Friday, November 30, 2007

The 3 R's

Rest - Recovery - Rehabilitation

I've focused mainly on the first R this week as aside from my being beat up from The Quad, I also haven't been feeling too well in general. I'm not sure if it is some sort of bug or just general fatigue from being so run down lately. A good night's sleep (for a change) helped last night and I stayed home from work to get some extra rest. I have nothing planned for this weekend so some more good Z's should go along with those R's. I am still mandating NO RUNNING for myself for another entire week (if I can stand it).

I haven't done one lick of exercise since the race and my body is starting to feel recovered. This is the hard part where I would normally go out and start running because things always "feel" recovered long before they are. I am thinking of getting my mountain bike professionally tuned up so I can do some cross-training this winter. Luckily, REI doesn't do any bike work on weekends, but I can drop it off. That will assure I don't try another "hey its not running so I can push myself hard" bike workout. I may allow myself a little exercise this weekend to help with the recovery phase. It will either be some walking or very easy spinning at the gym. I will also be doing some stretching, foam-roller and icing anything that feels even slight tight.

Next week, I plan to start a more consistent walking routine and doing at least one yoga workout. I will also continue vigorous rehab efforts. The walking is actually something I am vowing to add more of into my training. I have been following Paul Dewitt's blog and he has some great training ideas. He also integrates quite a bit of walking into his routine and I figure if an elite like him walks in training then a mid-packer like myself sure should. Besides, with my one confirmed race next year being the Coyote Two Moons 100-Miler that has over 28,000ft of climbing (yes you read that right), I had better plan to do lots of walking in preparation. I will be planning my initial race schedule and training goals for next year this weekend. I will post about it later. However, there is this little thing called The Western States 100 Lottery tomorrow morning that could put a wrench into otherwise more certain plans. In the very likely event that I don't get in, I was originally thinking of going for some time goals early next season. However, with the 2 Moons race already on the schedule, I think that I will make the theme something more along the lines of picking some very difficult events.

That's about all for now.

If your interested the results and pictures of The Quad Dipsea are online and available for viewing.

Good luck to everyone in the lottery!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Short race?

I don't think I have ever felt less motivated the night before a race than I did before the Quad Dipsea. It's strange because I had really been looking forward to this race for most of the year. I've done the Double Dipsea in the past and was excited about having the Quad as a "season finale" as well as knowing that I would see lots of friends at this popular event. However, sitting in bed on Friday night at 8pm having not even started to prepare I was having my doubts. I just wasn't really feeling it either physically or mentally.

I turned to my wife and said, "I think I'm going to hurt myself tomorrow."

Her response, as always, was simply, "Yeah, but are you going to have fun?"

I smiled, "Of course!"

With that I got up and started getting my things together. It being a relatively short race with good aid station support would not require too much prep. Well, at 28.4 it's short only in terms of mileage. The 9200ft of climb/descent is more than just about any 50K trail race out there and more than quite a few 50-milers. I estimated that it should take me about the same time as a relatively tough 50K race. That is, assuming everything held together physically and I could get myself motivated mentally to do this thing.

I don't want to whine too much here, but physically I had a number of issues going on. I've had a pretty big year in terms of racing and I know that it has taken its toll. The first problem is the chronic heel pain in my right foot that still wasn't better. Not sure why I would expect it to be, since I haven't let it fully recover since it first flared up. My new inserts were helping some, but until I allow for a full rehab, even custom orthotics aren't going to really fix the problem. It'd been bothering me quite a bit since Javelina, but I knew I could get it in shape to make it through one more race. There were also a couple new issues since my last 100 including some knee pains and shin tightness mainly on the right side that started after my ill-advised mountain bike ride up Mission Peak one week after the race. Add to this, a strain in my lower abdominal on the left side that sprung up after doing speedwork on the treadmill the following week. Finally, a general feeling of malaise had started to creep in during the past few days. I hadn't been sleeping well recently and had awoken the past few mornings with some slight dizziness , chest tightness and an overall feeling of fatigue. I wrote most of it off as just the lack of sleep.

Basically, I had plenty of excuses to give myself for not really being excited about one more race. However, I also think that other factors played in as well. The holidays were here and I was enjoying the long 4-day weekend, Jefferson was home from college and I had also just found out that Freddy had a basketball scrimmage that I was going to miss on Saturday. I just kept thinking, "do I really want to do this?" I finally concluded that the best motivation was the fact that after the race, whether I hurt myself or not, I would be forced to take time off. Maybe even longer than I had originally planned. I would get it done and then enjoy the month of December free of regrets or second thoughts.

By the time I arose in the morning and went through my routine, I was much more motivated. I arrived in Mill Valley plenty early, went to check in and then walked around to see who else was there. I met a few friendly faces, but most people were staying in their cars as it was quite cold. I found Beat and ended up sitting in his car as it was closer to the start than mine. Eventually we got out a few minutes to race time and said hello to a number of other people whom we each knew. It was here, talking to Wendell Doman, that my goal for the race was set. I was trying to have no expectations for myself, but Wendell insisted that I needed to finish below 6 hours so there it was. At some point people started organizing into a starting area, the RD made some comments I couldn't really hear and then we were on our way.

The start hits the stairs pretty quickly so there isn't much running to begin with other than those up front. 676 steps in the first mile is enough to warm you up plenty, but there really is no way this feels like taking it easy regardless of how slow you go. Eventually we head down some trail stairs where I passed a few runners and then we have a stretch along the road before getting back to the main trail. I passed a few people on the little downhill and kept a relatively good pace on the road. In general, I was taking this first leg a bit stiffer than I would normally in an ultra, but I knew that there was a beautiful, technical downhill section later that was just my thing. I didn't want to be bottlenecked and have to pass too many people on those trails. Physically, none of my leg pains were a problem, but I definitely felt the effort as I bided my time waiting for the downhill. It was worth it as I thoroughly enjoyed flying by folks on the side of the steps going down through the deep woods. Then it was more blazing downhill on fireroad to the turnaround at the beach. An hour sixteen was probably a bit fast for me on this course, but I reasoned that this should be my faster direction as the stairs on the other side would limit my downhill speed significantly.

The return trip also starts out at a grind having to head back up the steep hills I'd just flown down. Here the focus was just on continued forward progress. I knew the steps through the woods would be a bear and it would be a long climb before the downhill respite. One might expect the longer, more gradual downhill in this direction to be faster, but for me the steeper the better to a point. I generally just let gravity set my pace going down and rarely push beyond that as I can gain both speed and recovery at the same time. Also, I am generally not as good on downhill fireroad for some reason. I think it is because the technical stuff with twists turns and things to leap over tend to keep me airborne a bit more. I also feel that the straight-down stuff takes more of a toll on my feet. Speaking of which, I began to feel some issues arising in my left foot and leg on this return trip. However, I made it to the stairs without incident and made my way down. I finished the double in 2:45. Just about right as that left plenty of buffer for a sub-6 hour Quad finish.

I didn't dally at the aid station as I always like to get out on the course fairly quickly after the half-way point. Soon, I would learn that a little more time might have been prudent. Immediately, I felt my body starting to degrade as I headed back up the stairs. My hamstrings were not happy and the more I climbed the more I felt a tightness knotting in my right leg. Furthermore, my knee which I didn't feel at all while bombing downhill, was twinging as I pushed up the steps. It was also starting to warm a bit so I decided to take an S!Cap a bit earlier and up my drinking on this leg to help stave off what felt like developing cramps. I made it to the road and then my right foot decided to join the chorus of pain as the pavement did a number on my heel. I could feel my gait becoming very uneven and the more I focused on the feeling that my whole right side was falling apart, the more my mental state followed my physical into the abyss. The final straw came during the climb up Cardiac as the slurping sound let me know that I had fully drained my bottle. The rest of the way to the aid station was a total trudge. When I arrived, I decided it was time to take some time. I handed my bottle over to Chuck Wilson who was running this station and ambled on over to the table.

I drank more, I ate more, I just sort of stood there for a while. I kind of gave up on my goal and even wondered if I should do more. I eventually guilted myself into moving again reminding myself once more that I had an entire month for recovery. My start along the ridge was at a limp. I hit a little downhill and found I could run that a bit more normally and going up I could still power-walk though my hamstring complained, but anything flat and my run was a limp. I passed someone coming the other way who looked at me and said, "just wait for the Advil to kick in." That was all the excuse I needed. I took the one Ibuprofen I had brought with me and hopped that it would eventually take effect. The downhill to the turnaround was not nearly as fast nor as fun as the last trip, but I was so glad when I finally made it. Coming in at 4:27, I heard the news about Kyle Skaggs who had already won the race in near record time. His 3:53 was not quite fast enough to drop Carl's record, but that amazing effort made him the only other person to break the illusive 4-hour barrier.

I was pretty efficient at the turnaround and grabbed some things to go as I walked a bit out of the aid station. I decided to just enjoy the rest of the course and the beautiful day we'd been given as I headed up the steep hills. I figured my goals to be shot unless somehow a miraculous recovery came about (which it usually does). I met up with "jennyray" from the Runner's World online forums and her husband. I chatted with her as we worked our way up. I eventually fell into complaining mode which was a bad place to be. It wasn't until a guy in front of us made a comment that I shook myself out of it. I said, "OK, nothing but positive thoughts from here on out" and began my uphill shuffle. The race was more than 3/4 done so I might as well just push it and see what I had in me. I basically kept this shuffle for the remainder of the hills. Being up on my toes a bit more seemed to help both my foot (stretching the PF) and my leg (moving the stress from hamstring to calf). I made it to the aid station before I realized. I allowed myself one more vitamin-I from the table when I realized that a sub-6 might still be a possibility if I really crushed the coming downhills. I mentally turned off my pain receptors and just let it go. I made great time and passed a number of people.

At the parking lot someone told me that it was just 2 more miles. I had 25 minutes to cover that. Normally this would seem a very simple task, but there was some good uphill coming up including a steep section with steps and then it was all downhill, but most of that on stairs. I continued to push the uphill pace as much as I could. I think I may have caught another person or two here, but I'm not sure. The steep little dirt section and the final road were tough. With a mile to go I was looking at something around 8-9 minutes. Those stairs were going to be an issue. I took the first stairs pretty well and there was a small section where I could go along side them in the dirt. However, the final stairs were even steeper. I was doing the best I could when I caught myself almost slip. I let up a bit. The next flight of stairs and two more near slips convinced me that breaking 6 hours was just not that important. I knew I wouldn't make it down the final flight and to the finish with a minute to go so I just focused on not falling. Fred Ecks passed me going the other way as he headed out once more to turn his Quad into a Hex. I couldn't even imagine turning my body around and going back up. I looked towards the finish as I came off the stairs to see a "6" already on the clock. I didn't push to hard in those final meters, but came in at 6:00:15. Dropping the seconds since this is an ultra gives me a 6-hour flat. Good enough for me.

The rest of the day was spent milling around, eating, chatting and cheering. This was the best part of the day and reason enough to do this race. I can't even begin to name all the people I knew at this race let alone the new names and faces I'd met. I eventually managed to tear myself away and head home. I was really looking forward to some rest. I slept like a baby that night, but awoke feeling totally trashed. Literally, I think I felt as bad or worse than after either of my 100-milers. I think I explained it as feeling like I had a terrible hangover from a night of drinking where I had passed out and been beaten about the legs with a stick. Even four days later, my body doesn't quite feel right. I'm not sure if it is a bug or something, but I still feel like my equilibrium is "off" and I just feel drained in general. So, my main goal of forced recovery is now officially under way.

Despite not having a great race and feeling pretty beat up, The Quad is still a fabulous way to end the racing season.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I haven't really done much running at all since Javelina. I guess it has still been less than a month and looking at the good old log, my trend is pretty similar to what I did after Headlands just a little less. For the record, here are my so-called recovery weeks.

Week 1 (10/29-11/04)
No running at all until Friday when I just couldn't take it anymore
3 easy miles on the treadmill which left my legs feeling heavy
Decided to ride my mountain bike up Mission Peak. Catra had organized a 12-hour event doing loops up at the peak. I obviously wasn't up for much running, but I thought it would be good to get out and do something. Mind you, I haven't done any real mountain biking in years and Mission Peak really isn't the place to do it one week after a 100-mile run. I took it as easy as possible, but even granny gear up the steepest hill pretty much puts you in the anaerobic zone. As an ultra-runner, I rarely peg my heart rate. However, half-way up I was seriously red-lined. I made it past the hardest hill, but had to stop and get off my bike as my back locked up, I got dizzy, nauseous, etc. I was sitting on the side of the trail when Catra and a couple guys came down just above me at a trail intersection. Catra continued on towards Horse Heaven and the guys went down the trail. I managed to eventually get myself up and back on the bike. I rode over and caught Catra to say hi. I told her I would meet her back at Eagle Camp as she headed up the single track. The rest of the ride was much less exciting. I waited at the camp and met Mylinh coming in for one of her loops and then Joe coming in before Catra. I ran a couple of loops with Joe and Catra. Since it was the end of their long day the pace was nice and easy. At the end Martin came back up to get his stuff. He was one of the guys I had seen going down the hill earlier. After some nice conversation and a photo op, I headed off. I met Jerry down the hill before finally heading home. I survived, but had a renewed respect for my old mountain biking training. It might not be a good idea to get my bike fully tuned up and add this in for some cross training.
Joined my wife at the gym Sunday night for 3.5 miles on the treadmill. It was back at my normal pace and my legs felt pretty good.

Week 2 (11/05-11/11)
Tired legs and a desire to baby my feet meant I took Monday and Tuesday off to rest.
Went to the Foot Solutions to talk to my shoe guy about some new inserts and the possibility of eventually being fitted for orthotics. After examinging my feet, gait and shoes, he put me in some Lynco insoles which instantly felt better than others I had tried in past. He also said that if I decided to go with customs he would apply the price of these towards the cost of the custom orthotics. I ran an easy 3.5 miles in the new inserts and they felt pretty good. I am going to try them for a while and decide after my first race in them if I want get fitted for customs. The advantage of having someone local to work with is that he can help me to adjust the orthotics over a period of time.
Headed to the gym and did an hour (7.4 mi) on the 'mill at a good pace upping the speed with each mile. This was a good test for the new inserts. Both them and my legs felt pretty good.
Lots of errands to take care of and no long run planned so I headed to the gym again in the evening. I decided to put some work on my legs and do a run up Mission Peak on Sunday. I started with 2 easy treadmill miles. I then hit the weights and ran my legs through the paces on a number of different machines working hips, thighs, hams and all. I then did a little over a 1/2 hour on the stationary bike and returned to the treadmill for some intervals. I did 5 repeats of 1/2-mile with 1/4-mile jogs in between. The pace wasn't crazy, but I think the final one was in the low 6s. By the end of the whole routine, I definitely felt "worked".
Beat had mailed me after Javelina about wanting to come over to Mission Peak for some hill work. We agreed to do a run on Sunday afternoon. With both of us feeling pretty wiped, he from his Saturday run and me from my gym workout, we decided to just do the standard run up the main trail then around back to the peak. Going up the main trail means there is little respite from the hills for the first couple of miles. I was surprised at how good my legs felt going up while Beat was struggling after being surprised at how hard his run at Rancho San Antonio felt the day before. However, we actually made good time hitting the peak in just over an hour. Beat completed the role reversal where I felt good going up, he kicked my but going down. The long sustained downhill definitely tested my new insoles which seemed to get pretty hot on the heals as I took the fire road at speed. We came down in half the time we went up and then headed out for some lunch. We both agreed to do it again sometime and maybe do some hill repeats in prep for Coyote Two Moons in March. I realized later that this was the first time I had ever planned a training run with another person. I do almost all my running alone and generally like it that way, but it was nice to meet up with someone outside of a race for a change.

Week 3 (11/12-11/18)
Rested on Monday as the legs were toast.
Ran 8 miles at lunch on the paved Guadalupe River Trail near work. Pace felt good, it was warmer than I expected, but I enjoyed getting a lunchtime run in as it had been a while.
Busy, no run.
Got in a nice 7 miler at home on one of my normal road routes with a little bit of hill.
Had the day off work as my wife's old roommate was flying in from out of town. I was going to pick her up at the airport and the three of us head down to Monterey. I decided to hit Mission Peak in the morning as I didn't know how much running I would be able to get in on the weekend. 9.8 miles using the Valley View Trail and then doing an extra little loop along the back side before heading up to the peak and back. I actually forced myself to do some walking thus time which I almost never do in my training runs. Basically, any of the steep hills where I thought that I might be able to power-hike faster than my running pace, I did. I actually ended up really pushing it on some of these hills and felt like I got at least as much of a workout as if I had run the whole thing. I am going to add more walking to my routines in general. I have been checking out Paul DeWitt's blog and have been impressed by how much he integrates walking into his training. If an elite dude like that thinks that walking is important then who am I to argue! It was a good run as a whole and at a little under 2 hours the longest I have done since Javelina.
I thought that maybe I would get up early and run along the coast as there was a nice trail just a few blocks from our B&B. I failed to get it done, though. OK, truth be told, a bit of overindulgence on Friday night left me in no condition to run. Oh well, the rest of the weekend was fun and it was good to rest my legs and just have fun walking around in Carmel on Saturday and then San Francisco on Sunday.

Week 4 (11/19-11/25)
Well, here we are. My plans are pretty fluid this week. I have the Quad Dipsea on Saturday as my last race of the year. It should be fun and I have no expectations. I have very little planned this week in terms of running as I mainly want to feel like my feet and legs are in good condition before taking on the 9200+ft of wild and woolly hills.
Hit the treadmill for a very easy couple miles followed by some walking at a 15% grade all while watching Monday Night Football.
Planning about 7 flat miles and maybe a Yoga workout tonight.
Play it by ear. I should probably restrain myself from hitting any hills, but I do have the afternoon off.
No running. We don't really celebrate Thanksgiving these days so it will be nice and low key couple of days. Spend time with my wife while the kids visit their grandmother. Maybe taking in a movie. Sleep.


That's it. After the Quad I am going to do some serious thinking about my 2008 calendar and then decide what I will plan for training in December. I guess a lot of it plans on what happens on the 1st.