As of late I find myself faced with questions, doubts, and new ideas concerning sport, a space I have come to realize is part and parcel for most athletes. Goals are born, worked towards, shifted, achieved, abandoned for new ones. I find myself questioning much of what I’m doing as a runner, what my goals are, what my focus should be. Certain short-term things are known, but the bigger picture has become cloudy.
As of right now, I know two things: I am running a 50K on May 21st and I have to do certain types of runs between now and then in order to be ready. Second, I know I simply love to run, preferably in the mountains.
I believe the rest is flexible.
My general goals have always revolved around distance. I am fascinated by the concept of going far under one’s own power and was drawn to serious running by the classic nature of the marathon. Perhaps I am also attracted to distance because I seem to be better at it. I’ve never been fast, but I seem to possess the ability to go pretty far, finding enjoyment in the mental and physical aspects of doing so.
In recent weeks, however, I’ve made a discovery in my running- that going as fast and hard as I can is fun. My once-weekly track workouts have opened a new door and shed fresh light on aspects of running that I’ve generally always avoided, intentionally or not: namely speed and intensity. In distance running, at least the type I practice, one has to be mindful of always maintaining a reserve, primarily so as to not get stuck in the mountains somewhere, facing an epic limp home. But the track has taught me the joy of pushing hard until there’s nothing left. Be it a 200 meter or a single mile, I find it refreshing to cross the finish line and punch the clock, head spinning after making the last turn and wondering if I’m going to collapse before I make the line.
This leads me to wonder about a new approach, combined with new running goals. Perhaps after this 50K I’ll change my focus, building myself back up as a different sort of runner. Despite my achievements- many marathon and ultramarathon distance runs, be they solo or official, I’ve always felt a little bit like a hack because, well…I’m pretty slow. So I’m thinking about starting over, focusing on shorter, faster distances, and building back up to the marathon. Only this time, really pushing for a fast time (relatively speaking), perhaps ultimately trying to qualify for Boston; currently a sub 3:15 for my 35-39 age group (I just turned 35).
Have I dodged running fast because I know it’s hard, because it scares me? In many ways, I believe so. It’s something I would like to overcome.
Am I allowing myself too much drift, to much slack in walking away from previous ideas and plans in pursuit of new ones?
Who knows. There is certainly something to be said for finding something very difficult to achieve and sticking with the plan to get there. In some senses, I feel like I’ve failed here, namely in my recent triathlon pursuits. But on the other hand, are we not to allow ourselves experimentation? Is it truly something to hang one’s head about if three months into training you find you’re just not that motivated about that particular sport or distance? Good always comes from any endeavor, whether it’s seen through or not. Though I never did do a triathlon, I overcame my fear of swimming, to the point I can get in the water and swim a mile without fear. That is certainly worth something even though I never crossed a finish line.
Running will always remain a constant in some way, I have no doubts about that. It is the sole physical activity that I’ve been able to regularly do without losing interest at some point. So the question is simply what kind of running I want to do. Perhaps I’d like to enter the mainstream for a while; race some 5Ks, work on my speed and form, and try to start establishing some PRs in the classic distances, working my way up.
On a side note, I believe I’m going to stop my running summaries here. It’s redundant and too focused on numbers. I’ll try to insert the link to my RunningAhead training log instead.
Tuesday: 4 miles, track. 1 mile warmup, 8 x 200, 4 x 400, 1 mile cool down
Friday: Ross Training- Ross Interval Challenge: 23 minutes. 1 mile warmup. 12 burpees, 24 pushups, 36 body weight squats, 400 meter sprint. Repeat sequence four times as fast as possible.
Saturday: 5 miles, easy trail running. To Devils Gate dam and back with Mushka. Mushka met her first rattlesnake and didn’t do anything stupid!
Sunday: Climbing; bouldering session at Stoney Point
Total: 11 miles
Mushka Miles: 5 miles
This week kicked my butt. Not the workouts, but going back to work after two weeks off. I was exhausted, having trouble mustering the energy to run much. That’s OK, I’ll pick up the miles again this week. Time is running out to get in my long runs before the 50K on May 21st…gotta get in a 15+, 20+, and 25 mile prior to tapering for the race, which really only leaves the next couple weekends. I guess I know what I’m doing at 5 am for the next few Saturdays…
On cross training: Ross completely kicked my butt with the interval challenge. During the workout I felt good (despite it being pretty intense…I had a sky-high heart rate from the first moment). The next day I felt like I was hit by a truck- I haven’t been that sore in a long time. I didn’t realize how serious of an ab workout burpees are, especially when followed by pushups (which are essentially a plank), followed by squats (which are more core than one realizes). I’ve been through the P90x ab workout countless times and have never felt as sore afterward; Ross is definitely on to something with the short, ultra-high intensity training. I look forward to mixing in 3-4 more of his workouts per week.
Ross is the man, I love his style of workout.
On the note of high-intensity, I’m beginning to feel the payoffs from my track running as well. Coming from a mileage-oriented focus, I’ve never really worked on speed or intervals, but I’m finding they easily translate into longer running. I don’t have to slowly pound the trails for hours on every run; short, high-intensity runs/intervals seem to do the trick in half the time. I was worried I wouldn’t be logging enough mileage to feel OK on long runs, but I think the reverse is true- I’m actually feeling really strong when running long these days. I think one long run/week is plenty when mixed with short, hard days (including cross training).
Finally, I climbed outside for the first time in many months on Sunday, a two hour evening session bouldering at Stoney Point. Given all my time off and a complete lack of climbing-specific training over the last year, I was blown away to able to cruise some favorites there…including Leaping Lizard (V5). I never expected to pull that off after so much time off! A really fun evening, I forgot how much I miss climbing. I’d love to get on a rope next weekend if there’s time.
Monday: Hike, 7 Miles…Finishing Joshua Tree crossing
Tuesday: Run, road: 3.1 miles, easy
Wednesday: Run, trail: 4 miles to waterfall, with Mushka
Friday: Run, mixed: 9 Miles, Rose Bowl loop from home
Saturday: Run, trail: 5.7 Miles, Echo Mtn.
Sunday: Run, mixed: 5 Miles, Devils Gate Damn from home- with Mushka
Total Run: 26.8 Miles
Total Hiked: 7 Miles
Weekly Total: 33.8 Miles
Mushka Miles: 9 Miles
The dog is running better and better! More confident, fewer distractions, she follows two feet behind me. She’s running FAR better in the city as well; not getting spooked by cars and doing well on the leash. It looks like she’s really coming into her own as a runner.
I never got in a very long run this week; it was my birthday on Friday and family plans throughout the weekend messed my schedule up. Overall, still a productive week I’m happy with. The New Balance Minimus, both road and trail, are proving to be excellent shoes. All my mileage has been in them with the exception of my hike.
Looking forward to a new week. I have to do something over 18 miles this coming weekend.
I’m questioning whether or not I should sign up for the North Face 50 Mile in Sausalito next December. I hear it sells out quickly…
Monday: 5 miles, easy trail
Tuesday: 4 miles, easy trail (with Mushka)
Wednesday: 11 miles trail, mixed terrain…lot’s of downed trees, stream crossings, scrambling. 2:11:45
Thursday: off…not feeling good
Saturday: off…feeling better
Sunday: Beginning of Joshua Tree Solo on CRHT: biked 37.22 miles followed by ~31 miles of hiking.
Total: 51 Miles. Due to overall difficulty, I’m counting the hiking miles. Good training for ultra anyhow; many hours on the feet.
Mushka Miles: 4 Miles. I gave super-pup a rest this week.
Running thoughts for the upcoming week:
1. Recover from the weekend
2. Look into a shoe with more structure for everything over ~20 miles; something with more cushion but little heel-toe drop. NB MT101s are 10mm. The Brooks Cascadia 6 is 11mm, pretty close.
3. My feet did really well in J Tree this weekend, no blisters or issues.
4. Get in a 20 mile run next weekend.
5. Begin weight training/crossfit again.
“…It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially when my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off- then, I account it high time to get to see as soon as I can…”
-from Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
And so it is for me, only I take to the wilderness instead.
Thus the logistics begin; how do I get to Joshua Tree, cross it via the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT), and get back to my car, alone? The initial plan was to drive across the park, dropping a water cache halfway, and leave my car at the North Entrance trailhead, one terminus of the CRHT. At that point I figured I’d bike into town, catch the bus from Twenty Nine Palms back to Joshua Tree, and bike up to Black Rock Canyon, the other trail terminus. Settled. I was packed and ready to go on Friday. And then I didn’t feel well, so I postponed until Saturday. Which didn’t work either. So Sunday it was. One problem with Sunday, however: no bus service. So what. Tired of missing this trip continuously, I figured I’d just suck it up, bike the whole way to Black Rock, and then hike back. So I did. Only I was still set on trying to do the whole trip in 24 hours or less (excluding drive).
Roughly 37 hot and slow miles later, I had finished the entire park and arrived in Black Rock. I kept reassuring myself, though not so sure, that I’d still be in fine shape to put in at least 30 miles on the CRHT. The ranger at Black Rock sure seemed skeptical, but played along well and directed me to a good place to lock my bike. After a brief rest, lunch, and tank-up on water, I was ready to hit the dirt.
Nobody seems to know the proper mileage of this trail. My map calculations said 39 miles. The back country board said 35. Their trail sign said 37, but upon finishing at the other side, the same markers read 38. The entire trail is signed every mile; I found this to be either helpful or annoying, depending upon my mood. But it does help with pacing if you’re pushing hard.
The miles start dropping, time rolls by. I begin to entertain the idea that I’m doing the Marathon des Sables…a good majority of this trail is sand, making it a bit tougher. You swear you should be going just a little faster for your efforts.
While crossing a back country road I’m approached by people in an SUV for help, they’re looking for someone.
“Sure”, I say, “I’m doing the whole trail. Who am I looking for?”.
“Well, he’s been missing since June…”
I didn’t see anyone or anything of that nature, but it gets you wondering when it’s approaching 90 degrees and you’re not exactly sure how long your water will last.
My legs are doing really well given the cycling of the day. I reach my water cache, tank-up again, and keep moving. I stopped for probably 20 minutes on the entire hike. 8’s became the theme of the day: stopping for a quick rest and food every 8 miles.
Given I had left the car on my bike at 8AM, come sunset I was beginning to feel a bit cooked; at this point I had logged about 22 miles on foot and 37 on bike. I began to seriously entertain the thought of pushing all the way through to my car that night. Amazing, beautiful, and comical: the internal struggle, the voices in one’s head during long events of this nature. One minute I’ve talked myself into it. And then I reason my way out of it. I’m not sure how long this went on, but finally the more rational side won…after I tripped on a rock and fell face-first into the sand in the pitch dark. Maybe it’s time to hang it up; after all, that’s what all this crap in my pack is for.
I ducked off trail and camped in the scrub, taking a little wind shelter where I could get it. The water boiled, the ramen was delicious, and half my bottles were emptied. A gorgeous night sleeping in the sand, wind whipping up in gusts until around 4AM.
Sunrise, boiling more ramen, a kangaroo rat playing the role of court jester while I stayed in my bag and ate and drank.
My feet hurt. My legs hurt. My head hurts.
But all is well.
Six miles and I’ll be sitting back in my car…no longer wanting to knock hats off strangers, but savoring a tall iced drink.
I missed my 24 hour goal by one hour because I slept a little late…and befriended a kangaroo rat.
Day 1: 37 bike, 31 hike
Day 2: 7 hike
Totals: 37 bike, 38 hike
VERY impressed with my new Montbell Tachyon Anorak windshirt and Dynamo windpants. Stuff them in your pocket and you don’t know they’re there, yet they provide great warmth. They have an excellent cut. I think the anorak has the best hood of any garment I own. Another new piece I had on this trip was the REI OXT longsleeve top. Overall, it did well; great sun protection, breathability is decent, and it’s pretty comfortable. I might have wanted to size up one to an XL; not having it as close to the skin would’ve likely felt better…but then again, I don’t like baggy. Warning: this shirt will reek like hell after a day’s work.
Other than that, it was my standard SUL gearlist, though no shelter or spare clothes.
Here are a few bad screen shots of me from the race in Temecula, CA. I did it with the same the same two students from the previous Spartan Race, Juan and Colin. Good to know I can still hang with the 18 year olds…Juan finished about 3 minutes ahead of Colin and I, Colin crossing the line about 15 seconds before me. We had a little of everything thrown at us by nature that day; rain, ice, wind, sun…
A great day getting dirty and banged up on the 8-9 mile trail running obstacle course.