Archive for January, 2011

It may seem strange to drop my 2011 running manifesto a solid 29 days into the new year. The fact is, I considered the Weymouth Woods 100k more of the final hurrah to 2010 than the first race of 2011. I jetted off to New Hampshire 36 hours after finishing, and enjoyed some Nordic skiing, a little snowshoeing, and a snow day spent playing the game of world domination. I didn’t run a step for eight days, the longest time I’ve taken off from running in a year and a half.

With Weymouth over, and a decent amount of time before my next race, there’s time to make some changes. And change is really, really awesome. The break from running, but by the time this Monday rolled around, I was ready to go. Monday marked the start of 2011 training in my book. And in 2011, three (running-related) things are going to happen:

1) Actually training like an ultrarunner

2) Settling some unfinished business

3) Doing more things I hate

Let’s take each of those in turn.

Actually training like an ultrarunner

You want to know how many long runs I did after the Vermont 50 (in late Sept.) in the four months before Weymouth?

Two. And a lot of ultrarunners probably wouldn’t consider them worthy of the term “long.”

Yes, two. I ran 16ish miles one day during finals week last month. Then, a couple weeks later, on December 29, I did my “2011” run, running 20 miles in the morning and 11 miles in the afternoon. That’s it.

But maybe I was just coming off the great base that I’d built for the Vermont 50, right? Ummm…no. Once again, I did a couple of approximately 15-17 milers, one in July and one (possibly two) in September. Oh, and on my birthday in August I did two 10 mile runs so I could say that I’d run my age.

In short, I can count the non-race long runs I did in the latter half of last year on one hand.

Which is ridiculous, of course. I mean, there’s a lot of training philosophies out there, but they all have one thing in common: you have to do the long run. I definitely didn’t nail that one last year.

Actually training like an ultrarunner comprises the middle theme of my three-year long ultrarunning plan. It goes like this:

In 2010, I became an ultrarunner.

In 2011, I train like an ultrarunner.

In 2012, I take the ultrarunning world by storm.

At least that’s how I like to think of the plan. So here’s the goal: one 20+ mile continuous run a week and a second day where two runs combine to be at least 20+ miles.

Of course, I have to analyze my schedule to see when those runs are going to happen, but I think it’s doable.

Settling some unfinished business

Last year, I came up with the idea of attempting to set a new PR for every distance under the sun (well, not quite) before I turn 21 (which happens in late August). A critical part of the idea was that, in the midst of expanding to race longer-distance events), I not lose whatever speed and agility I had previously.

I still like that idea, largely because I’m sick of my mile and 5k PRs being from 2006, which is now five years ago. So this spring we’re going to try and purge those from the record books and take care of some unfinished business in the shorter races before the focus on the ultra-long.

What this means: In February, I’ll aim to beat my half marathon PR of 1:17:58. When the track thaws out at UNH, I’ll aim to break a five minute mile for the first time in my life (let’s just say I wasn’t much of a prodigal in high school track…and that I was injured a fair deal), as well as my 10:26 two mile PR. In early April, I’m eying this 5k in Durham for a sub-16:35. Judging from past results, it seems to be a fairly fast course. Seventeen days later, I’ll skip Monday classes and look to go sub-3:06:30 at the Boston Marathon, which I think is doable (in fact, I think sub-2:50 is quite doable).

Then, in May, I’ll look to get back to the ultra scene. If I feel like going all the way, I could look for a 10k to try and knock out in sub-36:31 (which should be fairly easy, as the per-mile pace for that is nearly exactly the same as that of my present half marathon PR).

If you didn’t catch that, my expected race schedule is here.

Doing more things I hate

Despite what “training like an ultrarunner” might have suggested, I don’t feel that the trial by miles is really the key to success and longevity. Rather than spending my mid-40s waxing poetic about running five million miles a week in my early 20s, I’d rather still just be out on the trials. So I’m looking to continue the expansion into a little more of a fitness balance: a little less emphasis on mileage and a little more emphasis on the other aspects of fitness.

The bad thing is that I pretty much just like running.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I like hiking and snowshoeing and (as of last Tuesday) nordic skiing. But those are too similar to running.

In 2011, I will be placing an emphasis on things I hate to do, some rather immensely. That will include going to the gym and doing things other than cardio. That will include running endless intervals on a track. That will include a return to daily crunches, push-ups, etc. I can’t stand that stuff.

I did some weight training once over break, back at my old high school with my old cross country coach. I actually did a bunch of machines for once (usually I just waste a lot of time on the bike and at the water fountain).

I was sore – very sore – for the next three days.

Then last weekend I went to the gym back here at UNH with a friend. He’s one of those guys who actually goes to the gym, so he knows a thing or two. We did a bunch of functional stuff – no machines, a smidge of free weighs and medicine, but mostly just contorting the body doing this and that.

About five minutes in, I was already using the word “brutal.” Oh, and I was sore for the next three days again.

It’s hard to get myself sore running these days (though perhaps once I start doing back-to-back long runs). But it’s a wonderful, wonderful feeling. I need more of it. And I think the functional stuff is where the focus should be – it makes sense to cast aside the security (and slacking off) that machines allow.

So gym. Track. Things I hate. Good things to embrace in 2011. If I sacrifice a few miles, so be it. The trial-by-miles approach certainly isn’t time-efficient.

That meets the crowd-pleasing three-things-to-a-list component, but safe to say it doesn’t cover everything. Nutrition, for one, which is actually by far the subject of my greatest self-experiment at the moment. There’s some skill sets that I would like to acquire, such as night running, for whenever I make my 100 mile debut. But we’ll save those for future posts. I always need excuses to blog.


Why do xtranormal videos rock? Because everything’s delivered dead-pan, when in the real world you would have cracked up halfway through the first sentence. At least when the topic is ultrarunning, that is.

With the recent upload of “Ultra Runner vs Iron Man” (subtitle: “pointless conversation between two freaks”) the field has truly skyrocketed to the next level. But it’s not the only one out there. The top three ultrarunning-related xtranormal videos reveal our ability to assimilate into traditional society, discuss the honorable task that is crewing and show that an ultrarunner can school an ironman triathlete when it comes down to a battle of wits.


3) I am a barefoot runner

A: Even if that is the case, why would you want to run barefoot?

B: Where should I start? You see, mankind has evolved over millions of years…

A: Oh, sweet lord. I wish I had not asked.

2) Crewing the Western States 100

A: “Well Sandy, that really does sound fun. How did your runner do? Did they achieve their goal?”

B: “If their goal was to alienate me and everyone else in their crew, and make fools of us in front of the other runners and crews, then yes, mission accomplished. His goal was to break 24 hours. He went out at a 13 hour pace for the first 20 miles, then fell apart. He barely made a 28 hour time, because he walked most of the last 80 miles. My husband was the runner I crewed. I filed for divorce yesterday.”

1) Ultra Runner vs Iron Man

A: Anyway, is ultrarunning just for fat people who can’t run very far but have a very  high tolerance for boredom?

B: Perhaps you are right about the boredom. I am still listening to you.

B: In ultrarunning, everyone is equal. We do not rely on expensive gadgets and ridiculous age categories like in triathlon.

A: Your sport is ridiculous. In my most recent triathlon, I was ranked the 11th place left-handed male aged 33 to 37-and-a-half who lives in the Thames Valley region. In my next triathlon, I hope to break into the top 10. I am awesome.

Sign next to the Oyster River in Durham, New Hampshire’s College Woods.

After all the fun of Tuesday’s session at the Jackson Ski Touring Center, I was hoping for the chance to do some more Nordic skiing.

That chance came today.

Eric and Irene were heading up to do some snowboarding at Waterville Valley, and it just so happens that Waterville offers Nordic skiing as well, with over 40 miles of trails. So after dropping them off at the base of the mountain, I headed in to the Nordic Center in the middle of town.

Once again, the day went great. During the morning, I mainly stuck to the trails around downtown, heading around the pond, over the golf course, etc. It’s rather cool that you’re basically just skiing through the middle of downtown. I stuck to the easy trails, as an early-morning meander on to an intermediate trail had resulted in some pretty spectacular wipe-outs. I’m still not used to the idea of going downhill with wood strapped to my feet…

After a lunch break, I headed out to some of the easy trails on the outskirts of the network, notably the Livermore Trail. I actually hiked the Livermore Trail a couple summers ago on the way to bagging the Tripyramids (both 4000 footers). It’s a flat couple miles until you start going up, and it made for the perfect nordic skiing trail. It was groomed and tracked perfectly – you could really get some speed going – but at the same time the incline was gentle enough that things didn’t get out of hand.

Weather for the day was mostly sunny, though some clouds rolled in during the afternoon and the odd snow flake came down. The second Nordic experience was just as good as the first. I was skiing for between 3-3.5 hours, and it was awesome to try some new trails. Really liking this sport.

Here’s a few photos from the day. You couldn’t pick much better scenery for a day of skiing:

Looking at the Town Square/Nordic Center from the pond loop

Skiing on the golf course

The perfectly-groomed (and perfectly-inclined) Livermore Trail

Town Square, Waterville Valley

Title of the post pretty much says it all. Finish line photo from Saturday’s Weymouth Woods 100k.

Maybe I should hold a caption contest…

On Sunday, Dan, Eric and I ventured north to Jackson, New Hampshire. We spent a chilly night in the outing club’s cabin there and in the morning headed out to do something I’ve always wanted to do – Nordic ski the trails maintained by the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation.

I’ve always considered it awesome that the club has a cabin in what is essentially the most well-known cross country skiing resort town in the eastern United States. Finally I was able to take advantage of that proximity.

We bought our trail passes and threw on our skis (luckily, the outing club has some, which saved us some dough). This was actually my first time on skis of any sort, since I’ve never actually gotten around to trying downhill. Honestly though, Nordic skiing has always had more of an allure for me.

We started out on the flats right around the lodge It didn’t take too long to get a basic hang of things. In fact, the easy learning curve makes is one of the most accessible winter snowsports, in my opinion. We did a few loops around the center of Jackson village, then headed out to the Ellis River Trail, which is one of the longer, easier trails.

Kindly pointing out my skill level

Both Dan and Eric had only done Nordic once before, so I wasn’t too much of a burden. We followed the river for a while, adding on a couple side loops here and there, and took a brief stop in one of the warming huts. I was moving pretty well after a while, really getting the hang of it. It felt fantastic.

It snowed the entire time we were out, which was absolutely magical. According to the foundation’s Facebook page, they got about eight inches yesterday. On the drive back, various signs pegged the temperature in the upper-teens, but it felt very pleasant. I skied in regular hiking attire, with polypro base layer/light fleece/heavier fleece on the top and base layer/rain pants on the bottom.

All in all, we were out for three hours, moving most of the time. Luckily, the soreness from the 100k had rescinded, so I didn’t really feel any aftereffects from that. It was a fantastic workout though – after three hours we headed in to the main lodge for a brief warm-up and after spending some time by the fire reading Nordic skiing magazines, we decided we were pretty well spent.

All in all, Nordic is everything I hoped it would be. It was beyond fun. I’ll definitely be trying to hit the trails in Jackson or elsewhere more this winter. If we’re lucky, maybe Durham will be slammed with snow for the next couple months so I can get in some time in College Woods or Foss Farm.

Here’s a few photos from the day:

Getting the hang of things on the flats

Eric heading over the covered bridge

Skies outside the warming hut

Back at the car after a solid day

By nature, running is a very numbers-oriented sport. With Saturday’s 100k consisting of 14 laps of the same course and super-accurate chip timing, it is rather easy to witness my rather-catastrophic slowdown in scientific terms now that split times for all runners have been posted. Fastest lap was lap two at 7:46/mile. Slowest lap was the final lap, which I powerwalked, at 15:33/mile. That’s a decline of 82 percent, by my calculations.

Interestingly, one of last year’s runners did a far more scientific look at the slowdown by all runners during the race. It’s a rather fascinating read.