Monday, December 12, 2011

It's been a while...

It's been almost two tumultuous months since I last posted anything, so I thought I'd post a 'quick' update.

Since my last post I've run a total of seven times.  Yup, seven.  That's it.  Three times in October, three times in November, and one time (today) so far in December.  There are several reasons (some call them excuses) for that; a general lack of motivation, interest, and feeling just generally crumby and tired a lot - kinda like the old days.  At the tail end of October I did something to my lower back - I hurt it.  I don't even know how I did it, but it was causing me severe pain and discomfort.  It was like someone was stabbing me in my lower back just to the left of my spine, and even directly into my spine at times.  Sleeping was a challenge and every move would send lightning into my back and wake me up.  It took me about 4 weeks, and lots of chiropractor visits, to get back to about 75% when I tried a couple of short runs.  To my surprise, the back didn't bother me much while I was running, but my pace and my HR had gone to pot.  I was gasping for air going about 4:00 slower than my normal pace with a HR about 20 BPM higher than normal.  What.  The.  Hell.  Doing a 4 miler was a HUGE challenge.  About a week after that discouraging outing I felt a 'pop' in my lower back over to the left side.  Not a bad 'pop', but a good 'pop'.  My back was suddenly about 95% with only a bit of residual muscle soreness that went away after a couple of days.  My chiropractor told me the he suspects that it's my SI Joint (sacroiliac joint).  Whatever it was, I was hugely relieved and figured I was back in business.  My motivation was low, and I'd put on a few pounds (OK, about 7), but figured I was good to get back at it (or at least try).  But, my fitness was still sucking and my legs were weak, weak, weak.  A short 3.5 mile run practically killed me, and recovery was slllllooooowwwww.  My muscles were so sore I could hardly walk for days.  What the heck has happened to me!?!?  And then, at the start of last week, I get some GI thing, that I still don't think I'm 100% recovered from even still.  To pile it on, on Saturday, BOOM!  My back!  Again!!!!  Motivation = 0%.  Discouragement = 100%.

Today I'd say my back is feeling about 80% - to my relief - and doesn't seem to be a total setback.  I feel like it's going to recover relatively quickly.  So, I decided to head out to the Bone Yard today.  My HR is totally out of control still and hit a high of 185, with an average in the high 160's.  Not good.  I was running through 4" - 8" of snow, at a super slow pace (15:00ish) but at great effort.  If there is any good from it, my legs didn't feel totally horrible.  I kept it to 3.5 miles in hopes that I'm not totally destroyed tomorrow and can head out and try it again.

During this whole two month layoff, I've been massively struggling with eating and maintaining a good diet.  Thanksgiving, and a plethora of birthdays in the family, have been big contributors to that.  I seem to do OK during the work week, but weekends just destroy me.  I've been perusing some different books lately, looking for motivation and inspiration - books like Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Loren Cordain & Joe Friel, and some other Paleo / Primal books.  I'm trying to do the gluten/wheat free thing now, and leaning paleo, hoping it will make me feel better in general, and maybe boost my performance and recovery times.  But I'm struggling, in general, with everything...

I'm only 39.  I feel 79.  Should I really feel this lousy, tired, and broken down???

Friday, October 14, 2011

Random Friday Ramblings...

On training:
Since my 50 miler I'd done only two runs for a grand total of 12.5mi.  I decided on Sunday that I felt pretty good, and with Columbus Day Monday upon us, I figured I'd head out for a 26.2 effort bright and early.  Things turned out a wee bit different since my girls wanted to go to the museum to see Sue the T-Rex, for I think the fourth time now.  Daddy definitely should not go for a run they told me.  So, the museum it was!  That changed my plans to doing a 20 miler in the afternoon, which I was totally fine with.  It's still a good long run.

The first 2 miles were pretty awful.  My calves were really tight and the legs in general were just...  blah.  A couple of stops to adjust the laces on the Trail Gloves and a few walks while I muttered insults to myself seemed to do the trick though.  By mile three I was feeling good.  I could maintain an 8:30 pace - which actually feels like real running to me - with pretty easy effort.  The day was a beauty with bright sun and mostly cloudless sky so I'd stop to take some pics every once in a while, which I normally don't do.

A view of downtown Denver in the distance

The southern edge of Highlands Ranch back-dropped by Mt. Evans

I came across one big buck whom I had to scare off the trail with some loud clapping (no pic, bummer).  I also crossed paths with a baby, 12" or so, prairie rattler, and some other small snake I couldn't ID.

Baby Prairie Rattle Snake - ~12"

At mile 12 the top of my right foot started to bother me with a hot spot just behind my big toe so i stopped and taped it, and a couple of other toes, up.  About a mile later things went south on me (as they seem to always do).  My legs pretty much just gave out. My pace slowed waaaay down, and I pretty much walk/jogged the rest of the way home for a total of 18.5mi.  I still managed an 11:36 pace, which for me isn't too bad for that distance, even with all that walking/jogging.  I'm pretty sure the legs were just telling me - "Dude, you ran 50mi only two weeks ago.  Chill out would ya?  You're still just a rookie ya know."  So, as anxious as I am to hit some long runs, I think I should stick to shorter runs more often, at least for now.

On interesting reads:
I came across an interesting article on titled: Could Usain Bolt Run from Paris to Beijing? And More on Short Strides.  It's all about running economy and how it isn't real critical to ultra runners.  It's all of a three minute read and worth the time!

On faulty equipment:
I'm super disappointed in the lifespan of my Merrell Trail Gloves.

Merrell Trail Gloves (middle) after 200 miles

I started using Shoe Goo on them after 200mi to try to extend the life of the soles and am now at about 300mi on them and they are deteriorating rapidly on me.

300 miles - 3 months old
I was happy to get to use them in the Bear Chase at least though.  My buddy Chris' son is having the same issues with his.  The estimates on those are 400mi but are the same 3 months in age as mine.  They are in much worse condition and are worn completely through on one shoe.

400 miles - 3 months old

I've contacted Merrell via e-mail and asked what they could do to remedy the issue.  They said:

"We would recommend that you try to handle your return through the retail store where your product was purchased.  If your original retailer is unable to assist, you may return your product directly to us."

"Once received, our Quality Assurance Team will evaluate the product and determine if the problem is a result of a manufacturing defect or the result of normal wear. Defective products will be replaced (we do not perform any kind of repairs). If products are not deemed defective, they will be returned to you as soon as possible."

In other words - no dice.  I bought them at Sports Authority only because I had a Friends and Family coupon.  I won't hold my breath on them taking them back.  Big mistake not sticking with REI like I usually do.

I really like the shoes, but the quality of the soles (Vibram) are sub-par.  There is no way anyone should expect to get only 200mi worth of distance in any pair of shoes!  Sorry Merrell, but unless you have a change of heart, I'm boycotting you - even if the soles aren't yours.

Anyone else out there having an issue with their Trail Gloves?

On stomach problems:
So, two days before the Bear Chase I stopped taking my Vitamin D supplements, just on a long shot.  No stomach issues race day, and really no issues since.  I had been at the point where drinking a glass of water would sometimes make me double over in pain.  My endocrinologist told me to take at least 2000 units of Vitamin D daily since I'm Vitamin D deficient.  My body just does not create enough of it naturally according to him.  That has lead to osteopenia in my right hip, which he's hoping will reverse with the supplementation.  Well, seeing I like to overdo things, I started taking 5000 units daily.  I'm not sure how long I had been taking it before my stomach issues started, but I'd been suffering with it for about two months before stopping the pills.  I've even tried to re-introduce the supplements, and with even just one dose now, my stomach bothers me.  Guess I need to talk to the doc again...

Congrats and Good Luck:
Huge congrats to my buddy Chris - the Agile Fox - on 3rd place overall and 1st Masters in the inaugural Slickrock 100 in Moab, UT last weekend!

And good luck to my pal David in the Detroit Marathon Relay on Sunday!  You must be all out of bubble gum!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Reflecting on the Bear Chase...

Well, it's been well over a week since the Bear Chase and I can walk without pain again.  I'll probably lose my pinky toenail on my right foot still, since it's black, but it doesn't hurt at least.  My blisters are pretty much healed up too which were never really a bother for me anyways.

Monday and Tuesday after the race I could hardly walk.  Getting out of bed was challenging (sooo tired and sooo sore) and stairs were almost impossible.  Not surprising I guess since I've never pushed myself physically (and maybe mentally) that hard before - ever.  Going down stairs backwards is a little trick my wife taught me, and works.  Much easier.  One strange thing that was going on was a severe pain in my left ankle.  It wasn't there race day at all, but it sure was there on Monday.  It's a sharp stabbing pain on the outside of my foot just below and slightly forward from my ankle bone.  Never had that before.

Wednesday was a little better aches and pains wise and Thursday better still.  By Friday I was ready to try a recovery run, though my ankle still was bothering me.  Well, I went out with Chris who was going to do an EZ 7mi lunch run and figured I'd tag along for 4mi and call it good.  As Gump says; 'Stupid is as stupid does' and I did the whole 7mi with him.  Seemed OK at the time, and my muscles definitely felt better for it - but not the ankle.  It was even worse now.  So, I figured I would just take more time off until there was no more pain.

Good news...  Monday, no pain!  So, I managed a 5.5mi EZ run on Monday and had no issues.  The legs felt decent and tested them out on one short hard effort and really, overall, had no issues.  Back in business!

Looking back at the race and trying to figure out what I could have done better, I really can't think of a whole lot. I feel that I was very lucky and had very few problems.  No sunburns; minimal chaffing; no real feet issues; fueling, salt, and food was good; Drop bag worked well.  Maybe I could have done better on the hydration portion.  Conserving once and once running out was a bad thing, but I don't think my performance was hindered much by it.  I think if anything, I definitely could have trained more.  My biggest week leading up to this had been a mere 51mi.  I did have intentions of getting a few 60mi weeks in and as much as 70mi, but it just never worked out for various reasons.  I'm amazed at the people that can put in those kinds of big mileage weeks, week after week after week.  Very dedicated indeed.  I do suppose that everyone is at different stages in their lives, have different jobs and careers, etc., but still - It's a huge time commitment, especially when you get your miles as slowly as I do.

What's next for me?  Well, I've got the bug now for sure.  I'm enjoying some rest and recuperation time, I'm sure to the delight of my wife.  I've gone 50 miles and achieved my 'Ultra' goal, but onward and upward!  So now I'm thinking about either a more difficult 50mi race, a 100km race, or even a 100 miler.  I'm giving the Moab 100 Mile Endurance Race, that takes place at the end of March, some consideration (11,000' of climbing), but Diana is not too keen on that idea.  There is also the Collegiate Peaks Trail Run 50 Mile in May that is a possibility and would be much more difficult than the Bear Chase with about 9400' of elevation change.  For now though, I'm gonna ease back into it, though I am thinking of a 26.2 mile effort this holiday (Columbus Day) Monday.  March and May are pretty far away and I'd like to do something sooner, but I do need to ramp up my miles and get some speed work in there too.  I would like to get a little faster.

Another interesting thing which I'll end off with - is how hungry I was for about a week after the race.  My body was craving all kinds of things and I would devour whatever it wanted.  The body knows best I figure.  Diana baked some peach raspberry pie and blueberry pie - which didn't stand a chance.  A tub of chocolate ice cream (which I don't even really like) was a goner.  And, broccoli with hummus. I can't seem to get enough broccoli...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bear Chase 50mi Race Report...

It's hard for me to know where to start with this being my first race report and all, so I guess I'll just start at the beginning:

The car's thermometer read 59 degrees. That was at about 5:15am when I rolled into Bear Creek Lake Park for the second annual running of The Bear Chase, for my 6:30 start. Ya, kinda early, but I didn't want to be late. It's my first race and I'm not really sure what to expect. It's a beautiful clear morning, with a light breeze putting some nip in the air, and a crescent moon laying on its back low in the eastern sky. A photo would not have done it justice. Good thing about getting there early - sweet parking spot. Front row, about 20 feet from the start/finish line.

Things are still getting setup so I'm not exactly sure what to do at this point. There aren't a whole lot of people around yet. So, I started to putter around in the back of the car with my drop bag (packed the night before) and my gear a little bit. Figure I'll get my shoes (Merrell Trail Gloves) on, sunscreen up, get my race shirt and bib on, and walk around with my headlamp to take in some pre-race ambiance. Nipple band-aids, some toe tape, and Lanacane anti-chaffing gel were applied well in advance at home so that’s covered. It's nippy like I said, so I pulled on the 'tube socks with the toes cut out arm warmers' (awesome idea Chris!) and the cheapo Walmart disposable gloves. I find the 50mi drop bag area, 10 feet in front of my car, and the port-o-johns. Not much else to figure out really. So, I listened to some A7X in the car, made a couple of pit stops, positioned my drop bag and waited. At 6:15 I downed a Salt Stick cap, a Clif Mocha Shot and finished off my 24oz of PowerBar Perform. I strapped on my Camelbak Delaney Plus loaded with enough GU Roctane, Hammer Perpetuem Solids and Salt Stick Caps to get me to mile 25 and clipped my hat onto the belt. I was ready and anxious to get rolling.

By now things were in full swing. There are a ton of people about, and anticipation was building in everyone. A nervous excitement was in the air, or maybe that was just me. Morning is just kind of getting started and it's still pretty dark but dawn is starting to break from behind Mt. Carbon. It's no longer dark enough for headlamps so no need to drag that along. I talk a little bit to the guy standing next to me at the back of the corral. We're both first time ultra runners. He asked me about my Trail Gloves asking if they were minimalist and if I was wearing socks or not - which I wasn't. We wished each other good luck. When the announcer asks how many first timers’ there are quite a few hands out of the 80 participants go up into the air - mine being one.

You know, I don't even remember if there was a bang, or a countdown or what exactly to start the race. I just remember thinking - "Stick to the back; Ease into it; Keep your HR down; Run the tangents if there are any; If it feels like you're going too fast or working too hard, you are." The front people took off amidst lots of hooting and hollering and I started out in a crowd of slow walkers at the very back, which turned in to slow jog, and into an easy pace. It was on. My first real race, and it's a 50 mile ultra at that.

Habitually checking my Garmin for pace and HR I notice my HR is about 220. WTF?!? Well, I know it's just my HR monitor acting up at least, or interference from other HRM's around me maybe. After a while it sorts itself out I'm in the low 150's. Beauty. 1st mile clicks by at 11:40 pace. Feeling good, and I figure I'll speed up a little bit, but keep it in check since I've felt awful during training my last two weeks. There's a guy just up ahead of me running with a girl and he's jabbering non-stop to her. If that's his thing then cool, but it’s got me kinda got me irritated since I was hoping to enjoy the silence of the morning and really only wanted to hear the rhythmic foot-steps of the other runners around me.

That first mile and a half heads due west from the start/finish. Beautiful trails winding in and out of green, lush, canopy with the sounds, and occasional sight, of the creek next to us. The leaders had already done the 180 degree turn after a quick bridge crossing and were heading due east again. I would catch a glimpse of them every so often across the creek and through the trees. They were moving - fast.

It's only 3.2 miles to the first aid station from start/finish, but I had had enough of the talking before I hit 2 miles in. So I gave a courteous; "I'm going to pass you on your left" and never saw him again. I guess I expected there to be a certain ‘feel’ during the race and I wasn’t getting that. Call me high maintenance I guess.

Other than my plan to take a GU Roctane every half hour, and a Salt Stick Cap every hour, I also had a plan to drain 24oz of liquid (either H20 or PowerBar Perform or combination of those) in the distance in-between each and every aid station. Seems like a lot of liquid, almost 100oz per 12.5mi lap, but they were calling for an 86 degree day and no cloud cover at all. It was going to be hot. On top of that, I'd estimate that only about 45% of the course provides any shade. The other 55% is totally exposed with no cover. I'd have to stay on top of keeping hydrated. That meant never letting my mouth get dry and monitoring my urination frequency and the color of it. I also wanted to take in a bit of food - potato chips, pretzles, watermelon, bananas, etc., at every aid station. I'd been having problems with my stomach for weeks, whether running or not running, and I wanted to keep food in there to try to keep it settled. Any stomach issues would probably end my race early I suspected.

Before the 1st Aid Station

Before even getting to the first aid station, where I ditched the gloves and arm warmers, I had settled into a comfortable pace behind an older guy in a Bear Chase 2011 tech shirt. He'd been in the rear pack with me earlier. I thought "Man, this guy’s form isn't very good. I hope he makes it." We were moving at a 10:15 - 10:45 pace now and I never though about passing him up. I was comfortable right now. He had no belt or fuel with him that I could see, a hat tucked into his shorts, and a handheld bottle. Nothing else. About a mile after the aid station we had to cross a small bridge where there was a manned timing mat. Well, the guy there went absolutely nuts! "Marshall!! Marshall Ulrich!!! We Love you Marshall!!" He ran along side us lavishing lots and lots of praise on 'Marshall'. I knew that there was an UltraMarthon, Adventure Racing, Legend named Marshall Ulrich running the race today, but had no idea that I had been tailgating the guy for the past few miles, and negatively critiquing his form! What's extra funny for me is that my buddy Chris told me that he ran with Marshall (ya, first named basis now) during his first 50mi ultra! Small world I guess. We ran mostly together until the aid station at mile 10.1 where I forged on ahead and didn't see Mr. Ulrich again. Checking the results it looks like he dropped out at the end of the 3rd lap. We had exchanged a few words during our run together, mostly about how beautiful the day was, but once I knew who he was, I knew I had a cool little story about my brush with fame and left it at that. Quite a few people recognized him, and he was always very cordial with them. Seemed like a class act to me.

Before that 10.1 mile aid station, we had climbed Mt. Carbon, done three creek/river crossings, and gone through an aid station at 7.8mi. Now, Carbon isn't all that high - something like 220' of vertical climb but in only 0.4mi, so it's pretty steep, footing is loaded with loose rock, and I saw no-one running, or even jogging it (though I'm sure all the top guys and gals ran it). The descent from there is narrow single track with lots of loose junk on the trail, but you can make pretty good time here and it's a welcome relief from the slow climbing. From there you enter a scenic wooded area, where the three water crossings await you. The water is cool and refreshing but now there are the squishy shoes to deal with. The Merrell Trail Gloves shed the water fairly well and I don't have socks to deal with. I'm golden. A quick turn north from the water takes you to the 7.8mi aid station. Fueling and hydration is going well, and my urine is good. I take on food, top up my empty bottle with half H2O and half PowerBar and head out to what I will now call the 'soulless' part of the course heading west - 7.8mi to the 12.5mi start/finish.

1st Lap Water Crossing 

From 5500' at the 7.8 aid station, you're now exposed to the elements, just like on Mt. Carbon. You continually climb, with a few miserable ups and downs in there, past the 10.1mi aid station to the highest point on the course at about 5800' somewhere around the 10.6mi mark. From there it's mostly downhill back to the start/finish, but still with no tree cover and a good mile of single track that seems like a foot deep, foot wide trough cut out of the dirt, with baseball sized rocks strewn throughout. I crossed the line in 2:18:31 - a decent pace for me. I'm happy with that effort.

I have a drop bag at the start/finish, but I don't need it yet. My feet are feeling fine in the Trail Gloves. I've got no chaffing, my stomach is perfect, and my fueling and hydration is spot on. My HR is still in the 150's and I'm feeling good. I think it was here that I stopped with the PowerBar and went just with H2O for the duration. I was getting overloaded on sweet. Lathered up more sunscreen, grabbed some pretzels and banana chunks and off I went.

Now, on the first lap, I had been running with people, or had people fairly close in front or behind me the whole time - but now - crickets. Literally. Total silence and solitude, except for the crickets. Suddenly it felt like one of my 3am training runs, except that it was light out. I think I encountered 2 people over the next 3 plus miles. At the 3.2 aid station there was a runner/gopher/volunteer this time - a teenager asking what I needed - just a refill on my bottle - which he handed back to me once I arrived at the station. I thanked everyone for volunteering and supporting all of us, which I had done at every aid station previously, and everyone hereafter. I have to say that the volunteers were just awesome during this event! I have nothing to compare it to, but I don’t see how it could have been done any better!

I noticed as I was leaving that my bottle was only about 2/3 full and contemplated turning around to top it up, but I was already on my way. I would just conserve it. I made a mental note to remember next time to really top up and to even take some extra swigs before leaving the aid station on the next lap since it was 4.6mi until the next station. A little bit too far for comfort considering the mounting heat. The other stations are 3.2mi, 2.3mi and 2.4mi in between only, so 4.6mi was stretching it.

The rest of this lap there was little to report, other than maybe the speed walker / gazelle leaper runner that I kept encountering ever since we started out this morning. He would speed walk, then doing this bounding running stride, then speed walk again. Over and over and over. And if he wanted by someone, he was going by them at all costs it seemed! I was a bit disappointed in lack of etiquette in general after asking Chris what to expect, but it is a race after all I guess. I gave myself a quick systems check at mile 16 since on my last long training run, that's when my legs started to struggle. I was good this time though. I got to the 7.8 station ready for liquid knowing I had stretched it. I think this is when I ran into Matt - the guy I talked to at the start who was doing his first 50mi as well. He was struggling with stomach issues and was slowing. Things looked grim for him.

On 'Soulless'

This is where I hit the port-a-john on the first lap - but not this time. Hmmm.... Off for the soulless section to get back to the start/finish. This is where the mental and physical struggles began. At mile 20 my legs started really feeling it. My pace is slowing and I'm doing about 13:00 pace now. I know that my wife and girls are waiting for me at the line and know that will give me a boost. I grind through to get to there at exactly 11:30am. Five hours - 25mi - a 2:40:29 lap, only 20 minutes slower than my first. I'm happy with that, but my pace is slowing and I know it.

Half way there...

As I approach I hardly notice the cowbells and people cheering - where's my family? I'm scanning and scanning the crowds, but I can't find them. I had felt some emotion coming on on my way down the hill to the line in anticipation of seeing them, but now I wasn't sure what was going on. Quick thinking – “Get to your drop bag - restock, check your feet, beware the chair, and get moving. They're probably setup just down the trail picnicking - you'll see 'em.” But now, I feel like I'm really struggling. Two more laps of this!?!? I just don't know if I can do it. Then, Diana is right in my face. "When did you come in?!? We've been watching and listening for you! Let me go get the girls!" I told her to bring them to the side of the course since I couldn't go to them. The tears started as soon as I saw them walking over and calling 'Daddy!' I fought so hard to bottle them up so that the girls wouldn't get concerned. They had made me some awesome little signs at home that morning to cheer me on and showed me them. I gave them big hugs and kisses and we had a short chat. I told Diana not to come back for the finish. I explained that I was struggling and wasn't sure of the outcome. I didn't want my girls to see daddy as a big mess at the end - if I could make it. I had to get moving and so I bid them farewell and set off on what was going to be the hardest physical thing I've ever gone through...

Laps 1 & 2 - Pace / HR

Laps 1 & 2 - Elevation / HR

I headed out on lap three in a rough frame of mind. Honestly, things get a little hazy here for a while. I keep telling myself 'baby steps' and not to look at the big picture - that I still have 25 bloody miles to go. I had to switch my Garmin 405 (dying batteries) for my wife’s 210 and the HRM wasn’t working on it, even after testing it the night before. Bah! Alright, at least I’ll know my pace and the time. It’s all good. Again, there aren't a lot of people around me. At this point I was kind of wishing there were - though I still wasn't missing incessant talking guy from mile one. I did my best to take in and enjoy as much scenery as I could. I was still getting to see speed walker guy every once in a while too. He'd get in front of me, I'd get in from of him, and so on... He didn't seem to appreciate my comment of “You've really mastered the speed walking technique!” on one of our probably two dozen position changes over the race. I was being sincere though. The guy was a machine and was still rocking. I kept encountering a tattooed girl running with a pack that had caught me and passed me around the 3.2 station. The 3.2 station!!! I messed up with my hydration again!!! I mentally noted to take on, and in, more water than normal while stopped and I screwed up. Damn mental fog. I had done the same thing just a while earlier when I meant to Vaseline under my arms where I had some minor chaffing from my sleeveless T rubbing, and - oh ya - sunscreen! That was minor though. Hydration was may more important! Now, at the top of Carbon, there is a restroom and water for the golf course that is next to there. Why didn't I stop? Right... why didn't I stop. Great question. It's mostly downhill from here to the aid station but it's still about 3.2mi away - and it's hot. I run out of water with one mile to go, and my mouth is dry. Stupid.

The water crossings provide some relief for the legs, and I soak myself good. Just have to get up the hill to the aid station. Still no urine and I'm doing 16:00 pace'ish now. "Just get to the line and you can pretty much walk the last lap; Don't give up; Get to that tree down there; Get to that gate; Think about people that know you’re out and are cheering for you; Keep the legs moving; Keep going; Keep going; Keep going."

I turn to comedy for support now. I keep thinking of some movie lines from Step Brothers - just stupid juvenile stuff - but it gets me laughing. And the Brooks Running commercial where one guy is running and the other is in the van lending support. "Tell my kids I love them!" "Karl, you don't have any kids...". That helped me kind of 'check out' during the 'soulless' section of the course that I now pretty much hated with a red hot intensity. Matt had caught up again at this point and had his stomach troubles behind him. Said he was feeling good again. Good for him, not much help for me. Really the only issue I was having now was tired, screaming sore, legs. My longest run before today was 26.2mi. I was slowly approaching 37.5mi now. I notice the girl with the pack and tattoos coming in the same time as me but most things are a blur at this point. That lap took me 3:10:30. 30 minutes longer than the last lap. Things are getting worse. At least I was 20 minutes ahead of the cutoff time required to start the last lap.

3 down - 1 to go...

I knew at this point that I had 3 hours 50 minutes to do the last 12.5mi. I still wasn't 100% confident that I could do it - but I was going to do everything I could to get it done. One aid station guy was telling a story; “The girl came in and sat down. I asked her if she needed anything. She hesitated… finally said “Nope, I’m pretty much done.” Got up and walked away.” Crazy. I debated a change of footwear to conventional trail shoes but decided against it. My toes on my right foot were all blistered, but I felt nothing. No pain. I taped 'em knowing that I had to. I taped the other foot too and my left heel. Matt had taken up a chair behind me and told me he was on pair of shoes number four! Wow. I felt that my hydration was back on track, fueling and salt was good, but man, I was sick of GU Roctane and so I tried some Honey Stinger Chews... Ugh! WAY too sweet!! Abandoned that. I had done three Hammer Perpetuem Solids Tabs somewhere on lap 3 and abandoned those too. You need about 8oz of water to choke just one of those 'tabs' down. I'm getting set to head out when tattooed backpack girl appears right in front of me; "Let's get going. We're going to finish this together."

It was tough getting up and heading out, but it was way easier than if I had to do it myself. We walked for a while to get the stiffness worked out and would kind of jog and walk, walk and jog. Can't call it running any more really or at least it didn't feel like it. We were doing about 15:00 pace so it could have been much worse I suppose. My compatriot in pain was Joanne McKay from Denver. We chit-chatted along the way with each of us alternating with 'OK, let's jog this section for a while.' We talked about how we were both slightly nauseous – though she seemed worse than me. I was dreading every single GU Roctane gel that was still to come, but still needed. She had a good support team there, including her boyfriend who drove out to meet her at the bottom end of Carbon to cheer her on. I told her about losing it when I saw all of my girls at the mid-point. We had some good conversation and it most definitely helped.

Being smarter this time, I filled my bottle at the top of Carbon. Not sure if it would have helped me on the previous two laps but it sure would not have hurt! It didn't seem like there were too many people behind us at this point. I know now that 26 of the 80 starters had dropped out by this point already, and only seven people would finish behind us. One of those was a guy we found sitting on a log. He was toast. Joanne offered him some ginger chews to help his nausea but he was done. He had done 42 miles but couldn't go on. We had to keep moving. We finally hit the water with a couple of other people. Everyone there just sat down up to our waists letting the magical water cool our aching legs. Three several minute stops to do that were totally worth it. Finally at the 7.8 station I was able to urinate - not a good color. Less than 5 miles to go now though. The toughest 5 miles I've ever done.

The soulless stretch seemed to go on longer than ever and be steeper than ever too on this final lap. We were talking a lot less now it seemed and we each were taking turns leading us forward. It was nice that the sun was finally getting lower in the sky and it was cooling down. I don't think the heat really bothered me as much as it did most of the other people though it seemed. My feet now though, had become very sore. Not because of blisters, but just from the 45 miles of pounding in minimalist shoes. Several people on the first lap commented on them and I didn't see anyone else wearing any. One guy asked; "How do they feel after 30 miles in 'em?" My response: "Dunno. I've never gone that far before. Guess I'll find out today." And that I did. My feet felt like hamburger now. I kept doing calculations on what pace we needed to maintain in order to make the 12 hour cutoff. When we reached the 10.1mi aid station, we could do a 20:00 pace and make it in time. We knew with 99% certainty, barring disaster, that we'd make it... And so would speed walker guy, because he was hot on our heels! I later found out that Chris has raced with guy before. He’s an old-timer that’s been in the ultra scene forever. He told me that last year, he got passed by him in his last mile of the Leadville 100!

My goal now, was not to let speed walker get in front of us. I don't know why exactly, because my only competitiveness from the get-go was against myself, but both Joanne and I kept a close watch out for his position behind us. With less than a mile to go we knew we had it in the bag. We'd have some time to spare. That last 2.5 miles was the worst ever though - twice as bad as the 2.5 before it. I started to hope that Diana and the girls would actually be there to cheer me in, and I could feel tears building again. There weren't a lot of people around any more and Joanne sped off ahead at the end to meet her boyfriend and support team who were waiting for her. I crossed the line at 3:30:37 for the lap - 20 minutes slower than the last. Elapsed race time: 11:40:14. Chip time: 11:40:05. I got my finishers medal and stumbled to my car.  I don't think anyone was even taking pictures anymore.

Laps 3 & 4 - Elevation / Pace

The Hardware!

Six people finished in the 12 hour limit behind us, and one more just after. 100 people registered, 80 started and 53 finished under the cutoff. I was 47th. I had met my goal. I staggered over to Joanne and her friends for a brief moment, did some congratulatory high fives and fist bumps with them and drove home to my girls.

"Daddy's home!" More tears... I couldn't have done it without them.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bear Chase 50mi Ultra Finisher!

Finishers: 53/80 (100 registered)
Place: 47/80
Gender: 34/58
Division: 11/17
Lap 1: 2:18:31
Lap 2: 2:40:29
Lap 3: 3:10:30
Lap 4: 3:30:37
Pace: 14:01
Net: 11:40:05
Time: 11:40:14

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bear Chase Tomorrow...

I picked up my race packet today, so it's on.

My runs leading up to the race haven't been good.  Legs are tired, heavy, and weak and I have zero energy.  A tiny bright spot was my run last night on the treadmill; 4mi, 2% incline at 12:00ish pace.  I felt just 'OK', which is way better than I have been feeling.  Super tight calves at the start, but a short walk sorted them out.

In the two weeks following my 50km attempt I've done 28mi (with one 1/2 marathon distance in there), and 13.5mi (taper week).  My big concern isn't the distance so much right now (though I know it's going to be brutal), but my stomach.  I have almost a constant dull pain, and occasionally a severe stabbing pain like I talked about in my previous post.  I've been trying to narrow it down to something I'm eating maybe, but nothing is a smoking gun.  Maybe I have an ulcer?  My doc was useless when I talked to him about it - may be time to find a new GP.

Race Strategy: 'EZ duz it.'  I'm going to start out at a fast walk and ease into it.  It's going to be 85 degrees'ish tomorrow so I'm going to really watch my fluids - I'll do a 50/50 H2O and PowerBar Perform.  I had to switch from S! Caps to Salt Stick since I've misplaced my S! Caps and there wasn't enough time to order more.  I've never used them before so it's a risk that I'll have to take.  GU Roctane on the 1/2 hours and I'm going to try to eat at the aid stations as much as possible.  I'm thinking pretzels and watermelon mostly.  I have 12 hours to go 50mi.  There is a 8.5 hour cutoff to start lap 4 of 4 (37.5mi).  So, I need to average better than 14:24 pace over the duration.

My Goal:  Finish.

You can track online here:

and here:

Monday, September 12, 2011

50km Training Attempt...

Thursday morning (Sept. 8th), I headed out to Bear Creek Lake Park for an attempt at a 50km long run on the Bear Chase Race course.  Key word: attempt.  I was lucky to get a 26.2 effort in.

After starting my morning off with a nice bowl of oatmeal with some berries and banana, I got to the park at about 8:15am.  I was feeling pretty confident and up for the 50km (31mi) challenge - which would be my longest run ever.  It's a little over two weeks until the race on Sunday, Sept. 25th and so this would be my last really long effort before that.  I parked at the start/finish line and had my car prepped as my drop bag / aid station which I figured would work out great (and did).  Each lap of the course, which I'd never run on before, is 12.5mi.  So, I was planning on two laps plus an extra 3mi out and then back.  50km / 31mi - perfect.  It was almost 8:30 by the time I got laced up, my GPS's sparked up (I was additionally using endomondo on my Android today so Chris could track my progress), and my backpack on.  Not knowing where I was going exactly since the park has a plethora of trails - horse, bike, hike - I had three print-outs of maps and written directions with me.  I figured the first lap would be a bit of a challenge, but then I'd be set directionally.

My first indication of any kind of problem was almost immediate.  My resting HR before starting out was about 100.  It should have been about 60.  I shrugged it off.  My body would acclimate I figured.  I started out easy at about 10:00 pace.  My HR went to 150... 160...  and settled at about 163.  For my effort it should have been about 148 or there abouts.  Give it time, I thought.  I'd have to slow and/or stop momentarily quite often to get my bearings so I figured it would settle down, but it never did.  I took a few wrong turns on the first lap and finished with an extra mile (13.5mi) in 2.5hrs.  I figured that lap number two would be about the same pace since now I knew the route to take and could take a bit easier pace without all the slowing and/or stopping.  I had only one hot spot on my left big toe that developed after the three water crossings so I duct taped it.  I topped up my PowerBar Perform Lemon-Lime, ate a 1/4 of a sun butter and jam sandwich, and off I went again.  But, about 2.5 miles into lap two (16mi mark), my legs started to really hurt.  Flats and downs were OK, but climbing was hurting.  So, now I was walking a lot more, and my pace was slowing.  By mile 20 the wheels pretty much fell off.  Everything hurt - bad.  I'd keep thinking to myself; "This is where the mental toughness comes in", but I was hoping to reach this point much later in my run.  I still had 10 miles to go today, and if this were race day, I'd still have 30mi to go!  The water crossings were a little slice of heaven and cooled me down nicely, but did little to help.  I was hoping they'd have a positive effect on the legs, but no dice.

Now, the whole run I'd been fueling with GU Roctane, so I figured that a change-up was in order.  I had a flask of EFS Liquid Shot with me, which I've used in the past, so I took a swig of that.  A short time later, at mile 23, it felt like I was being stabbed in the stomach - no more running.  Running made it shake and shaking was very bad.  I didn't think I was going to puke, but was almost hoping for it thinking I might feel better afterwards.  I contemplated going into a fetal position as I texted Chris with my issues.  He suggested abandoning the 50k, and just get the 26.2 in - which I had already decided on and was hoping to be able to still make it through.  I walked the rest of the way back to the car in agony and finished with 26.2 in 5:35.  Average pace: 12:46.  Average HR: 152 (thanks to that last 3mi bring it down!). 1700' of climbing.  Fuel:  1 x GU Roctane every 30 minutes, 1 x S! Caps every hour, and about 100oz of PowerBar Perform.

My primary goal on this run was to familiarize myself with the course.  That will help me immensely on race day.  I'm going to start out at least 1:00 - 1:30 slower pace than with this effort.  I don't know what was up with my HR, but can only guess at maybe I was fighting a bug.  My HR always does that kind of thing when I'm sick, getting sick, or getting over being sick.  I'll cross my fingers for race day that it'll be 'normal' - which should help protect my glycogen levels.  As far as the stomach, I've been having some stomach problems lately (outside of running even) and so that probably contributed.  I'll take in more H2O and less PowerBar drink during the race - probably a 50:50 ratio - and see if that helps.  Two weeks to go...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

PR'd the Half Today...

Here's a pic looking south-west from the Highlands Ranch Back country today.  This is from the Wildcat Mountain Trail off of Monarch.  I PR'd the 1/2 today with a kind of up and down run; not feeling good, to feeling good, to not again.  Anyways, happy with the result, especially since I didn't set out to even attempt a PR!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Stretching and Endurance...

I'm a big fan of Matt Fitzgerald and his writings - mostly because I think he knows what he's talking about, and he keeps it pretty simple for newbies like me.

When I first started out getting fit I never really knew, with any certainty, when to stretch, how to stretch or what kind of stretching to do.  I always figured; stretch before workouts - static stretching style - calves, hams, quads - good.  That's what I'd seen most people doing and since I was a kid it's what was taught.

But, back in June, I came across some articles written by Matt:

Running 101: Stretching
Sports Science Update: Static Stretching Before Running
Want To Improve Your Economy? Stop Stretching
Dynamic Flexibility Exercises for Runners

So, my takeaway is; I should be doing dynamic stretching before my runs and doing static stretching whenever I can, just not before a run.  So, that's what I try to do, but honestly, I'm not very diligent about doing any stretching before my runs.  I think a lot of times, it comes down to what feels best, and what works best, for each individual - despite what studies might say.  For me, I'm going to try to use this post as motivation to start doing more dynamic stretching before my runs, and we'll see how that translates.

In endurance running it's all about running economy, and static stretching before a run does not reduce injury and it negatively impacts performance.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Training Schedule...

So, with a young family (2 and 4 year old girls and a wife), it's definitely a challenge to find time to train.  Not being independently wealthy kinda sucks too - that means a job.  Fortunately, I don't have to travel for work very often.  Maybe an average of 3 - 4 times a year.  Though I will be traveling for work Thursday to Monday the weekend before the Bear Chase.  Ugh.  Vacations always seem to throw me for a loop too and throw me off schedule for weeks.  Anyways, most likely I'm in the same situation as a lot of other people are; kids, a spouse, and a job.

How do I find time to train?  Well, a lot of the time, it's when it's dark.  Getting up at 4:00am really sucks, but everyone is sleeping so it works.  Weekdays, that gives me about 2 hours before I have to be home and get ready to go to work and when the family is rising and shining.  I did that a lot when I first started getting fit out on the mountain bike.  This year, I can probably count on my extremities how many times I've done that.  9:00pm - not as sucky as 4:00am, but again - it's dark.  The kids are in bed, but the wife is still up (night-owl) and isn't always so keen on me going out then.  She likes me to spend alone time with her (which is a good thing) and she's nervous about my having a heart attack, injuring myself, and wild animals out on the trails when I'm pretty much alone out there.  Now, here is the genius move...  train at lunch time when I'm at work!  I used to mountain bike with my buddy Chris at lunch time; now, it's running.  We've got some nice trails right outside of my office doors in Greenwood Village.  It's not Back Country stuff - but it's good.  The Highline Canal Trail and an area that we call 'The Bone Yard' gets the majority of our attention.  The only drawback really is the lack of showers and change rooms at the office.  Lack of = non-existent.  Bathroom stalls and wipe-downs is the only option other than the car (which Chris is a pro at!).  It's not pretty but it works.  I just do as much as I can to avoid afternoon meetings!  Sometime getting from the 'change room' to outside and vice versa are challenging and slightly embarrassing, but 'meh' - whatever.  I'm just happy I get to run.

That leaves weekends and long runs - that's the real challenge.  My girls still nap (most of the time) but it's pretty dodgy getting out during those times - and it's not for long enough.  One might not nap and be causing a ruckus and it's not fair for my wife to have to always deal with that, so I've pretty much abandoned those weekend daylight sessions.  And sometimes a nap for myself is in order too - to the delight of my better half.  That lead me to the path of taking Saturday's off and Sunday long runs - at 3am.  The alarm goes off at 2:45.  That only nets me about 4 hours of sleep, but it means I can get in a solid 4 hours before everyone is getting up for the day (they sleep-in on the weekend sometimes =) ).  I also recently got the green light to stay out longer - until 9am - so that is a huge help, and why I was able to pull off my 26.2 this past Sunday!  I think that the idea was that I could start at 5am and be back at 9am, so that I wasn't so tired all day, but...  Thanks Baby!!!  And, you might be asking, "Well, 3am sure is the middle of the night, but that's OK with her?" - Ya, I'm not 100% sure on that one either, but at least if I go down injured or something, the wait before someone finds me is a lot less since the trails are fairly busy once the sun comes up.  What's funny is that just last night, she tells me that a doctor friend of hers that she works with, whom I was talking to just on Sunday, told her; "I'm worried about Disco - I don't think he's getting enough sleep..."  Too funny.

Of course I couldn't do the dark training without my trusty Petzl Tikka XP 2 headlamp (sales pitch?) - which is great.  I don't carry any other light source other than a backup pen-light, and of course spare batteries.  There isn't a ton of technical/rocky terrain on my routes so I can get away with it, though sometimes the blackness, if there is no moon and/or no clouds, does slow me down a little bit.  But, I've been on these trails so much, both biking and running, that I almost know them like the back of my hand.  Usually roots, fist-sized and smaller rocks, and rain-ruts are the biggest hazards.  The best nights though are when there is a full, or close to full moon, and some wispy cloud cover.  You could almost go without any lamp.  Almost.

The biggest thing I like about nighttime / dark runs; the solitude.  It's just me, my thoughts (and sometime out-loud cursing of myself), and nature.

Having a treadmill and a bike trainer in the basement helps, but unless conditions outside are terrible, then outside is where I want to be - dark or not.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My First (unofficial) Marathon Run...

Well, today I ran my first marathon - self imposed, so it wasn't an official race or anything.
Distance: 26.28mi
Time: 5:10:55
Elevation Gain: 2117 ft
Pace: 11:49 min/mi
Avg HR: 154
Max HR: 168
Location: Douglas County East-West Trail in Highlands Ranch, Highlands Ranch Back Country, and The Bluffs Regional Park in Lone Tree.
Start Time: 3:00am
Sunrise: 6:25am
Feet:  Merrell Trail Gloves
Visibility:  Dark - no moon, and no cloud cover.
Temp: High 60's - Mid 70's.
Note:  Nope, I'm not very fast, but I've only been running for about 10 months, and have worked on endurance, more than speed.  Maybe I'll start working on that after the Bear Chase.

I'd been sick all week with only 11.0 total miles 'run'.  This was suppose to be last weekends long run but I had to abandon that due to sickness.  I started out cautiously as during my two short runs during the week, if my HR got high, it would keep going higher and higher and I could never recover it, even at easy effort.  Walking at 20:00 pace had me at 130 HR.  So, my pace ended up about 0:50 min/mi less than I had hoped for overall today.  Lots of walking throughout and more than I would have liked but I wanted to play it safe. My calves were super tight for about the first 6 miles too, but finally loosened up.  That seems to be fairly normal for me on my long runs, and I chalk it up to jumping out of bed on short sleep and diving right into my run at 3:00am.  Perceived exertion was greater than normal and the effort felt like my pace should have been about 1:00 min/mi faster than it was.

By mile 7 or so I started to find a bit of a comfort zone but still was trying to be careful.  I think I may have played it too careful though, and maybe should have pushed a but harder through the middle stages but I wanted to get my distance and not make my HR get out of control again.  I seem to have an issue where, when I start intentionally slow, I can never seem to increase my pace by very much.  If I start out fast(er), I seem fine and can maintain it.  Not sure if that's some kind of mental thing or what, but again, I didn't want to test it with my HR issues earlier in the week.

By mile 20 my legs were hurting and burning, and had to really push through it to get my miles.  I totally ran out of liquid with 1 mile to go (stopped at the only water fountain on the whole route and re-filled my hand-held) but had been in conservation mode since mile 20.  Definitely got dehydrated on this run, and need to come up with some kind of strategy to carry more water.  A second handheld maybe?  My weight was only down about 2% post run, which isn't too bad but that was after chugging 32 oz of H2O and Recovery all within the last mile.  So, it's probably more like 3.5%.

I used PowerBar Ironman Perform Lemon-Lime mix for the first time today.  That's what is being used in the Bear Chase race and I had  no GI issues with it which is what I needed to test.  Also used GU Roctane Gel for the first time which I'll probably use for the race.  It works well and could feel a boost from it.  I would have preferred to test GU Roctane last week and then Powerbar this week but had no choice because I'm running out of long runs before Sept. 25th.  I've been using Hammer Perpetuem Solids but wanted to try something else, since choking those things down is brutal and I'm not sure that I'm getting a whole lot of benefit from them.

I felt like my breathing was really sloppy today too, and I had a real tough time controlling and managing it.  I was never huffing and puffing, but just was not being efficient.  My cadence seemed fine though (I try to maintain 180), but am really disappointed in the Merrell Trail Gloves and their durability (or lack thereof).  With today's run I have only 220mi on them - and the soles are pretty much worn right through on the bottom outside edges - right where I must land on them just behind my pinky toes.  I land on the outside of my foot and roll inwards towards my big toe.  Does that make me a supinator?  I'm going to have to use them sparingly before the Bear Chase if I want to make it through with them.  The wear got a lot worse even just today.  I'll definitely have to contact Merrell about them.  Other than the wear, they are awesome shoes and way more rugged than the Vibram Five Fingers.  After long runs in the VFF's, my feet would feel like hamburger.  Not so with the MTG's.  I can cruise over terrain in the MTG's that I would have to tiptoe over in the VFF's.

You can see the wear on the MTG's after only 220mi.  The VFF's are practically pristine with about 500mi on them.

Fueling today:

15 minutes before run -
1x scoop Powerbar Ironman Perform w/ 16oz H2O + 1x GU Gel w/ caffeine

During run -
3x scoops Powerbar  Ironman Perform w/ 70oz H2O in pack
2x scoops Powerbar  Ironman Perform w/ 24oz H2O in handheld (used starting mile 20)
1/2 hour - GU Gel w/ caffeine,
1 hour - GU Gel w/ caffeine,
1.5 hours - GU Roctane Gel,
2 hours - GU Gel w/ caffeine,
2.5, 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5 hours - GU Roctane Gel
24 oz H2O - water-fountain stop
5 x total S! Caps on the hour marks

After run -
Recovery - 1 x Hammer Recoverite and again 1/2 hour later.

Strangely quiet animal wise on the trails today - except for the 1 prairie rattler I had to circumvent in the Back Country.  It was at about 6:30am so he was probably still a little sleepy and cold.  Still, I like to give a little 'Hu-ah!' every once in a while though, especially when it's still dark.  No sense in surprising a big buck or who knows what else in the pitch black.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A bit of medical history...

It was right around December, 2009, that things started going south on me.  I had about 5 months and 40 lbs. of weight loss behind me, and was averaging about 16 solid training sessions a month.  People at work were telling me "Wow - you've lost so much weight - you must feel great!" - But I didn't.  I felt lousy, and I was now training only half as much and struggling with that.  I was struggling all day long with being tired and fatigued, lack of focus, memory issues, muscle weakness, etc., and when I got home from work it took everything in me to not fall asleep at the drop of the hat.  This made training tough - and general family life even tougher.  I'd fall asleep next to the girls putting them to bed.  All I wanted to do was sleep - and I was cranky.  Really cranky.  Ask my wife.  

After a few visits to my doctor, and an unsuccessful trial of anti-depression meds (it was a long-shot), some blood tests finally showed low (T)estosterone so he started me on a 'T-patch'.  A few months went by and no change.  By April my total training (if you could even call it that anymore) days a month had dropped to about five.  My doc sent me to an endocrinologist in April - who did more blood tests and they showed the same low levels.  He put me on Androgel - Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).  My wife was nervous about that, and I was too, but I wanted to give it a shot.  We had tested for pretty much everything, and I was almost hoping it way thyroid related just so that I had a conclusive answer - but it wasn't that.  I had a bone density scan done too - which would indicate if I had long term low T, or just short term.  That scan showed osteopenia in my right hip.  Not really bad, but it was there and it had potential to get worse.  That meant that the low T wasn't really something I had an issue with long-term.  Mid-term maybe, but not long-term.  The osteopenia was potentially reversible.  I needed to take large doses of Vitamin D (I was deficient there too), which would help with calcium absorption - so that was an easy fix at least - hopefully.

HRT might have perked me up a tiny bit, but it also perked up my rage after a while too.  I was warned by both of my doctors to be careful of the rage that could come - and come it did.  Road rage = The Incredible Hulk was how they put it I believe.  Small little things would make me snap in an instant and it scared my wife, my kids, and me.  We tried to get it regulated and get the T levels down because now they were through the roof, but that took time.  I had to stop taking it.  I wasn't myself and I didn't feel like myself.  I was losing control.  By this time it was late August, 2010, and I went to my endocrinologist and told him - "I'm done with the HRT.  My family is afraid of me."  The only option he gave me was HRT and he generally seemed pretty disinterested in finding the root cause, so I was done with him at that point as well.  Testosterone was not my major issue in my and my wife's opinions.

I had kept going to my regular doc during all of this and he was looking at things like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Chronic Epstein Barr Virus (since I had an elevated monocyte count and a history of mono in college).  After dropping my endocrinologist I was feeling pretty discouraged and while I appreciated everything my regular doc was doing and trying, no answers were forthcoming. 

Since stopping HRT in August, 2010, though, things actually seemed to slowly get a little better and while I had good days and bad days, my workouts started to increase and average out to about 13 a month.  Decent workouts now though.  What was strange, was that though I generally felt tired, fatigued, etc., but to a lesser extent than before, when I trained I usually felt pretty good and felt good afterwards.  I went to a different endocrinologist (one that my wife's doctor pals at work recommended) in November, 2010 - and my T levels had regulated at 'low normal' since stopping the treatment - so he recommended doing nothing - just ride it out.  And so that's what I did and continue to do.  My new endocrinologist thought that how I felt was strange too.  "You feel fatigued and want to sleep all the time, but you can ride your MTB for 25mi?".  Ya.  Strange.

At that point I was mostly just mountain biking - either on the trails or on the trainer in the basement.  A little dabbling in running on the treadmill, but that was pretty unsuccessful.  In late November, 2010, I got my minimalist shoes, and was running on the trails by December. On January 17th, 2011, I did my first unofficial 1/2 marathon distance out on the trails.  Since then it's been about 98% running, and 2% riding.

I still don't feel like I'm 100%, or even 90%, and I still have what seem like good weeks and bad weeks, as opposed to days, but I think I'm on the upward and onward track.  I wonder now if I should have gone to a Sports Medicine Doc instead, or in addition?  And I'm still considering doing that.  I might be way off, but maybe my system was just really out of whack from going from zero activity and weighing 210 to an average of 16 solid workouts a month and 170 in 5 months?  Nutrition could be a part of it, or over-training/burnout even...  but I'll touch on those in future posts.

Thanks for listening, and if anyone has any ideas, similar issues or experiences, then I'm all ears.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Where to start...

I'm not sure exactly where I topped out this time. Probably close to 210. I'm about 5' 6" and stocky - so probably only about 60 lbs heavier than I should be.  Phhht.  That was late spring of 2009 and I was 36.  I've yo-yo'ed over the years up to as much as about 240, but my ignorance and apathy were finally about to end.

I don't think I was expecting to hear what I did from my doc what I did that day: "You're GOING to have a heart attack."  He gave it to me straight and serious - which I needed.  My triglycerides over 500, Cholesterol actually surprising low, in the low 200's only, but HDL was way too low, and LDL was way too high.  He put me on a statin, he put me on baby aspirin, and he put me on Lovaza.  "Start exercising - today" he says.  And I did.

Now, I don't think that it was so much that I ate bad foods, just that I ate too much (with a bit of bad choice sprinkled in occasionally).  It's great to eat good, healthy foods, but when you're regularly topping probably 6000 calories a day on a non-existent exercise regimen, that's not good.  And the sprinkling?  Well, I tend to have moments of weakness - and binge.  Ben & Jerry's (pint at a time) or anything salty, like potato chips (the whole bag), or pita chips (the whole bag) with a tub of hummus, etc, etc.  But I don't touch soda/pop/fizzy drinks and I don't touch fast food - IN-N-OUT Burger being the only exception which is rare because there is no IN-N-OUT in Colorado (boo).  So, I'm pretty sure that I have some kind of eating disorder that probably stems from childhood and my parents - easy blame.

So, I started out riding my mountain bike (yes, I actually had one) to get my exercise.  The first ride, June 23rd, 2009, was a whopping 3.25mi around my neighborhood (elevation ~6000').  I was pretty sure the doc was too late in trying to help me and that a heart attack was imminent on that first (and more than a few subsequent) ride.  But, the heart attack never came.  Day after day I got a little bit better and went a little farther.  My first +20mi ride was on August 4th, 2009.  At this point, I had a 2.5 year old and 6 month old at home - riding was done either at night after bed-time or early in the morning before the girls 'rosed and shone'.  Either way, it was usually dark out, and dark is for sleeping.  September 8th was my first +30mi ride, that I did with my ultra-runner/biker/machine friend from work.  We had started doing weekly night rides which was great, extra motivation, and I more than picked his brain on nutrition, fueling, technique, training, etc., on our rides, and at work.  It probably - no, definitely - helps that the weather and trails where I live are just incredible.  I'm so happy that my girls are going to get to grow up in Colorado (for many reasons) and my wife and I are sorry that we didn't relocate here sooner than the fall of 2007 - but that's life.  Now that we are here, we'll make the most of it!

Let's fast forward to today, and I'll try to fill in the in-between pieces along the whole blog 'journey'.  Riding the MTB happens rarely anymore, though I love it when I do ride.  In late November of 2010 my wife and my girls got me a pair of Vibram Five Fingers minimalist shoes (I'm not going to try to sell anyone anything!) that I had asked for as a b-day prezzie.  I had dabbled very unsuccessfully in running over the previous year and my ultra-runner/biker/machine friend (let's just call him 'Chris' from now on) suggested trying these.  I had done a couple of barefoot sessions on the 'mill, and was instantly hooked when I slipped on the VFF's.  Now, on September 25th, 2011, I'm going to run in, and hopefully complete, my first race - the 50 mile ultra

Hopefully the story of my trials, struggles, experiences, and accomplishments can be an inspiration to others, who may need a kick up the arse like I got.  I'm sure my wife is probably thinking: 'Great, now he's doing a blog', but I owe her, and my girls, absolutely everything and love them more than life itself - so, it's OK for her to think that.  And my friends Chris, David (who got his own kick, and is now kicking!), and Kev - who have always supported me, guided me, and inspired me - I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude.

To those that doubt themselves - and I almost hate to say it because it's WAY overused but - If I can do it, anyone can...  And I really believe that.

If I can do it, anyone can.