Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Up Hills with Dawn

I love reading the various ultra and trail running blogs out there. I especially like getting insight and instruction from the top Dawgs in the sport. They probably have no idea how valuable their insight, technique tips, and training advice means to the rest of us. Recently, however (there’s always a “however” after throwing out such lavish praise), I’ve been scratching my head over some of the technique advice offered by a couple of the Bigs.

Scott Jurek and the Speed Goat have offered advice on up hill running that is great. In fact, I just used some of Scott’s technique in running the hills this morning. It’s great that these guys are providing this type of advice whether they get compensated for it or not. Good advice is hard to find.

The issue I have with it is that most people should not be running the up hills in an ultra event. It’s the perfect formula for fried quads and bonking. Their advice applies to trail running and not specifically ultras, so I can’t really take issue with it. However, some neophytes may not realize the subtle difference. Before my first ultra and again before VT100 in 2006, my ultra mentor, Jim Campiformio, told me to walk up anything that looks like a hill. Run the flats and the down hills and save your energy on the ups.

My girlfriend, Dawn, is preparing for her first ultra, so I tried to teach her this technique on Sunday. She seemed hesitant to do any walking during a training run, but I really wanted her to get used to the idea of walking. She reluctantly walked when I did. We managed the same pace with much less effort. OK, maybe Scott, Tony, Mark et al are running these hills, but we are not at that level yet. The goal here is to finish the race.

Toward the end of our run together, Dawn walked a hill that I usually run up. I was glad she decided to walk it. After finishing our 7-8 mile loop together, she planned to do another loop in the opposite direction including walking the Big Hill.

I continued on my way and saw her 2 more times as we were going in opposite directions. She seemed to be in good spirits and later indicated that her 2nd loop seemed much faster than the first one. Later that day and the next day, Dawn mentioned that her chronically inflamed shins were not bad at all. Hmmm….maybe there’s something to walking these hills.

So, I offer this advice to all of you….Walk them thar Hills!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Strange week

This week started out without much running, but ended with my biggest mileage week this year. I'm not sure my approach was wise, but it felt good up until the last 15 miles today. Let me back up a bit...

Weekly mileage:

Monday: Did a couple miles with Jamie at the reservoir. I was not feeling well all weekend and strained my back on Saturday. I did 4.5 hours on Sunday and the back was sore on Monday, so I decided to give it some rest.

Tuesday: Went to a yoga class with Jamie to see if I could loosen up the back a little. It must have worked because I felt better the next day.

Wedneday: 9 tempo miles at lunch - felt good. 7 miles after work with Dawn - nice and easy. I think the easy evening run may become more integrated in my training. It seems to help recovery...don't know for sure.

Thursday: 10 miles at the reservoir...Pushed a little too hard as I felt rushed for time.

Friday: Took a vacation day and did 19.5 miles at the reservoir in about 2:45 or so...felt very solid. Again...pace was probably a bit too fast.

Saturday: Climbed with Dawn at the Gunks...felt tired in the morning, but got better as the day went on.

Sunday: 38+/- miles at the reservoir in 6:36 with about 20 minutes of stoppage time for refueling. Did the first 7-8 miles with Dawn at a nice easy pace. Picked up the pace for the next 15 miles, and then struggled a bit for the last 16 miles. Wore the Montrail Hardrocks with hopes that my feet would not get beat uo so much, but my feet were still very sore. The Montrails are heavy which made me work more. The weather was perfect for running, so I wanted to take advantage of it today. I may be doing the Pinetrails 50 miler in a few weeks, and wanted to see if I could get more time on my feet.

Total Mileage for the week: is about 85 miles. Not bad considering I really only ran 4 days this week.


I really need to work on my fueling plan for VT100. I'm not consuming enough calories on my long runs as I am getting hungry and then slowing down (not quite bonking). With the Vegan diet, it makes it tough for me to get enough fat and protein, so I don't have a lot of reserves. The good news is that I am light as a feather, but I need to keep fueling the tank. If I do the 50 in Maine, it will be a good test of my fuel management. I also need to figure out my salt and fluid intakes. I have had good luck with ecaps, but they have much less sodium than S caps or Saltstick. I may try switching with the hot temps coming. I was somewhat dehydrated after VT100 two years ago.

I love readiing the blogs of the big boys - AJW's blog is great...Tony K's blog is mind-boggling when you look at his mileage. The guy is amazing. I used to enjoy Scott Jurek's blog, but it appears that he is no longer updating it. I also enjoy reading many other ultrarunner blogs when I have the time.

One needs to be careful in comparing mileage to other's via blog entries. I see Tony K's entries where he is running about 8 minute pace and think...hey, I'm running the same pace. Then, I remind myself that this guy is running at altitude and probably doing major elevation gains, etc. One mile does not equal another mile. Anyway, it's fun to keep tabs on these guys as I prepare for my race this year.

Hope everyone has a great week!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Runnin' with Amy

I'm wayyy behind on posts....probably because I'm always RUNNING :-)

I took a day off today and plan to get out there for some good miles, but wanted to get this entry in today.

My sister, Amy, is 8 years my junior. I'm the oldest of four, and she's the baby. I've always taken that protective big brother position and have enjoyed watching her from the beginning. We're close, but time and miles separate people. Amy had a baby, Naomi, one year ago, and her life revolves around Motherhood now. She has taken up running after an extended love affair with her elliptical machine, and asks me for advice on running from time to time. I recommended that she try running with the baby (jogger) on the carriage trail at the Mohonk Preserve in the Shawangunks, but I doubted she would venture out on her own. The "Gunks" are 15 minutes from her house and you can see the cliffs from her yard. The cliffs extend about 10-12 miles and face the Hudson River from the West (just outside New Paltz, NY).

It's an incredible place and I visit there whenever I go back to my parents. On this particular weekend, I was planning to get in a 4-5 hour run at the Gunks. Amy heard I was in town and called to see if she could run with me. I was excited that she wanted to run and to show her the Gunks.

We started around 8AM and planned to run the loop on the carriage road (about 5 miles). It would be a push for Amy to go that far, but the terrain is fairly flat and she's a trooper.

Amy is petite...about 5 feet tall and very slender. She makes me laugh because she has no preconceived notions about running or competition. She's always been that way. She was a fantastic ski racer at the age of 5. We all had visions of watching her ("Famous Amous") in the Olympics someday, but she had other ideas. She was just as happy laying in the snow or chatting with people on the lift. Competition was not that important.

We ran for a couple miles at a slow pace. Amy chugged along...happy to be outside and get some time to herself. Running fast was not on her agenda.

She talked about running a half marathon, and I told her how she could get faster. She said, "I don't want to run faster, I just want to run farther"... Spoken like a true ultrarunner.

Her stride is relaxed and graceful. She's a shuffler like me.

When she was a kid, I would take her on runs around our yard. My parents live on 10 acres, so there was room to run. I would motivate her with the latest ideas from my track coach. I could see the natural ability in her and wanted to see her use it. She lovingly tolerated my motivational speeches and just enjoyed being in the moment. She was very wise.

On this day, I'd get a little ahead of Amy and turn to locate her. She'd be snapping pictures of me with her phone and laughing....still a kid after all these years.

We finished the 5 miles and we chatted a bit. I loaded up my Camelbak and prepared for the rest of my journey. She got ready to re-enter her world of being a Mom. She talked about getting a season's pass and bringing the baby there for outings.It was great to spend time with my sister...she's a great person. Naomi is lucky to have her as a Mom.

Perhaps we will run again soon.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


There were several “firsts” this week which made the training exciting and interesting.

Weekly Mileage was just a hair under 85 miles. I don’t think I have ever run that much in a week of training…not even prepping for VT100 2 years ago.
I ran with my sister, Amy, at the Gunks. It was fun (more on that coming soon).
I ran to Lake Awosting in the Gunks.

There may have been another “first” in there somewhere, but those are the keys.

After Northern Nipmuck, I wanted to get back on track with some high mileage. I also wanted to get back into my hill training and speedwork. The key would be to do all of this without getting injured. My ankles were a bit sore after the race, and a few other items are teasing me. Here’s the weekly rundown:

Monday, 4/7/08

6.8 miles on the cinder path at work (approx. 4 laps with some variations). This is a fairly flat course. The weather was beautiful, and I got the pace going pretty well considering I had just raced 2 days prior. I averaged about 7:10/mile without too much effort.

Tuesday, 4/8/08

11.25 miles in 1:38. This was my hill repeat day. Rather than do 10 repeats on the road, I combined the road with the trail to the top of Pinnacle Rock. I think it’s about 500 feet of vertical and I ran it 4 times. By the way, I love the Garmin Forerunner 305, but I do not trust the elevation measurements on it. Reviews have confirmed that it is not accurate, but everything else works well. My heart rate was pegged in the first mile and I was going slow. It settled down a bit and I chugged up the first hill. My goal was to run hard, but my heart rate stayed in the 140-150 range on the uphills. Actually, I’m still trying to figure out my max HR. IT could be anywhere between 176 and 185 depending on the method of calculation.

This was a great run. I felt good afterwards and felt that I ran fairly controlled.

Wednesday, 4/9/08

11.5 miles in 1:36 (8:22 pace). This was intended to be a recovery run at the Reservoir. I tried to keep the pace easy and my heartrate under 130. My average HR was 131, but I got into the 140’s on the uphills. It was great having the place pretty much to myself and I did a little exploring on some new terrain at the end.

Thursday, 4/10/08

Rest Day – The plan was speedwork, but I couldn’t fit in a workout.

Friday, 4/11/08

Speedwork – Ran to and from the track from home (approx. 2.7 miles each way). Did four 1600m intervals in 6:00, 6:08, 5:54, and 5:57. I jogged 200m in between the first 2, but felt I needed to walk to get my HR down in between the next 2. Heart rate was peaking out around 159 and averaging low 150’s during the first 2 which puts me around 85-90% effort. I should be hitting 90% on them.

Total: 10.2 miles in 1:20.

Saturday, 4/12/08

I had been wanting to run out to Lake Awosting from the Gunks West Trapps parking lot for awhile now, and this would be the day. I’m planning to write up a detailed post with pics on this run, so let’s just say it was a great for now. First 5 miles was slow with my sister, Amy, and then I picked it up a bit. My legs were tired from the speedwork, so Amy’s pace was perfect for getting me back in the groove.

Total mileage: 25.5 miles in approx. 4:25. I walked a bit (0.6 miles) after icing my legs in the cool water at the end.

Sunday, 4/13/08

I knew I needed about 15 miles to hit 80 miles for the week. This was new territory, and I was excited about it. I ran 2 hill loops at the reservoir and really cruised the downhills. I felt very good afterwards.

16.3 miles in 2:12 (8 min/mile avg pace).

Total weekly mileage: 84.61 miles in 12 hours.

Wow! If I could hold that pace at VT100, I could win! J

It seems like I spend a lot of time running, but 12 hours in a week doesn’t seem like all that much.

Overall, it was a great week, and I feel strong. The key will be to maintain this level for the next 10+ weeks without getting too fatigued or injured. If things go according to plan, we’ll have some fun in Vermont!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

2008 Northern Nipmuck Trail Race

The 2008 Northern Nipmuck Trail Race was a wonderful way to kick-off Spring. My good friend and ultra guru, Jim Campiformio, is the Race Director, and puts on a great event. The weather was almost perfect for trail racing. It had rained for the past couple days, so we knew the course would be slick and wet, but the temp was in the upper 40’s and the skies were overcast (just the way I like it). I was number 95, so there was a pretty good group at the start. Jim said some prepaid folks didn’t show, but there must have been about 100 runners there. I elected to go with a short sleeve top and shorts while many seemed over dressed.

It was fun to see some of my old and new friends. I saw Charlie, a guy I used to coach with in Youth Soccer. Jim’s friend, and former Race Director of Northern Nipmuck, Rich was there. I saw 2 of Jim’s daughters. Scott and Deb Livingston were there as well as Rich Fargo, the Legend of Trail Running in these parts. Rich has won Escarpment more times (8) than anyone in the history of the race. Bruce, a new friend, who is pacing Mark Buongiorno at VT100 this year, was also there.

I had to smile at the start. Jim had everyone walk up a double track slope and told them to turn around. Deb Livingston asked where the actual start line would be located. Jim said, “Right where you are standing…..Ready, Go! Typical Campiformio…I had to laugh. People in a road race would freak if that happened. Trail runners are different folk, and I like them.

The first mile is a long climb which is initially single track, then switches to a swampy double track, then back to single track. Some folks try to sprint out front to get good position. I made that mistake 6 years ago and paid the price. This year I was a little more cautious. I started behind Deb and Scott and in front of the Legend (Rich). Rich passed me before the double track and I passed Deb and Scott. My plan was to watch Rich and see if I could stick with him without blowing up early. He got a bit ahead of me, but I kept catching glimpses of him. He was fairly cautious on the technical terrain, and I would gain ground on him there.

My initial plan was to wear my glasses, since my contacts had been getting very loose (floating around in my eye) while running lately, but the weather looked too iffy for that strategy. I don’t know how I survived, but I absolutely flew down the hills. I took was spill on this section, but it was minor.

I passed 1-2 people and caught up with Rich just before the 4 mile mark (actually more like 3.6 according to all the new GPS gizmos). Rich had taken off his long sleeve top, so I figured he was either suffering or meant serious business.

After the aid station, I was right on his tail and there was a guy right on my tail. We rambled up and down and walked parts of hills. The guy behind me passed us both, and we all passed a couple young guys who made the mistake of hammering the start. Rich would get a lead on me at times, but I’d catch him on the technical stuff. We were near the top 10 at this point.

We started seeing the leaders on this out-and-back course about 0.5 miles from the turnaround (just a guess). I crossed paths with the 3rd place guy and then wiped out hard on my left side while trying to hurdle a big rock. Ouch! About 0.1 miles from the turnaround I saw Rich and another guy about 30 feet in front of me. I caught up to them at the turnaround and tucked in behind Rich on the way back. He had a smooth pace going and I agreed with his choices on walking spots. We had clocked in at 1:07 at the turn, so I knew we were on a good pace. We passed a lot of people who were coming in and cheering for both of us. We were really hammering the pace and I felt really strong. Someone said we were running 10th and 11th or something.

I had meditated this morning on the race. I didn’t meditate on a time or a place, but just visualized myself running with great form and at ease (like a gazelle). I guess the stuff works because I felt like a world-class runner (at least in form). I was moving well. I don’t mention this to brag…it’s just that I am usually a nervous wreck before a race and feel like I am fighting the course the whole way. Today was better.

Rich would get a little lead on me and I’d catch up. It was a crazy game, but I preferred to be the one in back as there was less pressure on me.

I scrambled up the last hill before the ¾ mark to catch up with Rich and then followed him about 150 feet down a wrong path. Arghh! I miss that turn everytime!!!

I told Rich which way to go, but he elected to try to bushwack across rather than go back up. I dropped back one place at this point which really bummed me out as I had worked hard to put distance on that guy.

We pulled into the aid station together, but Rich was nowhere in site. The weather was getting warmer, so I made sure to take a good drink before heading off.

The young guy got ahead of me out of the aid station and I had to be patient and wait for a chance to pass. I knew we had several uphill sections and wanted to make sure I didn’t blow up and blow the race.

I would speed walk the steep hills and he would run without gaining anything on me. I loved the fact that I was conserving energy per Coach Jimmy’s instructions. Our pace was slow though and I needed to pass. I took a chance and he graciously let me slip by near the top of a big hill. I quickly put some distance on him and was running alone.

I had one more big climb and then it was all downhill. I looked at the clock and thought I would come in around 2:20 depending on how fast I ran the last downhill section.

I continued to be conservative on the up hills (possibly too much) and walked a bit on the last one. I checked and saw no one in sight, but worked the pace on the rolling sections to be sure to stay ahead.

I finally made it to the big downhill and opened it all up. I ran as fast as I dared and just prayed that I would not fall. A wipe out at this speed could mean a trip to the hospital.

After surviving the single track and flying through the double track, I had one more steep, technical downhill. I blew through it and was elated to see 2:18 still on the clock as I hit the finishing stretch. I think I finished under 2:18:50 (9th place) which was good work in my book. There was no one anywhere in front of me, so there must have been quite a gap between me and Number 8.

The other guy and Rich came in a couple minutes after me. We complimented each other on good races, and then headed back to the food tent. Jim puts on a good spread, but there wasn’t much for a Vegan to eat. I had a bagel and pretzels and a couple bottles of water. Jim was helping a young gun who had really gashed his leg pretty good. We also heard that one of Charlie’s folks broke an ankle (or something of that nature). Bummer!

This race was a test of my fitness and I passed with flying colors. I ran 2:30 and felt like hell afterwards in 2002. This time I felt fairly fresh and know I could have run a few minutes faster.

My goal was to see if my training and diet were paying off and I was very pleased with the results. I rested well this past week so that I could put in a good effort. My body has been taking a beating from all the mileage and hard training, so it was nice to have a break.

It would be nice to see if I could break the 3 hour mark for the marathon now, but I’m not sure how that will fit in with my training for VT100.

At times, I question whether I’m wasting a lot of time with this running. Now, I’m racing guys half my age, and wonder if I should be doing something more important with my time. There were times today where that did not matter. I was flying on the trails and it felt great. I ran with a Legend, and that felt great….Rich is 5 years older than me and runs to work and back everyday (including all 5 days this week). So, finishing ahead of him by a couple minutes is also a testament to him. Can you imagine how fast he would run if he rested for a couple days?

Nevertheless, 15 years ago Rich was winning the big races, and I was happy to put in my 2-5 miles a few times per week. I never considered myself a gifted runner and never expected to be finishing races near the top. I was happy just to finish. Today’s race meant something to me. It was probably like Billy Crystal signing a 1 day contract to play with the Yankees except this was real. I was running with the best because I had earned it. I put in the miles and now I was one of them. No, I didn’t hang with the young bucks up front, but I finished in the Top 10 and was one of the leaders in the 40-something crowd. It felt great!

I know that the longer distances treat me even better, so my hopes are running high for VT100.

I said goodbye to Jim and told him he put on a great race. W talked about doing a training run together and I said that would be great….just like old times!