I have to be in Fort Knox, Kentucky late afternoon on Monday, June 6. Rather than just drive straight through, I think I’m going to leave on Friday and spend a few days exploring western Virginia before getting there. Current thinking:

Day 1 (Friday): Hike Mt. Pleasant

A bit of an random pick (I’d never heard of 4054′ Mt. Pleasant until I saw it on the map), but I needed something shorter to do on the first day (since I have to start with a couple hours of driving), and I wanted to be in the vicinity of Buena Vista, VA (see day two). Anyway, Mt. Pleasant is supposed to have some pretty sweet views.

Day 2 (Saturday): Cycle the highest and lowest points of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

Yes, hitting the highest and lowest points on one ride is an absolute gimmick, but I wanted to include a day of cycling somewhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and a gimmick helps make the choice easier. I kind of wanted to revisit Buena Vista (I passed through years ago), so I picked there as a starting point. Ride was inspired by this post; judging from their map, it looks like we’re looking at 65 or so miles if I do it as an out-and-back.

Day 3 (Sunday): Climb the highest point in Virginia

That would be 5729′ Mt. Rogers. Sounds a bit more impressive when you consider it’s the highest of the state highpoints east of South Dakota that lacks a road to its summit. Preliminary research suggests an eight mile hike, which means I could bag the state’s highpoint, drive a bit further west, crash in a motel, and then…

Day 4 (Monday): Report to Fort Knox

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It has been eight days since I first incorporated the arts of juggling and running (a notion typically known as “joggling”) and I have one primary conclusion: the learning curve was much less steep than I was expecting.

A week into joggling, I find that I no longer really worry about dropping (which isn’t to say it doesn’t happen, but it’s not much of an issue), I’ve been able to leave the safety of a flat paved bike path behind (and joggle on trails and roads open to traffic) and it doesn’t slow me down all that much.

Things have improved quickly.

But don’t take my word for it. Thanks to the magical Garmin Forerunner 305, which displays the pace from my runs graphically, we are able to easily discern improvements in the majority of the aforementioned elements.

For instance, here is a graph of my pace from my inaugural joggling session last Monday, in which I covered seven miles at 7:36/mile pace (click any of these for a larger view; also I inverted the colors because it seems like the graphs show up a little better).

Each of the spikes in the graph, as you might expect, are drops, when I lose all momentum previously acquired in the blatant pursuit of the errant spheres.

In other words, I make up for having dropped the ball. Literally.

Anyway, some spikes are less pronounced than others (sometimes I can catch a drop on the bounce and continue without losing much in the way of pace), but I count at least 30. That’s not too bad given that it was spread out over seven miles; in fact, it’s a far better ratio (we’ll call it 4.5:1) than I was anticipating.

Now, compare said ratio to my second joggling session, a run of approximately four miles at 7:07/mile pace (a 30 second improvement from session one).

The key thing here is the first two miles, when I was joggling normally (this implies the traditional three ball cascade pattern). We see about six drops in the first two miles, a 3:1 ratio.

In the latter half of the run, I deviated from the traditional pattern and incorporated what would be, were I not extremely committed to having this habit seen as an athletic pursuit rather than a performance, be called “tricks.” So we have a lot more drops in that stage, which is fun.

Flash ahead to the third joggling session, a shorter one in which three miles were covered at 6:34/mile pace (again, a thirty second improvement on top of session two).

Here, in the true turning point of training, we witness a nearly flat graph. In these three miles, I had only three drops- a minor one about 0.1 miles in, a typical drop at 0.4 miles and then, an amazing 2.4 miles of non-stop joggling later, the final drop of the day at the 2.8 mile mark.

The ratio improves to 1:1, and we have something we call progress.

Ultimately, that ratio needs to sink lower and lower (the current marathon joggling record dropped maybe twice over the course of 26.2), but it’s already at a minimal level. Which means I’ve been able to concentrate on other areas of joggling exploration. Saturday I took the act off the bike path and on to normal, open-to-traffic (although fairly calm) roads (3.5 miles at 7:08/mile pace), and today I actually joggled a somewhat technical trail near my house with some pretty decent uphills and downhills (3.9 miles at 7:22/mile pace). There were a few more drops because of those factors, but they were quite satisfying achievements for having undertaken said endeavour for the first time a week ago.

If you’re interested (unlikely), here’s the Garmin data for Saturday’s road run (note: for these last two graphs, you can’t presume everything spike is a drop, since the natural uphills and downhills in the course meant there was a natural fluctuation in pace).

And Monday’s trail run.

The four Adventure Cycling Maps that I ordered have come in, so I’ve been able to get an initial look at where August’s St. Louis to Newport News, VA bike tour will take me through.

Having to plan my own route between Sag Harbor, NY and Durham, NH for my first bike tour took quite a bit of time, so I’m glad I can ride the Adventure Cycling Association’s TranAmerica Trail for most of this ride.

I wasn’t really sure what these maps would contain (besides, well, a map), but they manage to pack quite a bit of information into a small package.

On one side, you have the section of the route (which is typically around 300-400 miles) broken into 30-40 mile chunks, with a corresponding map and set of directions for each chunk.

On the other side, you have a guide to services (food, camping, bike shops, libraries, etc) in each area. You also have a “field notes” section with some historical and geological information about the region. Finally, at the top, you have an elevation profile for that map’s section.

So that’s what’s contained in an Adventure Cycling Map, if you were wondering.

Anyway, I’ve bought four maps, which span from Girard, Kansas to Yorktown, Virginia. I’m starting from outside St. Louis, not Girard, but I should meet up with the route within 100 miles (at the most). I’ll figure out that route at some later date. The specifications of that addition will determine the exact final mileage for The Grander Tour, but it looks like we’re looking at about 1,250 miles.

Some towns that you may have heard of that I’ll be going through: Carbondale, IL; Owensboro, KY; Berea, KY; Damascus, VA (where the route intersects with the Appalachian Trail); Charlottesville, VA; Williamsburg, VA.

It’s still a long way off, but it’s nice to have something to pore over. Getting reacquainted with the road bike now that I’m home. It was a pretty busy spring and I haven’t really been on it.

Now that the academic year is over and I’m back at home for a bit, training has officially commenced for my plan to take down the Guinness World Record for joggling (running while juggling) 50 miles.

If you read between the lines in the last post, you might have figured out that I’d never actually joggled before. So today was the first time.

I picked a park a few miles away from home to make the inaugural attempt. Newport News’ Riverview Farm Park, as it’s known, has a paved multi-use path that runs around the perimeter of it, and I figured it would be good for joggling. It’s about 1.5 miles ffor each circuit, and the path is wide enough to get by people easily.

I wasn’t really sure how things were going to go, but the worst part was probably the 50 foot walk from the car to the path when I reflected how abnormal this was going to look.

But things went well from the start. Running comes natural, and juggling, despite the fact that I haven’t done it for years, comes pretty natural as well. I joggled fairly fluidly from the start.

I ended up doing about 4.5 loops, for a total of seven miles. Total time was 53:16, which comes out to 7:37 per mile.

However, most people probably just went to know how many times I dropped, and there were quite a few times- probably at least 30. But that was honestly less than I was expecting. Plus, the 7:37/mile pace includes all the time picking up dropped balls, since I never stopped the Garmin.

For the few dozen people at the park at 11 am this morning, especially those walking the path, well, they got a free show. There were a couple people that I passed four or five times. Most didn’t say anything, though there was one four-year-old that thought I was pretty much the coolest thing ever.

A couple training-related notes:

  • Arms definitely got more tired than they typically would on a run. Not surprising. But eight hours of juggling is nothing to underestimate.
  • I was looking slightly more up than I normally would, so I could see my neck becoming more of an issue as we push toward the 50 mile distance. I alternated between looking at the balls, and looking past them, if that makes sense. I think the latter is where I’ll need to be later on, but I was able to do it fairly decently today.
  • Little things like wiping the sweat from your brow become kind of difficult. Which is an actual issue when you’re running in 75 degree temperatures in complete sun after spending the last eight months running in New Hampshire…

In conclusion, seven miles joggled at 7:37/mile. Not bad for a first attempt. Now to fill out some paperwork for Guinness…

In my effort to always be planning the next big thing, I am actually planning ahead a bit, and am currently musing the next next big thing (this is the next big thing).

I am currently in the exploratory committee phrase of attempting to break a Guinness World Record.

Specifically, I’m interested in the Guinness World Record for joggling 50 miles (with three balls, not five pictured above; that just happens to be the greatest joggling photo over), set in October 2007 by Perry Romanowski (see the account of his record-setting effort, which broke Ashrita Furman’s 1989 mark of 8:52:07). For those not in the know, joggling is the act of running while juggling. I am rather proficient in juggling, thanks to an obsessive period in middle school. I also enjoy running ultramarathons.

Have I previously combined the two? Well no, not really. But I am interested in making the record attempt next spring (ideally, I would love to have the record before graduation). The exact venue is yet to be determined. That would give me a long block of time to get the motions down. Michal Kapral, who currently holds the world record for joggling the marathon, said that it took him about four months to become proficient enough to set his initial world record.

The latter fact is the result of my in-depth investigations into the world of joggling in the past week or so (this isn’t exactly a spur-of-the-moment decision; I came across the record in December). I will share the result of those investigations with you.

Let’s get started. First of all, this is the greatest joggling video ever made. It manages to make it appear sexy, which is obviously the hardest task in the world. I believe it depicts the 1990 World Joggling Championships. Watch 0:45 – 1:15, 2:30-2:45, and 3:57-4:30 if you’d like the cliff notes version.

For those who think that no one is actually going for these records, check out Wikipedia’s entry on how much the marathon joggling record has dropped in 20 years (it’s currently seven minutes faster than my PR):

Recent international media footage has featured the battle for the marathon record between Canadian Michal Kapral and American Zach Warren. The history of the record includes:

  • 2:50:09 September, 2007 — Toronto: Michal Kapral (Canada);
  • 2:52:15 November, 2006 — Philadelphia: Zach Warren (USA);
  • 2:57:39 September, 2006 — Toronto: Michal Kapral (Canada);
  • 2:58:23 April, 2006 — Boston: Zach Warren (USA);
  • 3:06:45 April, 2006 — Boston: Michal Kapral (Canada);
  • 3:07:05 November, 2005 — Philadelphia, PA: Zach Warren (USA);
  • 3:07:46 September, 2005 – Toronto, Canada: Michal Kapral (Canada);
  • 3:20:49 August, 2000 — Karlsruhe, Germany, Paul-Erik Lillholm (Norway);
  • 3:22 1988 — Salmon River, Idaho: Ashrita Furman (USA) ;
  • 4:04 1987 — Los Angeles, CA: Albert Lucas (USA)

First of all, the obvious question is “How can you expect to break the record of 8:23 when you ran 8:25 in your one and only 50 mile race in which you were not juggling?”

Shut up.

No seriously, legitimate question. However, there are major differences between running 50 miles through the mountains of Vermont and running 50 miles on something equivalent to a paved bike path. The latter is what the previous record was set on, and what I would attempt to set it upon. This would remove technical trails and elevation gain from the equation, which I believe would be extremely significant. Additionally, I think I’ve progressed a good deal even from that initial 50 mile, before which I had never run more than 26.2 miles. I got second in a trail 100k and ran negative splits en route to a 2:56 in the Boston Marathon.

Still, there remains the question of how much the act of juggling would slow down the running process. What would be the equivalent non-joggling time? Luckily, we can turn to Kapral’s blog for that:

This is easy to calculate. Below is a comparative chart of my running and joggling PB times and the percentage differential:

400m: 53 secs. vs. 59 secs. (89%)
Mile: 4:22 vs. 4:49 (90%)
5K: 15:05 vs. 17:50 (84%)
10K: 31:59 vs. 36:27 (87%)
30K: 1:43 vs. 1:55 (89%)
Marathon: 2:30 vs. 2:53 (87%)

Yes, Kapral is wicked fast. He varies between an 10 and 13 percent decline in time, which apparently falls in line with what joggling experts have hypothesized.

Joggling pioneers like Bill Giduz say joggling should cost you only about 10% of your time. Mine are a bit higher, but that is likely due to the fact that most of my running PBs were set about five years ago when I was a) younger, b) fitter, c) 8 lbs. lighter, d) less overworked, e) less sleep-deprived.

This suggests that the current mark is equal to about a 7:32 50 miler (that’s 90 percent of 8:23). I believe that in approximately a year, on a non-technical course, such a feat would be within reach. Obviously, the training process would involve hefty experimentation and consideration of fueling and hydrating strategies (no more eating while running).

Kapral, if you wondered, also doesn’t take himself too seriously, per the video below:

The main thing that I’ve been exploring over the past few days is how one sets a record – the logistics behind it all, if you will. Before you even make the attempt, you have to fill out a form online in which you tell Guinness about your record attempt. They get back to you in four weeks or so and say whether it’s good enough or not. Presumably, it is easier to get this approval on a record that already exists, as this one does, than if you’re trying to get a new record.

The form looks something like this:

If they give the okay, then you go ahead and make all the other arrangements with the race director, gathering witnesses, etc. Then you actually break the record, which is an often overlooked part of the process. After the event, if you succeed, you submit a bunch of documentation and photos and stuff, and eventually they get back to you. That’s very vague; presumably Guinness would give me some specifics.

So the plan is to fill out the form in the coming week or so, and see what Guinness thinks of my current plan. One of my central questions is to whether they’d allow the record to be set in a 12 hour race, instead of a 50 mile race, if the former consisted of a USATF-certified loop course that could be done a number of times until 50 miles was reached. Regardless, I have been researching both USATF-certified 50 mile courses and loop courses. If they don’t like the idea for my first attempt, my schedule would give me plenty to submit successive forms.

(As a side note, there are much more in the way of flat, non-technical ultras in the fall than the spring, but given my completely arbitrary preference to do this before graduation, that doesn’t help me out much). Oh, and to answer the most frequently asked question related to joggling: No, you don’t start over if you drop one. You just pick it up and continue joggling from the point where you dropped it.

I have exchanged email correspondence with Romanowski, the current record holder, and he’s been helpful in discussing some of the things that Guinness looks out for. If all goes well, I would like to make a record attempt within the next year.

The Grander Tour: Maps

Posted: May 4, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Bought maps 9-12 today.

The Grander Tour?

Posted: April 25, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Last week I found out that I’ll be spending the months of June and July interning at Fort Knox, Kentucky. It’s a pretty cool opportunity that I’m looking forward to, but I’m also excited about another thing:

August.

Last summer, I had five days between the end of my employment on Long Island and when I needed to be at UNH.

I rode my bike. And I called it “The Grand Tour.”

This August, we have “The Grander Tour.”

Here’s the thing: the car I’ll have for the summer will need to end up in St. Louis, where my dad is residing at the moment, and I’ll need to be at home in Newport News, VA to prep for traveling to New Zealand. So what makes more sense then driving the car from Fort Knox to St. Louis and then riding my bike home?

To paraphrase my dad: “Well, I never would have thought of it, but I can see why you would.”

I know I need some endurance challenge, some feat to define my summer and provide many a day’s worth of motivation. I thought about trying to run my first 100 miler, because I think it would be cool to do one become I turn 21, but I’m really liking this idea right now, given the amount of time I have. Things are only in the very basic planning stages, but everything has to be at that stage at some point.

The route above isn’t exact; it’s just for illustration purposes. Realistically, I think it would make sense to ride south from St. Louis until I hooked up with the TransAmerica Trail, one of Adventure Cycling’s Route. I could take that through Kentucky and Virginia (it happens to end in Yorktown, VA, about 20 miles from my house). The entire trip would probably be in the neighborhood of 1,100 miles – nothing to shake a stick at.

I enjoy the challenge that is fitting in various crazy feats while still being a functional member of society. I like to see that balance between work and play. When I rode from Sag Harbor, NY to Durham, NH last August – a roundabout route of about 375 miles in 4.5 days – it was seriously one of the best stretches of my life. I want to do that again.

I think riding from the Mississippi to the Atlantic would be a pretty solid reprisal.

For more info on last August’s tour, here’s the links. You can read about how much McDonald’s I ate, the sketchy New Hampshire town where I camped next to a cemetery and how I ate ice cream with a 2:33 marathoner, among other things:

5.18.10: The Grand Tour?

8.5.10: The Grand Tour: I Bought a Yak

8.10.10: The Grand Tour: The Experimental Overnight

8.18.10: The Grand Tour: Route Planning

8.21.10: The Grand Tour: Day 1

8.22.10: The Grand Tour: Day 2

8.23.10: The Grand Tour: Day 3

8.24.10: The Grand Tour: Day 4

8.25.10: The Grand Tour: Day 5