February 24, 2019

Training - When to Jump Into the Abyss

The Abyss

You walk out to the edge of cliff. You look down. One hundred feet below you, waves are crashing against the cliff and on jagged rocks.  Currents of foam and rip tides surge in and out with the heavy surf. The problem is your life boat is anchored beyond the waves, and the only way to get to it is to jump into the abyss and swim for it. If you don’t jump, you will soon be consumed by the angst ridden Troll of Runner’s Doom. The ghost that haunts you everyday.

But when do you jump? Jump too early and you get hurled against the imposing cliff by a crushing wave. Jump too late and you’ll be dragged over the jagged rocks under the receding swell. The only choice is to jump at the exact right time, then be carried to safety beyond the violent break.

I’ve come to learn that training for ultramarathons is a lot like jumping into the abyss. Jump in too early and you get crushed month after month by energy sapping workouts, burn-out and eventually injury. Start too late and you’ll be battered at the race by showing up unfit with miserable race results and possibly staring at a DNF. The only choice is to start just at the right time.

These days, my modus operandi is to start 4 to 5 months before a race, but proceed in two phases: 1) a  general aerobic and strengthening phase and 2) a running phase. 

Phase one consists of all kinds of aerobic workouts including hiking, elliptical, spinning, cycling, snowshoeing, running. It also includes strength training including upper and lower body weight training, core work, climbing with weight vest etc. The key here is to keep things diverse and lively. Don’t get stuck on one or two activities, mix it up! This phase is helpful because it builds your aerobic base without the constant pounding from running and therefore minimizes burn out and injury.

Phase two consists of some of the aerobic work above, but a greater and greater emphasis on running. This is when you get to start tracking your weekly miles or hours running, and build toward race day. It is important to stress here however that, while running is the focus at this stage, there is still a benefit to supplementing all the running with running oriented aerobic workouts. I’m suggesting 20% of your miles (even in this phase) are running-related including climbing big hills and mountains, climbing on treadmill with weight vest, elliptical etc.

That is it for now. I’m falling, I’m falling….

Keep it real runners!

February 10, 2019

Snow Shoes and Contemporary Mores

The sound of the mountain resort at Snow Summit was still loitering in the air over the tall pine trees to my left. A man’s voice was droning on and on over a loudspeaker of some sort. Why on a Sunday morning do they have to do that?

I just kept climbing, up the steep grade, in deep powder cutting what felt like one hundred switchbacks just to manage from sliding backwards head over heels on this near vertical snowfield. Just when I thought I had this snow-trudge figured out, my snowshoe would plunge deep into an abyss. Getting out of these contorted positions I’m guessing was as good as attending an advanced yoga class with ski pants and poles. No preparation possible here folks.

When I crested the main vert section, I was welcomed by a blistering alpine wind that sent hardened specs of snow into the frozen skin on my nose. I’m not complaining here, mainly because I’m always looking for a lesson or a new experience of some kind to log into my bag of tricks, to take with me on my next big adventure. Given I’m signed up for a 50 mile, a 100 mile and a 200 mile race this year, I’ve felt a draw to get into the elements again. This day being a good reminder that nature is always there with a surprise for me, as long as I’m willing to venture into it. Seek and ye shall find, as it were.

This four hour effort felt hastened by a book I listened to the entire way, mainly because I couldn’t stop listening. Her colorful and descriptive story of descending into neurosis was only bearable to listen to because she told it in such a relatable way. But then I found out that she (the author) didn’t have much of a happy ending, and she didn’t survive the success of her own hard lived experiences that she so ably transcribed into this indictment on contemporary mores.

On snowshoes…and mores…keeping it real.