The Birch Bay Marathon

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Check Me Into the Asylum Because I've Gone (Ultra) Crazy!

Over the past few weeks I truly have gone (ultra) crazy. Before this year I had done 1 run of over 30 miles. I've done three already this year with another one planned for this Saturday. Why the change, you ask? Well quite frankly, it's the best balance I can find right now towards maintaining competitiveness and staying healthy. While I have increased the length of my (ultra) long weekend runs, I've decreased my total mileage and the mileage of my weekly days. In fact, besides my one long run per week, all my other runs have been 10 miles or less. This has allowed me to work on my speed during the week while working on endurance on my long runs. Will it work? Will I still be able to race like I want to? Time will tell.
For the time being, I've signed up for some ultra races both to test my fitness against some great ultra runners, and to break up the monotony of running 3, 4, or 5 hours by myself.

The first race on the schedule is the Hagg Lake 50K. Normally this race wouldn't be considered too competitive but this year it looks like the Oregon ultra series will start off with a bang. Top contenders should include Lanny Gower, the winner of the Oregon Ultra series last year and Ruben Galbraith from Portland who set the course record last year at the Forrest Park 50K. Dan Olmstead, a 2:26 marathoner and course record holder at the Peterson's Ridge Rumble is also signed up. The toughest competition though, should come from Montrail athlete Max King who has won some prestigious ultras including last year at the American River 50 miler. Normally in an ultra race I would consider myself to have pretty good leg speed compared to the competition but Max blows away my PR's across the board. He and I are both undefeated at the ultra distances so something will have to give on Saturday. Truth be told, if I were a betting man, I'd bet on him, but I'm still going to give it everything I've got on race day.

The next race on the agenda should be the popular Chuckanut 50K in Bellingham, Washington. The entry list for that one looks even more stacked than Hagg. So much so I think it may take breaking Uli Steidl's course record just to secure the win. And finally, I've bitten the bullet and signed up for the American River 50 miler in April. This one should be the best test of all, as I've never run close to that distance before and the competition includes the previously mentioned returning champion Max King, along with Ultra-Running Magazine's Ultra Runner of the Year, Geoff Roes.

It should be an exciting couple of months to say the least. We'll see if I'm cut out for ultra running or if I'm just ultra crazy for putting myself through all of this...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Races of 2010

I think January is the best time of year to be a runner. Not because of the lack of exciting races during the month, nor because of cold and sloppy conditions. No, it's because the whole year is stretched out before you with limitless possiblities. Are you going to hit the track this year and focus on speed with 5Ks and road miles? Maybe you'll become a marthoner this year and really focus on the event. Perhaps ultra racing has piqued your curiosity, how far can you go? At this time of year, we can dream and imagine it all. I think I get so excited at this time of year because in my own mind I'm going to excell at everything I try. The reality of fatigue, injuries, and lack of time and talent has yet to hit me and I see every race on the calendar as one at which I have the potential to be successful. So as I look through the many race calendars at my disposal these are the races that I'm most pumped about. I certainly won't be able to get to all of them, but if I can show up at the starting line healthy and fit for some of them, half of them, most of will be a good year! For me the focus has definitely begun to shift away from road racing and marathons and towards trail racing, ultra running, and other more adventure centered events.

Here's what I've got right now:

Feb. 20 Hagg Lake 50K, we'll see if I can get in shape in time for this one.
Mar. 20 Chuckanut 50K, a friend from the Transrockies run, Aaron Heidt set the course record last year. Let's see if I can get to Bellingham for Spring Break.
Apr. 3 Horse Butte, can you say 4-peat? I hope I can, we'll see who shows up.
Apr. 11 Peterson's Ridge Rumble, Always a fun event. With more single-track planned for this year I wonder how far these races will end up being. I'm hoping Sean will have some golden arm warmers if I can go 5 for 5.
May 2 Bloomsday. Easily the most competitive race in the Northwest.
Jun. 12 Dirty Half. Rumors have been swirling but I certainly hope it'll be the most competitive Dirty Half yet. It's cool that one of our favorite training runs could be a National Championship race.
June 19 Mt. Washington Hill climb. Always been a fantasy of mine to run this race. This year is especially sweet as the top 6 men win a trip to compete in Norway!
July 31 Ahhh! 3 great events on the same day! 15K trail chamionships in Spokane, 50 mile trail championships around Mr. Rainier, and the Cascade Lakes Relay.
Aug. 7 Mt. Ashland Hill Climb. 13 miles straight up!
Aug. 22-27 Transrockies Run. Will it be a battle of two great running towns? Bend vs. Flagstaff? Should be very exciting!
Sep. 25 50K trail championships in Bend!?!?!? What another championship race in Bend? It will be fun to see what Super Dave cooks up.
Oct. 3 Twin Cities marathon, The only road marathon to make the list. I'm mostly excited about the masters competition but it's also the US open men's championship.
Nov. 6 Lithia Loop Marathon, I've heard my buddy Hal puts on a great race, I'd love to see it for myself.
TBD: Northface Endurance Challenge, the unofficial championship of US ultra running.

So that's my "A" list for this year. I'm sure some things will change over the course of the year but these are what get me out the door to train right now. How about you? Did I miss some great races? What's on your list for this year?

Thursday, January 7, 2010


So it's been a while since I've been excited about my running; and even longer since I've been excited about my blogging. With the start of a new decade perhaps both are due for an injection of effort.
2009 ended on a low point. After a mostly lackluster year of racing, I decided to take the last couple months of the year off to focus on completely healing my right foot of the constant pain I'd been running with most of the year. After six weeks off, I was disappointed to start back up and to still have the pain in my foot. But after a few more weeks of running short distances once a day, the pain has seemed to slowly but significantly improve. As of Monday I felt good enough to start running twice a day and to start training "for real." I'm thrilled to report that despite the increased mileage and even the addition of speedwork (OK it was hill repeats so they weren't that fast, but the effort was there) the foot is doing better than it has in a long time. I'm determined to change my training patterns to be a little more conservative with regards to injuries but more aggressive with regards to speed. This translates to more soft surfaces, more specific speedwork, more cross training and strength training, but less total mileage (especially on the roads).
I'm excited to find out what affect this new emphasis will have on my performances. Will I be able to get back under 15:00 for a 5K? Will I ever be able to qualify for the Olympic Trials again? Indeed, I sometimes wonder if I'll ever win another race in Bend again, what with the addition of Mr. King and the cross country skiers that have been humbling me lately.
As for now, the motivation is high and the health is good. I'm expecting 2010 to be my best year yet!

Next Post: The races of 2010

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Rumbles and Buttes

For the last few years I've enjoyed spending a couple consecutive Sundays running out east at Horse Butte and then West in Sisters. Every year I use one or both of these races to test my fitness coming out of winter, and heading into the racing season. Each year I've run, the weather has been about as different for each event as it could be with the event in Sisters benefitting perhaps from being scheduled one week later on the calendar.
The Horse Butte 10 miler put on by my friends at Footzone was the first of the events, taking place on a nasty day on the last Sunday in March. My goal going into the race was to run close to last year's time of 57:12. I had done a time trial on the course a week before and was about the same as last year, just under an hour. For the race itself though, I'd have to say that I was having an off day. It could have been the 30 degree weather and 30 mile an hour winds, but I just never got into a good groove that day. It was one of those races where you'd be running along and then realize, "Hey, I'm not really going that fast." I'd try to pick up the pace and that would hold for a little while, but then I'd relax again without realizing it and slow back down. My time at the finish was a disappointing 58:50. It was my third win in three tries at Horse Butte but I was noticing the rest of Bend is catching up. Whereas I had won the race by about 5 minutes each of the last couple years, this year it was less than 3 minutes to a hard charging and quickly improving Damon Kluck. It makes me wonder, how many more victories am I going to be able to enjoy? At least one more as it turned out...
This last Sunday was The Peterson Ridge Rumble put on by another friend of mine, Sean Meissner. I met Sean several years back when he used to work at the Footzone. Sean begged a ride off of my wife out to the start line of 30K road race. After getting to talking, he invited me to come out to his house for a 17 mile trail race he was holding in Sisters. I came out to the race only to find a handful of ultra runners and their dogs. It was a fun event at the time, but it's definitely changed for the better now.
For this year's race I had been thinking of running the 60K instead of the shorter 30K option for a while. When I saw that the event would be cut short to 55K because of snow conditions it helped to make my decision easier. This would be my first ultra!
I have to admit that I was a bit nervous when I got to the starting line. It was kind of like my first Ironman race in that I didn't really know how my body would handle it. At the same time though, I have to admit that I was excited. I thought that if I could just run my normal training pace for 4 hours straight, I would have a pretty good day. As the race began 2 guys shot off the start line. One of them was a bit of a poser who dropped off after about 50 yards, the other was Lanny Gower, who had won the Hagg Lake 50K earlier in the year. Lanny led through the first mile of 6:37 and almost immediately started complaining that the pace was too fast. The next miles were 6:36 and another 6:37 so I knew that if nothing else, at least we were running even. At this point I was starting to pull ahead of Lanny and by about 4 miles, I never saw him again. The next 3.5 hours were awesome. I just enjoyed the beauty of God's creation on one of the most beautiful day you could ask for. One would think that it might be boring to be out there running by yourself for so long but the trail kept me busy with tricky footing, and the views kept me distracted enough that it never really got to be too bad. I also kept my eye on my heart rate monitor to make sure that I didn't go too much over 160. I was fairly confident that I could hold that effort for the duration. I just kept covering ground and hitting new aid stations every 5 miles or so. A Gu and a cup of Coke is what looked good when I got there so that what I took. It seemed to work pretty well.
Being that there was never a true mile marker I will have to admit that catching a view of the parking lot where the start/finish line was felt really good. Not because I was dying, but because I was still feeling pretty decent and I wanted to finish that way. Once I hit the track I decided to kick it in a little bit. Of course I was saving my strength though for the hurdle. You see, for some crazy reason Sean always puts a hurdle on the home straight, about 30 yards from the finish. I was actually thinking about that hurdle at the beginning of the race, wondering if I'd have the strength to clear it at the end; it turned out not to be that bad. Maybe next year Sean should put out a Steeple chase barrier, that would scare some people away for sure!
So that was my first ultra! 4:02:01. It came out to around 7 min. pace for an average on my garmin, not exactly flying but not that bad either considering the kind of shape the trail was in. I was pleased that my last mile was actually my fastest (6:20). Now it's got me hungry for more...marathons are for wimps!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Step (OK, a few) in the Right Direction: The Napa Valley Marathon

Well it's about time I update my curious public about my experience at the Napa Valley Marathon. Overall, it was an improvement over my race at Carlsbad and clearly a step closer to my pre-surgery running form.
First you should know my excuse, I was sick. In my mind, pretty significantly sick since I had lost my voice due to a lingering cold and sore throat. But as anyone who has heard my Boston Marathon story knows, that wasn't going to stop me from running.
Before the race I met up with teammate Peter Gilmore who was also entered in the race. Peter was treated it more as a training run than an actual race since he is still thinking about running at Boston or possibly London in April. Peter ran 2:12 at Boston a couple of years back and he's getting back to that form now. He told me his plans before the race and that kind of affected my strategy more than it should have. I also decided to wear my heart rate monitor for the first time in a marathon. I thought it might be good to get some numbers to crunch afterwards.
We woke up in the morning to a pouring rain. Something I grew used to in Portland and Seattle where I first started running, although not what I wanted considering my cold. Peter and I were shuttled out to the race start by the race directors which was cool on one hand since we got to sleep in much longer than the rest of the participants, but on the other, it meant we only got to the start about 15 minutes before. Just enough time for the bathroom and changing clothes, no warm up.
When the race started Peter and I were quickly joined by "The Beast" James Nielsen, who is the course record holder at the Eugene Marathon and a former World Cross Country participant. We strolled through the first mile in 5:43, when Peter said, "Perfect" I thought I might be able to drop it down to 5:30's and get away from he and James. I kept and eye on my heart rate monitor making sure I didn't tip over 180 but the pick up in pace dropped Nielsen after a mile or so, meanwhile Peter was not running with me, but just a few seconds back. And that the way it went for several miles. My five mile split was 27:37 with av. heart rate of 170, The next five were 27:28 but the average went up to 177. I was still feeling good and ahead of Peter so I kept soldiering on. 15 miles showed a slight slow down as my split was 27:46 (5:33 pace) and 177 average. At this point Peter pulled even with me. I told him I was slowing a bit and I knew he was still planning to pick it up over the last 9 miles so he pretty much had the race in hand by then.
We ran together for miles 16 and 17 and then he put in a big surge. He dropped me easily and the rest of the race was spent by me holding on to the pace as well as I could and just trying to get to the finish. My 15-20 mile split was 28:08 and 176 average. My 20 mile time was 1:51:01. The next 5 were my slowest in 29:05 and my heart rate just stayed the same at 176. I guess as you get tired, it takes the same heart rate to maintain a slower pace. Or said another way, to keep an even pace, my heart rate would have to steadily climb over the course of the race.
My final time was 2:27:23 which is a 5:37 pace. Peter ended up running a 2:23 and James Neilsen finished at 2:31.
Overall, I was pretty happy about taking off over 4 minutes in the 5 weeks between the Calsbad race and this one. I also realized that the heart rate monitor can help me pace a bit better. I think I should try to kept it under or at 170 for the first half. It's kind of a nice tool to have for that reason. You don't have to worry about hills or wind and holding a certain pace, you can just rely on the monitor to make sure you're working at a level that you can maintain for the entire race.
anyway, I get a nice luxurious 9 week break between marathons now as I won't run one again until May 3rd. At least that's the plan. That doesn't mean I might not sneak in an "ultra" between now and then though.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Singles Anyone?

I've been trying something new in training. It's called, "Singles," and the idea is to get all of your running for the day in one run.
This might not seem like such a big deal to most folks. In fact, the wide majority of runners run only once a day, if that. When you look at the training schedules of many of the top runners though, you'll notice a change. For me this change took place when I was a freshman in high school. We had a new coach come to our school in the middle of the year between cross country and tack. Although our team was already pretty successful, he made some changes. The most significant of these was the addition of morning runs to our daily schedules. Every day coach met us at the school at 6 AM for a quick 3 or 4 miles in the morning. The idea was that it was an easy way to pad the running log with some extra miles and that it helped us to be loose and warmed up for the afternoon workout, which was the more important run of the day.
Since that time, as I grew to appreciate the finer points of studying the training schedules of the elites, I've found that the broad majority of top runners (maybe 90% or more) put in 2 runs on most days. The typical schedule in the US is for a runner to put in a shorter, less significant run in the morning, and a longer, more important run in the afternoon. When I started studying Kenyan schedules I was shocked to find that many put in 3 workouts per day. A wake up run at 6 AM, a hard run or intervals and 10 AM, and an easy jog at 4 PM. I guess when you're living at a full time running camp, there's not much else to do.
Anyway, back to singles. I've been finding in the last few years (yes, I'm getting older) that I haven't been recovering as well from day to day as I used to. I was still exhausted from the previous day's run in the morning, and I was still tired from my morning run in the afternoon. Because of the daily grind of running twice a day, I wasn't able to really feel fresh for my big workouts when I needed to. That's when I really started considering doing singles. The most well known running coach in history is probably Authur Lidyard, and he said that doing one run of 70 minutes was more beneficial than putting in two runs of 35 minutes. His athletes would put in one solid run every 24 hours, giving themselves more time to recover. I've since learned that such notables runners and programs such as Meb Keflezigi and the University of Colorado also follow this formula. The idea is to take my 5 mile morning run and my 9 mile afternoon run, and just make one run of say 13 miles. Yes, the one run will be harder, but I'll have 12 extra hours of recover, and I'll be gaining in endurance. The goal for Lidyard's athletes was to get 100 miles in for the week. In other words, an average of 14+ per run! I haven't hit that yet but I'm getting there. Last week was 86 miles in 6 runs. This week should be 92 miles in 7 runs. We'll see what the experiment proves. So far I've noticed that I get to sleep in a little longer, I'm more inclined to have time in the morning for my daily devotional, and I have more energy for my one run a day. Now we just need to give it some time to see if it all translates into some PR's this year.