Sunday, February 28, 2010

Weekly Summary (Feb 22-28) and February in Review

First, here's the past week:
Mon-AM: 15 miles (2:17) Green Mt. Ranger-Greenman, 2800'
               Ridiculously beautiful, clear morning.  2" new snow.
        PM: 13 miles (2:00) Green Mt. Ranger-Greenman, 2800'
              Legs felt great but snow kept things slow and easy.
Tue-AM: 14 miles (2:10) Green Mt. Ranger-Greenman, 2800'
                Legs feeling great; trail slowly setting up nicely.
Wed-AM: 14 miles (2:05) Green Mt. Ranger-Amp+2nd Flatiron, 3000'
               Felt awesome. Post-holed up to the 1st Flatiron 
               on the descent.
        PM: 14 miles (2:05) Green Mt. Amp-Greenman, 2800'
               Unexpectedly slow trail conditions led to a relaxed 35:50
               climb, when I'd planned to tempo it.  Tacked on 10x20sec 
               strides during 2mi of barefoot at Kitt field.
Thu-AM: 14 miles (2:01) Green Mt. Ranger-Greenman, 2800'
              Got out at 5am before early meeting.  Took it easy.  
              Fell really hard on the icy streets on the way home.
Fri-AM: 18 miles (3:00) 2 x Green Mt. up Amp, 5300'
             Easy 37:25 and 37:15 in 2-3" of fresh, slow snow.
Sat-AM: 14 miles (2:06) Green Mt. Ranger-Greenman, 2800'
             Great trail conditions. Encountered a posse of 
             Pearl Izumi friends.
      PM: 14 miles (2:02) Green Mt. up Amp down Greenman, 2800'
             33:14 for the climb up the front . Legs didn't really have it, 
             but good effort.
Sun-AM: 15 miles (2:13) Green Mt. Ranger-Bear Canyon, 3000'
             Tired, but trail was in great shape and I love this loop.
-Miles: 145
-Hours: 21h 59min
-Vertical: 30,700'
Green Summits: 67 (over 59 days)
And now for a little look back at the past month, starting with the numbers.
February Summary:
-Miles: 501
-Hours: 75h 33min
-Vertical: 101,300'

2010 Totals:
-Miles: 989
-Hours:147h 23min
-Vertical: 192,800'

February was an excellent month.  The second week was a bit shaky with only 88 miles and nothing but the minimum obligatory single summit of Green every day.  My knee was acting up a bit, but strangely it never really hurt when I was running, only while doing the mundane activities of daily life: walking up and down stairs, riding my bike to class or the grocery store, etc.  So, I kept it conservative that week and it paid off very well as the last two weeks have been excellent both in their consistent vertical and volume and in the general happiness of the knee.

I spent most of February getting once-a-week one-hr acupuncture sessions with Allison Suddard, as referred by Jeremy Rodgers.  This was the first time that I've ever had any sort of acupuncture treatment (what Jeremy would refer to as "dry-needling vascularization" and Allison would call "trigger point therapy"), so I was curious as to what a treatment session would involve and whether or not it would have any positive effect on my knee.

After the first session, my right leg was incredibly sore.  Like, I was limping out of the office.  I'd always seen pictures of acupuncture where there were several needles poking out of someone's body and I would think to myself, How can that not hurt?  Well, I got my answer this first session, in that--at least for the kind of Trigger Point therapy that Allison was performing--it simply hurts a lot.  It's a weird kind of hurt, though, almost like a dull ache or numbness sometimes accompanied by what felt like almost an electrical shock when the muscle would occasionally "twitch" (not pleasant) under Allison's manipulation.

Despite the general discomfort of the treatment, my knee didn't really seem to be getting worse, so I kept going back for all four prescribed sessions even though there didn't really seem to be any improvement in my knee, either.  Mostly, it was just nice to be doing something proactive on a regular basis to improve the condition of the knee.  However, in this last week of February there has definitely been some significant improvement in my knee.  The first that I've seen in these first two months of the year.  So, I'm fairly convinced the acupuncture did something worthwhile, especially since Jeremy had said that the effects (if there would be any) would take a number of weeks to show up.

I am very happy to have continued this month with the consistency that I was able to achieve in January. It seems like I've reached a level of sustainable running that is building strength but isn't precariously riding the line that separates fitness and injury.  I'm not training at my maximum amount, which is something I would too often do (basically, whenever possible) in the past.  Right now, my goal races are still two and four months away, so I need to be able to maintain this sort of volume and intensity for that much longer.

Despite the consistency of the past two months, I haven't raced even once since Leadville last August.  As a result, in looking ahead to March, I hope that my knee continues to improve and that it allows me to complete a couple of intermediate races and/or adventure runs.  A trail 50K or a double-crossing of the Grand Canyon over Spring Break would be very exciting for me.  We shall see.

And now, for this week's selection of auditory pleasure.  The Cold War Kids have so many excellent songs from previous albums, but this is off their very recently released EP Behave Yourself, so I thought it most relevant and appropriate:

Friday, February 26, 2010

Of Running and Biogeochemical Cycling

(The frosty visage of my muse, from my apartment.)

Early Wednesday afternoon I snuck out the door in between extensive sessions of reading peer-reviewed environmental research.  I was earnestly attempting, but only marginally succeeding, to assimilate the methods and findings presented in Regulation of the nitrogen biogeochemistry of mountain lakes by subsidies of terrestrial dissolved organic matter and the implications for climate studies (Bunting et al., 2010).  Right.  Clearly, it was time to re-immerse myself in a medium in which I feel a little more adept, even proficient: the snowy slopes of Green Mountain.  

After the day's second summit helped get my head straight, though, it was back to the books for more feelings of significantly befuddled inadequacy, courtesy of Nanus et al. 2008 (Evaluating regional patterns in nitrate sources to watersheds in National Parks of the Rocky Mountains using nitrate isotopes).  However, during subsequent episodes on the trails I can't have helped but draw some parallels between alpine environment nutrient cycling and certain behaviors in my running.

One of the more important concepts to consider when studying the carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycles--particularly in light of an objectively changing climate and increasing mean global temperatures--is that of feedback loops.  Some feedback loops are negative and some are positive.  When a feedback is negative, the system tends to equilibrate itself and become stable, which is most often the case.  However, when a biogeochemical process operates as a positive feedback, the system responds by magnifying the amplitude of a given input or perturbation and can quickly result in a runaway situation, i.e. the amplitude of the system increases exponentially.

As a result, this decided instability means any scientist is usually quite interested in identifying any positive feedback loops in a given system.  One such example of a hypothesized positive feedback is that of a loop involving atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2),  CO2 sequestered in permafrost, and increasing global temperatures.  The thinking goes: warmer annual temperatures melt permafrost at high latitudes, which releases CO2 into the atmosphere from the now unfrozen organic material, which new atmospheric CO2 then contributes to further increasing temperatures, and so on and so forth.

(As an aside, over the past months I have been summarily impressed with the apparent level-headedness that seems to prevail at many of Boulder/CU's prominent scientific institutions---the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research, the National Snow and Ice Data Center, NCAR, NOAA etc---with regards to the typically hot-button issue of climate change.  I have heard a certain director, on more than one occasion, opine that they think Al Gore does more to hurt climate change science than to help it because he habitually overstates and hyperbolizes the case.  Climate Research Unit (CRU) hacking incident and resulting scandal aside, I am very confident in the fact that there are lots and lots of dedicated climate scientists doing unbiased and extremely ethical work.)

Over the last few weeks, it seems as if my running has been under the influence of a similar positive feedback loop.  It feels as if the consistent, reasonable workload of not having missed a day of running no less than two hours (let alone a Green Mt. summit) for the past two months has gradually helped to steel my body against injury.  The longer I can go without injury and maintain such a routine, the stronger my body's various relevant musculoskeletal structures become, which means I can continue to be consistent, which means my body gets stronger, which means strength and fitness improves and chance for injury decreases, and on and on.  The metaphorical snowball rolling down a hill.

However, I am not so sure that this is necessarily a true positive feedback situation where the amplitude of the output will necessarily progress in a runaway fashion.  That is, by very gradually increasing my mileage and ultimately limiting it to a level that is less than maximal, I feel as if I've been able to reap the benefits of a positive feedback loop while enforcing the stability of a negative feedback system.

(Summits #63 and #64 this morning.  It was gloriously bright.)

That, and acupuncture appears to not be a ruse, after all.  This morning I set out to challenge my knee with a test that a month (and four acupuncture sessions from Allison Suddard) ago it failed: two consecutive laps on Green Mountain.  The 2-3" of freshly fallen snow on the trails slowed my progress up Green's steep front side more than I would've liked (inefficient 37min ascents rather than the sprightly 35s I'd envisioned on a tacky, packed trail), but the most important fact was that I had zero knee pain on neither descents of Gregory Canyon nor on the 25 minutes of pavement I ran on the way back to my apartment to round out the three-hours and 5300'-of-vertical.

(Greenman trail: ~1mi and ~1000' vertical to go.)

(Lots of snow up there right now...typical trail conditions.)

By continuing to induce a little stability into my regimen, maybe I can be back racing a little sooner than I'd planned.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Weekly Summary: February 15-21

Some more fleshed-out details of my training is something that I've had a few requests for, so I thought I'd give it a shot this week, but I'm not sure whether I'll make it a regular deal.  I record my training in detail in other (more private) places, but ever since I've been a runner I've been interested in the specifics of other runner's training, so since there is an expressed interest in mine I feel a little compelled to oblige that interest.

Having said that, I find writing and reading these posts to be pretty dull.  The sheer nuts and bolts of a training regimen just aren't that interesting when put down in black and white.  Successful performances in distance running typically come as the result of an enormous back-log of surprisingly unvarying, unexciting (to the non-actor, at least) repetition and that is especially true of my training so far in 2010.  No secrets will be divulged here because there are none to reveal.  Enjoy your running, believe in it, do it consistently, and it will usually work.  (Ah, but that usually is what confounds everything...)

Finally, in the interest of spicing up what are sure to be otherwise exceedingly dreary posts I will probably entertain myself by also posting a song (of a hopefully live performance) that I find to be particularly compelling (but not necessarily entirely cutting edge or completely contemporaneous...I'm not a full-on hipster) that particular week.  If it helps turn someone else on to a band that I find to be especially awesome, great.
Mon-AM: 14 miles (2:04) Green Mt. Ranger-Greenman, 2800'
         PM: 14 miles (2:02) Green Mt. up Amp-down Ranger, 2800'
                32:19 PR up the frontside (6:45, 12:35, 18:40, 29:40)
Tue-AM: 14 miles (2:10) Green Mt. Ranger-Greenman, 2800'
                 Predictably tired after yesterday evening.
Wed-AM: 14 miles (2:09) Green Mt. Ranger-Greenman, 2800'
                 50th summit--ran down with Jocelyn.
         PM: 14 miles (2:00) Green Mt. Amp-Greenman, 2800'
                 32:49 for the climb up the frontside. 14min barefoot.
Thu-AM: 14 miles (2:09) Green Mt. Ranger-Greenman, 2800'
                A good bit tired again...hmm...a pattern? 7min barefoot.
Fri-AM: 14 miles (2:11) Green Mt. Ranger-Greenman, 2800'
               4" fresh snow slowed things considerably
      PM: 13 miles (2:10) Green Mt. Ranger-Greenman, 2800'
              With Jocelyn at 6:30pm, so the whole run was in the dark.
Sat-AM: 15 miles (2:15) Green Mt. Ranger-Bear Canyon, 3000'
               With Dan K.  2" fresh snow and snowing the whole way.
Sun-AM: 17 miles (2:33) Green Mt. Ranger-Bear Canyon+, 3000'
               ~6" fresh powder on the trail slowed things way down.
-Miles:  143
-Hours:  21h 43min
-Vertical:  28,400'
-Green Mt: 56 summits (after 52 days) 

This has been an extremely heartening week.  The previous week I had to be cautious because the knee seemed to have a tiny relapse and I was a little gun-shy (run-shy?) as a result, content to just get in the default 2 hr Green ascent every day.  However, this week I struck upon the seemingly newly-sustainable plan of doing a Double Green every-other-day and it has worked out very nicely.  So, this was a big week in the statistical categories.  Right now I am very content with the privilege to make it up into the mountains so consistently, so I don't really have a lot to complain about.

This morning I tentatively tested out my knee with a run that was significantly over 2 hr in duration by tacking on a couple extra miles on the Creek Path at the end of the run.  Sitting here right now it seemed to have gone pretty much fine--past experience informs me, however, that I won't really know how the knee has truly reacted until my run tomorrow.  A few images from this morning's outing:

(Monochromatic views of the Flatirons for the fourth day in a row, striding up to the Gregory Canyon trailhead.)

(Standing in a cloud on summit #56.)

(Exquisite view while exiting the mouth of Bear Canyon.)

(Despite the good week of running, this weather makes me long for the days when The Roost was my apartment and it was warm enough to be sans shirt: night-before-LT100-logistics-prep at my secret campsite, August 2009.)

Finally, I've been enjoying these fellas for quite a while now, so here's some shameless pop pleasure to get your head boppin' for the next week:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Half-way There

Yesterday morning was my 50th ascent of Green Mountain in the last 48 days, which makes me half-way to my objective of completing 100 ascents in the first 100 days of the year.  It was pretty much like any of the other 48 past mornings, except that on this morning Jocelyn joined me.  She left the apartment in her car to drive to the Gregory Canyon trailhead while I opted for my usual mode of transportation there: my two feet.  This, however, gave her a 10-15 minute head start on me and allowed us to coincide our time of summitting.

(Jocelyn's first summit of Green Mountain this year.)

(My 50th.)

After snapping a couple of pictures, we then ran down the Greenman and Gregory trails together.  Jocelyn was pretty impressed with the performance of her new Microspikes.  Back at the trailhead, she headed off to class and I scampered home to complete my usual two-hour outing.

(Jocelyn sure-footedly descending the upper Greenman trail.)

After a mid-day acupuncture session, I got out again in the afternoon before my evening Watershed Biogeochemistry class, opting for the more challenging front side (Amphitheater-Greenman).  Allison's hour-long brutalization of my left hamstring and right vastus medialis obliquus (VMO) had left me fairly sore but didn't seem to have much of a slowing effect on the subsequent 32:49 climb to my 51st summit.  From the top of the surprisingly warm peak I had a great view of the ominous, somewhat sickening, temperature inversion-induced Brown Cloud of the Denver/I-25 corridor (that I subsequently, coincidentally, learned the atmospheric chemistry of in class last night).

(Why I am so annoyingly insistent upon not driving to the trailhead.)

I rounded out the two hours with a couple miles of barefoot striding around Kittredge Fields by the CU Law School where I had the pleasure of meeting and running with Austin Baillie, fresh off an impressive 1:04 half marathon performance last month in Houston.  Nothing like a little reality check as to where I truly stand in the pecking order of the distance running universe.  (Interestingly, though, Austin had plenty of respect for ultras, having paced at both Leadville and Hardrock.)  Nevertheless, I hope the next seven weeks of Green baggin' continue to go at least as smoothly as the first seven have.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I fell down three times on my run this morning.  Stepping out the door in the pre-dawn darkness I knew it was one of those days.  A day where a curb presents an obstacle and the legs simply won't lift.  This morning was my 49th ascent of Green Mountain in the past 47 days, and I could feel it.

My first tumble came while scampering off of Green's summit rock.  It involves a simple, typically ungraceful but usually uneventful maneuver that I've become quite familiar with over the past seven weeks.  A curiously weathered cavity in the large chunk of Fountain formation sandstone conglomerate provides the most obvious route on and off the summit, and for the majority of the winter this has been at least partially filled with grippy packed snow and ice.  My without-style method of down-climbing is to sort of crab-walk/controlled-fall down the face stabbing the non-rock material with my trusty Microspikes and depositing myself safely back on flat ground.  Today, the usually much grippier landing spot failed to provide my 'spikes with any purchase and the next thing I knew I was lying on my left side checking to make sure I hadn't broken an arm.  Fall number one.

The second incident was one of those situations that I occasionally think about as being very bad if it actually occurred, but it simply usually doesn't.  With maybe five minutes of path remaining before being deposited back at the trailhead parking lot, the Gregory Canyon trail crosses the drainage on a decidedly over-constructed wooden footbridge.  Directly above this bridge are a pair of extremely short but steep switchbacks littered with the usual rock and ice.  Most mornings I skitter down this mindlessly, often grabbing a handy branch to swing/steady myself around the final switchback.  This morning, however, I caught a toe and plummeted headfirst downtrail.  Despite several large rocks being there to break my fall I regained my feet with no real issues other than a slightly tweaked hamstring.  No biggie, it's felt that way for almost four years now.

(The results of a summer-time digger.)

The final fall occurred on the corner of 10th and University.  Every single morning I subtract maybe two yards of running from my journey by shamelessly shaving the sidewalk corner with a quick step through the college students' house's front yard, often stepping over empty beer bottles and cans.  There is also, however, a very significant tree root on this path that every other morning I have very consciously stepped completely over.  This morning, the legs just weren't having it, though, and a split second later I was sprawled on the sidewalk hoping that I hadn't torn any holes in my tights.  That one really yanked the hamstring and I had to walk a half-block or so massaging it out before I could resume my stumble home.

My fatigue this morning was no surprise.  Yesterday I doubled up on my visits to Green's summit, and the afternoon ascent was a particularly notable effort.

Runners often ask me what sort of speedwork I incorporate into my weekly training routine, and I usually have to--somewhat sheepishly--explain that I don't tend to do anything resembling a structured "speed" workout.  I mostly gave those up when I graduated from college, and I don't regret it.  Instead, even when I'm not in the explicit pursuit of some sort of silly summit streak as I am now, my bouts of increased-effort-running occur much more intuitively.  By feel.  Only when the body is saying, Let's Go!  As it turns out, this still happens at least once or twice a week--about as often as it would if I were to schedule it--but I never force it.  If, when I get to the hill, my legs feel like going, I let them.  If that happens two days in a row, I let it.  And if it doesn't happen again for another week, or even two weeks, I don't worry.

Approached in this manner, hard running is never a chore and almost always on the emotional spectrum in the vicinity of "pleasurable".  It embodies that most primal of activities: simply charging through the woods at your personal apogee of effort until there are no more woods to charge through because you've reached the top. 

(Dave Mackey, Rickey Gates, and Jeff Valliere getting primal on the Amphitheater trail in May 2009, with Rickey running the FKT. Photo: George Zack)

When conducted as part of a run to the summit of a mountain, though, it is certainly not fast.  My route yesterday involved tackling Green on arguably its most arduous, official terms (there are other unofficial routes up Green that are even more sustainedly steep): the combination of the Amphitheater, Saddle Rock, and Greenman trails.  This ascent is just a little over two miles in length but gains ~2500' from trailhead to summit.  Considering that there is one somewhat extended flattish section about half-way up, suffice it to say that there are many other stretches that could only be described as damn steep.  (With a section on Amphitheater in the 40% range, I believe.) 

Without these qualifiers yesterday's ascent time of 32:19 (for two miles!) would appear laughably slow, but after a little research, it would seem that only one, maybe two people are known to have broken 30 minutes on this route (one of those being Rickey Gates, whose preternatural ability to run fast up big hills is inarguable, and nearly unassailable by anyone else in the country), so I'm fairly pleased.  For now.  Considering the snow.  Because even with this morning's falls, my fitness appears to be moving in the direction of up.

If only my knee would allow me to start logging some true long runs.

Monday, February 8, 2010

At Dusk

For many years now, I have generally been of the get-out-and-run-in-the-morning-before-I-do-anything-else-today-because-it's-the-most-important-thing persuasion.  This is not to say that I don't log many a two-a-day session, it's just that my second run of the day is typically shorter, easier, and flatter than the morning outing.  Less serious.  More flexible.  Often barefoot.  Additionally, my body tends to feel better in the morning--the stomach is empty, the mental pressures and fatigue of the day have yet to accumulate, and afterall, all I've been doing for the past several hours is sleeping, so I generally have a surfeit of energy.

In college, logging the main workout of the day during the afternoon practice (~4PM, after a 5-8 mile jaunt before class that morning, of course) was a constant source of annoyance for me.  Without fail, the campus dining hall's food wreaked havoc with my intestines, so an otherwise idyllic autumnal session of, say, 24x400m on grass or 5xmile in the park was regularly rendered nearly unendurable thanks to undue gastrointestinal distress.

Conversely, many of my teammates hated running in the morning and thought I was borderline deranged for voicing my opinion that an interval session might be better performed at 7 or 8AM.  My fifth year at Colorado College (I headed back to slam through the entire Geology major in a single year), my good friend (and far more talented teammate: five-time All-American with 5K/10K PRs and school records of 14:30 and 30:43) Julian Boggs christened me his live-in guru for rousting him from sleep every morning at 6:40AM to log a brisk hour's cruise through the no-man's-land of social single-tracks and cacti-covered hills on the west side of I-25 that we referred to as The Mesas.  (Springs locals might know this better as Sonderman Park, but that apparent jurisdiction encompasses less than half of the open terrain we explored over there.)  Of course, this sort of accountability was only natural as Julian had been so accommodating (ridiculously so, in retrospect) as to allow me to take up residence under his half-lofted bed in his tiny (we're talking no more than 150 square feet here) single-person dorm room that semester.

This past week I rediscovered both the joys and dreads of doing substantial running later in the day.  On both Friday and Saturday evenings--after already logging my usual 2hr sojourn to the top of Green Mt and back in the morning--I got out again for a couple bonus Green summits.

These runs were shocking in their dialectic nature.

Striding away from my doorstep with an eye on the sun disappearing behind the Flatirons and a headlamp wrapped around my wrist I felt a curious pep in my stride that is hardly ever present in the pre-dawn darkness.  This sensation was always Julian's main argument for running in the afternoon--your body is fully awake and ready for action; the attendant incoordination of early morning miles is either completely skipped or compressed handily into a few quick steps.  When I arrived at the mouth of Gregory Canyon to begin the climb up Green my legs seemed to have super-powers.  I floated over big step-ups and skipped through technical terrain that I've become accustomed to zapping my energy.  My respiration rate indicated what should've been a high level of effort but none of this was borne out by any legitimate sensations of fatigue in my legs.  Everything was so easy.

This is the hidden aspect of mountain running that hikers or even road/track runners can never understand and will never know about.  It is the ineffable secret of those who have diligently paid their dues and over time become intimate confidants with a landscape that, to many, typically only represents an obstacle to be conquered.  Why, the hikers will ask, do you run these beautiful trails?  Aren't you afraid of missing the views, the scenery?  The road runners will claim, I don't want to sprain an ankle, scrape a knee, or thrash about at 12 minute pace when I can cruise the black-top hitting six minute miles with a perfect rhythm.

The answer, of course, is that, for me at least, the sheer felt kinesthetic sensation of a stretch of well-run trail unquestionably trumps the quality of any of those other experiences.  When things are going well-- when they're clicking on that unconscious, unforceable, primal plane of existence where every fiber is preternaturally aligned to the task of effortlessly traversing ground--there is a sense of everything being in its exact right place, right here, right now.  It's as if I am the leading star in my own life and at that moment I'm absolutely nailing the role.  To me, that type of experience is unassailable in its value.  And it doesn't happen while hiking.  Or fighting cars for a section of pavement.  It seems to require rocks, roots, and a significant gradient.

On Friday night, despite considerable darkness on the upper reaches of the Ranger trail that assuredly slowed my pace, I effortlessly PRed on the climb by a full two minutes.  There can be no more fitting place to celebrate a new best performance than from a mountaintop, at night.  Nearly 3000' below my feet, Boulder's lights glittered and glowed, casting light seemingly all the way to my position on the summit.  The swath of open space surrounding town presented itself in stark contrast as a lightless, dark band encompassing the city.

Alas, the downhill is where the duality of these night runs kicks in for me, i.e. there is a not-so-subtle shift in mood.  First, it's tough to run down technical trails in the dark--I don't care how bright the headlamp is.  Or maybe, my headlamp just isn't bright enough.

Second, downhills have a unique tendency to, um, shake things loose.  Suffice it say that, A) my two night runs this past week reaffirmed my belief in there being something profoundly amiss with my guts.  Things haven't been this wrong since Leadville.  And, B) when severe gastrointestinal issues strike, the true casualty in the situation is one's sense of self-dignity.  Early on, the effect is merely like that of an ominously rising river lapping at its banks:  no significant threshold is breached but the erosional effects cannot be denied.  Not so gradually, though, the water's destructive powers are realized and before you know it a full-on battle is raging, the result of which leaves your pride completely eviscerated and tattered somewhere back on the side of the trail.

In such a desperate, degraded, and depraved state any bush, any shadow, any shrub becomes fair game.  In my (most unfortunate) case, neither alleyways, baseball fields, nor fallow flower beds were left unscathed.  It was as if the euphoria of the first half of these runs had to be necessarily balanced with equally traumatic and depressing second halves.  Oh well, gotta keep things on an even keel, I guess.  Remain humble.

Thankfully, in retrospect, (and after a shower and when I'm someplace where toilet paper is readily available) I think the positives outweigh the negatives (if only barely), and I hope to continue to incorporate these night runs into the weekly routine.

Monday, February 1, 2010

January In Review

January has been a relatively good month with regards to my running.  By the sheer numbers:

488 miles
71h 50min
91,500' of vertical
31 summits of Green Mountain
0 days off

Which means that it's objectively been my best January since 2007 when I was training like a banshee in preparation for the Rocky Raccoon 100.  Just to prove that I've wisened up a little in terms of the volume I put in these days, here are the numbers from January 2007: 751 miles, 106h 38min, 36,500' of vertical, and three days off.

January's 2008 and 2009 were both affected pretty heavily by nagging lower leg injuries, so I ended up missing quite a few days. (And, the Rocky Raccoon 100 both years, too.  As I will this year, unfortunately.  Ever since coming within 16min of the course record three years ago during a very poorly-paced race I've been jonesing to get back there and run the race I know I'm capable of.  I would rate the 13:32 I ran at Rocky in 2007 as being on par with roughly 17:00 at a non-short (i.e., non-2009) Leadville.)

In addition to the more moderate mileage, it seems I've compensated for this a bit by hitting a whole lot more vertical climbing this year than when I was training in Colorado Springs.  During that January of 2007 a very typical day for me would have been a 2hr run in the Garden of the Gods in the morning and then another 2hr run over similar terrain in the evening.  I would count a run like this as having zero vertical feet climbed even though, as a result of the rolling terrain, I would probably get close to 1000' on a 2hr run like that.  I tend to not really count climbs that are less than 500' in one shot.

Whereas encountering significant vertical when embarking from the downtown Colorado Springs area used to generally require nearly a three hour run, living and running in Boulder has meant that I can run up a mountain and back from my doorstep in two hours or less (thus, the marked increase in vertical gain this month as compared to 2007).  While I don't yet know what kind of effect this will have on racing results, I do know that it more similarly reflects what I was doing this summer in Leadville (despite my meltdown at the LT100, the White River 50 in July was ample evidence that I was easily in the best shape of my life this summer) and that it more generally appeals to my personality, which is always a positive thing.  I like to run up mountains.

So, where does January leave me with regards to goals and plans for the coming months?  I'd like to keep not missing any days.  I value the accumulative strength that comes with not missing any days of running; I think it's important that the body remain accustomed to at least a little bit of specific physical motion every day in order to not set oneself up for the strange weaknesses and aches that can come with inconsistency.

I would be very happy to average around 500 miles per month for the whole year.  This would be directly in line with my "new" approach of lowering the overall week-to-week mileage in the hopes of vastly increasing the number of days that I'm running strong and healthy each year.

I think the avatar of this type of reasonable but inexorable consistency is Matt Carpenter, who, as a competitive mountain runner, I wouldn't mind emulating in other ways, either.  In most years, Matt will spend eight months (January through August) where he essentially never runs less than two hours each and every day, save for a race taper or two.  He's also gone five years at a time without missing a day.

(Vintage MC crushing Mount Washington in 1998.)

Kyle Skaggs is another person for whom I've witnessed this type of day to week to month consistency pay off.  From when he set the then-course record at the Wasatch 100 in 2007 until he shattered the course record for the Hardrock 100 ten months later, Kyle never missed a day of running but kept most weeks in the safe-and-sane region of 120-140 miles with a few excursions to 160 mountain miles in the final weeks before Hardrock.

(Kyle, slaloming down 14er Handies Peak on the Hardrock 100 course. Photo: Olga Varlamova)

Right now, maintaining my two hour run every morning feels very doable, but pushing my knee beyond that threshold still remains tenuous as doing so seems to almost necessarily require sacrificing the ability to continue to run healthy in the following days.  If I can gradually change that current reality, I think I'll be on my way to finally realizing some competitive racing goals while remaining healthy.  After the past month, I'm certainly the most optimistic I've been about that in a while.