Late Summer Catchup

9/15/2016

Well shoot… here I thought I’d written a post after the road mile, but it turns out I haven’t. Summer has clearly gotten away from me and quite a bit has happened in the past 2 months, so let’s get to it.

The road mile was awesome. My goal heading into the race was to run sub 4:30. I ran 4:37, but the winner only ran 4:24, so the somewhat hilly course definitely took its toll. The biggest accomplishment by far was outkicking Mario (sorry dude :-P). He and I were see-sawing back and forth, as he’d get ahead of me on the downhill parts of the course and then I’d move past him on the uphill parts. With about 300 to go, there’s a good downhill section and he moved past me to start his kick. I noticed him coming up on me heading into that portion by looking in a building window and seeing his pink shoes and despite trying to stay in front of him, he passed me with about 150 to go. However, the last 150 is a false flat and when we came around the corner, I was able to rein him back in and kick ahead into the finish. It was great. Exactly what I wanted – I stayed engaged the whole time, hurt the whole time, and came out happy. The workouts Koop prescribed did what I’d hoped and the burn was manageable. The whole Twilight Crit event was pretty damn awesome, with the men’s and women’s open miles sandwiched between the men’s and women’s pro bike races so the crowds were great and made for a very unique racing experience. Strava data: https://www.strava.com/activities/659165605

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Around the halfway mark at the San Rafael Twilight Mile

Following the road mile, I jumped into the Vo2 (aka 3 minute) intervals for the next several weeks. The next race on the calendar was Headlands 50k. I was planning on using it as a very hard training run, so I wasn’t nervous heading into it. It was the USATF 50k Trail National Championships, so competition was strong, but falling on the same day as UTMB tends to thin the herd a bit before the race even starts. My goal was to run strong and finish happy. I started out running hard and found myself near DBo and Sam Robinson. Sam went down hard(!!) at the top of Hill 88 unfortunately and ultimately ended up at the hospital after gamely continuing for 11 miles (get well soon!). I hung with DBo through the bottom of Miwok near Muir Woods but he dropped me on the climb up to Cardiac/Pantoll. My legs were shot. I began to wonder why and then remembered that this had just become my longest run since the Boston Marathon back in April. Oh boy. So I settled into a more sustainable pace and just tried to maintain. The descent down Matt Davis to Stinson was great but the climb out of Stinson was pretty rough on the Moors. Once I got into Steep Ravine, I felt a bit better and began to make up some ground. Coming into Cardiac for the 2nd and final time was a relief and I just concentrated on finishing strong. I ended up 5th overall while DBo grabbed a couple more spots to finish 3rd. Strava data here: https://www.strava.com/activities/691231925/overview

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Finishing at the Headlands 50k (PC: Jim Harleen)

The beauty of training through a race like Headlands is that you’re not fit enough to really race it so the recovery doesn’t take too too long. I spent the next week doing super easy runs in preparation for the 1st Annual Mt. Tam Hill Climb Triple Crown for Runners (which will be re-named to the Triple Goat following the constructive criticism from some members of the cycling community who do the road bike/MTB/hill climb Triple Crown, which is indeed the “true and original” Triple Crown). Anyways, the first day was the Widowmaker, starting at Camp 222 and finishing at the door on East Peak (where else). I got after it and ran a PR for the route, 28:23 (still a ways off Galen & Levi). Strava data here: https://www.strava.com/activities/699229422/overview.

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All the way to the door! (PC: YiOu Wang)

Day 2 saw us on the infinitely more runnable Old Railroad Grade, from the gate on Blithedale, through the gate on Fern Canyon Road, along Fern Canyon Road (no shortcuts), and then up the rest of ORRG to the gate at Ridgecrest before picking your own adventure to the East Peak door. The point of choosing this more runnable route was to give all sorts of hill runners a chance. The Widowmaker definitely favors those who are more “goatish” in their climbing abilities while ORRG is very runnable and so might favor a different type of climber. It’s also a nice change of muscle groups from the scrambling on Widowmaker to all-out running on ORRG. Another hearty group of souls showed up for this one and gutted it out to the top. I ran gate to gate in my 2nd fastest time (outside goal was to take down my PR but my legs were definitely a bit tired from the day before) and made it to the summit in 48:48. Strava data here: https://www.strava.com/activities/700593850/overview. Funny how the ORRG route is more than 3x farther than the Widowmaker but only takes 20 minutes more.

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A hearty (and meager) group of souls showed up for Day 2.

The 3rd and final day was the decades-old Mt. Tam Hill Climb, produced by the Stever-Slaymaker household (thank you!!). I wasn’t too sure how my legs would feel after 2 days of hard uphill, but I knew it would hurt either way. The start was fast as usual as Levi took it out hard. He pulled a couple of guys along with him, including Mario, and I stayed back a bit, wanting to see how my legs were doing. I passed the guys (Mario said he started too fast and knew it and I had to chuckle) who were trailing Levi and found myself in 2nd, watching Levi steadily get farther and farther away up the road. When we hit the cuts at the top of Summit/Fern Canyon, he was out of sight and so was everyone else behind me. I actually felt really good on the road section despite the 2 days before, but once I hit Temelpa and the real climbing kicked up, I had to hike a bit more than I’d liked. Still, I managed to keep grinding forward and seeing Rachelle at the top of Verna Dunshee was a nice surprise. I finished 2nd in 33:45 (a new PR!) and my jaw dropped when I learned that Levi had run 31:30ish. Crazy. Hill Climb record is 30:32 from 30 years ago with an open course (aka no switchbacks at the top of Temelpa), so it’s pretty safe to say Levi set the modern CR. Incredible run. Strava data here: https://www.strava.com/activities/701542939/overview

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Up top with the GOAT (aka Hill Climb winner) (PC: Kim Gaylord)

After a couple down days, I started into the tempo phase of this training cycle. It was nice to be back into that groove again, although it is rather painful. The workout went better than I thought it had when I looked back at the data, which was a nice surprise. Sunday (4 days ago) found me at the Golden Gate Park Open Cross Country race. I did a long run in the Headlands the day before with SFRC so I wasn’t expecting much, nor was I peaking in any way for this race. I just wanted to get out and see what I could do over 4 somewhat hilly, loose-footed miles. I ran 20:44 for the 4+ mile course and most agreed that it was a bit slower than in past years due to loose footing, but in any case, I was quite pleased. I got out pretty hard in the 1st mile and dug in to hold on to the group of 4-5 guys I was with through the next 2 miles. The 2nd and 4th miles are significantly more uphill than the 1st and 3rd and so that’s where I really tried to work. I stayed even with the group on the 2nd mile and then felt strong enough to move ahead of them in the 4th mile and was able to gap them just enough so that I didn’t have to kick in to the finish, which was a great relief. I was really pleased with the effort, as I remained engaged and focused the whole time and on top of that, felt strong. Taking 30 seconds off last year’s time didn’t hurt either.  Strava data here: https://www.strava.com/activities/708973278/overview

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Golden Gate Park XC Open Pain Cave (PC: Rookie)

That’s about it for now. I don’t think I’ll race again until the IAU Ultra Trail World Championships in Portugal on October 29, so it’ll mostly be grinding out some good training. The biggest challenge will likely be maintaining my fitness through our 2-week honeymoon, but I think that’s a good problem to have. Until next time!

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Diversifying My Portfolio

7/14/2016

For the past couple years, I’ve been focusing almost exclusively training for and racing ultramarathons. I’ve raced varying distances, from the beer mile to 100 miles, but the bulk of my training has been geared towards races longer than the marathon. As a result, I’ve done virtually no intervals shorter than 3 minutes (which may seem short, but isn’t if you’ve ever trained for a 5k or a mile) in the past 8-10 months. While the workouts I’ve done have gotten me in incredible shape for marathons and ultras, my short-end speed has suffered. So when I decided to race a road mile at the end of July, Jason Koop (my coach at Carmichael Training Systems) and I decided to do some mile-specific training in an effort to make it suck slightly less. I don’t have any big ultras on the schedule and I want to give it an honest effort. I am signed up for Headlands 50k at the end of August, but I’m not going to train and peak for that race, as I want to use it as a springboard for a strong fall with a race TBD at some point in the fourth quarter.

The most obvious difference is the workouts. I’ve gone from stuff like 8x3mins uphill and 4x12min tempo to a 2x (800m-600m-400m-200m) and 8x300m on the track. It’s crazy how different they feel. I got on the track 2 weeks ago for the first time since last August. It was a shock to the system to say the least. My instructions for pacing were to run “fast.” I didn’t know what sort of pace would feel fast, but I did look back at track workouts I’d done in years past to refresh my memory as to the paces I was running when I was training for the 5k and 10k. I kept those in mind as a starting point for my first 800m interval. I was able to hold it for about 200m before realizing it was unsustainable and slowing to something more maintainable. The rest of the workout was spent sucking wind after each interval and wondering how on earth I used to run paces faster than that for considerably longer workouts. For example, both 800m intervals were run at paces slower than I used to run 1200m intervals a couple years ago (and I’d do 5-6 of those 1200m intervals!). Objectively, this makes total sense, but it was still a reminder as to how different the training protocols are for the distances across the spectrum.

I had a week between the 1st and 2nd track workouts and Koop assured me that the 2nd one would feel more manageable. He was right. The adaptation that took place over the week was pretty surprising. I not only felt better during the 2nd workout (which was the same 2x 800-600-400-200), but I noticed that the recovery and endurance runs I was doing between them felt much better. I was running at faster paces than normal and felt much more able to sustain them for a longer time. That overall better feeling was likely due to the shorter workouts and lower overall volume relative to ultra workouts, but it was still nice to feel peppy on most days in a week as opposed to just one or two. On the whole, I currently feel faster and sharper than I did during ultra training. Again, this is a seemingly obvious result but it serves a greater purpose than just getting me in (relatively faster) shape for a mile.

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Flats for fast running!

What purpose is that? Simply to make myself remember that a change of scenery (or in this case, workout and race pace/distance) is necessary every once in a while. It reminds your legs what it’s like to run truly fast. There are different physiological (and psychological) benefits to changing up the sort of training you’re doing, and I’m really enjoying them. That and my racing flats that have been so neglected are finally getting some love. I might even break out the spikes for the final 8x200m workout. It’s such a different feeling from slogging through the long ultra workouts. The track work is almost refreshing in a way, kind of like barefoot strides after an easy run. I was sprawled on the track gasping for air after the final interval of my 8x300m workout on Tuesday. I can’t remember the last time I felt like I couldn’t stand after a workout. It was exhilarating (and painful), but the pain subsided quickly and the cooldown wasn’t bad at all. That’s the beauty of changing things up. It keeps any one system from getting stagnant and I think is a very important aspect of maintaining solid overall fitness. Plus, when you are running intervals at full-tilt, the pace of an ultra seems downright pedestrian, which is a huge psychological benefit and results in the feeling of: I could do this all day! And it’s a good thing because that’s likely what you’ll be doing😛

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8×300 w/ Mr. Hinde (PC: Mario Fraioli)

In the present, I’ve got a couple more mile-specific workouts before the race on July 30 and then I’ll likely turn my attention back to the longer stuff. But for now, I’m going to enjoy every day of mile training. And I will return to it again sooner rather than later as I’d forgotten the benefits it provides.

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Mostly the 106th Dipsea (woof)

So it’s been almost 2 months and in that time, I think I’ve successfully determined the cause and treated the bulk of what’s been plaguing my hip since January (knock on wood!). After Boston, a friend suggested I schedule an appointment with Marty Mattox at Ultrahealth (http://www.ultrahealth.org/index.php). Within 5 minutes of our first meeting, she’d told me that my right SI joint (in my hip) was an inch lower than my left. I got on the treadmill and she noticed that my right leg was crossing over my left on my stride. She thought it was likely an issue with my right glute not firing, which was causing my hip to drop and put stress on my IT band which manifested in pain in my upper/inner thigh/hip. So we had some work ahead of us. She started me on a regime of glute strengthening exercises. The nice thing was that the hip seemed to have stabilized and wasn’t getting any worse with training, so I didn’t really have to back off too much on the hard days but I made sure to make the easy days very easy and take time off when needed. Koop and I worked out a plan to get me in the best shape we could for Dipsea and I started running workouts about 10 days after Boston, with just about 7 weeks until Dipsea.

While the workouts themselves usually went pretty well, I still felt compromised from the hip issue. There wasn’t a lot of pain during the workouts but the day after was usually quite uncomfortable and I was just really fed up with running in pain/discomfort. I ran the workouts hard and same some decent results, but I never really felt like I was truly up to speed at any point. That being said, I was still optimistic that Dipsea day would be good, as my leg steadily improved with the glute strengthening exercises and frequent appointments with Marty.

During the build to Dipsea, I ran Bay to Breakers with the West Valley centipede. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t think I ever want to run this race untethered. Too much fun. Plus, when I started dragging ass up the Hayes Street Hill (likely due to the workout I’d run the day before), I was very thankful for the cords and the towing that my teammates did. I contemplated dropping off in the park, but managed to stick with it and thankfully the helmet hid my pain face for the most part. Our team ran a great time, finishing a fairly close 2nd to the winning ‘pede. Strava data: https://www.strava.com/activities/577019570/overview

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Nearing the top of the Hayes Street Hill

 

A couple weeks after B2B found me at Marin 10k. I had no Vo2 max workouts under my belt, so I expected it to hurt and hurt it did. I went out comfortably hard and held pace pretty well, but I never felt like I had that top end speed/gear that you really need to run a fast 10k (or 5k). I was pleased with the effort and knew that it would benefit me for Dipsea, but I was slightly concerned with the lack of speed in my legs. Granted, the race fell at the end of a particularly strenuous week, with 4 workouts in 7 days, but I still felt off. The hip held up pretty well, which was reassuring, though. Strava data here: https://www.strava.com/activities/593135822/overview

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Feeling a lack of top-end speed at Marin 10k (PC: Pam Wendell)

13 days after Marin 10k was the 106th Dipsea. I went into the race feeling pretty good and thought I had a good shot at running the fastest time, though it would be difficult with Rickey, Galen, and Gus all running pretty well in the weeks leading into the race. At least we all run for the Pelican Inn Track Club. Gus and I started our final year in the scratch group (hallelujah for a 1-minute handicap next year!) and were near the front of the group as we hit the stairs. We regrouped on the 3rd flight and I trailed Gus up to Windy Gap (8:10 to the 1 mile rock) and down through Muir Woods (15:00). He remained 20-30 meters in front of me for basically the whole climb up to Cardiac, during which I realized that my legs had absolutely no pop in them. I hit halfway rock in 9:20 (24:20 total) and knew I was in for a tough 2nd half of the climb and race. I managed to keep Gus within view and even closed a bit on him as we crested Cardiac (2nd half climb: 9:25 for 18:45 total climb – the slowest since I started keeping track in 2010). I think I saw Seb, Emily, Brett and Erika on the final push to Cardiac but couldn’t even bring myself to smile (but thanks for cheering!). Kim and Toph and a few others who are fairly hazy were at the top of the climb and it was great to hear some familiar voices. As we topped out and started the descent to the beach, I knew I was going to be unable to stay with Gus. He pulled away from me as we headed down towards the Swoop and I never saw him again, only hearing his trademark bike horn fading further and further into the distance.

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Gus and I (background) at the top of Cardiac (PC: Gerald Aganza)

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Trying to lengthen my stride starting the long descent to Stinson (PC: Chris Blagg)

I made my way around several people on the way down through Steep Ravine and knew it was a really tough day when I had trouble pulling away from a couple of masters guys on Panoramic. I came through the stile and saw no one on the road ahead of me until I made the 2nd to last left turn and saw Hans Schmid. I put my head down and went for it, nipping him right before the line to finish 13th in 50:52 (slowest time since 2009 and slowest Cardiac to beach time since I started keeping track). Strava data here: https://www.strava.com/activities/607318595/overview

Dipsea Comps

Dipsea split comparisons (8.10 = 8 mins 10 seconds not 8.1 mins)

The Dipsea truly is the only race where you can outkick a septuagenarian (or a 9yo kid) and not feel too bad about it. Don’t feel too bad for Hans, though, he’s won this race before and became the oldest person to win a black shirt J I hope to be running half as well as he is when I reach his age.

The Pelicans had 5 of the top 10 runners and the 5 fastest times on the day (and 11 out of 35 black shirts!). Together, Matias, Rickey, Galen, Gus, and Alan were our top 5 and brought home the team trophy. Here’s hoping I can break back into the team scoring next year😛 All in all, it was a great day and despite my sub-par race, I walked away with a smile on my face and am already looking forward to next year.

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Pelican Inn Track Club – team title and 11/35 black shirts

Next up is a road mile on July 30 in San Rafael (https://raceroster.com/events/2016/9033/san-rafael-sunset-1-mile-and-criterium) and then probably the Headlands 50k in August. I’m hoping to get some good training in for Headlands, but honestly, the motivation is lacking a bit right now. Thankfully, I had almost no pain in my hip during the Dipsea and didn’t have any on my run last night, so I think once my brain realizes that running doesn’t hurt anymore, that may turn around. If not, it may just become a fun long run in preparation for cross country and a TBD goal race in the fall.

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Boston Marathon 2016

Thursday, April 21, 2016

This past Monday was the 120th running of the Boston Marathon. It was my fifth time participating, and was my 4th finish (DNF in 2012 due to heat). Like the Dipsea, this race is one that I will make every effort to attend every year I can. The energy in the city is incredible and seeing friends from near and far so fired up for the same event makes the trip all that much better. It’s not often that almost everyone’s goals align in such a manner as they do at Boston.

This year was a bit different for me. In 2013, I came in fit and ready to run fast. And I ran my PR. In both 2014 and 2015, I was 9 days removed from Lake Sonoma, started out hard, and took what my legs had. This year, I was coming off a planned DNF at Sonoma due to a hip issue that I’m still working out and the main goal was to have fun, not push too much, and most importantly, not do any further damage.

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Rumor had it USA jerseys garner big cheers. Rumor proved true.

The days leading up to the race were fun as always. I arrived Saturday night, grabbed dinner with a couple friends, and was in bed not too late. Sunday saw a big SFRC crew shakeout around the Charles and then I got my bib at the expo, napped, ate, and was in bed around 10pm, along with Rudy, Ezra, and Staples (we shared a hotel room and it was like being back in college – great for a weekend but thankfully not a situation I have to live in very often :-P). I slept terribly on Sunday night, but wasn’t too worried. I didn’t have any ambitious goals. We were up early on Monday, dressed in our suits, dropped our clothes at the finish, and took the BAA buses out to the start line. No one had to pee in a bottle on the way out, but if you start hydrating early, bring a bottle for that purpose as there are no bathrooms on the buses.

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Looking good (or at least feeling like you do) is scientifically proven to help you run fast. And yes, I know my fly is open.

The athletes’ village was full of excitement and we all noticed that the weather was warmer than the forecasts had predicted. There were also no clouds in the sky and by the time we lined up to start, it was probably 65-70 degrees. I made sure to drink early and often but it still wasn’t adequate.

The first miles rolled by very calmly. I ran most of them with Paddy (who ran a great race despite the warm conditions) and basked in the cheers of “USA USA” brought on by my singlet choice. There is no other feeling like the one you get when you raise your arms and ask for support from the crowds and they just roar for the runners. I get chills even when running and it was impossible to keep a smile off my race. Around the halfway mark, Paddy started pulling away from me and I was more than content to let him go. My legs were feeling a bit tired and I just wanted to run a bit slower. I kept him in sight for the next 5-6 miles but was constantly losing ground. Things held together fairly well until the bottom of Heartbreak Hill, where I went from grinning to walking in about 5 steps as my left hamstring threatened to cramp. I stopped to stretch it out and from there until the finish, cramps were constantly threatening. I had to stop a couple more times to stretch my legs out and walked through 3 or 4 of the final water stations in an effort to take down as much Gatorade as possible. I had a friend planted at mile 21 with a beer and it was delicious. The police officer who happened to be 3 feet away kindly turned a blind eye for about a minute but then shooed me on my way when it became clear I was milking the beer break.

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Having run and covered in salt (PC: Claire!)

The last 4-5 miles were a combination of fighting the cramping on the downhills and moving when I could on the flats. Jonas caught up to me around mile 23 but he too was fighting cramping and we were quickly separated when his legs seized up on a little downhill. I don’t think I stopped smiling the last 2 miles. The crowds are incredible and they responded whenever I asked for support. Rounding the corners onto Boylston, I really made an effort to soak it in. My previous 3 finishes found me in a pain cave at this point, so I wanted to take my time and enjoy the final half mile.

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Asking the crowd for support (PC: Ben Mayersohn)

I crossed the finish line, staggered around a bit, saw Nate cross and wandered with him to get our clothes and then to the bar our group had picked as its meeting place. The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent reliving the cramps, awkwardly stretching out to avoid said cramps returning, and drinking and eating. I saw a lot of old friends, made some new ones, and had a great time before collapsing into bed around 2am to wake up 4 hours later for my flight home, where I slept probably 90% of the way back to SF. And before I knew it, I was back home and had memories of the weekend I had been looking forward to for 6 months. We’re already making plans for next year and I can’t wait. In the meantime, I’m going to try to figure out what’s up with my hip (I think it’s a gait issue) and start training for the Dipsea in June. I’m seeking some redemption there.

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Way Too Cool 2016

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Way Too Cool 50k was almost exactly what I needed it to be. Coming off the hip/quad issue that plagued me for several weeks, I was feeling very close to 100% physically heading into the race. I was able to get in some solid back-to-back longer runs the weekend before the race, and even though I had virtually no race fitness to speak of, I was excited to cover the distance and see what I had.

The race field was pretty loaded, with a bunch of fellow SFRC bros as well as Nike Trail Elite teammate David Roche, Chris Mocko, Brett Hornig, and a couple of Inside Trail guys. My goal was to go out fairly conservatively on the first 8 mile loop, get down to the river in one piece, and then make a move along the couple miles of rolling fire road before we started climbing in earnest again. As soon as the gun went off, David took off and was off the front by 15-20 seconds by the time we hit the trails. I was in a group with DBo, Jorge, Levi, Paddy, DeNucci, Mocko, Brett, and the ITR dudes. I executed pretty well, staying at near tail end of the lead group through the first 10-11 miles. Once we hit the river, though, I made a big push and within a mile or so had moved from 9th or 10th into 4th behind David, Jorge, and DBo. I could occasionally see DBo around a few corners but never got closer than 30 seconds or so, and Paddy remained about the same distance behind me, from what I could tell.

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Chase group around 1 mile in. (PC: Eric Schranz)

I felt pretty strong through 15-16 miles but could feel my lack of fitness on the initial climb out of the river and knew that it was just a matter of time before I’d simply run out of legs. That really became evident around mile 20 (2h12m), when I didn’t feel bad, I just felt tired. My legs had no more oomph and I knew I’d just be running it in as best I could. Paddy bridged up to me after a while and I trailed him up Goat Hill (mile 26) before losing sight of him for good.

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Just before making a move along the river (PC: ASGarbageCan)

I was pleased to find that my legs, while not moving terribly quickly, didn’t feel too bad. No major cramping or pains anywhere. I saw some familiar faces in the last couple miles (Luke, Chris, Eric are the ones I processed) and was quite happy when I crested the final climb and made my way into the finish. Thankfully there was no one bearing down on me, as the last turn was a total mud pit, which apparently claimed David Roche as a victim. I crossed the line in 3:29:09, about a minute faster than my kind-of-arbitrary 3:30:00 goal that I’d set a few weeks before.

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Nearing the finish, feeling the fatigue (PC: Eric Schranz)

Considering the conditions, I’m quite pleased with the time and even more so with my legs. My hip/quad felt solid the whole day and I didn’t feel as though I’d gone deep in the well at any point.

A few random notes from the day, in no particular order:

– Giff! First 50k! Way to go man!

– Levi – way to find your way out of the pain cave. Remember this race.

– David, Jorge, and DBo – congrats on strong races. And let’s not forget Paddy who reminds us each race that he’s just getting stronger.

– Schranz, Chris, and Luke – thanks for the cheering, smiles and pics!

– Yiou! huge race! You too, Megan and Anna Mae🙂

 

Gear:

Shoes: Wear testers

Shorts: Nike Tech Half Tight

Singlet: Nike Pro kit

Hydration: Water the whole time, courtesy of #buttbottleadventures aka Amphipod Handheld and surgical rubber

Fuel: 2 PickyBars for breakfast, 2 during the first 1.5 hours of the race, 4 GU’s til the finish

Storage: Victory Sport Design Bear II

Beer: Fort Point Manzanita and Villager

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Fun in the stream crossings (PC: Mario Fraioli)

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Off to a rocky start…

Thursday, February 18, 2016

2016 did not start at all as I’d hoped or anticipated. My goal coming into the year was to stay healthy. I’ve been injured/recovering each of the past 2 years for many summer weeks following Western States and I was hoping to avoid a similar layoff at any point this year.

My right hip had different ideas. Admittedly, I probably jumped back in too quickly in terms of volume, but I was chomping at the bit to get running and the soreness that came on in the first couple days (most notably in my IT bands and achilles) basically subsided by days 5-6, with one exception: my right hip flexor/groin/general front part of that area. It got worse over the course of Saturday and Sunday and by Monday I was unable to run. So I got on the bike for the following week, got some PT, and felt good enough to start back the week of Jan 18. 3 days of running later, I was back on the bike. I took another 9 days off running and was able to get things under control about 3 weeks ago with the help of some massage therapy. Basically, what we think was happening was my right quad was really tight and was pulling on my hip area (thus the general pain the area as opposed to a specific hip issue like my flexor). Things have loosened with massage and rolling and stretching and since Jan 30, I’ve been building up fairly cautiously. It’s great to run without pain and I’m hoping to be able to contain my enthusiasm going forward to prevent another setback.

What this issue has really done is make me even more committed to staying healthy for the balance of 2016. I’d love to avoid another prolonged layoff over the summer (or at any other point). A lot of that revolves around me listening to my body as soon as something starts to bug me. I think I can do that. I’d better. Looking back on the past 3 injuries (including this one), I’ve acquired a cyclocross bike (summer ’14), a mountain bike (summer ’15), and a car (Jan. ’16) during those periods. If nothing else, I need to avoid getting injured to save my wallet😛

2016-02-13 09.44.20

Finally going the distance at the SFRC Saturday morning group run. (PC: Emily Kraus)

Looking at my race calendar, Way Too Cool is still on the table. I won’t be nearly as fit as I’d hoped, but it will at least be a nice long, hard effort, if I’m comfortable enough with my progression to toe the line. The big goal for the first part of the year is still Lake Sonoma. Again, I won’t have the quite the volume of training I had heading into last year, but I’ll do what I can with what I’ll have and that’s about all I can ask of myself.

2016-02-14 09.42.57

View from the East Peak of Mt. Tam this past Sunday.

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2015: A year in review

Thursday, January 7, 2016

2015 has come and gone. It’s hard to believe all of the promise that it held a year ago has already been realized (and potentially wasted at times as well). In my year-end review last year, (https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/2015-a-probably-disrespectful-retrospective/) I talked about highlights, lowlights and lessons learned. A lot of those remain the same, so I won’t re-hash them, and will instead do a little chronological review. But first, a couple of observations/resolutions/miscellaneous items. 1. I need to do more barefoot strides. 2. I’m getting worse at the beer mile. I need to shape up or retire. 3. Every run has a purpose. 4. I had kind of forgotten how much running for a team can make one push through some dark places.

 

March 22, 2015 – Oakland Marathon Relay with Jorge, Yiou, and Galen, We each won a trip to Hawaii and then I got to watch Shirtless Sean run a big PR in the marathon.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/272570315/overview

OAKLAND MARATHON

Hawaii bound!

April 11, 2015 – Lake Sonoma 50 Mile: 6:09:39. Ran what was easily my strongest race to date and came away with the win and a new CR. We’ll see how long that holds, as it’s gone down each year the race has been run. I learned a lot during this one, including finally realizing that I do have it in me to win a big race.

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/04/16/lake-sonoma-50/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/283626139/overview

And easily my favorite interview to date: http://www.irunfar.com/2015/04/alex-varner-2015-lake-sonoma-50-mile-champion-interview.html (thanks Bryon and Meghan)

LS50 Finish

Just toasted post-LS50 (PC: Jenny Maier)

April 20, 2015 – Boston Marathon: 2:28:14. Still not quite sure how this happened 9 days after Sonoma, but I’ll take it. I had a ton of fun (as I always do) in Boston. Biggest lesson: eat something after race other than beer and Moscow mules (thanks, Pam).

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/2015-boston-marathon/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/289204631/overview

boston marathon

boston marathon2

Hard not to have fun during the Boston Marathon. (PC for both: MarathonFoto)

May 9, 2015 – Got engaged to a wonderful human being named Rachelle. Spent 19 of the 22 hours leading up to the hike sleeping off something weird. Proposed on the 2nd flight of the Dipsea stairs and celebrated with a drink at Beerworks. And on a related noted, I’m excited to announce that I’ll be partnering with Fort Point Beer Co. in 2016! http://www.fortpointbeer.com/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/301403800/overview

engagement party

I’m not sure what’s going on here… But we did finish all 3 magnums. (PC: unknown)

May 17, 2015 – Bay to Breakers: Always a blast running with the WVTC centipede. A bit harder this year, as it came the morning after my and Rachelle’s engagement party where we put down 3  magnums of wine (mine, Devon and Dakota’s), all of which were courtesy of Tropical John and the LS50 (thanks for hosting, Topher and Kim!).

Blog: see next item

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/306760543/overview

b2b

Back on the chain gang (PC: unknown)

May 30, 2015 – IAU Ultra Trail World Championships: 9:21:00 (85k w/ 17,000ft+ vert). I finally achieved my dream of wearing a USA singlet in competition. The trip to Annecy, the atmosphere around the race, and the race itself were incredible. My teammates were awesome and we even brought home a silver medal. I found some really dark places fairly early on in this race but having the USA on my chest and running for a cause greater than myself got me to the finish.

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/06/04/2015-iau-ultra-trail-world-championships/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/315262976/overview

IAU race

This face about sums up my race (PC: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks)

IAU silver

Team USA takes Silver! (PC: iRunFar/Bryon Powell)

June 14, 2015 – The Dipsea: 49:35 (7.4 miles w/ 2,200ft vert). The middle of the 4-week/3-race gauntlet I set up for myself (IAU, Dipsea, WSER), I suffered in this one from my training for the longer stuff. I didn’t have the pop necessary to run as fast as I needed and had my streak of fastest times broken by Rickey and Gus (both fully deserving, as you can’t perform at your best in this race if you don’t train specifically for it and they did). Still, Dipsea Sunday is always magical and I’m definitely sad to be missing it this year (most likely).

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/06/18/the-105th-dipsea-race/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/325619202/overview

Dipsea 2015-110

Nearing the top of Cardiac (PC: Steve Disenhof)

June 27, 2015 – Western States Endurance Run: DNF. I told myself I’d drop if things weren’t going right and that’s exactly what happened. It took me a while to reconcile this one while still on the course (as it should – a DNF is never something to be taken lightly), but once I had the wristband cut off, I knew I’d made the right decision. My knees were unhappy and my head wasn’t in it at mile 30. There was almost no way I was going to make it another 70 miles.

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/western-states-2015-squashed/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/334386445/overview

WSER

Nearing the end of my abbreviated WSER journey (PC: Chasqui Runner)

Summer 2015 – Malaise doesn’t even begin to describe it. A shin issue I’d been dealing with (and trying to run through) since late May kept me sidelined much longer than I’d hoped. I spent a good amount of time on the bike, bought an enormous, heavy mountain bike in the middle of a particularly well-attended pity-party, and got reaffirmed how much biking uphill sucks compared to running. The downhills, however, are particularly delightful, as you just point the bike where you want it to go and you don’t even have to move your legs. How easy is that!? Finally was able to start running at the end of the summer, just in time to catch our Indian summer. I also thoroughly enjoyed the 1st Annual Widowmaker Invitation.

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/not-as-anticipated/

Bike race PC Ornot

My first bike race! It went up Mt. Tam, naturally. (PC: Ornot)

Fall 2015 – various cross country races and tune-up for Quad Dipsea, and my first bike race! Unlike bike racing, cross country is so much fun. I’m glad the SFRC crew got to see the beauty of red-lining for 20-30 minutes and then being done rather than slogging it out for 6+ hours. I’ve found that as I’ve moved into the longer distances, the shorter stuff serves to remind me what it’s like to run fast, and makes the longer stuff feel easier (mostly).

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/something-old-something-new-something-forgotten-nothing-blue/

https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/quick-catch-up/

Having fun in XC PC Bruce Davie

Cross country isn’t supposed to be this fun (PC: Bruce Davie)

November 28, 2015 – Quad Dipsea: 3:41:01 (28 miles w/ 9,000ft vert). This was my goal since August. Every run, workout, and race was geared towards getting me to the start line healthy and ready to go. This was one of those days when everything clicked and things went exactly as planned and I nailed it. I will look back on this race for years to come.

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/12/03/quad-dipsea-2015/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/441111088/overview

Quad last climb PC Jenny Maier

Last climb (PC: Jenny Maier)

Quad Finish PC Trop John

Finish (PC: John Medinger)

December 5, 2015 – TNF 50 Mile: DNF. Gave myself a free pass to DNF the week after Quad and while things felt surprisingly good in the early miles, it was clear by mile 20 that my goose was cooked and I cut my losses. Relatively easy decision.

Blog: see next item

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/445013083/overview

December 12, 2015 – Club XC Nationals: 32:17 (10k). Pain cave.

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/12/17/tnf50-and-club-xc-nationals/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/449656020/overview

Club Nats PC Matt Trappe

Jorge hunting me (PC: Matt Trappe)

Club Nats PC Fernando

Pain cave. Thank goodness there were only 10meters left at this point (PC: Fernando)

Finally, I can’t forget my sponsors, who have supported me through good times and bad. They aren’t the reason I run, but they do make it a lot more fun (and delicious).

Gear: Nike: http://www.nike.com/us/en_us/

Fuel: PickyBars: http://pickybars.com/ (they’re freakin’ awesome)

Organization: Victory Sportdesign: http://victorysportdesign.com/

Representation: Presidio Sports Management: http://www.presidiosportsmgmt.com/#intro

Coaching: Carmichael Training Systems / Jason Koop

http://trainright.com/

 

And to finish it all off, stats from 2015:

Miles Raced: 299.8 miles (109.6 miles less than last year, which if you want to go down the rabbit hole, can be almost entirely attributed to the 70 miles I didn’t run at WSER 2015 and the 30 miles I didn’t run at TNF50 2015). I also only finished 3 ultra races (Sonoma, IAU, Quad) while in 2014 I finished 6 ultras.

Highest Week: 99 (included Bay to Breakers)

Days off: 94 (compared to 50 in 2014 and 12 in 2013)

Weekly Average: 58.3 miles

Daily Average: 11.2 miles (vs 12.7 last year)

Feet Climbed: 353,098ft (1,302ft/day)

Tam Summits: 9 (21 last year)

Lifetime Total (that I know of): 30,033 miles

A few charts for those so inclined.

miles raced chart

annual mileage bar chartdays off and weekly total bar chartmiles by month bar chart

running log

I think this one says a lot – it’s a high level view of my detailed training log. The blue bars are days off and the red bars are days off due to injury. That middle section there needs to be avoided in the future.

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