For new readers

To get an idea of what I'm trying to do and why I think it's possible, check out the following entries, they'll help get you up to speed.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Year

Graduate school or the desert trek, which was tougher to finish?  
I've finished graduate school (i think - no diploma in the mail yet...) and don't have a job.  I'm planning to forge ahead with starting this non-profit with the aim of bringing adventure to the great plains.  Hope to make a go of it, but who knows.  It's strange to consider a Masters degree in physics as a 'fallback' plan.

I want to try to also forge ahead with this experiment of mine - Abu Dhabi is now two weeks over but was an eye opening experience.  Yogaslackers placed 14th out of 49 starting teams - ahead of many good teams that cracked in the desert.  But we saw a class of teams (and athletes) that are often absent from stateside adventure races.  Professionals.

It seems silly to try to compete with these guys on my training.  Hell, on my genetics.  Richard ussher and his wife are world class - TOP athletes in many disciplines, and hardcore suffer-o-philes.  Jason (my brother and Yogaslackers team captain) wants to go back to abu dhabi next year and crack the top 10, maybe even top 5.  I'm not sure if it's possible - in fact i'm pretty sure its not - at least not with the commitment i'm willing to give.  Even if i mustered the will to make every one of the 180 weekly minutes as efficient and effective as possible, how much faster could i get?

Nonetheless, it's intriguing.  I've got plenty of room to grow, even on a limited schedule.  i can learn to paddle (apparently i don't know how), become a badass on the bike for rides under 2 hours (all but one of the rides should have taken less time), and maintain the strength i showed on foot in the mountains.  maybe it can be done.  The decision is still a long way off, but the seed is planted.

I intend to write more often this year - develop my ideas - put pen to paper (metaphorically) and come up with some general strategies that could be applied to training for a wide range of situations, and keep trying to find the most efficient way of spending those minutes as i can.  Happy new year everyone!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Making do

Grand Forks this morning.  Sundogs appeared as the temperature
dropped and ice crystals filled the air.  Photo by Eric Hyden
Last year it didn't snow up here in Grand Forks until Christmas day.  For some reason i was counting on this happening again.  I'd planned three big paddle training days (big for me, not for the other Yogaslackers - big for them really means epic for most folks) leading up to my departure for Abu Dhabi on Dec. 7th.  I did manage to get one of these in - i went out last sunday despite 3-4 inches of snow falling overnight.  It was exciting to say the least - that morning my rudder snapped (i'd never paddled without it) and i was using a new wing blade and donning a never before worn (by me) dry suit which was less than straightforward to put on.  At the boat ramp, solid ice lay under the new snow and extended like a skin six feet out onto the river.  Thoughts of breaking through and falling into the river as i tried to put in were pretty terrifying, dry suit or not.

I considered calling it a day.  But I'm stubborn and had been looking forward to some adventure so opted not to.  instead, i sat in the boat and pushed off, sliding down and out across the ice which broke and parted with the weight of the boat.  I wasn't at all sure how i was going to get back out, but figured i didn't have to worry about it for an hour ad headed up river.

It took some getting used to steer without the rudder, but i managed ok.  I wan't able to go at full intensity but that was ok too - it was my first paddle since nationals in late october.  What I loved (once i got over my nervousness) was trying to dodge the floating sections of surface ice.  Some were approaching an inch in thickness and weren't fun to hit - i almost got stuck on one and had to struggle to chop away at it with the ultralight carbon fibre paddle.  Some were just a thin skin, millimeters thick floating islands of ice moving with the current, and offered almost no resistance to my bow as i plowed through.  I found myself marveling at the simple (or perhaps not so simple) phase change that i was witnessing.

The night of that paddle it snowed again - another 3-4 inches - and got colder.  The highs have been in the teens I've given up the idea of paddling again.  Today though, i did manage to get an hour and a half outside on the bike (thanks sean).  I figured i've got to use what nature provides and had a great ride up and back along the greenway - opting to take the mosquito control trails whenever possible.  It was tough pushing through six inches of snow, and squirrelly too - i endoed a couple of times and went down at least half a dozen others when the front wheel decided it wanted to be at a right angle to the rest of the bike.

Far from ideal training conditions perhaps, but i made do.  I told myself it was just like riding through sand, and tried to pretend i was in the middle of the desert, pushing hard, only wearing alot more clothes.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I feel like I need to train more.  Either that or I need to stop watching videos like this one about last year's race.  Hmmm.  Fear is healthy, right?  Three weeks and counting!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Speed bump

The speedbump
I woke up this morning unable to move my upper back - the muscles on one side had contracted with vice like intensity and were pulling my spine out of alignment.  Its been over three years since i've been plagued by this problem, which first occurred (and lasted over six months) as the result of a high jumping accident and was made worse/prolonged by a high stress.  Once again these two factors have coincided - a good crash at last Sunday's cyclocross race and the fact that I defend my thesis again (having 'failed' the first attempt last summer) in five days time are likely causes of the 'injury'.  Bummer.

On a positive note i have lots of experience with the issue and know that i can at least train through it (activity, even strenuous activity never seemed to make things worse, although it may indeed have kept things from getting better).  My fingers are crossed, however, that the emergency 30 minute massage i've managed to schedule with a very gifted professional this afternoon will essentially set me right again and keep me from having to.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Gym cycling workout (inspired by thoughts of the UAE)

What my cycling looks like now
I'm trying to train as specifically for Abu Dhabi (specificity is the key, and with such a limited training volume, it better ALL be targeted, as much as possible, towards what I expect) and one of the things we'll face on the bike (according to the rest of the team, who are veterans from last year) is the lead groups of riders trying to instigate break-aways at multiple points on the bike leg.  In addition, the large field may splinter forcing us to leap gaps up to a lead group in order to stay with them.  As such, unexpected, semi-prolonged (2-4 min?) efforts at or above aerobic capacity (Zone 4/5 for those familiar with Joe Friel's training zones) will be required.  As the weather is getting worse up here and my training time is so tight, at least one session each week ends up being indoors on a stationary bike.  Rather than bemoan this fact (a strike against specificity, just in terms of riding geometry, etc) i've tried to make the best of it and use the tools that i have to come up with a workout that will improve my ability to generate these kinds of efforts. 
Here's how it works:

What it'll look like in Abu Dhabi

I use a 'random' program on the stationary bike and cover up the screen that displays the resistance profile(or hill profile as the machine calls it) so that my only indication of the resistance is the read at the bottom of the screen.  I've then set 'mile per hour' benchmarks for each of the levels (or pairs of levels).  These will obviously depend on the fitness of the rider and the type of stationary bike being used.  I think the bikes i use are Lifefitness, though i'm not sure of the model number.  To create a ride that will mimic (as much as possible) what i'm after, i've found setting the target speed the same for two successive levels works the best.  My last ride I aimed for 18+ mph anytime i was at levels 6 or 7, 19+ for levels 8 or 9, and 20+ for levels 10 and up.  This ride came on the heels of a 30 minute run (No-slo-random-pro), and so i was already slightly fatigued.  One key to making the workout pay the biggest dividends for Abu Dhabi (and perhaps in general) is to set the target speed for the base level that will appear in the program such that you are firmly in Zone 2/2+ - not Zone 1 (where you might typically recover).  I have a strong suspicion that even sitting squarely on the wheels of a big group of the lead riders is not going to find me twiddling my thumbs and chatting casually about the scenery (Zone 1) so i'll be damned if i'm going to spend any time there during training.  This philosophy is very similar to what i've used very successfully in my running - unless i'm doing very short duration sprint work i try to keep limit my recovery (during a workout) to that which can happen in Zone 2 or above. 

My hope is that using this workout over the next few weeks will get my mind and body a bit more ready to deal with what some of what i expect to face out there in the desert.  Now if only i could find some sand.....

Friday, November 12, 2010

The pain cave

During a twisty bit
As a way to jump start my cycling training for Abu Dhabi, i decided to partake in the second of a three race cyclocross series being held locally here in Grand Forks last weekend.  I'd never done cyclocross before but had heard about how tough it was from my brother in law, John, who's a top amateur on the circuit out in Idaho.  I don't own a cyclocross specific bike so i decided to show up on my frankenstein mountain bike and do what i could.  Sporting a vintage proflex frame, an old Noleen ELT front shock and an elastomer rear one, the bike is a classic.  Unfortunately it had recently suffered some abuse at the hands of a visiting racer in our fall adventure race.  In an effort to make it rideable i'd removed the front brakes and front derailleur - i could still 'shift' between the front chain rings but only by hand - something not really conducive to a race situation.  Pre-riding a section of the course i decided i'd stick with the middle chain ring and just dismount and run up the sections where the course climbed steeply up the dike.  A quick lesson from Erik Sanders on how to do a running dismount for the obligitory low hurdles section of the course and i was set to go.

Exploring the pain cave, looking for a way out.
 Right off the bat i ran into trouble, bouncing the chain off of front rings 1 minute into the race.  Stopping to put it back on had me bringing up the rear - 10th out of 10 in the 'advanced' category (which just means more laps as the course is the same).  Half way through the first lap the chain bounced again, but this time settled on the smallest chain ring.  Rather than stop again i just figured i'd ride this way as long as possible - it was fine for 75-80% of the course and only slightly slower (I was still spinning while in the biggest rear cog) for the rest.  I pushed hard - suffering so much in the first two laps I wasn't sure how i'd make 8 of them. 

Charging after Sanders (to no avail)

The field spread out a bit and i quickly caught and passed 4 riders but could make no headway on the other 5 - three of whom had cross bikes (and of course they were good riders).  I rode the rest of the race by myself, gaining a bit on those i'd passed each lap and losing a bit on those ahead of me.  By the fourth lap i'd settled into a rhythm and knew i'd be fine and set a goal of keeping my lap time under 7:30 and not getting lapped.  The course fun - a good mix of flatish, faster sections, steep hills, and sharp twists between the trees.  My heart-rate was always changing, resulting in something that felt like a solid interval workout. 

The race ends when the lead rider does 2 laps more than the lap he's on at 45 minutes.  During the ride i kept thinking i'd only have to do 8 laps, but as it turns out i did 9.  I went for broke on the last lap and it took it's toll - my lungs burned deeply for what seemed like a long time after finishing.  It was a perfect race to use for training, particularly the high intensity type of training that i favor - short enough to allow it to be part of a training week and motivating enough to ensure a hell of a session.  Hats off to the folks at the UND cycling club for doing such a great job of setting up the event and creating such a friendly and accomodating vibe.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The weakest link

Me at Nationals - very nearly (but not quite) broken

This post has been rattling around in my head for a while and it's time i got it out. But before i get into the meat of it i'd like to extend a big congratulations to Dave Madvig for finishing the toughest Iron Distance race in the country yesterday - the Silverman Triathlon, held in Las Vegas Nevada.  Despite very limited training Dave managed a solid finish - a testament to his determination to push through perceived physical limitations.  Way to go Dave!

I had at one time planned to race both Nationals (adventure racing) and the Silverman (with Dave), but life had other plans, and i had to give up the silverman.  I was bummed for quite some time (more at the thought of not getting to visit with Dave than racing) but all that went away last sunday as the Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) started to set in from our 19+ hour effort out in Moab.  As it turned out, the effects were severe but short lived and i may well have been able to knock out the race (though in less than top form) - but i imagine the lasting effects may well have been detrimental to my training efforts as they are being applied towards my biggest race of the year, Abu Dhabi, which is only 5 weeks away.  And i've got lots of training to do.

For the first time in a long time, maybe ever, i found myself the weakest link on a team.  I wasn't just slightly weaker either - the difference between my fitness on the final 3 hour bike to porcupine pass and that of any other team member was startling.  No matter how long i'd been on tow, the moment i came off i started to fall behind.  I had no power to speak of.  My forward progress was limited to spinning in my easiest gear, even on moderate grades.  Every time i tried to stand to get some 'ummphhh' both my quads would cramp or start spasming.  I didn't feel particularly tired (though i was a bit sleepy), nor hungry or thirsty (in retrospect, i probably didn't eat enough, or at least that's the opinion of my team-mates).  I realize now that i was probably bonking - though the experience was decidedly different than anything i've experienced before and much more subtle than i would have expected.

I've got lots to think and worry about now - not only am i taking a second stab at defending my thesis in two weeks, but i also need to get (much) stronger in a short amount of time on two wheels.  Not being able to keep up with the front bunch of riders won't be an option out in the desert if the team is to have a chance of finishing in the top 10, which is our goal.  While i initially thought that maybe i'd just have to scrap the whole 'three hours a week' thing during this final preparation phase, the way things are working out i'm going to be lucky to be able to stick to it - grad school deadlines are quickly approaching and the amount of work left to be done is startling -  and this coupled with all the other demands i'm facing (having been gone for a week at nationals and then leaving for 10 days only six weeks later means i need to put in some extra hours on the family front!) makes scheduling even this minimum amount of training difficult.  We'll see how it goes....

My planned training schedule is now up under training links - it'll be modified and filled in as the days pass.....

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Less than three days

Ascending during Primal Quest, 2006,
my last run in with adventure racing in Moab, UT.
Less than three days remain until the race starts.  The weather forecast looks promising (the weather here has taken a turn for the worse - hopefully not to the extent that airports will close!) and my team-mates are all gathered in Santa Barbara, making preparations.  I think I've hit the training pretty well - although the feelings of the last post remain true (I'm not at what i consider my peak level in any of the disciplines) - i feel fit enough, fast enough, confident enough, and eager enough to have a great race.  I'm so much looking forward to the starting line and the opportunity to dive head first into the pool of self imposed pain and suffering which i'm counting on this race to provide that i'm a bit like a caged animal and can't sit still.  Experience tells me that two hours in i'll probably be praying silently for a navigational challenge significant enough to slow the pace - or begging for a tow (especially if on the bike, where i'll be the weakest of the team), but until then, i'm all anticipation and expectation.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Checkpoint Tracker Nationals

The Checkpoint Tracker National Championship for adventure racing kicks off in less than two weeks.  Training is going well and i'm feeling fit and healthy, but do notice that the slope of the fitness curve isn't as high as i'm used to because i'm training for three sports instead of two.  I think the addition of paddling into the mix is particularly difficult because on an average week i'm only getting two hours of leg based effort in which is a significant reduction.  I'm really getting a bit too much rest between lower body sessions.  It might also be that because i'm not quite as proficient in the paddling as i am in the running and biking it's harder to sustain Z3/4 for the duration of the paddling workouts without sacrificing form and so the hour spent on the water, while useful for paddling, doesn't contribute much to the advancement of my overall cardiovascular fitness.

Anyway, i'm excited to race and go head to head against the best multi-sport teams in the country.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Duluth wrap up (final part)

Our team, "Finding Ourselves Lost" after 23.5 hours on the go.
We rode through the city of Duluth, navigating the streets on maps without street names at 5 am.  Tammy was fighting with the sleep monsters and wanted to just give in - i let Jim and Pat do the encouraging as i knew that i was the last person she wanted to hear from - a cheery 'you're doing great hon' from me would not make things better.  Tammy refused a tow, but kept on moving and eventually, just as the sky was beginning to lighten, we arrived at the first section of technical mt. biking, Lester Park.

Awesome trails greeted us as the sun came up - lots of dips and turns through the forest - some narrow bridges with (sometimes a bit sketchy) drops into drainages on either side.  A beautiful river gorge.  It was over all too quick though, with only two CP's in the park.  Logan and Erik passes us on the way in as we were headed out, as did a couple of other teams that must have gotten lost on the pedal through duluth.

After this we headed (still without refilling water) about 15 or so miles through duluth and up what seemed like an endless climb through a residential neighborhood to the next mt. bike section.  Logan and Erik finally caught us as we rolled into the parking lot - having set the fastest time on the previous technical section, despite it being Logan's first ever time on single track, and his riding a suspension-less dinosaur of a bike.

They were tired as a result and we decided to team up.  rather than ride all the very windy expert trails to two more CP's, we opted to take an old snow-mobile trail that was on the map, despite being advised that it was 'very wet'.  We thought it was a bluff, and were partially right.  although it took a bit of time to orient ourselves amongst a bunch of ski trails that were NOT on our map, we finally found what we were looking for and made short work of the section, only finding about 200 feet of muddy mess and otherwise straightforward and very END-AResque riding.  We still had to ride down about a mile of a rocky 'expert' trail which was pretty fun for some of us and less so for others.  We also learned that many teams had opted to skip this section - something we weren't aware that we could do..... (i'll comment more on this at the end.)

Although we still had more than 30 miles of biking and at least one checkpoint on the orienteering section to get, we felt like we were on the home stretch and, besides feeling (very) saddle sore, were confident we were going to make it to the finish.  That's when Erik's bike broke.
Look Ma!  No crank!  Erik's bike with 30+ miles to go.
Erik was peddling along and then felt as though his left foot had come out of the pedal.  He looked down to see that although he was wrong and his foot was still very much attached to his pedal, the entire left crank arm had come unattached.  We all stopped and puzzled over what to do.  We looked for the bolt that attaches the crank that must have either loosened or sheared off but couldn't find it.  Pat's tool kit had fallen out of his pack after the zipper broke early in the race, so we were limited to a single multi-tool and couldn't imagine a way to reattach the crank.  Without thinking or consulting the rest of my team (not a smart move), i decided on a course of action.  Pat would tow Tammy (she was the lightest) on Erik's bike, and he would ride her bike.  I'd just assumed that we were all (the six of us) in it together and that the mission was now to get everyone to the finish or all miss the cut off together.

Off we went - struggling up the hills - walking the steeper ones (where tammy struggled with the one legged pedaling) but always making what in AR is the key to success - (relentless) forward progress.  After about 10 miles of this Tammy and pat, who were always falling a bit behind, were grumbling.  They were all about helping another team - but this 'joining forces' was jeopardizing our chances to complete the race.  This was Jim, Pat, and Tammy's first 24 hour race and they really wanted to finish.... sure they felt sorry for Erik and Logan's bad luck and wanted to help, but wasn't there another way to do it?  When i learned of this I apologized for making the executive decision for the team and we changed plans - we'd put Pat's tow rig on logan's bike (they hadn't brought their own tow rig, both being equally strong riders) and wish them the best, then get the hell out of there and chase down the finish line.

Me at the finish
Turns out this is what we should have done in the first place as they were able to keep up with us just fine despite their disadvantage (although i like to imagine that it did take some effort).  We rolled on up and down hills all the way to the Orienteering course in Jay Cooke state park, where we arrived at about 2:30.  After looking at the map i thought we should initially go for three of the points, but the others put their foot down at just one.  This was probably for the best as it took us longer than anticipated to 'get in the map' and locate the first one, and at least for much of the team, running wasn't really an option.  Back at the bikes around 3:15 we had a few monster hills to go up and then an easy cruise on paved path to the finish (during which Pat set a blistering pace, while towing jim, of right around 20 mph - no exaggeration.  I mean WTF pat?  why were you saving that until the end?! (;  ).  Sure we finished 3rd out of 3 in the coed category - but we finished, so we were happy.  And let me tell you, that sparkling peach faux bubbly tasted oh so sweet.

Afterword:  The biggest disappointment of the race was the misunderstanding that we had about the 'race rules' as it pertained to which CP's were mandatory.  During the pre-race meeting it was stated that all the CP's other than the O-course had to be gotten in order.  Apparently, however, they were also all optional.  In other words, many teams skipped straight from 19 to 23, not doing the second (and harder) of the two mountain bike sections.  Other teams couldn't find CP 9 and just skipped it, without penalty.  When we learned that 'skipping' CP's was an option, 16 hours into the course, it didn't make much sense.  there were 20 points in the O-course, and although navigationally challenging, certainly less physically so (on an 'energy expenditure per point basis) than many of the other points.  We would have fared much better as a team had we skipped many of the CP's early in the course and gotten lots of CP's in the O course.  I don't think that the race was really set up to accommodate this though - the 'optional' nature of the CP's might have been intended to allow teams that were behind to still make the finish.  But to me it seemed not a great way to do things - as there didn't seem to be any 'minimum' course that all teams had to complete, and so no sense that teams that were ranked ahead of ours had to at least go through what we went through.  I'll be sure to have a very clear sense of the requirements next time.

I wasn't sure how Tammy and I would do racing together, but it turned out to be pretty great.  She did get pretty tired and grumpy for a while, but to her credit, never got sour or quit but just put her head down and kept right on going.  From about half way through (after the paddle) she became fond of telling all the volunteers that this was her first and last 24 hour race - a promise on which she had reneged by the time she had finished her first cup of good coffee the next morning.
The marriage survived.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Duluth wrap up (part 2)

So Jim has mild hypothermia with blue lips and we're on the verge of being pulled from the race.  It's 11:20 pm and we're told that this section has a cut off at 2 am and that no team has come back into the TA yet and the top teams have been out for nearly 3 hours already.  Things look bleak.

Tammy takes Jim into an industrial sized porta-john (handicapped accessible!!!), strips him down, and gives him some of her dry layers.  Pat and I get organized to depart and then make it a party in the potty.  Being out of the wind with 4 bodies in the plastic structure generates a surprising amount of heat and Jim's chattering teeth start to calm down (slightly).  We decide to go for it.  Opening the door we set off quickly across the parking lot shouting over our shoulders to the volunteers - "he's fine!  see you later!" and trying to get away before they decide to see for themselves.

I've taken over navigation from Jim so he can just focus on moving and getting warm, and I hook up a tow to him as well so i can force the pace a bit.  Off we go.  We're moving quickly and soon see two lights coming towards us on the road.  It's Logan and Erik, who are still looking for CP 8 (the first on the trek) and assure us it's not further down the road.  They're young and fit and so running around like crazy - confident that it must be back the way we came or else they'd have seen it.  But it's not... it's up a trail 50 feet off the road - a trail they had 'explored', but somehow missed the point.  So be it.  They run off ahead again like antelope.

Logan Evans of Team Young Guns
As we headed to CP 9 we saw the first place team pass, heading back to the TA.  they reminded us that we shouldn't be traveling on the road between 8 and 9 (oh, the fine print they put on the maps....) and so we backtrack and take a trail.  none of the trails are on the map so we estimate our direction and distance and finally make it to the shore of a lake and start bushwhacking SW towards the CP location.  We run across Young Guns again as well as two other two person teams, working together.  It's nice to see people again - and Jim is finally warming up.  This is a cool section of the race because it's 'adventurous' and fun (as crashing around in the woods at night tends to be, at least for the first half an hour....) so we're in good spirits as a team.  We're estimating our position by taking bearings to shadowy islands in the lake.  Logan and Erik in there haste have worked way too far along the coast and are out of earshot (we try to call to them) when we luckily stumble across the CP, right on a trail, 100 feet back into the forest.  We have no particular affinity for the other two teams (although i'm sure they're all nice chaps) and so try to keep our discovery a secret and quickly set off down the trail.  Eventually the trail joins another and there is a sign with a map of the system.  Upon seeing the map Jim says - 'hey - that's the map that we have in the map case!  i'd seen it but just assumed it was a mt. bike map....'  So of course were bummed that we wasted so much time looking and bushwhacking when had we consulted the correct map things would have been very straightforward, but the bright side is that had we done so, we'd have missed out on all the fun looking and bushwhacking.  Ah, the conundrum.

Then comes my navigational high point..... the trail map shows a nice, direct line to the next CP - a red line that heads to and then across a narrow arm of the lake.  we head that way but i stop us after maybe 500 feet.  We're travelling on snow-mobile trails.  it's not snowing.  The lake won't be frozen.  There won't be a bridge.  We turn around.  heading back we see the foursome run by us and nod hello.  20 minutes later, having taken the long way around, we see their headlights again, far across the lake where the trail dead ends into the water.  I shout out condolences about the missing bridge and we jog on.

We get the last CP at about 1:40 AM.  we reason that with our time credit we should have a cut-off at 2:30 rather than 2 am and so have 50 minutes to go the 3.5-4 miles back to the TA (all good dirt road).  Doesn't sound hard, but Jim isn't a runner (in fact, in june he couldn't run a mile continuously!).  He had been training hard though, and was about to be tested.  We set up a 'schedule' of 100 steps running and 60 steps walking - pushing the pace (for jim) on both legs so that we were hoping to average about 5 mph or so.  I kept worrying that this pace would get too hard eventually (and it turns out Jim did too) but it never did - in fact, he did so well sometimes we'd run twice as long before walking.  We made the TA with about 10 minutes to spare - woo hoo!

Erik Sanders of Team Young Guns
Back in the boats for more paddling against the wind.  Jim makes up for his running ability with his paddling ability, but (no offense guys) Tammy and Pat aren't great paddlers so it was a bit slow.  Tammy switched boats and so was in front of me, and i gave her a couple of bonks in the head with my paddle as i struggled  to keep us straight using draw strokes with a strong cross wind and whitecaps.  By the time we beached we were freezing again and weren't having as much fun.  The 10 minute mandatory boat cleaning period was grim with hands that lacked any semblance of manual dexterity - but we managed and headed to the fire that was still going, generously tended by the volunteers.

We got trapped at the fire for a LONG time.  The four guys from the missing bridge were still there (they'd skipped the last CP - we hadn't been aware this was even an option - more on this later) but left shortly after we arrived.  Logan and Erik arrived to join us after 10 minutes or so.  Everyone else stripped down and tried to 'dry off'.  I just wanted to move and warm up on the go, but knew that the morale boost provided by the blaze was what the team needed if we were going to keep going, so tried to bite my tongue and let them enjoy it.  Eventually things got put away, people got dressed and we were finally ready to head off, and left Logan and Erik alone to enjoy the last few moments of the fire (which the volunteers informed us was being put out at 4:45 am, 15 minutes away).  We expected them to catch up with us quickly.....

Monday, September 27, 2010

Duluth wrap up (Part 1)

The 24 hour WILD AR in Duluth, MN has come and gone.  Here's a brief trip report:

As is typical, getting there was the first (minor) challenge.  Pat was about 15 minutes late picking Tammy and I up but Jim was ready to go as we drove down university Avenue (he's a law professor and had to teach an 8 am class that morning) and had had time to change out of his suit.  Stopped for coffee and gas in East Grand Forks and were on our way by 9:30, with the check-in cutoff at 2 pm and the race start at 4 pm.  We'd forgotten the directions and had a bad map of duluth, so we had our first navigational challenge as we approached the race HQ and had to ask for directions several different times (some people pointing us, with complete confidence, in the entirely wrong direction).  But we made it by 2:15, and still beat the other GF team ('Young Guns' Erik Sanders and Logan Evans) who had driven to Duluth thursday afternoon but spent the morning in a desperate search for ascenders and throw bags.....

It was a whirlwind for the next hour or so, then the pre-race meeting where we learned we'd be climbing, not ascending.  Goody!  there were three climbs (easy - 4th class, medium - 5.3, and 'hard' - 5.6).  the climbs would be right away in the race.
After the successful climb, in first place (:
Bang - the race started with 200 meter run across a field to get the maps.  Pat White sprinted for us and was the first back, but his pack wasn't loaded yet.  teams started pedaling out of the parking lot and i frantically tried to hurry the team along.  without looking at the maps we furiously chased teams up a hill and around back of the HQ only to find them all stopped there, looking things over.  so we stopped and looked for a bit, then set off, making several wrong turns (there was a barrier across the bike path the direction that we wanted to go that threw us off!). by the time we got to the climb, most teams were already there.  Only one two person team was in line for the hard climb, so we got in the Queue.  The first guy was at the hard part and couldn't pull the move - he had to ascend and so they were penalized and his partner had to go behind us.  woo hoo!

Tammy made it look easy.  Pat made it look very hard.  I thought it was a sandbag for 5.6 but not too bad - polished and slick and somewhat technical.  Jim had opted to go last so that if he needed to ascend, there'd be no one left that had to go to the back of the line.....  as it turns out he cruised it, and there was no line.  we were the only team to complete the hard climb and so for a little while in first place (it counted as 3 CP's).  Back at the bikes we had to carry the climbing gear with us to the paddling section - which ended up sucking because 1) our packs were too small and we had to rig stuff hanging all over and 2)it was a 30-40 mile ride all on pavement.  At this point though, all were in good spirits and we were having fun.
getting ready to paddle
At the kayak we found out that we were the last team to come in (except for the team that had dropped out).  Pat and I paddled together and ended up being a bit faster than jim and Tammy, and so had to wait occasionally.  I volunteered to get wet when we hit sand bars and dragged the others across - the water was actually pretty warm - or maybe just felt so because the air was so cold (hovering around 40 degrees).  After picking up a CP on an island we headed towards the trek TA, but had been told we had to find the channel under the bridge and could not portage the road.  After following the faint lights of a team into the land and watching them portage we realized we'd come too far south and turned to paddle 3/4 of a mile into the fierce wind to the bridge then 3/4 of a mile to the TA.  Bummer.

While beaching jim had the wobblies and fell into the lake.  We were told that we were the only team that hadn't portaged..... bummer.  The race director gave us 30 minutes of time credit (better than nothing!  although disqualifying all the other teams would have been ok too (;  ) and we got set to go.  Except jim was turning blue and shivering uncontrollably.  The volunteer did not like the look of things and   said we couldn't continue unless things got better for him quickly.

Jim:  "i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i a-a-a-am-m-m-m-m o-o-o-o---k-k-k-k-k"

hmmm... what could we do?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Change of pace

CP 3 from END-AR 2010 (see why I think adventure racing is so much fun?)  Photo by Caylan Van Larson.

Ever since getting back from Too Much Fun Wyoming i've been pretty much flat out planning the adventure race.  It went off spectacularly last saturday and after a full day of clean up/gear sorting and a couple of half days tying up loose ends, things would finally be settling down and getting back to 'normal', except......

Tammy's team won second place in the coed division.  The first place team won free entry into Wild AR's (Minnesota's adventure race series) 24 hour race in two weeks.  Because they were unable to commit to it, the prize rolled down to Tammy's team.  They needed a fourth for the race and Tammy asked me.  So now things are hardly settled - i'm trying to get a good week of training in, get back into the swing of things at what is supposed to be my job (race directing is technically a 'hobby', since i'm expected to devote full time effort to my research), and spend long overdue quality time (where my mind isn't buzzing with all the details that go into planning a 10 hour event) with the kids, and manage the logistics of preparing for a 24 hour race of my own.  Whew!

I'm pretty psyched though - END-AR went flawlessly (you can see great video and pics at the ENDracing website) - and i'm looking forward to being on the other side of the start line in an adventure race for the first time since 2007 and racing with Tammy for the first time ever (can't wait!!!) I've also decided to race the Checkpoint Tracker Nationals race at the end of October with my brother and team Yogaslackers, who are going strong this year and are so fast that the thought of being the fourth on their team has me very nervous.  Nationals comes a week before the Silverman, so needless to say that race (if indeed i even still decide to do it) will not be my best performance.  I still think that the Silverman represents a better test for my training theories, but the opportunity to race with such a high level squad doesn't come very often, and, truth be told, adventure racing is just more exciting to me at the moment, and Nationals seems to provide a better progression towards Abu Dhabi which is going to ultimately be my A race for the year.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Half Marathon

Last few steps of the race

Tammy and I both long ago recognized that it was important to take part (at least occasionally) in the type of events within the community that you wanted to be a regular part of the community.  In this vein, Tammy had decided to volunteer for the local half marathon last weekend.  I decided on thursday that i'd run it.  I was planning a run on the weekend anyway (as kind of a 'getting back into it' effort after the previous weeks 6 days in the mountains of wyoming) so figured that at least this way i'd have water stops and maybe a free gel or two.  It was a while since i'd run this far, and judging from my bike ride two days before i was pretty 'sub-par' physically speaking - still recovering from all the 12 hour days and 15000 feet of elevation gain of the recent trip.  Knowing this i was able to go into the race with little expectation which was actually pretty nice.

It went better than i thought it would.  'little expectation' doesn't mean that i didn't have any expectation - i thought it reasonable that i'd finish in around 1:40-1:45.  i went out moderately at a comfortable (and what felt sustainable) clip - but struggled mentally for the first 4 miles, which seemed to take forever.  After that something changed and the next 4 miles i seemed to settle into the work involved.  I passed one fellow who had zoomed by me in the first mile (he latched on to my heels) and then another who'd passed me at about two miles and proceeded to get quite far ahead at one point.  When the lead runners started coming back from the far turn around i counted - one-two, three (top female, only a short distance behind the two leading men), four, five..... and then i - suddenly, i was at the orange cone and vest clad volunteer directing me back the way i'd come.  Five miles to go and in sixth place. [Note - grand forks is a small town and this was a 'local' race.  there were only about 80 runners total in the half marathon, and although there were a few very talented runners - the depth of talent wasn't that great.  Still, it's kinda fun to place high!]

The next 4 miles seemed to fly by.  I had decided that i wanted to try to maintain my placing.  I kept looking over my shoulder and saw that except for the guy who remained steadfastly 10 feet on my heels, there was no one that seemed able to catch me.  Now in fairness, i had used this same guy as a rabbit for about 6 miles - though at a much greater (~100 ft) distance.  He was returning the favor and it was making me nervous and excited at the same time.  It was cool to have competition.  I kept imagining that he was just biding his time - seeing what i had, waiting for the last 400 meters to make his move.  When i passed my wife's aid station at mile 11 he was still right there, only a step behind me.
My dad and I with my two boys, Keegan (in orange) and AJ (being shy) after the race

At mile 12 i decided i had to go.  the last few miles had gone so quickly i thought i'd be done in no time, so i picked it up.  My shadow couldn't answer and i put 100 meters on him over the next half mile.  But it took it's toll - the last mile seemed longer than all the rest, and to make matters worse it snaked back past the finish line before doubling back, uphill, to the end.  It felt like that last mile worked me more than the previous 12 - despite the small increase in effort.  But maybe it was my mind playing tricks, after all it was over 90% humidity and over 80 degrees by 9 am.  I ran by my dad, uncle, and two boys near the start and got an extra boost, crossing the line in 1:35:20 - a new PR for me (which doesn't say much since i rarely do pure running races and have actually trained at the distance faster than this on many occasions).  It was cool to be able to go out so soon after a fairly big endurance effort (Too much Fun expedition 2010) and run 13 miles at about a 7:15 pace (actually just under 7:17) - gives me a bit of confidence in what lies ahead.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Silverman thoughts

Seems like not very long now until the silverman race.  My fitness suffered a bit in the lead up to TMF 3 as a result of the blisters on my foot and trying to get ready for my thesis defense.  Alas, the defense was  a train wreck and i'm going to continue to be (too) busy trying to sort through the wreckage for another go.  Priorities though include getting a solid training schedule planned so that i'm ready to go in november.

There's a bit of a twist though, in that because i'll be part of team Yogaslackers for the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge in December (a very high profile international stage race) they want to race with me prior to that event.  so it looks like i'm doing the Checkpoint tracker series national championship race down in Moab, Utah, the weekend before the Silverman.  I know, I know, this probably will hurt my performance a bit, but well see how it goes.  In many ways its very much against my better judgement, but on the other hand it provides a heap of excuses for the Ironman, should i need to use them.

Two more things:  i've added a link to the training pages which will take readers to my silverman training schedule (still a work in progress) which i'll fill in as i go, and i've picked out goals or benchmarks that i hope to meet during my training, which i'll use to determine preparedness (and the worth of my training).  I'd like to be able to hammer each discipline pretty hard for at least a quarter distance of what i'll be doing during the race.  In numbers this means i'm shooting to swim 1000 meters in 15 minutes, bike 28 miles in 1 hr 15, and then running 7 miles in 45 minutes.  i'm thinking that swimming is going to be the hardest, but we'll see.

TMF 3 (2010)

The wind river range trip is now over and done.  One of the guys will eventually write a fantastic trip report and when this is done i'll post a link.  there will eventually also be a movie, and i'll get that on here too.  in the meantime lets just say it was a great trip - semi-successful (in the vein of the two previous ones), and is already fueling the imagination for TMF 4 next year.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Round 2

Map of the ride

Last sunday I found myself at the in-law's cabin near Vergas, MN again.  Unable to run because of my recent barefoot running experiment, i thought i'd take another crack at the 30+ mile ride that had so humbled me back in march (post is here).  The winds were high but cool temps and a couple of days of rest had me feeling up to the challenge.   Long story short - what had taken me 130 minutes then took me about 97.  I was elated and shocked.  I hadn't even been giving it everything i've got - most of my time was in Z2 and Z3, with a few pushes into Z4 and above on some of the hills when i was feeling frisky.  I was so fired up when i completed the loop that i tacked on an extra 6 miles just for fun.

Not sure what the cause for the vast improvement is - i'd been riding more back in march, albeit most of it was inside.  The geometry has changed a bit on my bike - i spent lots of time in aero position this time whereas last time i didn't have the aerobars on the bike.  I'm not sure aero position can account for a change of this magnitude however - but i'm fairly sold now on the idea of spending as much time 'down' as possible.  Needless to say, i'm fired up and thinking that maybe i'll pull off the silverman in good style after all!

Holes in my feet (where the rain comes in)

Ok, so you decided to see what's up for me.  Before you read on, why don't you click on the embedded you-tube posting of the Pogues classic, 'Sitting on top of the World' that's been running through my head since i went out and put holes in my feet last week.  Then you can happily move on to the rest of the post while being exposed, at least in all probability, to some new music.

Well, i finished Born to Run.  great book with lots of awesome info on the Tarahumara runners and barefoot running in general (though in all honesty the constant 'over the top' story-telling that is so well suited for magazines covering extreme sports and the like got a bit tiresome after the first few pages).  It made me renew my commitment go going even more minimalist in my own running than i've been doing with inov-8's most bare-bones shoe (that's currently available anyway, as they've got some new offerings due out around Xmas).  My wife had decided to try this earlier in the week and came back raving about how easy her 5 miles had felt.  Easy and  fun.  After her glowing report and forgetting my shoes anyway on the following wednesday, i decided it was time to make the change.

On tap was a warm-up followed by 2 x 2 mile intervals with a 1/4 mile of walking in between.  it was pretty hot and some sections of the sidewalk were too toasty to linger on - but i reasoned this wouldn't make a difference since i'd be going so fast.  My goal pace was 6:40 per mile, which, based on my last couple runs should have felt pretty hard.  It was and it wasn't.

Cardio wise i felt fantastic.  i was only timing the whole interval and never look at my watch enroute, so i didn't have any idea of what pace i was moving at as i set off down university avenue along the one mile stretch between Columbia and 42nd street, where i'd turn around and retrace my steps for the second mile.  I knew i had two intervals so wanted to be conservative and set off with a lively gait but one that didn't feel difficult.  1/2 mile in i felt invincible, except for two tiny little square centimeter patches of skin on the balls of my feet.  By a mile into it each step was painful, and i started seeking out patches of grass to ease the pain whenever possible.  I was too stubborn to stop though, thinking that i was just being soft and determined to get at least one interval in.

When i finished the watch had encouraging news (I felt quite fresh and had averaged just under 6:30 per mile) but the soles of my feet were broadcasting their own urgent, late breaking bulletin.  One look at the quarter sized fluid filled blister just under the second toe of my right foot was enough to let me know i wasn't going to get my second interval in.

The rest of the day i walked on the outside of my feet.  That night i drained one big blister on the sole of each foot and two smaller ones on toes of each, for a grand total of 6 blisters formed over a whopping 13 minutes.  Amazing.  By the next morning the right foot blister had somehow resealed itself and grown to epic proportions - it stuck out so far from the bottom of my foot that even walking on the outside of my foot caused pressure and intense pain.  I was grumpy and frustrated - it was only about 10 days until my big endurance expedition in wyoming and i'd gone and messed up my feet.  In a fit of rage i re-drained the blister and then proceeded to remove all of the dead protective layer covering the very tender and very red new skin underneath.  The increased air flow to the area made it feel like i was being branded on my foot and the pain upon walking was, unbelievably, worse than with the blister intact.  I immediately got on the computer and read about proper blister care (always good to do this after the fact - why would anyone want to make an informed decision anyway?) and how i had done exactly the wrong thing.

Later, i solicited help from the only source i could - my brother jason.  As an adventure racing guru he's had more blisters than anyone i know and also had learned effective ways of dealing with them when just doing nothing wasn't an option.  His advice?  Just do nothing.  He advised me to walk as little as possible - not go for my runs, not go for bike rides - just to limit the amount of activity and try to promote quick healing of the area.

I could only follow through with the first two suggestions.  I put my feet up whenever possible, and haven't run since.  I did 'have to' go for a bike ride though - which ended up going really well, but i'll leave that for another post.  In any effect, it's helped and the blister is on its way towards healing, and my limp (thanks to cutting a hole in my flip flop to match that in my foot) is now only a ghost of its former self - if only temporarily.  i've no doubt that the wyoming trip will cause it's own share of disaster news being broadcast by a body desperate to end the suffering.  I'll be sure to keep my earplugs in until the trips is done, i'm home, and i can share the news and seek sympathy from anyone who will listen.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Mish Mash (a little of everything)

I'm fairly overwhelmed.  I've actually managed to write an 80 page thesis which has no results (in fact, the last sentence states "the results are pending" which is true only if that translates to "the results don't exist").  I'm slated to defend in less than 2 weeks, which means i have to put together a 40 minute powerpoint.  On top of that i'm trying to maintain what little momentum i have for planning the fall adventure race (thus far single handedly) - which entails at a bare minimum showing up for the city council meetings where the agenda will include deciding whether or not to grant permission for the race to require swimming in the very dangerous (at least according to nearly every city official in Grand Forks) Red River.
Tammy in our surfski on the much feared Red River of the North.

In fact, the larger city of Grand Forks had considered it so dangerous that their city ordinance was crafted to prohibit any swimming in the river, without even the option to allow it under special circumstances.  So the council itself has to first has to re-write the ordinance to give themselves permission to modify the ordinance on occasions such as this.  Don't you love politics?  Amidst all this I'm trying to get trained up for my upcoming trip to the wilds of Wyoming for 'Too Much Fun III' - which in keeping with tradition we'll wait to name something terribly cheesy until after the trip is over. 

2009 TMF expedition to Mt. Rainier (AKA Peaks, paddles and planks)

2008 TMF expedition to Granite Mountain, Montana. (AKA Four ways to die)
I'm trying to hammer the running but the heat, the long days in front of the computer, and the combined stresses of academics and politics (not to mention a family with two boys - but at least thats a different kind of stress) are conspiring to make it difficult.  I nearly quit today's ten mile run half way through (i felt like sh*T) but somehow kept going, and ended up averaging 10 seconds slower than i'd hoped to go.  Whew.  And things will just get more interesting next week as my folks (who are invaluable normally) are heading out on vacation starting tomorrow and we're set to try and potty train AJ (who just turned two last month) over the next couple days.  Luckily, my wife is a saint and has been handling things (well, me) exceptionally well and picking up the slack that i've been dropping by the armload.  Thanks tammy (;

Tammy and AJ packrafting through 'rapids valley' on the Turtle River.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Chippewa Triathlon - small fish in a big pond

Photo from the Grand Forks Herald article that came out in April of 2010.  The author, Ann Bailey, dubbed me 'Captain Adventure' without my knowledge (thanks alot Ann!).  To make sure i'll never live it down, yesterday my wife gave me a nice base-layer shirt, proudly (and largely) displaying the moniker (thanks alot Tammy!).

Living in Grand Forks, ND and being none other than Captain Adventure himself, i've started to feel like a big fish in a small pond.  This past weekend, however, with a trip to the Chippewa Triathlon (only a few hours east into minnesota), i found myself in entirely different waters.  I placed sixth in my category (solo), which isn't as high as i'd hoped, but then i was expecting this after the pre-race dinner on friday night when i arrived and saw some of the boats some of the other solo racers would be using (K-1 class stuff).  All in all i had a great time and was pretty happy with how i fared and how well my relatively untested portage system worked.  The full triathlon results can be found here and some photos from the race here

Entering the woods on one of the portages during the canoe leg

When expanding my category to include all the male racers who completed the entire course (including those who paddled as a pair - either with another guy or as part of a coed team - and thus had a significant advantage so to speak), I had 83 'competitors'.  I finished 26th in the paddle, 16th in the bike, and 11th in the run, and 17th overall.  

It was a great race made greater by the fact that it also serves as a it of a family reunion on my wife's side.  She partnered with her brother to complete the whole thing (though at a much more leisurely pace) and for the first time one of the youngest generation - her sister's 12 year old son, Thomas - participated by doing the run.  In addition, i made a couple of new friends (Tim, Paul, and Joe - who i was happy to be swapping pulls with during the last 10 miles of the bike leg) and got to catch up with some folks i'd met at the Arrowhead 135 during the post race meal.  

Tammy and Dave just after the start of the race

Since the race i learned a few things which, if i decide to do it again next year, promise to make me even faster - 1) Get a lighter paddle.  I was using a SRS 5 piece wing paddle with indestructible plastic blades that weighed well over a kilogram.  OUCH.  My shoulders were jelly after about an hour and forty minutes, which coincidentally is the length of my longest day of paddle training.  2) Higher PSi isn't always a good thing.  I'd set my tire pressure at nearly 60 psi because i thought that this would make me faster as the bike course was said to be relatively mud free.  But after talking to my brother, the adventure racing guru, i've realized that unless you're on asphalt almost exclusively, a lower tire pressure (35-40 psi) is better.  As it was, my super hard tires bit deeper into the wettish sand, dirt, and clay that formed over half of the bike course and probably slowed me down.  I noticed the drag during the race - i remember constantly looking down at my tires to make sure they weren't going flat, as i seemed perpetually to be peddling through nearly dry cement.  I'm guessing the guy that blew by me 5 minutes after i started the bike leg as if i was standing still had proper tire pressure!  3) Force the food.  I tried my best but got so carried away in always trying to be right at my edge that i forgot to eat as much as i probably should have.  As a consequence the last two miles of the run were tough - i hit some sort of a wall and began to a bit light headed.  It was a strange space to occupy for the last 15 minutes or so of the run, and i'm fairly certain what had been a decent pace slowed considerably.

Great event overall - but next year,  i'll certainly have to get serious about the paddling and improve my placing a bit, or better yet, maybe i'll just swim the thing instead of paddling it - really make it a true triathlon. After all, Captain Adventure has a reputation to uphold, and that does sound like a good adventure....

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Paddlers early on in the 2008 race (photo courtesy of GetOutdoorsUSA)

I'm racing in the Chippewa triathlon this weekend.  It will be my first real endurance test since the arrowhead in February - and that seems like ages ago.  I figure i'll come in with a time of around 6 hours and hope to place in the top three in the solo male catagory (Ok, honestly i hope to win).  I may be way off base - i may get slaughtered - who knows.  But if you've followed this journey at all, you probably know that i think confidence is key.....

The training has been going as well as can be expected, given that the stress of writing my thesis (due for completion in a matter of 6 weeks) is severe and made worse by the fact that my heart is only slightly in it.  I think i've finally got the kinks worked out for the paddling leg - the second version of the attached wheel assembly seems to be working fine - though it's only been really tested on one occasion.  I'm feeling reasonably fit in all three disciplines (though not at my peak in any of them) and have had a few longer workouts this last week to prepare me mentally for the challenge.  My bike is tuned up (if only the chain doesn't break this year!) and ready to go, and i've only a few last minute gear tweaks to make (how do i attach the camel bak to my life jacket for the paddle?  do i take the carbon soled bike shoes that hurt my feet, of the comfy nylon soled ones that let my heels slip out?).  I'm excited as hell and can't wait to leave it all out there and forget about grad school for a while.  

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


This is destined to be a short post as i'm due home in 20 minutes, but I just handed in the draft of my thesis and need a few minutes to decompress - so i thought i'd mention something i'd been thinking about lately - accountability.

One of the toughest things about hard, effective training of the type i'm promoting with this blog is figuring out where to place accountability to ensure the longevity of the training.  It's easy to let 3 hours a week drift off to nothing - alot easier than say, 20 hours a week.  20 hours a week requires such a tremendous amount of commitment in the first place - life essentially is built (at least in very significant ways) around the fitness goals of such an athlete.  But i've noticed both through the 'participants' that i've trained and self-reflection that it's there's a hidden difficulty in taking on this 'three hours to prepare for anything' agenda - it seems too easy.

People start off excited - amped up. They work hard and realize very quick gains in endurance and performance - the learning curve is steep.  It's always easier to stick with something when the results are noticeable.  But just like any diet - it's not starting thats really the tough part.  Once the first plateau is hit (of many), enthusiasm generally wanes.  The workouts are damn hard after all - not relentlessly so, but pretty close.  The upshot of all this is that i'm realizing that my 'audience' is much smaller than i had previously thought.  Sure, i still believe that the theory is sound - but the crevasse that forms the gulf between theory and reality (for most folks) is always bigger when you're standing on it's edge than it is when the view from afar enticed you to head in it's direction.

I guess what i'm trying to get at is that this works for me (sometimes better than others) because i've accepted accountability.  I'm determined to do this - to maximize my potential as the byline of the blog indicates - despite the many demands on my time.  I didn't sign up for anything.  There's not the unconscious expectations that are certainly present for those who are following training schedules i provide.  And i think that things that are dependent, even in part, on external validation (pleasing the coach, the partner, the world), are easier to 'drop' when the s**t hits the fan than things that we do only to please ourselves.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Detailed Balance

Just a very quick post/update as i struggle unsuccessfully (at least this is how it feels) to write write write my way into a master's degree.  I'm normally fond of procrastinating until the last minute - i work better under pressure and find i'm more efficient this way - but i've never quite been in a situation like this where two weeks out from the deadline for a completed first draft is the last minute.  I often don't know how i'll manage it - but truth be told it will end up managing itself in one way or another.  It only makes me a little bit grumpy because it's on my mind all the time and i end up by default withdrawing unconsciously into my own little world filled with the language of statistical mechanics (and granted - there is some cool language in this world - words like Lagrangian, ergodicity (one of my favorites!), phase space, Markov, etc) - and i end up somewhat isolated from the family and kids which is a bummer.  I'm trying to separate work from home but it's getting harder and harder to do and soon the nightly ritual of two episodes of Arrested Development on netflix that's been keeping me sane will have to be abandoned too.  I only hope that i can just get this done - 10 weeks is better than having it loom for another entire semester.....

It's making it hard to train a bit too - although i sucked it up and had a decent week last week.  Here's the update:

  • Workout #1:  Tuesday.  I found out that i'd actually got less fit (my Vdot went from a 52.2 about 10 weeks ago to a 51.6) based on my 4 mile 'time trial' (which was positively brutal) 
  • Workout #2: Thursday.  I was able to get some support from Erik Sanders, a fellow triathlete and collegiate bike racer, who agreed to join me for a workout.  I knew he'd be faster than me but thought it would motivate me to go hard.  It did - and i managed to keep up with him but only by staying in his slip-stream after about the first 6 miles or so.  I'd actually get to recover a bit while drafting - so much so that i'd imagine i could take a turn pulling - but as soon as i'd try to do so i'd realize my mistake (it's amazing the difference the draft can make!)  I finally got a chance to share the load as we neared the end of the ride and headed into a stiff headwind - Erik politely looked back and said "you can take a turn up here if you'd like" - as if he was concerned that i wasn't getting the workout that i wanted because he was doing all the leading.  I'd decided to do a brick and so threw on shoes after the 22 mile ride and tried to push the opening pace and cadence (the key to a fast run in an olympic or shorter tri, in my opinion, is to get right into it and, as my wife is fond of saying, 'begin as you intend to go on').  Erik paced me on his bike and after a few blocks where i struggled with cramping calves i started picking up the pace and was right around 9 mph (6:40 pace) within the first half mile.  1.7 miles later i was headed back to the house with Erik convincing me to finish as though it was a race.  Bastard.
  • Workout #3:  I paddled for an hour on the Red Lake River - using my normal kayak blade (as opposed to wing paddle) to ascertain the speed difference.  Even though i did intervals (20, 40, 60, 80,100, 80, 60, 40, 20 paddle strokes on each side at tempo with 20 easy strokes in between) and otherwise tried to set a good pace, i was still, at least based on my calculations,  a third of a mile per hour slower than with the wing blade.  Might not seem like much but its more than 5% - which when you're trying to win a race is more than significant.  Now i'm not sure which paddle to take - if i take the wing paddle the last mile or so of the chippewa paddle section (the race i'm training for) might be messy as it winds through a narrow creek termed the 'snake pit' and i've far from mastered the difficult art of sculling, drawing, etc with the wing that seem necessary to successfully navigate such a waterway in a 16+ foot surf-ski.  I'm considering trying out hand paddles, but will leave that for this weekend.
Alright - that's it. Back to work.  It's time to write about 'detailed balance' with credibility, even though it's rather clear that i don't have any.  

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fruits part 2

This video is even better than the first. I'll let it speak for itself.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Running Slowly

My brother commented the other day after his last Vdot test (see 'participant workout logs' on the sidebar and then TMF crew for training specifics) that although there was a huge improvement, he felt like he was really struggling - so much so that he imagined he was going quite slowly.

I learned to deal with this feeling long ago, and have pretty much been able to adjust my internal sense of 'fast and slow' as a result.  The fact is that when you run twice a week (or sometimes even once) and are always pushing the intensity to some degree, you're going to end up exhausted.  There are no 'easy' runs, and it turns out that my meaning of 'fast' from years of not doing any HIT (high intensity training) used to translate to 'easy'.

I am waayyyy faster than i've ever been.  But because i spend all my running time in at least Zone 3 (Marathon race pace or better for those not well versed on training zones) i never really end my runs feeling good.  I do end them feeling good about the run however; but because this is usually accompanied by some level of gastro-intestinal distress, severe calf tightness, and shivering (as my body struggles to regulate its body temperature after the exertion), it's not the classic endorphins and runner's high.  The last few miles I always feel like i'm plodding - dragging along horribly - and wonder if i'm even managing an 8 min. mile.  I feel  slow.

But the training works - for me anyway - and although the time spent suffering never gets to be enjoyed by having it make something previously uncomfortable less so, it does get to be enjoyed in that for a given distance, i won't end up suffering quite as long.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Proof in the pudding

While Jason (my twin brother) and Chelsea (his then GF, now fiance) were visiting last summer we went running together a few times.  They were both in excellent fitness in general from very active lifestyles and their almost constant (but un-regimented) training for adventure races.  They had heard about my training philosophies and had even read a few of my workouts - but the speeds that had become normal training paces for me were apparently less impressive on paper than they were when viewed through the lens of direct experience.  They were planning some big races in the fall and winter months and thought that maybe some high intensity work might be the ticket to make them even more competitive.

So i crafted them i program around their busy schedule which they dabbled in a bit - fitting it around their existing 'training' of the more fun type which might consist of a 3 mile trail run to a crag, a 10 route climbing blitz, and a 3 mile run back to the car followed by teaching a two hour acro-yoga workshop.  They got some good workouts in no doubt but struggled with consistency.

But recently, after some tantalizing successes (5th place in the Wenger Patagonia Expedition Race last february) and also some disappointments (19th place in the Abu Dhabi adventure challenge) they both felt that they were on the cusp of starting to truly be competitive in the world of professional adventure racing. But they realized that one thing that they could improve was their baseline speed.  So they signed on again.

In addition, a member of the yogaslacker eco-expedition team, Tom Grundy, was coerced into taking part in the experiment in order to get ready for this years Too Much Fun expedition slated for july, which was more ambitious than ever and would require miles and miles of back-country travel, both on and off trail, between climbs.  We'd need to cover these distances in hours rather than days and although Tom is the go-to guy in the mountains, he hadn't done any dedicated endurance training in, well, ever.

Because i knew they all did other things to stay in shape - we decided to focus on running.  I came up with a program that would require two runs a week, and that would base training paces on Vdot scores. The second week of the program included a test to determine this score (the first week served as a general 'warm-up' so that the 5 mile tempo run required for the Vdot wouldn't do too much damage).  Tom scored a 38, Chelsea a 43, and Jason a 47.

5 weeks later (this week) they retested.  Tom had jumped 5 points to a 43, chelsea 4 to a 47, and jason up to 50.  To put this in perspective, Tom's predicted 10K time at the start of the program was 52:17.  After five weeks of training only two days a week, it had dropped to 47:04.  This is perhaps not surprising, given tom's lack of previous running fitness.  Jason, who began the 'test' much more highly trained however, would have clocked a 43:36 (a respectable showing for a recreational runner!) initially and after five weeks dropped this to 41:21 - well under a 7 min per mile pace.  Perhaps even more exciting is the fact that tom, who as i mentioned, hadn't run more than a few miles since training for wrestling back in college (nearly 20 years ago) is already running mid-distance runs (7 miles) at about an 8 min pace and longer distance runs (10+ miles) at a 9 min pace.  Starting from scratch and following a traditional program would require many months to even be running these distances - but because of (in my opinion) the low volume, high intensity focus of the program, improvement comes much quicker  with minimal time (but maximal effort) invested.

Eventually these guys will plateau of course - you can only get so far running 15-20 miles a week - but again the idea is to get within 10% or so of your actual physical potential in a short amout of time and be able to stay there with only minimal time investment.  Thats the goal - and i think, at least in this case - it's achievable.