Tuesday, February 23, 2016

RKC ... Almost

Last weekend I attended the Dragon Door Russian Kettlebell Certification (RKC) course in San Jose. We were lucky to have great instructors leading the event: Dan John, Dr. Chris Holder, Chris White, Robin Sinclear and Seth Munsey.

The workshop was nothing short of PHENOMENAL.

2016 San Jose RKC
Photo: John Du Cane
I will spend time in another post to describe how working with kettlebells has improved my health and running fitness. I highly recommend that if you want to work with kettlebells to seek out an RKC instructor or workshop. The insights you gain will be invaluable.

The RKC is the gold standard for learning and teaching the hardstyle kettlebell, a three day workshop where you drill the six basic kettlebell moves and are taught instruction and programming with this wonderful tool.

  • Swing - Two-arm and one-arm versions
  • Clean - Swing movement where the bells end up in the rack position (at the collarbones)
  • Press - From the clean press overhead
  • Getup (or Turkish Getup) - From a lying position holding a kettlebell get to a standing up position with the bell overhead
  • Front Squat - with two bells in the rack do a below parallel squat
  • Snatch - Swing movement where the bell ends up overhead
The amount of information we received can best be described as "very dense." The RKC manual is 128 pages of excellent material devoted to the six fundamentals, mobility complexes, additional exercises and programming. 

I took 16 pages of notes over the three day weekend. We spent 2-3 hours working technique on the swing and getup alone. We also spent a fair amount of time on flexibility and mobility in order to help improve these basic moves.

Going deep on the goblet squat
Photo: John Du Cane
Each morning and afternoon we ran a solid workout to groove the lessons we had learned to that point in addition to the technique work we were doing throughout.

What made the RKC all the more special is the one-on-one work you get with the instructors. Five instructors would monitor the 17 participants to cue and work on technique as we practiced. I pulled Dan and Chris aside to work on my getup and snatch technique specifically. The one-on-one attention received through the weekend is what makes the difference in what a quality workshop this is.

OK, so for the "almost" part.

In order to get the RKC you must:
  • pass the skills test for the six movements with a snatch-sized bell (24kg in my case)
  • pass the teaching requirement (volunteers are brought in on the final day for an hour long instruction session)
  • pass the snatch test - 100 snatch reps in 5 minutes or less with snatch sized bell
I was not ready with the 24kg on my snatches and currently have no plans to teach so I came into the weekend pretty sure that I was not going to take the snatch test.

The first thing that Chris Holder told us was: 
Don't stress about the snatch test. You have 90 days to complete it after the workshop.
The last thing Dan John said to me was:
Pass the snatch test. You have 90 days to get it done.
Grooving the press technique with Ben Fogel
Photo: John Du Cane
Here's the thing: last fall I was pressing 16kg for light volume and could not press the 24kg at the end of the year. After six weeks of RKC training (and really five as I tested myself a week before the cert) I was pressing the 24kg four times just working with the 20kg bell. 

Over the next 5-6 weeks I plan lots of heavy (28-32kg two-hand, 20-24kg one-hand) swings and Right of Passage presses with the 24kg. I will work on snatch technique and start to focus on the snatch test protocol once I'm feeling comfortable with the weight.

So, Dan and Chris, here's to getting the snatch test done. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ketogenic Diet - Week One

I have been struggling with my weight this year through a combination of irregular exercise and poor diet. In mid-November I weighed my usual 193 lbs but by first of February I was up around 200 lbs and by mid-May topped out at 204 lbs.

Three things contributed to my irregular exercise - new job, severely rolled ankle first week of January, and bronchial infection last part of January. While I could blame my poor eating on my new work location near the Seattle Public Market it really of course boiled down to will power.

I began to start ramping up my running miles in mid-May but didn't see any real change in weight or fat loss during that time. At least not the changes I wanted.

Date Mass Body Fat % LBM* Prev Week Run
5/6 204 lbs 22.5% 150.4 0 miles
5/13 203.2 lbs 21.2% 152.4 10 miles
5/20 203.2 lbs 21.2% 152.2 16.4 miles
5/27 202.2 lbs 21.2% 153.0 25.7 miles
6/3 200.2 lbs 20.3% 151.6 20.5 miles
* LBM = Lean Body Mass

OK, so I lost nearly a pound a week and was making slight progress on my body fat but not to my liking.

Goals and Research
Let me get to what my goals are. I have Speedgoat 50k end of July and I would like to be around 183 lbs for this race - one because I don't want to try to run my dough boy ass over 11k feet of ascent carrying 200 lbs, and two because it may be hot enough I will want to run without my shirt. At around 152 lbs of LBM 183 puts me at 12% body fat.

I have also noticed in the past that as I ramp up I start to lose lean body mass which tells me that I am breaking down catabolizing my muscles for fuel which tells me I have a diet imbalance somewhere. I am not interested in losing weight in this way (by starvation) so wanted to find some healthier ways to lose the fat.

During the week of 6/3 I started reading about how to maintain lean body mass while trying to lose weight and exercising. I started getting pointed to the ketogenic diet which is basically a low carb diet. The warning signs went off - I run so I need carbs to fuel my body but I continued (skeptically) to read on. It started to become obvious that the more carbs you feed your body the more it's geared to use glucose a fuel source which means you will have a hard time burning the free fatty acids (FFA).

OK, great, so I can buy this - makes sense. However, I still run up hills (or used to - working back to that) and in an anaerobic state my body needs glucose to move at the pace I need. This is when I found the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD) which seems to be used heavily by weight lifters. The plan is to essentially run ketogenic (0 carbs) Sunday - Friday afternoon. From Friday PM - Saturday midnight you carb up (10-12 carb grams / kg mass) to replenish your glucose stores and to satiate any cravings.

By end of week I had crafted a plan based on my readings. Sun - Fri:

  • 150 grams of protein a day (based on 150lbs of LBM)
  • < 50 grams of carbs a day (I thought 0 was too restrictive)
  • remainder from fat / alcohol to stay under BMR + exercise calories
Friday night I would load up on pasta (long run planned Sat morning) and then replenish during the day. I wasn't sure how I would get 680-820g of carbs but I'd figure it out. I would keep protein at around 150 grams and try to limit fat under 73 grams.

  • Monday - slow run, feet & ankles were bugging me from ramped up mileage. 144g protein, 147g fat, 51g carb.
  • Tuesday - rest day for feet / ankles. 129g protein, 66g fat, 60g carb (don't eat dates).
  • Wednesday - "TEMPO" run - made it two miles out of five before having to stop. Had bonk symptoms the entire run back. Still ran 6.1 miles. Realized for high intensity runs I would have to consume carbs. 144g protein, 130g fat, 50g carb.
  • Thursday - ran at Squak Mountain and at a hummus wrap and two gels before the run. Carried Perpetuem on the run. Went right back to ketogenic post run (my first ever pealing the bread off a sandwich at a restaurant). 176g protein, 112g fat, 150g carb (87 pre / during run).
  • Friday - slow run, felt low on energy. 142 g protein, 183 g fat, 189 g carb (23g before 4pm).
  • Saturday - five hour trail run at Tiger Mountain. 107g protein (this worried me), 178g fat, 589g carb (202 during exercise). I also worked in the yard in the afternoon and carried about 1/2 ton of stone across the yard.
  • Sunday - rest day, slept in. 150g protein, 61g fat, 150g carb.

Date Mass Body Fat % LBM* Prev Week Run
6/10 199.2 lbs 21.2% 149.2 31.3 miles
6/17 197.8 lbs 18.8% 152.6 43.5 miles

As you can see the results were pretty dramatic and more what I was hoping for. I lost less that two pounds total BUT gained over three in muscle (or rebuilt from previous - 149 is pretty low) and so lost right at five pounds of fat. Perfect.

What I learned:
  • I cannot do high intensity workouts without carbs so will stick to a plan of ingesting carbs before a hard workout. Will continue to read and experiment to find the right fit.
  • It is *hard* to eat enough protein via meat since it's so filling. I had a few hits of hunger but nothing that felt like starvation. Given that I was about 1,000 calories in deficit a day that seems pretty remarkable.
  • I don't think the "carb fest" is all that necessary - I was happy to have a smoothie on Saturday with anything in it I wanted (you have to avoid high-carb foods like dates) but think a free-for-all is probably overdoing it a bit.
  • I watched a CBS piece on sugar which shook me up. I am going to try to limit my sugar intake to under 38g a day other than when exercising.

  • I don't think this kind of diet is sustainable. If I am running a 1,000 calorie deficit then I will have to get calories from carbs eventually. My plan is to work this diet for 3-5 weeks (which should get you into ketogenic mode based on what I've read) then start to add back high value carbs - whole wheat bread / pasta, brown rice, etc.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Suunto Ambit - Initial Thoughts

I have avoided the GPS watch craze for the past few years that I've been running. Trust me, I like data and being able to compare my progress in my running against benchmarks but there is a certain allure in "running naked." In fact, I have not run with a HRM for two years and so my trusty Polar 625x has been relegated to a glorified stopwatch.

The new Suunto Ambit, however, has made me reconsider the GPS watch space. I was initially drawn to it's ability to navigate to waypoints, but the promise of a longer battery life was intriguing as well.

Well, the new toy arrived yesterday and I thought I would write up my initial thoughts.

  • I am not a GPS watch user so I have no basis of comparison other than what I've heard from my running buddies. Based on one run through a reasonably dense canopy the GPS itself seems quite good. I like the detail I get post run and am happy not to have to plot my routes on gmap-pedometer.

  • The extended battery life is a bit of a red herring. In "normal" mode you track GPS and record every second. You can change the options so you record every 10 seconds and do a GPS fix every 60 seconds but of course you lose a lot of detail. What would seem logical is to give me a choice between 1 and 60 seconds so I could tune my watch to the distance I plan on running. I will have to play to see how far I can get on the "high" settings - Suunto claims 15 hours which would satisfy the demands of a 50k or 50 miler. I also understand you can charge the unit while you run so if you had a portable charger you could extend battery life at the higher settings. I clearly have some testing to do in this area.

  • There are ZERO options to define exercises on the unit. This actually concerns me the most as with the Polar you could create reasonably rich exercise profiles. One of my current goals is to do more HR-based training but I don't have the option to define exercises with intervals that work different zones. This seems a huge oversight to me in such a device. You can work around this limitation by defining multiple "activities" (more on this in a second) but the options are limited to one HR zone and no intervals.

  • Creating activities is cool but time consuming. There is a lot of data that the watch displays or can display (25 different metrics). What is really slick is you can define, per activity, what is displayed on each screen (including elevation and HR profile graphs, as useful as that may be). With all this customization comes the price of "time to setup" which is not insignificant. I will also be testing out what I want to see on said runs and I suspect I've given myself information overload to start and will be winnowing down what I want to see as time progresses. Still, you have a great tool in Movescount that allows you define this all rather easily.

  • The watch is a nice size - much smaller than the Garmins I've seen and about the same size as my Polar. It's bulky as an everyday watch but certainly not something you would only wear when exercising. Of course I live in Seattle so take that fashion advice with a grain of salt.

  • I did keep hitting the "stop" button fiddling with the watch while running. There is a key lock feature I was not aware of before I went out so that should satisfy this problem. Also getting familiar with a new watch with different button placement will resolve this issue over time.

  • The altitude does not auto-configure so you need to know your starting altitude or atmosphere pressure (um, yeah....) and reconfigure from time-to-time. This is no different than my Polar which also has altitude on it.

  • The Running activity includes an auto-lap every 1k. Lame and annoying on the first run. The first thing I did when I got home was to reconfigure that setting.

  • Which does bring up an interesting point: you have to configure most of these settings on the watch from Movescount. I suspect this will not be a long-term issue (and, seriously, a first world problem if there was one) but it is interesting you cannot change these settings on the fly from the watch itself.

  • Movescount seems ok. I struggled with this as I like the Polar desktop tool and prefer to have all my data myself v. uploaded to a website. I like all the data I get and could do analysis on it all day long probably. My big gripe is they seem to base all movement on SPEED and not PACE. Makes sense for cycling; not so much for running.
Overall it's a really great watch. In the grand scheme I have no complaints - it's a clear upgrade from my Polar but may not be an easy upgrade from an existing GPS watch. I do hope that the upcoming firmware updates address some of my concerns and will be contacting Suunto support to see what they say about this. Of everything missing I'd really like to see two areas improved - more configuration of GPS / record settings and the ability to define different exercises / workouts.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Badger Mountain Challenge 100 Race Report

2012 was the second year of the Badger Mountain Challenge and my first 100. I decided to sign up after Seattle marathon with my friend Desiree and later Jeremy. I put my training in place and started to pack on the miles. Unsurprisingly January and February were my highest volume running months ever.

Jeremy and I at the start

Desiree and I at the start
I've now run enough marathons and 50k's that I feel I know what to do to complete a race with a goal time. Training for a 100 was different - you don't run 80% of the distance before the race like you would a marathon. I ran a lot of back-to-back long runs on the weekends and picked the brains of as many 100 finishers as I could. I was most concerned about my stomach - I don't have stomach issues but would I at this distance? - and my feet - I don't blister but would I over 100 miles?

I would classify this 100 as "frontier" in nature - definitely lighter on course markings and support than many ultras. The course had changed a couple of times in the final weeks leading up to the race but I had studied the maps enough I felt confident I knew where we were going. I was the unofficial "tour guide" of the three of us and we were planning on sticking together as long as made practical sense. Desiree and I were trying to make sure to stick together through 78 miles which is when we'd come off the ridge and should be pretty close to morning light.

My brother and friend Karlee had agreed to crew for me. Up until the night before the race we worked on our race plan, where they would meet us and when. Desiree had her friend Sarah crewing for her.

The Start

Runners headed up Badger Mountain
The race started in a small housing development at the base of Badger Mountain. Unceremoniously we took off. I was reminded to start start slowly as we hiked to the top of 800' Badger. It was raining and windy as we came off the mountain and headed up Candy Mountain and down the other side. We ran through some rollers to get to the base of Red Mountain, our third climb of the day. The wind was still steadily high and the rain had picked up. By the time we were on top of Red we were getting gusts near 60mph and I had pulled my buff over my face to offer some protection. We made it to the Foxhill aid station (16 miles) in 3:15 after a short bushwhack off Red Mountain. I changed out my sopping gloves and snarfed down some food.

Explaining to the RD the nasty winds

Headed back out
Headed into McBee - Red Mountain the background
The next section to McBee Parking Aid was uninteresting. We had some trail finding issues - seems some local property owners had pulled flags. The rain was starting to subside but we were running on asphalt through this section. I snarfed a grilled cheese sandwich my brother got me at a gas station and changed rain jackets before heading out. We were good on pace - 22 miles in less than five hours.

The Ridge

Hiking up to the ridge
We climbed up to the ridge line up the steepest part of the course - 1100' in about 30 minutes. On the ridge we found jeep & farm trails with lots of loose rock. We worked into a modified Galloway rhythm - we'd run flats and downhills and hike the uphills which worked out to 12-15 min running with 8-10 min hiking. We hit Chandler Butte Aid (mile 27) in another two hours where three people were dropping - broken ankle, hypothermia and some other reason. The rest of the ridge was fairly uneventful - we kept moving and I had the opening theme to Gladiator in my head.

Coming into Hwy 221

Getting a little foot aid from Sarah who enjoyed this way too much
We came into Hwy 221 Aid (mile 36) at 4:15 still good on pace. I had a toe blister to tend to so got some aid from Sarah for that. We headed out onto the worst part of the course - 2.5 miles downhill on asphalt highway. This was the new course reroute I was unfamiliar with. We had enough shoulder but were still exposed to the traffic so hugged the guard rail. After 1.5 miles we were able to run off road. From the bottom we made our way through some neighborhoods rather slowly - the amount of asphalt running had worn us down a bit and we were ahead of schedule enough we thought we'd ease off a bit to give ourselves a break. We saw the race leaders coming back the other direction. We made it up to Lincoln Aid (mile 43) which was the most fun stop of the run - great encouragement, very helpful, taking pictures, etc. I had now run farther than I had before!

Still fresh at Lincoln Aid
Gearing up for the night at the turnaround
Getting to the turnaround was largely uneventful. We started running into the faster runners and seeing friends and sharing our war stories to that point. We were hearing about other DNFs as well. We made it to the turnaround aid (mile 47) at 7:50 without having to use our headlights. We stopped here for 22 minutes and our aid station stops were starting to get longer. We headed back out into the dark with our lights retracing our steps in reverse. We got through Lincoln Aid pretty quickly and kept moving. The hike up Hwy 221 was unpleasant - trucks were speeding past and were not reducing their brights. The climb only took 23 minutes but it seemed to last forever. We arrived at Hwy 221 Aid cold and ready for a break. I had some more blisters so Karlee tended to my feet. I added a fleece layer under my rain jacket, put on my rain pants and two layers of gloves. As we were leaving I noticed Desiree was wrapped in a blanket but didn't think much of it. My stomach was not feeling "on" and I hadn't taken much food at the aid station. Karlee was with us for this stretch - we had 22 miles without crew access and we wanted company with fresh legs.

Karlee administering more toe aid

Racer and pacer ready to go

The Night

As we headed out it became clear that Desiree was cold. I moved in front of the wind to protect her best I could. I was cold too so was hoping that moving up the ridge would warm us up quickly. She and I stopped to pop some pepto tabs as we both weren't doing so hot in our tummies. We hiked much of this section (9 miles to Chandler Butte) and it seemed Desiree wasn't warming up. We were on the lookout for barbed wire we had come across on the way out and successfully avoided it. The stars were starting to come out and we had a pretty clear evening although it was cold and windy on the exposed ridgeline.

As we started to see the Chandler Butte lights (which never seemed to get closer) I was starting to calculate times and I felt we were starting to hit the edge of the cutoff pace - we were moving to slowly. Jeremy and I pulled into Chandler Butte with Desiree and Karlee five minutes behind us. Desiree was upset - she wasn't able to move quickly and thought she was hurting our chances. We had actually made ok time - 3:17 for the nine miles - but needed to keep that pace up with minimal aid stops.

As we left Chandler Butte we had less than 11 hours to knock off 34 miles or so. I helped Desiree down the descent from aid over the rocky path. I knew she was upset and was trying to push but just didn't have much power at the moment and none of us was sure what was wrong. She wanted us to leave her and push out but we weren't doing that up on the exposed ridge. Jeremy came back to her and I got ahead with Karlee. We decided to keep the pace we needed and got to the McBee Ridge Aid (72 miles) at 5:30am. Unfortunately Desiree had gotten hypothermia during the night and was pulled off the course by the aid workers. Jeremy and I pushed forward with Karlee and got down to McBee Parking Aid (78 miles) at 7:05 am having seen a beautiful sunrise in the Horse Heavens Hills.

The Low Point

I was warm from running the last seven miles and as the day was rising around us. I pulled off my rain pants, changed shirts and dumped my hydration pack in favor of two water bottles for the run in. Desiree was warming up in Sarah's car and told us to "finish strong" - the least we could do. We ran out with my brother and another runner who'd been at aid for a couple of hours recuperating.

The ridge we hit next was a punishing series of up and down jeep roads much of which I found unrunnable after over 24 hours on my feet. The sun was coming out and I just wanted water. We passed by the location for the next aid station but it wasn't there. We caught a runner who was having a hard time. Once we got off the jeep trails we were running around the edges of a vineyard with crushed gravel roads which, while runnable, were not pleasant to run on. This was the low point people had talked about. I lost the impetus to move quickly and forced myself to get the group moving a couple of times but we didn't push hard or for very long. We got to a point where we lost the course markings - another property owner pulling flags is my guess - and ended up descending a driveway into a small town which was certainly off course. Jason and I knew where we were and how to get to where we needed to go but tempers were flaring and I was nearly out of fluid.

We came into Dallas Aid (mile ~84 for us by this point) at 10:24. There was no way, in my mind, that we could cover the remaining 15 miles in 5 1/2 hours - we were moving too slowly. It had just taken us 3:03 to cover maybe 10 miles. I looked at my brother and said "I think I'm done."

The Finish

Jeremy was talking to the aid worker and looked at me and said "come on. let's go." Whatever fire was lit was lit strong - I grabbed some Peanut M&Ms and refilled my bottle with Nuun and took off. We rocked some sub 8 minute miles for the first 2/3 of this loop through farm country including a 650' ascent. If Jeremy was going to make me go I was going to make him hang on for dear life. We bombed the downhill and got around to the other side and eased our way back to the aid station to head out. We had just covered 4.5 miles at mile 85 in just over 52 minutes. We had gained back a lot of time.

Photo finish!
We headed out back toward Candy and Badger Mountains which we could see rising out of the horizon in front of us, taunting us with each step. We were moving into the wind on an asphalt highway but we made decent time running just a bit. We made it through a culvert under the highway and interstate and got up Candy Mountain in 20 minutes. More gravel roads at the bottom relegated me to more hiking - if I was going to be DFL then I might as well be as close to the 32 hour cutoff as possible. We got over to Badger and had a good pace up to the top on the well-groomed trails. The running along the ridge was unpleasant on tired legs so we hiked again. As we came around the edge toward the finish we knew we had to run it in so we bore down and finished with a final descent and sprint to the finish line. Jeremy and I finished side-by-side in 31:32:18. And not quite DFL.

The Final Talley

One piece of advice I got before the race was "don't worry about time" and I certainly didn't. We were in good shape at the turnaround for a sub 28:00 finish assuming you hold the same pace throughout. We spent a lot of time at aid stations - over 2 1/2 hours - and could have easily cut an hour off the time right there. There were definite parts (the vineyard, the final stretch) where I could have been running v. hiking but didn't push myself. But for my first 100 this was a great result.

I'll be find right here
Not being able to run in with Desiree makes this a bittersweet result as well. She is a strong runner and was run afoul by something none of us saw coming. But she's going to get it done at Pine to Palm this fall and I'll be there to help.

Post race recovery has gone well - almost too well. I didn't have any specific pains in my legs during the run and I have felt great post run (nearly a week now). My feet were swollen but that's subsided and my blisters have gone away. I will not wear my Montrail Rogue Racers again - they just don't fit well and in fact the stitching blew out between the midsole and upper in a couple of places. I will also likely switch back to toe socks to keep the toe blisters at bay.

I feel my gear and nutrition were right on target otherwise. I had a great crew helping me out and letting me not sweat the small details during the run. My training also felt right but I'm hoping to add more miles before my next 100.

I do have to shoutout to Karlee and Jason who took time off work to follow me around on this crazy quest. They were the best and I couldn't have pulled this off without them. Thank you thank you thank you thank you!!!!!

The ever popular question is "will I run this race again" and the answer has shifted from "hell no" during the race to "quite possibly" in my one-week post-race fuzz. We ran 12-15 miles on asphalt but if the Hwy 221 stretch can be figured out that would make the decision easier. Naturally my memories are fond now that I've completed my goal - so we'll just wait and see!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tiger Mountain TMT Run

Ran the TMT Sunday morning in a group of six runners. The TMT (Tiger Mountain Trail) starts at the Tradition trailhead, snakes around West Tiger to the east, up & over the saddle between Tiger West 1 and Tiger West 2 and then winds its way south toward and around Middle Tiger. It's a beautiful, plush, single-track trail with far less traffic than the other Tradition trails seem to have. There is also a lot of opportunity for side trips as you cross a lot of other trails.

The shame is last week was my first trek onto the TMT and it was just to get us to some other trails. Today we spent our time "out" exclusively on the trail. Even better I had a pretty good idea where I was since I'd looked at the map in between visits. We did run into a bridge that is "closed" although I think it's been like that awhile and we just hung to the side to cross. Trails were a little muddy to this point given the recent storms but not too bad.

We hit snow about 1700-1800' and saw a fair amount of blowdown along the trail (especially on the east side) due to a wind storm the night before. We lost two runners by this point so it was just four of us for the remaining run (the other two found their way out fine).


Of course once you hit the snow you have to play. We were on pretty good trails and had some nice ups & downs to push through. Above you'll see Ben taking off and me trying not to crash into a tree while holding my camera phone (note the video isn't all that great).

Me, Lars, Aaron & Ben at the top of West Tiger 3

We ran all the way to Dieter Springs which is a fresh water spring between West and Middle Tiger and those that needed to refueled. On the way back we ran into a Barkley finisher and chatted him up a minute or two - he was headed all the way down to Middle Tiger. We got back to the W2 / W3 saddle and humped up to W3 and back down to the trailhead via T3 (well, I did. Ben & Aaron took off down Cable Line). T3 is the most popular route on the mountain providing direct access to the peak of W3 and there were plenty of hikers out today. It also unfortunately has a boatload of embedded rocks which makes running down most unpleasant.

This was my first run in new shoes - the Inov-8 F-Lite 233 which is billed as a "fitness" shoe as I think the line has a lot of loyalty in the CrossFit market (from what I hear - don't quote me). Regardless the F-Lite 195 is my go to road runner but I wanted something with a bit more cushion for Badger Mountain so I thought I'd give this a go (I have not been happy so far with the Montrail Rogue Racers). The fit is great and they handled well with a non-lugged tread even in the snow and mud although I was certainly not pushing the issue in several spots that I otherwise would have. And since it was so snowy I only got to muddy them up just a bit. Based on first impressions I really like them.

Another great day of running on the trails around Seattle - Tiger is the mountain I may be least familiar with so it's good to get some new scenery running with a new group of runners.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Orcas Recap and What's Next

A couple of follow-ups on Orcas. First, the elevation profile. I have it around 7600' which is "close" to the course description of 8000' of gain. I generally don't trust my Polar much but the start / finish altitude seem to be similar so this all seems reasonable. Overall the profile is just sick looking at it. I would not have thought the Mt. Pickett climbs were as high as they were but it seems so. This just confirms to me that I took it a notch too hard up Powerline and didn't save enough for Constitution. I was fine at a pedestrian clip up Pickett.

Second is a funny story I didn't relay in the race report. I had joked with Glenn T (photographer extraordinaire) that I needed a new profile pic. You know how race photos are out on course - especially in trail running. One minute you're minding your own business making sure you don't trip over the trail and the next there is your photographer. Sure enough I was plodding up Constitution, head down, in trail thought and next I hear "Hey. HEY. HEY!!!" and it's Glenn pointing his camera at me. He did his best - it's not a great shot solely due to me looking surprised and trying to fake a run. But it was pretty damned funny.

OK, so enough about Orcas. Next up is Badger Mountain Challenge (March 30-31), which will be my first 100. I'm running with friends Des & Jeremy while my friend Karlee and my brother Jason will be crewing. Really looking forward to it, and trying to keep my wits about me as I try to figure out how to run 100 miles. This is the second year of the race and there were issues with course markings last year which we all hope have been figured out (poor RD has been pestered endlessly about this). I was fortunate to carpool to Orcas with a guy that's done ~25 100's (I guess you lose count after awhile?) and I picked his brain as much as I could. Long story short: the next 5-6 weeks will be about packing on miles, training some downhills, and continuing to wrap my head around this.

I've also got the following on my schedule, registered or tentative:

That'll keep me busy, right? I might have to find 1-2 more races to fill in some gaps.

Oh, wait, did you see what I did there? Yup, I put in for the Cascade Crest 100 lottery and (gulp) got in. Pretty excited about this although I'm not sure what I'm doing signing up for two 100's before I even run a 50 miler (bass ackward). I'm actually more nervous about CCC than BMC and not sure why - maybe because it's quite a bit more profile, it's a qualifier for races like Western States / Hard Rock, and because there are other runners who didn't get in which makes me want to run hard to show I deserve my place.

I hope by the time I'm done with BMC that I've learned a lot and can apply that learning. I'm hoping to get up to logging 200-300 miles a month (in the 150-160 range right now) and really want to improve my mountain trail running fitness.

For now I'm going to focus on Badger and let the chips fall where they may after that. There's a lot of running to do this year but there's a lot of running to do the next month or so. It's kind of like being on the trail - it's ok to think 3-4 miles ahead but you'd better be paying attention to the next 10 feet or you're going to do some damage.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Orcas Island 50k - One Beautiful Race

Views of Mt. Baker and surrounding islands from
Mt. Constitution
photo courtesy of Glenn Tachiyama
Orcas 50k is put on by Rainshadow Running and this is the event that they started with (I believe) and has been on my list for a couple of years. I had to DNS last year due to lingering ITB issues so I was raring to go this year. The race is itself just an excuse to hang out on Orcas Island (a couple of hours + ferry ride from Seattle) with a bunch of ultra runners for a couple of days. There is food (potluck) and fun the night before and we all camp out in bunkhouses at Moran State Park then night before (or all weekend for many).

Shoes before & after. Guess the course was a little
muddy in spots.
The weather promised to be great all weekend and it was. A bit chilly on the morning of the race but you knew that wouldn't last long. I decided on a short sleeve shirt under the long sleeve shirt and gloves that I could ditch at aid as I pleased. I left the stocking cap behind and chose the regular brimmed hat as I figured I'd be over the cap once I started the climb to Mount Pickett. I also like the brim rather than sunglasses which I ultimately just get frustrated with later in races. When I pulled out my shoes I noticed I had a dime sized hole in the upper by my pinky toe (left shoe) but I didn't bring another pair. Time for new shoes and just suck it up and deal - ultimately this was not an issue.

The first loop takes you up Mt Pickett and back to the start and Aid Station #1. My goal here was to start slow and not blow my race early which happened in several races last year. This loop was supposed to be 10-11 miles so I figured 2:00 - 2:15 would be a good time. I took it easy, starting in the back with several Seattle runners (Ben, Michael, Simon) and we got in place in the middle / back of the conga line and started the day. The sun was gorgeous rising through the trees of the old growth forest as we ran south & east toward the climbs. The herd inevitably thinned out but it was nice to not feel overexerted early on. We stayed in line as we marched up the mountain and we picked up several other runners I know (Yitka, Daniel, Candice). It was nice to be in a line where I knew so many runners and I realized I'd been running and racing for a long time.

Cascade Falls
photo courtesy of Glenn Tachiyama
Once we got to the top the single track broke onto service road for the mile descent. Overall I felt really good here and I let the other guys take off as I hung back with Candice to conserve. It seems I've always blown by her early on in races and then paid for it late and with her coming around me at mile 28 or so. This wouldn't happen today as she unfortunately caught her foot on a root and twisted her ankle while we were chatting (for which I feel guilty for distracting her). I made sure she was ok as she got up and tested it out (it was pretty tender - was glad it was not broken) and she gave me the ok to take off. I caught back up to Simon who had passed me during this incident and we paced for awhile but I let the legs out ever so conservatively on the descent. Got my photo op at Cascade Falls and rolled my way into aid at 1:59. I didn't feel that was too fast; in fact I felt pretty good. Got through aid in 2:35 and took off feeling pretty good.

Camp Moran - start / finish / aid #1 / party venue
We had a little out & back from here to the trail so the customary "good jobs" to those coming into aid and I saw Candice wasn't too far behind which relieved me. She did unfortunately drop here as she said she had no strength for the descents (her ankle post-race was pretty swollen). I took it easy as we rounded the lake to the north to start the first big climb of the day - The Powerline. This is aptly named after the service road running under the powerlines that work their way to the top of the mountain. There were some muddy parts as we got up to this climb (not a good time to be messing with my food I realized) and the road up was a pretty rutted out road. The line of people up was the typical humorous sight and I dug in to settle on a pace. The climb had steep sections - hard to get a heel plant but necessary as I didn't want to burn out my calves. I focused on that. I was catching early starters by this point and got into a good rhythm and notched it up a half step thinking this was a good place to test myself. I was passed by a few and caught a few so this all seemed reasonable.

Thankfully the top came and the running started again in earnest. I had a good open pace going and a wonderful floor on the old growth single track and opened it up to 4th gear (out of five). This felt pretty relaxed but with a slight push. Ran with a couple of guys for awhile and got down to the lake in no time. This was a section we'd repeat coming back up for the final descent so I was happy to get through this without seeing any leaders. The journey around the lake was nice but a bit of the bumpy up and down so I started to pace back to save something for Constitution coming up next. I took a slight spill at the south end of the lake on the rocks and banged my knee but seemed ok (although I think I ruined my big toe here) and eventually turned north and started to head up.

Near the top of Constitution
photo courtesy of Glenn Tachiyama
I knew I was a bit spent so eased it off a bit - slight jogging or hiking on uphills. Hit the "water only" aid station at mile 18 in 3:58 (1:56 split) so that seemed pretty good. I only took water here as I had plenty of fuel (and had been fueling well all day) and had a short bio break - 2:35 aid time. Given that I was a bit wiped I told myself that I was taking it easy up to Constitution to get a little energy back. That stretch was tough - steep switchbacks with slight running opportunities that made you think "I have to run this." Got passed a lot on this section but that was ok - I was in my zone which was none too fast. I got up to Aid #2 - mile 22-ish - in 5:06 (1:05 split) so that was a slow four miles! Got refueled at aid, rested a bit, and got some vaseline on my thighs as things were starting to chafe down there. I was pretty tired but it was time to go and recover on the run.

Mount Constitution from the road - doesn't look
too bad from down here
Started down and I didn't have a lot of push in my legs so I took the opportunity on this downhill to rest up a bit. This was a shorter section (thankfully, as that meant the next up was not going to be as long a climb) and eventually turned uphill onto previously run path to start back up. I had recovered so ran / power hiked my way up. Hit "mile 26" in just under six hours so I was happy about that given that I thought I could hit sub 7:00 - not bad for me on this course. There was a bit more to climb to get to the top then the descent started. I pushed a bit on the downs which was easy at the start but fatigue and more technical trails loomed. I broke out into some sun and rocks and did some knee damage as I skidded against a rock wall (oddly I banged up my opposite hand here too). This slowed me down for a stretch but I hit better trails down low so still pushed on.

Finishing with Simon
photo courtesy of Martin Taylor
Hit the bottom at the lake at 6:35 and figured I was within striking distance. I then saw a sign for 2.7 miles (a state park sign, not race) and "knew" I wasn't going to run sub 10's around the lake (it occurs to me now this was the full lake loop, not just to the camp). I stopped & walked and ate something then took off. It was pretty hilly for an "around the lake" run so there was plenty of hiking followed by running. I was probably not running as quickly here as I could and probably not starting my runs as early after a climb and I was pretty done at this point. Came out of this and toward the start and Simon caught up to me and we ran in together. I saw 7:03 and instantly scolded myself for not pushing harder around the lake but what was done was done.

Post race - a little dinged up but happy to be
finished and having a beer
photo courtesy of Yitka Winn
Post race was great to catch up with everyone on their runs, grab some beer & food and then take a shower. Overall I ran a hard race save for the last couple of miles. I may have still pushed the issue too early although I don't feel that I pushed too hard up powerline or down off it. Like everyone I always feel my training lacks on the ups & downs when I'm going through the suffering of the race. My fueling felt good although I was sweating early and often and may have been "over electrolyted" on the first loop as my shorts were full of sweat and salt later on thus causing the chafing. I tolerate Nuun well but should have had it cut a bit rather than full strength. I'm pretty satisfied with my race and have some things to work on the next few weeks.

Shoes: Inov8 X-Talon 190s
Socks: Injinji Performance
Fuel: Mostly Perpetuem, some aid, margarita bloks, sport beans, GU, Chips Ahoy Reese's Cookies
Post race with Ben, Michael & Glenn
photo courtesy of Yitka Winn