Friday, September 30, 2011

Running Sunday

After 2 days of travel I've arrived in VT.  The damage from Irene is really quite remarkable; it's amazing what a flooding stream can move.  I'll put some pictures up next week, but today I'm thinking about the Blues Cruise.

I'm picking up my rental car this afternoon and driving to Ithaca where I'll crash at my Dad's.  I've got to pick up a hand bottle for the race, so I expect I'll hit this store tomorrow.  Afterward, I'll drive down to Reading and start getting into race mode with my old friend Running Moose.

Speaking of race mode, I've been nurturing a "playoff beard" ever since I decided to come up here and run.  I absolutely have no problems growing hair on my head, but the face - that's another thing entirely.  It'll be good to shave.

It looks like the weather for the race will be touch and go.  Temperature wise, perfect, but with a chance of rain on top of already muddy trails.  I'm going to go with short sleeve tech shirt, shorts, buff, gloves, and my Bikilas.  I brought my Trek Sports, but they have a tendency to rub the outside ball of my feet much more than the others and given the wet trail conditions, I'm going to try and minimize my chance for blisters.

The trail conditions will also rather significantly impact my goals for the race.  Priority #1 will be to maintain a positive outward appearance (smile).  After that, well, I'd like to knock over my time goals, but muddy trails with steep hills may make that difficult.  It's a bit weird to write this, but it will probably be good to be near the front in the second half of the race - hopefully that's some place I'll find myself.

Thanks for reading, and don't count all of your chickens before they hatch.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Next Post will be from the States.

Sunday, I'll be running in the Blues Cruise 50k.  That's in Pennsylvania.  In the United States.  Where it'll be cool.

The forecast for today in Santa Cruz calls for 97 degrees with sun.  I guess we officially entered Spring sometime in the last week or so, but 97 is a bit out of hand.  The 10 day forecast puts partly cloudy and 58 for the high on race day in Reading PA - that's absolutely perfect weather for running.

Not sure how the race will go.  I put together the image above so that I could compare the elevation profile of a course I know well (Bella Vista in green) with the approximate route of the race (Blues Cruise in blue) on Sunday.  The vertical scales are the same and each segment represents about 15.5 miles.  In the case of the blue lines, the top represents the approximate first half and the bottom the second half.

Obviously, my Bella Vista run involves long steady climbing, but the second half of the Blues Cruise course is repeatedly punctuated by short steep climbs.  Many are steeper than anything I've been training on regularly.  Were this race run in the opposite direction, I'd know precisely how to run it, but because the easy miles come first, I have no idea.

Assuming the trails aren't too muddy, I'll suppose I'll run the first few miles on a pace which would set an insignificant marathon PR.  I know I can crack 3:30 at the distance on the road now and expect that 3:15 isn't out of the question.  I logged a bunch of miles this year with the hope of running a low 3 hour marathon in November, I'll call on those miles during the first half of this race.

This is an "All-In" strategy.  I'm hoping to log good miles in the first half of the race and then hang on in the second to get to 4:30.  The problem with this approach is that there is a tremendous opportunity to blow up in the second half and fail to reach my race goals entirely (sub 5 hours, smile, sub 4:30).

We shall see, now it's time to pack.  I'll get a short run in this afternoon in the heat, tomorrow is a day off spent in an airplane then Thursday I'll get out for a quickie on the beach in Ft Lauderdale and hop a plane to Vermont. Looking forward to some foliage, a good race and some quality time with the family.  Hopefully VT will even grant my request and provide a bit of snow while I'm there...

Thanks for reading, and try not to over analyze.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Recovery Week

Coming into zero hour.  The Blues Cruise is something like 10 days away and I am feeling as ready as I can be.

On Tuesday I got out for my last long run before the race.  It ended up being 15.5 miles and took 2 hours 28 minutes.  I did it without food and drink and took an long break in the first mile to try and help some poor bastard who was having car trouble.  That first mile took nearly 20 minutes.  I posted the run on Garmin Connect (been doing that with all my GPS files recently).  Once again I ran the rollers out toward Bella Vista.

I've said it before, but I really love that road for training.  In the 15.5 miles I logged, there's 2,250 feet of climbing in 4 discrete chunks.  There are stretches where I have to power hike. That's something which I've never really worked on, but I hear people saying it's an important tool to keep in the proverbial drawer.
Anyway.  I really gave a solid effort.  A race quality effort, I thiiink, less the water and food.

I don't really know the Blues Cruise elevation profile, but what I've seen doesn't scare me as much as the one above.  It's got a couple of hills which gain a couple hundred feet in a short distance. Those I expect will require power hiking, but the rest looks runnable.  We'll see, but right now I'm convincing myself that going sub 4:30 is entirely doable.

Ok, that said.  One consequence of running Tuesday without food and water was that it left me trashed.  I got back to Cuevas and immediately had to run off to Samaipata to pay a bill: the bus was leaving and I had to be on it.  I grabbed a couple of cookies and filled a water bottle and off we went.

I put up a big calorie deficit on Tuesday and really felt it yesterday.  Tried working in the yard moving a sand pile, but I had no energy.  Ended up spending much of the day going back and forth from the computer to playing with Deneb.

Speaking of my little star.  He's discovered Kung Fu thanks to the movie Kung Fu Panda.  Would it surprise you that as far as I'm concerned, that's all good?  He's started working on his horse stance.  He says, "Hor Tance!"  Ahhh. Proud Father here.  Did some frog jumps yesterday too.  My garden will feature some Plum Blossom Posts for us to work on balance...

Thanks for reading, and if you learn the secret, perhaps you too can become the dragon warrior.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My hands hurt.

My house has a big yard.  It's got a bunch of trees.  We've got 2 avocado trees, 2 huge mango trees, 8 citrus trees, 1 tamarind tree and something called a chirimoia.  There are also 4 big trees which flower and one small lavender tree.  There used to be more.  Along the west side of the yard, there are 3 large stumps and one smaller one.  Along the back of the house (North) there are 3 more medium sized stumps and the east side has a huge pile of wood.

I'm not a big fan of the stumps.  Nataly and I have been paying a gardener to help bring grass back to our yard, and the stumps aren't a great deal of fun to mow around.  Not to mention they're pretty ugly. So Friday I set about removing a few.  By hand.  With a pickax.

In total I spent something like 5 hours whacking away at 3 different stumps.  One big one which yielded up enough good wood that I'll be cooking some chicken or hamburgers with it.  A smaller one which I believe was once a citrus tree and a new one I created when I cut down a very ill peach tree that we had in back.

I was actually able to extract the root balls of both the peach and the probable citrus trees, but the big one I whacked at until I got it below the ground and then buried it under a mixture of compost, sand and wood chips.

Needless to say, the repeated shock to my hands, arms, and back has me sore even two days later.  And my fingers are particularly stiff.  Why do it then?  Well, like I said: the stumps are ugly and a pain to mow around, but also because of the reading I've been doing about the Paleo diet.

Now, I'm never going to adopt the "Paleo diet".  As a friend of mine on Facebook said:  I tend to stay away from anything with the label diet.  But that said, there's a whole bunch of lifestyle information in these articles too.  Hunter Gatherer lifestyle stuff.  A hunter gatherer was an all around athlete by necessity.  "Cross training" was part of their weekly ritual.

I've never been one to mix up my athletic endeavors;  when I raced bikes, I rode my bike; when I did Kung Fu, I did Kung Fu; when I run; I run.  But here there's all this stuff around the house that is challenging physically, and it's got to get done.  So instead of having the gardener do it, when I get back from the North East, I'll continue my war against the stumps.  That should develop some good core strength.  I've already noticed that just raking leaves is a fair workout and my lawnmower?  It doesn't require gasoline or electricty...

Running wise:  I've logged 7 hours and 49 miles since Monday.  I let the 5 hours of ax swinging count for 30 minutes of running and I will be heading out for 2 hours plus today once Deneb is down for his nap.  Right now it's raining, so I'm hoping it'll stay cool.  It seems that every run this week has been brutally hot, sunny, and windy.  The rain is a welcome change.

Thanks for reading and it seems exercise doesn't have to be a formal undertaking...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thinking about food

One reason I've always led an active lifestyle is it's given me pretty much a blank check to cash in on whatever food and drink I wanted.  That's great because I love to eat and drink.

Recently however, I had been struggling with my weight.  I was well over 220 lbs and often found myself tipping the scale at 230.  I drank a fair amount of high octane beer, and had a diet which seemed reasonable at the time, but I'm not so sure anymore.

Something about my diet changed when I got to Bolivia.  I don't have a scale, but I can see in the mirror that I've lost quite a bit of weight - my gut has clear left, middle, and right sections and veins are popping out all over the place.  In Colorado, I was soft - for sure.

Again: something about my diet changed when I got to Bolivia.  It's hard to pinpoint what precisely, but I haven't been eating this:

Though I want to be...

The thing is.  The diet here isn't much different than what you see on that plate.  Up there is pork, cheese, potatoes, cheese, onions, chilis, garlic.

I think I may be more restricted in my caloric intake in general.  I've had ice cream like twice, maybe 3 times since moving here in February.  I eat a lot more fruit.  I eat breakfast.  I've swapped out normal beer for microbrew.  I have about a normal human's size portion of food for lunch - today: 1 Chicken Thigh, a good sized helping of potato salad, which included probably 1/2 a tomato, 1/2 a green bell pepper, and 1/2 a carrot.  Last night's dinner was about 2 servings of Lentil Salad.  Breakfast was probably 2 and a half eggs and a peanut butter sandwich with 1/2 a glass of yogurt and 1/2 a glass of milk.

Not having a scale is interesting, and I expect I will have one soon.  I'd really like to measure my sweat rate for one thing (another post for another time) and I'd like to start tracking my weight again.  If I end up actually lining up for 2 one hundred mile races next year, I'll need to stay on top of my nutrition.

That brings me to the whole point of this post in the first place.  Recently I listened to a very interesting podcast which talked about race day fueling and other things nutrition.  Based on that I posed a question to Joe Friel on his recent blog post.  One part of what he had to say in response to my question, I found to be quite provocative (emphasis mine):
Sugar is closely monitored and processed by the body as it is viewed almost as a toxic substance. So the body does unique things with it (e.g., converted to glycogen, glucose or fat very quickly after processing) that it doesn't do with fat or protein.
While running yesterday, I was mulling that statement over and remembered that Joe is an advocate of the so called Paleo Diet. I googled alot about it last night and this morning.

Essentially it is a diet which is centered on lean meats, fruits, nuts and tubers.  The kinds of foods that hunter gatherers would have eaten before we settled down in Mesopotamia.  I'm usually quite skeptical of stuff like this, but a lot of the arguments for a "paleo" diet hit the same "that makes sense" button that the barefoot running advocates I've come to subscribe to tag.  One interesting article is found here:
It's a quick read, and worth the time.  If for no other reason than to familiarize oneself with the arguments.

I don't expect I'll ever fully subscribe to a paleo diet, but I may begin to incorporate some of its principles into my daily eating.  I first need to get my brain around what that really means...

Thanks for reading, and try to understand why before actually doing.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Two Solid Efforts and a Day Off

So, this weekend the plan was to run for one hour 45 minutes Friday, three hours Saturday, and another hour 45 on Sunday, in total logging 42 miles.  Well I modified the plan a bit after I saw some red streaking when I took my post run pee.

First the runs workouts (given my recent problems with GI distress "workouts" is a better term, no problems with the gut this weekend):

Friday (link to Garmin Connect).  Went out and immediately noticed I was feeling good.  One of the tenets of many training philosophies is that the closer you get to your targeted race, the more racelike your training efforts need to be.  Considering my general sense of well being, I decided to work the run more like a race.  I pushed it harder than I normally go on the hills and tried to flow on the descents.  I ended up with a pacing PR on the Bella Vista course.
Friday I went 11.94 miles with 1650 feet of elevation gain in 1 hour 41 minutes, VFF.  

Saturday (link to Garmin Connect), I was feeling it in my quads a bit, but I still got out, albeit it a bit later than I would have wanted.  The road to Samaipata climbs steadily for 10 miles - initially it's quite gradual but eventually it gets pretty steep.  I wanted to keep my pace as high as possible on the way out so that I could coast on my return.

One key thing to note re:This Run, I didn't bring any food along.  I ate a peanut butter sandwich before I left, but nothing during the workout itself.  Additionally, I had my CamelBack strapped on and filled with water only.  I had zero calories during my run.  I think that shows up in the final 5 miles of the workout.

Anyway the steeper downhill sections I was able to coast pretty well, but once it flattened out, I started wanting resting breaks.  I took my first extended drink and walk break around mile 15.  Prior to that I stopped for a giant trailer hauling something for Natural Gas production (I think).  There was simply no way to share the road with that monster.  I have no idea how it managed to navigate some parts of the road between Cuevas and Samaipata without disaster, but there it was...

From the start of the run I was sweating profusely.  That's odd because I seem to have gotten used to running in the heat here and haven't really sweated alot on many of my runs recently.  This time however, I was simply soaked in sweat.  I had an awesome salt ring around my crotch and my shirt was so wet that when I took it off and hung it, it left a puddle of sweat on the floor 3 inches in diameter.

I did drink all of my water, but I would absolutely have been served to have some salt tablets along and some food.  That's fine and I ain't dead, so...
Saturday I went 20.05 miles in 3 hours and 15 mintues with 2050 feet of climbing, Minimus.

This brings me to my post run tinkle.  Pee streaked with red.  Given that I had not taken anything other than water, I couldn't blame this on my body rejecting food coloring.  In the past, I've had some fantastically dark colored pee during my runs, most notably last year on an epic self supported, solo 26 mile loop in the Indian Peaks.  I should get something down about that run some day - anyone with an interest in trail running and access to the Indian Peaks should absolutely do it.

That time, I had nearly black urine and I blamed it on the food coloring in my ClifBloks which I was eating for the first time.  The second time I had extraordinarily dark pee was during the Steamboat 50 (I think), another time where I consumed a large number of ClifBloks.  I've googled dark pee and ClifBloks, with no results, but I assumed there was something special about me and the food coloring in the Bloks and left it at that.  Each time I've had this problem, within 12 hours my pee was back to normal so I haven't really worried about it assuming that the food coloring was out of my system.

That said, I've been sufficiently disturbed by the nature of my pee during from those two events that I did end up googling "Blood+Urine+Running".  There's lots of good stuff out there; here's a link to UltRunR.  Essentially the articles suggest that if all returns to normal after a period of inactivity, you were most likely dehydrated and your bladder essentially got bruised or chafed:  SWEET!  Long story short, even though I now know that my food coloring hypothesis can be effectively ruled out, I'm not going to change much about the way I run except pay much closer attention to the way I hydrate.

Anyway, given the shock in the toilet, I decided that going out for even an easy 11 miles on Sunday wouldn't be in my best interest.  I'll get out today instead (scheduled rest day) after having a bunch of water...

Thanks for reading, and perhaps we've got to put a PG13 rating to this post.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Vein in the top of the foot

I've been able to get out running the last couple of days, albeit gingerly.

Wednesday I knocked out 9 miles in my Minimus trail shoes, though toward the end of the run I was wanting more shoe and yesterday I tacked on 7 more in my trusty old Cascadias.

Last night I noticed that I once again could distinguish the tracing of a vein across the top of my foot.  That of course means that the inflammation is going down.  It's still not gone (need an entire network of veins bulging up there), but it's getting better. The pain is easing off too.

All this is good.  This afternoon, I'll run 11 miles in Cuevas.  Not sure where, I expect the roads are muddy as there has been a fair bit of rain the last couple of days, but I really want to log 50k between today and tomorrow and then again between tomorrow and Sunday.  That'll essentially cap my "training" for the Blues Cruise and I'll really ramp up the healing process going into the race.

Gear wise, I'll go with my Vibrams today, Minimus tomorrow, and decide between them for Sunday's run.

Thanks for reading, and until Monday then...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

41st Trip


I should be crazy.

Just now starting my 41st trip around the sun.

How do I celebrate?  A fine local pilsner and a 9 mile run.

The run had me thinking that 4 hours and 30 minutes for the Blues Cruise may well be possible.  At my 7.75 mile point, I was at 1 hour 6 minutes and thought, "I could do this 3 more times no problem..."

We'll see.  It's all about eating at this point.

Thanks for reading and don't count the end, count the beginning...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pain in the top of the foot.

Saturday I logged my first ever Vibram clad marathon.  It was a training run and I kept my effort easy throughout.  I rested for 15 minutes in Samaipata and walked a good bit in the last quarter of my run.  I wouldn't call it an easy marathon; it was by no means flat, and there were no aid stations (except for the corner store where I took my break).

Cuevas-Samaipata-Cuevas elevation profile.
Anyway, I woke up Sunday morning with pain and swelling in the soft tissue on the top of my foot. I've whined about top of foot pain before, but it's been some time since I've been bothered by it, and this is different than previous manifestations.  The pain I've previously experienced has seemed to resonate more from the bones of my feet than the soft tissue.

If you google pain in the top of the foot, you're bound to find a bunch of information, but one site seems to describe my condition fairly well.  The author attributes the condition to an imbalance in musculature in the calves and top of the foot, resulting in inflammation and pain.

Why would musculature balance in the top of the foot and calves matter?  I'm thinking out loud here, and don't really know the answer, but if I were guessing...

The calves are much larger muscles and therefore more easily adapt to when new loads are applied.  The nature of running in Five Fingers (in my case) results in me curling my toes back through my initial foot strike.  Try curling your toes back 10 times, think about how it feels, then consider doing that 20000 times per foot: an entire marathon.  In my case, my calves were ready to handle the load of the marathon, but the little muscles and tendons on top of my foot needed a couple more long runs to get ready.

Oh well.

Today the pain is better, but not gone.  I'm taking another whiny day off.  Tomorrow I'll be back at it though with an hour in my Cascadias.  2 days off isn't going to make a difference in my finish time at the Blues Cruise.  I just can't really afford to miss my long run this weekend.

Thanks for reading, and consider the math (it's actually more than 20000)...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Five Finger Marathon and More.

Beautiful tree covered in blue flowers
between Cuevas and Samaipata
This past week and weekend were pretty big for me.  My aforementioned change of racing schedule made it so I wanted a fitness checkpoint.  I set out the week with the goal of logging 2 hours running per day, but after registering for the Blues Cruise I decided that I'd switch my runs up a bit and go long Saturday and not so long on Wednesday and Sunday.

I ended up averaging almost 2 hours running per day last week even though I had an unscheduled day off on Thursday.  Unfortunately, Thursday I spent 4 hours in a bus.  First it had a flat.  Then we got to a section of the road to Cuevas which was closed as they try to get a bridge finished before the rainy season comes.  By the time the bus arrived in Cuevas it was getting dark and my back and knees were hurting so bad all I wanted to do was lie down.

Whining aside, the good stuff came during my run on Saturday.  I ran out and back from Cuevas to Samaipata (link on Garmin Connect).  I was hoping to end up with around 4 hours running on Saturday and 25 miles, but my watch time had me at just under 4:30 and as I was pulling back through the gate to the waterfalls, I knew I was only three tenths of a mile short of a full marathon.  If you were on a training run and had .3 miles left for a full marathon, would you stop or run for 3 more minutes?

Saturday's run told me alot of things.  First and foremost:  I can run a marathon in Vibram Five Fingers.  I debated my footwear before heading out for a while, but came down on the side of, "I don't expect to get blisters on the descent back from Samaipata if I wear my Bikilas."  So, I left the Minimus Trail shoes in the cabin.

I seem to have the eating thing down pretty well too since I never really bonked.  I took the last of my tech food and had a gel or half a pack of ClifBloks every 20 minutes.  This seemed to work pretty well, but toward the mid-point of the return I was really wanting a crapper.  Not sure if that was menu choices from the day before, the long descent out of Samaipata, or the half liter of Coke I drank outside of La Estrellita as I took a few minutes in the shade.

Whatever the case, lower GI distress is something that has really slowed me down on some recent runs.  Though were a toilet or secluded knoll to present themselves, the distress would be released in short order.  I'm not a huge fan of dropping trou' right next to a road, and will avoid it at just about any cost.  The cost on this run was a fair number of walking breaks where I may not have needed them.  Oh well.  Hopefully the Blues Cruise has ready access to facilities.

As far as how I feel after logging a full marathon in Vibram 5Fingers, I'm in remarkably good shape.  I seem to have suffered some soft tissue damage in the top of my left foot which made me decide to run yesterday in my old trustworthy Cascadia's and has me taking today off.  Depending how I feel, tomorrow I'll put the Cascadia's on again for my run.  Other than that, I'm not the least sore in muscle or joint and could run another marathon today without too much trouble.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the flowers.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Quick note re: Changing Plans

So, Irene came and went and left my wonderful home state a wreck.  Couple with that a real jones to get home and I have decided to travel north at the end of September.  That makes a big change to the schedule and asks a pretty serious question.
  • No marathon PR attempt in November.
  • What do I do with all of this base?
Turns out a very good, very old friend of mine is running (his second) ultra marathon on October 2nd.  I'm going to be jumping in with him, the Blues Cruise 50K.  Here's a link to the website, which is quite a bit out of date.

I don't have many expectations as far as the race itself is concerned, but I'll lay out a couple of goals.
  1. Go under 5 hours.
  2. Smile.
  3. (Stretch) 4.5 hours.
I think all 3 are attainable, but am confident in only #2.  We'll see.  Should be fun.  I'll also be running this race in my five fingers.  I had wanted to run the marathon in November in them, but this'll have to do.
Thanks for reading and be sure you always have a stretch.
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