Sunday, June 26, 2016

It's all Mental!

20 weeks ago I laced up my running shoes and walked out the door to complete the first of what would hopefully become 20 straight weeks of 20 mile runs, a goal that Coach Lucho had inspired. Today, I completed my 18th consecutive week and actually ran 21 miles and even managed to include a hard one mile uphill followed by a hard one mile downhill at Miles 18 and 19. Not to mention the temperatures touched into the 90s by the time my run was over and it was a bit humid out so despite five bottles of fluids during my run I still managed to lose 3 pounds. There are a lot of remarkable things I've learned during my journey the least of which is that I have not had any significant rest time although I have learned to improve my recovery both immediately after my runs and over the next day or two. I've also been paying more attention to my general recovery after and between workouts. I'm listening to my body, that's what matters!  The other remarkable thing is that my long run is really my main running volume each week, and some weeks I will run a couple of other days during the week but I've had some weeks where I didn't run at all. With that said I have certainly maintained my biking during the week which clearly has had a positive effect on both my run as well as my recovery. I am also quite certain that the running has helped my cycling which can be seen by the fact that my cycling fitness appears to have improved despite the fact that I have not been doing a lot of long bike rides. I have however, been making sure that I do get a reasonable amount of cycling volume over the course of each week. That brings me to today's run, which gets me through 18 of my 20 weeks. The previous four days leading up to today's run included two trips to Sacramento that were part of 15 hour workdays and one day sandwiched in between of an hour of solid cycling and an hour of solid running that added up to about 20 minutes of tempo effort for each and did put some muscle strain on my legs that I could feel on Friday. Yesterday, I put the cherry on top with a four and a half hour solid bike ride that included three 20 minute hard efforts. I topped that off with a 2 mile transition run in 90+ degree temperatures. When I got up this morning I wasn't sore but I clearly did feel a little fatigued and a little washed out. Doing my 20 mile run has become such a matter of course, that I don't really think twice about it. I get up, lace up my shoes, and head out the door. I usually decide what kind of run I'll do once I get going, and today I just thought I would go easy the whole run. What happened was that the easy effort was fine for the first 8 miles and my pace was a reasonable 9:10 per mile pace, but then the next couple of miles I  just slowed down, and I had a decision to make. I quickly made the decision to increase my effort, which turned out to be very interesting because what seemed to be me slowing down and being tired didn't really matter as I locked into a nine minute pace and just kept it for the remainder of my run. I even decided to run a little longer and to add a hard uphill climb near the end of my run. I have a 1 mile climb that is between 8 to 10% grade that normally takes me about 12 minutes to go up if I go pretty hard and it took me 13 minutes near the end of today's run. Immediately when I crest the top of the climb, I turned around and head down the 1 mile descent as hard as I can which normally is a little over six minute pace and today was closer to seven minute pace. That just goes to show that it's harder to smash tired legs but you can still put in a solid effort. The final 2 miles I maintained my nine minute pace and got home and then jumped on my bike for a half an hour which I regularly due to flush my legs and then jumped in the pool for 10 minutes which is always nice. My NormaTec compression pants still await me later today but I already feel pretty good, with the exception of a little bit of IT soreness which probably ultimately came from the downhill portion of my run near the end.  I have six weeks to go before Iron Man Boulder, and I have to admit I'm feeling ready for the race. I still have two more 20 mile runs to achieve my 20 mile runs for 20 consecutive weeks goal but as I said in a recent blog that really has been to supplanted by other goals and foci.  Today was a great example of that, as today's run became another experience in my journey and additional memories for my muscles and brain to get around when it comes to Iron Man training. Effective Iron Man training is about balance and I have to make sure that I don't stress myself too much at this stage of the game with just six weeks to go. Two weeks from now I will hopefully complete my last 20 mile run and begin my taper for Iron Man Boulder.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Perspiration, Inspiration, and Focus

While having my weekly call with Coach Lucho this week, I commented on looking forward to having something new to focus on.  Lucho saw what I didn't, that my 20 mile weekend runs had become routine and were no longer something I even concerned myself with!  With Ironman Boulder approaching in less than 7 weeks, I asked what I could focus on to improve my cycling in this period of time.  That's how I got my marching orders for the next 4 weeks.

Lucho shared a workout that he learned from Dave Scott, not bad company, which is to do 20 minute intervals broken up as 7 minutes in Zone 3, followed by 3 minutes in Zone 4, then repeat.  These are tough, as I've already discovered by doing one of them just two days after my last long run.  However, I'm already looking forward to doing a few of these during my long bike this Saturday. In fact, this is what I'm thinking about rather than my 20 mile run.

It's interesting how our goals can evolve and change, as just 17 weeks ago, the idea of running 20 miles every weekend for 20 weeks was somewhat daunting.  While I never doubted that I could do it, there were certainly many things that could go wrong and derail this goal.  Now, as I near the completion of this task, it has already been supplanted by another goal.  That is life, and that is certainly my life.  I always tell people that I always set a bar that I can't reach, because if I happen to reach the bar, I'll automatically set a higher one.  Once again, ironman training imitates life.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


I’m now 16 weeks into my mission of doing a 20 mile run every week for 20 weeks.  Coach Lucho tells me that last weekend I had a “breakthrough.”  The crazy thing is that, in the week following a solid week of training that culminated in a very hard trail half marathon in the midst of my weekly 20 mile run, I “doubled down” with my biggest week of training in quite a while.  I ultimately put in 18 hours of training, all of it very specific, in fact, 17 hours of training were done in just 5 days.  In the four days preceding my long run, I did hard bike intervals, hard run hill intervals and two solid long bike days on my indoor trainer.  Not the run up that I would expect to what turned out to be my best 20 mile run since I began this journey.  And….I didn’t even run 20 miles!  But, I digress.  My run started innocently, my legs felt tired, but at least they only had minimal soreness from the preceding week.  My first mile did give me a positive indication of what was to come.  I ran the first mile in about 8:50, which was faster than most of my first miles, especially when I really try to keep it mellow and comfortable.  Around mile 4 my left quad was a little sore and I was wondering what the day would be like, but the soreness didn’t last more than a mile or so and I kept clicking off 8:40’ish miles.  Hmmmm, this was interesting.  I try to break my progression effort into thirds.  The first seven miles were done very comfortably, and the for the next seven I picked up the effort a notch to a moderately comfortable effort, all the while noticing that my paces were still solidly in the 8:35 range.  By the time I got to mile 14 and started picking up my effort another notch, I was starting to think about how far I’d run.  Coach Lucho had given me permission to run longer than 20 miles ‘if I felt like it.’  So, I began thinking, perhaps I’ll just run easy and comfortably and get an extra mile in….but I kept running hard, and my paces were now closer to 8:20….hmmmm, this is very interesting.  By the time I got to running Mile 20, I just went as hard as I could, with no ideas as to how fast I was going.  Mentally, I was prepared to slow down and even stop if I started to slow appreciably.  When I hit Mile 20 and saw my time of 8:07, the adrenaline certainly kicked in to not only encourage me to run another mile, but to give it everything I had.  The final mile, Mile 21, was also done in 8:07.  I probably had more miles in my legs, but I have no reason to be greedy, so I finished and began my recovery routine, which ultimately includes easy spinning on the bike, easy swimming and about an hour with my NormaTec machine.  Over the past 16 weeks, my best pace for 20 miles has been 8:42, and I tend to average right around 8:50 when there aren’t extenuating circumstances.  My pace on this day….8:31.  WTF!  And, it wasn’t even for 20 miles, it was for 21 miles.  And, I wasn’t sore that day, and really wasn’t sore (at least not to speak of) the next couple of days.  How and why did I have this breakthrough?  Coach Lucho says it's for a few reasons, the simplest of which may be that I have steadfastly learned to listen to my body and not do anything stupid.  I have built into this gradually, paid very close attention to my recovery, and known when to take it easy.  Most of my weeks during this journey have had me training between 10 and 14 hours a week, with a high degree of specificity.  I rarely run more than 3 total days out of the week, and many weeks have only run one other day than my long run.  Of course, when I’m not running I'm biking.  Of note, I only swim about an hour a week, although I'm ramping that up a bit as I close in on Ironman Boulder.  I have been trying to swim 10-15 minutes a day, in order to maintain the “feel" of the water.  So, back to my “breakthrough."  Mentally, 20 miles no longer feels long.  In fact, my “long runs” feel oddly short, as if I’ve traveled through some type of wormhole.  The proof, of course, will occur in eight weeks, when I step off my bike at Ironman Boulder and embark on another “routine” 20 plus mile run.  Over the last 16 weeks I’ve run on tired legs, sore legs, in oppressive heat and humidity, literally with just about every circumstance I might encounter on the day of an ironman.  A few years ago, I put the number “8:47” on my bathroom wall.  Until recently, it was a lofty (and unrealistic) goal for an ironman run pace.  This week, it suddenly became a real number, if not in Boulder (and it’s accompanying altitude), then in Chattanooga seven weeks later.  Either way, no matter what happens, the journey continues to inspire me and makes me rather bear these workouts than fly to those that I know not of (my apologies to William Shakespeare).

Thursday, June 9, 2016

It's the little things that matter

I just went out this past weekend to complete my 15th straight 20 mile weekend run.  Nothing more, nothing less.  In fact, on Thursday night I had run 12 miles, including a set of 7 hard quarter mile efforts that left my legs feeling sore the next day.  At least when I woke up my legs weren’t sore, although they were certainly carrying some fatigue.  That’s the idea, however, to find different ways to simulate how my legs and body will feel when I get off the bike at my next Ironman.  Over the past fifteen weeks, this has included a multitude of approaches, including doing a hard 100 mile bike the day before my run, or running in the oppressive heat and humidity of Florida after a few fifteen hour work days.  This run already had it’s stress component, but I had added another.  After warming up with a fairly typical 5 mile effort, I jumped into a half marathon.  I was just planning to use it for the water stops and just enjoy the day, but there’s always something about a race that gets into ones head.  I knew the course included some dirt trails, but what I didn’t know was that most of those trails were fairly technical single track that required both close attention and care in order to avoid falling (one of my favorite habits historically).  I also didn’t quite appreciate the fact that there would be over 1500 feet of climbing on the course, packed into the middle 7-8 trail miles.  Furthermore, the many of the technical downhill sections would not allow me to gain back time or speed, but would slow me down.  Not that knowing this would have mattered.  After 15 weeks of 20 mile runs every weekend, I don’t really think about obstacles any more, I just go out and run.  That was the point of this endeavor in the first place!  And, so, the “race” began.  I actually started a little faster than I should have, running into someone I knew from a previous race (or, rather, they knew me).  When I realized that I was running too fast, I let them go ahead (they would finish in 14th place, 20 minutes ahead of me), and got into my rhythm on the first four miles of roads.  A number of people passed me during these miles, and then we hit the trails and, immediately, the hills.  What I didn’t think about, but recognize now, was that I almost immediately started attacking the climbs.  Not too hard, but hard enough.  A few people still managed to pass me, but I stayed in a comfortable rhythm and effort.  I only tripped twice, both times catching myself from an injurious fall.  I concentrated intently on my footing.  It was on the way to the turnaround point of the course, mile 8 of the race, mile 13 of my day, that I saw some of the people who had passed me earlier, that I would ultimately catch on my way to the finish.  Fortunately, the technical trails were almost over by around mile 8-9 of the race.  I had been passed repeatedly by this one guy on every downhill, which he would just “bomb,” but I would pass him back on the uphill portions.  I put a lot of space between me and him on the last long uphill, and even warded him off on the fire road on the way back down, passing others while feeling very comfortable running downhill, again, at about 15 miles into my day, which was encouraging.  There was one last very technical downhill section where I had to slow down and the downhill guy caught me just before we hit the roads for the last 2 1/2 miles.  We decided to run together, but he couldn't hang with me as I think I laid down a 7:30 mile.  My brain was in race mode as I could see a couple of guys who had passed me much earlier in the race.  I kept gaining on them as we reached the last half mile.  With a little more than a quarter mile to go, I made the pass.  Male's being who we are, they picked it up and passed me back.  I knew that the finish included a sharp right turn and an a 150 yard ramp uphill.  The moment we made the turn, I hit the afterburners.  They both tried to stay with me, but it wasn’t even close.  By the time I hit the finish line, I was a good 10-20 yards ahead of them.  I finished strong 18 miles into my long run.  I ended the day jogging the 2 miles back to my car and getting an Aroha drink at my kid’s restaurant!  I had only subsisted on water for my entire 20 mile run, which is something else I've been working on.  It's hard to believe that I only have five more weeks of 20 mile runs to go to reach my 20 miles for 20 weeks goal.  What's remarkable to me is how my brain no longer even notices that I'm doing a 20 mile run.  I don't notice the hills, and I don't notice any obstacles.  I just go out and get it done.