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, December 23, 2013

Conversations with God

Years ago (when i was a teenager) i read a series of books called 'Conversations With God' by Neal Walsh.  They were quite interesting at the time and perhaps even formative for me in some ways.  For unknown reasons i thought of the books yesterday and read through a few summaries of them, reminding myself of many of the messages they contain. 

The spirituality in the book contains many ideas common in self-help literature and positivism based psychology, as well as many traditional spiritual disciplines such as buddhism.  One thought that i like -that applies well to many aspects of life including high intensity training - is that of the sponsoring thought.  Here are Neal's words:

The Sponsoring Thought – the thought behind the thought – is the controlling thought.  
If therefore, you beg and supplicate, you lower your chances of experiencing what you are choosing because the Sponsoring Thought behind every supplication is that you do not have now what you wish. 
That Sponsoring Thought becomes your reality.The only Sponsoring Thought which could override this thought is the thought held in faith that God will grant whatever is asked, WITHOUT FAIL.

When training or racing if your efforts come from a supplicating desire to succeed - a hope that one can achieve a certain outcome - then your 'sponsoring thought' is that you are not now succeeding.  It is subtle but in reflecting on my own mindset as i approach both difficult intervals and difficult moments in long races i realize that when sponsoring thought is one of wanting to succeed, i often don't.  Most of the time, however, i'm able to pursue my course of action with a determination and confidence - rising to the challenge of success with a sense of certainty in the outcome.  It's not a hope that the outcome will come to be, but rather a firm belief in it.  And in my own regular "Conversations with Gov", that seems to make all the difference.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Death Row Workouts

My rowing workouts have been pretty fantastic lately as i'm managed to get the intensity nearly equivalent with what i'm able to do on the bike.  I'm currently operating on a three week schedule (one row workout each week) which is pretty much a requirement for me when i reach a certain level of effort - it is just too hard to try exceeding my previous performance each week, which is something i, for whatever reason, feel compelled to do.

Here are my current three workouts - which, at least for a few minutes near their end, have me feeling like a condemned man.

Note - i use a concept2 rower (which seems to be standard fare at many health clubs) on resistance level 5, and my metric of  choice is time/500meters. All workouts are 8 minutes long.

Workout 1:  pyramids.  30 sec warm up @ 2:15, then 3 pyramids with 30 sec each at 2:15, 2:00, 1:45, 2:00, and 2:15.  

Workout 2: progressive.  1 minute segments, starting at 2:20, decreasing time/500meters by 5 seconds each minute.  If reaching a level that feels to be a max effort before the 8 minutes are up - try to stay at that level until the end.  My last workout I started at 2:20 and spend minutes 7 and 8 at 1:50/500 meters, unable to hit 1:45 and hanging on to 1:50 for dear life.

Workout 3: double push.  2 minutes @ 2:05, 1 @ 1:45, 2 @ 2:05, 1 @ 1:45, 2 @ 2:05.  My goal is to progress until my base effort is @ 2:00 and my harder intervals are at 1:45 but i'm not really that close yet - my last workout the second interval was @ 1:50 and 2:05 felt awfully hard.  

I try to keep my stroke rate around 30 and increase my power per stroke as a way of recovering during the easier segments of these workouts.  The only way i can hit 1:45-1:50 is to put everything i have into it and increase my stroke rate to 40+ and it feels very brutal and is definitely anaerobic - i'm usually strongly focused inwardly - eyes closed to limit any/all distractions and get all i can out of my body.  i'll flit my eyes open every 3 strokes or so to make sure I'm at or under pace and count down my strokes towards the end of the interval, willing myself desperately toward it's successful completion.  Fun stuff.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I need a little help

I like to think of myself as a pretty savvy search string constructionist.  Typically I can find my way into the dusty and less travelled corridors of the web to glean whatever obscure knowledge i'm seeking - fine tuning my search queries over a couple iterations to get an answer to anything that is vexing me.

Recently though i've struck out.  Maybe the fault isn't mine though.  Maybe it is that the information i'm looking for just doesn't exist.  Maybe these hyper intense short workouts have led me to break new ground - experiencing things never before experienced.  Occum's razor though, suggests otherwise.  While i suppose it is theoretically possible that i'm boldly going where no man has gone before it is rather more likely that i'm just not all i thought i was cracked up to be, google-wise.

Alright - lets get to the point (this is where i need your help).  My stationary bike workouts are so debilitating that i feel crippled afterwords.  Immediately after finishing my last interval i usually slam the resistance down to zero, spinning for 30-45 seconds as my heart rate drops from just shy of 200 back to more sustainable levels.  I usually think i'm going to be ok, even though i should know better by now.

How it feels those first minutes...
But as soon as i get off the bike the pain sets in.  And this isn't just normal pain - this is hot aches quality pain (as i mentioned in the last post).  It is difficult to describe.  The pain cannot be redirected or eased.  there is no position i can take - sitting, prone, etc that will reduce it's intensity.  I usually resort to walking (or hobbling rather) around the basketball courts - head clouded by the immediacy of the sensation for probably as long as - or what feels like it anyway - i was on the bike to begin with (8 minutes).  And when i walk i feel like an invalid. I try to keep my legs locked straight  - but when through my uncoordinated movement one takes a bit of weight even with a slight bend at the knee i feel as though i will surely collapse involuntarily - it's as if the muscles have been shut off or something.

10 minutes later all is well - the pain is gone, strength has returned.  the next day there is never any soreness (it's an 8 minute workout after all) or negative effects.

All the info i seem to find is related to DOMS - delayed onset muscle soreness, which i'm familiar with but is something very different.

So i'm asking for help.  Thoughts?  anyone else have similar experiences?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Been a while, guv'nor (a story about old acquaintances)

Yesterday, i had a long overdue visit from an old acquaintance, the guv'nor.  We'd been out of touch for quite a while for some time so when we ran into each other at the Y i was a bit surprised he showed up.  Normally he only comes when invited (i used to invite him pretty regularly) but lately i'd been coming up with lots of reasons why i preferred to workout without his company.  Maybe it was just a coincidence. Maybe he'd just missed me.  Or maybe he'd misconstrued our last conversation when i told him about how busy i was and how i needed some time and would call him when i was ready and able to get together.

Well, anyway, there he was.  I didn't really even see him until it was too late to duck out or turn and go the other way. I was on the bike - 2 minutes into my 8 minute workout.  I must have been distracted because i'd inadvertently bumped the level up one notch from last week's effort without realizing it.  My head was down and eyes closed and when i looked up and realized my mistake he had appeared out of no where and was looking right at me.

"Hello" he said. "Got time for a chat?"

It was a rhetorical question and we both knew it.  

So we chatted for the first time in nearly a month, since my big effort at end-trails.  We negotiated and bartered and he tried to convince me that i needed to listen to him as he always does.  But i didn't listen - i focused on the fact that i had only minutes left and i'd already done the hard part, now i just had to hang on.  I let him drone on - glad to hear his voice but even more glad i could hear my own again.

Needless to say since my workouts are so short these days the conversation was over quickly.  And so I said my 'good day' and 'thanks for coming - hope to see you again soon.'  Then I got off the bike and headed to grab my coat and get on with my day.

"Wait for me" came a voice from behind. 

I turned to see the guv'nor's henchman, Agony, standing there.  I'd almost forgotten guv'nor never traveled alone. 

"Come on" i said, motioning to him as i detoured towards the basketball courts for a couple of laps, quads seized with pain reminiscent of the hot aches. "Lets get to know each other again - i think we'll be spending a lot of time together from now on..."

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Every once in a while, I'll admit, I click on one of those insanely buff dudes in the sidebar of my Facebook page. You know, the ones where the tag line reads something like 'new secret reveals ancient wisdom's super easy way to get absolutely shredded while sleeping!'

My latest click actually involved something called "muscle rev x" and took me to the fascinating land of  Men's Health advertorials where the sales pitch ensued: lots of awesome before and after pictures [check out this link for the secret behind these magic tricks], sweeping references to "clinically proven" and "scientific research" and an ocean of comments from the fascinating land of "Bro-Merica" (no seriously!  check it out... um, Bro?).  This particular link was selling supplements though many links are portals for training programs that make similar claims - 'get ripped in 6 minutes a day while drinking beer!'

My morning's visit to these distant shores got me wondering why i'm not seeing more insanely ripped people out there these days given the quantity of these opportunities that seem to exist and the fact that all of us spend at least 3 hours a day on Facebook (right Bro?).

And while the answer might be clearly apparent to most, here is my version.  These program/supplements aren't creating an army of Gerard Butlers because of the difference between the theoretical truth and pragmatic truth.  You see, all of these opportunities are really selling theoretical truths.  It is possible to do regular six minute super high intensity workouts, integrate them with a shot glass full of beer, eat really healthy, and see awesome results.  It is possible to take virtually any supplement as part of a solid exercise program and diet and radically change the way you look.

Pragmatically though, things are much more difficult.  YOU (or whoever is wanting to get ripped, fit, or lose weight) don't actually change in any significant way when you key in your credit card number to an online order form.  The habits, desires, time management, etc that got you where you are will not yield to gentle pressure.  There are no easy solutions.  If you are out of shape or unhealthy it has taken a long time to get you that way - a long time spent making decisions that negatively impacted you health and fitness.  Even when claims of supplements, for example, are true - they only (at best) accentuate any benefits (i.e cause slightly faster weight loss) provided by a meaningful switch to making healthier choices.

The bottom line is that if YOU don't change - and stick with that change - then no amount of money will get you where you want to be.  This is true regardless of what the tagline next to the buff dude tells you.  The good news is that if you do really change, then you probably don't need the supplements anyway, and it won't really matter so much which particular training program you end up following.

The reason we're not all super athletes with fit and healthy bodies is that significant change, the kind required for results - is very hard.  So next time you see those ads Bro, remember that you're being sold the theoretical truth and it is the pragmatic one that matters -

It's (never) EASY! It (all) WORKS!

PS - did i get all the "Bros" right?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Suffering and Gratitude

Two days ago I ran 56 miles.

Over the 10+ hours i questioned my sanity and motives a dozen times, making countless bargains with myself about when i was going to stop.  I fell to pieces mentally as i was overtaken on laps 4 and 5 by runners who the day before had finished the first half of the undead hall of fame challenge, navigating over 100 miles of these same twisting and undulating trails on mountain bike.  I was hurting bad and these guys seemed to be blow by me effortlessly, despite the previous days monumental accomplishment. My laps got longer and longer, until the 6.2 miles was taking me approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes. My toes seemed to drag along the trail, and maybe they were - i took tumble after tumble during this low period.

It's interesting as i write this to think about these things - the way the whole event changes from the beginning to the end.  At the beginning ego is typically a driving factor.  There is something to prove.  But i've come to realize as i've done lots of long events that ego isn't enough.  It's ability to provide the necessary drive to pilot the human machine decreases exponentially once certain physical states are reached.  And when you're in these states and your pre-race expectations aren't being met (and they rarely are), ego becomes all but useless. Rationalization and justification take over - and these weapons of the central governor are indomitable adversaries.  To overcome them - at least for me - a shift has to take place - a shift from motivation by external things (what others think of me) to internal ones.

My mom
This particular race was a fascinating experience in many ways because of the lap style format - i wasn't able to use the sense of a 'journey' (one of the mental attitudes i often employ) to get myself through the darker moments.  i got to explore some new ground.  I didn't listen to music and so had nothing to do but think and check in with myself.  I realized that cardio-vascularly i felt pretty good and that my challenge would be just accepting the amount of discomfort that i was in (not necessarily an easy task) and would be in for another 5 or 6 hours.  I thought of my Mom and her struggles with neuromyelitis - the tightness and aching in her legs that endured unendingly for months, not hours.  I thought of my grandfather who suffered from shingles for years near the end of his life.  It made my discomfort seem insignificant and i realized that the only thing that made it non-trivial was that i had a choice.  I could simply stop running at the end of my next lap, find a place by the roaring fire, and lay on my back with my feet up the wall  (to drain the pressure from my legs). I didn't though, and my decision to keep going was somehow based on this odd sense of connectedness i felt with both my mom and grandfather through the act of willful suffering.  It was a connection, as trite as it might sound, to the human spirit and human resilience.

Things got better after that.  The suffering became purposeful - part of goal - rather than a hurdle to be overcome in pursuit of it.  The remainder of the day seemed much more manageable - a small offering of gratitude to loved ones.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Upside of Penance

In my last post i described my busy fall.  What i didn't mention is that i failed to clean up after myself.  Well, i didn't clean up well enough.  Some 50 tires from one of the mud run obstacles had been left on a   somewhat out of the way trail on the greenway in grand forks.  The volunteer help and vehicles i'd been using to clear the course were no longer available (or i was unwilling to ask - these folks do SO much!) and wet conditions made access difficult even were I able to get a truck.  Combined with a busy schedule and, well, my own mental exhaustion, i just kind of blew it and hoped it would be ok for me to get to it when i got to it.

But it wasn't.  Turns out the trail wasn't quite so far out of the way and regular Greenway users were tired of seeing my mess.  The city was getting calls - it was public space after all.  I'd already decided that next year better planning was in order to ensure things got taken care of more quickly after the event but that was next year... and those tires weren't going to move themselves.  The city had offered to contract with a company to get in and remove them and charge the race for the labor.  And they would graciously forgive me as well - it's not a 'one strike' kind of city which is one of the reasons it is such a great place to live.  It was tempting.

But it was my mess.  I borrowed a truck and enlisted one more volunteer to help with the removal yesterday morning.  10 minutes before I left the house it started raining.  It kept raining.  The trail became too difficult to access, the closest i could get to the tires was about 50 yards away, up a slight rise.  The volunteer got lost and never showed.  Fair enough.  It was my mess.  So spent two hours carrying mud and water filled tires,  four at a time, up to the truck.  My forearms became jelly and my traps burned. Then there was the tractor tire that weighed over 100 pounds.  I became sisyphus rolling it up the slick path.  The final hill was too steep as there was no tread against which to leverage, so i had to resort to tire flipping it up.  I can't even remember how i got it into the truck.   By the time i finished i was soaked to the bone and coated with mud.  It was awesome.

When i made it to the gym for my scheduled 10 minutes on the bike late in the afternoon i pushed hard as usual and failed definitively half way through.  I had nothing left.  A good day of training.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Talk about fatigued...

I've been SUPER busy since my last post - planning two major events and trying to keep up with fundraising efforts for the non-profit and develop some new races for 2014.  In fact, there were a few weeks i was so busy my training was reduced to 2 x 10 minute sessions a week.  Yikes.

But i'm getting a little let hectic now - still full schedule of activity but no more 18+ hour days (putting on a mud run is brutal work!) thankfully.  I'm back to work on my e-book and last week managed to put in a solid hour of training.  Woo Hoo!  I'm also headed into a three month stint where i'll be racing each month - all 8-10 hour adventure races - so that should be fun.

But enough about me - i'm writing this post, my hopeful return to more active blogging, thanks to Aaron Schwenzfier, a trainer for the UND athletics department and a real explorer when it comes to ideas about human potential and it's limits.  He sent me an article this morning from this month's runners world that addresses some of the thoughts that i've shared on here over the years and introduces some new research about 'brain training' for endurance.  You can read it below:

The exciting part for me was an clear and accessible explanation of the core element of the Central Governor Theory, to which i pretty much subscribe when it comes to the role that the mind plays in determining our limits.  There are a couple of great 'summing' quotes -
Scientists have since demonstrated that seemingly absolute physical limits are imposed by the brain—not the body. 
Which of course I already knew or suspected - particularly for long durations of activity... i'm not sure that my brain limits my ability to run a 4 minute mile, but it certainly does limit my ability to run fifty 10 minute miles, at least in my experience. The above quote doesn't mean that physical aspects aren't important - but that it is the brains perception of a number of different factors, some physical and some mental/logistical that ultimately applies the brakes.
Brain training.  Pic borrowed from the article linked above
 ...anything that moves the effort "dial" in your head up or down affects how far or fast you can run. All the usual physical signals—dehydration, tired muscles, a pounding heart—contribute to how hard an effort feels. Runners train their bodies to adapt to those signals, and over time the effort of running at a given pace gets lower. But less-obvious signals, like mental fatigue, also contribute to how hard your run feels—and trying to hold marathon pace for hours and hours is pretty taxing on the brain. This... leads to a radical idea: If you could train the brain to become more accustomed to mental fatigue, then—just like the body—it would adapt and the task of staying on pace would feel easier. 
This second bit got me to think about my own training and one reason i think it is effective for me, even as i employ it to compete in events that are hours or days long.  In a sense i think it has effectively allowed me to turn that effort dial down.  My training efforts and intensity is so extreme that they completely outstrip all race efforts i'm capable of sustaining by orders of magnitude.  My Central Governor has been 'educated' as to what hard really is (albeit in very short lessons) and so knows that although there might be pain and fatigue during a longer race, i am proceeding at so far below my actual physical limits that continuing is (almost always) allowed.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Slug Paradox

I'm only just back (ok, i was back five days ago) from a 3.5 day expedition length adventure race.  From the time the gun went off on at 9:20 am until we hit the finish line 74 hours later, I'd biked over 150 miles, Paddled around 50, and run (using the term loosely here) another 50.  Most of this was done at or above 8000 feet (I'd driven from about 1500 feet the day before the race) on a course that included some rugged terrain and lots of ups and downs.  During those 74 hours I slept less than 4, and consumed roughly 10-12,000 calories, about half of what i burned.

So why, then, do i feel like such a slug?

It's not unique to this race to be honest - but the longer the race, the more i notice this strange paradox.  The harder the challenge (and the more robustly I meet it) the softer i feel in the days following.  Maybe its because i'm so destroyed afterwards.  Maybe it's because the 24 hours after such a big undertaking are like returning to infancy - Eat as much as you can.  Look around for a few minutes.  Go to sleep.  Wake up.  Repeat.

To be honest, the rest of the week has been much the same.  But so be it.  I'll give myself that week. And in the meantime I'll revel in my fascination about how quickly things change:  one week ago i was deep in the gripping immediacy of a desperate struggle that i'd purposefully undertaken - to keep me and my team moving forward with relentless determination in an attempt to clear a completely arbitrary course (we were unsuccessful).

And, for better or for worse, i'll also revel in my fleeting brush with slughood.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Notes on Adventure Racing

 Cold AND Wet.  Dirty was irrelevant.
Team ENDracing/Yogaslackers placed third in the stubborn mule  30 hour adventure race this last weekend.  As navigator of the team, i learned lots during the race, got us lost a few times, and realized we have a pretty good team that is just going to keep getting better.  I also remembered why i love adventure racing so much - it wakes me up.

Most of my life I spend operating in a way where certain distinctions between things not only make sense, but have great bearing on my decisions.  Clean vs. Dirty is a prime example.  Adventure racing takes me to a place where this distinction is useless.  Cold vs Warm - sure, thats important.  Wet vs. Dry  is useful too (wet packs weigh more than dry ones). But clean and dirty drop away.  

I get closer to a primal (as overused as the notion is in pop culture) state.  I realize the resilience of my body.  I can survive deep forest teeming with mosquitos.  I can sleep in the middle of a swamp standing up.  An open lake paddle after 24 hours of racing (26 hours awake) becomes blissful because the sun rises to warm and dry me after a cold, wet night.  

I let things go.  The natural world is no longer the 'natural' world.  For those 30 hours, it is simply the world - 'natural' no longer provides a meaningful distinction.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Upcoming races

I've got three races in five weekends - a bike/canoe race next weekend (which i'm training through), a 30 hour adventure race at the end of June, and a 27 mile swim race on July 13th.  All of my daily cool off showers while vacationing in Puerto Rico were spent mulling potential training schedules in my head - trying to come up with something that would have me raring to go for each event.  Here's the result of those showers:

week 1: 10 minute swim, 10 minute run, 10 minute bike, 30 minute paddle
week 2: 10 minute run, 10 minute bike, 10 minute swim, RACE (bike/paddle)
week 3: 10 minute bike, 10 minute run, 10 minute swim, 30 minute paddle
week 4: 20 min bike/run, 10 min swim, RACE (30 hour AR)
week 5: 2 x 10 minute swim, 40 minute swim
week 6: 10 min swim, 20 min swim, RACE (27 mile swim)

Week 1 is over and went pretty well, though it had been a long time since i'd swam or bike and both hurt particularly bad.  I'm also focusing on more outside work this time around - hoping to do some of the swimming after the AR in the river, and both my run and bike this week involved tire drags on an outside course.  Each of those required an additional shower.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Ancillary Benefits

you'd never guess i had such pudgy feet, would you?

I think I fractured my toe 10 days ago.  I was Stand up paddleboarding in Puerto rico. Trying to get out through the surf I lost my balance as a wave crashed on the board and hopped off into what I’d assumed was deep water.  Unfortunately, this particular break was a reef break and I jumped into inches, not feet, of water. 

The day after the accident my toe was slightly swollen and black and blue along its entire length.  Although I could still bend it slightly, doing so was pretty painful.  And although I was on vacation, I still wanted to be active, and had planned on doing a short hard run every other day (the hills from our vacation rental in Rincon were short, steep, and perfect for my style of training!).  I figured I’d give it a go.

The downhill was very painful (slap, slap) and the uphill moderately so.  Luckily, the whole episode only lasted about 15 minutes.  By the time it got uncomfortable enough that I started feeling pretty stupid  - you know, the point where the ‘hey, running with a fractured toe might not be a great idea’ realization hits – I only had about 5 minutes to go.  And feeling stupid for five minutes is ok by me.

So despite my injury, I managed to maintain my efforts during my Caribbean stay.  Although I suppose it may take me a little longer to heal, I’m not worried either.  Seems like I’ll be easily able to train right through this minor detail in a way I doubt I’d be able to were I feeling the need to log 40 miles a week or something.  Sweet. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

New methods of torture

treadmill torture
I tried a variation of a workout i'd given my brother and the Yogaslackers adventure racing team (they are the guinea pigs i guess) the last week, just to make sure i was pushing them properly.

No worries there.

It's a combination pyramid/negative split arrangement on the treadmill, and its pretty nasty.  Here's how you do it - given in minutes, and for the sake of using numbers, my pacing.
  1. flat at 9 mph
  2. 1% at 9 mph
  3. 2% at 9 mph
  4. 3% at 9 mph
  5. 4% at 9 mph
  6. 4% at 9.3 mph
  7. 3% at 9.3 mph
  8. 2% at 9.3 mph
  9. 1% at 9.3 mph
  10. 0% at 9.3 mph
you need to choose a starting pace that feels fast - so fast in fact that the fifth minute will feel really tough - so tough that you should be wishing that you not only didn't have to speed up, but that you didn't have another minute at the 4% incline, period.  And then when you do speed up, its one of those minutes where you're desperately counting every second and can feel actual physical failure starting to approach rather quickly.  The beauty is that although that 6th minute is the peak in terms of physical intensity - it won't feel like it.  the 1% reduction of incline - at best - is barely enough to allow you to keep going.  During my first stab at this workout i wasn't sure i was going to be able to finish it until sometime during the 9th minute - 3 whole minutes were spent in that glorious state of running through jello - full uncertainty as to whether body or mind would prove to be the master.  

Good luck.  You're going to need it!

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Long Run - a one hour a week marathon training program.

One of the criticisms that i find reasonable of a super low volume approach to endurance racing - particularly for someone getting into the sport - is the concern that it doesn't provide adequate opportunity for physiological adaptations of connective tissues such as ligaments and tendons.  These tissues are brutalized during long events involving repetitive stresses. If they are stronger, injury is less likely.  Research during my morning cup of coffee found little in the way of easily accessible information regarding how the adaptation of these tissues occurs - but i did find one powerpoint from the University of Massachusetts (with some textbook sources cited) that seemed to suggest that it is changes in collagen fibrils that are responsible for these adaptations.  It further suggested that exercise of low to moderate intensity did little to drive this process.

That being said, there is a pretty heavy dose of conventional wisdom out in cyberspace beating the drums to a tune of "volume = necessary adaptations" and so i thought that in absence of more substantial evidence* i should work towards figuring out a way to include some longer workouts in the mix, just in case.  The added benefit of this is that for someone trying to take the low volume approach as an entrance into endurance efforts, longer efforts will help provide some of the required mental confidence.

Here's how it might work for a marathon.

  • week 1 (40 min) - 2 x 10 minute high intensity runs**, 1 x 20 minute tempo run
  • week 2 (50 min) - 2 x 10 minute high intensity runs, 1 x 30 min. tempo run
  • week 3 (1 hour) - 2 x 10 minute high intensity runs, 1 x 40 min. tempo run
  • week 4 (1 hr. 10 min) - 2 x 10 min high intensity runs, 1 x 50 min. tempo run
  • week 5 (1 hr 20 min) - 2 x 10 min high intensity runs, 1 x 1 hour tempo run
  • week 6 (20 min) - 2 x 10 min high intensity runs (later in week)
  • week 7 (50 min) - 2 x 10 min high intensity runs, 1 x 30 minute tempo run
  • week 8 (1 hr 50 min) - 2 x 10 minutes high intensity runs, 1 x 90 min. tempo run.
  • week 9 (20 min) - 2 x 10 minute high intensity run (later in week)
  • week 10 (2 hr. 20 min) - 2 x 10 minute high intensity runs, 1 x 2 hour tempo run
  • week 11 (20 min) - 2 x 10 min high intensity run (later in week)
  • week 12 (1 hr) - 40 min tempo run (early in week), 2 x 10 min easy runs.  RACE
12 weeks and 12 total training hours.  While it  might seem like the proposed marathon would be tough mentally (being up to twice the duration of the longest training run), i think it wouldn't be too bad for someone who'd been able to actually get through the program with genuinely high intensity efforts.  The marathon pace would be substantially easier than nearly ALL the training and it seems unlikely that the additional running time at these lower intensities would prove to be a significant mental challenge for someone who'd been able to consistently pour themselves into the 10 minute efforts week after week.  

Alright - who's gonna take the bait and be the guinea pig?

*I'm going to keep looking.  Honestly i'm not sure i'll find anything substantiating a strong connection between training volume exclusively being necessary for any sort of adaptation... it seems more likely, in my opinion, rather that consistent application of stresses above a certain threshold are the requirements for physiological changes.  There is already a good body of evidence along these lines in terms of aerobic adaptation, and i'm guessing that the same will hold true here.  This post provides some good context as to why these drums might still be sounding though.

** I'll provide details on what constitutes a 'high intensity effort' and give some example running workouts that fit the bill in a later post - or if you're interested in finding out more before i get to it, just leave a comment.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

80/20 principle (AKA the Pareto Principle)

From Wikipedia:
The Pareto principle (also known as the 80–20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.[1][2]
Some version of this 'rule', which seems to have a rough equivalent in sectors from business to agriculture to social media (80% of your facebook interactions come from 20% of your friends), is foundational to my training methodology.  In my love of complexity, i'm going to suggest that in truth the principle as applied to fitness is actually recursive and can be applied iteratively (only in terms of time invested) as one approaches their athletic goals.

In terms of fitness the principle goes something like - 80% of your fitness potential** comes from 20% of your training time.  The second iteration means that 80% of that 80% comes from 20% of that 20% - creating a 64/4 principle.  Now keep in mind that this really only applies in theory, and to someone following an 'ideal' training program with a proper mix of intensities.  But thus applied - it is basically sound:  80% of the fitness potential realizable on that program comes from 20% of the training time.  And i bet you already know what that training time is spent on - yep - high intensity work.

So as a thought experiment, lets consider that I might (barring likely injury) be able to train to run a 9-10 hour ironman triathlon if i could mentally and physically follow through on a traditional training program pedaled to elite athletes.  It'd likely require about 16-20 hours of effort (on average) per week, and would (in theory) get pretty close to my physical potential.  The Pareto principle suggests that by training around 3-4 hours a week and focusing on the workouts with the highest 'return on investment', i can get to about an 80% level.  Apply it again and you're at about 64% of your potential on under 1 hour a week.  And while 64% might seem pretty low to some folks (and it should) - i'm going to suggest that the majority of recreational 'athletes' - the ones whose goals and ambitions support the entire 'health and fitness' sector of the economy - are working at levels below this*.

*Quantification of fitness is messy as there are too many variables - but i think the basic structure of what you'd see using just about any metric would substantiate these ideas.  For running endurance, you might measure percentage of potential based on marathon time for example.  If I trained exclusively for a marathon and tailored my life to support my efforts, what time could i aim for?  Probably somewhere in the sub 3 hour range.  My idealized training would probably consume about 4-5 hours a week. Using the above logic, this would mean that I ought to be able to train for about 1 hour a week and turn in a respectable time of sub 3:45 (0.8*3 Hrs). My own experience corroborates this.

**Of course working out/training serves many purposes in peoples lives beyond working to reach their physical potential - stress relief, general health and well being, camaraderie, and just good old plain fun.  

Monday, May 6, 2013

minimum maintenance roads

END-SPAR minimum maint. road
My journey down this road started a few weeks ago in mid April when I helped take our youth climbing team down to Minneapolis for their first 'away game'. It was awesome, but the long travel days meant that i missed both my friday and sunday workouts.  The following week i was in the throes of last minute planning for END-SPAR and had to make Sunday after the race a family day as they'd been rather neglected as of late.  And finally, training this last week was hampered by a 'too good to miss' trip to Pembina (little south pembina river during flood stage!) in addition to race director duties for the family adventure race.

So long story short, three weeks in a row with only my 3 10 minute workouts done.  Surprisingly, i'm feeling good about it.  probably partly because i was getting outside to hang checkpoints rather than sitting in front of a computer. And although i was super busy and each of my 10 minute sessions felt squeezed in and almost an after thought, i still managed to match or better my best ever efforts on every one of them.  Sweet.

Maybe if i modify my schedule to be somewhat periodized - limiting it to the 3 sessions (for a total of 30 min) for three weeks with a 90 minute super 'effort' at the end i'd have a three week cycle where i was getting in some long enough efforts with enough frequency to cause some adaptation of the connective tissues, etc - which is one of the major limitations (as far as my research has shown) of using an exclusively high intensity approach to endurance.

ND whitewater

If nothing else, the last three weeks have shown me that, for what it's worth, even just the 3 weekly workouts are enough to keep my stimulated and feeling pretty damn fit - in a minimum maintenance kind of way.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


One of the biggest problems i've faced in trying to discuss the path that low volume, high intensity training provides as a potential alternative to ambitious (but time crunched) amateur athletes looking to take on serious endurance challenges (other than the lonely factor) is the N=1 argument.  When the only one following my training program and having success is me - the project is more case study than experiment.  Interesting, perhaps, but hardly evidence.

But i can happily say the days of N=1 seem to be behind me.

Subject number 2
Meet Ryan Wagner - a 35 year old father of 5 whom i met about a year and a half ago.  He's a fit guy with the physique of a greek hero who has a real passion for exercise.   When he was introduced to what I was doing (and the crazy events ENDracing offered) he was just getting into endurance sports, and most of his exercise consisted of a steady diet of standard fare lifting and 'cardio'.  He'd run one marathon in 3:43 following a more traditional training program back in September of 2008.  But between his wife's heavy law school load, his own full time student status, and all the kids, he was fitting in training at 4 a.m. obviously at the sacrifice of sleep.

When i convinced him to try some long events (a 6 hour adventure race for starters) he got super excited and, not surprisingly, upped his training.  After all, longer races meant more training, right? Simply put, he didn't feel he was doing enough.  Long story short - he developed a slight injury leading up to the event that forced him to DNF after 2 hours.

But he healed.  And I started inviting him to workout with me.  It took him a while to 'let go' of the junk miles.  He tried to rationalize a need for them - that it gave him something more - that it relaxed him or kept him sane.  But i suspected differently.  What he needed was sleep.  And i felt that what he really wanted was just to feel like he could go out and do crazy long super hard stuff -that he was fit enough - and that how he got there really wasn't as important.  So for a while he was tagging along with me on my gut wrenching 10 minute workouts and trying to squeeze in all the other stuff too.  He put in a one or two longer runs leading up to the 50 Kilometer winter ultra we did together in March.  We did really well at that event and i think he was convinced.

It was in the let down from the 50K that we decided to add a 50 miler to our racing calendar on May 11th.  He agreed to follow my training program more or less (he still gets to lift - i've been there - hard to give that up) and see how it goes.  I'm nervous but confident.  We'll run together which means i can talk him through the low points that will undoubtedly come.  And he's demonstrated that he is very capable of producing the genuine level of extreme effort required for the truncated program to yield good results (something i'm starting to think that few people are able to and/or interested in doing in the first place).

And granted, N=2 is hardly evidence either.  But it is a 100% increase in numbers, and that has one other important benefit - it fixes the lonely factor.  Suffering side by side, even in breathless silence, is - at least for me - better than suffering alone.  Thanks for being along for the ride, Ryan.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Running through Jello

I feel like I'm back on top of things and fully recovered.  I can always tell when i get there because as crazy as it sounds, when i'm not fully recovered (i.e. in the week or two following a bigger effort) i start thinking i should cut my already ridiculously low training volume down even lower - say to 30 minutes a week.  I'm tapped out of motivation after my three 10 minute jaunts and the idea of that single half hour session on the weekend just seems too much.

But this last week has been awesome.  It's only three weeks since the 8+ hour winter 50K run and i'm already at my 'high-water' marks for the super intense sessions - this week I managed to match my best past efforts on the bike and run and exceed it slightly during my rowing workout.  All were brutal and it took nearly as much time for the feelings of agony to subside immediately post workout as it had to create them.

But it was the run this week was particularly fascinating. It was my progressive interval day which called for a constant speed of 8.2 mph (7:19 pace) starting with a 0% incline and increasing 2% every 2 minutes.  The first three intervals reach a 4% grade but never demand an intensity i can't 'wrap my mind' around.  6% is a different story - and by the end of the 2 minutes i'm usually above Lactate Threshold - the point where i'm maxed out my cardio system and increased efforts come with time limits.  It feels hard enough where if i placed too much stock in 'feelings' i'd be convinced that i should just stick at 6% for the final 2 minutes and hope i could make it.

But instead, i make it harder.  The only way to go into this last 2 minutes at 8% is with guns blazing.  I usually roar internally (i tried doing it externally once but this is apparently frowned upon?) and charge up a simulated hill toward a mentally simulated finish line.  It's only 2 minutes, right?  I can do this.

Unfortunately, that bravado and fake finish line only get me through about 45 seconds.  With over a minute to go it really becomes interesting.  I start counting down from 100 every time my right foot hits the spinning belt.  Even though i'm sure i don't actually close my eyes, the optic nerve impulses must not make it past the Cerebellum, being used to keep me on my feet but never making it into my active consciousness.  My focus is entirely abstract  - nothing but numbers (55, 54, 53, 52.....) and an odd and heightened awareness of the approaching end of my ability to continue performing coordinated movement.

you want me to run through there?
I start to feel like i'm running through jello or some other viscous fluid.  It's not purley a cardiovascular difficulty, or a lactic acid/muscular difficulty one like i often get on hard biking intervals - its this beautiful whole body sort of thing.  Arms, legs, chest, gut, skin, lungs - messages being sent from all remote outposts simultaneously declaring that actual war is about to be lost.  Defeat is on the horizon.

I think maybe if i'd actually had a gun to my head i could have pulled out another 30 seconds or so.  Maybe.

I thought it was pretty sweet to come that close to actual physical failure on purpose.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Loose Threads

I joined a listserve a couple of days ago on Ultra running (, participated in a couple of conversations and then started my own regarding low volume training.  In general I found the response to be far more cordial than what i'd experienced on similar triathlon type forums.  Maybe ultra-runners are to the athletic world what long-boarders are to the surf-o-sphere (and triathletes are the short-boarders).  Analogies and/or metaphors aside (too lazy to figure out which it was), i was pleasantly surprised.
Ultra-runners.  Long-boarders of the running world.

What was the most interesting was that there were a number of very smart posters that seemed to corroborate some of my ideas regarding human capabilities towards what are usually thought to be super extreme distances.

I believe very strongly that most people don't approach their actual physical potential, myself included.  This isn't a negative judgement - it just means that there are so many 'stop mechanisms' in place that are designed to convince us that we have reached that potential that removing all of them becomes a practical impossibility in almost all race situations.  Some people can get very close, but most never do.  What this means is that barring cutoffs, most people not suffering from chronic health conditions (obesity, etc) could go out tomorrow and complete a 50 mile distance if they could over-rule these mental mechanisms.  Yeah, maybe it wouldn't be a great idea - maybe it wouldn't add anything to their lives - but the physical potential is there.  It isn't the issue.  And a based on the thread that was generated from my post on Ultrunr, I'm not the only one who thinks so: 
Sure you can do almost anything without out any training...How well you do it RELATIVE TO YOUR ability is the question....
I agree with Mr. Price and a couple others who've posted that anyone reasonably healthy can complete an ultra, particularly a 50K or even 50 miler on low volume training. It just depends on how much individual discomfort to personal suffering you are willing to undergo to get to the finish line. 
In my mind there's no benefit necessarily to one training method vs the other in terms of developing the required physical potential to complete ultra endurance events.  I can do it on one brutal hour a week.  Most choose to spend much longer than this.  If you like training/running/biking whatever, great, do it.  Being in good shape is awesome.  My challenge is simply with the idea that volume and distance are requirements for doing these events.  Volume and distance can certainly provide needed ammunition for the inner mental debate with one's own central governor that is a foregone conclusion of these big efforts. But if this ammunition is already available I think that the main pre-requisites for ultra endurance events have already been met. 

Happy training. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

It's (NOT) About Time!

I was reading a fellow health and fitness blogger's post this morning that perpetuated the commonly held notion that the biggest hurdle on most peoples path to fitness is not having the time.

While I agree that time may be what people report this hurdle to be (ie the story they tell themselves to feel that their lack of fitness is beyond their control), it dramatically oversimplifies the issue.  It is clear to me that TIME, isn't the problem.  So what then is the problem?

The problem is that fitness takes effort.  I am among the fittest people on the planet (I know it sounds cocky, but come on, it's true! (-:  ) and spend only one hour - about six tenths of a percent of my time - dedicated to my fitness. Time alone (or the lack thereof) cannot fairly foot the bill for peoples poor health and fitness.

This begs the question, however, as to why - if time isn't an issue - our population is so unhealthy. Here's where the complexity comes in.  Time becomes the scapegoat because as an excuse it still seems to have legitimacy in terms of cultural perceptions. Everyone knows about being busy.  But the truth is that consistent and limited durations of exercise can and do produce dramatic benefits.  Minutes, not hours, actually matter.

Psychologically, however, people want to see and feel results. For  most of us, external validation is required in order to do the difficult work of making positive changes.  And for most of us, there is a 'window of opportunity' during which those results need to be noticed to provide the incentive we need to have these changes stick.  The time excuse is only valid in the context of these other variables - the level of work needed to produce visible results (external validation) within the window of opportunity for low volume programs is pretty high.  This means that the paths to success are either time intensive (at more moderate/accessible intensities) or effort intensive (at accessible, even for busy schedules, time). And yeah, I know, i just did my own oversimplification (-:

So the truth of the matter is that when people say they don't have 'enough time' to exercise/get fit/be healthy, what they really mean is:
"I don't have the will/mental ability/determination required to consistently produce the efforts needed to reach a point of where I'd see/notice significant enough visible/physical changes within the temporal timeframe during which i'll begin to need this external validation in order to produce lasting positive alterations in my behavior.  Oh, and yeah, I also don't have the time required to make these changes appear by working out at the intensities that i do have the will/mental ability/determination to sustain".
Although I suspect this may come off sounding pretty harsh, it's not meant too.  In truth, producing noticeable results in shorter time does require more difficult work, and I'm not judging folks that aren't able to consistently do it. I do feel, however, that taking a bit more ownership of the problem is an important step in the dialogue and that without correctly identifying the real dynamic at play the burgeoning promotion of lower volume training methodologies that are aiming to 'eliminate the time excuse' won't work.

Because, in truth, it's not really about time at all.....

Saturday, March 23, 2013

How slow can you go?

I have to remind myself not to read Mike's blog too often (around and around and around) because it makes me feel really slow.  But I read it today which is ok because 'slowness' is kind of the subject of this post.

The longer a race, the less important it is how much your training raises your speed 'ceiling'.  What really matters is how much it raises your 'floor', after all, thats where you'll be spending the bulk of your time (hopefully not literally, though you may feel like you need to get down there and crawl at times).  It's this idea of 'raising the floor' that i think is a key factor in my belief that for a mentally disciplined runner a low volume training program can produce similar or better results in ultra-distance races than high mileage programs.

I like long hours with demons
One of the things that i discovered when switching to low-volume training 4 years ago was that i got much faster, not only at the top end, but also at the bottom.  Because i was spending nearly all of my miles 'revving' my engine so to speak, paces i'd previously held to be 'long run paces' felt like active recovery - it became virtually impossible for me to run, no matter how tired, slower than what was suggested as my marathon training pace.  I'm not sure the reason for this adaptation - some of it undoubtedly came from the shift towards a higher cadence running style - but much of it may also have been mental.  Spending my few weekly miles at a 9 mph pace made 8 mph feel easy, and 6.5 mph (9-12 min mile) feel like walking.  

So when it comes to running an ultra this plays out in a couple of ways - I tend to go out pretty fast compared to folks using more conservative (and traditional) pacing strategies.  With only one hour a week of training i find i can only hold these quicker paces for 1.5-2 hours before i feel destroyed.  I hit the 'floor' but am usually reasonably well positioned in the field.  My strategy at this point is simply to stay on the floor - old man shuffling and then run/walking at some minimum pace and confronting my demons.

Compare this to people using a more traditional program.  Higher mileage moderate pace running might equip a racer to go much longer at their typical training paces.  When i looked into ultra training programs based on my paces, most had me running 40-60 miles a week, almost exclusively at 8 min miles or slower.  Assuming these prepared me to run for 30 miles continuously at a 9 min mile pace before hitting the floor, but also that that floor was a bit lower - a 15 min per mile average, we can do some calculations (for a 50 mile race lets say):

  • My race: 2 hours at 8 mph = 16 miles.  Remaining 34 miles at 5 mph yields sub 9 hour 50 miler.

  • Higher volume race: 30 miles at 6.6 mph (9 min pace) = 4 hours 33 min.  Remaining 20 miles at 4 miles per hour yields a 9.5 hour 50 miler.  
The main difference between the approaches is that the demons get more time to try to persuade me that i've got no business continuing my race.  For others looking to employ a low volume plan, this might prove catastrophic - for me, it's part of the reason I do these crazy things in the first place (more on that in my next post). 

But we'll may get to see how this works - I'm thinking about signing up for a 50 miler in May.  My training goes better when there's a more immediate goal to help get me through those damned hard 10 minute workouts of mine, and my June 29th adventure race is just a little too far out.  

Friday, March 8, 2013

Dan the Man

Occasionally I get requests from people to train them.  Recently i agreed to try to help a friend named Dan (DS) get ready for a 50K winter ultra marathon he was training for (which happened to be a race i was co-directing) - he had never run an ultra and decided to do it only four weeks out and figured he didn't have time for a traditional training program.  He knew a bit about my philosophy so decided to give it a try.

I'm always a little bit hesitant going in to situations like this - i tend to imagine that i haven't adequately been able to convey the depth of the challenge high intensity work presents.  But Dan seemed like a no-nonsense guy who would make a genuine effort i sent him off to do a V-dot test as a first step.  He complied - i got my pacing data - and I started feeding him some workouts.  Dan was used to running longer and slower (he is one of those guys who exercises for more than just fitness) so i eased him into things with a couple of mid-length, but moderate intensity runs.  This last week, however, i backed off on the volume and dialed up the pressure.

His response to the first workout - a 30 minute No-Slo-random Pro effort - gave me all the feedback i needed:
".... times are approximate.  When i reached the end i just hit the emergency stop and turned my back on the machine.   I could barely walk my legs were quivering so bad."
Dan is definitely 3 Hrs a week material.  Nice work Dan!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Going Mental, part 4 of my guest blog.

Click above to read the full post (will take you to the hosting site
Lost?  check out  Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 to get up to speed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Humanity in a plate of Asparagus

One of my very occasional part time jobs is to work as an event rigger.  I get to walk on beams way above the ground use long ropes to pull cable and chain up to create a network of suspension points that are used to lift lighting trusses, etc for big stage shows.  It was at such an stint of employment last Saturday night that i has a unique experience that involved a tin of sauteed asparagus and gave me hope for humanity.

My fellow fitness buff and neighbor Ryan and I were finished with the fun part of the job and waiting around to see what else had to be done when a crew member from the show brought out a few aluminum foil baking dishes full of leftover food from the catered meal the talent must have enjoyed.  One had some sort of oily breaded fish, one had marbled roast beef, and one had the asparagus.  There were also some half empty cases of soda, some cream filled wafer cookies, and a few bags of chips.  It was after 2 am and everyone (there were about 8 of us standing around) was hungry.  Most of the other guys, most of whom were not particularly healthy looking, had already opened sodas and were digging into the cookies.  Ryan and i weren't interested in that stuff and the asparagus looked untouched.  Yum.

Ryan acted first - he removed the celaphane cover from the asparagus tin and started to dig in.  I followed his example and picked up a handful of spears with my fully filthy hands.  What happened next was both unexpected and remarkable.  The cookies were set aside and forgotten about.  Everyone started eating asparagus.  It was pretty crazy - i'd have wagered that most of these other guys may never have eaten asparagus - some of them may not even have been able to name it had i asked them what they were eating.  But surprisingly, within minutes, all while sipping Dr. Pepper and talking about crystal meth, all of the asparagus got consumed (roughly 5 pounds i'd guess).  We were almost fighting for it.

So this got me thinking - maybe we're so unhealthy as a society because we make easy choices - not necessarily because we don't want to be healthy.  Maybe (thought experiment here) if all other things were equal and people had the same access to junk and good food, we'd be surprised at how many people would choose more good food.  Of course this doesn't solve any problems because junk food is still the easiest to get (it comes in the biggest variety of packages), but it does, for some reason, make me feel somehow better about the health problems our world is facing.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Guest Arrowhead Report

The following report details Scott Jensen's effort in the Arrowhead 135 a few weeks ago.  His determination was nothing short of heroic.  He basically endured the worst of what i went through 3-4 times longer than I did, and with the additional issue of lack of water.  Brutal.  Nice work Scott!

Note:  I shared it as a link so that the formatting and pictures are preserved.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Weakness and Shouting

Photo by Jackson B. Brown
First of all, I want to apologize for shouting.  One of my friends noticed that when these blog posts appear on facebook, the subtitle "my effort to...." is in all caps.  Oops.  This is unfortunately a product of how the template i'm using interacts with FB.  I might be able to fix it but I might not and have decided to just hope it isn't too offensive and move on - using my time on other potentially futile endeavors like writing grants, books, and trying to homeschool my kids.  

Now the weakness part.  I always hope my first workouts back after a big event are going to awesome and have me as fit as i was before the effort.  But of course it never works out that way - i'm usually weaker well into the third week.  This is still the second.  In the end though it's cool because it helps me realize the capacity of my body, the real truth about how long it takes me to recover, and also that i'm really working at my edge. 

Awesome day out there today - going to get the boys outside and drag em around the Iceman run course with a couple of other burly dads.  Fun times. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I wonder....

When i throw my ideas about training out there in the world of ones and zeros I tend to get a lot of push back.  I wonder if maybe my pitch is wrong.

I wonder if i would get better reception if i softened my criticism of conventional wisdom and focused on taking a more pragmatic approach.

For example, here, is a typical-dime-a-dozen-conventional wisdom-based article that showed up in the 'someone you might want to follow on twitter' section of my inbox this morning.  If you read it, you will find a regurgitation of the base1-3, build 1, build 2, etc hierarchy that is currently enjoying its day in the sun at the top of the endurance training pyramid.

I wonder if the push back is because the instinctual reaction to my ideas for many is to assume i'm suggesting that this model is wrong - that it wouldn't yield good results - that all the coaches that were pushing it and all the 'science' (don't get me started here though) behind them is all just a bunch of garbage.  And if i was suggesting that, i guess it would be pretty offensive (and a defensive reaction might even be called for).

What i'm really suggesting though is that for the vast majority of athletes, even some pretty ambitious ones, there's often a pretty big gap between training theory and training reality.  And in the context of that reality (in my experience anyway), the strict adherence to my super-low-volume-high-intensity routine seems to allow for results and capabilities comparable to those enjoyed by the vast majority of that vast majority that are training based off of the conventional wisdom approach.

So i wonder if folks would find it as hard to swallow if i changed my tune and rather than arguing that my crazy approach to this whole endurance game was as sound as the conventional approach, instead argued that a consistent application of my crazy approach was as good as an inconsistent application of the tried and true program that most endurance athletes think is the only program out there - and that in reality, an inconsistent application of the latter is probably all they could ever hope for?

Ok, so as I wrote it i realized that, as true as it may be, the last sentence still sounds a bit offensive. It also begs at least two questions - 1) what percentage of folks who can inconsistently follow a conventional program would even care to save themselves hours a week by consistently doing less (but harder) work if they could still have the same results, and then,  2) of this group, what percentage even could?  Hmmm.....

I wonder.

*P.S.  Tammy, I wrote this three days ago (;

Monday, February 4, 2013

End of Gluttony

I'm always famished after a big race.  I eat and eat and eat and eat.  It is a happy time.  But sometimes i overdo it and keep eating vast quantities well beyond the time it is actually beneficial for my body as it recovers from the effort.

Post Arrowhead was one such occasion.

In this case I ate for more than 5 days.  I'm just guessing here, but i'd bet i have consumed 30,000 calories since finishing the race on tuesday night.  It was a perfect storm really, three days of habituated recovery eating leading into my wife, Tammy's birthday (which entailed a friday night dinner at Red Lobster, courtesy of her in-laws on Saturday and then a huge, very rich chocolate cake on Sunday) and a superbowl party with all the regular attendees (veggies and spinach dip, scotch-a-roos, wings, chips and guacamole, etc).  It was epic.

Last night, after the party and another piece of the chocolate cake, I had the worst stomach ache i can ever remember.

I can't pretend i'm still recovering anymore.  It's a lie.  I'm back at it on tuesday, starting to build back up  towards my baseline for the 10 minute workouts and changing the weekend efforts to running in anticipation of the 50K trail ultra just 6 weeks away.

It is time to end the gluttony.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

First Challenge!

I'm writing a book.  Not sure how many chapters it will have but it is going to be based around all of my musings on this blog, held together by my attempts at five ultra distance efforts this year.  The Arrowhead 135 was the first effort.

And it was quite the effort. Thanks Grant Mehring for sticking with me despite the gulf between or abilities.

A more detailed race report and maybe even a movie will be coming eventually.

Congrats to all the other racers and their loved ones (who's support is always invaluable) and all the volunteers and race staff that made the adventure possible.

It was brutal and perfect.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Arrowhead in two days

My ride
I'm frustrated.  The temperature during my projected time racing doesn't look to drop below 20 degrees fahrenheit.  This changes my whole strategy - what to wear, how to carry water, etc and makes me second guess many of my preparations.  But really maybe it's just the fact that i have a tendency to second guess my preparations anyway.

Grant came up last night and we went out for an hour on our fully loaded bikes to make sure there weren't any surprises.  All my gear is on the front end, something that the all knowing 'they' say isn't ideal but it seems to ride well enough so i'm not going to spend the time figuring out how to better balance my load.  I've found that the reality of aiming to be a jack of all trades means that I end up making do with a lot of less than optimal set-ups, especially compared with folks who specialize in one thing or another - such as winter bike racing.

No camelback, no drilled out rims,  an imbalanced bike, and a super jiggly headlight but she rolls when i press on the pedals and i think that will be enough to get me from the start to the finish.

I'm surprisingly calm, very little in the way of nerves.  maybe this is why people do the same race over and over again (not usually my MO) - to develop a level of comfort with all the logistics and have some sort of mental security going in.  Typically though, it's that mental insecurity that i'm seeking.

My ride at night
The calmness however is nice considering that i woke up this morning with pink-eye.  I was initially a bit distressed lying in bed during the wee hours this AM after i suspected my matted eye was significant, but what is there to do?  It's not a deal breaker.  My eyes were hammered when i did the race 3 years ago - worst case scenario is that i put a patch on the infected eye and use the other one.  The trail is wide and although the monocular vision may lead to a few more crashes, i'm riding on snow so the falls won't be too hard.  And if the itching drives me nuts i'll just take the eye patch off and let the eyeball freeze.

T-48 hours to seeing where this high intensity stuff gets me!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Going Visceral

Feeling everything at the 2010 Arrowhead 135
Arrowhead 135 is about two weeks away.  I love these two weeks.  I've done the event a couple times so i'm slacking on preparations but know i can pull it together quickly.  The fun part is the anticipation. The realization of impending suffering.  The worst case scenario waking dreams that begin creeping into my consciousness as i attempt to fall asleep at night.

It's exciting.  It makes me feel vibrant and alive and scared.  It's a challenge that will require immediacy but that will involve it by default - no need for me to cultivate an awareness of the moment in order to be fully present.  Instead, the moment(s) will impress themselves on me full force, demanding to be witnessed.  I will experience my entire body - my skin, by bowels, my muscles.  I will feel connective tissue and be aware of damage on a cellular level as the cold bites my fingertips when dexterity demands that i remove my gloves.  I will communicate sympathetically with my alveoli when the 250 micron diameter tubes are stretched to their breaking point - air molecules waking from their lethargic midwinter slumber   to ricochet energetically off their thin walls. I will respond to minute changes in force and acceleration automatically - without thinking about coefficients of friction - thousands of times as i careen down down and struggle up miles of snow covered trails.

I will listen to my heart, my lungs.  I will have long conversations with my central governor and alternate between sweet talking and bullying her into letting me have my way.  And after everything is said, I will - at least for a couple of hours in the middle of the night - let go of it all and just pedal mindlessly with little conscious awareness of anything, or memory recorded.  It's going to be awesome.