest run of her life to date

At the course briefing the race director made it clear the course was predominately ice.  I thought I had experienced all the conditions I might encounter in my training leading up to the event and would be fine in my trail gloves.  Wrong, the race started and within the first mile I had lost traction and fell once.  It took an incredible amount of mental focus and physical effort to keep my balance by chopping my stride, high stepping, and weaving left and right to seek out the least ice.  As I spun my legs like a cartoon character and constantly slipped, better prepared runners effortlessly passed me by in their spikes.  Uphills were especially difficult to gain traction.  I will for sure be investing in some cross country spikes following this experience.

Some cross country spikes Ive been eyeing up.  Inov Oroc 280, Brooks Mach 13, Saucony Kilkinney XC4, and New Balance M700

Those first two laps were intense.  I had great focus and fought hard to maintain my place.  It was easy to let people go who passed with authority but I got caught up racing people that were in reach or running near my pace.  Everyone was real friendly wishing each other well and engaging in small talk.  On the second loop the woman who I think ended up winning asked me if my pack was heavy.  I replied that it was five pounds but at least it wasn't on my feet.  The pack slowed me down for sure but we are probably talking less than 1% of total effort.  I never did stop at the aid stations like others so it was probably a wash.  She eventually dropped me going up a large hill.  I kept her within 30 seconds until the third lap at that same hill where she disappeared for good.

Eating a Honey Stinger 20g protein bar and looking fatigued.  I ate two bars and drank  64 oz of Gatorade for a total of 1000 calories.

I made a point to attempt to eat a 390 calorie protein bar on the hour and consistently drink Gatorade during the event.  It was slipping and grinding up this hill eating that that my ambitious start caught up with me.  I made it halfway through my bar when I couldn't eat anymore and felt lifeless.  A little over two hours had passed, I had covered half the distance of the race and here I was falling apart.  My foot turnover fell, and my mind disengaged.  My heart rate dropped into the aerobic zone it belonged in and calorie burn was cut in half.  I kept finding myself on perilous portions of the trail I had actively avoided the previous laps.

A photo of the M.U.L.E. Camelbak I ran with much to the amusement of others.  At 2lbs empty it looks deceivingly big.  Gatorade and food added 4lbs.

Finishing out the third lap going into the aid station was the worst portion of the course with the thickest ice.  With my brain disengaged from the environment and my legs doing their own thing I was finding myself slipping a lot more and eventually fell hard.  It came as a surprise, I landed on my side and my knee and hip stung.  Thankfully no one was around because I coped by incoherently swearing.  This was the low point of the race for me.  I walked it off and began running again thankful to be finishing up the third lap.  

A little bit of snow provides Donna with the traction she needs with ice to  her right.

It was on the fourth lap that I had company again and it was nice to see people and make small talk.  The course was turning slushy and muddy in the sun changing the landscape.  I wished everyone well and was surprised to see some people passing me that I thought had passed me long ago.  They were stopping at their drop bag and I was not resulting in a game of leap frog.  The fourth lap grinded on and the eventual winner lapped me.  He was fun to watch, had a smile on his face, and offered words of encouragement to everyone in addition to running a very fast 3:30.  It was closing out the fourth lap that my mind began reawakening.  The woman that eventually took third passed me going up the hill that led to the aid station I had previously fell.  Thanks to her lead I safely navigated the landscape.

My beard served as a balaclava and was shaved off immediately following the race.

She stopped at the aide station where a man in yellow replaced her as my motivation.  There was a big downhill at the end of the fourth lap he passed me going into.  I followed behind him but felt a great blow to my pride.  No one out downhill races me.  I stayed with him for a while longer but lost him on some ice and uphills.  A little before the first big downhill of the final lap with six miles to go the third place woman passed me again.  She took the downhill like a professional.  I have never seen another runner open up like that.  I followed her lead, found my strength and foot turnover again and passed her near the end.  I think our mutual appreciation for the downhill made us friends.


She caught up on some uphills.  We made small talk, she asked if I was training for a mountain race with such a huge pack.  She said to pump my arms on the uphills, which I did, and it helped in a big way.  At this point my legs were feeling fresh again so I turned up my foot turnover and ran my heart back into the anaerobic zone.  Those early calories I had ate in the race were paying off.  I began passing in force and felt alive again.  I ran out of Gatorade with 3 miles to go and got hungry motivating me to push harder.

Early in the race expending too much effort.  The second half of the race took  half an hour longer but at the price of 1176 calories compared to 1827 calories expended in the first half.

That last loop out of the aid station into the finish was the most exciting.  The man in yellow must have pulled out of the aid station right behind me and was in pursuit.  I was surprised to see him behind me.  We talked a little and I saw we were going into the same downhill that had brought me shame the previous lap.  I opened up a lead and enjoyed the free speed that comes from a high turnover on a downhill.  I pushed real hard into the finish and the parking lot even after seeing him well behind me.  It felt good to finish strong.  Total time was 4:47:11 and while results have not been yet released I was told it was good for 20th place.


The Badgerland Striders consistently put on well run quality events of great value ($10 preregistration). The events are organized by runners for runners and are well thought out as such. I must thank all the volunteers for the great job. My wife and I brought bison chili to the event and it was well received, I am happy to have been able to give back to the volunteers that make these events possible. I will also need to be on the other side of some races this year volunteering as well.