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Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Off-season

It has been about a month since Hallucination. The weather is getting colder. The days are getting shorter. My motivation to run is waning with each passing day. Each year, I seem to go through what can best be described as psychological burn-out. Each year, I try different strategies to combat it. This year, I think I am going to resign myself to the fact that I need some time off from running. I plan on doing an occasional long trail run to help maintain my endurance base, and I will do a few runs during the week when the mood strikes. Instead of forcing myself to run, I am going to focus on some other cross-training endeavors. The next few months will be filled with the following activities:
  • Swimming- My new gym has a pool. Even though my swimming form is horrible, I like the relaxation that comes from a few laps around the pool.
  • Weight lifting- Throughout my 100 miler training, weight training was a secondary concern to running. Since I will have greater access to our gym mid-week, and I will occasionally work out with out advanced P.E. classes at school, I will have the opportunity to get back to the routines I did throughout 2008. Time to dig up the old Gym Jones-esque workouts! I'm especially excited to tackle Pete Kemme's crazy variation of the famed "300" workout... the "1000" workout!
  • Wrestling- I plan on working out with out wrestling team at least once per week throughout their season. This will provide a perfect full-body workout.
  • Indoor soccer- I may play an occasional game with a group of former students. For some reason, they keep asking me to play, even though my soccer skills rank well below my swimming skills and only a hair above my basketball skills. Still, the sprinting and direction changing will be an excellent method to help maintain some of the running skills. I'm still not quite sure what I will do about shoes...
  • Running- Of course, I will do SOME running. After this week, I will probably join Mark Robillard and the group he runs with at Hoffmaster State Park in Muskegon. Their subtantial trail running skills will require me to work hard enough to maintain my trail running skills throughout the late fall and winter.
These activities will keep me in shape throughout the winter. They should provide enough variety and intensity to prepare me for next year's running season while still maintaining my base from this year. It should be my most ambitious ultrarunning year to date. My tentative plan calls for a 12 hour race, a 100k, a 10-person 270 mile relay, one or two 100 milers, and a marathon.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Recapturing Distance and Speed: Hope for the new barefoot runner

Learning the art and science of barefoot running is an exercise in patience. The basic form required to run injury-free is generally fairly intuitive, but mastering that form does take time. This time frame can be disheartening to the new barefoot runner. Maybe the new barefoot runner is accustomed to running a certain weekly mileage that simply isn't possible when learning to run barefoot. Or maybe the new barefoot runner regularly runs at a fast pace and cannot match that speed without shoes. When transitioning, some may opt to still continue their shod running. While this can be a good strategy to pacify the inner-competitiveness that simply cannot give up the mileage or speed, the new barefoot runner will eventually cross a threshold where running in their old shoes will be uncomfortable at best; injurious at worst. At this critical juncture, the new barefoot runner will invariably question their decision to run barefoot. They may have been an accomplished runner. Now they can only muster short, slow distances barefoot. Shoes are no longer an option. What are they to do? Worry not, new barefoot runner! There is light at the end of the tunnel!

The progression of speed and distance is very slow when beginning barefoot running. Finding a form that works well for you can be a difficult task. It may take considerable time and patience. Once found, the buildup of mileage is slow. Your body needs time to acclimate to the new style of running. Bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments need time to adapt from the time they were imprisoned in the foot coffins (thanks again, BF Ted). Run too far or too fast and you will likely develop soft-tissue injuries, such as the dreaded "top of the foot" pain. Worse, you may develop a stress fracture. It is critically important to go slow while learning and adapting. It is necessary to exercise patience to learn and adapt. This period can range from annoying to frustrating to downright depressing. It will feel as if you will never regain your old speed or distance. Worry not, new barefoot runner! There IS light at the end of the tunnel!

Once you find a form that works for you AND you allow your feet, ankles, legs, and the rest of your body to adapt to the feeling of losing the shoes, you will be free to radically increase both distance and pace. You should still exercise caution and follow reasonable guidelines, but the rate of improvement is NOT linear. You will reach a point where you CAN run longer and/or faster. You will reach a point where you can run more weekly mileage because you will be less prone to injury. You will reach a point where you can run faster without the anchors tied to your feet. You WILL recapture your previous abilities. It just takes patience. Have fun with barefoot running. Your feet will enjoy the new-found freedom... you might as well enjoy it, too. Relax. Smile. Enjoy the journey!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Now what???

Hallucination was a success. It was THE goal I have worked toward for years. Now that I reached that particular goal, where do I go? I have other goals, but none are as emotionally-charged as the first successful 100. I'd like to run more 100s. I would like to expand my barefoot capabilities, including possibly Mind the Ducks 12 hour and eventually a 100 miler. I would like to qualify for Boston one of these days, but road running really is not appealing on any level. I could go after some PRs on the short road races, but that isn't very exciting, either. I could set my sight on one of the REALLY hard races (Hardrock, Badwater, etc), but I don't think I have the means nor time to train at this point in my life. I guess I'm going through an internal struggle to set new goals. Do I even need goals? Can I just be content running races for the sheer joy of running? There is a myriad of races I'd love to experience. Locally, we have some races I am tentatively planning for next year. The Wild, Wild West 100k in lowell, MI is practically in my back yard. Dances with Dirt has always sounded like a really fun 50 miler. And there's always Woodstock... I would like to tackle the Poto barefoot for 100 miles. I could avenge my DNF at Burning River. I could try one of the Midwest 100s... McNaughton has always sounded like a good time, especially in the rain. Kettle Moraine is relatively close. Superior sounds beautiful, and would be a major challenge. I entered the Western States lottery, but the lottery registrant number is approaching 1,000. Not a good chance that will be happening.

I guess I'm an ultrarunner that is somewhat temporarily lost. I reached my goal. I didn't really plan on a new goal once this one was reached. I will definitely keep running. I used to run as an escape from my problems... now I run more for the sheer joy of running. [warning- cheesy analogy coming up] It is like the frosting on the birthday cake that is my life. Now that Shelly and I are done procreating, we will have more opportunities to run together. I loved that she crewed and paced me at Hallucination... it was an indescribably emotional experience to be able to share that with her. I hope to convince her to begin dabbling in ultras one of these days- it certainly enhances the "running for the sheer joy of running" feelings. Now I just need a goal... something to motivate me during the dark, cold days of January...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Grading Hallucination

It has been one week since Hallucination. To help me with training for future races, I'll grade my training/performance on various race details.
  • Training base (mileage): B I could have used more mileage. Specifically, I could have built my base over a longer time. In my next 100, I will be shooting for a faster time. A solid year-round endurance base should help with this.
  • Crosstraining: B+ The program I used was very successful, but I probably stopped too soon. I stopped crosstraining about four weeks before the race. Next time, I will only taper for two or three weeks.
  • Hydration: A Gatorade/water for first third of race; HEED/water for last two thirds of race.
  • Electrolytes: A S-caps every hour.
  • Heat acclimation: Didn't do... and didn't have problems. The race conditions were cool.
  • Chafing prevention: A- Tried SportSlick... reapplied every four-eight miles. It worked like a charm!
  • Foot care: B+ Feet were in good shape for the entire race except for some maceration around mid-race. Frequent sock changes, powder, and Sportslick was a winning combination.
  • Caloric intake: A- I consumed about 500-550 calories per hour, a little more than planned. I only had one crash for the last two miles. I used a lot of chia with good success.
  • Clothing: B+
  • Gear: A- I could have used some better organization, but I had everything I needed.
  • Lighting: A
  • Pacing/ race strategy: A I had four excellent pacers, and my crew did an exceptional job of keeping on my desired pace.
  • Drop bags: Did not use
  • Mental toughness: B I could have pushed harder over the last two laps, but still did MUCH better than Burning River.