Summary March 4-10

Sunday March 4 AM 5.1 Miles, 740′ 40:02 Power Line trails, relatively quick trip up and down, feeling a bit soggy from the previous day.
PM 1 Mile 8:17 Light shakeout run to end the day, things feel pretty loose.

Monday March 5 AM 1 Mile 8:13 Unsure how busy I was going to be, so I decided to get the early AM mile in to keep the streak alive, and cross my fingers that I’d be able to do some “real” running later.
PM 5.1 Miles, 740′ 41:17 Power Line Trail, a student cancelled on me, giving me enough time to get a quick 5 in before the sun set. I decided to run in a more minimal shoe, to try to put a bit of a built in limit on my speed on the technical portions due to the lack of protection underfoot, I’m not sure it actually slowed me down, but it certainly made me a lot more mindful with regard to where I placed my foot on the rockiest sections of trail.

Tuesday March 6 AM 13.2 Miles 4880′ 2:45 Drove out to Mt. Tammany to try to muscle through some vertical gain and loss over some exceptionally technical terrain. 4 Consecutive summits while self-crewing from my car in the parking lot. Finished the run in the midst of a pretty substantial bonk, and rather dehydrated. 2 Miles Barefoot 16:48 Done immediately upon returning home, it felt great to lose the shoes after beating my feet up on typical NJ rocky trails for a few hours.

Wed March 7 AM 10.2 Miles 1480′ 1:24 Double trip on the Power Line loop, academic requirements shortened my morning, so I had to decide between more miles, or a better view point, miles won out.

Thurs March 8 AM 11.2 Miles 1300′ 1:36 Schooley’s Mountain via Columbia trail. Since I’d been trying to concentrate on hitting some more substantial uphill, I thought it would be best to hit up Schooley’s instead of Allamuchy. I typically access the mountain via ~3 miles of rail-trails before beginning the ~5 miles of up and down that the mountain provides, so the vertical gain and loss is fundamentally concentrated to the middle 5 miles of the route, with no real relief from vertical change. It’s not the highest local point, but the trails seem to go straight up the mountain, and straight back down, forcing you to crest the top twice in each loop, with very few switchbacks, and almost no stretches of true flat. Bonked pretty hard on the rail-trail return, only to have it exacerbated by my body’s acute inability to adjust to the ~70ish degree temps we had; a far cry from the 30’s and 40’s of late. Also, first time I’ve lost my shirt since Jan 1st, complete with some tree-induces scrapes from the descent, man it feels good to be outside with that degree of exposure again.
PM 2 Miles Barefoot 18:20 Shakeout immediately upon returning home, trying to keep the calves loose, and remind my heels to fully release.
PM part deux 5 Miles 360′ 41:30 Broken Shin Loop. Relatively light group this week, Just the Bob’s, Brian and myself, everyone took it easy for the most part, keeping it as a decent shakeout trot.

Fri March 9 AM 20.4 2030′ 2:39 Ran the first ~10 on local roads at ~7:30 pace, then quickly changed footwear for a double loop on the power line access trails. Things felt great until ~mile 12 where the bonking started rearing its ugly head. Bonk number one was relatively easy to recover from, sucked down a GU, and kept things moving, but ~5 miles later it hit again, with no sugary GU left to save me, I had no choice but to grin and bear it. Strangely enough, after the inclines were done, and I was able to run down some technical downhills, my spirits lifted, carrying me through to the end with relative ease, at a much quicker clip.

Sat March 10 AM 15 Miles, 500′ 1:56 Met Dave and Jeff for a wicked early pavement session (as in pre-dawn) through the greater Denville area. Things felt surprisingly solid/consistent throughout the run, with a minor low point in the 13ish mile range, but I think it was more related to knowing that the finish was near than it was a metabolic lag.

Totals: 91.2 Miles, 12030′ Vert, 13h15m 

This was without a doubt, the bonkiest week in recent memory, it seems like every time I went out for more than 60 minutes, (excepting this morning, where I took a GU at the 1hr mark for a 2hr run) I had to struggle through some sort of depletion-oriented low point. Granted, in the shorter runs it was only for the final mile or so, but on the longer, more sustained efforts, it seemed as if I’d hit that low point several times. While the bonk is inherently unpleasant, with it’s grogginess, and associated low mood, it’s good training for the inevitable low points that a 50 mile race is going to provide, as well as an opportunity to look inward, and find some of that extra grit. On a positive note, a 7 day 90 mile effort hasn’t left me too beat up, in fact short of the usual soreness, nothing is out of order.

The naked runner returns…

Power Lines!

Tammanification

This past weekend I (finally) signed up for the NF 50 Miler at Bear Mountain, and as a result, I’ve become less confident that my training has been on track for this distance, especially since I have roughly 8 weeks left to go. So, while I’ve definitely been racking up the miles, and a reasonable amount of vert, I was feeling like It’d been far too long since I really tried to attack some vertical gain and loss, via hill repeats, and Mt. Tammany is the nearest place where I can do so.
The mountain ascends 1220 feet in ~1 mile, then loses it all again in the following 2.3. The ascent is rocky, rooted, and full of talus, with sections so steep that to maintain any semblance of speed/feeling like a mountain runner, you have to proceed with your nose to the ground, on all fours. The runnable sections are for the most part right in between the gradient where you have to make a conscious decision to run or power-hike, because the difference in speed/energy output between the two is infinitesimal at best. Follow this with a modest stretch across the ridge, and another mile and a half or so of quad busting technical downhill, and that’s the course. Granted, the loop on the mountain is an extremely modest 3.3 miles, just an eyelash over a 5k, but with 1220′ of gain and loss, and the entirety of the distance being exceptionally technical in nature. 
So, after taking care of some of life’s requirements this morning, I hopped in the car, drove to the mountain and began running. The last time I was there, Dave and I made the trip to the top 3 times, (note: difference in vert, this time I had my barometric altimeter, which I tend to find more accurate than GPS) so, naturally this being over a month later, I would have to do at least one more, and try to do it at a faster clip. The days total was 4 summits before my legs became achy, and I started worrying about my hydration levels after very dark urine midway through the fourth trip.

Here’s the Breakdown:
Ascent 1: 18:43           Descent 1 18:59
Ascent 2  21:48           Descent 2 20:42
Ascent 3  22:43           Descent 3 20:10
Ascent 4  23:35           Descent 4 19:33

Total: 13.2 Miles  4880′  2h46m

After I got home, I decided to shakeout my legs a bit, and after beating my feet on technical trail for a few hours, it seemed reasonable to lose the shoes…. so, another 2 miles barefoot in 16:48

Worth doing hill repeats

Mt. Minsi in background

Muddy….

Summary Feb 26-March 3

Sunday Feb 26 AM 5.1 Miles 740′ 37:25 Power Line trails, I think this is a PR, but I’m honestly not sure, nor do I feel like going through my log to find out… if it’s not, it’s certainly close. Felt pretty snappy overall, we had a cold night the night before, which made the muddy parts of the trail freeze, making for better traction, and more secure footing.
PM Hash No mileage, no time, wasn’t keeping track. Limpy laid a pretty shiggy trail, full of briars rocks, boulders and hills. I’ve decided not to count the hashes as part of my mileage, since they’re much more socially oriented than they are actual running events….

Monday Feb 27 PM 3.2 Miles 690′ 27:43 Schooley’s Mtn. I was going to run 5-6 on the mountain, but I wasn’t feeling into it after the first lap, and had been extremely foolish with my footing which led to some overstretching of my left ankle. I did run into some pretty cool folks on the summit, it’s nice to see people out on the trails again, after a winter of fundamental solitude.
PM Part Deux 2 Miles 17:16 Barefoot shakeout. It feels wonderful to lose the shoes, I’d forgotten how great it feels.

Tuesday Feb 28 AM 12 Miles 1500′ 1:46 Allamuchy Double Summit. For some reason I keep on making wrong turns here, adding a few tenths… I really should pay more attention to the trail markers instead of running straight by them. Beautiful day overall, rather warm, and a wonderful summit.
PM 1 Mile 8:22 Shakeout, not quite warm enough to go naked foot but still nice to move the legs a bit and try to flush them out.

Wed Feb 29 AM 5.1 Miles 740′ 39:19 Power Line trails, snowing pretty heavily, but not sticking too much, making for a really fun run. I’ve always liked running through the snow, something about it is very humanizing.
PM 1 Mile 8:06 Cold, rainy shakeout.

Thurs March 1 AM 5.1 Miles 740′ 40:49 Rainy, cold, muddy less than ideal running conditions, but the slipping and sliding was both fun and challenging. I run this route a lot, and it’s always a very different kind of experience, especially when the weather is as mercurial as it’s been in recent weeks, in spite of it’s lack of view points, these trails provide a wide variety of challenges, and their proximity to my home is ideal.
PM 5 Miles 360′ 36:51 Broken Shin Loop, trying to earn my pavement sessions by picking up the tempo a bit, and really attacking the uphills (small though they may be).

Fri March 2 AM 5.1 Miles 740′ 41:19 This route has gotten progressively slower this week. I’d have liked to run a lot more, but I had to travel into NYC to play in a Mock Audition for the Vienna Philharmonic, so time was a bit of an issue.

Sat March 3 AM 20 Miles 1220′ 2:38 Long run through Denville with Dave. We started at a very reasonable pace (~830-9 minute miles) but after mile 10 we progressively amped up the tempo, running several miles in the mid 7’s, and dropping to 7:10 pace by mile 17, followed by 3 miles back at 8-proper. Pretty good session overall, and it’s amazing how slow 8’s feel after several miles in the low 7’s.

Totals: 64.6 Miles, 6730′ Vert, 8h41m

February Totals: 270.75 Miles 22760′ Vert  38h4m (Vert is low, many runs were not logged)

Not exactly the most productive week, in fact, I think this week goes on record for having the most aborted runs, be it failure to start, or abbreviating planned distances. With the Mock Audition on Friday, I spent a tremendous amount of time in the practice room over the course of the week. I also had to put together my CV and a recording for some potential summer work, which took more time and energy than I had originally anticipated. Hopefully next week I’ll be able to get a more substantial amount of vertical gain, as well as get back into more training-oriented total mileage, as opposed to the sort of resting on my laurels distances that I’ve run in the past 2 weeks.

Since I haven’t been doing anything overly inspiring on the mountain, here are some of the best musicians in the world making wonderful things happen.


Why I run Pt. 2

In the past several days, I’ve been questioned by several people as to how and why I run as much as I do, and in spite of my best efforts, I often feel as if I fail to properly explain myself. The following is my attempt to reconcile this, and articulate my thoughts with regard to the run. This is, in fact, my second attempt at articulating this point, the first can be seen here.

Why run? To the best of my understanding, the world we presently live is abundant with complications, and as time continues to pass, the list of life’s complexities continues to mount. Many of these things are good, such as the high speed internet I’m using to post this, or the electricity that helps me make my morning coffee, and powers my refrigerator helping me store food for longer than it would keep otherwise. Unfortunately, in my opinion at least, we as a culture are becoming increasingly dependent on these technologies to maintain our level of happiness/contentment. More so, in the days of smart phones, constant e-mailing and facebooking, the individual is afforded little to no time to truly be alone, in silence. Without this solitude it’s increasingly difficult to develop a sense of self-reliance, self-worth, and independence. In addition, there is an alarming rate of entitled recreation. As a society, we’re increasingly obsessed with ease of recreation, assuming that avoiding work is better than doing work, thus increasing our time in front of the TV, consuming the simplest forms of entertainment, and pursuing recreational activities that require less and less from the recreationalist.

As a runner, philosophically, one must refute that which our society has told us is the best way to enjoy oneself. Instead of pursuing ease, the pursuit is a challenge. More so, the runner does not actively pursue a variety, but rather chooses to indulge, often (as in my case) abundantly in one, very simple activity. Running. But, Why? I’m sure that there’s some sort of chemical reaction going on that leads to the addictive nature of the activity: endorphins, the runners high, whatever you want to call it, but that’s an infinitesimal part at best, in fact, I’m not entirely sure that it’s a part you should consider.  The reasons to run, to me at least, are a lot deeper than the simple pursuit of a buzz.

It begins, with freedom. There is nothing like running up a mountainside, unencumbered, the wind in your hair as you come across a wide panoramic view, brow dripping with sweat, legs aching, and heart pumping out of your chest. It’s an ineffable degree of freedom, known only to the runner. Often I’m asked why I don’t pursue other mountain/outdoor sports, such as kayaking, mountain biking, backpacking (I do on occasion backpack) and the answer is simple. I don’t want to have to deal with that much stuff. The more stuff I need to carry, the less in touch with myself and my surroundings I feel, in fact, this reluctance to carry anything is a large factor in my minimal clothing choices with regard to summer running, as something as simple as a shirt, if deemed unnecessary in the climate can infringe on this primal experience in nature.

Bipedal travel in itself is freeing, forgoing all technology to cover distances on foot. I’ve traveled some pretty substantial trail with pack, at a hikers pace, but having the sensation that I could do more, mileage, faster, forced me to eventually leave the pack at home, and pursue the same terrain as a runner. Once the gear is reduced to its most basic requirements, of foot protection and clothing, the experience on trail becomes vividly different, more alive, fewer ties to the world from whence you came, and a full-on immersion into the present. Additionally, on trail, at high speed, the mind is inherently preoccupied with navigating the technical aspects of the run, avoiding roots and rocks, negotiating the pace, and regulating the breath. This forces the runner to constantly be truly in the present, something that in my experience is often lacking in day to day life.

It’s also a pursuit of simplicity. As our lives become more complex, an opportunity to relieve one of the anguish of decision making is paramount. The run is simply binary, run, don’t run, there are no other decisions to make. This may sound boring to many, and I think is often why people choose to provide distractions (ipods etc) when they begin running (as I once did as well) but in reality, the simplicity is part of the joy, it’s an escape.

The challenge cannot go unspoken either. While the act of running is fundamentally basic, the act of running fast, especially over greater distances is a constant challenge. The beauty of the challenge is that the rules are set in stone, distance over time, no curveballs, and no last minute game changes. With this consistent challenge, there is inspiration, as the stopwatch reads a smaller number, and the legs feel less sore, progress is abundantly evident. However, greater challenges are always availed, and regardless of physical conditioning, a hard struggling session is bound to show up unannounced. Not to sound masochistic, but as much as the high points are elating, the low points are really where the beauty happens. While many people may not think that finding yourself miles from your home, depleted and dehydrated is a positive thing, it’s the place where inner strength is tested the most, and lessons regarding strength and weakness are truly learned.

I am not a masochist. I certainly don’t run to hurt myself, and wouldn’t actively pursue depletion, if I didn’t think depletion had something to teach me. The run, to me, is the most basic thing I can find, and there’s a certain degree of sustainability in that. All I need is a pair of shoes, and enough clothing to cover my naughty bits, and I can pursue a degree of aliveness that few other activities even come close to. Yes, there are downsides. Yes, it’s indulgent, selfish even, and occupies a tremendous amount of my time and energy. In fact, I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that running, be it mine, or a significant others, has cost me meaningful relationships on more than one occasion. That said, the pursuit of mileage allows me to feel free, unencumbered, and truly human. It grants me access to the deepest parts of my spirit, and constant bipedal travel really puts distance in perspective, making me more aware of how much energy is required to sustain our daily lives. So while it may seem a little bit crazy (and perhaps it is) to think this way, I know that the soreness in my legs will go away, my belly will again be full, and when I return home from the mountain, peel off my shoes, glance at my calloused feet, and treat myself to a hot shower, I feel an increased sense of self, and know that tonight I will sleep well, that my time with a book in my hand is well earned.

Accessible only by means of bipedal travel

Summary Feb 19-25

Sunday Feb 19, 1 Mile, 8:31 Typical shakedown mile, figure I should take a couple of days extra light after the 8 day 117 mile effort….. things felt good, legs a bit heavy, but nothing unusual


Monday Feb 20, 1 Mile, 7:46 Same as previous day, it’s strange how lacking my life feels without substantial mileage… In spite of a full day of class/rehearsals/practicing/generally doing things I need/should be doing, the omission of a morning and evening run makes the day seem… empty

Tuesday Feb 21, 6.4 Miles, 270′ 50:49 Had to get some work done on my car, landed a ride back home from dropping it off from the shop, and relied on legs to retrieve it. Tried to add as much vert as I could en route to the shop, but alas, only a few hundred feet. Everything felt very soggy, heavy legs, and general lethargy, could have sworn I was running 9+ minute miles… but apparently I was an eyelash under 8’s…

Wed Feb 22, AM 5.1 Miles, 740′ 39:53 Power Line Trails, slightly up tempo, not pushing too hard since this is supposed to be a “recovery” week, Again, things felt relatively soggy, not particularly weak, but certainly not what I’d consider strong.
PM 1 Mile, 8:02 Usual evening shakeout, just trying to get back into my normal rhythm/swing of things.


Thurs Feb 23, AM 12.1 Miles 1650′ 1:48:26 Allamuchy Double-summit, although I foolishly took a wrong turn adding a half a mile, and some vert, you’d think that I would know the trail system by now, but apparently my autopilot is lacking. Beautiful warm day, and it feels fantastic to be on the mountain proper after a few days of not really running/hitting the pavement/running the local power line trails. Things still don’t feel 100% strong, but then again, I think I’ve completely forgotten what truly fresh legs feel like, and they’re certainly no worse off than what I’ve been dealing with for the past several weeks, so I suppose I should consider myself fundamentally recovered from last weeks mileage stacking PR.
PM 5 Miles, 360′ 36:54 Broken Shin Loop. I started out with the group but after about a mile… maybe an eyelash more, a cloud of darkness seemed to cloud my brain, causing me to simply take off up the hill. I’m not sure what exactly it was, but I seemed immediately confronted with my own interpretations of personal failures, inequities, and all other such things that seem to linger in the sub-conscious. Needless to say, I felt an insatiable urge to continue to rest of the run in solitude, and picked up my pace significantly to earn some space/enjoy the rhythm of a few miles run harder than I would have planned for the back 5 of a 17 mile day….

Fri Feb 24, 5.1 Miles, 740′ 40:14 Feeling a bit beat up from the previous day, and having a substantial amount of professional commitments to attend to throughout the day, it seemed like a good day to lay low, nevermind the rain, and subsequent shiggy trail conditions. I did, however, manage to stretch my ever-sketchy left ankle more than I’d like on a slippery rock, and convinced that I had rolled it, found myself running while cursing in torrents and knotting my fists, only to realize after several hundred yards that it was feeling normal.

Sat Feb 25, 15 Miles, 620′ 1:53:32 Up-tempo pavement session with Dave and Jeff. Legs felt certifiably like crap (although extended flat pavement sessions typically have that effect on me) but then again, running when my legs feel awful is a substantial part of my training plan. Having the company is certainly advantageous for getting my sleepy self out of bed in the morning, as well as sharing the burden of pacing throughout a run. Also, ankle felt fine, good sign.

Totals: 51.7 Miles, 7380′ Vert, 6h54m

It feels strange, and extremely self-righteous to say that a ~52 mile week is a down training week… even with 7380′ of vert. In addition to the mileage reduction, this week provided me with a noticeable amount of professionally-oriented stress, most notably agreeing to a Mock Audition in front of the Vienna Philharmonic coming up this Friday (3/2) which I’m still feeling substantially under-prepared for. This forced me to substantially increase my practice time (which was a bit easier to do given the mileage reduction, and abundance of energy I had as a result thereof) which is something I have no qualms with, but for reasons I cannot understand, I felt often overwhelmed both with the sisyphian amount of work I had to do, as well as consistently confronted with reminders of previous failures ranging from personal to professional to the fickle things, such as my mounting pile of laundry. As such, I’m forced to conclude that at this point in my life, ~52 miles in seven days is far too few for me to maintain a level head, feel balanced, and in touch with myself, my surroundings, my body, and keep my stress levels at bay. This being said, I don’t anticipate this upcoming week to be substantially better as far as base level stress is concerned, with a Mock Audition on Friday, an Audition to record, and a last minute orchestra gig on Saturday (there goes my chance to go for an indulgent weekend destination binge run!(but alas, I do need to pay my bills)) Hopefully an increase in general daily mileage will prove advantageous to my mental health.

Dave (left) and Jeff

Summary Feb 12-18

Sunday Feb 12, AM 5.1 Miles 740′ 44:50 Power Line trail, still obviously sore from the previous day’s 21 miler, but it’s good to get out and shake the legs, try a bit of vert, and hit some technical trail.
PM, 1 Mile, 8:18 Quickie form tuneup, making sure the feet/ankles feel loose and fluid.

Monday Feb 13, AM 5.1 Miles 740′ 42:52 Not feeling 100%, but nowhere near as beat up as Sunday morning, the way the body recovers never ceases to amaze me.
PM, 4.0 Miles, 230′ 31:35 Originally planned to do 6, but I ran after dinner, and little to my surprise, bean burrito’s are not a good choice for running food.

Tuesday Feb 14, AM 7.1 Miles 450′ :51 Woke up feeling unusually slow/lethargic, any sort of movement seemed to require herculean efforts, both physically, and mentally. After the 7 miles (of an attempted 10+) everything seemed to fundamentally shut-down, giving me a pretty good excuse to sit on the couch for the remainder of the day… sometimes, you just need to rest a bit.

Wed Feb 15, AM 10.15 Miles, 550′ 1:15 Snappy 10 miler at 7:30 pace, everything felt nice and fluid again, no extraneous effort to keep moving, damn it feels good to be a runner sometimes.
PM 2.0 Miles 15:53 Short little shakeout, a little faster than usual for these miles, but I wanted to see what it felt like to go quick-ish in a pair of VFF’s as well as confirm some stride-oriented suspicions that I wouldn’t have been able to do at 10 minute pace.

Thurs Feb 16, AM 11.6 Miles, 1500′ 1:49 Snowy/rainy/sleeting for the duration of my double-ascent of Allamuchy. I also had the distinct pleasure of crapping in the woods, something I haven’t had to do in a very long time (excepting backpacking trips, where crapping in the woods is your sole option) good thing I retained all of that knowledge from how to shit in the woods. Trails were getting increasingly shiggy, but the general discomfort of continuous precipitation (in spite of a hardshell) made the idea of a 20+ in this weather a grueling proposition for which I was neither mentally nor physically prepared.
PM 15 Miles, 1080′ 1:58:41 Tripled the Broken Shin Loop, timing my last loop to meet up with the Hashers totaling 26.6 miles on the day, with the last 15 at just under 8:00 pace.

Fri Feb 17, AM 11.6 Miles 1500′ 2:03 Wicked recovery run, everything is soft/sore…. ’nuff said.
PM 6.5 Miles, 740′ 59:28 I realized this afternoon that I was 6.5 miles short of running 100+ miles in seven consecutive days (Saturday the 11th-Friday the 17th) so I couldn’t not do it. Strangely enough, things felt great on the Power Line trail portion, although the final mile or so was a bit of a grind.

Sat Feb 18, AM 17 Miles 1280′ 2:20 Pavement Session with Dave. Trying to maintain low 8 pace for 17 miles after running as much as I had in the past few days (61.7 miles in 3 days) is certainly one of the more challenging things I’ve done lately. It’s amazing how much a partner can take the pace burden off of your shoulders, as well as prevent you from dropping to a walk when things get really tough. The whole run had several ups and downs, as my body is certainly beyond sore, and my glycogen supplies suspect at best.

Totals: 96.15 Miles, 8070′ Vert, 13h40m

All in all, a productive week, lots of mileage (100.15 if you go Sat-Fri, 117.15 in the past 8 days, 61.7 in the final 3) not exactly a lot of vert, but such is running in NJ. On running 100 miles in 7 days… well, that’s 20 miles greater than I’ve ever done in that time span, and while the actual time commitment isn’t that tremendous of a challenge, this sort of residual fatigue really wreaks havoc on the body, making my runs later in the week increasingly mercurial as I struggle to find some leftover glycogen stores/switch to burning what little body fat I’m carrying. Not to mention the sensation that someone has been beating my legs with a meat tenderizer for a week straight. More notable than the discomfort however, is the pure joy the past couple of days (61.7 miles in 3 days) have provided me. I ran in a snowstorm, and on one of the most beautiful afternoons of the year, through the mountains, and with a backdrop of the agrarian lifestyle that seems all but forgotten in society today. So while my legs may feel ravaged, and I’ve found myself still running beyond the bonk, it’s great to feel that alive, and in touch with myself/my surroundings. So after that effort, It’s time for a hoppy brew, a couple Nero’s, and then back onto the horse!

Snow Storm, Allamuchy

Same rock, 24 hours later

A man needs to eat…
Hoppy Brew! (Thanks for the recommendation Jeff!)

Awe, Mama, Ain’t it good to be alive!?

Yesterday morning I woke up obviously on the wrong side of the bed. I went out the door for my usual ~5 miler, still feeling low from this cold I’ve been battling, and within the first hundred yards I knew something wasn’t right with my left ankle/calf. So I bailed out at the half mile mark, making it a round trip mile, and overall a shitty start to the day. So I spent the day knotting my fists, cursing the misstep on Saturday that resulted in the twist exacerbating this long standing Achilles-oriented weakness. The ensuing funk lasted for the duration of the day, making me realize just how cathartic these runs are, and how much they keep me level-headed throughout the day.

Fast forward 24 hours. My ankle is still sore, but not un-runnable (in fact, the soreness is much higher in my leg than it was last time this happened, and no where near as tender). So, I went out this morning for my usual Allamuchy loop, deciding to power-hike more of the inclines to save the abuse on my left ankle, but still take advantage of the 50+ degrees outside. After a week of not really being “on” the mountain, the sheer act of summitting this small peak, and looking over the area from that vantage point is still exhilirating. I’ve hit this peak 7 times since the turn of the year, it refuses to get old (I actually thought the number was higher than this…). So, even with some mild discomfort, it feels good to be alive, forget the trivialities of every-day life, and simply run.

Summary Jan 22-28

Sun Jan 22, AM 10 Miles, 1:40:10 Snow covered Allamuchy. Spent the majority of the run breaking trail, and wishing I had a pair of microspikes since the traction was questionable at best. 3 separate falls, but I had the unique opportunity of knowing I was the only person who’d been out that far on those particular trails over the weekend, as well as being the first person to summit since the snowfall.

Mon Jan 23, PM 5.1 Miles, :45 Powerline Loop with a few added tenths, Rainy, Slushy, Muddy, Slippery, overall kind of a miserable day to be outside. 1 Fall

Tues Jan 24, AM 10.2 Miles 1:30:43 Typical Allamuchy 10 miler, missed a turn though, which added a few tenths. Snow was all but melted, but now things are getting muddier, making it hard to estimate when my shoe will find purchase.
PM 2 Miles 16:53 Short shakeout through the neighborhood, trying to flush some of the mucky muck out of my legs, and keep things loose.

Wed Jan 25, AM 6.0 44:29 Quick little road run, every-so-often I need the repetitive action of predictable terrain.
PM 1.0 8:06 Trying to reintegrate the evening shakedown mile(s)

Thurs Jan 26, AM 9.9 Miles, 2:17 Triple Ascent of Mount Tammany with Dave. ~3500 feet of gnarly terrain, throw in some freezing rain, a major bonk, and increasingly frowzy shoes, and you’ve got a pretty good time on your hands.
PM 5.0 41:19 Broken Shin Loop with the usual suspects Most of the run felt like a death march after the morning-time bonk, but a relatively reasonable time.

Fri Jan 27, AM 5.1 Miles, Powerline Loop, surprisingly quick, especially considering the abuse that my legs took the day before, had I not added the extra wee bit, it would have been a CR for the 4.85 mile course.
PM 1.0 8:21 Continuing the trend.

Sat Jan 28, AM 21 Miles, 3:17:43 Double Ascent of Allamuchy with a few additions. First time in months that I’ve run with a handheld for an extended time, and more importantly, first time since Oct that I’ve breached the 20 mile mark. Also worth noting, is that the last time I was out for >3hrs was December, where I ran for 3:08 and covered 6 fewer miles. Granted, that was a deliberately slow strength building run, but it’s nice to feel a sense of progress. Also, fell pretty hard on my hip during the second ascent, hopefully this won’t affect my running over the next couple of days

Totals: 76.3 Miles  12h 11m, 5 Falls, Vert ~10,000 gain and loss (approximation)

Overall, a pretty productive week. I’m rather happy with where I’m at physically, especially with how much time I have before any upcoming races. From here it looks like I’ll be trying to add more Vert (and find a better way to track it) and slowly add miles over the next few months leading up to the NF 50 at Bear Mountain. I’m also starting to integrate power-hiking as part of my trail running strategy, especially when it concerns steep inclines over fundamentally un-runnable terrain.

View of Mt. Minsi (from Tammany)

Dave’s downhill technique is getting awesome

Split shorts in January!?

Summit number 3

Also, some music I’ve been digging way too much lately… seems appropriate.

and secondly,

It’s a good hurt… I Promise

Ouch, Ouch, Ouch, Fuck, Ouch, Fuck, Ouch, How much further? Fuck, Ouch…. that was what was going through my mind on this mornings ~10 miler, where Mile 2 felt remarkably similar to mile 25… Oh the joys of stacking mileage, forgoing rest days, running doubles, and being on pace for 140 miles in 14 days. Yes, that’s correct, I’m on pace to run 140 miles by midnight on Saturday… that means in 14 days, I’ll run 87% of the distance I covered in the previous 31… so much for prudent increases in mileage. If I stay on pace, that means that in January I’ll run 150% of the mileage I ran in December, no small feat, and certainly not the mileage increase that more sensible types would pursue…. although, seriously speaking, when have I ever been known to be sensible!?

All masochism aside, I thought I’d speak about first why I am pursuing these miles, and later, how I’ve been going about it. I’m NOT running this much with the intention of hurting myself (although if someone decided to go Tanya Harding on my knees this morning, I’m not sure I’d have complained too much…) If it was my intention to be masochistic/injure myself/facilitate an abundance of discomfort I could find much more efficient means of doing so. As previously stated, I actually enjoy maintaining a high(ish) weekly mileage, although, the first few weeks of it are typically a bit of a grind. The jump in mileage is primarily to pursue a strong base before I start introducing more functionally specific workouts. I’ve already mentioned my plans for the year involve pursuing Marathon and Ultra-Marathon distances almost exclusively (at least with the intention of competition…. I’m sure I’ll enter a few shorter races, but with less lofty expectations). This means that unlike runners of shorter distances, it’s advantageous for me to run in states of varying depletion/discomfort. In fact, I NEED to train my body to continue running even though my legs feel as if they’re on fire/being repeatedly stabbed my annoyingly fast midgets, and there is no way of getting used to this other than simply running a lot… even if that means running when my legs feel as if they’ve been repeatedly pummeled by a meat tenderizer.

Now, increasing your mileage by 40% from one week to the next is certainly not the most reasonable progression. In fact, it’s not something I’d recommend… period. As much as my “training” seems to be a result of flying by the seat of my pants, my body is actually quite adequately prepared for this sort of abuse. I’m very fortunate to have rather neutral bio-mechanics, and to be able to pay a lot of attention to small details/feedback that my body is giving me before, during, and after a particular run, both of these things seem to help me reduce the likelihood of overuse injuries. Also, as last weeks mileage demonstrates, I’m not running particularly hard right now. Some of my runs are fast(ish), but last weeks avg pace is ~8:45. The lack of “hard” workouts is deliberate. Yes, I’m running hills, Yes, I’m running some decent-ish tempo runs, but at no point last week, or this week am I intending on running full-out… more like ~80%. I expect this to be my M.O. for most, if not all of January, as I try to establish a strong base before integrating harder workouts (Hill repeats, up tempo trail runs etc).

That being said, knowing the strain that this is putting on my body, I’ve also been much more diligent about post-run recovery. Normally, my recovery process is not so dissimilar from 1970’s Canadian Hockey players… plenty of beer, fall asleep eventually. In spite of beer obviously being a fantastic recovery drink, this plan is less than ideal. The majority of my (plant based) diet revolves around whole foods. When I’m “training” (such an ugly word….) I’m substantially more diligent about what I put into my body, especially when it comes to hydration (3-5 liters of water a day seems to do it) and protein content. I also deliberately eat more frequently, and in smaller amounts, in an attempt to avoid the Food Coma my seemingly endless post-run appetite often induces(this allows me to function like a normal human throughout the day… rather than a bonk-induced semi-zombie). Other than that, I often wear compression socks (are they a placebo… or are they real…. the world may never know) and spend a good amount of time with Mr. Foamy. With that said, it’s time to return to the misery stick for a few hours, then back out the door for another 4-6 miles.

Training Ruminations

The past week I’ve had several conversations with other runners about my seemingly lacksadaisical approach to training. I’ve decided that although my approach to training for a race is slightly unorthodox, mostly due to its lack of traditional structure, it’s still proven itself effective over the course of the past year, and allows me to run more, and plan less. With that being said, let me explain how I go about planning my weekly mileage, and why I run where/how I do. Fundamentally my training is based around a few VERY important runs, and a lot of recovery/junk/lazy miles. (I hate the term junk mileage, my implication is that these miles are slower, and over easier terrain than my more ambitious runs, but are very important for maintaining my fitness, as well as a time where I hone in on form issues, lower leg flexibility, and turnover rate)
The runs I deem as “workouts” are the following: Tempo Runs, Hill Runs, and Long Runs. Note that speedwork is NOT included here. This is for a multitude of reasons, the first and foremost being that speedwork isn’t why I run, I don’t find it enjoyable in the least, in fact I find it more masochistic than anything else I could run. this is not to say that speedwork isn’t an effective means of building strength, both in the legs and the cardiovascular system. Many (almost all?) people I run with, follow, read about, and admire do speedwork,and I don’t necessarily recommend my lack of interval training/mile repeats. Instead of doing speedwork, I do an abundance of hill running. I deliberately seek out inclines, and refuse to let these inclines have a significant effect on my pace. This in turn, forces my cardiovascular system to work much harder for the ascent, and allows me to relax some on the descent, in effect not being tremendously dissimilar from interval training as far as heart-rate is concerned. In addition, the races I’m eyeing for the next year exist primarily on mountain trails, so being comfortable with both ascending and descending, especially on trail is abundantly necessary, and there is no other way to get there, than by simply doing it. That being said, I think for my purposes the Hill run is both more functionally specific (for my training goals) and forces me to take my cardiovascular training to a higher level, thus alleviating my need for traditional interval training, and considering the physical abuse of hill work, and speedwork individually, doing both in the week would most likely lead to a higher risk of overuse injury.
Tempo Runs:
These are very self-explanatory, my tempo runs are traditionally shorter in length (5-10 miles) and depending on where I am in my training, can be anywhere from 30-90 seconds/minute faster than race pace. The shorter the run, the faster I run. It’s a simple plan, increase turnover rate, maintain a high heart rate. Since I’m primarily concentrating on trail running, I try to do these runs on technical terrain, but sometimes I don’t have the luxury of driving to a trailhead, and end up running on the road, in which case, I run as quickly as I can for  the prescribed distance.
Long Runs:
The long run is typically the corner stone of any endurance/long distance runner, and I am no different. Although where most people will typically take a “light” day before the long run, I’ve found it more effective to enter my long run in a state of moderate soreness/depletion. This is fundamentally to train me for the end of the race rather than training for the beginning, and builds strength, both mentally and physically. I also make a concerted effort to keep my long runs relatively close to intended race pace (+ ~10-20 seconds/mile) again, the intention being to train my body to move at or near pace, while already beat up.
The remainder of my mileage is typically slower, more relaxed runs over a variety of terrain, usually determined by time/ambition. These miles allow me to keep my legs loose, and since they’re often run with a degree of lingering soreness/stiffness, encourage me to work on bio-mechanical efficiency, and diagnose any potential red flags before they become a significant issue.
So how does it all break down? Typically each week has at least one of the above runs, although the long-run is sometimes replaced with two back to back medium runs (especially at the early onset of a training period). In addition to this, I often maintain a “streak” running no fewer than 1 mile per day, period. I ran consecutively from 5/23-10/9 this year, and presently have not missed a day since 11/30. I also try to maintain a relatively high mileage during spurts of training, preferring to hang in the 60-80mpw range.
Lastly, Since I’ve been trying to post these for weeks, Here are my monthly totals for Dec, which was fundamentally a recovery month with regard to my (now no longer!) sore foot.
12/1    3.2
12/2    4.85
12/3    8.4
12/4    4.1
12/5    1
12/6    7.1
12/7    1
12/8    5
12/9    1
12/10   10.62
12/11   4.05
12/12   1
12/13   6
12/14   1
12/15   9, 5
12/16   3.21
12/17   1
12/18   5.18
12/19   2
12/20   15
12/21   1
12/22   4.1
12/23   5
12/24   4.1
12/25   6
12/26   4.05
12/27   4.85
12/28   8.6
12/29   5
12/30   7.1
12/31   11.16

Totals: 159.67 miles, 26h 19m