Friday, May 25, 2012

(Satire) Bringing Balance to the Force

     Walking comes natural for most of us. One foot in front of the other and off you go. Running...thats a different mechanism all together. Running implies a certain amount of force. I use quantum physics to eliminate impact forces, so technically I don't run, I just kinda ease along. According to at least one recent study, however,  most folks are scientifically illiterate and thus unable to fully comprehend the dynamic necessary to run in a quantum state.

     Running injury free is a science unto itself. An intelligent person who has never lifted weights wouldn't just walk into a gym and attempt to bench 500 lbs, it would take years to condition oneself for that kind of lifting. Yet, many folks think they can just throw on some running shoes and go out for a run. Not gonna happen. I conditioned myself for months before I started running regularly and guess what? It still hurt. In time I became more machine than man and now pain is just an illusion, but starting out was awkward to say the least.

     Keep in mind that running isn't for everybody. There are many ways to live a happy, healthy lifestyle without running or doing much cardio at all. I like to think of running as a sport, not an exercise. Sports are optional and require much focus and discipline, especially endurance sports. Repetitive stress is a serious concern and it can mess you up if you don't dedicate yourself to conditioning for it. I spend more time cross training with weight lifting, cycling and swimming than I do running.

     Still wanna run? Great! I know some great trails and routes I'd like to introduce you to. But for starters just scoot around a little. Even scooting will hurt if your not used to repetitive stresses. Its all part of conditioning. No pain, no gain. Running isn't like other activities. Every pain needs to be addressed. It takes a while to fully address all the potential muscular imbalances. Running isn't as uniform as it may seem. Roads have curves that can lead to injury. Trails have rocks, roots and other obstacles that cause a bad foot plant. Treadmills have issues too just in that keeping up with a belt uses a different mechanism than real world running.

     Variety will always be my top strategy in preventing muscular imbalances and injury. Running creates a force or impact if you will, and like all forces they must be kept in balance. Balance can be easy to discard though because if a person doesn't fall over walking then the tendency is to perceive their sense of balance as being sufficient. The high impact forces associated with running can magnify even the slightest muscular imbalance. For some of us these slight discrepancies will never amount to an issue, for others they may prove debilitating.

     Why take chances? Driving a car is the biggest gamble we take with our lives, If driving doesn't scare you and running is part of your calling in life, then by all means run strong, but be sensible too. Run defensively, just like driving a car. Address aches and pains, cross train religiously...especially with weights, but also tune up your sense of balance. I've always done balance related warm ups and stretches as part of my routine, but I've recently discovered slacklining. Wow! What a tune up this stuff is. I can feel my stabilizer muscles strengthening and bringing my run gait into a new alignment. I didn't even know I had room to improve in that area.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

2012 Storming of Thunder Ridge

 2012 Storming of Thunder Ridge

     I had all but decided the night before the ride that I would do the 100 mile course and only cut back to the 75 miler if I was feeling out of my element. My prep work for this ride was suited to make this either a low endurance event if I did the 75 mile route or a high endurance event if I did the 100 miler. The two courses split in different directions around mile 65 and when I reached that point I couldn't fully comprehend what I was getting myself into, but I vowed to press on.

     The 100 mile course had 7 Aid Stations and I stopped at each to allow for some limited recovery. The Storming of Thunder Ridge group ride is just that, a ride, not a race. No official or unofficial results are kept, so with no pressure to perform, I just motivated myself with some abstract goals of finishing strong and making a solid effort. I set my Garmin up so I wouldn't be able to monitor the data that I often use to define my performances and instead I only monitored the data for the specific sections of the ride between the Aid Stations. I had a ball park idea of what my overall moving time and pace were, but since I was doing the full 100 it was more important to focus of just finishing and staying comfortable than it was to push for good statistics.
Elevation Profile for the SOTR Full Century.

     I'm going to break this post down into the 8 riding sections and 7 aid stations since thats the way my Garmin Data recorded it:

Their is a little white dot on the horizon at the top of the mountain. That white dot would be the observatory on the Blue Ridge Parkway and this routes biggest landmark.
     Start to AS#1: Almost 18 miles of gently rolling hills. Speed was easy to summon, but holding back was the plan. An avg speed of 15.6 mph on this section was right in line with my expectations.

Sedalia Baptist church was good  to donate the use of their facilities for use at AS#1

     AS#1Casually consumed a few food items, went to get back on my bike and I hear air leaking. Closer inspection revealed the seal around the stem had ruptured. I had two extra tubes with me so I changed the tube and rather than flag down ride support I used a CO2 cartridge to inflate my tire. Total waste of a CO2 cartridge because ride support showed up anyway to help someone else. Not to let an opportunity pass, I flagged the guy down and asked him to check the pressure since I don't carry a pressure gauge. Turns out the CO2 cartridge only took it to 90 lbs and I usually run 115, so he topped me off.

     I'm a competent tube changer, but not particularity speedy. The debacle cost me about 15 minutes, almost the whole field was now way out in front and riding with any cyclists that would have made good pace setters was now no longer an option. The whole event dynamic had changed, but I usually ride alone anyway, so it was now more or less another solo ride. My Overall finish time would be handicapped, but I was still in a good position to have strong moving time and a strong overall time with a subtraction for the mechanical failure.

     AS#1 to AS#2: This part captures about 15 miles including 9 miles to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the first 6 miles of Thunder Ridge. My Garmin memory auto erased the geographical data, but the Parkway miles were typical of the sections I routinely cycle on in that they can be tough if your not used to it. I am used to it for 5 mile stretches, but 12 miles of straight up would be a challenge. Aid station #2 was about half way up, so that helped. Shortly after turning onto the Parkway I started seeing a few other riders here and there, so it was good to know people were around.

     AS#2: Aid station #2 was uneventful, as it should be. I consumed a few calories and proceeded to carry on with the course.

Nice view of two chemtrails in the sky. Wonder why they keep sprayin the general public with that stuff anyway?

Event namesake parking lot.

Almost to the Observatory!

     AS#2 to AS#3: The remainder of the 12 mile ascent. I held it steady in the 7.3 to 7.8 mph range.

     AS#3: Lo and behold its Neil B. and David! I knew Neil from High School and had met his friend David at a triathlon last year. Strong cyclists to be so far back in the pack. They were headed out as I was arriving at the aid station, but we spoke for a moment and turns out they had a late start, so I wasn't the only one dealing with delays.

Good view of Sharp Top Mountain

     AS#3 to AS#4: Finally! 13 miles of hard and fast descending! This is what its all about folks! Last year I couldn't enjoy the descent like I wanted to due to wet roads, but today I took it just aggressively enough to keep it fun, but not dangerous. I coasted a little too in order to minimize any saddle soreness. This section also had a few miles of rolling hills after the descent.
Ran into Neal and/or David at most of the aid stations #3-7

Otterville Baptist was good to donate their parking lot for AS#4
     AS#4: Similar to AS#3. Tried to keep it around 10 minutes, but didn't closely monitor the clock

     AS#4 to AS#5: Ok. Now I'm starting to feel it. This was just a short 5 mile section with no serious geography, but my will power was starting to weaken. I felt good physically, but I just didn't feel like pushing the pace much at all.  The heat was starting to get harsh too, which is probably why my will was getting low.

     AS#5: Decision time. This is where the 75 and 100 mile routes split. Will power is low, but nothing hurts. I still have some push, but I'm hesitant to use it being unfamiliar with the distance. I go for it. Full 100! If worst comes to worst, I'll use the granny gears and just take things at a leisurely pace.

     AS#5 to AS#6: (Garmin geographical data retained here on out). The heat was becoming bothersome when I allowed myself to think about it. The next 7 miles had net elevation loss and I took 'em rather strongly. Unfortunately, when the elevation loss stopped I found that my will power was getting burned out too. I dropped down to the small chain ring for the first time and stayed in it for a good long while.

     AS#6: Routine stop. Mostly typical in terms of food selection and rest time.

     AS#6 to AS#7: Almost 19 miles and I stayed in the small chain ring about the whole time. Mentally I wasn't were I needed to be for a strong finish, but I wasn't disappointed or worried about finishing, I was in leisure mode and happy just to be moving forward. Just a short distance prior to aid station #7 a cloud burst open on me for like a minute and a half...just enough to get things damp and cooled off.

     AS#7: Spent above average time at this one. Only 7 more miles to go, but I was ready for it to be over. I took roughly 15-20 minutes to regroup and get motivated, before heading to the finish.

     AS#7 to FINISH: Cooled off and refreshed from the longer rest and the rain, I took this 7 mile section with a hint of vigor. I was glad to be done with it, but instantly rewarded to know it was worth it to have pushed past the mental barriers.
Just finished 100 miles, attempt to smile is feeble at best.

Dear Kneesee finished her ride then worked as an event volunteer for like 5 hrs!

Please support SOTR Sponsors
Final Time: 9 hours 5 min.
Final Time disregarding mechanical trouble: 8 hrs 50 min
Final Moving Time: 7 hrs 25 min 15 sec (13.48 mph avg)


Friday, May 18, 2012

Prep summary for 2012 Storming of Thunder Ridge

     Looking back HERE at a previous post where I defined my fitness goals, I made the mistake of not including a long distance (100 mile +) cycling event as the alternative endurance goal. My ultimate goal for a "just finish" endurance event, regardless of time,  will be the 70.3 mile half iron, but for the foreseeable future I doubt I'll be able to commit to the sort of training that would enable me to sign up for a 1.2 mile OWS with the kind of confidence that I would need to complete the event.

     That said, I decided to do a repeat of last year and signed up for the 2012 Storming of Thunder Ridge. My cycling mileage has been above average this year and in the 4 weeks following the Blue Ridge Half I have steadily been building up my weekly long slow Friday ride from 40 miles on Apr 27th to 50 miles on May 4th and then a 60 miler on May 11th. I also threw in a short fast Tuesday ride of half the upcoming Friday ride distance and in addition I also managed a few ultra short high intensity rides to the gym or a trail on the few days that it hasn't been either raining, miserable or both.

     I'm not going to call anything I've done "training". Technically, it probably would fit many definitions, however I associate "training" with targeting a high caliber performance (currently 18-20 mph is what I consider a peak effort). My only goal for the 2012 SOTR is to complete it uninjured and feeling strong so I'm going to refer to my base build up as prep work. Here are the links to the Garmin data for the key Tues and Friday prep rides:

Week 1: Tues: 20 miles  @ 12.9 mph avg  Fri: 40 miles @ 13.9 mph avg
Week 2: Tues: 24 miles  @ 18.1 mph avg  Fri: 50 miles @ 13.6 mph avg
Week 3: Tues: 30 miles  @ 16.7 mph avg  Fri: 60 miles @ 14.0 mph avg
Week 4: Tues: 40 miles  @ 15.3 mph avg  Fri: No key mileage                  Sun: 75 or 100 mi SOTR!

     So with just a token effort at preparing for the event I find that I am well positioned to say that riding either the 75 or the 100 mile course will definitely be something I can classify as a high endurance test. I recall last years SoTR and hitting about mile 50 and thinking "Wow, this is really taking a marathon quality effort." I haven't had that same feeling of exhaustion on this years 50 or 60 mile training rides, so maybe I'm in better shape to tackle the full century course this year.

     A modest eye for detail might reveal that I am still referring to the 75 or 100 mile course. With 2 days till the event I remain undecided. After initially leaning towards the 75 mile course with modest 15 mph goals I now find myself leaning towards the 100 mile course with an as of yet undefined goal other than to complete the course. It may come down to a split second decision on Sunday when I reach the point where the two courses split around mile 65.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

If I may just weigh in here...

     Weight. When I was an obese outsider looking in at the world of fitness one of my top priorities was to get my weight down. I've been fitness/health focused for 3+ years now and at AMA guidelines for 2 years and looking back I can see that my early strategy was quite effective..., basically I just experimented with various nutritional strategies and exercise regiments, did a daily weigh in, and recorded my progress over time. As a creature of habit, things haven't changed much.

     Starting May 1st 2012, however, I decided that since I no longer am needing or wanting to lose weight, that I should probably come up with a different system for monitoring weight. One strategy I used when I was loosing weight was to weigh in daily around noon. By noon I've had a breakfast, given it time to digest, and done any scheduled fitness related training. That system tends to help me focus on downward momentum, but I'm happy where I am, so that system is obsolete.

     My new system is designed to help me focus on weight maintenance and to allow for more rest and a few more lbs of muscle mass too. After all, body composition is a much better health factor than weight and I just bought a nice new bathroom scale that measures Body Fat %, BMI, and weight, so why not use it? For the foreseeable future I'll be recording my daily weigh in first thing in the morning before breakfast. I will be using a different chart for my morning weigh in than the one I was using for my noon weigh in so as to not confuse the data. As long as my morning weigh in and BF% readings are acceptable, I'm not going to bother with a noon weigh in. If my first thing in the morning weigh in starts to look like I'm letting myself go, then I will do an additional noon weigh in, on those days only, until I get myself back in line with my expectations.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Slacking and Obstacles

     Sometimes I call myself a runner. I guess I do run a little as part of a broad fitness strategy, but no matter how fast I get or how many awards I might win the truth is I am a fitness enthusiast (for the sake of recreational and/or athletic classifications anyway). When I got tired of sitting around the house all obese back in 2009 I made the decision to put as much variety into my routine as possible. I believe it has been my dedication to variety that has prevented most of the injuries that frequent runners acquire from time to time. I thrive on variety..., but I also thrive on routine.

     Sometimes, in the interest of variety, I look at my routine and cut back on one activity or another and add or increase my time doing something else. The month of May is all about strength building, cycling longer distances at lower intensity, running at base levels, and swimming 2 or 3 times a week. This changes up a lot of my intensity levels across the various disciplines, but it doesn't really add anything new to the game. Then I recalled reading about an activity called slacklining. It seemed like a viable way to build up stabilization muscles and core strength, so I asked for and received a Gibbon Slackline for my birthday. I've tried it twice now and I have to say its challenging. I hope to be able to fit it 2 to 3 sessions a week for a 1/2 hour each. Eventually I'll be able to do a specific routine on it, but for now I'm still developing my stabilization muscles and can barely stay on it more than a few seconds unless I have something to hold on to.

     Also new coming up in late June is an obstacle course. In the realm of organized endurance events obstacle courses have blipped on my radar a few times and I figured I'd try one eventually. I was alerted to one coming up fairly close by and jumped at the opportunity to recalibrate my systems for something with a lot more emphasis on strength and a lot less emphasis on speed . Its called the Wintergreen Adventure Challenge, check it out, it looks like fun!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

2012 Trail Nut 10k / RNUTs 5 of 6


     "Just have fun with it." Thats the expression that gets used frequently among us race types. It usually implies acknowledgement of a less than ideal situation in which to target a peak performance at a specific racing event. From Feb 12 2012 to Apr 21 2012, while I was training for the Blue Ridge Half, every run I did was a link in the chain leading up to a targeted peak performance. I love knowing that I can control my intensity levels with specialized training, but not all races fall in with a training cycle. The Trail Nut 10k and Half Marathon has consistently been one such event.

     As with 2011, the Trail Nut race is falling in to my race schedule during my recovery cycle from the Blue Ridge Half. Fortunately, that doesn't mean I have to go out and just participate with a "just finish" goal. Not that there is anything wrong with "just finishing", but I enjoy competing with more concrete goals.The Trail Nut race has 2 courses...a 10k and a 1/2 Marathon...I've done each course once, the 10k in 2010 and the Half Marathon in 2011...for 2012 I've decided to go back and beat my 2010 time of 55:31.

The Event

Doing my warm ups. Mostly channeling inner strength.
     I went into it with less than ideal circumstances, but I gave it all I had and ended up surprising myself. This course is mostly characterized by rolling hills with a few steep, but not long spots. The near constant up and down nature of the course meant constant adjustments to my stride and was exhaustive. Add to that my running has been recovery based with just a few short 4 milers in the past 7 days and a full 5 day break before that and then factor in the 50 miles of cycling yesterday with rather poor nutrition choices I made in the past 24 hours and it should be easy to see that I was digging DEEP to get every spot in this one.

     A slight drizzle started shortly before race start and ended after about 10 minutes. Just enough to keep the dust down. Their had been some rain the night before and earlier that morning, but the trail had held up good to it and I only noticed one spot that had to be navigated around.

Plenty of room at the line.
And were off!
     The start line was generous with space and those of us who were confident enough to hold a strong initial pace had no trouble getting close the line. After about 1/4 mile in I established 2nd place and held it for about 2 miles. First place had pulled out of sight by the end of the first mile, and I could hear runners close behind me, but I wasn't going to break my stride to look back and see how close they really were. 
     At about mile 2.5 I had spent my fast gear and slowed down enough to give up 2 spots. That meant I was in 4th and guaranteed a masters spot if I could hold it. I wanted to slow down further, but I could still hear footsteps behind me, so I held a pace that was just above comfortable for as long as I could.

      At roughly mile 4 I could hold it no longer and had to yield the spot. It was good fortune for me though that it turned out to be the first place female! I still had the 1st place master spot! Then in an odd twist of fate 2 of the men in front of me ended up taking a wrong turn and had to double back. I was now 3rd overall and 2nd place male!

     I took no pleasure in capitalizing on a fellow racers misfortune, but I had to play the cards I was dealt. I tried to squeeze my fuel reserves and reestablish a surge, but my high intensity fuel rods were spent. All I could do was keep things at a faster than comfortable pace. 

     Around mile 5 they both managed to pass me back. I was happy for them. They had earned those spots. I was losing steam fast, and I still had a mile to go. I couldn't hear anyone behind me, but I knew better than to take it for granted, so I dug into my emergency reserves and managed to cruise on to the finish without any further passing.

     My primary goal of beating 2010's 55:31 was achieved by a substantial block of just over 7 minutes with a 48:28. Picking up my first Masters Award at a trail race was just icing on the cake! I do have a couple of 3rd place overalls, which are higher awards, but I just like having a masters award...maybe its the way a "1st" on a plaque just looks more prestigious than a "3rd". I dunno, but it was a great race with high caliber people and well directed by the Mountain Junkies.
Took a few moments to set up and play with my new birthday present. A Gibbon Jibline.

Shirt back-Please support Mountain Junkie Sponsors
Shirt front + Award!
     Final Results:  Trail Nut 10k Garmin Data: HERE
2012-time 48:28.83, pace: 7:45/M, Place 5/111 overall, 1st Place Master, 4/47 among men