Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dreaming Ahead

I can hardly wait for my 2008 season to get started because I have some big goals that I am looking forward to meeting. The winter months are always difficult for me because I can’t just go out and do whatever occurs to me like a mountain run, which has been occurring to me relentlessly over the past couple weeks. Instead of doing something new and potentially stupid like snowshoe running through the woods atop the Sandia Mountains I have stuck to my low-land roads and single track trails along the Rio Grande.

Sticking to the routine has been a great experience though because I am finally getting to see the results of the meds I have been taking for over a year now. If you have been following my blog long enough you will recall that I had this ugly tendency to break my bones whenever I would increase my running volume too much and in seeking the answer as to why this was I discovered that I had osteopenia. The meds I have been taking are to increase bone density and I have been taking regular large doses of calcium and vitamin D. At almost exactly this time last year I was thinking that I would probably never be able to get my monthly running mileage over 80 miles…this, I have discovered, is not true.

In all of my running this month I have racked up 143 miles and will probably get in another seven by the end of the month just to say I did. This is a tremendous turn of events for be because to be honest I was mightily discouraged when I was told I had easily breakable bones but I guess I did what comes naturally to me and just forged ahead to see what happens next.

My high mileage has been very enjoyable and for the most part has not been too uncomfortable. My speed over longer distances is improving and the effort it takes me to run between 8:45 to 9:00 minute miles is pretty minimal. With every day I am more excited about my running plans for the coming year.

Add to my growing excitement I am reading some pretty good books too, some books that, as the GEEKGRL would say, are probably a bad influence on me. Anyway, the running and the books have me thinking more and more about a particular goal I have been coveting for the past two years.

Here is one quote from the book “Deep Survival” by Laurence Gonzales, which I recently finished reading that has me approaching that particular corner which I am seriously considering turning this year.

“…doing bold things isn’t about engineering risk to zero. Shit happens, and if we just want to restrict ourselves to things where shit can’t happen…we’re not going to do anything very interesting.”

Those are the kinds of words that really speak to me on a very personal level and remind me that I have this one chance to live a life that is bold and interesting and I do not know when that chance will come to an end.

Another quote from the same book slightly modified to make sense out of context.

To lose everything in search of glory “is far sweeter than to win by plodding through a cautious, painless and featureless life…The true survivor isn’t someone with nothing to lose. He has something precious to lose. But at the same time, he’s willing to bet it all on himself. And it makes what he has that much richer. Days stolen are always sweeter than days given.”

So like I said, with all the running and all the reading I think I am ready to make an attempt at a goal I have held dear…I want to become a mountain ultra runner. I want to do races like the Leadville Trail 100, The Race Across the Sky, and the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run and to get there I need to be equal parts smart and bold because those races are pretty unforgiving and the training is pretty specialized.

This year I am already scheduled for an easy trail 50K and an easy trail 50 miler but I am thinking about adding in the Silver Rush 50 mile (out of Leadville) and the Lean Horse 100. If things work out then maybe next year, 2009, I will make an attempt on one of my dream races.

Here’s to hoping!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Here’s Yer Christmas Stocking Stuffer Post

Well, the year draws nigh and I have a grab bag of things to post with no particular theme so I start with the shortest. I want to give my highest recommendation to the new Tom Hanks movie “Charlie Wilson’s War”. It’s a very solid movie with great acting and it has some very funny parts to boot. Tom is one of my favorite actors but in my opinion the strongest performance was that of Philip Seymour Hoffman, another of my favorites. Anyway, very solid acting all around, this is a must see.

As I approach 2008 my goals are solidifying and I think my ultimate this year will be to become an “Iridium” level Marathon Maniac. One of the criteria for Iridium level is to do 9 marathons in 9 different states and/or foreign countries during one calendar year, that’s the criteria I am trying to plan now. Here is where I stand:

January – Mississippi
February – Alabama
March – Texas
May – Utah

June – Idaho
November - Arizona

So you see I have some months to play with though September is out because I am doing the Colorado Relay with some fellow Outlaws including the blogging Outlaws GEEKGRL, Pirate and Bones.

Two obvious ones to choose between are the Duke City Marathon and the Rio Grande Marathon, both in New Mexico and both toward the end of October. While Duke City is right in my back yard I’m kind of leaning toward the Rio Grande, which is about 250 miles south in Las Cruses mostly because I run and bike the route of the Duke City all the time. My other ideas include pretty much whatever I can find within, say, 800 miles of Albuquerque, preferably trail marathons or 50Ks. I’m thinking I should try and do as many of these on dirt as possible.

Ramping up to this much long distance running has been a real bear. I’m trying to keep my legs in good shape but they are hurting a bit, right now it seems to be my right foot that is trashed for whatever reason and my left knee complains a lot but overall I’m holding up and hoping my body settles in to this new madness. I am getting faster though. I went on a bit of a run this morning down along the single track along the Rio Grande and turned in a pretty good 15 miles though I tripped at mile 14 and just laid on the trail staring up at the cobalt blue sky for a couple minutes before dusting myself off and heading on in.

I did my comparison between my 2006 training and my 2007 training and it looks about like what I was shooting for, an increase in my running percentage and decrease in my bike percentage. I didn’t really have any plans for the swim though I notice I got in a little more distance in a little less time, which is encouraging. My overall average didn’t increase by more than 10%, which is good, and I think I’m getting to a decent average training volume. If I can give it one more bump up this year I may be competitive at bigger events but I think that my multi-marathon and ultra year this year will end up slowing me down a bit but who cares right, for me it’s all about the journey not the times…well, I’ll take good times too but I’m just sayin…

2006 totals
Bike: 385h 55m 14s - 6377.53 Miles
Run: 136h 28m 11s - 822.64 Miles
Swim: 79h 34m 39s - 213474.7 Meters

Total hours: 602
Weekly average: 11.6
Swim %: 13%
Bike %: 64%
Run %: 23%

2007 totals
Bike: 379h 26m 55s - 6013.18 Miles
Run: 180h 54m 48s - 1024.45 Miles
Swim: 75h 26m 25s - 215089.4 Meters

Total hours: 636
Weekly average: 12.2
Swim %: 12
Bike %: 60
Run %: 28

Merry and/or Happy This Time of Year Things!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tagged - 5 Interesting Things

The funny thing is that much of what most people would consider "interesting" about me are commonplace among my fellow multisport athletes so where to take this thing…

1) I have lived in places, yes lived not just visited, where I have seen the sun rise and set over the Pacific Ocean and rise over the Atlantic. Still haven't lived somewhere that the sun set on the Atlantic.
2) I have climbed the highest peak in the Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western parts of New Mexico.
3) I am the current president of one of my national professional organizations.
4) The one and only sport that I would actually sit and watch is Rugby and despite my lifelong involvement in sports I could care less about professional sports of any kind. In fact, this has at times been somewhat of a conversational handicap because when people start talking about "Hey, did you see that game between…" not only am I unable to feign interest but I have great difficulty covering up my impatience though I try to be polite.
5) I'm not a big fan of Holidays. Sure I love time off and love to travel, especially by car, but formal holidays like Christmas, Halloween, Easter, Thanksgiving etc… even birthdays, not a fan. It isn't that I dislike them it's just that I really don't care about them. All those things that they are supposed to symbolize, I think you should really try and express every day and not horde your goodwill, remembrances, good cheer, recognition, gift giving etc… until one lousy day per year because, let's face it, that day may not come this year.

Now for an update. This weekend was one hell of a training weekend though I didn't really plan it that way. I have been working on meeting the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association's "Year-Rounder" challenge this year whereby you have to ride at least one century each month for the year. The rides can either be organized or personal and you have to send in either a tracking sheet or something like Garmin data by way of Motion Based if you do a personal century. Anyway, I had chosen this weekend as the one where I would do my December century and finish off the year so I headed out on Saturday and got in 101.2 miles. The average temperature was 29 degrees with a high of 31 but I got it done and am pretty glad to be done with the challenge because it really tended to get in the way of my various training and racing objectives but I am glad I did it and will now await my plaque.

Sunday I had my last long run scheduled before tapering down a bit for the Mississippi Blues Marathon on January 5th. I headed out to get in 18 miles and at mile 14 I really started to wear down. I thought to myself, "Well, I put a lot of climbing in this run and I am running it faster than I usually run the day after a 100 mile ride." At about mile 15 I was once again focused on how tired I was and then it dawned on me, "This is about equivalent to what I would be doing on a peak IM training weekend and I have not been training for an ironman." Duh! So I cut myself some slack and ran the last few miles at about a 12 minute pace wondering how exactly I missed the fact that I was doing 100 miles one day and 18 the next. Since I have been run focused I have just been thinking about that and not paying attention to the bike so I guess I just thought about the bike as something I needed to finish up and the run as my workout. Weird.

Finally, I'm pretty happy to report that I have 10 more miles to run and I will have done 1,000 miles for the year! Sure, not as much as some triathletes I know but it is a goodly chunk of mileage. I am also about 20 miles from getting 6,000 miles on the bike and about 50 meters away from getting in 113 miles of swimming. I'll do a comparison between this year and last year next post.

Oh, people to tag. Apparently this thing has been going around a while so I'll only tag fellow Outlaws, at least one of which will need to finally create a blog of his own instead of lurking and leaving the occasional comment.

So I tag:
Mr. T
Deputy Dog

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My 2008 Season Preview Thing-a-ma-gigger

Well, after a pretty busy 2006 season I vowed to have a slower 2007 season and I believe I did one or two fewer races in 2007 than in 2006 but then again I did several more long and ultra-distance events in 2007 so I’m not exactly sure it counts as a “slow’ season.

Still, one thing I most certainly learned this year is that my racing is indeed a significant impediment to my training, which in turn is an impediment to my racing but…whatever, I love to race so here goes nothing.

I kicked off my 2007 season with a boat load of cycling and a couple ultracycling events. I also have been doing the Ultramarathon Cycling Association’s Year Rounder, a challenge whereby you have to ride at least one century per month for the calendar year. I guess you could call it my year of the bike and I have become a better long-distance cyclist and have learned some very important lessons about time, distance, saddles and male genetalia.

For 2008 I am going to kick my season off with a boat load of running and will do a couple ultramarathons. My run kickoff actually began for the Las Vegas Marathon just a couple weeks ago but will continue with the inaugural Mississippi Blues Marathon in Jackson, MS on January 5th. My first season ultra will be the Black Warrior 50K on February 16th near Moulton, AL and my second season ultra will be March 22nd at the Grasslands 50-mile at the LBJ National Grasslands near Decatur, TX. Since I was able to get a surprisingly fast PR at Las Vegas I plan on taking the rest of these runs at a pretty easy clip, maybe 4:45ish for the Mississippi Blues and I am aiming for sub-6 for the 50K and sub-12 for the 50-mile. Like the ultracycling I am looking at the running as base and strength building.

Other events I have planned for 2008 are the Ogden Marathon in May, IMCdA in June the Colorado Relay, a 170-mile team relay run, in September and IMAZ in November. Beyond that I am just going to play it by ear. It is very likely that I will end up at the Halfmax Long-course National Championships on October 18th just outside Las Vegas, NV where maybe I can earn my way onto Team USA for the 2009 world long course championships. I also plan on getting in a few of the local races. The people in charge of our regional race series have decided to not require a minimum of 8 races to qualify, which is a big relief because I won’t feel pressured to get in 8 regional races.

Finally, big pressure is already mounting for the end of my season. I have IMAZ on November 23rd and the week before is the inaugural San Antonio Texas Rock-n-Roll marathon. Not only does Mom Baboo live right nearby but San Antonio Texas is my second home. If it weren’t for the dog gone heat and humidity it would be my home but New Mexico has it beat with respect to weather and, for the most part, scenery. However, I really am more of a Texas person personality wise and I can gawk and mosey with the best of them. My other end of year conundrum is the Las Vegas Marathon, which is a week after IMAZ. I would definitely do the half in that case and of course the draw is the great gathering of Elvi and after our cool Elvi blowout this year I believe we will have a whole bevy of bloggers and Outlaws there next year.

Will the choices never cease? I swear the nation’s race directors will not be satisfied until they have every last penny I earn.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Ok, Now I’m Tired: A Polar Bear Race Report

Yesterday was my debut as an age grouper in my regional race series, the South West Challenge Series. I am still Clyde legal, bouncing between 198 and 203 but had I run as a Clyde I would have taken first by about 45 minutes…I am beginning to wonder if we are a dying fast breed in the Southwest because it wasn’t that way three years ago.

Saturday’s race was the Polar Bear Triathlon, a sprint that starts with a 7 K run then a 30 K bike and finally a 400 meter swim in a heated pool. Despite taking place in 2007 this race is the first race in the 2008 series…it is always the first race of the next season though there won’t be another until mid February and things don’t really start picking up until mid-March. This is usually a well liked race because it takes place in early December when most everyone is itching too do something because their seasons ended two or three months ago and because it usually brings out many of the faster people who compete in the series because it is also the same day that series awards are handed out.

From the beginning of the race I chose a new rabbit to try and follow, a fellow Outlaw we call “Bones” who is a front of the packer and who I do a fair amount of training with. From the beginning of the run we took off together and I was able to stay with him through the initial downhill and flat but when we turned uphill he left me behind as did the rest of the lead pack of runners. I looked around quickly to see who might be near and to my surprise there was nobody near, I was in a no-mans land between the back of the front pack and the front of the middle pack. I did my best to hold my pace and just kept charging ahead. A little earlier Bones asked me if I was feeling the marathon yet and I don’t know if I gasped anything but I know I thought, “no, I’m busy feeling the 5K I ran the day before the marathon, I expect to be feeling the marathon any time now.”

As the lead pack continued to scramble up the hill and away from me I decided to just focus on my leg turnover, no good, my legs felt beat so I didn’t want to focus on that. I started to focus on my breathing, no good, I was breathing ragged and strained so I just focused on the nearest person ahead of me and tried to keep a fixed distance between us and concentrated on the thought that I would start to close the gap again once we hit the flats. Once we did hit the flats I didn’t so much start gaining as I stopped losing ground and thought that if I could just hang on until the final mile, which is mostly down hill, I could make up some ground, which I did. I don’t recall seeing Bones run in to T1 or leave it but I knew he was at least a couple hundred yards ahead and I really didn’t have any further intention to catch him on the bike I was just trying to get the fastest start to the race that I thought I might be able to handle.

Once I headed out onto the bike I was right with this guy who was clearly a cyclist but he was sure able to run hard too. I followed him out of transition and just did my best to stay on his wheel. He was fast and I thought could be my next rabbit. I followed him and was pushing hard. My quads and hip flexors were burning like crazy but they still felt like they had a little strength in them. I knew that the first 5K or so of the bike was all downhill so I would be able to let my breathing settle a little. I suddenly noticed that my rabbit was looking around like he was confused and then he did a hard U-turn, CRAP! He had missed the turn which means I had missed the turn. I did a U-turn and started hammering my way back and saw people that I had beaten on the run making the correct turn and pulling ahead. My rabbit quickly past me and pulled well ahead and was gone, there was no way I was going to follow this guy he was too fast. I just settled in to the hardest pace I thought I could manage and focused on trying to pass everyone who had slid by during my misadventure.

I was able to catch and pass everyone who had gotten by me and then I was in no-mans land again unable to see anyone ahead of me so I just rode as hard as I could. By 15K I started to see someone ahead of me and then two people and then three so I started to push a little harder and then I started to catch the tail end of the front pack. At 20K I had passed three more people and then I spied Bones just ahead. We were heading up a slight incline and so I settled in behind him to try and store up enough energy to pass and pull ahead. I was certain that if I tried to pass hit right away he would fight back and I would blow up. When we hit the 25K mark I made my move and put everything into the pass. I got by him and then started working on another guy further up ahead. I knew that Bones is really a better swimmer than I am so I wanted to put as much distance between us as I could. I finally passed one more cyclist and headed in to T2, legs completely beaten.

The last guy I passed on the bike passed me in transition and beat me to the pool. I got in right behind him but was unable to hang on his feet because at the first turn as I pushed off the wall my calves threatened to cramp, I could feel them tightening up and I had to immediately bend my feet to stretch them out. I swam as hard as I could but not being able to push off the wall is no good and I really was whipped. I was moving through the water like a barge but still no sign of Bones. I was probably about half way through the swim when I noticed someone a lane or so over wearing the solid black skinsuit of the New Mexico Outlaws…Bones, damit! I tried to swim harder but I had nothing left. I tried to push off at the next wall and was again threatened by cramping and had to stretch again. I was digging at the water and kept seeing Bones gain on me. About 2/3 of the way through the swim he went past me like I was an anchor and then a second person was right on his feet. I drug myself out of the water like a drowned rat and plowed down in a pool side chair and was glad to be done with it.

I felt pretty good because I had given it all I had and if anyone beat me there was not a single thing I could have done about it, well, I guess other than staying on the freakin course. As it turns out I added about 6 tenths of a mile to the bike so including the slow-down, turn around and accelerate maybe I added as much as a minute to my total time. It turns out that I actually won third place in my age group! I was separated by the guy in first place by…about…one…minute! C’est la vie.

I feel pretty good about having made it to the podium and think I could have done better on fresher legs but this is the thing, I felt really good about that third place award. It has been awhile since I clawed my way onto the bottom step of the podium and it was nice. This was the first race in a couple years where I actually had the pre-race butterflies you get when heading in to serious competition and that felt good too. I was also happy for the Clydesdale over 40 who was so far behind me but still got to head home with a first place medal to show off to the wife and kids.

It was a good day all in all and I am looking forward to future duels with Bones and the challenge of someday taking first in my age group at one of our humble little races here in the South West Series.

This morning I went on a nice trail run in the Sandia Mountains with fellow Outlaws, Mighty, Sluggo and Stitch…they kicked my ass too but I was happy, happy to be running on snow dusted mountains with friends and happy to be chasing, I mean really chasing, first place in some po-dunk races out here in the desert southwest.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Viva Las Vegas! Viva Johnny Tri!

Yes this post will be rich with pictures and is brought to you through the incomprable hospitality of Johnny Tri!

The Great Santa Run
Saturday was the day, it was the test and the leg held strong. The morning started with a rubdown and a lower leg taping and then it was off to the Great Santa Run. It was amazing, at last count there were 7800 Santas ready to run. There were big Santas, small Santas, white Santas and black Santas. Some Santas were smoking some were eating energy bars some were drinking beer and some water it was just unbelievable. Once the race started it took a while to get going because I had started back in the pack with Johnny Tri and Miguelvis thinking that my leg may not hold out. We took off easy and just rolled into the race. By the time we were close to the first mile marker my leg was feeling good so I started to pick up the pace and when that felt good I picked it up a little more then Miguelvis took that as a sign to start pushing the pace and Johnny decided to let us go and go we did. I put the hammer down and pulled ahead of Miguelvis and started weaving between all the Santas that had lined up ahead of me, including the GEEKGRL who I finally caught at about mile 1.5. The fastest time recorded by Garmin was a 6:14 pace but with all the jacking around I didn't get anything like that for a full mile.

I was determined to get the most of my experience so I ran the entire race with my Santa beard on, I got a cup of water at the one aid station and tried to drink but ended up with a mouth full of beard and a beard full of water. I also tried to get at least one fast mile in a Santa suit. I didn’t really get the splits right so I have some easy running in all three miles in each of the mile splits registered by Garmin but was able to turn in some good times.

The Las Vegas Marathon
Me and Misty, Miguelvis and Johnny Tri woke early to head down to Mandalay Bay for the third running of the New Las Vegas Marathon. We had to go over to a special location for the morning gathering of running Elvi so that we could walk in an Elvi processional out on to the marathon starting corals lead by the Running Elvi mobile, which is a jogging stroller hooked up with a car battery and six speakers blasting Elvis. It is all draped in red and sequins with a big picture of the King himself on the front. When we came out onto the course we were greeted by a professional Elvis impersonator and they were playing the introduction to Elvis’s Viva Las Vegas concert. The Elvi had their own special coral that ran alongside the regular starting corals so we could be fed in to the crowd a bit at a time, sprinkled through the race.

I felt good from the very beginning. The drama of “will the leg hold?” was pretty much taken care of yesterday but I did still have that fear in the back of my mind that exactly 7 days prior I had ended a 15 mile run at about mile 1.5 in pain. I felt what I’ll call a minor complaint from my calf somewhere around mile 8 or so but nothing else. Miguelvis and I ran side by side almost the entire race. We started together and finished together but there was a bit of time from about mile 20 to 25 where he was as much as a couple hundred yards behind me because he has stopped at a couple aid stations but I just kept chugging on through. Somewhere around mile 16 my quads were protesting a bit, mostly they just had this kind of thick, heavy feeling. I was saying to myself, “If I can just hang on until mile 20 then I can take this pace on in.”

I ran the marathon without my Garmin, not by choice but because I forgot the damn thing at Johnny’s house so what pace I was holding I didn’t exactly know but I knew it was a good one.

Running as Elvis was a complete and total blast! There were just over 200 Running Elvi between the half and the full marathon and far fewer on the full which meant that where ever Miguelvis and I went we were still a novelty.

There were three British Elvi, one Dutch Elvis and a few Canadian Elvi but I don’t know what other countries may have been represented, if any. I must have said “Thank you, thank you very much” about 100 times. People just got such a kick out of it when they called out to you, er, Elvis, and got that famous reply. I also got a special boost through the aid stations, especially the ones with the cheerleaders lining the chute, they went wild for Elvis! It also seemed to liven up some of the runners to have Elvis out on the course, especially late in the race when people were hurting and were looking for pretty much any diversion to take their minds off the pain for a bit. I personally only had one bit of pain towards the end but it was totally managable.

After crossing the finish line Miguelvis started to throw up and was promptly carted off to the medical tent, which he later raved about. One thing that is for sure, the organization of this year's event was a hit! I went and got a massage and then was off to the finish line party where Miguelvis and I spent a couple hours having people come up to us as ask if they could have their pictures taken with us. Heck yeah Baby, we'ere Elvis and this is Vegas! We were also offered money for the chance to have a picture taken with us but we turned that away, we are, after all, men of the people.

On a side note, I absolutely crushed my marathon PR, I mean crushed it. My old PR was 4:47:19 set last year at the Lost Dutchman Marathon. My new PR, well, that’s posted below.

I am definitely running as Elvis again, heck, I may run many more marathons dressed as Elvis, it’s just way too fun for everyone! As a matter of fact, I am saying here and now that I will run the Mississippi Blues Marathon as Elvis, it is his home state after all.