Monday, February 20, 2012

Frigid Fools Duathlon and Training Update

Yes, I am combining a couple of posts since I have not posted like I should have.

First, a quick race report. I competed in the Frigid Fools Duathlon last Saturday at the nearby Angel Mounds State Historic Site. The race was organized and put on by an awesome crew of volunteers from the Southern Indiana Triathlon Team who braved the cold and windy conditions (40's/12-15mph) to give some of us less enlightened ones the chance to test our winter fitness.

The race consisted of two 5K runs that were wrapped around a 15-mile bike leg. The only hills around were the Native American Mounds inside the park. We ran and rode on pancake flat roads. The wind did play a major factor on the bike, since it pounded us in the face on the return segment of both out/back legs.

The Polar RCX5 data file reveals this Frigid Fool's 
Given the fact that I only recently started implementing hard efforts into my training, I entered this event to see where I my fitness was - to get a baseline. The result was a good one. I felt strong from beginning to end, racing hard at times, but always well within my current abilities. My splits, by my watch, were 17:06 (5:31), 36:54 (24.4), and 18:04 (5:49). It was a pleasing result that is causing me to more seriously consider a trip to Tucson at the end of April for the USAT Du Nats and to visit with many relatives in the area.

Besides the lack of difficult training, I also lined up for the Frigid Fools with little mental preparation. Sure, I made up my race crate (thanks for the idea Jeremy and Chris), but I did not think about transitions or setting up my gear. I may have been preoccupied with dressing right for the cold weather. Who knows. Soon after leaving the house I stopped when I sensed something was amiss. Then I turned around and retrieved Kristy - my bike!

Jeff's unique take on "hardware."
Of course, the Frigid Fools also gave me a chance to catch up with old friends while making some new ones. That, to me, is one of the most valuable aspects of racing. Sealing a great experience was the fantastic chili provided after the race.

My primary focus for this year, as I have previously written, is completion of a 100-mile run event. I am entered in the Bighorn 100 which takes place (115 days from now) on June 14-15. So, I am trying to squeeze in as many long trail runs as possible. So far, I have made several trips to parks within a couple hours drive to log some trail miles. The runs have lasted from 1:50 to 3:00 while covering 14 to 23 miles.

The longest run of date was a (2:59) 23-miler on Kentucky's Land Between the Lakes Canal Loop. Basically, that training run was a trial run of the LBL Marathon which I will participate in on March 10. Though I do not anticipate running much harder than I did that day, I love that loop and I am looking forward to running in that event. I recently learned that Polar is sending me two heart rate computers for race management to give away that day. Isn't that awesome!

Regarding gear, I have recently fallen in love with the Brooks Pure Grit shoes I picked up at Ultimate Fit. With a 4mm drop and a cushy ride, they seem to satisfy my need for a low-heeled, low mass trail shoe. Even completely soaked they are lighter than any other shoe I've worn in trail races. The comfort of those shoes and the satisfaction of being able to quickly and easily analyze my RCX5 data using have helped reduce stress during this training build up.

With the recent addition of high effort rides to my training program, I am keeping a keen eye on the trending of my heart rate data to make sure that I can maximize my performance without getting injured or sick. Two weeks ago I took most of a week off from training when my resting heart rate climbed from 33 to 39 while my lymph nodes swelled painfully to walnut size. Because dozens of students come to school each day with a variety of germs, I feel like I am in a constant battle to stay healthy. This is especially true when my immune system is challenged after hard efforts. A couple of my students suggested that I get a bubble to teach in during the flu season. So far, I haven't been able to locate one in my size . . .

Because my interests and goals for 2012 are so diverse, I have established a training trichotomy: I am in the process of building up cycling strength for the first time in two years; I am lengthening my long runs well beyond the distance of my normal running week; I am also trying to run hard enough to put together a fast run at the challenging Oak Barrel Half Marathon. Conveniently, this April 7 race has a monster hill called Whiskey Hill (it has a FB page!), which should be fit into my BH100 training plan. I completed this race last year when my piriformis was acting up, so I hope to have a solid, healthy run when I return.

Now I go to change the bandages on my hand - again. Yes, I took another spill on the trail. I am starting to think that Karl Meltzer is onto something with his gloved approach to trail running.

The Mendeleev Hefe is ready!
Best wishes in your search for adventure and fitness! ST

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fun Meets Serious Fun

During the last two months I have had a lot of fun running and riding with very little structure. I cruised along slowly most of the time, but cranked up the pace when I felt like it. My legs have felt great at both sports. And my back, well, it returned to normal only to bring its wrath upon me again last weekend. The problem is not as bad as it was in the Fall and I do not plan to allow it get any worse. Enough whining.

Helping out at the Hardrock 100 last July renewed my interest in completing a 100 mile event. There must be some reverse psychology at work along the lines of misery lover company. So, I entered the Western States lottery. Then, out of curiosity, I watched the lottery on my laptop while also watching a basketball game on TV. The excitement displayed by those runners fortunate enough to get drawn was enough to instill in me even more desire to complete a 100 mile event. This form of self-inflicted pain and suffering is, apparently, a most desirable commodity.

An internet search made me aware of events all over the country. Eventually, I settled on the Bighorn 100 in northern Wyoming. The BH100 course is an out and back between Dayton, WY and a point high in the Bighorn National Forest. With altitudes ranging from about 4,200 ft to 9,300 ft, the BH100 involves about 17,500 feet of ascending and 18,000 feet of descending. The altitudes are far lower than any other mountain race in which I've competed, but race reports reveal a muddy, rocky, and uneven course that cannot be taken lightly. I am really excited about both the event and the preparation for the event.

The preparation has already begun. I am going BIG on my miles :) OK, they are big miles for me. The key to the preparation will be long trail runs. My favorite! I've already made a few trips to Land Between the Lakes. I also recently "discovered" the Indian Celina or Two Lakes loop. Though I've known about the Indian Celina Challenge for several years, I did not run in the event or even run on the course until a couple of weeks ago. What a blast!

I had heard about how brutal the Challenge course was, so I took it easy, using the Polar RCX5 to make certain to keep my average heart rate in check. With more than 3,400 feet of vertical over about 13 miles, this loop is a veritable roller coaster. Crossing a few dozen small streams that feed into the lakes adds to the lure of the Two Lakes trail. I did find myself excitedly smiling after getting soaked while crossing the two almost knee deep, twenty foot wide creeks in the tenth mile. Did I mention that the temperature that morning was 30F? I added a 14-minute out/back onto the end to help thaw my feet and to allow me to reach my goal of a two hour run (2:01). Again, what a blast! I plan to go back there several times this spring, but I won't race in the Challenge because it takes place a week before the BH100.

It would be remiss of me to not share a wildlife experience I had along the Two Lakes trail. At one point, as I descended along a steep and winding section of trail, I suddenly heard and felt a chorus of booms. Leaves flew into the air all around me. I ducked and put my arms over my head as if that might somehow protect me from an unknown attacker. Without realizing it at the time, I didn't break stride. Peering under my forearms I could see forty or fifty turkeys launching into flight in all directions. The surrounding forest was silent after those initial wing flaps, so my footfalls (and heartbeats) were the only sounds I heard as I ran along watching the disappearance of the largest rafter of turkeys I'd ever encountered.

The spooked rafter reminded me of another fowl uprising that took place in 1996 in the Smokies. My sons and I were hiking on a gorgeous June morning when five-year-old Brandon decided to use some of his boundless energy playing hide and seek. He hid behind several trailside trees and jumped out with a "BOO" when (unsuspecting?) three-year-old Tyler and I walked by. It was when Brandon decided to hide behind a huge rotting and hollow tree stump that the game took a turn for the worse. As soon as he ducked behind the stump a shotgun-like blast occurred. Brandon came racing back onto the trail. With his arms raised above his head he began to run around Ty and I in tight circles as he screamed "Get it off! Get it off!" The "it" was a grouse (think wild chicken) that had exploded from its nest beside the stump. It was long gone. Honestly, holding back the laughter was quite difficult. Though many a grouse had already tested my heart and my bladder, that one caused a maniacal reaction that I could see second hand. And it was as funny as I had always imagined it to be.

Beyond the reestablishment of the long trail run in my training, the only other iota of structured activity has been the development of a new set of test run courses. Because I have long believed that changes can stimulate and facilitate growth, I decided that a new set of test courses would help me reach my 2012 fitness and race goals. The three I settled on range from short and flat to long and hilly. I will study heart rate data from runs on these courses to monitor and adjust my training.

A glance over to the list of 2012 events at right will reveal some of the events I have entered at this time. My goals for the year are quite diverse, ranging from that BH100 to other trail runs like LBL to half marathons to duathlons, so I expect an interesting training year as I try to find a balanced approach. It is difficult to complete really long runs and fast runs and fast biking in a single training cycle. Then again, the difficulty will add to the freshness and motivation.

One specific and personal goal I have for 2012 is to find my cycling legs again. The nerve injury I sustained in August 2010 kept me from the bike for about a year, so I managed only 1,100 cycling miles last year. Time off of the bike made me miss cycling and certainly caused my performances to be subpar. So, hopefully, I will have enough energy and good enough health to train for a 100-mile run and log enough cycling miles to GO FAST!

Enough writing, I have got to get out and train! ST