Monday, January 31, 2011

Crockett, Tubbs and Me

This week's post title channels an all-too-significant part of my high school social life.  why? Because Crockett and Tubbs were the undercover drug team in the be-all-end-all show of the 1980's, Miami Vice.  Growing up near Miami, it was a big deal to me.  I'll admit somewhat abashedly that my high school senior picture involves a white suit, pink shirt and - yes - a thin white leather tie.  Hey, we all make fashion mistakes on our way to finding our own sense of personal style.  Right?

So, what's the connection?  Well, last week marked my second consecutive in the 80's, and - surprisingly - I seem to be functioning and responding rather well to the training stresses.  The last two weeks came out as follows:

Week of January 17 to January 23
  • Monday - 6 miles easy
  • Tuesday - 12 miles progression (last full progression mile in 6:12!)
  • Wednesday - 10 miles moderate
  • Thursday - AM: 5+ miles recovery; PM: 6+ miles recovery
  • Friday - 13 miles with a lame/aborted progression
  • Saturday - 9+ miles
  • Sunday - 22 miles
Total Mileage: 83.6 miles

Week of January 24 to January 30
  • Monday -Elliptical, weights, core
  • Tuesday - 12 miles, with 6 x 3 mins at 10K-5K pace
  • Wednesday - 15 miles "easy"
  • Thursday - 8.5 miles, easy
  • Friday - 10+ miles, progressing to half-marathon pace
  • Saturday - 15 miles, with 5 at marathon pace+10%
  • Sunday - 20+ miles "easy" (but very, very hilly)
Total Mileage: 82 miles

The first of these two weeks marks the end of my "base phase", and the idea is not to exceed that peak mileage during the next 10 pre-taper weeks, allowing the additional quality - which began last Tuesday - to serve as the new stressor.  While I'm certainly tired, I can't believe I'm in as good shape as I am, handlign the volume and bits of quality with much success.  In addition, I'm feeling strong in the core and upper body, only minimal hip soreness (and only intermittently) and am recovering well from harder efforts.

Last week's Friday>Saturday>Sunday sequence was unprecedented for me, and should serve me well as I prepare for the Holiday Lake 50++K on February 12th.  This will be my first time running an ultra-distance with a bib pinned to my shirt, and I'm nervously excited about the experience.  The course comes out to ~33.25 miles, and I have NO IDEA what a reasonable time/pace goal should be.  I am thinking (hoping?) that anything under 4:45 would be reasonably respectable, but - mostly - I'm looking forward to joining the fraternity of ultra-runners, around whom I seem to have spent a lot of time, and for whom I seem to have a natural affinity.  I cannot wait to be a bona fide part of their ranks.

On a non-running personal note, the rest of my life has not been easy of late, due to a number of reasons from which I will spare my dear reader(s).  Let's just say that running is one thing over which I have control, where the results of putting in effort/work are tangible, and which demands of me only what I'm willing to give it.

More later.  Someday.

Thanks for reading. -ESG/Ron

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Boston Buildup - Take 2 & Other Miscellany

Well, as often happens, life has gotten in the way, and it's been a couple of weeks since my last post.  Things have been busy at home, at work and in other areas.  Winter has finally decided to behave like it's normal self, so that's been a factor, too.


In terms of running, the week of January 3-January 9 ended up like this:
  • Monday (1/3) - XT
  • Tuesday - 6+M
  • Wednesday - 12.4M
  • Thursday -AM: 6+M easy; PM: 6+M easy
  • Friday -10+M
  • Saturday - 7+M, with 4x20 secs strides
  • Sunday - 12.65 sloooowwwww miles on snowy trails with my ultra-pal Nate
Total for the week = 64+ miles

The week of January 10-January 16 marked the first week of a "formal" - meaning fully planned - schedule (which of course ended up being tweaked).  It came out like this:
  • Monday (1/10) - 6M
  • Tuesday - 10+M, progression run
  • Wednesday - 10.3M (103 laps on 0.10-mile indoor track during massive snowstorm)
  • Thursday -AM: 6M recovery on TM; PM: 4M recovery on TM, plus weights and core
  • Friday - 8.3+M progression (at dusk, after waiting around court nearly the whole day)
  • Saturday - 10+M, easy
  • Sunday - ~19M on hilly, snowy, slippery, roads with a nasty headwind for about two-thirds of the run
Total for the week = 74+ miles

I've felt a few niggles in the outside of my hips, but I'm generally feeling smooth and strong, and have been able to take hills more powerfully than at any time in the past 8 or so months.  It also appears that my body continues to evolve, in my fifth year as a "runner".  My weight is consistently down about 4 pounds from this time last year, with the leanness seemingly accompanied by more muscle.  I feel lithe and strong, and while often tired, I sense that I'm capable of feats of endurance and strength unlike anything I've done before.  We'll simply have to wait and see if that's the case when it comes to perform in a race setting.


The next four weeks involve mileages of 83, 80, 77 and 77, with the week of February 7, 2011 including the Holiday Lake 50K++.  The "++" is the result of what some folks call "Horton Miles", bonus distance (at no extra charge!) named in honor of Holiday Lake Race Director and ultrarunning legend Dr. David Horton.  The preliminary intelligence I've gleaned about this race is that it's in the middle of nowhere but is a very runnable ultra course, consisting of two 16+-mile loops, with runners changing directions at the end of the loop (thus doing the same loop in reverse the second time).  Given its location in the western part of Virginia, the weather and conditions could be anywhere from 50 sunny degrees to sub-freezing with - like last year - half-a-foot or more of snow on the ground.  I'll try to gather more information about this race and preview it later.  I know, I know . . . you all can hardly wait.


Finally, I'll mention that I finished a must-read for any endurance athlete: Bill McKibben's Long Distance: Testing the Limits of Body and Spirit in a Year of Living Strenuously, [Amazon link] where one of the world's foremost  environmental thinkers recounts the year he dedicated himself to training like an elite/Olympic Nordic skier.  A thorough review may follow separately, but suffice it to say that while McKibben was prepared to test his physical limits, he had no idea - as the re-released title indicates - that his mental, emotional and spiritual strength would be subject to even greater rigors when his father confronted rapid-onset terminal cancer .  The book is full of thought-provoking reflections, and in particular eloquently conveys the solitary nature of the internal struggle/mission of the endurance athlete.  McKibben certainly "gets it", and I for one hope that his eloquence might help others understand what drives people like him (and me) to continue to push and push despite knowing that we'll never achieve any objective measure of glory, victory or elite status.

That's all for now.  thanks for reading. -ESG/Ron

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise

This first post of 2011 involves looking back in order to be able to look forward.  The title (admittedly a tad more melancholy than necessary) is the name of a song by one of my new favorite artists, The Avett Brothers.  They make rocking bluesy alternative folk music that boasts some of the most poignant lyrics I've heard in ages.

For me, the song's title couplet essentially distills 2010/2011 into eight words.  Last year seemed to involve a head full of doubt.  Still, despite that chronic hindrance (and some physical ailments, too), I managed to log 2860+ miles, run five full marathons and help a multiple world champion ultrarunner break a 100-mile race course record in 90-degree temps.  I also met some amazing people, and established some close new friendships.  Still, I raced with a pervasive lack of confidence, fueled by GI woes, hip problems and - undeniably - a lack of mental toughness when it came time to pin on a numbered bib.

But I realize that the 55 miles per week which I averaged for the year are - as they say - "in the bank."  I gained racing experience, including up-and-personal observations of a world-class competitor.  I also managed to get through a major career change, the death of my father and other personal challenges.

The entire song (and album) is worth a listen (or a hundred), but here's the most running-specific quatrain as I ponder 2011:
There was a dream and one day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it
And there was a kid with a head full of doubt
So I’ll scream til I die and the last of those bad thoughts are finally out

So, with a 50+K, then Boston, then Tough Mudder New England, then a 50-Miler (TBD) and then - hopefully, running gods willing - a stab at a sub-3-hour marathon in the late fall (when the weather is more predictable than it tends to be, say, on Columbus Day weekend in Chicago) on the 2011 Running To-Do List, my plate is Thanksgiving Day full. Yet, I have to remind myself that I am still a relatively new (if not young) runner, with only three years of consistent mileage behind me, and clearly not laden with abundant natural talent or the most killer inborn racing instinct. 2011 thus brings a Road (and Trail?) Full of Promise.

Of course, many challenges and obstacles remain, but I have a strong sense that I am poised for a breakthrough year.  In terms of running, those breakthroughs will reflect on the clock.  In terms of life, we'll just have to wait and see.  With that in mind, the Avett Brothers offer this useful missive:

When you're loved by someone, you're never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it.

A Happy, Healthy and Successful (as defined on your own terms) New Year to all.

Thanks for reading. -ESG/Ron