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.