3…2…1…GO!

After getting back from VT, the plan was to take off from August 6 to Sept 1.  I made it until August 17 without doing much of anything.  I just couldn’t sit around anymore.  I did gain ten pounds and my feet are finally healed up so that’s good.  Officially my next training program started on Sunday, but I’ve been back at the gym for about a month.  Since then I’ve been putting together my next training plan and getting myself ready to start a new cycle.  I’ve also been working out the details on a few BIG ideas.  I’m 90% committed to another fundraising endurance event next summer and I’ve built my 40 week training plan around that goal.  I’ll be breaking it up into three sections as I did last year.  Here is a brief summary of what lies ahead.  You can see more details here and here.

Phase 1 is all about building my strength back up.  I’m spending 12 weeks on the Wendler Strength Program.  I’ve had success with this in the past when I first started at Crossfit.  I feel myself getting stronger with each lift.  Deadlifts and squats have done more for my running than I would have ever imagined.  I feel like I’m finally able to pull myself along with my hamstrings.   I’m mixing in some short tempo runs and 1 long run on the weekend.  In phase 2, I’ll transition back to the MetCon style workouts while adding in more miles.  Phase 3 will be about stretching out my long runs to get ready for what is sure to be a very difficult challenge.

It’s good to be back.  40 weeks is a long time, but in the end I’ll know it will be worth it.  Stay tuned for some exciting news about this event.

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Who Are You Listening To?

The web has nearly as much training advice as it does kittens.  The problem is, whatever you’re into, you can find both a loyal supporter and a staunch critic.  Whether it’s Crossfit, nutrition, training plans, or gear, the debate goes on and on.  At the top of the running field, you’ll find vegans, paleos, barefoot runners, high miles, low miles, and everything in between.  So who do you listen to?  How do you know who’s saying the right thing?  The answer is clear. All of them and none of them.  For the average runner, comparing yourself to the elites doesn’t make sense.  If you have a life and a regular job, you’re likely not able to train like an elite athlete.  You’re not eating 5,000 calories a day, taking ice baths, naps, and getting massages (if you are, please explain).  This wide range of philosophies tells us that average runners need a little bit of everything in our training plan.

Here are a couple of things to consider when putting together your plan

Diet. The average runner/athlete needs a good diet that they can sustain and be happy with.  It should be one that delivers the right mix of calories, carbs, and protein for your goals.  I’m moving in a vegetarian direction, but I still eat meat about once a week along with eggs. I’ve tried to limit prepackaged foods as much as possible, and I’ll never give up donuts.

Shoes. The average runner/athlete needs to understand how they run and what shoe(s) will work best for them.  It really doesn’t matter what kind of shoe your favorite hero wears.  I use 4 different shoes depending on terrain, mood, and planned activity (also a good excuse to buy more shoes).

Cross Training. The average runner/athlete needs cross-training to get stronger, avoid injury, and burnout.  Going to the gym saved my running “career”.  I joined because I was bored.  after a few months and low miles, I noticed I was getting much stronger and felt better than ever when I did run.  Ultimately, this led to running my 1st ultra on just 20 miles a week.

Mileage. The average runner needs to know what their body is craving.  It might be different that what your predefined training plan is calling for.  I wrote out a 40 week training plan for the LT run, and I adjusted it almost daily to satisfy different cravings. You might not have 50 mile/week knees, and the good news is you might not need them.  There is more than one way to train your running muscles.

So who do you listen to, and what are they saying?

Traprock 50K

OK, I just signed up for the Traprock 50k on my home course, the Metacomet Trail, in Bloomfield, CT.  I’m very excited and definitely nervous.  This happens to fit right in with my training as I would have done 5 hours that weekend anyway.  This will be a great opportunity to see if I’m on pace for the Long Trail.  The winner last year finished in just under 4 hours.  I’d like to finish under 6.  My plan is, slow and steady.  Here’s some more info about the race.

I Can See Myself Doing This

Yesterday I had the privilege of hearing sports psychologist for the Boston Red Sox, Bob Tewksbury speak.  He said a couple of things that really struck me, in particular, he confirmed my thought that part of being successful is learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. You may recall I said that exact thing right here.  No matter if it’s sports or life, there will be situations and obstacles that take you out of your comfort zone.  Learning to focus only on the things you can control can help you get through these times.   The second thing that struck me was when he said, “where the mind goes, the body follows.” He expanded on this and went on to talk about the use of visualization in preparing for the task ahead.  In an interview with David Laurila of Baseball Prospectus, Tews says this about visualization.

BT: The mental skill of visualization has proven to be effective in a variety of sports. This is a skill which I used more than any other when I played, as part of my pre-game preparation. On days I would pitch, I would get my Walkman and head to the trainer’s room for a visualization session. I would lie there for 15-30 minutes, picturing in my mind what I wanted to do for the game. In my mind, I would throw all my pitches, oftentimes falling asleep during the process. The mental rehearsal helped me have positive focus prior to the game, and the nap helped ease any pre-game butterflies I may have had by helping me get them (the butterflies) to fly in order. It was a great pre-game routine for me, and many times the events of the game happened JUST like I had visualized in my mind. The bottom line with visualization is that the body doesn’t know the difference between a real or imagined action. For example, if I visualize throwing a fastball down-and-away to a hitter, the muscle fibers in my body respond just like I was really doing it–to a much lesser degree, obviously, but still nonetheless. By visualizing, you are programming your body to respond accordingly to an imagined action. If you think and picture good things, there is a good chance they will happen. The opposite side of that is also true. Ask any golfer who hits the ball in the water off the tee! I’ll bet nine times out of 10 that happened because the golfer had a quick mental picture; he visualized it happening and as much as he tried to not do it, his body (and his mind) led him there!

My Own Experience
I have definitely used this process both in sports and life.  I can think of examples where I’ve pictured something for months on end.  These particular challenges were important to me but I knew they would not come easy, and that I had to do the work to get there. The end results were just as I pictured it, and worth all the struggles.  Beware the pitfalls of ‘counting your chickens before they’re hatched’.  I’ve also done this on numerous occasions.  Typically this happens when you visualize, but forget to do the work to make it a reality.
The good news is I’ve already been picturing a few scenes from the Long Trail.  I see myself standing at the beginning, the Northern Terminus, just like current record holder Jonathan Basham.  I’m nervous as hell standing there, but I’m there.  Sometimes when my thighs are burning at the gym, I see myself moving through the woods, pushing forward from sun-up to sundown. Sometimes towards the end of a run, I see myself coming to the Southern Terminus and being joined by friends and family for the last bit.  With every passing week, my confidence in these images grows and I can fill in more details.
Side Note: I’m not sure anyone on the Red Sox saw 7-20 for September.

The Long Trail

Vermont is the home state of our 30th President, the great Calvin Coolidge.  Early in his political career, Coolidge gained a reputation as a man of decisive action, and in that same vein, I’ve decided to run the entire 272 mile length of The Long Trail. The trail runs the length of VT along the ridge of the Green Mountains which are part of the Appalachian Mountains and in particular the New England-Acadian Forests.

I spend a lot of time driving up and down Rt. 89 and going this way and that on VT backroads.  I’ve seen thousands of miles of old farms, and rolling hills. Sometimes they’re green and other times snowcapped, but no matter what the season, they are always awesome.  Since my running has increased, I’ve often fantasized about pulling over and running across one of the fields and into the mountains.  I imagine pulling off my tie and ditching the black dress shoes, hitting a perfect stride just as I disappear into the woods. I’m almost like superman but without the phone-booth.  When I’m driving and the mountains are in view, something about it looks so inviting and daunting at the same time that I can’t take my eyes away.

The reason I chose this challenge is because it’s ridiculous.  What business do I have thinking I can run up and down the mountains for 10 days touching 4000 ft. peaks when the farthest I’ve gone is 13.1 miles? I don’t have an answer…yet, but I think this goal is within reach if I do the work.  I’ve never done anything like this, but for some reason, I know I can do it.  Lance Armstrong buttered his bread in the mountains, and that’s where you find out what you’re made of. Ultimately, that is the goal.  I want to see what I’m made of.

So you’re gonna do 10 marathons in a row?

I really have no interest at all in the traditional marathon, so I’ve decided to skip it and move on.  I got my first taste of trail running just as I was finishing Born to Run.  I was also eating chia seeds and taking my shoes off, so I’d say the book had an effect on me.  My first thought after finishing the half marathon was, “I can’t imagine only being half done”, but after reading the book, I started thinking and reading more and more about ultra running. I was in awe of these runners and their ability to push to their outer limits both physically and mentally. I started to wonder what it would be like to run 100 miles.  How would I train?  What it would feel like?  What do ultra-marathoners look like?  That was about a year ago and I didn’t do much about it until Spring when I came across an article about Courtney Campbell’s Long Trail speed record. The story stuck with me and I started looking at the mountains differently on my back and forth trips to VT.  I started picturing myself running over the ridges, ripping through the woods and running through an entire state. I dismissed any thoughts I had of attempting it, and even joined CrossFit with the intention of cutting back on running.  That didn’t work as I found myself to be running stronger than ever and craving mileage.  I suspect I’ll satisfy my craving and then some over the next 40 weeks, but I can’t wait to get to the border on July 28th, 2012.

For a Good Cause

For the past seven years, I’ve been working in VT for a large dental company selling technology and equipment solutions, and have been able to make a very good life for my family. The dental community has been very good to me, and I’d like to take this opportunity to give something back. The people and culture of Vermont are great, and after a tough summer, they can use the help.  This run will be a benefit run for 3 Free Dental Clinics that serve a large portion of Vermont.  I will be working with the Vermont State Dental Society to help these clinics continue their great work.  My goal for this fundraiser is to reach $10,000. You can check out the Giving page to find out more about the clinics and what they mean to their communities.  Of course, if you’d like to sponsor me, you can do that here through PayPal’s secure service.  Not a member, no worries, credit card or check accepted.

From Average to Ultra

2010 Hartford 1/2 Marathon 1:39:48

I am your typical, average runner: 20-25 miles a week. I can throw down a 6 minute mile, but typically I’m in the mid 7’s.  At the height of my training while preparing for the half marathon, I hit 40 miles a week. My longest run to date is about 16 miles.  For an ultrarunner, it takes 16 miles to get warm, and 40 miles is a nice Saturday.

In a few days I’ll let you know the real purpose of this blog, but I can tell you, I want to be an ultrarunner. I’m not sure why I want to skip the marathon and go right to crazy, but the mystique of ultra-distance has a hold on me. Ultrarunning calls into question your fitness, your psyche, and your guts. I’d like to say I’m strong in all three areas, but I can’t say I know my limits or that I’ve truly tested myself. I think just about anyone can follow a training plan and run 26.2 miles, but I want to see what happens after that.

How to get there?

I’m in the 2nd week of an intense training program with the goal being a 100K event and a 10 day event in the Summer of 2012. I developed my program from a variety of sources including, Matt Fitzgerald’s book, Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel, and some other training plans. I’ll tweak it as I go depending on how I’m performing, and I’ve spiced it up with time at the gym, stairs, and trail runs. I’m not sure this is a great plan, or even a good one, but for now I like it and I’m moving forward.

At this point, I’m wondering how I’m going to get from 17 miles a week to completing over 60 in a row. I’m focused on increasing my workload and running no matter what.  I’m convinced this challenge will be 50% physical and 100% mental. I call it getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Legs hurt? Don’t care. Tired, sore? Don’t care. Cold? Don’t care. Right now, I’m nervous that I’m not doing enough, but the road is long, and confidence in my training program will come as I improve.

What do you think? Am I nuts?

It’s Further Than You Think

My wife and I debated about if the tag line for this blog should be “Farther” or “Further”. We concluded that it depends on your perspective.

From Grammar Mishaps
Farther:  Farther shows a relation to physical distance.
Further: Further relates to metaphorical distance or depth.

Your distance might be 1 mile or 100, a PR in an upcoming race, or just getting back in shape. For me, it’s not only about the miles or the distance.  I see the “distance” as always being just beyond wherever I am.  In life, business, and sport, the goal is just over the next hill, and it seems there is always another hill, followed by a descent, and another peak. Running and life employ a confusing mix of pleasure and pain, and the trick is to enjoy both equally.  Every step is progress, every step gets you further down the path.