Saturday, August 27, 2011

Forgotten Valley

Tomorrow I may go down to Manitou Springs and give The Incline a try. 3 miles of stairs that gain 2,250 feet will leave me with some buns of steel.

For today's run I headed up to the north side of Golden Gate State Park. I intended to run along a hilly dirt road named Gap Rd. for 7 or 8 miles and then turn back. After parking, however, I opted instead for a trail run into the center of the park. Park trails maps were posted at most trail intersections, and these markers guided my way.

The run started great as I popped over a ride and descending into Forgotten Valley.

That little home was built in 1876 by a Swedish family, and four generations lived off the land in the valley until the 1950s. There's not a real road within a few miles of this place. Kind of crazy how isolated and pre-industrial people in the mountains here continued to live until only recently.

Anyhow, my route descended further down into the valley before climbing up to the top of a 9,000 ft. peak that defined a southern boundary of the valley. The climb up was very steep at times, and maintaining a 150 bpm HR while walking some sections was no problem. The peak featured a rocky outpost that provided a grand view of the valley.

As I began my ascent, I misread one of the route markers and descended in the wrong direction (and no, I don't mean "up"). Instead of looping east back to the trail that took me into the valley -- a route that would have taken me back to my car for a total run time of 1:45 or so and that is downhill for a mile or two and then uphill for a mile -- I inadvertently descended west into the far end of the valley. My descent was left me both lower in elevation than I intended and much further from my car. Ugh. 1:45 into my run and I had a long time to go.

My legs were pretty shot, so I walked the steepest sections and ran when I could. I made it back to my car just over an hour later for a total time of 2:45. I was very thirsty and hungry. Ah, oh well, a nice jog all things considered.

Totals: 13.6 miles at an average HR of 141 with something crazy like 7,000 feet of elevation gain according to my not to be trusted Garmin (once I upload, I can get a much more accurate reading, though). I only needed a two hour nap and a giant BBQ sandwich when I got home to feel somewhat normal again.


1:25, 11.5 miles, the first 6 miles at 7:00/mile and 155 bpm before running easy home. The accumulation of miles is leaving my legs tired by my third day of running in each mini 4-day cycle.

50 minutes easy, 6.8 miles, 7:20/mile, no HR

1:16 with three miles at 6:00/mile. For the first two miles, this pace was working without hurting. For the third mile it started to approach the "getting a bit uncomfortable" level of work, so I ended the repeats after three miles. Anyhow, 10.7 miles at an average of 7:08/mile.

Three day mileage total: 29 miles in 3:30 of running. The difference in speed and mileage between running in Denver and running in the mountains is so extreme that they're not even worth comparing. Today's 13.6 miles at 12:00/mile was much, much more difficult than Tuesday's 10.7 miles at 7:08/mile.

Today's song is by Jason Schwartzman's new group Coconut Records. In addition to being a Coppola, staring in Rushmore, being the drummer in a hit power-pop band (see Phantom Planet; you'll know the song), AND being the sole proprietor of a fantastic mustache, Jason has a few solo records under his Coconut Records moniker. This song is nice:

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Today Stacey and I headed up to Boulder for a nice jog along Magnolia Road. That name should be familiar to anyone that has read Running with the Buffaloes, which covers a season of CU's cross country team in the late 90s (though I'm not positive about the date). It's a great read for anyone interested in running. Anyhow, Magnolia Road was the team's standard long run each Sunday. After today's run, I can see why. It's a rolling dirt road at around 8,500 feet with almost no flats. Check this site out for an elevation profile.

Stacey and I started our out-and-back run at the Nederland end of the road, and on the way out I was flying. I was holding just over 7:00 miles at 8,500 feet over some tough hills, and that's while restricting my effort to tempo going uphill and relaxing on the downhills. What I didn't realize is that the rolling hills obscured a nearly 500 foot elevation drop. Needless to say, the way back was tough. Instead of mid-6 to mid-7 minute miles, I started seeing more 8s and 9s. I even had to walk twice for about 30 seconds to keep my HR below threshold.

My favorite moment of the run came as I was charging up a hill about 6 miles into the run. A car stopped in the middle of the hill and the driver motioned that he was in need of some assistance. I paused my watch and said hello. "Is there any place to run around here?" the guy asked. Seriously?!? This guy asked a runner obviously in the middle of a run along a beautiful, up-and-down dirt road at the edge of the Rockies with panoramic mountain views every few hundred meters whether there is any place to run? "Right here," I replied, "on this very road." Not a lot of common sense, that one.

(The second photo is from a nice downhill section which looks totally flat in the photo, while the third photo is not from the run but instead from the drive home along an amazing new running route I lucked upon.)

Stats: 1:41, 13 miles, 7:50/mile, 155 bpm average, felt great until the last 15 minutes when my legs started to really feel the climbing. Oh, and here's a better write-up with better photos to describe the run.

Afterwards we went to the best taco place on Earth. It's located in a not so nice part of Denver at 4th and Federal. Stacey and I were the only non-hispanic people there (a good sign!) and while we waited for our food we were offered both counterfeit DVDs and homemade Mexican cheese by two separate street vendors that wandered into the restaurant. If these tacos receive a 10/10, then the next best tacos I've hard are at most a 7/10. (Sorry, mom.) Stacey's burrito was only pretty good, though.

Yesterday: Trail run up some small peak near Golden. Very, very steep at times. 1:00 of running covered just 5.5 miles. Average HR was 150 but again that's basically a 50/50 mix of 160+ and 140-. I had to walk some during this run, too.

(Looking over to Lookout Mountain, where many of the best cyclists in the world will be battling it out next Saturday. I'll be at the second switch backs watching.)

(Yes, that's the trail. There was a lot of this straight up rock stuff.)

(The start. I climbed the peak that's cut-off on the left side of the picture.)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

3 More On Days

First, thanks for comments and emails. Not responding to any comment in particular, but I should elaborate on my decision to switch to running for the time being. My poor race in Boulder recently didn't have much if anything to do with the decision. More so the decision had to do with how excited I was to race before the race -- which is to say not very. Even more so the decision had to do with how my desire to push myself in tri training was this past year. I see cyclists out now and feel content with my decision. I'll still do my favorite climbs from time to time.

I do worry about injuries now that I'm running so much, so I'm building my mileage slowly as mentioned before. But perhaps just as importantly I'm taking a bunch of other steps to stay injury free. One of those steps is frequent calf massages. I annoy Stacey every other evening by asking her to do a "The Stick" session on my Achilles and both calves. While it doesn't match the effectiveness of a real massage therapist (based solely on my subjective feelings), The Stick does seem fairly effective. Over the course of one session my calves can go from painful to touch to being able to handle all the pressure Stacey can muster.

Right after my Achilles injury, my left calf was so sensitive that she could barely apply any pressure. I wonder whether calf tightness may have contributed to my injury, and I'm not taking chances with that again.

Anyhow, on with the show:

No running, just some injury prevention stuff.

12.3 miles in 1:32. That's 7:34/mile, and my HR averaged 152. I ran somewhat Fartlek in style, changing up my pace frequently but never going really hard. Oh, and it was 100+ degrees according to a toggling electronic bank sign I passed. I felt okay. Not great, not horrible.

Easy run, again by feel but wearing a Garmin to see the stats afterwards.
53 minutes - 6.7 miles
140 bpm average with an average pace of 7:48/mile
Felt good, run was cake. Legs, especially my calves, felt tired but also springy. It was an oddly contradictory feeling.

A bad night of sleep after Ozzy woke me up at 2:30am and I couldn't fall back asleep.
57 minutes - 7.6 miles
5 min at each of 155, 160, 165, 160, 155 bpm continuous
155 -- 7:06/mile (slight downhill, the rest is slight uphill)
160 -- 7:04/mile
165 -- 6:57/mile
160 -- 7:18/mile
155 -- 7:20/mile
Those pace:HR ratios all pretty much suck. Maybe it was the slight uphill, or maybe it was the fatigue I'm carrying from trail run on Saturday.


Today's song: a classic sounding indie-rocker from a horribly named band, Yuck. This sounds really familiar, maybe some Sonic Youth and Pixies influence with something else I can't put my finger on.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

3 Days On, 1 Day Off

My plan to become a better runner is to runs lots. (Pretty complicated, eh?) The more miles, the better. Right now, though, I'm not ready to run loads of miles. I consider my current training to be "training to train". The idea is that my only focus now is building durability to eventually be able to run big miles. It'll probably take several months before I'm running serious volume.

By building my mileage slowly, I hope to minimize my risk of injury. For the time being, building my mileage slowly means taking frequent days off of running. So, right now my schedule is 3 days of running followed by 1 day of cycling, typically at a recovery intensity, or 1 day completely off. Over time, I'll increase to 4 days running, 1 day non-running, then 5 days running, 1 day running. I will spend several weeks at each of these levels, and my body will tell me when I'm ready for more.

I've got a host of other strategies I am using to run safely, and I'll mention more of those in future posts.

Anyhow, the most recent 3 on, 1 off cycle looked like this:

Thursday: 45 minutes with a fair amount of it at a steady pace (based on rhythmic breathing, no Garmin used)

Friday: 43 minutes easy, based on keeping my intensity low enough that my breathing never became deep and rhythmic. (I ran by feel, but I wore a Garmin to check the stats -- 7:42/mile at 150 bpm, a higher HR than anticipated)

Saturday: 1:37 trail run from Chimney Gulch to the mansion at the top of Lookout Mountain, then down a steep neighborhood road before returning on nearly the same route. My Garmin said 4500 feet of climbing, but my gut says that's a gross over-estimation. Average HR was 150 bpm, but that's misleading because it was more like 160 bpm on the way up and 140 bpm on the way down. Felt great at the end, except the big toe on my right foot which drilled the toe of my shoe with each step descending. Shoe issue since remedied.

The view half-way up:

One of the many hang gliders floating around the area:

The start, looking up to the wooded area on the left where I'm headed:

Sunday: 1:10 super easy bike ride.

My Achilles feels great and I can't wait to wake up at 5:40 AM tomorrow for a morning run before work.


This week's song is by a band that describes their sound as "everyone high-fiving everyone", Fang Island:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Shift in Focus to Running

"I learned that rewards in running, as in life, come only in direct proportion to the amount of effort I am prepared to exert, and the extent to which I can summon the required discipline and application." - Tim Noakes

I did not fully apply myself to triathlon this year. That's not self criticism; it's just the truth. I had a few okay results, but did not take as much joy in the sport as in years past. This season more than ever I came to the same realization as Noakes: that my enjoyment of the sport is a function of the effort I put forth. Results don't drive enjoyment.

Looking forward to next year, I'm not prepared to exert the effort required to get the same joy from triathlon as I have in the past. The time commitment is wearing on me, and I'm not looking forward to early morning swims and winter training rides. The fire has (perhaps temporarily) been extinguished. I used to look forward to trainer rides, at least sometimes, but even more so I enjoyed sticking to a plan and working toward a goal.

Part of the problem is that I cannot think of an exciting triathlon goal for next year. I don't care about qualifying for Kona, and the potential of winning my age group at an Ironman or a half-IM is also not enough to motivate me. I had considered continuing with shorter tris so that I could spend more of my training time focusing on swimming. The prospect of being in a race from the gun sounded fun, but that plan doesn't cause me to look forward to tomorrow's workout.

Still, I want to work toward some athletic goal, ideally one that has me outside and in nature as much as possible. I want to continue training rigorously, as it's become a big part of my life over the past 6 years. In the past I had talked with Stacey about potentially spending some time focusing on running, since that seems to be the athletic area where I'm most naturally gifted, and see how far I can take it. Right now, training to run excites me more than training for triathlon. So with that, I'm changing my focus to running.

I do not know what specific events I will train for or what my goals will be. Trail running is certainly appealing, as is running a fast marathon (I think I can well under my current PR of 2:48 set at Chicago on a hot day). There is even some appeal to an ultra-marathon or multi-day running event. Until I figure that out, I will focus on gradually building up my mileage with mostly easy to moderate running while keeping a close eye on my recently recovered Achilles.

Biking will still be a part of my fitness routine, and I may even sell my tri gear once I'm sure of the change and use the proceeds to buy a mountain bike. I'd also like to spend more time camping and maybe cross country skiing.

The time has come for a new challenge.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Boulder 70.3 -- Race Report

Three sentence summary:
Worst race ever.

More in-depth explanation:
I just didn't have any energy on race day. My swim was 2-3 minutes too slow, my bike was 15 minutes off last year, and I had zero energy on the run.

I don't know why I was so weak on race day. One possibility is that I had a cold that started two weeks ago -- the morning of the Mt. Evans Hill Climb, actually -- and was still suffering the effects even though the symptoms subsided at the start of this week. That seems an unlikely explanation, though. Another thing that is potentially relevant to my horrible performance is that two or three days this week I got home from work and complained to Stacey that I felt exhausted. I figured it was just mental fatigue from staring at my computer all day at work, but now I'm not so sure. Still, this explanation has no solution since I don't know the cause, so it's not very satisfying. A final explanation -- this one promulgated by Stacey -- is that I didn't give my body enough of a break after IM CdA, and it finally caught up with me on race day.

I don't mean to make a bunch of excuses for my crap performance. The thing is I know I am way, way faster than 5:0X with a 2 hour half-marathon. On a typical moderate training day I can go 70.3 miles faster that I did yesterday! There's no doubt in my mind that something was off with my body, and I'd like to know what the problem is so I can do my best to avoid it in the future.
This week's video of two awesome kids: