Thursday, April 11, 2013

Race Report: Foolks 25/50k

I did the Fools 25k (2:39) in 2008 before it was as big as it is now, 50k in 2011 (5:24) where I went out too fast on the first 25k and paid for it dearly on the last 25k. 2012 I was unable to fit it in my schedule and this year I was on vacation the week before but intent on running it. 2013 was supposed to be a sub 5....which I did but only because it was the 25k :)

I even tapered for a week while in Hilton Head...I ran every day but all nice & easy miles on the beach. We ate & drank too much (more of the latter) but enjoyed the family vacation. We arrived after a 15hr drive back home by about midnight, unloaded, packed for the race and then back up at 5am to head down to CVNP. 

The plan was to run consistent and shoot for a solid 4hr 45min run but I never felt quite right, but the pace was decent. I was somewhere about 9th overall but not feeling my normal self. Felt tired, heavy....wondering if the prior day and week really was taking a toll or if it was a mental trick. You'd never guess by the photo, but I was soon to take a turn for the worse...

More air than I expected!

Not finishing was not on the radar but somewhere around mile 10, I started the ultra-slog...felt terrible, exhausted, and not wanting drag myself through the rest of the race just for the sake of not posting a DNF. about mile 15, Jim caught up to me and asked how I was feeling....he had just driven from Florida and was experiencing the same issue. I asked if I stop at 25k, if I get a DNF...when he said no, I made my decision. It was one of those days where I really made a smart move. 

Those last 3 miles really helped make my decision. I rolled in, asked to drop to the 25k....Jim followed suit shortly after and then we sat back and relaxed. This is the first time I've stopped short during a race and gone to the lesser distance. I was glad I did. It allowed me to chat with a number other runners & volunteers, see my friends finish...and enjoy the day. Do I wish I finished? Of course....but it's just a wasn't in the cards that day. I enjoyed the vacation, stayed up late, had fun, played with the family a ton, indulged, etc...then drove all day....I'll take that over a race...


Friday, March 15, 2013

Gear Review: Altra Lone Peak [1 year later review]

I wrote this initial review over a year ago on the first pair of Lone Peaks that I tried. I like to make comments or write occasional product reviews for gear that I actually have used for a good period of time. What better way to review running shoes than to beat em up and live, race, & train in them from beginning to end to see how they really perform and hold up? If you just review them when they are pretty, new, and at 100% it's not a true review, right?

I got about 480 miles out of the first pair of Lone Peaks that I wrote about. Let me say that they were not dead yet but I had torn the upper from the sole large enough to fit a few fingers through, as well as rocks, dirt, etc... The soles had plenty of life left in them and they have since been donated to Purple Heart. I am confident that if my fat feet hadn't blown holes in the sides that I could have gotten 2-300 more miles in them at LEAST. I have friends who are getting +800mi in them. I tend to retire my trail running shoes to landscaping duty somewhere between 300-400mi at best. Either the cushion stops cushing or the uppers tear apart....

I did everything from daily training to racing in them: trails, roads (actually pretty good on roads), trail speed-work, hill-work, technical terrain, snow, rain, rock, you name it, everything from the trails in the Northeast Ohio, to Kettle Moraine trails in Wisconsin, to 110 degree heat in Texas, to the mountains in Colorado for Leadville. All my ultra distance training runs as well as my ultra distance races with the exception of Oil Creek 100 were done in Altras. I'm not a super light runner (~170lbs) and the local Fleet Feet owner tells me I have Fred Flinstone feet....

...which is about right, my feet have increased in overall size since I started doing ultras about 5 years ago now....I have blown out the sides of every single trail shoe that I have owned. I used to wear a 10.5-11 and now I have been wearing 11.5 and 12.0 depending on the model. With all that being said, I admit that I am hard on shoes....most runners are. So I picked up another pair of Lone Peaks needing the new ones before a race, when they arrived, they were the same size as before but too small....I was stuck and raced Leadville in them anyhow....put in a few weeks of training in them before I just asked if I could warranty them for a larger size, which they did (awesome). Looks like any sizing issues have since been resolved with Altra. I'm now over 220 miles in the current pair and have added some shoe goo to the sides to make sure I don't blow these out...thus far it's working quite well.

I re-read my previous post on these shoes....All my original comments and initial thoughts were confirmed. I used them for all my training and racing for the Leadville Trail 100 and all my events since. Due to availability issues, I didn't have them for Oil Creek 100 and I really wish I makes me appreciate them all the more now.

I still would like to make sure that people understand that this is not a minimal shoe. This is a natural style running shoe (see left pic). It's zero drop with a 22.5mm heel and 22.5mm forefoot....that's not minimal in my opinion. The shape of the shoe is what sold me initially, it's foot shaped and therefore it fits my feet (imagine that), allows for natural foot splay, traction is outstanding in mud & snow and everything in between. In some situations, it's more shoe than you may need...say for trail races that you could use road shoes on, but I use them for everything.

Below is a shot from a local 10k trail race that was all ice & snow....I managed 12th OA of a 300 person race, which for me is really good at that distance. This is to brag about the was perfect. I didn't put screws in my shoes for the ice, just laced 'em up and went.

running ~6:15 pace downhill on snow/ice with confidence!

Here are the specs from Altra's website:

  • Weight: 9.9 oz
  • Midsole: Zero Drop™ EVA/A-Bound Midsole
  • Foot Shaped Design: Male FS-1 Last
  • NRS: Natural Ride System
  • Outsole: TrailClaw Outsole
  • StoneGuard and Trail Rudder
  • Insole: Mountain Footbed (Similar to Support Footbed)
  • Upper: Quick dry abrasion resistant mesh upper with minimal seams
  • Asymmetrical Lacing, HeelClaw, and A-Wrap for Superior Fit
  • Liner: Drilex Premium Liner
  • Stack height = The total thickness of the shoe/the distance between the foot and the ground.
    With Footbed: 22.5mm(Heel)/22.5mm (Forefoot)
    Without footbed: 17.5mm(Heel)/17.5mm (Forefoot

I've now run in the Lone Peak, Superior, Instinct 1.5, Instinct 2.0, and most recently the Torin. I am really looking forward to try the Lone Peak 1.5 (April '13). This post is about the Lone Peak...but I will tell you that I am head over heels for the Torin (road)....I'll have to do another post for that one.

I would say that once I transitioned to the zero drop it's not even noticeable anymore. I am a mid/forefoot runner still and have been working on becoming more efficient each year. I also fiddle with the lacing patterns a little bit to dial in the lose or snug-ness of the shoe but once they are all set, I haven't had to change them. My shoe choice for BR100 this year will be the Altra Lone Peak (trail) and the Torin (road) unless I can find even more love with the LP 1.5. I'll be racing the Fools 50k in a few weeks in the LP's for certain.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Race: Dirty Love Trail 10k

The Dirty Love Trail Run 10k

I know, I's not an ultra..but it was a great race! With sick kids, sick wife, cancelled snowshoe race, and raging to run something hard this weekend, I was lucky to get out and sign up for the Dirty Love Trail Run 10k which is about 10min from me on trails that I know well.

I can't recall the last time I actually raced a 10k on the road or trails, so this was a PR and a CR for me :)

I got in a nice 3mi warm-up on the icy/snowy trails, shed the tights & fleece cap for shorts on this sunny day, lined up and decided to just run hard and try not to ease into a comfortable pace. There were just under 300 runners and in short races with this many people, I rarely place in the top....

The course is a great mixture of a creek crossing, singletrack, bridal trails, and lots of good variations in terrain. The hardest part was trying to get decent footing on the icy trail. Staying on the edge of the trail where there was a dusting of snow was the best bet...then just hoping for the best when slipping around.

The strategy was to start smart, run the tough hill, Ox Lane with an average of 19.5% grade at a decent clip, push over the top and try to keep it under an 8min/mi for the rest of the race.

That's the race....up the hill, along some good rollers...then ultimately back down and to the finish.

Lessons learned: It hurt, just like it should! Bit by bit, I chipped away at people in front of me....reeled them in one by one. Bombed the downhills, pushed the uphills, and tried not to chill out on the flatter sections. It by far was one of my most well played races. As my buddy Dave said "You may have found your distance!" Maybe...especially when this is not what I train for.

Results:  I finished at 47:38 (7:40 pace) for 12th Overall, and 2nd in my AG which is really good for me in a field that large. Had the footing been better, we all would've run faster...but I was REALLY happy to finish that close to the top 10. I am amazed at the top male (John S.?) who averaged 6:27/mi over that terrain...astounding!

I only got in 9+ miles that day of running and about the same on Saturday which was -10 miles I wanted over the weekend....However, it's early in the season and I have solid miles in so I am not fretting it. Fast speedwork counts double, right??

Shoes: zero drop Altra Lone Peaks, baby! This is my 3rd run in them (second pair) and they worked fantastic. No hot spots, great traction considering, and my ever present smartwool socks.
Overall, I was just really happy to have a great race...the day went well and I've got a nice mug to boot! See you on the trails!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ultrarunning and Periodization Plans

2013 Plans coming together and a ramble on Periodization planning for ultrarunning. 

Well, the running plans are starting to materialize a little better thus far....

  • Groundhog Day 10k Snowshoe Race (cancelled - see Dirty Love 10k race report coming soon). 
  • Fools 50k
  • O24 (directing)
  • Cleveland Marathon
  • TNF Endurance D.C. (50mi) -or- Mohican 50mi -or- Laurel Highlands 70mi or 50k. 
  • Lake Health Distance 1/2 Marathon
  • Burning River 100
  • Fall Road Marathon
  • Oil Creek 100
  • TNF Endurance Madison, WI (50mi)

It's a skeleton plan at the moment but we'll see what work travel, family, and life brings to the schedule....

Training ramble: 

Training is going very well....I'm at the stage where I am toying with plans that I have used in the past vs. higher mileage and structured weeks with plenty of speed work, hill training, cross training. Ultimately, I've modified my micro cycle weekly plan to a slightly modified plan that allows me more mileage and still get in the cross training...the last plan was successful in the fact that I arrived at the starting line for Mohican 50mi, Leadville 100mi, Oil Creek 100mi, and Bills Badass 50k healthy and injury free with a good amount of speedwork under my belt and quality training hours but I felt like I could use some more miles...

It's hard as an athlete, whether as a cyclist or a runner to not focus on your miles for the week/ the last year, I felt like I had really increased my core strength, speed, and overall fitness. I tried to focus on training hours and sort of cover one eye when looking at my miles each week....knowing that I was doing the "equivalent" work in hours was reassuring, but I still felt like I needed to log more miles. Sport specificity no doubt has merit, so if you want to be a good runner...then run, right?! If you want to run fast, then run fast in training....get it? I struggle with this simply because I came from a background in multiple sports (soccer, lacrosse, cycling, etc) and I love to get out on the bike which was my true passion for many years. I figure if I'm tired of logging miles and need a little break....I hop on the bike in lieu of a medium's mentally refreshing and keeps the injuries at bay.

Experiment of one, right? The one thing that has always worked for me is periodization training;  macro, meso, & micro cycles. I don't do well on the "just go out and run" plan...So, if you look over the course of a year which could include a few macro cycles (2-3mos) comprised of mesocycles (4-6 weeks) made up of microcycles (individual week) you can begin to put together your season, month, week, & day...

Most periodization plans will have some sort of structure like this (I've added my personal take on it):

  • Transition Phase (4-8weeks +/-): where you focus on form, technique, recovery from injuries, etc...this is the time of year you chill out and get fat. I don't do this well....I'll maintain 40-50mpw regardless as well as lots of cross training. 
  • Base Phase (2-3mos +\-): more focused than the transition time frame but lasts much longer....ideally, you spend some time in this phase building a strong aerobic base, efforts are easy, nothing crazy, etc... and in some plans this lasts a couple months or more....I do this okay, but I tend to start speedwork early and hill work, I get anxious to get long runs in...usually a race helps...Good time for higher mileage
  • Building Phase (4-8wks +\-)- think the controlled increase of speedwork, hills, (both intensity and duration) and increasing mileage/hours, back to backs....preparing the foundation for the next phase. By the time I'm doing this, I am usually doing tough efforts...mileage is working it's way up and having fun with it. 
  • Peak Phase (4-6wks+\-): hard work, speed work, strong efforts, long runs, back to backs, with rest to allow for the body to reap the benefits of the efforts you are putting in. This is what I like the most....long runs, speedwork, high mileage weeks, followed by step back weeks....I ride the fence on fitness vs. injury in this time frame. This is where you are stressing your system and with a well planned step back prior to your event, you should reap the benefits and be able to repeat the efforts during a race. mileage peaking 90-100+ mpw. 

The problem that a lot of us have is that we are not elite athletes paid by large sponsors to just race with an elite coach telling us exactly what to do....I have a career, family, and there has to be a lot of compromise and adjusting to train for ultras and not take away from what is really important in life...not that ultras aren't important...but you know what I mean (hopefully).

Also, we don't just train for one race...we're ultra many of us follow something like a carefully laid out plan for just one race??? C'mon....Type B personalities need not apply, we love to run, we HAVE to run, so we sign up for too many races and when a friend says "Hey, let's run a 50k today" you say sure, why not? We run 'till we get injured then run too soon after the injury...

So as you can tell, I like works well for me mentally and I like a carefully laid out plan that accounts for inevitable variations and times when you just can't follow it. It doesn't work for everyone but over the years when I have strayed from a structured plan, I've either gone too hard and gotten injured or not gone hard and paid the price on race day....This helps me keep the balance.

Here is the change at the micro level (sample):

It allows me to get in 1-2 more days per week of running so I get the miles without crazy midweek runs but still maintain the cross training. If I'm feeling like I am running too much, I'll back off a day and cross train or simply rest.

This is a representation of my weekly mileage buildups focusing on BR100....every 3 weeks there is a planned rest week, then resume at the previous week's mileage and continue to build....with a 3 week step down to the race....Each week contains the structure (in general) from the micro chart...I'm not a high mileage guy, you'll see that there is only 1 week > 100mi, except for the race week...This, to me is a graphical representation of Stress + Recovery = Adaptation. Increased adaptation = improved running times/experiences. Improved running experiences = increased happiness and all is right with the world :)

What about multiple ultras? So, I suggest prioritizing your race schedule....using races as "training" for other races is a great idea, especially if the races fit well into your training lessens the burden of knowing this is not what you've trained all season for, you can relax a little, test gear, food,'s a race yes, but not the race....I can't afford the time to race a lot each year so I have to be careful on what I choose for my races. I try to fit them into my training schedule such as running Mohican 50 in June before running Burning River 100 at the end of July....For multiple events outside of the macro cycle, I will essentially re-create portions of my training plan with consideration of how I feel. Example: Leadville 100 was about 7 weeks before Oil Creek 100. I took the last 7 weeks of my training for LT100 and re-did them for OC100. Keep in mind that I DNF'd LT100 due to altitude, so the recovery was less than what it would've been if I completed the 100....but you get the idea. I would have probably relaxed for 1-2 weeks after LT100 before completely resuming the plan...whatever works best for ya.

The funny thing is that this is always changing, right? If I look back at my training blog comments in the past I recall having a major desire to get back on the the training plan for Leadville really made me happy as I was able to incorporate that into my weekly training....I didn't want to lose that in this year's plan but I want to play with increasing, experiment of we go again....

I think a lot of people debate over the concept of quantity vs. quality...Maybe I'm wrong here, but I think what we should aspire to attain is sort of a blend of both. If all you do is quantity, where is the quality coming from? I suggest that you need both....quality workouts in the specific periods that incorporate speed, hills, aerobic base, long runs, etc... as your mileage increases you will have the quantity but it should be quality long miles as tastes great AND it's less filling, right?

I suppose I am putting this all together for a couple reasons....If it helps anyone understand the structure of how one person puts together the schedule for ultra or virtually any other sport that incorporates periodization plans (google it for many more examples) and secondly so I can look back at this next year and modify as needed for future races/events. That's one of the great things about ultra running....always learning.

Note: there is a lot of information out there, an interesting site to read is Kevin Sayers running site that has input from a massive amount of experienced runners - if you look at the Matt Mahony #1 post in that link, he cites an interesting survey he took a few years ago correlating mileage to finish rates and speed.

Coaches: I've gone back and forth on having coaches (iRunFar Coach list & article)....Overall, I have always progressed with coaching, especially with one who knows you and can push you. I am currently coach-less but I have strong training partners and quite honestly, I am going to try on my own for a while again. Bottom line, if you can afford it I highly recommend it.

By the way, I'm not a coach, trainer, or certified in anything fitness related....that's my legal disclaimer if you follow any "advice" from this blog and want to blame me for any part it....


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2013 Plans

It's January and I have only signed up for 3 races, 2 of which are my creation.

10k Snowshoe Race - Feb. 2nd
Fools 50k - April 7th
O24 - 24 Hour Trail Race (directing) - April. 27-28. I might try to sneak in a 50k or 100k.

Looking at a number of other options, but if all western US race plans do not materialize, Burning River 100 is going to be the summer 100. Also looking at TNF Endurance Series (DC, NY, WI), 100's for yo Momma, and others....lots of great options.

Very happy to note that I just made the ambassador team for Altra Zero Drop shoes. I trained in them for all of Leadville 100...and have been wearing them ever since with a lot of success. They have some new models coming out and I am excited to be a part and represent!