Monday, January 26, 2009

Landscapes, Professional Observers, Mr. Ream

I've put together a short video of some of the landscapes I see while running here. The first place you see is near Pine Creek and Mt. Tom. The second location is Round Valley where a lot of cyclists and runners gather to escape Mammoth when it is stormy/snow covered. The last location is at a nice vista overlooking Mammoth Lakes at sunset.

I just finished my first week working under a new coach. His name is Andrew and I'm pretty excited to see what kind of results we can get working together. He's joined me for a few workouts and we're at a similar level, but he never leaves any doubt on our last rep that he could put me in the dust if we were actually racing. He's focusing on my speed and taking my mileage down a little. I've already been scolded for putting too much distance on after Saturday's 5X1.

Speaking of the 5X1, I felt really good during this workout. My times weren't amazing. But I stayed consistently right at 5:30 for all reps at 4,500 ft. My buddy James joined me and we ran back and forth near Round Valley. The road is part of a 15k loop that is often used by Running USA. The portion we ran on is marked with blue paint every 100 meters which is helpful during repeats.

On our 2nd mile we noticed a new crowd of cars had arrived (the white van in the video is a Running USA van) and a batch of runners was warming up. It made me a bit nervous to know that the pro's were there while I was doing mile repeats. On the third mile Sarah H. rode alongside us on a mountain bike briefly offering us encouragement. We must have appeared to be crawling at 5:30 considering her husband runs 10 mile tempo runs sub 5 pace. And for that matter, she has run a 4:35 mile.

During the 3rd repeat we crossed paths with Ryan following Sarah on the bike and shortly after that a group of about 12 pros all looking smooth. I have to admit it felt good to have some of them encourage me by name. On my cooldown after my 5th rep I crossed paths with many of them again and was caught off-guard when Deena offered verbal encouragement about my morning's workout.


Finally, I discovered tonight that my friend and running buddy Jason has started a little one of these bad boys himself. Check out what he has at Unyielding Crossroads.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mark Dolgin Sub 3 and more

Recently I've spent some time reading about different coaching methods used throughout the years. I first stumbled across Australian coach Percy Cerutty in the great book The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb last winter. Cerutty advised athletes to follow a philosophy he called Stotanism. This was a combination Stoic and Spartan principles. I came across a few more things about him today and was tickled to read the sample log of olympic champion Herb Elliot,  one his athletes. I would like to share it with you:

  • 7am - A five mile run before breakfast in any direction our whim took us, followed by a dip in the ocean.
  • 8am - Breakfast of uncooked rolled oats (without milk) sprinkled with wheat germ, walnuts, sultanas, raisins and sliced banana. Perhaps a few potato chips would follow.
  • 9am - Swimming and surfing or outdoor chores like chopping wood, painting and carpentry.
  • Noon - Training and lectures at Portsea Oval, followed by another swim.
  • 2pm - Lunch - Fish and fresh fruit.
  • 3pm - Siesta.
  • 4pm - Weight Lifting
  • 5pm - Ten-mile run along dirt roads ending once more at the beach.
  • 7pm - Tea and a general discussion led by Percy on a wide variety of subjects.
  • 11pm Lights Out

That certainly sounds like an excellent day if one was surrounded with the right people.


The Sage to Summit running store recently updated their website to reflect the recent 10k. I'm certainly glad to have won, but after reading the recap I had to laugh at what a small race it was to win. It gave me a laugh so, here's their recap:

The race was a success! We had record temperatures in the mid 60s, no wind, and blue skies! 27 runners and 2 dogs competed. Dan McDowell and Ceal Kliner were the first place male and female winners.


The Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in Phoenix was a success for friend and training partner Mark Dolgin (pictured at dinner with me in Boston last April so that you can make fun of my goofy look). He ran a 2:58:40 to get his first sub-3 hour performance in the books. We got the chance to speak on the phone shortly after the race and his "post-succesful-marathon-glow" was shining through the phone.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Weekend Update

Its another beautiful weekend here in Mammoth. The weather is abnormally mild and dry. Bad for the local economy and for LA's water supply come spring, but great for the running community here.

Today is a huge day in distance running. The US Half Marathon Championships took place this morning in Houston. Results are still coming in and are a bit sketchy, but what is clear is that Meb (representing Mammoth Lakes) has won the race, after leading from Mile 1 edging out Ritz. Elsewhere, Josh Cox is currently trying to break the US and World record for the 50k in AC, and my friend and sometimes training partner, Mark Dolgin is running the RnR in AZ. I can't wait to see how it all turns out.

I'm about to head out on a 20+ long run. But before I go, I wanted to share this video. Lots of great shots that show just how beautiful the scenery is here when running. You can take a look at part of the route they are running here.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sage to Summit Race Series

Saturday morning marked the beginning of the Sage to Summit Race Series. The series is comprised of 3 10k trail races on 1/10, 2/21, and 3/14 at the Millpond Recreation Area near Bishop, CA. Runners are given points based on where they finish and after the 3rd race a winner will be determined. These events serve the region as sort of a bridge between the beginning and end of the local racing scene as races are sparse this time of year.

Going into the race I felt a lot of nerves. This was the first trail race I've ever done, as well as the first race at altitude (although the alt. hovered around 4,600 which is three thousand feet lower than where I usually sleep and run). Lastly, I didn't know the course at all and was told that it had been marked with pink ribbons and chalk on the sand and should be pretty easy to follow.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous and I was able to race in a singlet and shorts. It was 18 degrees when I got up in Mammoth but had jumped to the 40s or higher by the time the race started at 9AM. I wore a hat and gloves (but was able to ditch those for my afternoon run). The field was small, with about 25 runners competing. I knew the race wouldn't be too large, but seeing as it was the only game in town I expected more.

After the gun went off I found myself in third running a pretty comfortable pace. I was hesitant to pick it up as I was nervous about going off the course. I followed for a corner or two and decided I could probably follow the markers without much trouble. I decided to pick it up a bit and very quickly found myself passing for the lead. I could sense an acceleration and increase in breathing from the two I passed.

About half a mile into the race the course turned off into the desert and off of pavement. We were running in pretty loose sand and it required a lot of hopping from side to side on the path as we searched for the packed grooves that were easier to run on. I love running on trails, and weaving in and out, but concentrating on footing during a race is new to me, and I must say it made me long for the races in Chicago where I could really pound it out on flat pavement. This video shows what the terrain was like about 25 seconds in. You'll also notice that Bishop is a haven for climbers from all over the world.

The course was a semi-loop. We ran out about 2 miles, did a 2 mile loop, and then retraced that 2 mile opening. The first 2 miles had quite a bit of uphill (elevation chart is pictured), so I knew I'd be rolling downhill quite a bit at the finish. As I climbed the hills I found myself swearing at the loose sand. Hills are never fun, but pushing yourself up on really soft stuff is quite a workout. I wondered to myself on each hill if I would break and be caught. I knew I was putting distance on my competitors, but I could still hear them breathing behind me. I didn't want to look over my shoulder and give them any indication I was worried about them.

By the midway point I had opened a gap, perhaps 20 seconds or so, and I was feeling good, but since I did not know my competitors, I considered that they may have strong finishes in store, so I did my best to soldier on. Not that I'm used to large numbers of spectators, but it was interesting to be in the middle of nowhere during a race. Leading the event added to this strange feeling. I've won two races before, but generally I have a few people just in front of me who constantly remind me that I need to keep pushing myself. Perhaps because of all of this I was very self-aware of my thoughts. I do experience this during races now and then. Its usually a neat thing. A dialogue I enjoy with myself about the need to push forward and ignore the things urging me to stop. But, this voice was different. Why?

Well, for some unexplained reason my mind was set on singing the song "Garden Grove" by Sublime. It's been years since I've heard that song. In fact I couldn't even place what it was I was singing until I was able to consult my ipod after the race. The human brain is truly amazing. Especially mine. Ha, only kidding. But, why in the midst of a desert fighting for a win in a race would my mind pull up some strange song from the past?

In the end I was able to hold on for the victory with a margin of victory of about 1 minute. My time was 39:00 which is much slower than the 10k's I ran in November, but obviously trail running is a different beast. I'm left with no choice now but to complete the series and go for the overall win. The second place finisher was a guy named Jeff Kozak who is an accomplished ultra-marathoner/trail runner having won several 50-mile events. We went for a run together after the race and I'm sure he'll be a good friend and running partner when I head south to Bishop. I must admit, that if the trials goal doesn't pan out I may have to extend my distances as listening to him describe his all day training runs in the mountains is incredible!


After the race the weather hit the high 60's and I declared that wouldn't go inside until after it was dark. I walked in "downtown" Bishop before heading a little out of town to run along the Owens River Valley. This area is a Mecca for fly-fisherman and climbers. I ran on a dirt road with great views of the Glass Mountains as well as the Southern Sierra Nevada (this is pictured as well, you can see the Owens river in the foreground and the Glass Mountains in the back, the dirt road runs along side the the base of the hills seen on the left). This is a spot where I will be doing lots of long runs and tempo runs. Its at about 4300 ft and has a working water well I can use to get more drink (pictured).

Things are going very well at the moment, and i hope the unseasonably nice January continues. I certainly miss running and being with all of my pals in Chicago!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Will Power

I had an amazing run tonight. I arrived home from work well after dark feeling pretty worn down. But, the temperature was abnormally high for the point in the evening so I forced myself out the door.

As I reach the end of my street on a run I am forced to make a decision. Do I run up a big hill, or do I run down it? I always wish for a third option. I usually run down because I still want to take it easy and warm up. However, today as I hit this spot I saw another runner flying up the hill and passing me. He looked at me from across the street and I headed after him.

As we were climbing he wasn't putting much distance on me, but I certainly wasn't able to catch him. I was breathing hard and spitting like crazy as I'm pretty sick at the moment. According to my garmin we climbed for 11:00 minutes before reaching a mini-summit. I saw him glancing back a few times as we climbed so I knew we were both engaged. It was an awesome feeling. I expected him to turn or duck in somewhere and that would be that. But, after we got to the top he turned around and headed right for me.

He introduced himself as Will (pictured) and apologized for not waiting for me at the bottom. But, he was surprised to see someone keep up with him as he's not used to that. We decided to continue our runs together and we ran with bursts of accelerations and brief respites (when I think he was waiting up for me or waiting for my breath to slow, as he was pushing me to my limits). Turns out he lives two blocks down the hill from me and also works at the mountain. We've made plans to run to and from work with one another every so often.

I pressed him a bit to learn about his running and he mentioned running for William and Mary as well a few marathons. We both ran Boston last year so I had to ask how he had done. I expected to hear a time in the 2:40's or 2:30's. Instead he said simply, 49th. Anyway... enough gushing, it was nice to meet someone who was young and dedicated and friendly. I suppose I can run with him on his slow days. So that's the end of the story, right?

Not exactly. I decided to google him as I do any other competitive runner I meet to find out some more info (I almost always regret this as it makes me feel like I've violated the person's privacy). But, I can't help myself. So, what did I find? Will told me the truth, but he left out a pretty big chunk. There are lots of articles about him, because he ran under 2:30, finished in the top 50 at Boston, and did so while undergoing chemo to fight a brain tumor.

I think I can tough it out the next few days through my head cold to get outside and put in some big runs.

I've got a 10k race (first in a 3-race point series) this Saturday, so more coming then!

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Man of Leisure No More

I begin a new job tomorrow. I'll write about it when I have time. It should be interesting. I'll be working at Mammoth Mountain. Hopefully, I'll still manage to get runs in. I work 4 10-hour days a week.

I haven't written about my running as much as I would like to. Te race in San Diego felt good, but the course was short so I don't truly know where I stand. My mileage has ranged from 90-100 miles a week in the last 4 weeks except Christmas week. At the upper-right side of this blog you'll find a list of my last 10 workouts. You can click on these to see what kind of runs I've been doing (as if anyone is that interested). The paces are often slow, but keep in mind I'm often running at above 7,800 feet.

One great plus to the last few weeks is that I've gotten to run with Ashley (pictures below) and Verdo in San Diego and just outside of Fresno.