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


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.

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. 

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!"

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!

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.