Thursday, March 31, 2011

I thought I run alot. (86 days to go!)

It's March 31st, and I'm in the midst of my hardest week of training ever, having just completed my highest mileage month ever for the third straight month. But the nearly 13 miles I ran on Tuesday are nothing compared to the miles that fellow Notre Dame alumnus Jeff Grabowski has been logging in 2011. Jeff started running in Oceanside, California, in January. On Tuesday, nearly 2100 miles later, he entered Ellisville, Missouri, about 1 1/2 miles from my house. Here's a photo of his arrival to the corner of Manchester and Clarkson:

I joined him on a short journey down a few roads I've run dozens of times. When we finished for the day, Jeff still had 1600 plus miles ahead of him on his way to Smith Point, New York. That's right, Jeff is running across America. I think my favorite part of his daily summary is his observation that I "talked his ear off." Who, me? No way. What I admire most about Jeff is that he's running across the country for a reason: prayer. His website tells his story better than I can, but his rock solid faith, even in the face of adversity in life, is an inspiration. You can submit your prayer requests to him on his website, and I guarantee he'll pray for your intention. The local Fox affiliate showed up while Jeff and I were running. Here's the link to that story. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why I'm identified by my occupation, but there it is. I hope you enjoy this story (and the guest appearance made by yours truly) as much as I enjoyed witnessing it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Training Week Twelve Recap (90 days to go!)

I was reading an article in this month's Runner's World magazine, one of those car crashes you can't help but finish because it's so awful. In fact, I still haven't finished it. But I found the inspiration I needed, right there while sitting where we all too often find what moves us: "Ultramarathoners? 'Impressive athletes, sure,' I sniff, 'but isn't there something, how shall I say it, unbalanced about them?'" My proud response is "yes." Yes, there is something unbalanced with us. We see the finish line way off in the distance when others would merely give up. We see the value in an easy recovery run the day after trudging through the woods for 5 hours. We treasure the conversation with the old guy/young dude/random stranger re-filling handhelds from a thermos while snow falls all around us on a day most others wouldn't bother to leave the house. But that was just my weekend. I'm perfectly balanced, in a totally unbalanced way, thank you very much, Mr. Friedman.

Monday: 8.15 miles.

Tuesday: 8.19 miles. But if ever there were two consecutive days less alike, these were it. Monday was nice and easy. Tuesday was a 12x400m workout. The last time I ran 400s was in high school. That was 13 years ago. I'm proud to report that all but my second interval were in 1:14 or 1:15, with the second one wimping out in 1:17. I'll take it. But it hurt, I won't lie.

Wednesday: 6.15 miles. Someday soon, I'll look back on this workout and remember how easy my coach AJW was on me this night.

Thursday: 10.20 miles. Not this night, though....I'm thankful Beth didn't hold a late night at work and a longer easy run against me, what with this being her 6th 25th birthday and all. :)

Friday: 8.21 miles. I woke up on Friday morning around 5:30 a.m., while it was still dark. I looked out the window to a bright spectacle. Turns out it was the street lights reflecting off the snow. Yes, snow. It was March 25th in suburban St. Louis, and we somehow had a few inches of snow overnight. I laid back down. And then I did the math...and I realized I needed to knock this sucker out. And that's how I ended up running 1:07:45 in snow, sleet, and cold. Did I mention that it had been 70 plus degrees during my runs on Monday and Tuesday? I didn't think so. Only in St. Louis do we get to experience all four seasons in ONE WEEK!

Saturday: 28.51 miles. Practically my entire ultrarunning club was running at Greenrock Trail, so I naturally decided to go somewhere else to avoid the crowds. No offense to them, but I was not in the mood to be social for whatever reason. I had three great loops on the approximately 8 mile Lewis Trail and one on the Clark Trail in St. Charles County. Unfortunately, it started snowing on my second loop. It was a few snowflakes at first, in that "oh, cute" sense. On my third loop, it started hurting my eyes as the large flakes flew into my hat-less head, stinging as they blurred my vision. Those flakes were collecting fast, and I ran the final loop through 3 to 4 inches of snow. Here's how I found my car over 28 miles later. Now, keep in mind that I drove 15 miles to this trail. It took 22 minutes. It took me over 3 hours to get home...all because of 4 inches of snow! I hated the winters I had in Minnesota for 18 years and South Bend for 7 years, but life itself did not shut down at the first sight of a snowflake! Unreal. And sorry, Mom, for teaching you a few new cursewords during our phone conversation while I was parked (literally) on the road home.

Sunday: 10.65 miles. I am the worst recovery runner ever. I hate running on Sundays. Give me sleep, or give me work, but don't make me run. I was relieved, therefore, to be invited by my friend Brandon to run 8 miles at Queeny Park, a half-paved, half-trail hilly course about 8 miles from my 8:30 a.m. Brandon is a few weeks from his first Boston, and we had a great 8 miles together. I tied in another 2 1/2 or so miles on my own, and the result was my second highest mileage week ever.

Well, until next week. I just used my abacus to figure out that I'm due to run 97 miles. 97 miles? 97 miles. That's only 15 miles farther than I've ever run in a week. Good thing I'll be drunk on Thursday afternoon at Opening Day. (Go Cards! Go Twins!)

Week 12 Total: 80.06 miles (second highest yet).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Doing my homework (95 days to go)

Someone recently posted a short essay on a running message board I frequent that spoke to me. I don't know who the original author is, but he or she has captured the spirit of my training perfectly. Training for Western States instead of marathons has been a lot like making the jump from junior high to high school or high school to college. The work is more intense, longer, and harder...but after time, you get used to it. So far, so good.

Here it is:

Training is doing your homework. It's not exciting. More often than not it's tedious. There is certainly no glory in it. But if you stick with it, over time, incrementally through no specific session, your body changes. Your mind becomes calloused to effort. You stop thinking of running as difficult or interesting or magical. It just becomes what you do. It becomes a habit.

Workouts too become like this. Intervals, tempos, strides, hills. You go to the track, to the bottom of a hill, and your body finds the effort. You do your homework. That's training. Repetition--building deep habits, building a runner's body and a runner's mind. You do your homework, not obsessively, just regularly. Over time you grow to realize that the most important workout that you will do is the easy hour run. That's the run that makes everything else possible. You live like a clock.

After weeks of this, you will have a month of it. After months of it, you will have a year of it.

Then, after you have done this for maybe three or four years, you will wake up one morning in a hotel room at about 4:30 am and do the things you have always done. You eat some instant oatmeal. Drink some Gatorade. Put on your shorts, socks, shoes, your watch. This time, though, instead of heading out alone for a solitary hour, you will head towards a big crowd of people. A few of them will be like you: they will have a lean, hungry look around their eyes, wooden legs. You will nod in their direction. Most of the rest will be distracted, talking among their friends, smiling like they are at the mall, unaware of the great and magical event that is about to take place.

You'll find your way to a tiny little space of solitude and wait anxiously, feeling the tang of adrenaline in your legs. You'll stand there and take a deep breath, like it's your last. An anthem will play. A gun will sound.

Then you will run.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Training Week Eleven Recap (97 days to go!)

Another week in the books.

Monday: Coach told me to take an off day, since I'll be running significant mileage over the next three weeks without a day off. I, of course, ran a mile (actually, 1.05 miles) because I love my stupid running streak.

Tuesday: 8.20 miles, nice and easy.

Wednesday: 9.05 miles. Big hill workout...two miles down to Forest Park from the office, then 5x 1/2 mile Skinker hills (arguably the most famous running hill in St. Louis). My "ups" averaged around 3:04, while my "downs" averaged around 2:52. With two miles back to the office, I had a fast 9 plus miles on a beautiful evening!

Thursday: 8.12 miles. It was in the 70's at 7:15 p.m. Spring is on its way!

Friday: 12.12 miles, including 9 at what I respectfully call my "ultra tempo" pace. I ran miles 3-11 in the following splits: 7:09, 7:16, 7:05, 6:51 (now we're talking), 6:54, 7:14 (big uphill), 7:08 (legs still feeling the aftereffects), 6:52, and 6:50. I was quite pleased with this workout.

Saturday: 24.58 miles on the Green Rock Trail. It was a perfect running day--temps started in the 50s and finished up in the low 60s for me. My only complaint was that I encountered a mountain biker along a no biking portion of the trail, and he had ripped up the wet portions of a nearly perfect trail. I bumped into some running buddies who were recovering from ultra races last weekend, and I even met a fellow Western States 2011 competitor, Ben Creehan, on this run. Ben is a lot faster than me, so I'm not sure how much running we can plan to do together. I do know we have a lot of the same races on our schedule leading up to WS100, so another familiar face is a good thing. Also, it was weird to see this guy at the trailhead. I have no idea what he was doing there, or how he got there, but he was still there when I left.

Sunday: I started my day off by volunteering at the Quivering Quads Trail Half Marathon in Cuivre River State Park. I manned an aid station at Mile 8 1/2 for a good six hours or so, with a little traffic control duty thrown in for good measure. Yes, the half marathon has a six plus hour cutoff, partially due to its wave start. I need 8 volunteer hours to compete in the WS100, and this was my chance to give back. I've never worked as a volunteer before, and I must say that it was a rewarding way to spend a Sunday! Here's our aid station ready for the first runners.
After my duties were complete, I ran a couple loops on the Lone Spring Trail for 14.15 miles. I was underhydrated, and my legs were tired from the previous two days' workouts and six hours on my feet, but I got it done. Lone Spring is named after a ground spring that originates in the middle of the trail. I wondered why the race map showed only one creek crossing when it appeared the stream wrapped off the page where the path should have crossed it again. Well, that's because the creek came out of the ground.

Total Mileage Week Eleven: 77.27 miles, my second highest mileage level ever...and this one felt much easier than that 82 miles I ran a few weeks ago.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Training Week Ten Recap (98 days to go!)

I figured something would have to give in my life when we brought our little pride and joy home. Turns out it was blogging. I'm still getting my runs in, work continues to slaughter me with busy-ness and stress, and I've found so much joy in my 4 weeks with Nora. I haven't, on the other hand, found much time to update this blog. I even managed to miss the 100 days to go mark!

Anyway, here's what I did in Week Ten of my training. Yes, Week Eleven concludes in 26 hours.

Monday: 6.28 miles nice and easy.

Tuesday: 8.12 miles, again pretty easy.

Wednesday: 8.28 miles, including 4x1200s at the track. My splits were pretty consistent in 4:12, 4:13, 4:07 (where'd THAT come from?), and 4:11, with 400 jogs in between.

Thursday: 1.05 miles on my "off day." The streak lives.

Friday: 10.12 miles. The funny thing about this run was that I knew I had to fit it in before work so I'd have fresh legs for Saturday's long run...and I had a sneaking suspicion that turned out to be correct that I'd be working late. When I left work at midnight, I was glad I didn't have a 10 miler waiting for me at home. Anyway, I set the alarm for 5 a.m. when I went to bed sometime around midnight (one of the benefits of a newborn at home). The alarm went off, I climbed out of bed, and I noticed the clock in the bathroom said 4 a.m. That seemed odd, but I figured we just never bothered to change it last fall. I headed out into the darkness, running a solid run along a usual route under a bed of stars. The highlight was running past a cop car parked along a busy road about 3 miles from my house. It had the appearances of running radar on the road, but I looked into the squad car as I ran by and saw the cop fast asleep. The people of Ballwin, Missouri can rest easy knowing they are safe. It wasn't until I went upstairs to shower that Beth mentioned that it was an hour earlier than I said I'd be out. It turns out that my alarm has an automatic daylight savings time feature that kicked into effect two days early Oops.

Saturday: 20.35 miles in 3:36 along the Green Rock Trail. The legs were sore, and I had to stop a couple times to loosen up my left calf.

Sunday: 12.15 miles in a bit over 8:00 pace. The legs were feeling it.

Total Week Ten: 66.35 miles. When I train for marathons, I use a 12 week program, with the final two weeks my taper period. And here I am, cranking out personal mileage records, with no end in sight! Gotta love ultras!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Training Week Nine Recap (111 days to go!)

I promise this blog will not continue to be a weekly log of my miles. Really, I do. I'm still getting used to all of the adjustments in our lives, and work has been busy, so unfortunately we're going on nearly a month without any new material other than my workouts...and I know those aren't that interesting to most of you.

This past week was a milestone week for my fundraising efforts for the Wounded Warrior Project! We crossed the $6,000 mark early in the week, and with 3 1/2 months until race day, I've only got about $3,800 left to raise! Thank you all for your generosity and support for such a great cause...and one that is dear to me.

Week 9 was my second highest mileage week ever, behind Week 6's 82+ miles. Here's how it went:

Monday: 8.17 miles nice and easy. I enjoyed a run under a blanket of stars shining bright overhead.

Tuesday: 8.12 miles, again nice and easy. This one came at sunrise, and it was as colorful as one would expect after the previous night's starscape.

Wednesday: 10.60 miles. I hit the Clayton High School track after 2 3/4 mile warmup. The workout was a pyramid workout from 400 meters up to 1600 meters and back down to 400 again, and if I do say so myself, it went quite well. The splits were as follows: 1:15 (400m), 2:39 (800m), 4:19 (1200m), 5:43 (1600m), 4:14 (1200m), 2:35 (800m), and 1:15 (400m). I cooled off with two miles, and I went home happy.

Thursday: 1.05 miles. Scheduled rest day, so I took the dog for an easy mile in the morning so he'd get his exercise and I'd continue my running streak dating back to August 2009.

Friday: 6.21 miles. I ran the middle two miles at an uptempo pace, and the legs responded well for a morning run.

Saturday: 32.02 miles. It rained a lot on Friday night. The last time I ran the Greenrock Trail, there were several inches of fresh snow on the ground. This time the path had streams of water and muddy sections to challenge me. This was the third longest run of my life, behind only my 50 mile race last July and my 38 mile pacing effort at the 2010 Western States Endurance Run. I ran alone, with my only company in the nearly six hours on the trail two groups of Boy Scouts hiking with large packs on their backs. I asked one group if they'd been camping the night before, and they looked at me like I was crazy, so they must get a badge for wandering around the woods with a ton of gear strapped to their backs or something. Of course, they probably wondered why I was running circles around them in tights. I took a few pictures of the runoff waterfalls that formed near the trailhead.

Sunday: 10.12 miles. My coach told me that this was supposed to be an easy run, and I didn't have to challenge legs wouldn't have let me do anything else! I started out at 9 minute miles, with legs blasted by the previous day's effort, but they found some life in the latter half of the run. I finished with a string of 8 minute miles, and I'd guess my final mile was in the 7:40-7:45 range.

Total Week Nine: 76.29 miles!