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.

Monday, February 28, 2011

putting it together

Andy Mueller, yetified.
Whew!  Iceman triathlon is done, and was a great success thanks to all the hard work from GGFYP, the volunteers that froze their butts off, and the wonderful sponsors, not to mention racers.  In the final week before the event i ended up putting in about 60 hours of work setting the course and taking care of last minute details and for the first time in well over a year didn't get in my 'allotted' time for training.  i thought about trying to make it up this coming week but this week promises to be just as busy as i prepare to leave the country for 7 weeks, heading to new zealand, and am just going to let it go.  although in the grand scheme of things this is clearly no big deal, it was in fact a small hurdle for me, as i've been pretty committed to getting three hours a week come hell or high water.  A good challenge.

A 'trail' from the Dusky Track
In new zealand i've got my next effort planned - a three day sufferfest that involves 100 miles of travel, split between packrafting (both whitewater and flatwater) and trekking/running on about 20% good trail, 50% bad trail (a trail only by new zealand standards), and 30% off trail.  the first day, which is pretty typical for all three, will involve about 15 miles of mountain running with serious elevation gain and loss, 6 miles of trail-less trekking, and 5 or 6 miles of whitewater paddling.  The second day takes in over half the distance of the infamous Dusky track, the most notorious walking 'track' in all of new zealand, after a flatwater paddle of about 12 miles.  to put things in perspective this section of track takes normal 'well equipped and experienced parties' four days walking.  Fun stuff.  In building up to this effort using the principals outlined in previous posts, here's what i've put together as a training regimine for the next four weeks....

  • Week 1 (2.5 hours) - packing for New zealand, traveling to MN on friday, flying to LA on saturday night.
    • tuesday:  StepMill, 30 min, speed.  Interval program.  lvl 14 for RI, lvl 20 for WI.
    • Wednesday:  swim, 15 minutes, tempo (aim for 1000+ yards)
    • Thursday:  Bike, 1 hour, Long.  On trainer.  gear profile 2-3 to 2-5 then back to 2-3, changing every 12 minutes, RPM 90-100.
    • Saturday:  Run, 45, tempo.  aim for six miles in under 42 minutes then 3 min WD.
  • Week 2 (3.5 hours) - in LA monday and most of tuesday, then wed-thursday travel to NZ.
    • Monday/Tuesday: Run, 1.5 hours, Long.  Aim for 12 or more miles.
    • Friday:  Run, 30, speed - 4 x 1 km in under 3:45 (6 min mile pace), or hills.
    • Saturday:  Possible paddle (hand paddle?), 30 min, tempo.
    • Sunday:  Run, 1 hour, tempo.  Rainbow reach?  broad bay?  good solid effort trail run, ideally around Te Anau.
  • Week 3 (4.5 hours) - in NZ, te Anau.
    • tuesday - cycle, 1 hour, tempo/continual hill ride.  (if possible)
    • wednesday - paddle, 40, tempo (hand paddle?)
    • Thursday/friday - Run, Long, 2:10 (up to luxmore?) - note, this workout is sort of a peak workout and so i've put it about 7 days before the proposed trip date.
    • sat/sun - Run, 40, speed/hill intervals.  TBD.
  • Week 4 (1.5 hours) - week of trip. days to be determined based on trip date. Can all be on consecutive days, or even same day.  one day of complete rest prior to trip.
    • Run, 30, easy.  around town with a few pickups
    • bike, 40, easy.  spinning in Z2/3 at high RPM
    • paddle, 20, easy.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

planning a day - long workouts

Long workouts are my favorite - as i find them to be mentally rejuvenating rather than stressful.  In keeping the universe in balance, however, they also tend to be the most physically depleting.

For long workouts i try to have a time/distance goal - i'm pretty anal so i usually use the time alloted and a pace determined by armchair ambition to set a distance and use it to plot my course.  if i manage to come in under time (which rarely happens) i'll add on a couple minutes of easy running until i've hit the time mark.  if i end up being off pace, i'll try to pick it up at the end and finish the distance in as close to the 'allotted' time as possible.  occasionally i'll run a couple of minutes longer than the workout prescribes, but never more than a couple.

I like the long runs because i don't have to psyche myself up much - all i've got to do is make sure i start.  i usually have some energy at the beginning so am able to settle into a decent pace rather quickly and feel good about it.  by the time the pace doesn't feel good anymore, i'm mentally committed to the workout, the adrenaline/endorphins/whatever-other-chemicals-are-up-there-in-my-synapses are full strength, i'm grooving to my tunes, and ready to push a bit. 

The key to getting the most out of these workouts is to strive for sustained Zone 3 effort (i refer you again to Joe Friel's website for information on training zones).  Zone three, or 'muscular endurance', shouldn't feel easy by any means, but it won't be the sustained effort that your tempo runs are (where you should be pushing lactate threshold, or Zone 4 during the work phase).  Joe call's zone 3 'happy hard' - it's hard enough so that you really feel like you're doing something, which makes you happy.  Most long runs in this program are less than 2 hours and so the aim is to build until you can spend as much of that time outside your comfort zone - going happy hard - as possible.  This is very different from many ultra endurance training regimines  based on classic conventional wisdom which advocate spending lots of time in Zone 1 and 2, very little in Zone 3, 10-15 % in Zone 4, and a few brief intervals above lactate threshold, in Zone 5.  If you're training on limited volume, this breakdown doesn't allow for enough stress to be placed on your physical system for much improvement.  And if your goal is to perform well over the long haul on such a schedule, mentally it's even worse.  

The idea is to mentally (again, if you've read my introductory posts you should recall how important i think mental fitness is to having success in endurance events) make a phase shift up the scale of zones - to move towards a point where the mental effort that was previously required for physical activity in Zone 2 can now sustain activity in Zone 3.  Zone 2 becomes the easiest training zone you access in this program, and even so you use it sparingly - for recovery between work intervals in the tempo workouts, as warm-up and cool down efforts on long and speed workouts.  Mentally it becomes your 'easy' pace - a great boon when you head out for that 50 mile race or century ride.  Of course training in Zone 3 is much more physically demanding than in Zone 2 - which means that even this 'long' workout will result in some of the significant muscular soreness that is usually associated with shorter, more intense workouts.  But of course you knew that there were no gimmie days in the program, didn't you.  At least you get to take the next day off (:

Saturday, February 12, 2011

planning a day - tempo workouts

these workouts offer a consistent weekly dose of race type suffering.  granted you won't be quite going race pace for the distance of your training session, but you should always be going faster than race pace for the distance you're training for - maybe significantly faster.  Tempo sessions also take alot of mental work, and after big races or time off, i've always eased back into them. I'll usually use as a starting point for pacing my best previous effort of some distance (peak pace) - for example, i currently consider my peak pace for running to be 9 miles in an hour (6:40 per mile pace).  Whenever i start getting serious about running after a hiatus, i'll look to approach this speed during my first real tempo workout back, even if only for a brief period.  A typical 'first' workout might look something like 2 mile warm up (WU), 2 mile tempo (6:40 pace), 3 mile easier (7:30 pace).  The next tempo session would build on this one, perhaps having a 1 mile warm up, 2 mile tempo, one mile easier, and 2 miles tempo, and one mile warm down.  eventually, the lions share - or even all - of time during a tempo workout will be spent at or near 'peak' pace.

Ultimately, i find that using the three hour a week program i'm pretty much always in good enough shape to reach my previous peak levels in any particular discipline in about 6-8 weeks of focused training (although i don't always have that long between events).  Although i'm sure i could get faster, i think that my current 'peak' level is pretty close to my potential (at least as far as running goes) based on this type of program.  Perhaps i could improve so that i was running 10 miles at a 6:30 per mile pace or something, but this would likely involve more sustained periods (12 weeks?  16?) with less cross training - and the truth of it is that i typically have some big race or trip planned that is difficult enough that it requires significant recovery afterwords - these races or trips act as sort of a reset button for me.  successive endeavors usually involve different disciplines and so at this point i'm pretty content at where my peak levels seem to be.  

One key point that remains to be made about tempo workouts is how hard to work during non-tempo intervals.  It is important to allow the warm-up to build quickly into a solid effort (Zone 2/3) and to keep all non-tempo intervals squarely in Zone 2 or above.  Zone 2 can be thought of as the pace you'd be spending most of your time in if you were to go out and race a marathon at your current fitness.  In my sample workouts above, it's clear that 'easier' doesn't mean easy.  The work intervals should feel rather difficult, so much so that you're very happy when they are over.  by not letting your heart rate drop back into Zone 1 you're physiologically and psychologically teaching yourself to recover at higher levels of effort.  The payoff is that over time, Zone 2 will become 'easy' - because this is the slowest pace you ever run in training.  During the initial period of time when i applied these principals to my running, not only did i get faster at the top end, but i also got faster at the bottom end, and disproportionately so (my top end mid distance pace went from about 7:40 to 6:40 while my 'slow' mid distance pace went from about 9 minutes per mile to 7:30).  In the context of major endurance efforts, this is huge - as your 'easy' pace is where you're going to spend most of your time during an ultra distance race.  if you're comfortable physically and mentally in Zone 2, you're going to just move that much faster.  

planning a day - speed/hill sessions

these workouts can be as short as 30 minutes in length, but are often mentally the toughest.  They work well either inside or out, but i've found them to be most effective when i've got reasonably controlled conditions so that my attention can be focused on the difficult intervals that they require. I usually allow the first 5 minutes as a warm-up, building quickly up to Zone 3 effort (according Friel) for a couple minutes and then backing down to Z2 for the last minute of warm-up so that i can mentally prepare for the upcoming set.  I will usually include the maximum number of intervals that i can in the remaining time.  for example, if a workout includes 1 minute work intervals (WI) followed by 1 min rest intervals,  i might warm up for 5 minutes and go immediately into the first of 12 work intervals.  this leaves one extra minute of warm down, for two total minutes after the last set.  The shorter the duration of the WI, the greater the output you should shoot for during the interval.  1 minute intervals should have you performing at a well above lactate threshold for much of the interval, and you can expect heart rates of 80% to 90% of your maximum.  Rest interval output during short intervals should be minimal - easy spinning on a bike or walking for example - the goal is to see how consistently you can meet a target during thework intervals. push reasonably hard on the first interval and you'll guarantee yourself an awesome workout trying to always match this benchmark.

for longer WI, say 4 x 4 min WI with 3 min RI, my goal pace for the WI will be a bit more modest - perhaps only slightly above or even at lactate threshold (Z4) - but my RI pace will be a bit higher in contrast.  For me, a 7 min mile pace over 10 miles usually requires substantial effort but is possible.  for the workout mentioned above i might attempt to run three quarters of a mile and then walk between 'sets' or perhaps 2/3 of a mile at a 6 min pace with a RI @8 min pace.  The key ingredient of course is intensity - the work intervals need to be challenging enough so that when you're on your second one, even though you may have been working out only 10 or less minutes, you're realizing that this is going to be a challenge.  I have all sorts of mental tricks that i've found effective in keeping my motivation high when i'm already spent, and i'll go over some of these in a later post.

Setting a benchmark with the first interval, as mentioned above, is crucial.  It keeps you honest and able to assess your workout objectively as you proceed though it. As mentioned, having a track or planned course and watch (or some other device with which to calculate your pace), is important.  If these are not available, cardio equipment at a gym can be an excellent substitute, as it offers a way to objectively set the parameters of both WI and RI.  Mentally, this can be the toughest of the three workouts because, particularly with more numerous and shorter intervals, it requires you to muster up you will over and over again, even for just a half an hour session.  On the days where you're worried about being able to push yourself on that first interval, cardio equipment can even 'get you into' the workout without as much mental effort on your part, particularly if you've regularly trained indoors and have some historical pacing strategies to pull from.  If i know i've run 10x1 minute intervals at a 5:30 pace before but i'm feeling lazy, i can just key up the program and try hang on for the ride.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

planning a week

i've found pretty consistent success with my limited training and i think alot of that is due to these basic structure that the training follows on a weekly basis.  There are several key principals that i pretty much apply to every week, regardless of the event i'm training for, what part of the periodization phase i'm in, or other constraints.  Beyond these principals i will often change things up so that it's always felt, to me, like there is a fair bit of flexibility in my schedule.  so without further introduction, here they are:
  1. perform three core workouts a week:  one should be focused on higher intensity speed work or hill training, one on what is often called 'tempo' training, and one on a longer, more moderate intensity workout.
  2. At least one day of rest should be allowed between the core workouts
  3. At least 5/6 (50 minutes of every hour) of total training time should be spent on the core workouts.
  4. at least two athletic disciplines (whenever possible) should be practiced each week. 
I'll now elaborate, going down the list.  as mentioned, there are three core workouts - speed/hills, tempo, and long.  speed workouts are shorter in duration and usually involve intervals (either hill or pace driven ones) that can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes, with typical intervals usually around the 1 or 2 minute mark.  There are lots of  different ways to approach speed training, but i've found success with total workout times between 30-45 minutes.  A key feature of speed workouts is that during the intervals you are pushing your body beyond lactate threshold, up into Z5 (according to Friel).  recovery periods are typically similar in length to the work periods, and the body is forced to continually adapt to the changing levels of exertion.  Tempo workouts are typically in the hour range and may also involve intervals that are longer (5+ minutes) but can also be continuous efforts at near lactate threshold (Z3/4).  The basic idea is to practice performing at 'race pace' - given that race is somewhere around 30-60 minutes long, or about as long as the training session.  These efforts push the body to increase aerobic capacity efficiently.  long workouts end up being from about 1:15 to 2.5 hours in duration and are primarily spend in Z2/3.  Ideally, and as one gets fitter, longer and longer amounts of time should be spend in Z3 during these workouts. 

Because even the 'moderate' workouts are rather intense, a day of rest is required between sessions.  this is one of my favorite parts of the program - and i feel it is essential.  piling the workouts back to back can lead to injury, overtraining, but more likely, low motivation.  it's amazing the gains you can make in short time frames when each of your workouts is paying off maximally - and this of course is the goal of the program.  if you can't get a day of rest, skip the workout and make up the time down the line.

Back in highschool, years before i started participating in endurance based activities, i started lifting weights.  i read all the muscle magazines and idiotically followed thier routines, lifting for 2 hours, 6 days a week.  of course i got stronger, but i also wasted alot of time towards what i now consider a rather useless pursuit - i wasn't trying to get towards some functional end - the goal was to look bigger and push around big metal disks in a gym.  While those days long gone and i no longer care about how much i can lift, i do still carry around the appreciation i gained for being able to handle my own bodyweight.  as such, it's important to me to maintian a base level of strength that i feel enhances my overall fitness.  In addition to my endurance training, i do two short sessions of strength training a week.  Presently these sessions last 5 minutes each.  when training for triathlon, i often also add a swim workout to my training, usually limited to 15 or 20 minutes.  with all these additions, a typical week during tri training might include 2 hours and 30 minutes spread over 3 'core' workouts (either biking or running) and 30 minutes of other activity.  taking much more than half an hour (or one sixth) of the total weekly training time for these pursuits is not recommended, nor necessary once adequate muscular fitness has been developed.  it is even possible to gain strength on a limited routine, but i'll leave that for another post.  limiting this non-core work to 30 minutes will minimize recovery needs not directly related to the overall goal of the program and ensure adequate time for the three main workouts.

The kernal of thought that started this whole training revolution for me a marathon training program from the furman institute of running, or FIRST.  this program advocated only three runs a week to prepare for a 26.2 mile race.  the workouts ended up totalling about 3 hours (give or take) and although optional 'cross training' workouts were recommended as part of the program, i found the uneccessary.  I actually poured so much effort into the three weekly workouts that any intermediate workout would have had to be either ridiculously easy or would have kept me from going hard on the next run.  so i pressed on with these three weekly workouts and saw my running speed and endurance shoot through the roof.  10 mile runs became easy.  my 'long run' pace dropped to about 7:30 per mile for a casual run, or under 7 minutes if i pushed it.  i'd never been fast before, but now i felt like i was.  Mentally, however, it was tough to keep up the intensity and i switched to doing one of the weekly workouts as crosstraining - typically a bike ride.  i used the same structure for these workouts - if the prescribed run was to be speed training, i'd do speed training on the bike.  the intensity remained, but by switching disciplines i was able to stay mentally focused for longer periods of time, and still found myself able to improve and maintain a high level of fitness.  Over the past few years i've continued having success (both mentally and physically) keeping the intensity where it needs to be to maximize the effectiveness of the limited training volume by including at least two different disciplines during the week.  If i'm training for a single discipline event (say a run), i always do two core workouts in that discipline and one in another (biking for example).  i'll cycle the types of workout (speed, tempo, long) so that every three weeks i'll do two runs of each.  It gets a bit trickier for muti-discipline events such as triathlon or adventure racing, but i'll also address this issue in another post.

happy training!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Signs of an endurance sufferfest

Alot of races take thier toll on the body - but true endurance events leave a few special hallmarks that let you know that what you've just done is in a different league from your run of the mill marathon.  Here's a list of what you can expect when you cross over to the dark side of things....
    Under attack during the 2010 AH135
  1. Sleepmonsters:  i can race easy for about 36 hours without having a major battle with these beasties.  but if i'm racing hard, 4-6 hours or so after the setting of the sun i'll start to see them slipping from behind the trees - shadowy creatures slightly darker than the night - beguiling me to close my eyes and rest.  On the arrowhead, i made it to mel george, through 5 hours of black just fine, only to be besieged by these demons in broad daylight 20 miles from the finish.  Tom had his first experience with them en-route to mel george - the little 10 foot bubble of soft white light provided by his headlamp almost soothing him to sleep.  it's a crazy experience to be riding/running/paddling and feel like you're steadily sliding down a slippery slope towards sleep - like trying to run up a slide in socks - staying put in the strange realm of partial consciousness is all you can really hope for.  i've managed to make progress (albeit painfully slow progress) for 12 hours in such a state, and even (during primal quest in 2006) managed a 10 mile hike with absolutely no memory of it - i imagine some lower part of my mind kept me upright and on the trail, with nothing being recorded cognitively.  Good stuff.
  2. Crazy skin:  Not sure how else to describe this one, but in long races your skin will eventually feel funky - tingly, hypersensetive, almost as if it's not your skin.  i have a few theories on why this occurs - one has to do with constant contact with rather tight fitting base-layer type clothing for days, another with decreased blood to outer layer of skin in the cold (happens quicker when the temps are lower), a third with high moisture content on the skin from sweat soaked garments, and finally pressure (ie from an elastic waistband) seems to play a role.  it may result from a combination of these or some other unmentioned process, but it happens none-the-less.  i'm used to it so think little of it.  it was new to tom in the arrowhead and just another lesson in normal bodily changes under extreme and prolonged efforts.
  3. Reflux:  This is my least favorite.  After a big race, and sometimes during (depending on effort and length), i always get mild reflux.  maybe the acid balance in my stomach is off - certainly it's being screwed with alot - eating for energy maintenence during activity when blood flow is minimzed to the digestive organs and then gorging during an hour or overnight break certainly requires lots of adjustment.  In any case, it sucks.  After the arrowhead i started pounding the real food - soup, cookies, etc - there seemed no end to my appetite - but the pace at which i could consume was limited by my tolerance for the discomfort.  I'd forgotten about this little fun side effect as well until after the race, when tom and i seemed to notice it simultaneously.  luckily, the psychological reward of finishing far overshadowed the annoyance of the reflux.
  4. The second hand moves faster the longer you're racing
  5. Mouth sores: The longer the race, the worse this is.  The harder you race, the worse it is too.  race food has lots of ascorbic acid, citric acid, sugar, etc - constant consumption of these and the fact that if you're really going hard you're probably not stopping to brush - add up to be torturous on your gums and tongue.  after primal quest i had such bad sores that i couldn't eat without severe pain for weeks and lost 15 pounds.  After the arrowhead, partly because i consumed less race food and some real food, the problem was limited to swollen gums and a tender roof of my mouth that made eating uncomfortable but not impossible.  Not sure how tom fared with this one.
  6. Severe time dilation:  this one's my favorite hallmark of a big race.  if you were to go out right now and bike for an hour, it would probalby feel like an hour.  at the end of the arrowhead, an hour felt like 10 minutes.  we developed a schedule that we'd stop to eat and drink every sixty minutes - spending about 5 minutes stopped before pressing on.  although this left 55 minutes between stops, the stops seemed to come right on top of each other.  In comparison to the first 45 minutes of the race, which seemed to take forever, this is a welcome feature of the ultra-endurance effort.  I mean if every 45 minutes seemed like that first 45 minutes, the mental aspect of the race would certainly be more daunting.  The brain, thankfully, seems to make this change quite naturally and seamlessly - and i've always noticed this effect during  my long events.
There's the list - if you're out there making an effort at a longer race, you now know what to expect!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Arrowhead recap - the story of Tom Fisher

scene at the start of the race

Tom came through the door of the Gateway store, 35 miles into the arrowheadultra- a 135 mile winter bike race along snow-mobile trails in norhern minnesota- a broken boy.  It was 2:30, seven and a half hours after the race start - the leaders had passed through nearly four hours before.  A seventeen year old junior in high-school from grand forks, ND, tom was trying to be the youngest person to finish the brutal race held in International falls - the coldest city in the lower 48 - on the first week in february - historically the coldest day of the year.  Things weren't looking good.

I was tom's chaperone, or guardian, for the attempt.  He had been allowed to race only on the condition i stayed with him the entire time.  but i flatted my rear tire 45 minutes into the race - my biggest fear - and so tom and I used our only spare small tube (i had a normal sized rear tire, rather than the typical fat ones used for snow-biking) and managed to get back on the trail after only 10 minutes, despite the minus fifteen cold.  45 minutes later i flatted again.  after a futile attempt to cram an oversized snow-bike tube into the rear wheel we came up with a plan - tom would continue to the first checkpoint at gateway store with another rider, a co-worker, and i would drop from the race, catch a ride and try to trouble shoot the bike.   the race directori luckily agreed - but if i was unablte to accompany him past gateway, he'd have to drop too.

In the warmth  of the store, i managed to fix the tire.  antsy, i decided to ride the trail backwards to find tom.  i rode for an hour, finally coming across a rider i knew that had been half an hour behind tom when we had split up. he didn't remember passing him.  I was worried, and rode back to the store hoping i'd somehow rode right by him  but i hadn't.  he finally arrived half an hour later and the look on his face was one of extreme humility, doubt, and disappointment.  I'd told him the race would be harder than anything he'd ever done.  while he might have understood this intellectually at the start line he now knew it viscerally, with every cell of his body.  I didn't ask him if he wanted to continue of if he felt like he could finish - i just told him what he needed to do:  take off his wet clothes.  eat some soup.  massage his legs (that had cramped badly miles before the store). He complied in a daze and eventually could spoon the chili-mac into his mouth without shaking.  I took this as a sign that it was time to rebuild his confidence.

We left the store at 4:30, the last bikers to get back on the trail. Tom was full of reeses, soup, and coffee and I'd managed to borrow a bike from a guy (thanks Dave!) that seemed a bit more dependabe than what i'd been riding. Maybe he (we) had a shot. eventually we caught one rider, then another.  It got dark and we entered some hills, climbing and descending in ten foot bubbles of white light. every hour we'd stop in our tracks and eat and drink.  every two hours we'd hit a shelter, marking approximately 12 miles of travel. Tom had bounced back - he was riding up the hills that were covered in boot tracks, evidence that most that had come before us had walked.  He resisted the urge to linger at the fires that had been built near the shelters, and worked hard to fend off the sleepmonsters (his first real brush with them), and we arrived at Mel George's, a cabin checkpoint at mile 70 just after 11 pm.

heading towards Mel George's

although he was spent, his spirit had been renewed.  we ate the best grilled cheese ever, sent our clothes to the drier, and climbed up to the loft for six hours of sleep, planning to be back on the trail at first light.  Tom has he wonderful ability to fall asleep with ease and was snoring within minutes, while i tossed and turned, wondering how the second half of the race would play out.  I needn't have worried.

We were half an hour 'late' getting started - walkers coming in with obvious frostbite and reports of temps as low as 35 below on the trail gave tom a bit of pause to think and he was a bit slow to get ready.  but once underway we gathered momentum quickly - averaging over six miles an hour despite the hills, hourly food stops, and a 10-15 minute walking break to warm up our feet during the very cold morning.  we passed more racers - folks that had left the cabin hours before us.  we rode all but the steepest of hills - relentless forward progress.  Tom set a pace which pushed me, and i limited his refueling stops to 5 minutes, or left without him hoping he'd tire trying to catch me.  we were moving fast, relatively warm, and enjoying the beautiful scenery.  we hit wake-em-up hill, the last major elevation, just before two pm.  the other side dropped away  tom bombed down it with abandon, only to be startled by a snow-mobile  roaring around the corner and fishtaling off the trail to disappear into the deep powder flanking the trail.  he was smiling as he climbed out and we cruised the last few miles to the last checkpoint, the crescent bar and grill.

after ordering some real food and giving an interview for to a reporter from the minneapolis star tribune, we headed out into the cold one final time for what was supposed to be a flat and fast 22 miles.  Tom was on fire - i couldn't keep up.  I made him ride behind me to ensure that we'd stay together and perhaps to protect my ego a bit. despite taking a wrong turn and adding 2 miles to the distance, we covered the section in only 10 minutes more than Jeff Oatley, the first place rider (in fairness, he hadn't slept for six hours half way through the race). And just like that it was over - a sliding stop under  a banner behind the fortune bay casino - 135 miles in 34 and a half hours.

finish line

Final Thoughts:  Tom probably would not have made it on his own and some may think this detracts from the feat. maybe it does.  but as a 17 year old kid, there's nothing in his life that had prepared him for what he faced during the race - no set of obstacles previously overcome gave him evidence that he had what it took.  it was certainly invaluable to be able to borrow from my belief in his abilities to find the courage to press on after those mentally and physically devastating first 35 miles.  so be it.  next time he takes on something like this he'll have a benchmark  - a frame of reference from which to extend himself even further.  In a race like this where 35% of the field failed to finish and temperatures dropped to 35 below it's a hell of a benchmark.  And after all, every pedal stroke came from his legs, every impulse traveling to those legs came from his head, and every ounce of will ultimately came from his heart.  Nice work tom - can't wait to see what you do next.

Special thanks to Jim Grijalva for what ended up being tom's ride, Pat white and the guys at ski and bike for encouraging tom before the race, Billy Haug for the place to crash and good converstation, Nic for being a temporary 'guardian' and getting tom to the store, Dave Sears for the bike that let me, and thus tom, continue the race, Dave and Mary for letting us start, and all the volunteers for making it possible.