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 20, 2011

Breathe - an excerpt from my journal

Dec 18th - I sent in a pitch to Breathe magazine regarding the 2 Hrs/week training philosophy.  We'll see what happens. Not expecting anything, but pretty sure it wouldn't happen on its own.  Still mulling over/fleshing out my theories - reading, thinking about what works and what doesn't.  Read a study claiming that athletes put on a 2.5 hours per week high intensity training regimen showed improvement comparable to a control group on a more 'standard' endurance training schedule of 10.5 hours per week.  So essentially what i'm suggesting [in two hours per week] isn't too crazy after all - just that someone in the physical shape made possible by a typical training regimen of an endurance athlete (using conventional wisdom) of 10+ weekly hours can - if mentally fit (confidence and suffering!) - accomplish pretty much any physical, non-skilled effort.  With adequate will, one can reach a similar physical condition in 2+ hours (2 hours a week!) of higher intensity training.

I've also been thinking more concisely about the overall format for being successful at a low volume approach.  Train Hard.  Use methods that ensure physically consistent and intense workouts (treadmills, power meters/wattage, etc).  Minimize time spent in training zones 2, maximize that spent in 3, 4, and 5.  Stretch regularly.  Vary workouts routinely, but in ways that allow for the consistency in effort mentioned above.  Choose an objective metric (doesn't really matter what - note - heart rate is not objective) and use it to increase the intensity of each workout, every week.  Think of this steady increase in intensity/fitness as your build phase.  There is no base phase.  Every 8-16 weeks (I prefer 12 for multi discipline events, 8-10 for single discipline) do something BIG.  A race or some other ridiculous effort.  This is what you are training for.  This is where your efforts go.  Do it.  Suffer. Develop your mental strength.  Develop your confidence.  Recover for one week (you've just hit the reset button).  Week 2 after the something BIG is your chance to establish your new baseline for building from.  These baselines will and should vary.  Your peak fitness will vary too.  Note - you are not training to win.  You won't win following these methods - probably not ever.  But you can happily enjoy 'success' - age group placements, top 10% finishes, etc, in a HUGE variety of very difficult endeavors.  And on only two hours a week of training - thats pretty damn cool, and pretty much exactly what i'm after.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


I wanted to say a little something about why i choose the events i do - after all there are literally thousands and thousands of what i'm sure are high quality events out there.  Even after trimming the list based on proximity to good old Grand Forks, cost vs. value, and how well it fits into my calendar, there are still dozens to choose from.  And since I only do a handful (one or two) big ones a year, thats a tough choice. Here's how I zero in and decide what efforts are worth applying my training to:

First, it's gotta be something new - i will hardly ever repeat an event.  Part of me loves suffering, particularly when its tied to some unknown quantity.  I pretty much know how much i'm going to suffer on a road marathon.  I've done it.  I've finished.  Lets try something else.

Secondly, I like it to be HARD - the harder the better.  I prefer to be able to legitimately ask the question - "will i be able to do it?  Can i even finish?"  And so while i've yet to do a proper Ironman race (i did the first ever off road ironman back in 2003) and choosing to do one would satisfy the first criteria - the second one wouldn't really apply.  It would be replaced with "can i finish in such and such a time?"  While i'll occasionally choose to train for and do something that asks this latter question, i find more satisfaction when i can ask the former ones.

If the first two criteria are satisfied (and they often are), i decide based on attrition.  I like events where most people don't finish.  Why?  well its pretty obvious - if I finish and most people haven't, then i get to pretend i'm a super bad ass for a little while.  If I don't finish and most people haven't, then i'm pretty sure i'm in great company (after all - if the race is so tough that most people who enter don't succeed, then the caliber of people who enter in the first place tends to be quite high).  It's pretty hard to be truly disappointed in the outcome when you test yourself against such a challenge, and i really don't like being disappointed.
hopefully my name will be on this list next year....
That brings me to my current goal - the Frozen Otter Ultra Trek.  In doing a bit of digging into the race, i've found that only six people (three men and three women) have ever finished the full course.  And just who are these folks, the 'frozen few' as they call them?

There's Brad Birkholz and Julie Treder who share the course record (tie) and were the only two finishers last year.  Brad is an ultramarathoner with 56 races in the last 7 years (thats about 8 Ultras a year!) and Julie is every bit his equal - ranked among the top 20% of female ultra runners in the country with over 12 independent ultras logged in 2011 alone.  Then there's Anthony Leiton, experienced adventure racer and 7 times Ironman triathlete, with several performances under 12 hours.  And Robin Grapa, who in 2006 hiked over 5100 miles across America as a fundraiser for Aplastic Anemia research.  Brian Pfister, who will race again this year, is also an accomplished ultra runner and triathlete (although not with quite the background as Brad or Julie), and Melissa - well, she was the first ever official finisher and is likely one of those quiet and reserved tough a nails folks the midwest seems to quietly breed without fanfare.

I hope its a brutal race.  I hope the list of finishers stays small.  But of course, i hope i'm on it.