Sunday, January 27, 2008

Week Training Log: 1/21 - 1/27

Another solid week with quality miles and no injuries. Can't ask for much more as I plow through these cold weather weeks of training. As always, the highlight of the week was my long run - a 40 miler on the Mt. Vernon Trail - but a close second was this morning's 'rebound run'. Usually the legs are a little stiff and I'm happy to simply cruise slowly through my run the day after a long day, but I had some surprising spring in my step for the whole 8.5 mile loop today. I never time my non-long runs, but this one felt pretty darn quick.

The only other note on the week is that I'm down to my last week on the pair of Brooks Trance 6 shoes I started wearing a couple days before New Years. 400 miles is about the limit I like to put on my shoes before swapping them out, and sadly it only takes about 5 weeks these days to reach that mark. I really need to get myself a shoe sponsor in the next couple of months...who said running was an inexpensive sport? I'm hoping that a solid showing at Umstead in April will get me a little more ammo to come back again and beg for help from New Balance/Saucony/Reebok. All three are Boston-based and would surely benefit from the added local publicity of sponsoring me for the Run 192 campaign. I'm keeping my fingers crossed...

Week Log:
Monday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Tuesday - 4.3 miles - Treadmill Death March
Wednesday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Thursday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Friday - Off Day
Saturday - 40 miles - Mt. Vernon Trail
Sunday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Total - 78.3 miles

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New Shoes

I've been searching high and low for the right shoes to run my two *very* different 100 milers in this spring. In both races, finding the right shoe to match the terrain will be crucial for me running a fast time.

This past week I found the perfect shoe (in my mind) for the Umstead 100 miler in North Carolina on April 5. This course features a "perfect" crushed stone running surface with very few rocks or roots to deal with. This surface is similar to the jeep roads on the Vermont 100 course as well as the C&O canal towpath on which I train frequently here in DC. Since there aren't any boulder fields or crazy mountain passes to cross in this race, I've spent quite some time looking for a low-to-the-ground trail running shoe that's built lighter than the 12+ oz. shoes I train with on the roads and use for more rocky routes. Simply chosing a racing flat wouldn't work for me for one big reason - after 40 to 50 miles, trail dust will enter your shoe through the mesh in the toe/side area and begin to shred your feet like tiny bits of glass. If you don't pick a shoe with "trail" quality mesh, you'll be screaming in pain long before you reach 100 miles. That said, I found the New Balance 800s to fit my needs perfectly. I took them out for a test run last weekend, and I've given them my stamp of approval for race day. Checking in at a svelte 10 oz, and sporting a great tight mesh upper, I'll be armed (or footed) and ready to tear off the miles in these puppies.

For the insanely rocky Massanutten Mountain 100 miler in May, I'll need the complete opposite type of shoe. I've trained on the course with great success thus far using the Brooks Cascadia. This shoe offers much more stability, cushioning, and protection from rocks/roots in the sole. Their "ballistic rock shield" on the bottom keeps the sharp edges of rocks from beating up your feet, but in a terrific application of design and technology, this shoe actually rides fairly low to the ground giving you better feel for the terrain in terms of pushing off on uneven surfaces. I'll definitely start the Massanutten race in this shoe. Should the relentless terrain end up winning out and forcing me to change shoes at some point, I'll have a fresh pair of Montrail Hardrocks ready to come in from the bullpen. These babies were created for the most difficult 100 miler in the country, the Hardrock 100 in Colorado. I can solemnly swear that NOTHING gets through the soles of these shoes. Considering the bottoms are about twice as thick as the Cascadias, just looking at them tells you they mean business. It's that same thickness in the soles that will keep me from using them until I absolutely need to, however. A stiff shoe that rides that high gives you a removed feeling from the terrain and, in my opinion, leaves you open to turn an ankle or three if you're not careful. Of course, I'll be more than willing to take that risk in exchange for their added cushioning should my feet be calling for mercy at mile 70.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Great Question

This question was posed to me last week as a comment to one of my posts:

"What advice do you have for non-runners who have become inspired by this blog, and would like to start running and living a healthier life?"

Great question. Rather than turn out 10,000 over-enthusiastic words here in a Susan Powter-like response, I'll boil things down to how I feel running fits into my life.

We all have interests/hobbies/passions that for one reason or another we enjoy taking part in way more than our lame day jobs. For those of you who actually "do" what you love for a living, well, congrats to you...after you spend every dream-like day happily making a successful living for yourself, just remember: No one likes you. For the rest of us, we need a passion in our lives that gives us something to look forward to beyond spending the 9-to-5 hours between three cubicle walls.

Since finishing up my chemo treatments, my personal goals have involved lots and lots of running. Some people are great artists or musicians or writers, and if I had their talents I'd much rather sit inside on rainy/snowy days and work toward goals in those fields. Sadly for me, "running a long long way" is all I'm good at, so that's what I have to work at to feel like I'm accomplishing worthwhile goals.

Running presents me with short-term and long-term goals that I enjoy working at to achieve. I don't always enjoy being out on the roads training every day, but I know those runs are necessary boxes to check in the big picture of training for my weekly long-runs and my super-long races. The enjoyment I get out of achieving my running goals is just the same as a writer would get out of finishing a chapter/novel. Every day isn't necessarily a blast, but when you start reaching bench-mark goals and feeling good about yourself, that's when you know you've found a way to way to improve your lifestyle.

So, to answer the question at the top of the page here, if you're interested in running, strap on some shoes and go run. If it you like it, run some more. You don't need to go crazy with the mileage - I can still recall the satisfy feeling of finishing my first 10 mile run (man, that felt great!). On the flip-side, if after a week or two you lose interest, then find something else to work at. Happiness is a huge part of a "healthy" lifestyle. Sure, regular exercise helps keep people fit, but running isn't for everyone. If you play guitar, spend some time working on a new song to keep yourself happy and relieve some stress. If you want to work some exercise into your day, go for a walk after. What ever you do, just don't force yourself to shuffle through painful miles of running every day if you don't like it. You spend enough time every day at work doing stuff you don't like. Enjoy your free time, set goals to achieve in fields you love - that's a big step toward living a happier, healthier lifestyle.

....besides, who ever said running 100 miles was healthy? It sounds kind of crazy if you ask me.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Week Training Log: 1/14 - 1/20

Another solid week is in the books. It was a little colder than last week, especially on Sunday's run (25 degrees with a 20 mph head wind for half of the loop). For about a 2 mile stretch the wind was gusting so hard I needed to turn my head to the side and breathe like a swimmer. Good times.

With bad weather predicted for Saturday, I decided to do my long run when I got out of work on Friday (usually my Off Day). This also allowed me the benefit of running a little tired after a full day of work (and no off day before). Also, I was able to practice a few more hours of night running on a sloppy surface - the C&O Canal path was a muddy/slushy/snowy mess for about 25 miles. Sure, my legs looked like they belonged to the Swamp Thing when I finished, but it was all in the name of good training.

Week Log:
Monday - 8.5 miles -Hains Point Loop
Tuesday - 8.5 miles -Hains Point Loop
Wednesday - 8.5 miles -Hains Point Loop
Thursday - 4.25 miles - Treadmill Death March
Friday - 35.65 miles - C&O Canal Path
Saturday - Off
Sunday- 8.5 miles -Hains Point Loop
TOTAL - 73.9 miles

Monday, January 14, 2008

Week Training Log: 1/7-1/13

It was a nice solid week of training these past few days...especially with the DC weather being so balmy and comfortable the whole time. We had a couple days in the 60-70 degree range early in the week, and then a perfect 50 degree day for my long run on Saturday. Any time I can avoid wearing anything other than shorts on my legs in January, I consider it a good thing.

The highlight of the week (aside from the weather) was my killer long run on Saturday. I cranked out a pretty quick 40.2 miler in 5 hours 25 minutes. That breaks down to average splits of 8:01 miles. Not too bad considering we're still 2.5 month away from the Umstead 100 miler. Things are definitely looking good for this year already...but I'm not resting on any laurels yet, it's back to the grindstone for another two months...there's much work still to be done!

Week Log:
Monday - 8.5 miles, Hains Point Loop
Tuesday - 8.5 miles, Hains Point Loop
Wednesday - 8.5 miles, Hains Point Loop
Thursday - 4.3 miles, Treadmill Death March - Max incline (15 degrees) for 1 hour
Friday - Off
Saturday - 40.2 miles, Mt. Vernon Trail (and a little beyond)
Sunday - 8.5 miles, Hains Point Loop
TOTAL: 78.5 miles

Thursday, January 10, 2008

20% Off sale at!

Just a quick notice:

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The only thing I ask is that you follow a link on this blog to access their site. Any purchase made that way gives 17% of the total sale to the Run 192 cause to help fight cancer!


Sunday, January 6, 2008

Training Fun

With the weather looking good and Elizabeth looking for some 'girl time' this weekend, I headed out west to the Massanutten Mountain Range for an overnight training trip. This was another great chance to familiarize myself with more of the Massanutten 100 miler course which I'll be racing on May 17. As always, the course made me laugh aloud as I re-acclimated myself to its overall insanity. Seriously, I defy you to look at this trail and not laugh. or cry. or reach for a pair of crutches.

Saturday's run was about a 16 mile loop that took me over two major mountains on the course. I can't overstate how important it has been for me to run so many sections of this course (about 70 miles so far). My race plan changes just about every time I learn more about each section of this trail. Right now I see the key to running this course successfully is to take full advantage of the actual "runable" sections and hit them pretty hard. Since there's no way to make a 2 mile vertical climb with horrible footing any easier, I won't try to fight those climbs. I'll plan to fuel up in the valleys before the climbs and use that slower-paced climbing time to digest before running the downhills/flats as hard as I can. I like this plan even more because trying to eat a gel on a fast and rocky downhill usually ends with me punching myself in the mouth more than anything else.

This is a fun race to plan for since the only opponent I care about is the clock. A sub-24 hour run is the goal (should get me into the top 10), and I need to execute my plan smartly all day long since the Clock never has a bad day on any race course. He's a jerk that way.

Since I had a bit of a late start to the day on Saturday, the last 3 miles of my loop were run in the dark. I figured this would be the case, so I had my headlamp and flashlight ready in my fuel belt. I knew the footing would be even harder to negotiate in the dark, but it was nice to experience an extended downhill section in those conditions to remind me exactly how much it will slow me down on race day no matter how my legs feel.

One thing I'm thankful I don't need to worry about on race day is the blanket of fallen leaves that currently cover the trails. Those sneaky guys hide more ankle-twisting rocks than I care to recount here. Let's just say I'm quite thankful for the biodegrading elements Mother Nature will bring to these trails in the next 4 months.

Once I stumbled out of the dark woods on Saturday night, I climbed into the back of the X-Terra just in time to avoid a few hours of steady rainfall overnight. There's nothing like being able to sleep in the back of your car when the other option is to pitch a tent in a heavy downpour.

The sun broke through the next morning and back to the trails I went. The plan for the day was to run a section of course that I've asked my friend Amelia to run with me on race day. She'll be in my crew all day long, and I think she'll really enjoy running a short section of the course in between crewing duties. The footing on the section between miles 65 and 68 is mostly good, so I think I've found a prefect spot for her to jump in with me. I'm looking forward to those miles already.

With this month's fun mountain trip in the books, I'll get back to 3 or 4 weeks of long flatter runs in the DC area to get my base mileage up in preparation for a fast Umstead 100 miler in April. It's easy to look past this race when I'm so focused on the Massanutten race, but Umstead is equally as important overall in terms of training for the Run 192 goal.

Speaking of my overall training, I'll be running between 75-80 mile weeks through January. Lots of people run more than that, but I find doing much above that brings back diminishing returns in terms of my legs falling apart and forcing me to take time off to deal with injuries. I place the highest value on my long run each Saturday, and this month I'll alternate between 35 to 40 milers on the Mt. Vernon and C&O Canal Trails. I'll add in more speed work as the month progresses, and February will be full of lactate threshold work to get ready for the flat-n-fast Umstead race. Of course I'm always keeping one eye on Massanutten, so my weekly treadmill death march (15% incline, 6.0 speed, 1 hour) will continue all winter/spring. God I hate that workout.