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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Killington Training Camp

My wife Amy and I spent the weekend in Killington, VT to do a little on-site training.  We had a sense that we would each be on our own endurance experience for this run, but this weekend we got a real taste for it.  I will have to endure the trail, Amy will have to endure me.  Quote of the weekend, “How are we gonna keep the RV from smelling like running and farts?”

We got up to The Inn at Long Trail on Thursday night, and had a little dinner at McGrath’s Irish Pub.  We later learned that McGath’s was the first pub in VT to have Guinness on tap, and the first bar in VT with Bailey’s.  The Bailey’s is now kept in a safe, and the Beefeater is never to face front.  The Inn was a great home base and served us well.

Friday morning, the plan was to eat breakfast around 6:00.  I always eat oatmeal which requires hot water.  It seems hot water is not available in Killington at 6:00, or 6:30.  I was nervous, driving up and down the road looking for a gas station, anything, but nothing was open.  The Inn doesn’t open for breakfast till 7:30.  Undeterred, I resorted to bathtub oatmeal.  It was as bad as it sounds, but the carbs were in and I was ready to go.  I wanted to start from route 4 around 7:30 am.  At 7:20, it started pouring.  It didn’t last long, but now the trail would be wet, muddy, and slippery.  “Well at least it will be realistic” I thought.  I headed out and started the climb to Pico Peak.  It was a steep enough climb, but I kept up a good pace with some strides here and there.  After the Pico Lodge there is a nice section of trail where you can run and jump from rock to rock.  After a quick climb to Killington Peak, you can rip downhill until you come to some treacherous shoots on the south side of the mountain.  From there you head into the Gov. Clement shelter area that is mostly rocks but still very runnable.  There is a detour for Upper Cold River Rd. due to last year’s hurricane Irene, and this is where we first realized that the logistics might not be so easy.

I didn’t know where I was, but as I made my way to the new road crossing, I saw the truck come into view.  I could tell Amy was also struggling with the detour, but as she was making a U-Turn, she saw me and we both laughed. We had luck on our side.  I had a sandwich, reloaded and headed out for the last 6 miles.  I finished up day 1 just under 5 hours, about 18 miles total.  I felt good.

After a good dinner and some cable TV, the plan for day 2 was to do it in reverse.  I had legit oatmeal and was headed up the mountain by 6:45.  I was listening to Laura Hillenbrand’s, Unbroken, which is a great reminder that as bad as you think it is, it ain’t that bad.  I made a pit stop to patch up some impending blisters with Moleskin, and I didn’t have any trouble after that. I had a great pace going and made it to the road crossing in about an hour.  This is where we ran into problems.  I came off the trail, looked left, looked right, and did not see the truck.  There weren’t many places to hide a truck, but I did not see it.  I started walking up the detour road, I tried to signal with the SPOT messanger and call, but Amy didn’t have service.  I admit, the plan was to meet where I came out, but I didn’t see the truck, and I didn’t want to wait.  I figured I had about a 30 minute walk, so I moved on.  I made it all the way to the re-entry point, and then I got yelled at.  I deserved it.  Rule 1, Don’t leave the meeting point.  I cruised the rest of the run and finished in just under 5 hours again.

Day 3 started with more bathtub oatmeal, and I was out by 6:45.  The day was pretty uneventful.  I was moving at a good pace, we nailed the road crossing, and I finished in about 4:25.  I was surprised that I was so much faster than the 1st day, but I had a good rhythm going and it was easier to just keep moving.  Overall, the weekend was great.  I hit 54 miles and felt like I was getting stronger as the miles clicked by.  I’m heading into my rest/taper period feeling very well trained, confident, and healthy.  All that’s left to do now is to do it.

Any ideas on the RV smell issue?

Brain Training

There are two large components to training, the physical aspect & the mental. They are obviously connected to each other, but at times they should be trained independently. At some point during most workouts, you’d rather just be done. There is a voice that most of us hear that helps us list all the reasons why it’s OK to stop early or do less. Sometimes, the voice is right; you’re injured, your gassed, or you overdid it. Often however, the voice is wrong. You’re not injured; your just in pain. You’re not gassed; you just need to relax. You’re not overdoing it; you’re just in the wrong gear. There is a fine line when it comes to your inner voice. It’s very easy to talk yourself out of a workout when you’re not in the mood, or go the other way and push forward when you really should stop. The key to decoding this voice is to understand how your body it responding as you move through your training plan, and then to make adjustments.

Here are some ways you can train your brain to stay focused on your goal and not just the workout.

1. Blocks & Rocks. Think about the entire week as a workout instead of each individual day (blocks). This will help you pace yourself and build up for the major workouts (rocks). Your ‘rock’ workouts are the things you have to do in a particular week. They are the workouts that will help move you forward in the next week. Thinking of your training in bigger blocks also gives you flexibility for ups and downs, similar to interval training. It gives your brain a lot of time to tell your body what it’s going to need to do in a particular time frame. Having the bigger picture in mind forces your brain to send that message over and over and prepares your body to do it. Consider a spur of the moment 20 miler versus having 3 days to think about it.

2. Spam Filter. Know that your brain will quit way before your body. Neurons are firing and red alert signals are going back and forth. Messages are flying in, telling you that your in pain, you’re tired, you have a cramp. You need a spam filter. When you are in tune with your body, you learn which signals are real, and which are junk. You can even go one step further and learn the causes of the real signals. Maybe you heard this voice the last time you didn’t recover or eat correctly, or maybe you really do need a rest day. Over time you will get less junk mail and the voice will quiet down or only speak when it’s important.

3. Headphones. I was anti-iPod for a long time, and still don’t always like to listen to music when I’m running. Since I never expect to use it during a race, I didn’t want to train with it and earn myself a crutch. The reality is, training is a long process, and sometimes you just want to zone out. I almost always use headphones on road runs now, and have even started bringing them on longer trail runs. The benefits have far outweighed the negatives. My favorite 1st song for a run is Sweet Emotion.

Do you Brain Train?

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?

Average to Ultra on 20 Miles a Week

What would you say if I told you you could finish in the top 20 percent of your first ultramarathon with 6 months of training on an average of 20 miles a week?  Sounds crazy right.  I proved this to be true yesterday finishing the Traprock 50K in 5:55:57, 23rd out of 88 finshers (130 starters).  Obviously I did more than run 20 miles a week, but the point is, you don’t need to destroy your legs and pound out the miles to build up the ability to run far.

My typical training week looked like this:

Monday : Off
Tuesday: 5 Miles – road run
Wednesday: Crossfit
Thursday: 5 Miles – road run
Friday: Crossfit + 50 minute soccer game
Saturday: Longer Run – Trail
Sunday: Longer Run – Trail

There was flexibility in the schedule. Sometimes I’d do an extra day at the gym or run hills instead of a Saturday long run, sometimes I took an extra day off.  Over 6 months, 8 weeks were considered heavy mileage with totals of 35, 27, 28, 44, 30, 32, 29, 46 (includes race). The other 18 weeks had totals of 25 or less, and 14 of those with mileage under 20.

Now, if you’re reading this and you’re thinking you can skip today’s run, you probably can’t.  The work I put in at the gym is the only reason I was able to do this.  Without it, I would have been bored by now.  I wouldn’t have the mental toughness, and I wouldn’t have the overall physical strength for a trail race.  Thanks again to the guys at Crossfit Relentless for your help.

Next Goal: VT Long Trail – 272 miles in 10 days.

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.

Timer Time Out

I realize different runners have different goals, but I think there is room in every training plan for running without the looming shadow of the timer.

I don’t consider myself a fast runner, even among amateurs.  My half marathon pace was 7:37, and I haven’t broken 21:00 in a 5k.  It’s not bad, but I’m not winning my age group or anything.  When I was training for the half marathon, I set a goal, and I lived by the watch, tracking my pace and splits.  I timed all my workouts, and memorized what it felt like to run 7:37miles.  I’m happy to report that it worked.  I ran my time and finished under 1:40:00.  By association, when I learned what my “fast” felt like, I also learned slow.  I hated slow.  It became a real drag and sucked the fun out of running.  If a workout wasn’t going as planned, it was hard to find any pleasure in the run, sometimes I’d even cut it short.  Of course I put this pressure on myself, but heavy legs shook my confidence and had me second guessing.  I’m sure a lot of runners struggle with the clock, but when the race was over, I had trained myself to think there was no value in going slow.  Some might say I was right in that thought, but for me, it was all wrong.

As an aspiring ultra runner, my focus has changed from speed to distance, no matter how long it takes.  It is such a freeing feeling when you realize it’s OK to go slow.  This may sound like a convenient excuse for a slow runner, but now I find that my runs are more rewarding and have more variety.  Sometimes I go fast, sometimes I drop to 10 minute miles, and sometimes I even walk.  With this new attitude, I’m able to find pleasure in every run, including the slow ones.  Going slow has given me time to become a better runner.  I’m concentrating on my form and efficiency, differentiating good aches and pains from the bad ones, anticipating the highs and lows, and learning how to refuel on the go. I haven’t timed myself lately, but I know I’m faster and stronger than ever before.  If I topped off with a little speed work right now, I could smash PR’s.  Distance running has enough pressure as it is, give yourself a break and leave your watch at home next time.  You just might learn something new.

Your thoughts?  Do you feel naked without your watch?