Thursday, March 24, 2011


"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


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...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Morning Glory

Legend has it I was the most intense and grumpy child in the mornings and after a nap. A great warrior, I would stare down whomever dare wake me from my slumber! Family members remind me of my devilish scowl to this day. I am not sure exactly when I tipped from stone cold to annoyingly cheerful at any pre-dawn hour. But I love conquering a morning. Now that I am a parent, I struggle when the boys are having a rough morning or a poor post nap attitude. Only a quick reminder of my two year old self provides a little perspective. Realizing it isn't really a choice when you are so young. I let them chill for a few more minutes, give a hug and then get their butts out the door for a bike ride.

As an adult, I realized that being a morning person, waking up with a smile and getting after it are all personal choices. Empowered with my discovery, life as a multi-sport athlete and father was easier. Getting out of bed at 4 or 5 provided me with two hours of additional fitness and more time with my children. I have had a rule since Rocco was born that I would not work out from the time I got home from the office until past his bedtime. It was our time together to go to the pool, hit the park or cruise around the neighborhood. I love this family time and view those action packed 3 hours as a gift.

Losing those daylight hours that were formerly run and bike times is a difficult adjustment. Seize the morning workouts. I found it was easy to train my body to wake up earlier and run efficiently on less sleep. Now, a morning that passes by without some form of exercise just seems odd. Get out early, be safe and savor the sense of accomplishment.

Run Log

Gorgeous day in Denver. I was able to follow up my morning 15 mile tempo run with a 5 mile lunch time recovery effort at Wash Park. After the days run workouts are finished, time to log the miles.

My running journal is a basic excel spreadsheet. Nothing fancy, but it serves as a valuable tool for gauging my fitness progression and planning my running future. The most useful comparison for my ultra distance transition has been tracking year over year results. During a workout, my mind remembers how fit and fast I was for a past race. Then a quick trip down Database Lane shows me the truth. Fortunately for me, at this stage in my ramp up, comparing where I am today with '09 and '10 efforts feels pretty good.

While training for the same race (Colfax Marathon), my 2009 log shows I had a weekly total of 40.42 miles in relation to 76.2 miles for the same 7 calendar days of 2011. Mileage volume is not the top predictor of future success, but for me, the numbers show I am running at a better pace and for nearly double the distance. This personal progress, without significant injury or muscle abuse, is encouraging when my end goal is competing in ultra and multi-day marathons.

Whether your goals are set for 3 months or 3 years, I can't recommend enough the importance of keeping a daily journal or fitness log. It feels good to insert miles, see them add up and know that you are charting your progress. I also use MapMyRun and Garmin Connect for key workouts and additional performance metrics.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


My oldest son Rocco is now 4 and a dedicated Superhero. Even though he had never seen any film on Spiderman, Batman or Ironman up until about a month ago. He is constantly saving the damsel in distress, shooting webs at inanimate objects and antagonizing his little brother. This does not bother me, I love the energy and the passion. Our sons are so full of life that my wife and I are constantly hatching plans to wear them out. This is fundamental parenting, we need them to sleep, if only for a little bit each night.

Daily, the Berg boys are ready to go at 6 am already saying...
"What are we doing today dad? Swimming? Park? School? Home with Mom? Are you working today?" I love it, but how do I harmonize their intensity and Superhero fantasies with my visions of the Real men they will become? Right now, I try to be their Superhero. Each and every day, I show my boys that we are always active and engaged in an adventure. For my wife and I, these habits formed well before they were born and haven't waned. I can only estimate the tire wear on our B.O.B. Revolution BabyJogger(s) and Burley bike trailer to be upwards of 5,000 miles. Being an active person is all they know. Which is sometimes difficult when we just want to sit and relax for a minute. FINE, I know the trade off will be worth it.

What do we do to model physical activity for our boys and make it a part of their lives?
I ride them to school whenever possible. On warm mornings, Rocco can now pedal his two wheeler the 2 miles to pre-k. My wife will run to Whole Foods instead of driving; nevermind that the Cherry Creek WF parking lot would be full anyway. But then she has to push both boys, jogger and the groceries (no watermelons anymore) another mile and a half home. Nearly 80% of work days, the boys wave good by out the backdoor as I hop on the bike to commute to the office. I take them swimming 3 times weekly to our local REC center. We are at the park daily with our Radio Flyer wagon breeming with soccer balls, Lacrosse sticks and anything else that will fit. They awake to me riding the spin bike during the cold months; and when another bag of bike jerseys shows up at home, Rocco calls me to say that my new work clothes arrived. How perfect is that? He thinks running and biking are my career. That is what I am going for. To reinforce the pedaling, last summer I started the Congress Park Bike Club for the youngsters in our neighborhood. Each Monday night when daylight and weather permit, a group of 15-25 toddlers commence for a bike, skuut, trike ride that finishes at the playground. The kids LOVE it and are only thirsting for more. CP Track Club coming soon!

Recently I was discussing this topic with another father at the pool. He mentioned how similar his family approach was to ours. We lamented about the lack of physical education in schools and also the role of parents. So few are taking the responsibility to personally challenge their children intellectually AND physically. He mentioned an interesting supplemental program for our educational system, SPARK. I am currently researching this program and its prevalence in our district. Hoping it can make a difference.

Keeping kids active should be a goal for us all. So while I am out running and biking, either solo or with them in tow, I am continually trying to mold my boys' attitudes and create little Superheros.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Modified CLEAN

For the past 2 months I have really been focusing on dropping the pounds. I have always known the efficiencies of training and racing at a lighter body weight would improve my performance drastically. The week I decided the weight loss was going to happen in 2011, the January issue of Outside magazine showed up at my doorstep. They featured several Health & Fitness articles that focused on different plans for self improvement. Outside Magazine staff writers carried out these life changing fitness and nutritional tasks for the specified periods of time. Their reporting of the findings were informative and inspiring. Almost instantaneously, my brother Jared and I, while on the phone, mentioned the success that one writer had while carrying out the CLEAN program developed by New York cardiologist Alejandro Junger.

Having been a multi-sport athlete since the mid 1990s I have always struggled with "Race Weight". The YoYo-ing of my size during the off season, pre-season and even peak race season is comical. You succumb to the fact that maybe, just maybe, I DO work out this much just so I can eat ALL the time. It was nothing to consume 5 to 6,000 calories a day. You justify this by running two times a day, toss in a swim workout and bike around town. No worries. Start over the next day, maybe you don't get in the same workouts, but the caloric intake remains the same. This cycle was problematic for me.

My body was now wired to consume that many calories. And those calories were not fruits and veggies. We are talking about chocolate chips, bagels, peanut butter and other snacks by the arm full. Not terrible foods, but not the right foods or the right amounts for my body and my goals. You throw this on top of my meal time habits and it was disaster. My wife is an amazing cook and I am blessed. You combine her culinary talents and my insatiable appetite and there were no leftovers in our house. This despite the recipe clearly stating it served 4 people. And anyone that knows my wife, it is apparent that it is not her making up for the two other nightly guests that weren't at the dinner table. I needed a shock for my body. Something drastic.

The CLEAN program provided this SHOCK AND AWE. I did not follow the program to the letter, but my modified CLEAN program yielded results. I cut out bread and red meat (I haven't eaten pork for years, so mostly fish and chicken now), dropped as much sugar as possible, no candy, no cookies. I would consume a juice for breakfast, an Odwalla for lunch and a small, nutritious meal for dinner. Snacks might be a banana, an apple or some almonds. My friend Heath constantly jokes that I have the caloric intake of a 15 girl. Teenagers can be so mean!

Within two weeks, I was down 17 pounds and after a month, my habits were altered. I eat far less junk, smaller portions and am down 24 pounds since the turn of the year. Running is easier and I am faster. I am still looking to get down another 10 pounds. Then maybe I will head to Nordstrom and get some pants that fit.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Running Faster. And Further?

Running with my neighborhood training partner Heath has been a great motivator to run faster. We started training together about a year and a half ago. He was of the only person that was willing to get up a 4 am to run or bike from Congress Park. Let me tell you, that helps. He will be the second one to bring up that he is more athletic than me, but my years of experience still provide me with the upper hand for the weekend slugfests.

This Satuday morning run was a drop in distance while picking up the pace. We decided on the Highline Canal path for our tempo outing. It is a the best spot in Denver to shut off the mind and just run for hours on flat, forgiving crushed gravel surface. Heath was armed with grapefruit knee, but his grit wouldn't let him succumb to the "injury". We took off on the chilly morning, setting out to complete two efforts inside of an 18 mile run. The first four mile tempo felt great and the 6:40 pace was not too much of a struggle. With a two mile recovery, I wanted to bring this tempo up and try to hold under 6:30 pace. My legs burned pretty good and I got it done, but Heath dropped back to relax a little, haha.

Let me tell you, the last 4 miles back to the car was a struggle to hold a quick recovery pace. This workout was a kick to the groin, but my understanding of the challenge of super distance training and maintaining speed has improved. The combination is going to be tricky, but that only makes this more fun. Time to get Coach Jared on the phone and really formulate the plan for another marathon personal record.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Leadville Silver King

The summer calendar can sure fill up fast. This year we have an awesome wedding weekend of best friends back in Wisconsin. Yours truly as the Officiant; can't wait for that speech! Vacation time with Grandparents. My beautiful wife and I will celebrate our 10th Anniversary. Rocco will begin soccer and Sawyer will surely join in every chance he gets to sneak on the field. This is a drastic change from the days I began racing in triathlons, when every weekend was open. All for the better!

Let's piece together this jigsaw. With the passing of each season, endurance athletes look to the calendar to determine what races to repeat annually and which new adventures to bring into the fold. For the past several years, the Leadville 100 mountain bike race has been the goal for me and several friends. In the past 5 years, only one lucky friend has gained entry. Out of nearly 25 people I know annually entering the lottery. He crushed the race and this only increased my desire to race in Leadville. A town whose population is unknown to most, but the base Elevation of 10,000 feet is well documented in the racing community. They have built a phenomenal reputation for their events; an entire summer of endurance races aimed at exploding each and every participants lungs. This year, with another LT100 lottery come and gone, time to move on.

What better way to grab that bull then to register for the junior version of this race. I know that it is plenty challenging and spectacular enough to race a 50 mile mountain bike race. But for some reason, I felt compelled to up the ante and register for the 50 mile RUN race the following day. July 16th and 17th of 2011 are shaping up to be pretty awesome. I am ecstatic about these events and the preparation they will require. My team of supporters is assembled and ready. Their principal requirement: listening to my endless droning on and on about my achievements.

The team involved in my quest will be outlined within the next blog...

Work, Life, Adventure Balance

My brain is always spinning its gears. The Operations Manager up there has to be working overtime, stashing away the time and a half pay. I cannot go ten minutes without planning the next ten minutes. Typically, this non-diagnosed OCD does not get me into too much trouble, although if my wife were armed with a 2x4 that could be a different story. Nonetheless, sitting still occurs only if I can get a minimum of two and half hours of daily fitness. I am constantly planning because I know how the day can slip away. It happens to us all. How do we fit it all into these few precious hours?

It was an ordinary start for a weekday. My little guy Sawyer, had his first wake up bell set for 4 am. His timing wasn't too bad, just a touch before my alarm. I coerced that little bug back down for the morning and I was on the bike. A nice two hour ride before the boys got up for the day.

Breakfast was served. Hop on the bike to get to the office a little early today, felt good to just cruise on in. The temps were above freezing this morning and Wash Park was buzzing. Great to see the other enthusiasts getting after it first thing. The office was hectic, but a positive vibe was present and everyone was excited about upcoming projects. Then a call pulled me into an unexpected afternoon meeting. Damn It, there goes the planned Ruby Hill workout. I was going to paste that hill 8 times today. I really need the uphill to work on my hamstring strength right now, not cool. Wait a minute, the appointment is in Evergreen you say.

A short 45 minute drive up the foothills and you are into one of the most gorgeous towns you could find this close to a metropolis. I love it up there, but always find it hard to justify the gas and drive time. Work brought me here today. With the trail shoes laced up, I was off to loop Elk Meadows. This trail is unbelievable. Steady climb right out of the gate, followed by what has to be thirty of the most relentless switch backs to the top. Temperature at 55 degrees, snow covered trails and not another soul in site, just an unbelievable lunch hour. I'll take this Thursday anytime.

Work, Life, Adventure...Considered yourself balanced for today!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Ramp Up

When I started training in 1996, I was working my ass off for that first Sprint Tri. In my mind there was no one who wanted it more, no one who dug as deep and no person quite as committed. I can look back to a precise hill workout with my brother on the Mississippi flats that was so intense that I proceeded to toss my previous meal. I was so pissed at Jared for pushing me so hard. I was a broke freshman and that burger and fries were now wasted. At that time, my perception of hard work and my training pain tolerance were a shadow of what they have become. This has been years in the making.

I had a solid seven days of running for the last week in February 2011. The first two months of this year I was able to build my base large enough to throw down an 81 mile run week. Culminating with the 29 miler that instigated my desire to blog. During this 5 a.m. run I had an array of training partners. At first it was some of Denver's finest sleeping on downtown bike paths; then a peppy Labrador in the Highlands, whose dash back to his owner nearly tossed me to the pavement; followed by a tiny white mouse in Westminster, he didn't have much to say but ran at a good clip; most importantly, my brother. He had a lot to say, which was a good thing, as I was two and half hours into my run and the music was stale. We talked about our goals and leaving legacies. I did not get sick this time around. But this effort was just as much a break through.

Why would I choose to run 29 miles? My marathon is 2 months away. My mileage progression is coming along smoothly. That doesn't add up. But as I rolled along, up and over hill after hill in the darkness of this Saturday morning, my mind was clear. I now understood that my goals are set much higher than 26.2 miles along Colfax Ave. Mission RUN. Run for family, run for my life and run for everything I believe in. A large smile formed, feet barely touching the dirt trails south of Louisville with my brother, both sensing a higher purpose.