Monday, December 19, 2011

Winter Trail Running

Running trails in the winter has been elusive over the past few years.  The snow and ice have had me more than freaked since my fractured fibula in 2006.  This injury did not occur on the trail, but asphalt, while running in 3 feet of snow. I have re-lived that event and know just how quickly these injuries occur.  
December 2006, Five weeks
before our first son.
Plate & Screws still intact!
In Denver, we get random snow storms and then temperatures in the 50s and 60s just a few days later. City running is fantastic and I typically only do 3 to 4 annual treadmill runs.  But the snow takes forever to melt off of our Front Range trails.  The shade and foot prints just pack the snow down into ice, creating some gnarly sections of trail.  Until this year, I have had to stay away.  No Longer...

Knowing how much work the 2012 race season is going to require, there is no way I can wait for late spring to hit the Front Range inclines. So with some thought and consideration, I wanted to head up to Evergreen this weekend.  The Evergreen trails are some of the best I have ever been on and I consider that my 2nd happiest place!  My novice calculations of winter trails figured that the temperatures are lower up the hill and there would be less ice melt. Going for a snow pack run, in my XTalon trail shoes would be a great combination.  

I was able to convince my buddy Heath that this was a good idea.  We packed our YakTrax in case of ice, some gatorade and set off for an early morning Elk Meadow Trail run (Garmin Data).  This phenomenal 10.5 mile run gains over 2500 feet to the top of Bergen Peak, with views of Mt Evans to the West.  We were very fortunate to have perfect conditions and the footing was excellent.  

In an effort to chronicle my journey for 2012, Boston to Leadman, I am going go try to take some video footage of workouts and events. Awkward and corny as it may be, this is what I came up with from our Saturday run. 


All footage was taken with my iPhone and the heavy breathing really captures the moment. I hope to expand my capabilities and continue to show the beauty of Colorado and awesomeness of Trail Running in Winter.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

RUN: Simplicity

I have been a runner for sixteen years.  What started as training for soccer during high school years, quickly converted into a passion for racing Triathlon in college, is now an obsession.  My running has grown over the years and several factors led me to where I am today.  The first few years, distance was a cruel punishment and speed was the goal. It took me a long time to realize that I was never going to win a 5k and the same amount of time to realize my gift lay elsewhere on the running scale.
My inspirational Trail Runners... At Lair 'o Bear.

When I told my wife Nicole that I had taken two full days off from running in October, she didn't believe me, "You never take days off."  I know, but it was a needed break, and I did have a huge rides those days.  Nonetheless, something has given me the staying power to continue to hit the pavement day in and day out.  Running is not a chore for me and finding the motivation is never the problem.  Over the last two years, I have realized that those former "punishment" runs have become my forte.  Running more minutes for recovery and longer distance for enjoyment.  My personal running scale has tipped and I feel great.

Knowing so many exercise enthusiasts and endurance athletes over the year has given me perspective to understanding consistency and what drives people to be great. Any person that takes a step in running, competes in a race desires to be faster.  But how do they shave minutes and seconds off if they are prone to injury.  I have been fortunate that my running form has been closer to good than bad over the last decade and a half, rarely injuring myself through mileage alone.  Yet, I am always looking for ways to increase my efficiency and effectiveness while I run, tweaking positioning and foot strike.  After reading Born to Run, talking with many other runners and witnessing the positive gains from running barefoot, I set my Simplicity, or minimalist plan into action in August of this year.

After two months, I now run in Vibram Five Fingers two to three times weekly, for recovery runs of 5 to 7.5 miles. Yes, the goofy shoes. You can't accurately depict the feeling of running in VFFs or what it does to your primal instincts and running.  But it feels awesome.  At first I thought the Vibrams would be a testing ground and I would eventually settle into another racing flat or less silly looking minimalist shoe.  Now my feelings have changed and I can state with certainty, that I will always run a few times a week in the VFFs.  The way you can dig your toes into the ground is unparalleled.  No other soled sneaker can replicate this, the closest thing to running barefoot. Which don't get me wrong, I would do if it weren't for all those little prickly goat-heads we have around here.

On trails, I now run in a ridiculous, super light, low profile trail runner, the Inov8 X-Talon 212 for up to 2.5 hours. The freedom and sense of 'oneness' with the trail is great, but the minimalist nature changes where you land, how you propel off rocks and go downhill. You are forced to quickly pick your way through rock gardens, looking for flatter, more stable ground. No more leaping on to and off jagged edges and landing on singular small rocks.  Those do make an impact and you can feel it on the bottom of your foot. I continue my hard charging downhill, but with more finesse, upright torso and high revolutions of the legs.  All of these stylistic alterations are positive for my trail running and have given me an edge as the distance wears on.

I feel my minimalist form will allow me to run longer and more efficiently.  The additional training miles are going to be needed for years to come.  I urge runners to flip off their shoes and run through the grass barefoot.  Notice how light you are on your body, landing mid foot, torso straight upright, not even grazing the back of your heel. Take your time when you convert and look to many resources for exercises in Form, Strength and Consistency.  I routinely seek out new advice, mostly in video format to glean information regarding minimalist running.  Here are two of the most helpful videos I utilize.
Lee Saxby: Learn to Run Barefoot
Running With Eric: Runs Drills and Technique

Go SIMPLE and don't look back.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

ADDAERO Partnership

Chimney Gulch Sunset - June 2011

I am thrilled to announce the formation of an amazing training and racing partnership with Addaero.com for the 2012 racing season.  Addaero is a premier online coaching platform designed to optimize the Coach - Athlete relationship and focus on accomplishing goals and race results.  I have utilized Addaero as my conduit between my coach, TriEndurance and myself for years.

Receiving my workouts for the weeks and days ahead via email is crucial for life scheduling and training execution.  That is only the a small portion of Addaero's capabilities.  I upload workouts with applicable metrics of pace with heart rate for running and power output/wattage with heart rate for cycling. The results I provide are sent directly to my coach with feedback based on how I felt, the planned workout versus actual and my thoughts on my progress.  My coach will then adjust my intensity, distance and progression accordingly to keep me working towards the ultimate goal.  This back and forth is integral to my growth as an athlete and builds my confidence as races near.

The partnership with Addaero will help me execute some fantastic goals in 2012.  I will be able to keep my racing and family life in balance while I increase the amount of training to levels that I have not encountered.  I plan to provide Addaero with some fun content over the year and hopefully inspire others to take on some great challenges.

Thank you to Addaero for believing in my mission and supporting the cause.  This is going to be fun.

In other news...
Rocco (4) gets faster with each loop, talks of strategy and carrying momentum with his coach!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Kick Start, Leadville Leadman 2012

The last 11 months have been an amazing journey. What began as a close friend's transformational story into a Push-Up King (120,000 in a calendar year), kick started a fire inside me to go after more. Seven months later, I PR'd a marathon, finished 3rd in my first 50 mile run race and achieved even more satisfaction through motivating and pushing many friends to do even better with their own lives.

I feel so blessed to have the most amazing support structure surrounding my endurance lifestyle. An amazing wife who knows what I can accomplish and won't let me settle, two incredible sons that are now under the impression that running and cycling are my job and a life balance that allows me the flexibility to enjoy my family and fitness.

Reviewing my plan from this last season I needed to determine if I was prepared physically and mentally to take a large step forward with my endurance challenge. I structured last year's race dates and distances to reflect a smaller version of the penultimate goal, Leadman 2012. Looking back I feel like I was able to build the right amount of strength and endurance to physically withstand the test of multiple running and cycling events of substantial distances. By the end of this race season I was tired, but the last 2 months of reflecting, resting and planning have me more fire up than ever.

These 60 days of "off" time I was still able to log 400 miles of running, enjoyable single speed mountain bike rides, mountainous road bike rides and spectacular trail runs. The Lifetime Fitness Leadville Race Series announced the dates that would make up the summer of 2012 race series, a.k.a Leadman Epic Challenge. Plugging those race dates into my calendar was step one, rounding up a team of supporters to fuel my obsession is step two and my final step has already begun, commence this ridiculous fitness training quest. Again, I will start to chronicle my journey as I push myself beyond previous assumptions of my physical limits. Thanks to all for the support, this is going to be fun. Feel free to come along for the ride.

Continually repeating to myself...
"To give anything less than the best is to sacrifice the gift."
- Steve Prefontaine

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pikes Peak Ascent

The curtain call of my 2011 season was a beast of a race. The Pikes Peak Ascent is not particularly long, but this half marathon only goes up. And by that I mean, the race begins in Manitou Springs, right outside of Colorado Springs, a town resting at 6300 feet above sea level. The gun goes off and you begin an uphill journey for the next 13 miles, finishing atop one of Colorados' 54, 14,000 foot peaks (14,115). The rule of thumb in estimating your time is to use your marathon PR clock time as guide to traverse this HALF marathon distance.

This was my second year racing the Ascent and I was really excited up until three days before the race. This particular Wednesday will go down as a bottom 10 day in my history book. A completely random jury selection to a three week criminal trial, a nearly split in two right patella in a fluke commuting bike accident and another superficial, but amazing let down. My wife and kids were healthy and that was all that mattered. Never mind that I would have to miss the next three weeks of work and could barely walk, let's run up a 14'er!!!

Race morning came and Heath and I rolled down to the Springs and laced up. The trail running scene is really chill, people know who is going to ascend fast, so they give them their space. There are not many pretenders gunning out of the gates, as this race is not won within the first 5 miles. In fact those are the most painful and gut wrenching miles of the race. Just a brutal trail of never ending switchbacks. I did not feel good at this point of the race, my breathing was off, the four ibuprofen had not quite kicked in and many other parts of my body just ached. I let Heath pull me up the hill until I felt like somewhat of a runner. At this point it was still false hope and he went around me again to drag me up further. At this point, the voice in my head was screaming, "what could possibly be the fond memories of this race?" carry on.

Carrying just one bottle of GU Brew and a few GU ROCTANE Gels, I took down a cup of gatorade at the first three aid stations and dumped some cold water on my head to cool my core temperature. The weather was hot, even 50 degrees at the summit, just unheard of 14er weather. But at that 4th aid station, something clicked and I started to feel it, or maybe I stopped feeling the pain in my knee and just went for it. Either way, I picked up the pace even though we had just reached 9000 feet. Making our way up and over several trail obstacles, this technical portion was a real fun mix of running and power hiking. At one moment, I pulled my right foot across a rock and ripped the top of my shoe right off, this minor set back was more humorous than anything.


My form and pacing just felt right and I began to separate myself from our pack. I bridged another group in front of me, then another, until I had caught many of the days Elite runners above the 13'000 ft mark. As usual, I was continually cheering and talking to every runner I passed, oddly, not many responded...

Within the last 3 miles, which took me over an hour last year, I was able to drop that time to 48 minutes and smiles all around. I was flying high and could not believe my time of 2:56 and 41st overall of the 1700 runners. My solid year of training, Pikes Peak race experience and ibuprofen all accounted for an 18 minute drop in my previous years time. A fantastic success for the last race of 2011. Heath made his move a little later and finished in a stellar 3:07, identical time to his first marathon and 22 minutes faster than his last years Ascent. The weather was great and race support unbelievable. I am a little bummed I won't be able to race this event for a couple years due to already planned races, but it will be great to come back and explode my lungs for another Ascent.




Monday, August 1, 2011

Laramie Enduro Mtn Bike

July 30th 2011
Race Report from Laramie, WY

Laramie Enduro Mtn Bike Race 111 Kilometers

This was the second time that I have competed in the Laramie Enduro mountain bike race and it won't be the last. What a phenomenal event! The race organization was great, the volunteers were unbelievable and the course was a mix of gnarly to really gnarly. Since the first time I raced in Laramie in 2007 the race has exploded to a lottery and wait list. This narrows the participants down to the 500 brave souls looking to test their physical and mental toughness on a mountain bike. The course is never flat. Constantly climbing and descending, check out the Garmin link above to see the EKG profile.

Having had so much fun racing the Silver King in Leadville and doing so well because I stayed within my means and raced my own race, I decided to do the same in Laramie. Go out strong, but even. I got a good jump on the first steep climb before several hundred of us went to single track. Placing yourself well there is key to settling into your rhythm. I felt great and my heart rate regulated and we were off. I was with a pack of 4 other racers, about 15 positions back for the first 20 miles and then shook a couple guys off and kept riding along and chatting with my new friend Kris Keller of Lafayette. We had a good pace going, rallying each other on the ups and cruising the downhills. The weather was perfect, but steadily rising temperatures tested all the athletes. I stopped at 4 of the 5 aid stations to make sure that I always had fluids and fuel. In total, I drank 7 bottles, ate 2 GU Chomps, 3 GU Roctanes and a Honey Stinger Waffle. A good amount of calories, but not too much.

My riding pace was strong but not out of my comfort zone. I knew all to well how difficult the last 25 miles of the race were going to be. Containing the two largest climbs of the day, 86 degree temperatures and very technical single track. All of those factors require solid nutrition and complete focus throughout the race day. Around mile 45, Chris couldn't hang on any more and I started to push it even harder. I was told by a volunteer that I was in 15th position as we had to carry our bikes over some makeshift stairs that protected us from 4 lines of barbed wire. One of the many obstacles other than dirt, rocks, roots, loose gravel and cattle shit. I felt good about 15th, but had a feeling I was stronger than a few gentlemen up the road. So I keep slugging away and pushing the climbing and redlining my downhills lines. I was able to pick off 5 more racers in the last 15 miles, all of whom were strong riders, but looked like they had had enough for the day.

The final descent was tremendous, a very technical downhill with multiple obstacles and rock ledges. I could not believe how much I had the throttle open, this was the fastest I was going downhill in years. After a broken pelvis injury in 2008, followed by a separate broken wrist injury in 2009-present, my downhill governor has been working overtime. It felt great to have some MOJO back and I was anxiously awaiting the Fat Tire Amber Ale at the finish line. As I made the final turn, I spotted my friend Mike Hogan just across the finish line, bent at the waste with some solid muscle cramping. He finished a very strong 9th place and I was just moments from catching him!

I am very pleased with my 10th place overall finish in 5:20:43. I took over 40 minutes off of my race time from 4 years previous. Finishing just behind top PRO mtn bikers from Team Honey Stinger, Team Trek and Team Horizon Milk. This caps off my mountain bike race year and I am excited to finish with some success and free of injury!

The most fun aspect of this event was the strong showing by Team Schneider Electric with 8 racers (Doug Andrew at 6:06, Matt Langley at 6:15, Dirk Shaw at 6:20, Will Johnson at 6:45, John Warren at 7:00, Josh Ross at 7:06 and David Deihl at 7:55), sporting the sweet team issued White & Black kits (now with thousands of brown specks of dirt and cow shit!). By far the most represented team in the field. All of our racers did great and bettered their previous years or previous race times. I also had a lot of fun catching up with two former MN training buddies from the mid 1990s, Mark Barrett (racing Leadville 100 for the 7th time this year) and Kevin Grafft. These two showed up from sea level to race in Laramie, an event that never dipped below 7600 feet and they did great. Also racing with good pals Mike Hogan of Justin's Butter and my great friend Kyle Boschen. Knowing all of these friends were on the course with me really helped the motivation and focus. Congrats to all! Stay Thirsty...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Racing and Social Media

Times have changed and technology has enhanced all aspects of our lives. Technology in relation to endurance sports is overwhelming, but I am not talking minimalist shoes (a smarter, reverse-technology), carbon fiber bikes or GPS data.

Social Media

How has Twitter, Blogspot and Facebook enhanced our fitnessing? For me, the biggest impact has been the new friendships gained through racing. Connecting with athletes before, during and after races is great. We have similar interests, similar ideals and at the finish line, you recognize similar speeds!

My first multi-sport race was a sprint triathlon in 1997. I was nineteen years old, dating the greatest girlfriend and finishing my freshman year of college. I loved these events and the camaraderie that the sport provided for all of the competitors. You raced together in a freezing lake, insanely hot temperatures and traded war stories for a fleeting moment, then we went our separate ways. A week later, the official results were sent to each person in the mail and if you were lucky you may run into a race-mate the next weekend or the next year. Even if you lived in the same town, meeting up was by chance.

Fast forward to the present. "Who was that guy I pass while he was tying his shoe?" "Who finished right in front of me?" "New training friend?"

Two hours after the race, hop online, check race results, he's from Denver, search the Google, (are they on Twitter, Facebook or one of the thousands of ultra-runner blogs?) and now we are friends and can plan a ride up Golden Gate or run at Wash Park. May be a little awkward at first, but who cares.

This obviously did not happen 15 years ago and the new form of friendship building is fantastic. We all love checking in on old schoolmates, but isn't it more important to utilize social media to foster new relationships. It is also really helpful to find new and different ways to stay motivated, get out and try new routes and have a new competitor to train with to keep you on your toes.

I am fine with 80% of my training being solo miles on the road or trails. But holy crap does the time fly when discussing race experiences, school for your kids, family, food and politics. All while climbing up a majestic road route for over an hour; best ride in Denver. High Grade

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hungry like a...

It has been three days since the Leadville Silver King Victory. My spirits are high, my energy is very high, my quads are slowly coming back around and my toenails might be saved (Thanks Dr. Daniel Kortsch for the red hot pin advice). I cannot believe the support and kind words of encouragement that I have received from so many people. It is surprising, yet very inspiring to know how many friends and family care about what you are doing. I am training for and competing in these events to test my limits and more importantly, to drive others to dig deep in search of the same animal inside of them. Once I was a lone Wolf, but now we are many.

Some of my favorite takeaways from the weekend of racing.
- Seeing Nicole's, Rocco's and Sawyer's faces at all the rest stops and especially the finish. Rocco met me ON the finish line and Sawyer was full body clapping with his mouth agape. I will NEVER forget that picture in my head and it will inspire to the end.
- My wife's hugs at each moment of the weekend. Showing her constant support in my training, my eating habits over the past 6 months (How much cereal can a person eat in one week? Ask Nicole) and my race weekend.
- The importance of a Crew Chief to alleviate so much anxiety and lend logistical and mental support throughout the weekend. Thanks again Jeff.
- Racer Camaraderie in the bike and run were unmatched. The people that I rode and ran with are now true friends. At no time did any of us care about finishing ahead or behind each other. The common goal of maximizing your personal best was apparent with everyone I met. A former Olympian, an ER Doctor who was also a husband and father of two, many other parents and a surprise pacing friend John that popped out of the woods at the time I needed it most.
- Nothing can substitute training at elevation other than being at elevation. My God. Your body just does not understand the lack of oxygen up there. It is relentless and does not allow for mistakes.
- GU Brew and Roctane Gels. I drank over 300 ounces of energy drink, +14 GU Gels, +5 GU and Honey Stinger chews, Honey Stinger Waffles and another 100 ounces of water. My stomach was a little bloated, but my brother Jared's advice and plan of consuming more food and liquids on the downhills really worked for me and my body continued to take in the fuel instead of rejecting nutrition and making me sick.

Endurance races can be lonely, but you are never alone. I have found this out by the number of people that cared that I did this event and how well I performed. I will carry this with me during all future adventures.

Running that distance, on 17 hours of recovery, after you mountain bike raced the same course may not be for everyone. That is not the point. You can make any distance and any event your goal. And let me tell you, going into your event and reaching your goal will have a profound affect on your mind, body and soul. People take notice, throw their support behind you. This sense of community affects your personal growth and enhances your purpose in a way you never thought possible.

I am hungry for more and cannot wait until the next challenge comes along. Laramie Enduro 111k Mtn Bike Race

Monday, July 18, 2011

Leadville Silver King Champion 2011

Fastest time of any competitor in both the Mtn Bike and Trail Run races. 14th Overall in the 50 mile Mtn Bike in 4:37 and 3rd Overall in the 50 mile Trail Run race in 7:42.

What an unbelievable weekend. Leaving Denver Friday late afternoon my anxiety levels were at an all time high. I have not tackled an adventure quite like this before. Saturday was the Silver Rush 50 mile Mountain Bike Race followed up by Sunday's Silver Rush 50 mile Trail Run Race. Both races on the same out and back course, starting at an elevation of 10,000 feet exactly, climbing 6 separate times to 12,000 feet. The trail was a mix of double track jeep roads, single track trails, super loose/steep ups and downs as well as a few "breather" sections of gravel roads. An intense course with no flat sections to be found.

Over the past 20 or so years, Leadville, CO has transformed from an old mining village to the epicenter of high elevation mountain trail racing. People flock from all over the world to abuse themselves in the form of mountain biking and trail running. Both events were sold out; start line at the Bike race was 750 and the run was 310. Per start list, there were 72 people registered for the Silver King/Queen combo platter. My plan going into the weekend was to race each race for myself, not to worry about finishing place in either event, but rather race smart, efficient and save a little energy for the last few miles of Sunday's run. The weather was perfect, the course was perfect and the aid stations supplied by The Leadville Trail Series were outstanding.

The start line was strategically placed 3 feet from the bottom of an incredible sledding hill. A ridiculous way to begin each race. Check out the video footage.

After that uphill start, racers are able to gain some space and form the pecking order. I was able to run up the hill and slide myself into about 10th place. I got into a groove, passed a few and was passed by a few. Not at all worrying about another racer. This is difficult for me, but I knew I had to be smart and take my time. Each climb was intense and long, the downhills were fast and a little loose. But I was able to keep my cool and have fun. I met several other riders out on the course and had some great conversation to pass the time. Yet, I couldn't help thinking how hard tomorrow was going to be. At the turn around point I was so surprised to see Nicole and the boys cheering me on. They made the trek up to the aid station and worked out an adorable little chant. It was so inspiring to see my family and the boys faces as they saw the I was one of the racers too. On the way back, I had one bike mechanical issue that set me back a few minutes, but was not race threatening. I was so happy to finish in 14th place at 4:37 and be safe from the high speed racing action. Our team had 5 racers who all had successful bike races themselves and really seemed to enjoy the time out on the course. I was pretty spent, but the legs did not feel too beat up heading into the run.

The trail run started a few hours earlier at 6 am, so we had to hit the road before sunrise. Crew Chief Jeff had me all lined out for each aid station. We ran through the nutrition needs and got to the start line. Running up that same hill, I could not believe how heavy my legs were. A few people went out a little faster but stayed within eye site. Not feeling good at all coming through mile 6 and the first aid station I did not think it was my day. The self doubt crept in as to my abilities on this particular day, but I could still see Patrick leading the race only a few hundred meters up the trail. I kept saying to myself, if this fit animal can lead out at this good pace and I can see him, just hang in there.

On our first decent I was passed by three guys running at an unbelievable clip, but I just let them go, knowing that any made up time here would destroy my quads and ultimately not be worth it. So I held even. On the second large climb I was able to bring in the lead female and 2 other guys, running along side my new friend Chase, we made it up to the last climb pretty evenly, catching Patrick, who was now in 4th. But he took off on the decent like an antelope and I decided to let it loose at this time too. I put some time into the people behind me, heading into the halfway aid station in 5th place. The climb out of the aid station was hard, but then the steep section to the top was a brutal hike at best. I had a quick chat with Patrick as it seemed his hiking legs were a little tuckered out, told him to keep his head up and eyes on the 100. At this time I was now in 4th place and couldn't believe it.

The best part of the out and back course was being able to see all the other competitors coming at you. Everyone is always lending an encouraging word and telling me my standings. That helped a lot and made the race much less lonely. Coming down another long decent, I turned a corner, got an update from volunteer that I was 3rd, that blew me away, the guy in front of me must have dropped out. A few minutes later I saw Nicole and the boys with Jeff. We couldn't believe I was in 3rd place and rallied to get through the next aid station and prep me for the last climb. I was feeling so good and didn't seem to be as worn out as I should have been, even after that bike race! The last climb was on the gravel road and was so difficult. I was struggling mightily to run at this point, climbing about 2000 feet in about 4 miles, just brutal. But no one was in sight and I turned downhill fast. This is where I felt the toenails coming loose, but I just didn't care. I got to the last aid station, 7 miles out, took some pictures with the family and made my way for the finish.

The last section was awesome and brutal. I was running great until 3 miles from the finish. The heat kicked up and I dug as deep as I could to get across the line. I took 3rd place OVERALL in a time of 7:42, blew away all expectations that I had of my racing weekend. I was so happy and couldn't believe my result, winning the Silver King Competition by a substantial margin is so exciting.



I want to thank Nicole and my boys, Rocco and Sawyer for their unbelievable patience and continued support in my training and racing. My Crew Chief, Jeff Koski, for knowing what nutrition that I needed before I did at each and every aid station. His positive force and ridiculous race support skills are unmatched. And my additional Cheerleaders of Heath, Amanda, Ella and Georgia Kirschner for their screams of encouragement. It meant so much to me to have my closest friends and family by my side. And lastly, Will Johnson, my friend and race mate for his support (congratulations on your awesome race as well!).

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Leadville Time - Big Weekend

It is time to test my metal in Leadville, CO; elevation 10,152 feet. The Silver Rush 50 Mtn Bike Race and the Silver Rush 50 Trail run = Silver King Epic Challenge. I am nervous, anxious, excited and a little scared for my weekend of fun in Leadville. My training for the last several months has been good, but not great. The visions of long runs and long bike sessions are hampered by the reality of what is more important in life, family, and how well my body can hold up with 20+ hours of fitness for months on end. I had unbelievable support from my wife Nicole and my boys Rocco and Sawyer.



I had great training sessions with my neighbor Heath. Who despite my best attempts is still alive after all the huge trail runs and uphill bike riding. Great work Heath, you should be racing this weekend too.

My body feels like it is ready to go. Thanks to 2 days off of running to heal the Extensor Digitorum Longus (tendon on the top of my right foot) and New Skin antiseptic liquid bandage for sealing the side of foot back up. All to be expected...and the timing is right on for race time. Thanks to everyone else for the help and I look forward to writing my race report to let everyone know how it goes. Bigger things to come!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Set Up

As I am nearing the Leadville Silver King Race weekend (50m bike race Saturday July 16th and the 50m run race Sunday) my nerves going full speed ahead. I am not nervous about the distance so much as I am worried about the distance at 10,000 feet. My training is coming along well and the last 5 days have been a really good balance leading up to today's workout.

Sunday - 16 mile single track trail run at Deer Creek with 3000 feet gain in 2:30
Monday - 40 minute easy bike spin and a 10 mile run with tempo efforts
Tuesday - 55 mile road ride up Golden Gate Canyon with 3000 feet gain in 2:45 and an easy 5 mile recovery run
Wednesday - 10 miles of running in two separate outings of 5 mile high tempo runs in racing flats, working on form and speed
THURSDAY - road bike ride from the house at 3:55 am, climbed up Lookout Mountain by 5:30, flew down the hill on the nice new pavement. Then I locked my bike to a tree, changed clothes and ran up the single track trail of Chimney Gulch for 1900 feet of gain in 3.5 miles. Ran back down, changed back into my bike clothes and rode into the office. I felt pretty weak on the run, but was only about 40 seconds slower than my previous best summit time. I will take it!

Now we head up to Aspen for the 4th weekend. Balancing time with my beautiful family and great friends, while trying to get the lungs exposed to some high elevation. Going to be a fun couple of weeks.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hard Work

Rarely will unbelievable fortune land directly in your lap, set you up for life and make all your wildest dreams come true. Sure, there will be times when a break goes your way and you may reach a goal without much work. In retrospect, this easily attained reward may not be quite as satisfying as the one you have to scratch and claw towards. Set amazing goals, work your ass off, climb mountains and persevere. How else will you reach your promise land?

I feel as if I have set my 2011 goals and am working my ass off, climbing mountains. But this perseverance thing gets old when your fighting corner is suddenly empty. Lately, it feels like the scratching and clawing are not bringing me closer; two amazing steps forward are met with a pretty substantial step back. Life is fluid, adjusting constantly and fitness does not always line up into a cookie cutter training program. Today begins another great jump ahead for my fitness and I need to draw strength from my surroundings.

Let me know what goal you are struggling with. We have all been there. Do you need a kick in the backside to sign up for a half, a full or a TRI? Are you about to bale on a race because it is too hard and you don't feel like you can juggle it all? NO EXCUSES, life is too short and precious to doubt yourself. All it takes is a little hard work.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer is here...

We have had an action packed June so far. Amazingly, we have only slept under our roof for 5 nights the entire month. Our travels to the midwest were great and a weekend in Vail for Father's Day was really fun. But the realization that my Leadville Journey is only a few weeks away adds an amazing amount of angst in my life. No way am I ready to tackle the 50m bike, 50m run in July. Or am I?

Fitness Highlights from the last few weeks -

Memorial Weekend was pretty big. Big time friend, Jason Tischer, an old college roommate of my brother Jared, made it to CO and we lit up the mountain biking and trail running like no other. My plan was to beat his fitness and legs into the ground so that there was no way he could PR and surpass my marathon best time the next weekend. I had been consulting his fitness, nutrition and marathon-ing for the past several months. Jason lost nearly 20 pounds this winter, began running faster than he ever had, survived his CO weekend of over 15 hours of training in 4 days and one week later, ran a 2:55 marathon in Minneapolis (3rd Place Overall). Huge props to Tish!

Taking off to Minnesota for a wedding and family time in Wisconsin was a difficult juggling act for the upcoming races. While in Duluth, I hit some gravel running at the Barn, scoping out the wild turkeys and a nosy bear, Nicole and I were able to have a fun run on the Duluth-Superior Trail (narrowly avoiding a porcupine) and some additional runs along the waterfront. In WI, the events, family functions, working remotely, upgrading my parents' technology, left a small amount of time for training. In those small windows, I was able to run and mountain bike nearly everyday. Hitting some great runs with my old friend Ryan and twisting the insanely tight single track with my brother Matt and cousin Tony. So much fun to see how I have personally impacted those 3 guys and their most recent journey to fitness and racing. They have all dropped weight and are running/riding better than they have in years. Keep it up boys!

The Bellin Run 10k in Green Bay celebrated its 35th Anniversary and had a record number of runners at nearly 18,500. It was such a cool event and I had a lot of fun. I have not run a 10k in over 10 years, but I am quite sure my 37:42 was a personal best. Maintaining that speed is not terribly hard for me right now, but attempting to go much faster would have been quite difficult. I am so proud of Nicole for her fastest 10k, she was fired up and ready for her next big event (tbd)!

Our weekend in Vail with the Koski Family was relaxing and laid back. Jeff and I got out for an amazing 90 minute trail run on the North Trail system in Vail. Too many Aspen trees to count with spectacular views throughout, this run gave me some elevation trail running confidence as I felt like I was floating up the steep inclines from 8100 to 9800 feet. Finding that trail running nirvana is pretty easy in Colorado. And once you work at it for a year or so, being able to stride so smoothly at 9,000 feet is an unbelievable high.

Now back to the reality of trying to run and bike as much as I humanly can.

Crazy how fast time flies, Nicole and I are celebrating our 10th Wedding Anniversary this week. She has been the most amazing wife and my best friend. She has always supported my wild plans and her ability to keep me grounded while understanding what drives me is why I am here today. Love you!

Friday, May 27, 2011

PASSION

I care about many things in my life, but I am passionate about a select few. My family, friends and fitnessing! When do I cross over from just caring about something to becoming passionate? For me, this threshold is crossed when my inner drive takes over and slams the pedal to the floor, removing my mind and hands from the wheel and charging my heart with the responsibility of steering. The new operator proves more than capable and extremely passionate, providing me with a clear, focused path of working towards and excelling at my goals.

I am truly passionate about my summer racing goals and achieving a full mind and body conversion into ultra distance racing. I have had a small taste of the level of commitment it takes to compete in a long distance race (32 mile trail run), provide the body a short recovery time and race another distance event (street marathon at elevation). I am pleased with the results and happy with how my body has held up over the those 4 weeks. To be honest, the most difficult part of the last 2 weeks has been controlling my compulsiveness to get out and run and bike as much as humanly possible. My typical training platform. Therefore, tapering for a week, racing and then recovering was a hard 12 days. My passion can work against me at those times, luckily my coach and mentor was reminding me of the greater goal.

My current training designated last week as a cycling ramp up with more focused efforts and intensity. I have been riding all year, but nothing that would classify me as tour ready. Therefore, I was quite surprised when I did my first legitimate road ride up Deer Creek Canyon and took nearly 4 minutes off of my previously recorded best time. I was shocked and excited, renewing my cycling vigor and affirming how much I love to ride. Steering that passion towards the two huge mountain bike races I have this summer in Leadville and Laramie.

With a huge work load at the office and not much time, on Thursday I got after my running again. This was my first speed work in many weeks and it felt great. Getting out for 8 miles and clipping off 6:20's at Wash Park on a glorious day. Genius.

At times, driving along a parallel road, having simultaneous endurance goals can be trying, heading in the same direction with my passion powering full speed ahead. Can my heart can handle it, loving and sharing the best of times with my beautiful wife and boys while cruising along my euphoric world of ultra running and cycling?

B.S. this is what I am built for and my passion will be my guide and dictate my greatness.


Dialed in and focused...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Inspirational Guest Post

The following email landed in my inbox from one of my best friends.  I was so pumped to read through his note and can't wait to follow his journey back to greatness.

"I woke up this morning to the sound of a familiar alarm noise.  My first reaction is to shut it off and dive deeper into the pillow, but I chose to make a stand today.  I have trained and competed at the collegiate level in lacrosse and that has shaped who I am as an athlete.  However, in recent months (maybe years) I have drifted in and out of fitness for thousands of reasons.  Most recently, I have relied on two crutches: the time demands of 3 kids and fear.  I had hip surgery just after turning 35 to correct a physical issue that had torn my labrum and accelerated arthritis.  Since diagnosis in October 2009, I have been cruising in neutral without any real drive or kick.  I was afraid to get into a regular training routine because I felt bad for myself and I need to "protect" my hip.  The truth is I will probably need hip replacements, but my level of activity will not dictate this certainty or the timing of when I go back in for upgrades.

I have known Joe since 2003 and we have gone fitnessing (his word trade marked) on multiple occasions and in multiple theatres (he pronounced: theee-aye-ters).  In fact, the last time I would consider myself fit was when Joe helped me train for the 2004 Boulder Back Roads 1/2 marathon.  My goal was to beat my wife's time of 1hour 49 minutes that she had posted as her best time, but I was just happy training for something.  Joe had me on a regular running program and he joined me on most of my outings.  We would talk during the whole run...THE WHOLE RUN.  I was amazed at how he could do that.  Joe would even say hello to every passing runner.  They would smile, and say hello back.  I would get the smile ("Aww...look at that guy about to die") and Joe would get the "hello".

Joe's blog is fun to read because I know it is 100% accurate, especially when he gushes over how good of a wife he has.  He has officially gone off the reservation, but I take inspiration from his efforts and goals to fight my own first battle...with my alarm clock.  Today, I went against what 99% of my body told me to do and I did not hit snooze.  Instead, I got up and listened to a concert of pops and cracks coming from all my joints as I put on my over priced athletic gear.  Laced up, satellites found, heart rate monitor on, I embarked on my first 6 am training run. 

The first thing I did when I hit the morning air was pick my finish line, so that I would have an end goal to focus on that would force me to finish strong. The first 10 minutes were brutal.  I felt weak, tired and a debate to stop or continue on was raging in my brain. Things slowly got better from there.  My stride opened up and I found my rhythm.  Eventually, not really that long after leaving, I could see my finish line and I was glad to have defined the location where I would let myself stop.  When I finished I felt great.  Not because of my distance, time, average heart rate, or calories burned, but because I broke the snooze cycle and got uncomfortable.

I ran my half marathon in 1 hour and 42 minutes because Joe helped me understand what people can achieve through exercise.  Right now my only goal is to keep kicking my alarm clock's ass - the fitness will follow."

Monday, May 16, 2011

Colfax Marathon 2011

The Colfax Marathon is growing and becoming a more organized and fun event for all.  The nasty weather could not even hold us down. I had competed in the marathon in 2009 and thought that would be the last year for this local event.  Not enough people wanting to enter the pain cave and run an urban marathon at elevation.  Too difficult to post Boston Qualifying times and set personal records.  But through the use of social media, great national and local partnerships, the Colfax Marathon, Half Marathon and 5k are gaining steam and plan to be here to stay.  Kuddos to all the organizers.

Heading into the week, the forecast showed sun and 70s for race day.  This was definitely not the case as Saturday's rain just kept hanging around.  All too often, I was checking the hourly forecast trying to determine the conditions.  Weather.com kept pushing the rain out further and further and the temps did indeed drop to nearly freezing.  It is difficult to come to the realization that you have no control over this facet of the race, you never do.  MOVE ON, get dressed and get to the start line. 

For me, the beauty of this race is the simplicity of the logistics. No travel, hotel rooms or stress regarding race prep nutrition.  Sleep in my own bed, wake up at 5 am, ride my bike with my training partner Heath, eight blocks to the start line, lock 'em up and race.  Pretty slick set-up.

Start line temperature was right around 37 degrees and a drizzle, bad, but not terrible.  The start corral included participants from the half, full and relay marathons; making it hard to gauge who your competition will be.  So you have to saddle up to run within yourself and hope for the best.  We took off at a solid pace and were passed by so many people right out of the gates, it felt like we were in a 5k.  I looked down and we were already at a 6:15 pace, 200 meters into the marathon.  I backed off the turbo boosters and let the other racers fly by, telling Heath that they would all come back to us or be handing off to a relay teammate. 

The first 9 miles just cruised by and our pace was right on and felt easy.  We were joined by another marathoner, Jason Romero and he liked our pace and the fact that I was continually telling stories and trying to keep the mood light.  The rain picked up as we neared Invesco Field and the third relay exchange.  At this spot we were fortunate enough to see some the Singh family of Garfield St.  They really cheered us on and gave the perfect boost for a couple uphills sections.

Then at mile 12, still clipping along, the emotions quadrupled as I saw my awesome wife, Nicole and my two little boys cheering and ringing their cowbells as loudly as cowbells can ring!  It was unbelievable to see them on the race course and cheering in this relatively lonely race.  Heath was a little bit behind me know, but his wife, daughters and mother were cheering at mile 12 as well, such great support.  I picked up my pace with the new breath of running life that my legs had gathered from seeing the family.  From there, we did a 6 mile lollipop route through Lakewood and HOLY CRAP, Nicole, Rocco and Sawyer were still there cheering and screaming, braving the rain and cold.  I stopped for 4.36 seconds and gave them cold, wet kisses. This was really the boost I needed with 8 miles to go.

I held the moderate downhill pace for another 2 miles and then we hit a steeper downhill back into Invesco.  At this point, Heath was a few hundred yards behind, doing unbelievable.  But I was also running with two other marathon competitors.  So when the hill dropped hard, I took off.  Leaned back, got my feet underneath me and let it all hang out for the nearly mile descent.  I dropped both of the other competitors and did not look back.  We did some running on the Platte and Cherry Creek paths that led us to downtown and only 3 miles to go.  I knew I could dig deep and drop my pace instead of fail and slowly gut out the finish.  So I did, throwing down 3 more sub 7 minute miles including a super steep uphill out of downtown.  My good friend Jeff joined up at mile 24 and gave me the low down of some other runners I could likely catch if I hunkered down.  A great boost of energy and I was able to pass two more people within the last half mile.  Finishing in 2:59:01, for a personal record and 11th place.

I am quite pleased with my time and progression as a runner.  Racing a marathon at elevation and still dropping a half minute.  This course also had 1900 feet of vertical gain, yikes.  My buddy Heath, finished with a real solid 3:06 for his first marathon and a Boston Qualifying Spot. 

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/85959283

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pave Your Road

Each and every day I run.  While running, I move forward with an amazing passion for something I truly believe in. Not solely my belief in the art or Running, but the art of Motivating and Inspiring. As much enjoyment as I receive from racing and in turn hearing people comment about my current level of insanity, that is not what sets me apart.  There are plenty of other athletes who run further and faster than I ever will.  I seek to set myself apart by the fact that my path and journey are not extraordinary, but ordinary.  So simple, yet so rewarding.

Endurance sports are so important to me and can provide an amazing level of self awareness and personal achievement for anyone.  Without even touching on the vast health benefits of exercise, the personal gains of increasing your heart rate and nurturing your competitive side are unparalleled. The world of running, biking and multi-sport are growing leaps and bounds annually. Individuals are finding their souls within the demands of juggling life and sport.  Excelling not only at the finish line, but in their hearts. Knowing they set a goal, worked their asses off for months and achieved personal greatness.  If you have an opportunity to watch a marathon or summer triathlon, you will witness competitors of all ages challenging themselves and paving their way. Now stop watching and start doing.

 I constantly challenge myself to help others choose the road less traveled, find a dream and create their own path to greatness. Summer is right around the corner, register and set your goals now.  Is it finally signing up for an event, setting a new personal record at the Memorial Day 5k, whopping up on a neighbor at a July Triathlon or exploring nature on a weekly trail run series?  It doesn't matter, spend time outdoors, be social through sport and your path for life will start forming in front of you.  I guarantee that the energy you expend while increasing your physical endurance will also increase your energy in all other aspects of life.


"The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will."
~Vincent T. Lombardi

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cheyenne Mtn 50k

RACE REPORT

As I toed the line of my first official trail running race, the vibe and mood were different. Not the usual uptight, I am goin' get you sucka attitude floating around. This was organic and fun. The air was brisk and the clouds lingered over the mountains; it was going to be a great morning in Colorado Springs. Participants were nervous and a little anxious, a first time race course will do that to anyone. How do you prepare to race a 50k run without knowledge of past results or race reports?

Well, apparently trail runners don't care about "knowing". They bind together as a unit and work towards everyone's success and happiness on the trail that day. This atmosphere is new to me and proved to be very energizing and damned refreshing! I have always been a vocal cheerleader while I am racing, constantly shouting out encouragement to other participants and thanking volunteers. On the trails Saturday, I was a dime a dozen. About time.

We took off out of the gates and it felt like a modest intensity, but when I looked at the Garmin, the 6:24 pace was not what I wanted to see, so I backed off and settled into my tempo. Entering the single track in 6th position. The quick tempo only that lasted a few minutes and we were climbing, climbing and climbing again. I was able to hold onto one of the elite entrants for the first few miles and passed him as he tied off his shoe; glad I had doubled knotted, seems elementary... Then two young guns caught me and liked the pace. We became best friends within minutes as we established our pecking order.

I was able to hold a great rhythm and the three of us flew up and down the trails, yacking away like a morning at Starbucks. Being able to meet other competitors on the trail, strike up a conversation made this one of the most enjoyable races I have ever competed in. Our first 16 mile loop felt great and our time of 2:09 was really solid. Apparently the three lead runners were not much further up the trail. But we kept talking away and headed out for our second loop.

I was feeling good, but not too excited about having to consume another 3 GU gels over the next 16 miles. I love my GU drink and gels, but after 3 gels and a bottle of drink, my stomach started to grumble. On lap 2, my legs didn't start to feel tired until we hit mile 24 and began the final section, unfortunately this was a 1000 climb with some real steep gain. My race pals were able to keep their turnover high and I had to let them take off up the trail. This final section was a much a struggle physically as it was mentally.  You are almost all alone in the woods, secluded and far from the race finish.  The thoughts of doubt quickly enter your mind, but vanish as soon as you realize your two legs are the only way you are getting off the trail. 

I finished very strong and was amazed at how well I felt as I crossed the finish line in 6th place overall at 4 hours and 34 minutes.  My legs were trashed and I knew that my form faltered as the miles rolled on, I could really feel it in my knees.  When I realized that the winner at 4:09 and the second place competitor, a former National Champ trail runner only finished 25 minutes up on me, I was ecstatic.  This race was so organized, had great tee shirts, staffed by tons of volunteers that offered so much support and I plan to compete on this course for years to come. I learned that my training is right in line and that as I add more mileage to my long days, the ultra races should get easier.  I also need to figure out an additional form of race day nutrition to augment all the sugary substances. I am feeling great and super energized.  Next up, the Colfax Marathon in 3 weeks, going to be exciting. 

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/81049892

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Endless Appetite

Now that I am really ramping up my training to mid summer levels, my appetite has exploded. During the week I train 1 to 3 hours a day with a more concentrated effort on weekend sessions. Saturday and Sunday can account for 7-10 hours of running and biking. I love the time that I am putting in, but nutritionally, I am not sure I can keep up my "super healthy" eating habits. How much fruit and carrot sticks does someone need to eat to replenish that expended energy?

My Endless Appetite begins post workout Sunday with a gigantic lunch and lasts through Monday dinner. I would estimate I will consume 4500+ calories. That is a lot of fruit, yogurt, dry cereal (no more Kashi unfortunately) and anything else I can get my hands on. This caloric refill becomes tricky when I try to stay away from red meat, bread and other high gluten foods and avoid sugar junk food. While my body adjusts to these hours of fitness, I am forever hungry.

Back in January I worked my backside off to conquer the mental challenge of overeating and boredom food cravings.  The plan worked and I was able to shed 24 pounds.  Right now I actually need all those calories to increase the hours and intensity of my workouts.  Being in the early season stages, I am trying so hard to monitor and control my intake. In the past, I did not care what I ate, in fact we trained so hard to eat whatever we wanted.  My workouts would increase and that just punched my golden ticket.  I would train to eat anything from sausage pizza (now olive oil white pizza w/ veggies), cheeseburgers (now veggie burgers), full burritos from Chipotle (now Chipotle salad with chicken, beans, salsa only), bagels (now low sugar whole grain cereal and plain oatmeal) and cookies (still kind of eat cookies). 

The small changes I have made are working and the calories consumed are being burned.  Although, I am still tweaking my post workout diet so that my weekend afternoons are not spent camped in front of the pantry.  My first race is Saturday, The Cheyenne Mountain 50k Trail Race and yesterday I weighed in one pound above my lowest of the year and it felt good. Bring on the 31 miles of trails and mountain climbs!

Any thoughts on a great, healthy and very filling meal after 2-3 large volume days of fitness?  Thoughts and recipe links can be posted to help myself and others...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reading Corner

Recently, I made time to read Born To Run by Christopher McDougall. I know the book was published in 2008, cut me some slack. I should have read the book long ago, but I believe the story landed in my lap at this time in my life for a reason. I have known about barefoot running, a focal point of his book, for a while and I had made the conversion towards flat, race like run shoes for everyday workouts years ago. More importantly, this book brought validation to a path I had already chosen to run down.

Running for LIFE has become my personal mission. I am not solely concentrating on racking up better times and bringing home more finisher medals. Don't get me wrong, continually pushing myself to run further and faster is part of the plan. My legs are pretty warn down from working at bringing my marathon time down substantially and building a run base that allows me to plan epic long runs. Some quick book hits...

When reading Born To Run, I found myself nodding in agreement and smiling at the continued notion of the freedom that running can bring to your life. The author had chronic back and leg issues forcing him to the sidelines after ramping up to anything over 3 miles. After visiting many doctors, asking "Why does my foot hurt?", he heard the same response that running was not natural and no one should even try to maintain running as regular fitness. He had had enough. 

Through primary and secondary research and endless days of hiking in the Copper Canyons of Mexico, McDougall found the core of our current running pains. The modern running shoe, developed in the early 1970s, with all of its technological enhancements have given humans the ability to run with incorrect form and destroy their bodies.  While in Mexico, McDougall was able to witness the Tarahumara Indian tribe.  The Tarahumara are known to be the greatest living runners in the world, who destroyed the field at the Leadville 100 for only two brief years in the 1990s. Witnessing them in their natural habitat, running on homemade sandals, for hours and hours each day, the author knew that something was wrong with Westernized running. 

Born to Run is fantastic and I highly recommend it to anyone, not just runners or fitness enthusiasts.  The discovery of our ancient running background sheds new light on our current dilemma.  Humans are meant to run and we have evolved to run great distances.  Only recently have runners had chronic knee pain, lower back issues and foot problems forcing us to bail on the beautiful art of running. I want to spread the word that running is simple and perfect.  I was fortunate to have learned descent running form early on in my fitness quest.  But a few technique alterations have transformed my balance point, running style and given me the ability to go greater distances with no pain.  Only smiles.  This happened 4 weeks ago. 

Check out the team of Naked Runners (no shoes) traveling the U.S. spreading the word on free running.  http://www.chrismcdougall.com/ 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My FIT Coach

I have been so fortunate to have had an amazing endurance coach for nearly all of my life. No kidding, I hired this guy back in 1985 when we were climbing trees and playing soccer in the back yard, not knowing the path would materialize quite like it has... When we were kids, my older brother Jared would bring me everywhere with him. Tagging along for football games, bike rides, caddying and eventually college parties at a too young age. Even then, he was setting the example that he was a leader and was going to forge his own path. Jared created his niche and became a Triathlon coach well before the sport had the legs it does today.

Showing initiative and utilizing his education in Kinesiology, Jared built a successful career on the foundation of bringing anyone and everyone to the finish line, achieving more from themselves than they would have ever expected. Elite athletes, stay at home moms, full time working folks with a drive to push themselves all found great success with his training programs and constant nurturing throughout their journey.

Setting big goals through multi-sport is an awesome process that can be daunting if you are doing it alone. There is an extensive amount of resources on the Internet, more endurance coaches than you can shake a stick at and plenty of elite athletes sharing their training regimes and knowledge. In addition to my brother, I find myself aligning with athletes and theories with a similar focus towards improving efforts in sport and in life.

One athlete in particular that I have been following closely and trying to learn from his training and mental toughness is USA Olympian Ryan Hall. His journey as a runner and the success he has had is amazing. I had the great fortune to race with him in Boston 2010 for the marathon. Actually, he started 4000 runners ahead of me and blistered to the fastest ever American time at Boston of 2:08 and a 4th place finish.  Trying to always learn from these successful athletes and people, it is fun when they supply great information to have a look into their lives. This cool training video shows his final tempo run before the 2011 Boston Marathon. My coach/brothers' first response for me, "shave 55 minutes off of your time and you are right there with him!"

http://video.competitor.com/2011/04/running/training-day-with-ryan-hall/

I thought his preparation for this key workout was time consuming, but great.  This preparation is necessary when so much focus is needed for big workouts. I also though the amount of sport nutrition powder in his kitchen was hysterical. The video is one example of resources on the Internet for anyone to use to educate and prepare themselves for their own fitness journey. Use this and other new forms of social media to provide yourself with information from other athletes and their journey.

I talk to my brother daily.  Now we guide each other through our journey in sport. He still provides me with key running and cycling workouts and theories. But more importantly, we are there for each other with moral support. Not many people can still tolerate hearing about our past and upcoming fitness schemes!

www.triendurance.com

Monday, April 11, 2011

Progress April 11, 2011

I have three months of preparation before we head up to Leadville for the Silver King race weekend. This race is just the beginning of a much larger plan that I have for myself in the coming years. So why am I so anxious about taking part in this 50 mile bike race, followed the next day by a 50 mile run race on the same course, all above 10,000 feet?

The short answer...I am ridiculous and that is how I prepare. I intentionally work myself into a frenzy for months leading up to my most important race of the year. By getting fired up early and often about a race, I have less desire to take days off, miss important workouts or slack off in general. No Excuses! I have too many friends that sabotage training and create laundry lists of reasons they can't make time for training. I make time by getting out of bed at 4 am nearly each day to hop on the spin bike or hit the pavement running. This does not make me an easy person to be around at times, but my wife understands the drill and occasionally cuts me some slack. Haha, she is an amazing supporter and my number 3 fan. Without her constant support, there is no way I could accomplish any of my craziness!

So where am I now?
My personal fitness is strong and I am excited about how I feel and my distance and speed progression. For two weeks in a row I have had run distances of 60-70 miles each week and 8 to 10 hours of cycling base training. The majority of my intense training is focused on running right now due to the upcoming races that I want to perform well at.

A 50k trail run on April 23rd and the Colorado Colfax Marathon on May 15th. I have short term goals of finishing in the top ten of my first trail 50k and setting a new personal best marathon time. The trail run will be interesting as I have never raced a 31 mile run race on dirt before. I am hoping I can grit it out and that the distance is right and my years of multiple hour race events comes in handy? The marathon will be real fun as I know the course and can control most factors that go into a street race. All in all, I feel good, but not ready. The frenzy will continue!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Strength - TransAlps

“You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have.” -unknown

On occasion I will add raisins or dish soap, maybe even bagels for the boys to the grocery list on the refrigerator.  Sometimes, I will even write down the air filter size on the Home Depot list so that I don't forget to pick one up on a quick trip to grab garden dirt.  But one list the Berg family has to stop adding items to is the injury list.  I am not talking hang nails, sore hamstrings or IT band; all of those can be quite painful I'm sure.  Specifically, I am talking about are the injuries that put us into the ER for sutures and X-rays.  When the hell will we slow down a little or maybe wear some protective gear?  Not sure that is happening soon, but hold the phone, can we yield any good from these injuries? 

Yes. I believe we have finished and even excelled in the event of injury and severe pain.  For me, the dig deep, learning experience happened in one of the most beautiful places in the world.  I had the amazing opportunity to race the 2008 TransAlps Mountain Bike race.  The race began in the castle city of Fussen, Germany with the finish in the amazing lake side village of Riva del Garda, Italy.  It was Day 8, and after 400 plus miles and 71,000 feet of elevation gain, I think we were quite excited to see our ladies at the finish line that day and cap off our fantastic adventure. 

The downhill gods had other plans for me that day.  After smoking by so many other racers on the first section of extremely technical downhill, I emerged from the single track onto an oddly grooved European road (rough concrete with large V-ed grooves on either side and another deep groove down the middle).  Feeling great and clipping along at 30 mph, my front wheel caught the center groove and twisted my handlebars.  Flying through the air, I was Superman for a fleeting moment only to be slammed back to reality on the same concrete.  Luckily for me, not so much for them, but a spectating family saw the entire incident. 

When I peeled my face from the ground and saw the horrified look in the little girls eyes, I knew something was amiss.  The father and son rushed to my side, cleared my bike and random gear from the path and helped me to my feet.  Thanking them profusely, "Grazi, Grazi", I stood on my own, then collapsed.  My body folded in half.  Bent at the waste I could not stand up.  The pain of an iron railroad tie in my side was excruciating and would not allow me to straighten.  When my race partner Kevin flew by on his bike, assuming I had been waiting for him to clear that section and would hop on my bike like I had done all week, I screamed out. Nothing, not a sound.  Probably just the wind knocked out of me and a light scrape.  In all of my infinite wisdom, I got on my bike and rode off.  At first the pain was bad, but once I got to another section of technical single track, the pain was INSANE. 

I muscled through and caught up with Kevin out of the woods as he waited aside the road for me, he could tell I was in rough shape.  I filled him in and he said, "alright, let's get you checked out, we're done racing".  "No way, we are grinding this out for the Finisher Jersey", I told him.  Those 20 miles of riding were not fun, I was losing blood and did not have much rotation of my left leg.  I fought through the pain and was determined to make my mark. We crossed the finish line and estimated we only lost 15 minutes on the days race. (if you look close at my left hip, you can see the ripped jersey and shorts, seeping blood and open wound)


After a couple ambulance rides with my wife, I was stitched up by an Italian Orthopedic who showed me the X-ray of my fractured pelvis and ordered me to cancel my flight and lay in the hospital room with four other injured Italians for 40 days. Cackling him off, we had other plans.  Nicole and Kevin procured some crutches and broke me out of the hospital the following morning with Kevin's now wife, Marti keeping the engine warm on the Volkswagen getaway car.  Thankfully I was able to buck up and salvage the remaining week of our amazing vacation in Italy with my wife. 

Now, I will utilize the strength storage and mental toughness I have achieved for tackling unknown factors in all future competitions.  Maintaining the balance of high performance, fun and success.  All without breaking anymore bones.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Natural Born Trail Runners

While spending some time on the rocky trails of South Mountain in Phoenix, I was able to capture video of two young, natural trail runners. These two "marvels", as I like to categorize, display amazing tactical maneuvers while maintaining speed and most importantly, Ear-to-Ear smiles.
4 Years

21 Months

I adore my boys and am continually amazed by their spirit. I have re-watched them running these rocks so many times that my iPhone might be wearing out. When I view these clips, I am reminded of the joys of running and can see right through to the core of happiness and speed.

Watch your child run through the park today. NO, kick your shoes off and run through the park with them! And Smile!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ideal Conditions

From an outdoor training angle, the weather that I have grown accustomed to over that past few weeks has been nothing short of spectacular. As an exercise enthusiast who workouts almost entirely outdoors; dry and 70s in Denver, 80s in Phoenix and 60s in Durango allowed me to take full advantage of each day. Then I started thinking that maybe I was getting a little soft. Sure, I now had a nice tan from 6 days of shirtless running, but what would happen during a race if the conditions turn south.

Would I curl up on the side of the trail at the first sign of rain? How do you I continue without the sun? Don't get me wrong, I ran to work this winter when it was 10 degrees below zero, put nearly 300 miles on my YakTrax run spikes in the snow-pack and rode my bike with 2 pairs of gloves and mittens many times since December. But as we edge closer to summer in Denver, it never rains and the noon temperature are almost always perfectly hot. You can't help but get soft during these great days. But anyone that has spent time at altitude, knows that it is never summer above 10,000 feet.

I have at least 3 and maybe 5 races this summer that will spend an inordinate amount of time above timberline or contain a cruel finish line of 14,000 feet. So when I pulled up Sunday's forecast and saw that the morning temperature called for mid 60's with a cold front coming in around lunch time, I had to seize this opportunity to do something dumb. A combination of calling Mother Nature's bluff and continually trying to challenge myself, I laced up at noon and headed west into the heart of it.

At first I was a little warm wearing shorts, a long sleeve undershirt, a short sleeve tee and thin gloves. Feeling good and settled into my tempo, I was staring down the eye of this particular Sunday storm, she was not pretty. It would have been so easy to turn around and hop on the spin bike, but not today, this beast was mine. Of course the wind really picked up and the sleet took force right at my mile eight turn around of Sloans Lake. No other way to get home now. I was roaring down the streets of Denver to the Cherry Creek Path and back to Congress Park in record time. Not only was I going to smoke this run from a mental toughness view, but I was also going to PR the loop. My spirits high and only three miles from home, the snow kicked in and my already soaked clothes instantly froze to my body. This miserable trek home was not fun and I needed all of Nicole's assistance to just remove my clothes and shuffle to the shower.

I grew a little on that run. Gutting it out on frozen streets and running a sub 7 minute mile with frozen legs and other parts has to be good for my soul. Right?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Road Trip

Getting away from town with the family is so much fun. We love our road trips with the boys no matter how many Disney classics we have to listen to from behind our heads. This week we loaded up the family truckster and headed south to Arizona. Driving through the night got us to Phoenix in a shade over 12 hours. Welcomed with an 80 degree day right out of the gates, we knew our week was heading in the right direction. My only real worry was how could I manage finding "Joe Time". I know, rough times.

The worries were soon alleviated when I realized our resort was 0.3 miles to the northern most trailhead of South Mountain. The network of trails within this mountain park was simply amazing; miles of gnarly trails just out my backdoor, sweet! Armed with trail and street runners, hiking boots, my mountain bike and swim goggles, this was the place to bring the family. The Arizona Grand Resort had something for the whole family.

My best hope for getting some huge trail runs and mountain bike rides in was to run the boys ragged each morning and light up the trails during nap time. Easier said than done, most days I was just as tired after an early family hike and a couple hours at the pool. But this was my chance, let's lace 'em up.

The first run was amazing, the constant up and downs in temps above 80 was just what the coach ordered. The whole week of trail running was a lot more difficult than I had imagined. My muscles were tired and I could not have been happier. Combined with some short swim workouts and a couple mountain bike rides, this family trip was a great training getaway. We were also able to take in a great railroad museum, a Rockies spring training game and lots of pool hours.

On our way back to Denver, we spent a couple of days in Durango and loved everything it had to offer. Great trails, beautiful scenery, tasty tacos and more trains. We had an awesome reconnaissance hiking mission to the Colorado Trail. The CO Trail from Denver to Durango is where I plan to ride 480+ miles, over many 13k peaks with my boys in 2021! Had to get Nicole familiar with our pick up spot.

This will not be our last southern road trip and we are looking forward to the boys being able to do more and more activities each year.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Results

"To Give Anything Less Then The Best Is To Sacrifice The Gift" ~Pre

I am a fortunate running soul. Having had two above average noon time runs Tuesday and Thursday of this week (Garmin links embedded), I am feeling great going into another big training week. An awesome stretch of weather in Denver and despite the fires in the foothills, I was able to scale Belcher Trail at White Ranch in personal record time. Without much additional effort, I shaved over two minutes off my previous time from August. I followed this trail run with over three hours of cycling between the next tempo run effort. I define these four workouts as a huge success and use them as building blocks for my immediate running future.

During this week, my results were good. But hearing from a close college friend about the impact some of the choices I have inspired in his family life gave me greater satisfaction. Here is an excerpt...

"Hit the 10lbs loss mark today. Am realistically shooting for another 5-ish and then maintain. I want to hover in that 158-160 range. I feel absolutely amazing, and can actually see my abs again. Plus my tight jeans are no longer tight! Honestly, I have been thinking about doing this for the last 5-6 years since grad school. Just never thought I could. Thanks for the motivation bro!

Plus even better, my wife, who has always eaten better than me, but has not worked out ever, has been working out regularly now. The other day she did a hard step class, and was really sore the next day and told me she was going to take the day off. I came home from work to find her doing pilates. She said she just felt like she had to do something and not take the day off. I said, 'Welcome to my world' . She says, 'I get it now' Life is good."

Just awesome. My favorite part is that she gets it now. For me, taking days off is not an option. Just like my friends' wife, you realize how your body is more efficient and happier when you integrate wellness and exercise into your life. Quite often, my wife Nicole will comment on the difficulty of putting up with me and my maniacal fitness lifestyle. I can only respond, "You think it is hard DEALING with me, just try BEING me!" Hopefully, I am joking.

So instead of taking a complete day off, try getting in a slower run, longer walk, some yoga or anything that gets the heart rate up. Use each days wellness momentum to maximize YOUR GIFT.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Inspector Gadget

My most beloved aspect of running is the simplicity. Knowing that I can drop anything and be running within 3 minutes; rain or shine, good day or bad day, with or without kids. It ALWAYS works out. That being said, I also love fitness data. So how does this change the fundamental simpleness of running? A lot and a little. Add a watch, toss in some sneakers and a pair of shorts, good to go, right?

Not so fast, a basic running watch only chronicles elapsed time. That does me no good! I need additional metrics to base my running fitness and training progression. Cue Garmin ForeRunner. I was bestowed my first Garmin watch about 14 months ago from a great friend and fitness enthusiast. He told me I was training blind and asked how I knew my speed and distance. I replied that I utilized mapping and elapsed time to chronicle my run. His core argument was that information is only good AFTER you get home. Alright, alright...

Strap on that watch for your first kick around the block and the data just starts hurling itself at you. Read outs for pace, distance and heart rate are instantly viewable. You kick yourself for not jumping aboard earlier. I love the real time data, so empowering, while it also becomes another motivational tool. The Garmin has given me a better understanding of pace and really helps me go the distance and not amend a 14 miler to a 13 miler. It also helps hold in the reigns during a recovery run or right out of the gates in the local Turkey Trot.

Now upload that data to your personalized Garmin page and your information is catalogued for your review and storage. Share your outing with a friend or online community. Explain while that mile may have been at a 13 minute pace, check out my elevation gain of 400 feet! Sick, heh?

Now with great power and data comes great responsibility. And I don't want to rely too much on the constant barrage of information during every single run outing. So I try to manage the "importance" of my data with my love of running. I have not named my watch, or given it a well lit hermitically sealed storage locker, but I do keep it charged and ready to go at a moments notice. Not being a slave to the technology, but loving the additional knowledge. "BEEP!" What was that mile at?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Pressure

As the journey begins, there must be an end goal. How can we climb to the mountain top if there is no peak? Sure an out and back hike is great, but without a fantastic summit you are just enjoying the flower beds. I have never been a flower bed admirer.

Even Sunday's hike with a couple of neighborhood dads and our five rugrats had a clear cut goal that traversed our group of 2 to 5 years-olds 2 miles up switchbacks and rock ledges to the end goal of Goldfish Crackers, oranges and rock tossing into the river. Constantly working the little ones through goal setting and focus while on the trail. Under the gentle pressure on their abilities to make each step count towards their goal of finishing this hike; their sense of accomplishment was beautiful.

I set my personal goals very high. To achieve these goals I create an amazing cauldron of pressure inside and out. I constantly preach my goals to anyone that will listen. You don't even have to ask, or care. When I externalize my goals, I increase the pressure on myself to exceed my goals. When I see you on the street in 5 weeks, I better have either run a sub 3 hour marathon. Or broken my damned leg trying! This pressure guides my training, increases my motivation and works as a constant kick in the rear while racing.

Set your goals high, tell all that will listen. Good friends will hold you accountable and assist you in reaching these goals. Better yet, Comment here, Tell me your goals. You better believe that I will pressure you to hold up your end of the bargain.

Tish - You can run a 50 miler.
Candice - grab another degree and another Marathon.
Heath - sub 3 is too easy.
Matt - remember how fast you used to run? Get after it!
Sara - 24 minute 5k? Seriously? More like 22:30.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Stress? Run!

I do not drink but 2 beers a week. I do not get massage. I do not relax for alone time. I RUN.

When a day goes sideways or unfortunate news weighs on my mind, running is my balance. It did not matter that today was a day off or a slow recovery run in preparation for a long speed workout tomorrow. I went out, hit the pavement and tried to light up the soles of my shoes.

Pass through a few stop lights that always seem to disjoint a run, no bother today, my mind was in the OFF position. As I enter the park. Beep. Garmin tells my the first mile wasn't too slow. I pick up my pace. Beep. Second mile was faster. Beep. Third mile I hit my rhythm. Beep. Not sure if anything is going to stop my terror around City Park. Back home, I felt great. A little bit of a lift off my mind. 8 miles in 53 minutes and a gigantic moment of Zen.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Always Gaining Experience

Every time I put myself out on a limb with a big workout I learn something new or relearn from past mistakes. Wait a minute, I am not supposed to repeat past mistakes; I already learned this damned lesson. Yet when your life takes you in so many directions, as happens to us all, it is easy to open yourself up and be exposed all over again. How do I manage life and eat properly to fuel this level of fitness?

I find myself extra busy at the present. Slammed with work, the boys are growing so fast and this amazing weather has my brain concocting more fitness schemes than a week can handle. As I become more tuned into my body from a fitness and nutritional perspective, I REALLY need to focus on what fuel I top off with. For years, I have not worried about this too much and my body has grown accustomed to high intensity training sessions based off a marginally healthy meal. Now that I have been fortunate enough to lose some pounds, I think my body is more efficient and needs to be cared for as such. Thursday night was a small chicken and pasta plate at Noodles and then Friday night was an organic beef hamburger. Both meals seemed independently healthy and fine for me. But their combined net affect on my muscles hurt my final weeks' run.

With a few big runs under the belt and my confidence high, I felt it was no big deal to try and rattle off a 36 mile run this past weekend. But what do you do when you realize this is not your day for running and you are 13 miles from home with no escape hatch? You gut it out. My legs were pretty worn down from high miles in the past few weeks, combine that with a few poor dinner choices and too much coffee and the results were sub par. I had no leg turnover and my stomach was not normal. What really hit me was the hamstring tightness. At about mile 20, the tightness closed down my running form and I began the dreaded heal strike. Knowing this was not good, I kept reminding myself over and over again to stay forward.

I was able to run home for to round out the 26 mile "Learning Run". I am disappointed in the effort, but proud that I could finish up without too many ill effects. Now, the programming for run preparation has to be much more systematic. I need to eat more regularly for a consistent fuel supply, stay away from the high salt, processed foods and bring in more fruits and vegetables leading up to a strong weekend. This is not rocket science, but forming these small habits into a consistent nutritional plan and properly executing on the key training sessions will be paramount to my success. Oh man, it is hard to drop coffee consumption...