Saturday, May 30, 2015

Burning River for Ben: Need to Back Off

Rampart Reservoir - The scenery can't be beat
20 miles into this morning’s run, my throbbing right foot made me question my decision to run a second lap. "Two 30 mile runs within a week plus hill repeats and tempo runs may be pushing it a bit". That was my thought as I continued a second lap around Rampart Reservoir this morning to complete a beautiful but relentlessly hilly 30 mile trail run. Training for “BurningRiver for Ben” has been going incredibly well; so well it’s scary, which in turn encouraged me to push the envelope maybe more than I should have. Last Saturday Jeff Mulder, also running Burning River, and I ran just over 29 miles on Santa Fe Trail at about a 9 ½ minute a mile pace. Santa Fe Trail is a scenic regional bike path that meanders north and south along Monument Creek through Colorado Springs and the US Air Force Academy. The trail’s rolling hills are gentle and running is relaxed. I felt awesome at the end of the run, so much so that I intended to run another hour; that is until we got deluged with hail the last half mile. Feeling awesome and confidence soring!

Confidence Soaring during an awesome 30 mile run!

Sunday the same thing; I started the morning with a 15 mile run that felt awesome from the very first step. Still having a lot of energy afterward I rode around town for two hours on my bike running errands. During the week I introduced high intensity hill repeats to my routine. I keep hearing about the short steep climbs at Burning River so from here on out I will prepare for them by running as many short steep hills as I possibly can. I just wish I could get an accurate course profile. I’ve read that the Burning River has anywhere from 6,000 to 9,000 feet of climbing, primarily short steep hills that keep relentlessly punching you in the gut one after another. Whatever the true elevation profile is, I intend to be ready. Finally Thursday I ran another key workout, which has been a staple of my training for several months; tempo runs. 10 – 12 mile runs with 3 – 6 miles at about 7:30 a mile pace. Due to the hill repeats on Thursday, I was feeling a bit worn-out and even though the pace felt like 7:30 or faster I was disappointed when all I could muster was 7:45ish pace. The first sign that I’m starting to push a too hard and need to back off.

Sunday 15 Mile Run with Max in Cheyenne Canyon

Fast forward to today. Although I planned only a 16 mile run, I decided to push the envelope even more and run two 15 mile loops of technical, hilly single track around Rampart Reservoir. Rampart reservoir has all the features that I believe Burning River has; relentless never ending short steep climbs and descents, technical roots and rocky trail, mud bogs, and water crossings.  I didn’t feel that great from the start but the amazing scenery and running a trail I hadn’t run in a while was intoxicating. After a few miles muscle memory took over and I was cruising and feeling good. About ten miles into it I felt a dull ache on the top of my right foot. Thinking my shoes laces were too tight I stopped and loosened them but the ache didn’t go away. My truck was parked at the trail head so I could stop and re-supply with water and food after the first lap. At the end of the first lap I wasn’t feeling good but not bad either. I was just running. I thought about calling it at one lap but then got the stupid thought of “I’m training for 100 miles I need to keep going”. So I set out to do what I came out there to do and headed down the trail for a second lap.

The Scenery is Intoxicating!
Cruising on Lap 1
Cresting one of Many Hills
The dull pain continued to increase in intensity as the miles went by until the steady throbbing affected my speed. I significantly slowed down and began walking more and more. I ran through a mud bog and a quarter mile section of trail buried under what felt like an ice cold stream of water. This seemed to numb the pain a bit and for the last five miles I wasn’t feeling much pain and I even picked up the pace. Upon finishing I removed my shoes and found that the top of my foot is slightly swollen and red. It doesn’t hurt badly now that I’m not running. In fact I can walk with no pain at all. Is it injured? I don’t know. I think I am due for an easy week so this is the perfect time to back off. With exactly eight weeks left until Burning River I will be monitoring this foot closely. Ice, Advil, and rest for a couple days then we’ll see how it goes. Because I believe this trail simulates Burning River so well I want to go back in three weeks and run three laps for a total of 45 miles. Keeping my fingers crossed! 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Burning River for Ben: Rain!

Max During a Typical Run over the Past 3 Weeks
Rain, hail, and floods have been the theme of the last three weeks, very unusual weather for Colorado. It rained 21 of the last 22 days with highs only reaching the 40s on many days. And it hasn’t been the normal 30 minute afternoon thunderstorms that are typical of Colorado. It has rained day and night almost non-stop. Trails destroyed, floods, and all kinds of havoc in the Colorado Springs area. I haven’t missed a beat in training for BurningRiver though. This is because the more people that get involved and donate to the Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders through our “BurningRiver for Ben” initiative, the more determined I am to endure every challenge and do well at Burning River. And more and more people are getting involved which is both exciting and scary.  Holly Pupino, Media Relations Specialist at the Akron Children’s Hospital, wrote a very complimentary and inspiring article about what this project is all about. It has been making the rounds and appears to have got us unstuck from the fund raising rut we were in – we are very close to our first $1,000 milestone! This can sure help kids and their families deal with a lot of expenses associated with Childhood cancer. I am so excited, passionate and proud to be involved with this project. But we still have a long way to go to reach our goal of $10,000. I realize that everyone has their favorite charity or non-profit and are hit up all the time by one charity or another. I have my own as well, but after seeing how this center operates, the dedication and passion of the staff and volunteers, the joy and hope they bring to families going through this terrible ordeal, I can’t help but ask for support from everyone I know (and don’t know). I truly believe our donations will be very well spent. If everyone that reads this would contribute just $5 or $10 I think we will surpass our $10,000 goal. And that will help a lot of kids.

So training has been a bit of a challenge these last three weeks but I’ve actually enjoyed it. One just needs to be a little creative. Riding to and from work on my bicycle in pouring rain every day has been the most challenging. Clothes don’t dry out, so it takes a bit of resolve to put on wet damp clothes and ride home in the cold rain each evening. However that was easily resolved by bringing extra clothes (duh). Despite my gloves and shoe covers being labeled “waterproof” they are not. I’ve found that the best protection is wrapping my feet in bread bags before putting on my shoes. Latex medical gloves worn under my riding gloves do wonders for keeping fingers warm and dry. Amazing how these very cheap and simple solutions work better than the very high price high tech stuff!  I think I may have found a way to stop the raining as well. I bought fenders for my bike. Today the sun came out!

Monument Creek/Santa Fe Trail - There's a Bridge Under There Somewhere!
Training for Burning River continues to evolve from the base miles put in throughout winter. I’ve been picking up the intensity and mileage gradually and hope to be up to 100 miles a week by July. I’m often asked “how does one train for a 100 mile race”. This is an interesting question as we are all “an experiment of one” as they say, and each of us have our own tolerance of how much and how hard we can train. For instance running five days a week seems to be perfect for me. Others might run six or seven, I’m sure I would get injured if I ran every day. I mix cycling with my running as I find cycling actually accelerates recovery. Mileage varies depending on what part of the year it is and what phase of training I’m in, but I’ve been really happy with the five day running format. At the moment a typical week looks like:

  • ·         1 hour bicycle ride home from work (I drive my truck to work with a week’s supply of clothes etc. and then drive it home on Friday)
  • ·         100 push-ups in 5 sets of 20 reps done throughout the day         

  • ·         12 – 16 mile hilly run or hill repeats
  • ·         1 hour bicycle ride to work/1 hour or more bicycle ride home from work

  • ·         6 mile easy run
  • ·         1 hour bicycle ride to/from work
  • ·         100 Push-up in sets of 20
  • ·         Evening Strength workout at the gym or Trail work

  • ·         12 – 16 mile run with tempo intervals
  • ·         1 hour bicycle ride to/from work

  • ·         1 hour bicycle ride to work
  • ·         100 push-ups in sets of 20

  • ·         Long run (18 – 35 miles)
  • ·         Easy 1 – 2 hour spin on bicycle or mountain bike ride to flush out the run

  • ·         Medium Distance hilly run, with walking breaks if necessary (12 – 18 miles)
  • ·         Easy 1 – 2 hour spin on bicycle

That’s it, pretty simple, nothing fancy, just consistent day after day, week after week, month after month training with a recovery week thrown in now and then. This however is not something I would recommend one just get up and do; I’ve been running or riding in one capacity or another since High School. In November I was nowhere near this mileage or intensity. It’s been a slow buildup over several months with years of base fitness underneath.

Looking forward to tomorrow’s long run and every day I get more and more excited about Burning River. The original goal of this race was run 99 miles and then  run the last mile with Ben. Ben is incredible! Even though he is still going through chemo, he is up to running 3 miles, 3 times a week and going to cross-fit. Every 100 mile race I’ve ever done has been very emotional at the finish. This one will be extra special.

Thanks so much for reading.


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Greenland Open Space 50K: A Serious Wake-up Call!

Burning River for Ben: Today’s Greenland Open Space 50K (31 Miles) race was a very humbling experience with lots of time in the pain cave as well as many lessons learned. First it was humbling. Since I’m training for a 100 mile run I came to this race with a very arrogant attitude thinking “it’s only a 50k, it can’t be that hard”. This kind of thinking is not only arrogant it is stupid. I had run 30 miles two weeks before and felt really good and finished strong, however there is a big difference between a run and a race. With that arrogance I didn’t taper properly. Mistake number 1: On Thursday, just two days before the race I did a 4.5 hour mountain bike ride, including two hours of hard riding with the fastest kids on the High School team I assistant coach. On my ride home, as I was on the verge of bonking, I thought “this is pretty stupid, ride yourself into the ground two days before a 50k running race? You call yourself a coach?” I certainly would never recommend this to anyone!

So mistake number one left me with tired legs right from the start. At least I had the sense to hold back and let the lead group go. Max ran the first lap with me and this proved to be lesson number two. Max and I do the majority of our running before daylight when the temps are still in the mid-20s to mid-30s. The temperature was already between 45 and 50 at the start. The race consisted of 4 laps of approximately 8 miles. With the heat, Max was done after one lap. He is also not used to running on a leash, so he was dragging by the end of the lap. As the race went on it continually got warmer, climbing into the 70s. This took its toll on me. Burning River is going to be exponentially worse; time to start running in the daylight hours.

At the end of one lap Max was done!
Lesson three became obvious by the third lap. I have not been doing enough hill work. This race had about 3000 feet of climbing with the altitude between 7,000 and 7,300 feet. All the climbs were gradual so very runnable. But this really wore on me after 18 miles or so. 3000 feet in 31 miles extrapolates to just over 9,000 for 100 miles which I believe is pretty close to total elevation gain for Burning River. Got to work on rolling hills!

Lessons 4 & 5 were just stupid mistakes. I didn’t bring any bandages to cover my nipples not thinking I was going to sweat that much. By the end of the second lap my nipples were rubbed raw and I had to do the last two laps shirtless. I also had some pretty serious chafing in the crotch area, but I don’t think it would have been a good decision to go short-less, so I just had to endure it - made for a VERY painful shower afterward. Lesson 5 was even stupider. I didn’t bring any electrolytes or Perpetuem. So I did the whole race on four gels and water. For the first time ever in a race I got nauseous, but luckily didn’t have to puke.

With Bleeding Nipples was Forced to run Shirtless
So despite all these blunders I finished the first lap somewhere in the top 30 or 35 and even though I was on a death march the 3rd and 4th lap I whittled it down to 22nd overall and won the 50+ age group. I was told about half way through the last lap that I was winning the masters. With a long climb and 4 miles to go I didn’t really care. But then a guy that looked to be 50 passed me. Somehow I found something inside me and I picked up the pace and stayed with him. Approximately two miles from the finish I made a move and was able to go by him. This was incredibly painful and I had to dig with everything I had. Turns out he was 50 and I beat him by 25 seconds. The race was designated the RRCA Western Region Ultra Championship so I was named the 2015 “Grand Master” Ultra Champion.

Deep in the Pain Cave & Somehow Finding It within to Finish Strong

This race was certainly a wakeup call. I think I was beginning to get cocky since training has been going so well. This is why these training races are so valuable; they present a nice reality check. I’ve got some adjustments to make for Burning River!

Very Happy to Cross that Line!