2016 Focus

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During my rest week before the Hitchcock, I took a “body age assessment” that my gym offers for free. Pushups, crunches, body fat, resting heart rate, etc.

I came out with my body age matching my actual age, meaning I am basically normal. And I am so tired of just being normal.

This reinforced what I already knew I need to do. I have pushed as far into more extreme events as I can on my current level. My less-than-stellar performance at a few events this year backs that up. So I can stay here, call it good enough to be better than I was a few years ago…or I can push into the next level.

I am backing off of the big, audacious events for 2016. I am still racing, still rucking, trying out a couple of new events, but for the most part avoiding the 30-plus-hour, heavy-duty events that I have not exactly excelled at lately. My focus this year will be on intense training, trying to improve my abilities so that I can do a better job at the events that I go after in 2017. 8 months of training plans intended for military, 4 months of ultra running training, and tackling one or two uber-long events at the very end of the year.

Including the following goals at the start of the effort:

As of this morning, I weigh 207 pounds. I would like to get that down to below 190.

Be able to pass Army PFT tests.

Ruck 12 miles in under 3 hours.

Meet the following strength standards:

LIFT                                                   
Front Squat                             1.5x BW
Dead Lift                                 2.0x BW
Bench Press                           1.5x BW
Push Press                             1.1x BW
Squat Clean                          1.25x BW
Squat Clean+ Push Press    1.1x BW

And be able to run fast enough to actually use the tables that come with my training plans, rather than having to extrapolate out for slower paces.

Before anyone asks, no, this is not a new years resolution. This is revamping my training after the last race of the year, and revamping it with a longer focus than I have before. Daily workouts will be posted on the Monk of the Mud Facebook page for any who wish to follow my progress.

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Learning from Failure: Hitchcock Experience 2015

I like to start each year by signing up for a new, big, crazy, scary challenge later in the year. It pushes me to grow, to get better, and to find yet crazier challenges for next year. When I found a local 100 mile race, I knew I had found this year’s challenge. My friend and co-conspirator Schmitty signed up to do it with me, saying friends don’t let friends do stoopid sh*t…alone. A few more friends signed up for the 50 mile option.

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Training went okay, but not as well as I had hoped. Race day came, we assembled at the start line in the dark, were given a short overview of trail conditions, and we were off.

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We started with an out-and back up and down some steep switchbacks, then proceeded onto the main loop. The website had mentioned steep, hilly trails, but I was unprepared for exactly how steep it was. Due to recent snow melt, some areas were also exceptionally slick and muddy. (Most of the trails had descent footing, but there were a few hills where I literally slid 75 feet on my butt.)

I tried to keep a steady pace on flats and a hard march on uphills, and except for a few places with tricky footing I was able to. Somewhere around Mile 4 I caught up with Schmitty. He had rolled an ankle and was walking with a limp. I stopped and gave him some ibuprofen and continued on. About Mile 9, he caught back up with me.

“Yeah, I stopped at the aide station to decide if I should just walk back, or have them give me a ride out, and I heard a familiar voice in the back of my head telling me to get the f*ck up…”

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“I can’t run anymore, but I can still march. Can’t do the 100, but I have all day to make it to 50.”

We finished the first lap right on pace to finish the 100 in 32 hours. I stopped in to take care of my feet and Schmitty saw the medic about his ankle. The volunteers/staff at this race were way beyond what I expected. All previous races that I have done, supplies were there and you had to go get them. Here, they would come to you and ask what they could do for you. Refill your pack, grab something for you while you are tending your feet, help you tape hot spots or blisters, whatever it took to get you back out there faster. Many of the volunteers were experienced ultra runners themselves, so there was a lot to be learned from their suggestions, from what blister-prevention techniques are best to what foods would be best to take and eat on the next leg of the trail.

By the end of the second lap, the hills were starting to wear me down, and Schmitty’s ankle had gone beyond what OTC meds can fix. I finished the lap about an hour behind schedule, and he dropped at Mile 25. (I told him that 21 miles on one working ankle was an impressive achievement regardless.)

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I got a little too inside my head for the first part of the third lap, spent too much time walking and worrying about how far behind pace I was. I got my head back on straight by the last aide station, but by that time my knees were starting to go.

I was confused what was happening for awhile, as I had not had this type of knee pain before. My best guess is that, having not trained on hills anywhere near this steep, the angle between the ground and my upright body was more than my ankles could flex to, and my knees were stretching themselves apart trying to take up the slack.

I sat down for a bit at mile 37.5. I cannot tell you how much I did not want to go back out there. But one more lap gets a 50M medal, all the volunteers were encouraging me on, and I have 20 more hours to get it done in…

What one of the volunteers said sticks with me. “Is it just pain, or is it damage? If it is just pain, push through it, just think about getting to the next aide station. If it is damage, then we see how bad it is and go from there.”

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By this time it was dark and the 50 milers were out on the course. Something about night running is always a bit surreal for me, the limited sight, the noises in the dark, deer flushing around me as I kept running. The view of the surrounding city skylines from the high points of the course were also quite beautiful.

My knees were in terrible shape, and I was having to stop for a few breaths during even moderate uphills. I grunted it through the last few miles, sharing encouragements with the 50 milers as they passed me, and made it back to the start point at somewhere between 23 and 24 hours. The staff encouraged me to push on, but at this point I knew I was rapidly approaching the point where pain crosses over to damage. They marked me down for a drop to 50, gave me the 50M medal, and encouraged me to make sure I got the full 100 miles worth of food.

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So…

Not what I had wanted, but still more distance (and dear Lord more vertical distance) than I have ever done before. Much learned from volunteers and fellow racers that will help keep my feet and body going, and much learned from the trails about how I need to train differently.

A few days off, back to training, and this course will see me again.

 

Working the Plan: The Road to My First 100 Miler

I purchased and just started using training plans from Mountain Athlete in preparation for my first 100 miler. With the journey that this is bound to be, I have decided to record it journal-style. Many people are concerned with following a plan like this through to the end, it may provide a sort of case study example for anyone who wants to try it. Particularly those who don’t think they can juggle training for something like this with the responsibilities of family life.

The plans I am using are available here: http://strongswiftdurable.com/product-category/mountain-athlete-plans/ultra-running/

Since I know not everyone will want to read the full version, here is what I learned along the way:

Disregard what day of the week the plan thinks should be your rest day. The day with the most other stuff to do is your rest day. For me that is Saturday, but it took me almost the entire training time to figure that out.

When you plan something like this, build in a couple weeks of fluff time before your race. It is easy to fluff it out if you finish training before your race, but it sucks to try to shorten it if you run behind.

While I am not certain if I have trained hard enough to make it, I am better trained for this than I have ever been for any event. Stay tuned for the next post to see how it went.

Long version:

8/11/15. Start of the Pre-season Ultra Running plan.

The calisthenics portion of this plan is tough. I think I love it. Cut the base run short. I ran out of time, may have to start doing 2-a-days.

8/12/15. Six miles at Zone 1, otherwise known as a fast walk. 13 laps around the block as the sun rose. Excited to get into zones 2 and 3 on tomorrow’s run.

8/13/15 AM: Strength training in the morning, no time for the run, will have to get it in tonight. I got my ass kicked by an exercise called Jane Fonda… EOs suck a lot too.

PM: My stepson had basketball, so I got a guest pass from the gym it was to be held at and got started on the treadmill. About half an hour later he comes up to tell me that no one else has shown up. Someone somewhere misscheduled, get him home, go to my gym and complete the workout. Not falling behind plan this early.

8/14/15- Light duty day. Mowed the lawn, did some yoga.

8/15/15- 11 miles easy run in the AM, Electric Glow Run with the kids in the PM.

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8/16- Slept through my scheduled 5 mile shuffle and couldn’t fit it in later in the day. Taking today as a rest day and do the 5 miles tomorrow (scheduled rest day).

8/17- 5.11 miles round trip to the grocery store, carrying about 10 pounds extra on the way back.

8/18 AM- Starting week 2 on time. Getting used to the strength training sequences. Have to make it a 2-a-day, ran out of time for the run.

PM: Got the 4 mile treadmill shuffle in, appropriately enough watching Spartan Race on the gym TV.

8/19- Really hoping the weather improves soon, treadmill time sucks. Plan calls for 7 miles, I was able to get in 6.42. Within 10%, I’ll take it for now.

8/20- Noticed that the strength training session was longer than previous, and the 2-a-days are getting harder to fit in. I got up an hour before the gym opens and got as much as I could do without equipment done at home, then hit the gym for the rest, Had some foam rolling and Jane Fondas that did not get done, but they are easy enough to fit in later.

8/21- Rest day, or as I like to think of it, light duty day. Made up the foam rolling and Jane Fondas from yesterday, rested up, and had a dinner date with my wife.

8/22- Up at 5 on a Saturday morning. Plan called for 12 miles, ended up at 12.79 plus four sets of monkey bars. Belly not really cooperating, slowed down by multiple bathroom breaks. It was windy, but at least the rains have stopped for the moment.

8/23- Plan called for 5 miles and we were one ingredient short of what we needed for dinner. Up early and my stepson and I ran the 2-1/2 miles to the store and back.

8/24- Much needed rest day.

8/25- Got up at 4 a.m. to do calisthenics in the living room, bike to the gym when they opened, did the rest of the strength training sequence and 4 miles on the treadmill. Managed to avoid needing a 2-a-day.

8/26- Up at 4 again, 7 miles run. Home to do some yoga just as the sun was rising. Zone 1 runs are getting faster, which makes it much more enjoyable.

8/27- Up at 4, calisthenics in the living room until the gym opens, the rest of strength training session and treadmill time at the gym. Another mile and a half in at lunch. Really trying to avoid having to make time in the evenings.

Loving this training plan, feeling a lot stronger. Leg blasters are no freaking joke.

That being said, really looking forward to a rest day tomorrow.

8/28- Rest day.

8/29- Got to watch the sun rise again, 14.49 mile sheady shuffle (with a stop in the middle to pick up some items needed for the house). I like to fit random tasks that need done anyway into my runs, makes it feel like I am running somewhere, rather than just running a distance.

8/30- GPS failed me, giving me some extra distance in mile 5. I most certainly did not achieve the 45 mph it recorded…

In any case, best guess at distance is 5.25 miles.

8/31- Developing a love-hate relationship with the lower-body circuits in this plan. And my calves have become freaking ginormous.

9/1- Rest day.

9/2- Overslept and only got the strength portion of my workout in. Will do the run portion tomorrow, then rest up for the 12-hour SUCK this weekend.

9/3- Treadmill Zone 2-3 intervals. 5.25 miles in total.

9/4-9/5- Attempted the 12-hour at the Ultimate Suck and had to withdraw at 8 hours. To be covered in another post, but definitely covered the programed 12 miles for today.

9/6- Travelling to Indiana for my wedding reception. Got 4 miles on the hotel treadmill.

9/7- Travelling home. Rest day.

9/8- I got up with my early alarm and elected to go back to bed, worn out from this weekend. Shifting this week’s rest day and continuing on with the plan.

9/9- For reasons that will not be recorded here, I got no sleep and missed my workout.

9/10- Another night of rough sleep, did not get my usual morning workout in. Enough of this crap, taking a long lunch to get it in.

Got workout in starting about 2 in the afternoon. As the gym has 2 squat racks and 3 benches (both needed for today’s training) it was good to be in at off hours and not need to fight for the equipment.

9/11- Plan calls for an 8-mile run and a few exercises requiring gym equipment. Run to gym, work out there, back out the door and continue the run. Ran out of time, had to cut the run distance to 7 miles. Got a 6-mile bike ride in at lunch(packet pickup for tomorrow’s race), so I think that evens it out.

9/12- Ran to and from the Muddy Vike Mud Run, and managed to run a PR at it. Total mileage for today was lower than scheduled, and I missed a workout entirely this week, but with recovery time after the Suck, I’ll take it. Moving on.

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9/13- Got 6 miles in right before bed, Zone 2. Zone 2 is getting noticeably faster and more steady. Feeling good about this.

9/14- Got to bed late last night, didn’t get up early to hit the gym. Needed to be home for the kids until about 8:30, so I did what I could at home, then closed down the gym. Get it in any way you can.

9/15- Slept in a bit (and by that I mean until 4:45). 7 miles before work, another 3 and some core work at lunch.

Standing Russian barbell twists. Are. The. Devil.

9/16- Got up at 4, got as much as I could done in the living room before heading to the gym. Got the run and everything requiring equipment done there, and ended up finishing the last of the calisthenics with my stepson, who quickly decided that leg blasters. Are. The. Devil.

917-9/18- Off with my wife for our honeymoon.

9/19- Spartan Beast Vermont. More than 9 hours on the course, steep slopes, rough trails. And an epic finishing photo.

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9/20- Did a zip line course, enjoyed the last day in New England, flew back to St. Paul and drove home, arriving around 3:30 in the morning.

9/21- I had intended to do a recovery run today. I was too sleep-deprived in the morning and couldn’t fit it in among family responsibilities in the evening. Take the rest day today, skip rest day on Friday, and we are back on schedule.

9/22- 6.5 miles in zone 2 early in the morning. Faster than I have been in zone 2, loving the improvement. Still a little sore from Vermont. Lower body strength session tomorrow should be fun…

9/23- Up at 4, kettlebell work at home then to the gym for weight work. I hit my limit on how many rounds of clapping pushups I can do EMOTM, so did the rest of the rounds on a 2-minute cycle rather than 1 minute. 2 mile Zone 1 run at the end.

9/24- Weather was terrible, so I slept in and got the workout in in the evening. Run 1.5 miles, short strength session at the gym, run 7.5 more miles, bed.

9/25- Light duty day.

9/26- Slept in in the morning and only had time for half the strength session in the evening. Still got the 6 mile run in.

9/27- Plan called for an 18-mile run. I ran out of training time at 15.53 miles. Since I had broken open a blister at 15.2 miles, I was okay with stopping early. Note: Start taking a break for foot care every 12-13 miles. I’m getting into distances that my feet can’t take without re-applying lubricants.

9/28- Got up to try to work out, my body said no, and I went back to bed. Adjust training dates and drive on.

9/29- Tweaked something in my back. Got the run and some core work in this morning, hoping it calms down enough to do the strength session tonight.

9/30- Did not get strength session in last night. Back is feeling better, so I got today’s scheduled workout in and added in about half of the missed session. Add in the other half tomorrow.

10/1- 6 miles run, short core circuit at the gym, and the rest of the skipped strength session from earlier this week. I know this is not following the plan as closely as I would like, but it seems better than skipping it entirely.

10/2- Long strength session and a 4-mile run. Mixed in stair climber for some of the mileage. Feeling stronger.

10/3- Up early for a 13+ mile Zone 2 run. Made it to the falls and back, and found ways to improvise some hills. The trails that I run on often pass under bridges, with stairs or paths that lead to the street above. Up the stairs, across the bridge, back down, run a bit on the other side of the river, do it again at the next bridge.

Later in the day we went to a corn maze (GPS tracked the distance at 1.01 miles) and the kids requested that I propel them into the air on the bouncy pillow. Bonus plyometric workout, right?

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10/4- Slept in this morning. Got the kids dinner and then slipped out for a 4 mile recovery run. PR for Zone 2/ 4 miles (i.e. I have run faster than this for this distance, but have never done so while restricting my heart rate). Assessment day tomorrow, to establish a more accurate set of heart rate zones. Done with the preseason plan, starting the 8-week 100 mile plan.

10/5- Quick warmup and 7 mile assessment run. Pulled off the 7 miles in 1:20. Average heart rate for the last 4 miles was 174. Now I need to look up what my new training zones are.

New zones are a little faster than previous.

Zone 1= Under 148 bpm

Zone 2= under 156

Zone 3= under 165

Zone 4= under 172

Zone 5= under 184.

Looks like we are speeding up. Good, because the old zone 1 was freaking boring.

10/6- Up early to do calisthenics in the living room, bike to gym for a strength session. Worked up to the front squat max that I will be referencing for awhile (150#, a little disappointed in that), full body strength workout, and a rather sore bike ride home.

10/7- Plan called for an 8-mile training run, part at zone 1-2, cycles of 15 minutes in zone 3/ 5 minutes zone 1, and the rest in zone 1-2. Zone 1 run to the gym, cycles on the treadmill (having time, distance and heart rate on the display makes it easier for me than having to bounce between the phone and the watch) then a zone 1 run home, 8.4 miles total.

10/8- Overslept just a little. Got the strength session in, but only got 2 of the scheduled 7 miles in. Failed to find time for them in the evening

10/9- Rest day

10/10- Evening run. 16.26 miles in just under 4-1/2 hours. Longest run to date with no blisters. (Foot care break at mile 9.)

10/11- 13-mile evening run. There are some lonely sections of trail that get seriously dark. Add in strong winds and falling leaves to create lots of random noises, and you have a legit Halloween experience.

One section of the trails is crossed by a railroad. I took this as a valid reason to rest for a few moments:

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10/12- My run last night may have gone a little too late. I felt like crap and decided to take a rest day. Leaving the keyboard now to do some yoga. Back to the grind tomorrow.

10/13- Overslept and missed my morning workout, and it looks like family and work commitments will prevent it happening this evening. Dammit. Nothing stopping me tomorrow, even if I have to do it on no sleep. This shit ends now.

10/14- Hit it hard today. Finished all of the workout intended for yesterday and about half of the one intended for today.

Goal tomorrow is to complete the rest of today’s (speed work) and the strength portion of tomorrow’s scheduled workout in the morning. Tomorrow’s scheduled run is 7 miles, and I need to pick up a rental car tomorrow evening 7.2 miles from my house. The universe wants me to sneak in a 2-a-day.

10/15- The treadmill speed work was the opposite of pretty, but it got done. Strength session went well.

10/16- Long drive to Ohio for OCRWC.

10/17- OCRWC, 10 miles of hilly terrain with epic obstacles.

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10/18- Travel day, no workout.

10/19- I had intended to get a run in today, but sore from the weekend and short on sleep. Not happening today, adjust dates and move on.

10/20- Planning a 2-a-day run/ruck today. Up at dawn, running to grocery and rucking foods home.

PM- Felt like crap, didn’t get PM run in. Not moving long runs off the weekend ever again, this sucks.

10/21- Rucked back and forth to the laundromat this morning, a little over 8 miles. Let’s see if I can get out there for 5-10 more tonight. Wish me luck, 2-a-days have been hard to get done.

10/22- Fail. That is all. No PM run last night, no workout this morning.

10/23- Had to leave at 6:30 for a long drive, but was able to get a full strength session in.

10/24- Had to get my runs in in pieces to fit around work/family time, but got a total of 26.32 miles in. Hurting seriously those last couple miles.

10/25- Last nights run ended after midnight, and my Achilles tendons are feeling really tight. I skipped the scheduled run and put 11 miles on the bike. Not the best, but its something.

10/26- Body is asking for a rest day, so I am giving it one.

10/27- 7 mile run. Made decent time.

10/28- I am having some trouble getting my heart rate high enough on the treadmill, so I decided to do my zone intervals on this guy:

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Legs are just a tad sore.

10/29- Front squat-dominant strength session. I can feel myself getting stronger.

10/30- Various mobility work and more stair climber intervals. Spent 90 minutes on the stair climber.

10/31- Schedule called for 11 miles, and there was a local trail 20k. 1.4 miles over, close enough. Great hills, muddy trails, good times.

11/1-11/2– Everything went to hell. Professional and family issues came up, I got no training in, and I feel like I am losing my mind. Honestly debated deleting this post entirely because I had lost hope that I would get back to it.

11/3- Much better day. Got up early to bike to the gym, killed the strength workout (increased my front squat max 55 pounds over last time, although that is largely due to better form), got the base run done on the treadmill, and as I type this I am stepping out the door to ruck groceries home from HyVee.

11/4- Got 6 miles in last night. Had to argue with myself a lot to get out of bed, but when I eventually did I got another stair climber zone interval workout in.

I am a bit behind schedule on the plan and I have a procedure tomorrow that will prevent training for 24-48 hours. I am breaking the rule about doing all workouts in order (keeping it as much as I can, but modifying to try to get as much as I can done). Core work tonight, get a strength session before the procedure, take a day off, back at it Saturday.

11/5- Tore it the hell up at the gym today before going to the dentist. They tell me I can get back to training tomorrow. SCORE!!

11/6- Evening bike ride, just under 9 miles.

11/7- 5 miles on the bike to get groceries, 16 mile AM run. Life got in the way and the hoped-for 8-mile evening run did not happen.

11/8- Utter failure. Hope for better days tomorrow remains.

11/9- Slept in during my normal morning workout time, but got some quality time with the stair climber in later in the day. Crushed the workout, feeling much better about myself.

11/10- Again slept in and moved my workout to late afternoon. 1-mile intervals at Zone 5 suck hard core, but I knocked them out. Biking home after was a mild form of torture with the steep hill near the gym.

Rest up, squat workout in the morning.

Note: I made the mistake of scheduling this training plan right up to the week before the race. Due to missing various workouts, I am a bit behind schedule. I have decided that I will do what I can to catch up until November 20th, then skip whatever I have to to do the last few weeks per the original plan. Next time, I will build in some wiggle room in the training schedule.

11/11- Crushed the morning weight session, got 4 out of the scheduled 5 miles in before I ran out of time. Pushed off the core circuits until evening, and didn’t have enough left when I got there.

11/12- Knocked out 210 floors on the stair climber this morning. I got in just over half of the total scheduled distance in before running out of time. While I was thinking about slipping out of the office to get the rest of the workout in, my body is giving me clear signals that it needs rest. Take half for today, see how I feel in the morning. Better going in under-trained than beaten-down.

11/13- Still feeling like crap, rest day.

11/14- Goal for today was 28 miles. My feet blistered badly before 10 miles and at 22 miles I decided to quit rather than risking later workouts.

11/15- A little time on the bike and letting feet heal.

11/16- Stairmaster lactate threshold intervals. Feeling better, absolutely crushed it.

11/17- Strength session. Sometimes I wonder if the weights I crush will go to heaven…

Ran out of time, had to cut the core session short.

11/18- Rest day.

11/19- 5 mile easy run in the AM, then went heavy-duty on the stair climber after dinner. 14.39 miles total.

11/20- We got 16″ of snow. I live on a corner lot, meaning lots of sidewalk to clear. The schedules 7 miles got replaced with a 2-hour snow slog.

11/21- Next time I do this, I need to figure out another time for long runs than Saturdays. With family commitments, it just doesn’t work. Managed 2.4 miles and some snow removal today.

11/22- Long run scheduled for this was 31 miles. I managed 20. Finding time for runs over 20 miles is tough. Hoping it gets easier as I get faster.

11/23- Not feeling it. Barely got 1.5 miles in. Rest up today, hit it hard in the morning.

This marks the end of the crazy long runs and the start of the taper. And I could not be happier about this.

11/24- Today was supposed to be a stair-climber lactate threshold interval workout. I got to the gym and found I had forgotten my heart rate monitor, so I switched to tomorrow’s scheduled workout. Lots of front squats, core work, etc. Got a little under 2 miles in, then had to run to get the kids to school. Should be able to get 3 more miles in tonight.

PM- Got 3.25 miles in after dinner.

11/25- Lactate threshold intervals on the stair climber today. Warm up went fine, first interval was the fastest stair mile I have ever done, second interval was also good pace, then I seemed to run out of gas. My legs couldn’t produce enough horsepower to get my heartrate into zone. After half a mile of this, I decided that this was all I could do and did a zone 1 treadmill run for the remainder of my workout time.

6.11 miles for today.
11/26- Thanksgiving. Eat all the foods and rest up.
11/27- Mixture of track, treadmill, and stair climber. 6.16 miles in total.
11/28- Family commitments, made it a rest day.
11/29- Run to Walmart and back in the AM, then hit the treadmill in the PM. 16.1 miles total.
11/30- We got another large batch of snow, and shoveling ate into both the time and energy I had available to run. 3.5 miles on the treadmill and a lot of white stuff moved.
12/1- So, that’s it. Short easy runs, yoga, and rest up the next few days. Then we will see if it was enough.