WooHoo…I get a rest week!

Prior to this week I ran 18 out of the past 21 days, taking off only Mondays and logging more than 210 miles in the process. In the past when I trained for a race I normally blew off my rest weeks and kept charging ahead. I don’t know if it’s just old age setting in or the fact my body really felt like it needed it but this time I was looking forward and probably even went overboard on the rest. I ran 29 miles less than each of the previous 3 weeks and took 2 days completely off from running. With all that rest I pushed my 16 mile Saturday run doing a 10 minute negative split (I ran the last 8 miles 10 minutes faster than the first 8 miles) and had plenty of gas still left in the tank to keep going.

With the extra time and rest I also had plenty of time to think, plan and scheme the next 82 days of training before Javelina Jundred on November 12th. Having extra time to think is never a good thing for me, I can get in a lot of trouble thinking. My main focus was to address two ideas I’ve been contemplating the past month. Number one was to start running more with friends. Phoenix has a very talented group of ultra trailrunners that I’ve followed but never took the initiative to join. I know several of these runners enough to say “hi” in passing and was always happy to just leave it at that. To become a better runner I need to get more involved with them. Running with other people takes me out of my comfort zone and puts me in a place I really don’t enjoy right now, but I will over time and I’m hoping that translates to being in a comfort zone on race day. I did 2 runs over the past week and both definitely took me out of my comfort zone but I survived and will keep doing it.

The second idea I’ve been bouncing around in my head is to lose some weight. At 6′, 170lbs its hard to see on the surface why this is necessary, but dropping 10lbs. is what I want to do so I put the plan in place this week. First of all why? I own 3 styles of trail running shoes for various trail conditions. The heaviest is 12 oz. the lightest pair 8 oz. 4 oz. is a huge deal (just pick up any running magazine and the ads will tell you so!). If having shoes that weigh 4 oz. less is so great what if I don’t have to carry an extra 10lbs. of body weight? See, I told you thinking gets me in trouble! There is also a performance measure called VO2max. Technically, VO2max stands for maximal oxygen uptake and refers to the amount of oxygen your body is capable of utilizing in one minute. A major factor in VO2max is body weight and in the formula to calculate VO2max weight is a major component, the less weight the better.

In the past I’ve found the easiest way for me to lose weight is to track my calories. Yes, there are other factors involved but I do everything I’m supposed to do in my normal life. Tracking calories, the actual act of writing down every thing I put in my mouth, makes me not want to write anything down…so I don’t put it in my mouth. Its very powerful for me, so I started using MyPlate on Livestrong.com to calculate the number of calories I want to consume each day and my progress toward that goal. Since it was a rest week this past week I set my goal at 1,641 net calories per day. Net calories are (total calories – calories burned while running), so far this week I had 3 days where I burned more calories running than I took in all day, one day of net 340 calories and another where I went crazy and consumed 1,400 calories more than I burned (on a day I didn’t run and the only day I exceeded 1,641 total calories). 1,641 calories a day won’t be enough when I start a full running schedule again this week but I’ll slowly add calories to get to the point my energy level is adequate and then maintain that level by tracking every damn calorie, right down to eating 2 almonds and plugging it in the system. Looking at my eating this past week it’s very normal for me to eat every hour starting at 3 a.m. when I wake up to run. But each hour is 100 – 200 calories tops so even though I’m constantly feeling like I’m stuffing my face the total calories at the end of the day is not great. Anyone wanting to drop a few lbs. or a lot I would encourage you to visit LIVESTRONG.COM, it has a wealth of good sound eating advice, no fad crap that you see everywhere else.

On a sad note, I had to say goodbye to some dear old friends this week…my LaSportiva Wildcats. We traveled over 700 miles together on the local trails with never an issue but all good things must end. Of course I replaced them with a new pair of Wildcats (I have other lighter racing shoes but these are my primary training shoes) and the difference was amazing. I didn’t realize how broken down my old pair was until I stepped into my new ones and felt support I had completely forgotten about. This is not a popular shoe in the United States but its a shoe that fits me perfectly and since I’m dropping those 10lbs. I mentioned above I can afford to continue training is shoes that weigh 4oz. more than my friends shoes.

Lastly (stop cheering !#@*&!), here’s an updated map, with a rest week this week the new circle didn’t grow a lot but I promise to make up for it over the next 3 weeks before my next rest week. Until the next time…have fun and be safe!

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Groundhog Day

We’ve all seen the movie (one of my favorites), Bill Murray is a reporter and goes to report on Punxsutawney Phil only to find himself repeating the same day over and over again. When I looked up “Groundhog Day the movie” on Wikipedia I found the following;

“Groundhog Day has been considered a tale of self-improvement which emphasizes the need to look inside oneself and realize that the only satisfaction in life comes from turning outward…”

“It has even been dubbed by some religious leaders as the “most spiritual film of our time.””

“In the military, referring to unpleasant, unchanging, repetitive situations as “Groundhog Day” was widespread very soon after the movie’s release…”

Training for a race of 100 miles in less than 24 hours is my very own version of Groundhog Day. It does give me plenty of time by myself to think about my life and what’s really important to me and what’s just static interference. And there is plenty of unpleasant, unchanging, repetitive situations. Every night I put my running shoes and clothes on the kitchen island before going to bed. When the alarm goes off at 2:30 a.m. without thinking I stumble to the kitchen where getting dressed, starting the water for coffee, fixing a bagel with PB & Nutella and filling my hydration bottles is all done on auto-pilot. Thinking about doing this for another 96 Days 17 Hours 46 Minutes and 38 seconds (yes, the countdown clock I added to my blog last week is already starting to play with my mind!) is more than a little overwhelming. But it’s good training for the actual race itself where thoughts on race day like “I just finished 31 miles and still have…70.4 miles to go” will fry my brain. I’m learning very quickly to keep my thoughts “in the moment” and not look back or ahead when thinking about my running.

The cool thing about training right now is my miles are up to 72 this week without a really long run. I stumble out of bed and my legs feel like wood when I start running each morning but within a couple miles they feel strong and I can honestly feel the improvement in strength almost daily. I’m learning to run on tired legs which is very important because on November 12th I’ll have tired legs for 20+ hours and there won’t be an option to stop and rest.

Since I started this training schedule on May 31 I’ve run 499.05 miles. It’s interesting to see exactly where that could’ve taken me. I got tired of plugging cities into MapQuest so just drew a radius around my house of 499 miles. All I know I could be in a heck of a lot cooler weather right now if I’d actually kept going instead of coming home each day after my run!

I’ll update this map periodically, it’s fun and gives me some perspective of what I’m accomplishing before the race even starts.

Every once in a while there is something that breaks up the monotony of my daily run. An occasional face to face meeting with a javelina on the trail before the sun comes up or worse a rattle snake. Yes, amazingly I saw my first rattle snake on the trails this week (I’m surprised I haven’t seen several so far). The thought of running across a rattle snake never bothers me because they give plenty of warning you’re getting too close…except for the one I saw. Laura had just called me (I hate taking calls on the trail but this one saved me) and I was walking to put my phone back in my hand held hydration pouch when something instinctively made me stop. 9 miles from my truck and civilization, silently stretched across the trail 5 feet in front of me was a rattle snake. It wouldn’t move or rattle, I rolled a rock across its back…nothing. So I rolled a baseball size rock across its back…yikes! Coiled up, head in the air, mouth open and rattle vibrating it was what it should’ve done before I got this close. After a 30 second stare down it slithered off into the bushes and I was on my way again. I hate to think if I hadn’t been walking and was moving faster what would’ve happened.

(*Note: I took this image off the internet, what I’m doing might sound crazy to some of you but I’m not stupid enough to try getting a good picture with my crappy cell phone camera while I have a pissed off rattle snake 5 feet in front of me.)

Until the next time…have fun and be safe!

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I spent a month in Indiana last week…

You ever watch the Indianapolis 500 and see Jim Nabors belt out “Back Home Again in Indiana” before the start? It’s very powerful, I get choked up every time I hear him sing it and I’m from Iowa! But I think Ol’ Gomer should have named the song “Back Home SWEATING Again in Indiana”, because that’s what you do in Indiana this time of year.

On my first morning in Indiana I woke up to 70% humidity and hot temperatures…then it got worse. By Monday the temperature was 99° and 68% humidity making the heat index 116°. Oh sure, we have 116° days in Arizona but in Indiana it’s miserable, really miserable. It feels like you can cut the air with a knife the humidity is so thick. But I have a training schedule to follow so off I went down the gravel road. I was soaked in less than a mile. I don’t mean sweaty, I mean really soaked, as in dipped in a swimming pool soaked. As I poured water into my body it came out through my skin just as fast.

When I finished I stood on the patio and the sweat ran out of my shorts and shirt. This picture was take after standing for just a few minutes. After 15 minutes the sweat was puddled under me twice this size but had been reduced to a fast drip, I was either cooling down or running dry, I wasn’t sure which and didn’t care.

The humidity and high temperatures weren’t the only fun I had in Indiana. After being told they hadn’t had any wood ticks yet this summer I found one on my leg within 5 minutes of my arrival from the airport. For the week I ended up with 6 wood ticks, 5 crawling up my leg and one I didn’t catch crawling up my leg and found on my butt when I showered after my only trail run of the week (all my other runs were done on gravel roads). And wood ticks weren’t the only bug problems I had.

On Wednesday I drove to Shakamak State Park to run on the wooded trails. Shakamak is a beautiful piece of property. Fueled on 3 helpings of homemade ice cream and 2 slices of farm fresh from the oven peach pie the night before I was excited to burn some calories in the woods. It started out great, then 1.5 miles into the trail the park ranger must have run out of mower gas. The trail went from 6′ wide and clear to 2′ high in overgrown weeds. Not one to let a little poison ivy threat stop me from running I charged forward through the woods. This might be a good time to tell you that being the first person (in more than several days I’m sure) to run on a wooded trail in Indiana is an invitation to run through a labyrinth of massive cobwebs. I didn’t see a single one but ran straight into them about every 50 yards or more for over 8 miles. Ugh… Anyway, I finished my run through the weeds thinking I’d be covered in poison ivy by the next day. After telling my mother-in-law she immediately handed me the bleach and told me to go outside and cover my legs with it. So I stood on the patio splashing bleach water on my legs and arms then letting it dry in my feeble attempt to kill the poison ivy. The next day my legs itched so bad it was driving me crazy but there were no signs of poison ivy. After not sleeping well because of it that night I woke up to spots all over my legs and on top of my feet. But it wasn’t poison ivy, now I’m told I have chigger bites. The only thing I can do is cover them with nail polish to kill the chiggers. That was Thursday morning, I still have nail polish on my legs on Sunday that I can’t get off. And of course it didn’t help because it wasn’t chiggers!? I’m now down to thinking the 20+ bites that itch like crazy are spider bites. Some have swelled and blistered (under the nail polish of course).

There were good things that came out of my running experiences in Indiana. I got to bed at 12:30 a.m. this morning from our flight home late last night then woke up at 4:00 a.m. to run. I honestly think the desert has never looked more beautiful to me than it did today. And the 83° temperature I wasn’t enjoying when I left last week now felt like a cold winter day compared to what I endured for the week in Indiana.

To update my last post, my leg still shows signs of swelling in the left calf muscles but I have no pain at all so it isn’t a problem. My weekly mileage is good at the moment but I’ve struggled getting in my long runs on the weekends. Right now that’s the only thing I’m going to concentrate on, making sure I get my long run miles up to the 25+ mile range over the next couple weeks. Those are the most important runs I do so I have to make them the highest priority from here on out.

Until the next time have fun and be safe.

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Highs and lows…and more lows

Jeepers, what have I gotten myself into? I was very happy just fantasizing about running a 100 mile ultra marathon. When I decided to actually do it my bubble burst and I watched all the enjoyment slowly leak out onto the ground.

When I originally set up my training program I had one goal in mind, “get to the starting line on November 12th healthy and injury free”. Of course I also needed to be in good enough shape to run 100 miles in less than 24 hours, but that’s the easy part. In less than 3 weeks of training I started to seriously doubt if I had enough miles in my training program and if I should start increasing my miles 1-2 miles a day now, then more in the future to be better prepared. This has caused me a lot of anxiety and stress over the past few weeks.

More Lows
Before I could actually start increasing my miles I injured my left calf.

Last Sunday I ran at the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, without warning after just 1 mile my calf started to tighten up. If running by myself I would’ve turned around and stopped, but I was running with other people and of course I couldn’t stop and look like a wimp. By time we finished 12 miles on a rocky and mountainous trail I was in serious pain. During the 30 minute drive home it tightened up more and I could barely walk. Ice and rest all week has helped but I still have swelling, my left calf and ankle measure 1 1/4″ larger than my right leg (see legs below). The good news is running 17 miles today hurt but didn’t feel like I was making it worse so there is still hope.

I know, I know. My title is “Highs and lows…and more lows” but I switched the order here to “Lows, more lows then highs”. It’s my management style, knock them down, beat them up some more, then before I’m done I have them leaving my office on a high note and that there might be some hope after-all.

With the temperatures above 110° in the Valley the past week and a half and today’s forecast of 116° (At 118° degrees this afternoon, Phoenix saw its hottest day of the year so far, trumping earlier forecasts and setting a new record from a decade ago, according to the National Weather Service.) I decided to drive north 100 miles and run in cooler temperatures. I woke up this morning at 2:50 a.m. and got ready for the 2 guys that were going with me. After a 1hr 25min drive on highway then 12 miles of brutal fire road we arrived 101.4 miles from home to 58° temperatures, 26° cooler than when I left my house!

The Cabin Loop Trail on the Mogollon Rim north of Strawberry, AZ was the perfect get away. In less than a mile from my car we saw 3 large elk cross the trail in front of us. Dirt packed trails were a welcome relief from the jagged rocks I normally run on near home and there was enough rolling hills to make it challenging.

Starting at an elevation of 7165′ above sea level the Cabin Loop Trail is in the Coconino National Forest, which contains the largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest in the continental United States (and you thought Arizona was nothing but cactus and sand!).

Jay Danek (left) and I take a break on the trail. The forest is absolutely spectacular and the clean smell of fresh pine beats Phoenix smog and exhaust fumes any day.

Our 18.6 mile proposed loop soon turned comical. A couple wrong turns then back tracking on the trail made it so instead of being at the 6.6 mile cabin we had run 10.1 and still no cabin in site. All 3 of us were sure we knew where we were going…except none of us were in agreement which way that was. So the only smart thing to do was to simply run back down the trail we already ran and get back to the car, refill our hydration systems and head out again to finish up.

When it was all said and done we had one nearly 15 mile runner (Deron Ruse), I ran 17 miles and Jay ran 20 miles.

I had to put this picture on just for the fun of it. It looks like one of those pictures you find in a contest trying to get people to send in the funniest caption and the winner gets a free bar of bath soap. I knew my legs were dirty but when I got home I realized just how dirty they really were.

You can also see in the left set how much larger my left calf is, there’s no definition in the left leg between the gastrocnemius muscle and the soleus muscle like there is in the right leg. With increased miles this coming week I’m cautiously optimistic it won’t get worse.

I hope everyone has a fun and safe 4th of July holiday weekend.

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A Cry for Help?

“Crazy”, “inspiring”, “surprised”. Those are only a few of the responses I received from friends and family when I announced the beginning of “My Quest to Run 100 Miles”. My favorite was, “knowing how private you are with everything you do, I consider your sharing this quest with everyone as a cry for help, hoping we’ll stop you before you actually do it”. Hmm maybe, I’ll give that some thought.

If you follow my Training Calendar each day after I run I record the time and trail(s) I ran. The past 2 weeks on Tues, Wed, Thur, I’ve been on the Promenade Trail, this will continue all summer. My alarm is set for 4:00 a.m. every morning, most mornings it doesn’t go off because I’m already out of bed and have turned it off. After a strong cup of coffee I walk out my front door and run 1 mile uphill on a dead-end road to reach the start of the trail.

Start of the Promenade Trail
The beginning of the Promenade Trail. The old jeep trail I follow the first 2 miles goes half way to the top of the mountains in the distance.

Start of the Western Loop Trail
Close to 3.75 miles into my run I leave the Promenade Trail and take the Western Loop Trail to the top. Yes, that’s the top behind the sign. (On days I run 7 miles or less I turn around at this point and head home.)

At the top of the Western Loop Trail looking north at Tom Thumb. If I’d stayed on the Promenade Trail I could run into the Tom Thumb area and connect with the Gateway Trailhead or McDowell Mountain Regional Park trail system. I’ve never added it up but I’m sure I could run 50-75 miles in this area without running the same trail twice.

At the top of the Western Loop Trail looking southeast. You can see the jeep trail in the center of the picture that makes up most of the Promenade Trail. In the upper left you can see part of a golf course, I live near that area of town.

This is the easiest part of the Western Loop Trail, or at least the most level.

I hope I never need to crawl down the trail to this point and keep my fingers crossed I have a cell signal to get a ride if I do.

Back on the Promenade Trail heading home.

So that’s where I am every Tues, Wed, Thur morning while close to a 1,000,000 Phoenix area commuters are stuck in bumper to bumper traffic on their way to work (driving with their knees while eating a doughnut and texting on their cell phones).

Until next time…have fun and be safe!

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Scheduled Suffering

All of us have suffered through one thing or another in our life. But seldom do we dream about the opportunity to suffer, get excited talking about what makes us suffer, then meticulously plan every detail with enthusiasm that will make us suffer. Welcome to my Quest.

Of course I don’t suffer every time I go out to run on desert trails, but I have at times and will again. It’s said the difference between running a marathon and a 100 mile endurance run is in a marathon you will potentially “hit the wall” around miles 21-23, by mile 26.2 it’s over. In a 100 mile endurance run there will be 3 or more “walls” and each one can potentially last for several hours. I know these walls are there, I know I’ll hit them and have to fight my way through, I know at some point or multiple points I’ll decide “this was a stupid idea” and want to quit. Yet I choose happily to do it anyway.

I’ve read to complete a 100 mile endurance run you run the first half with your legs, the last half with your mind. I like to read books about other runners and their adventures. But I mostly like to read and benefit most from books about survival. Books by Aron Rolston; “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” and Marcus Luttrell’s; “Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10″. These amazing stories give me something to refer back to when suffering through a 50K in unseasonably warm 90° March heat or a 50 mile mountain race. To think about someone enduring five days trapped at the bottom of a slot canyon, hand pinned against a rock wall by a 2 ton stone, drinking their own urine to survive and eventually cutting off their own rotting arm with a dull pocket knife or a severely wounded and last surviving member of his platoon, Navy SEAL fighting and escaping a mountain side full of Taliban fighters makes running 50 or 100 miles with an aid station no more than 7 miles away at any given time seem fairly easy. Or at least doable.

Over the next 5 1/2 months I’ll share my quest with you, the highest points and the lowest points. I’ll share what I learn from my training experiments and what I learn about myself as I train through the intense heat of an Arizona summer, all the while trying to maintain balance in my family life, work life and training life. And hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to inspire some of you to be more active and start your own quest.

Feel free to share my website link with friends and family. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or share advice (after all, nothing you say can sound as stupid as what I’m trying to attempt and my justification that its a good idea). Finally, don’t forget to use the “Subscribe” link at the top to automatically receive an email whenever I make a post. It will be so much easier than checking back all the time.

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