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.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Do fit people feel fit?

Recently have been thinking about this question because i don't particularly feel very fit at the moment.  So i wonder, should i feel fit?  What would this mean anyway?  Am i expecting that there is some sort of physical sensation that essentially amounts to fitness?  My workouts always feel hard, but thats probably just because i work hard at them.  I've long since abandoned the notion that as i get fitter things are going to feel easier - because i've increased the intensity or challenge of my activities accordingly so that i spend most of my time training feeling like really pushing it.  Maybe i have this notion of 'fitness' as a physical, sensory quality because i can remember times in the past when I intellectually thought that i was 'fit', and there were accompanying sensations that i assumed were the hallmarks of fitness.  Residual soreness, aching joints - signs that i was doing things. I used to train 3 or more times as much as i do now - all that activity made me mentally more aware of my physical body I suppose.  But  now i feel antsy.  I know by my performances that i must be pretty fit - long five hour days of moderate activity where i'm setting the course for the adventure race (that i'm putting on next month) don't really even feel like an effort.  Dragging a tire for 4 and a half miles at just over a 9 minute mile pace to the point where i feel like i'm about to collapse doesn't seem to have a lasting affect - a couple hours later all traces of the effort seem to have vanished, and there is no soreness the next morning.  But as this big race comes closer I find myself second guessing my fitness because of of the way I feel, or more precisely, the lack of the way i feel.  Anyone else ever had a similar experience?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hill Sim

After the MNOC adventure-O i realized i needed to step up my training.  I was cramping the last half of the race - the fatigue of pushing hard had caught up with me.  I'm a believer in the research that suggests that cramping has less to do with dehydration or electrolytes, and more to do with how your training compares with the race you're doing - if you don't run hills and your race has hills, your muscles will be pushed in a different way, fatigue quickly, and then misfire (cramps).

But how am I supposed to train in a way in two hours a week that simulates the efforts that will be required in a week long race over mountainous terrain such as idaho?  I've found that even going out for an hour time trial or 10 k tempo run, i'm usually limited mostly by my cardiovascular ability - and that while my legs might be sore the next day they don't seem terribly fatigued during the effort.  So what to do?
Getting set up for the inaugural bike ride

Tire drag baby!  I got a 13 inch passenger car tire (yeah, it's as small as they come, but i'm pretty small too!) and rigged it up using an old length of climbing rope and a short piece of bungee cord for shock absorption.  I can drag it behind me while I run by wearing a harness or while i bike by clipping it under my seatpost.  I haven't run with it yet but went for a 40 minute ride last week and it felt like i was going uphill the entire time.  Awesome.  I'll try it out on foot on friday.  It's super fun (different and new often is), gets loads of funny looks, was free, and actually seems to work pretty well.  I'm going to limit myself to one 'tire' workout a week before Idaho just because i don't want to overdo it, put strain places i'm not used to strain, and get injured.

With enough imagination, that tire looks just like my brother!
As a bonus, dragging the tire kind of feels like i'm towing someone - so i get to use my imagination and pretend i'm hauling my brothers broken body through the mountains as we race to a podium finish.  Sure, neither of these things may actually happen (me hauling jason or a podium finish in Idaho), but hopefully this new workout will better prepare me for both possibilities!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Camp 4 Marriage

It turns out not all Camp 4 Marriages end in divorce.

Phil, my spouse for the day
What's a camp 4 marriage you ask?  It's a term coined from that crucible of climbing - Yosemite valley's Camp 4 - where two individuals would meet for the first time (often as the result of hand-scrawled postings on the message board) sometimes hours before teaming up to tackle an ascent of El Capitan, one of the most famous climbing features in the world.  Often times the only thing these folks would have in common was the desire to scale the cliff - levels of proficiency, age, fitness, attitude, demeanor - this sort of stuff was rarely considered.  Trouble is, when something is difficult almost all of this stuff is crucial to success.

I've had two previous camp 4 marriages - the only two times i've ever climbed El Capitan.  I was successful on both climbs, but have never spoken to either 'spouse' again.  I won't go into details.  Both experiences were fresh in my mind this friday at 10 pm however, as i started my 5 hour drive towards Albert Lea, MN, to partake in the Minnesota Orienteering Club's 8 hour Adventure-O.  I'd meet my race partner, Phil (i didn't even know his last name), whom i'd been hooked up with via email by the race directors and spoken with briefly on the phone, a mere hour before the race began.

I stopped just south of the cities and slept for four hours in my car - a hot humid sleep where i drifted in and out of consciousness as mosquitos (how do they get in the car anyway?) nibbled on my forearms. At first light i fueled up, got some coffee, and finished the drive to the Edgewater resort, which served as the start line.

I got a great first impression of phil.  He was easy going, helpful as i changed a front bike tire that had gone flat during my drive, and seemed fit.  I'd assumed (i don't know why?!) that i'd be slightly fitter than him, but by the looks of it we might be pretty evenly matched (hard to judge someone by appearances in AR - there are guys that look tough as nails that never finish, and then folks that you'd never identify as a great athlete that end up on the podium...).  I'd tried to limit my expectations - all i was looking for was a good training day - a longer effort to begin mentally preparing for idaho.

Phil right after the paddle rogaine, after we'd taken the lead.
Long story short, my expectations were exceeded.  Although the race was not my strong suit (more race than adventure and very fast), we ended up heading leaving the first rogaine section with team GearJunkie/Yogaslackers (the same team i'll be racing on at idaho interestingly enough).  I quickly realized that phil was NOT going to be slower than me on the bike and tucked in behind him as we pedaled to a second (and longer) foot rogaine.  Phil's navigation was spot on and we finished this section within minutes of GJ/YS for another (shorter) bike to a third paddle rogaine where we had the option of 'creative portaging'.  we entered the water 5 minutes behind GJ/YS and lost more time searching for the first CP and messing with our seats.  Phil made a bold call and we decided to carry the boats overland for a mile, cutting off about half a mile of paddling but figuring the speeds of each were about the same.  By the end of the paddle rogaine we had slightly edged out GJ/YS and pulled into the TA about 30 seconds in front of them.

GJ/YS quickly caught us as we rode through the city and had multiple stops at traffic lights, and then pulled out ahead slightly at a water stop as they'd gotten their bottles filled first (there was only one fill station).  We kept them in sight, but just barely. I was starting to feel the fatigue of pushing hard for three hours, and had likely dug myself into a hole from not eating and drinking adequately during the first few fast hours (not to mention i was hot and sunburned from forgetting to apply sunscreen!).  I tried to dig myself out - forcing down some food - and it helped eventually, but not before we lost about 10 minutes on the leaders by the time we got to the last rogaine section.  While i thought i'd be better on foot, i didn't help much.  While i was fine running (jogging) on the trails, the bushwhacking or waist to chest high grassland that we were so often wading through was very tough.  My right hamstring would cramp whenever i lifted my right heel too far, but there was nothing i could do.

The O-course seemed to take forever.  Phil's nav continued to be spot on, but he'd made the mistake of folding the map in such a way that one of the checkpoints couldn't be seen.  when we discovered this error we realized we'd have to backtrack at the end to get it.  Damn.  We eventually ran into GJ/YS again and travelled with them for the last 4 or 5 CP's - Phil seemed eager to try and break away from them but i wouldn't have been able to manage much of a speed increase.  When we arrived back at the TA we headed out to get the one we'd missed, and ended up leaving on the final bike about 15 minutes behind GJ.

The final bike was short but i was spent.  I sat on phils wheel trying to keep up and managing to (for the most part) except for on a few hills.  We were stoked at the finish - considering we'd only met that morning and had been able to push such a good team for much of the race.  Unfortunately, we also discovered that we'd missed one of the CP's in the final rogaine - one that had simply blended into the map and would have required an additional 100 meters of walking through a field from the route we took.  The next team arrive at the finish for over 30 minutes, so it was a bummer to have made that mistake.  But all in all it didn't change much - I'd had a great race with phil, been pushed hard and learned a great deal about what i need to work on (biking!  nutrition!).  That and i hopefully have earned a potential race partner for the future.

Thanks Phil!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

training for idaho

here is a link to what the folks putting on Expedition Idaho are recommending for training.  I particularly like the following excerpts:
In general… you need to do a few 24 – 36 hour trainings with no sleep, as well as with the same sleep strategies and systems you want to use in the race, including stowing them, carrying them, etc.
There is a for sure chance that at least some of you will be on the water at night. And it’s a big chunk of water. Really big...... [you'll need] kayak/canow skills and safety (like how to flip over and get back in – at night – in the rain) etc. 
One of the biggest challenges at ExpId will occur in the trekking segments, and will require you to progress “on a bearing” through some very…um…challenging terrain…for a fair distance. There’s a better-than-odds-on chance of getting “off grid,” as they say, and ending up on top of the wrong mountain…which would REALLY suck. 
Sounds like it is going to be good fun to me!

Back in the paddle again.....

I'm finally back in the boat!  After getting some good expert coaching while down in San Diego for Jason's wedding, I forgot to bring my wing blade back with me on the plane.  Bummer.  I was able to fix the rudder on my boat which snapped last fall, but only received the paddle in the mail about a week ago (thanks Daniel!).  

Eager to try to capitalize on the technique i'd learned in California, i took the boat to the in-laws lake over the fourth of July weekend.  I had good sessions in the water on friday, saturday and sunday, and another on tuesday back in Grand Forks on the Red River.  I think things are starting to gel - not sure if its the paddle weight (way lighter than my last wing blade) or correct execution of the paddle stroke for the first time in my life, buy i'm able to hold the same speed or slightly faster than i was last fall with an effort that feels sustainable for hours and without any shoulder fatigue to speak of.  Cool.

Interestingly though, its been tough to figure out how to go hard - i find that when i try to push the pace i fall back into the bad habits of using my shoulders rather than my core to do the work, and the pace probably doesn't improve much as the technique falters.  So be it - i'm really gunning for long distance ability anyway, and so good technique will probably pay the biggest dividends.  Feels good to be back on the water.  

Monday, July 4, 2011


thanks for the inspiration Michael!
I find myself drawn to simplicity.  In my attempts to describe and detail my philosophy when it comes to endurance training on limited volume, i've been increasingly compelled to try and do it with less and less verbosity.  I need a catch phrase of sorts - something like what Michael Pollan uses to describe his ideas relating to the food:
Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.
I'm not sure i can be quite that concise at this point, but i think i can boil it down to a few simple rules.

  1. Train hard (at least 3 times a week)
  2. Not too much (allowing for at least one recovery day between workouts, each of which is of the minimum duration to allow for maximal physiological adaptation)
  3. Mostly Z3+ (use intervals, HIT techniques focusing on sustained efforts at or above Zone 3)
Wow, maybe I can be that concise.  Sure this might be an oversimplification - the tag line for a set of ideas that could easily be turned into a 200 page book, but there is something very nice to be able to embody the core sense of these ideas in such a few short statements.  I'm going to try it out the next time someone asks me for training advice, or asks me how i train for all the crazy stuff i do - 
Train hard.  Not too much.  Mostly in Zone 3.