SD100 Taper

The countdown is on. The San Diego 100 is nine days away and I'm feeling good, but the taper feels weird this time. I'm not that nervous. Usually around this time, I am second-guessing the whole running thing, ready to call it all quits, but this time is different. The shoulder injury might have something to do with it. When I separated my shoulder a few weeks ago, I didn't think I was going to be able to run the SD100, I really didn't. I told everyone that I would make it, and Lucho told me, above all else, to try to stay positive, but at the time, I didn't think it would be possible to toe the starting line. Luckily, I healed fast and my training wasn't too affected. And who knows, a finish still may not be in the cards for me, but right now I am feeling confident, excited for the race, and most importantly, my race beard is strong.

The days leading up to a big race are a mixture of so many emotions, and it's almost all positive. I wish I could bottle this feeling, this anticipation, then I could sell it to people who wouldn't get much done, except for sitting at their computers studying elevation profiles, reading race reports, and trying to come up with pace charts. The anticipation is fun, though, and I can't wait to be out there on the trails, in the heat of the day, and the stillness of the night, taking in a sunset and a sunrise that I'm sure will be memorable.

I haven't run 100 miles before and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to do it. It's a strange undertaking, and I don't see it as a huge deal. I'm sure it will test me, and I may or may not finish, but it's something I choose to do; it's just a crazy, self-centered stunt to go do some jogging, hiking, crawling, and possibly some running in the mountains. If anything, the training has taught me about focus and determination, so when I am confronted with real challenges, the kind that I don't have the luxury of choosing, I hope to be better at coping and overcoming.

I haven't gone over the logistics of what I will have in my drop bags and what exactly I will carry, but the one thing I know I will be carrying is this picture of my sister hiking three months after a double lung and heart transplant to remind me how to persevere, to overcome, and to (hopefully) finish.

Thanks for reading.

How To Get Your Kids To Exercise

It hit me today when I got home from my early morning trail run just as my kids were stumbling down the stairs, still puffy-faced from sleep, and I gave them each a big sweaty and stinky hug. By now, they are used to this routine, trying to wiggle free from my post-run grasp. Before my youngest will give me a hug, she usually asks "are you stinky?" and the answer is usually yes and I make her hug me anyway.

I'm glad that my kids see me like this nearly every morning, usually with a big post-run euphoric smile on my face. They always ask how my run went, and my daughter has taken to bragging during the recess "my dad is tougher than your dad" competitions, telling her classmates that her dad is running 100 miles with a broken shoulder (it's not broken, but whatever). She usually wins these contests, and while I don't like the lack of humility, I can't help but feel happy that she is proud of her dad. I'm not sure how long that will last, so I'll take it while I can.

We don't pressure our kids to be active, it's just how they are. We take hikes together on weekends and I bike with my older kids during the week and it's not really exercise for them, it's just something they do. They're not perfect, they probably watch too much TV and my son plays video games, but they still love to get outside and play nearly every day. It reminds me of the parenting chapter in Freakonomics. The book showed that there was a correlation between high test scores and parents who had a lot of books in the house (this is from memory, so don't quote me). It didn't even matter if the parents read the books to the kids, just having books in the house correlated to kids who scored higher on tests. So, maybe that's the answer to having healthy kids. Maybe it's the parent's problem and if more Americans would turn off the TV, wipe off their Cheetos fingers, get off their fat asses and tried to be active, their kids would follow their example. I'm sure it would be more effective than yelling at the kids from the couch to go out and get some  exercise, or forcing them to diet or follow some regimented exercise program.

My wife did a nice job of decorating our entryway, but I added a couple things.

We just finished up another session of Girls on the Run. I was so proud of the girls this session. There were a couple of the girls who weren't able to run 50 yards without stopping at the beginning of the program, and by the end of the program, every girl was able to complete the 5K race without stopping. The best part of the whole program is watching the girls progress and see their pride at the end of the race. Running the 5K was a huge accomplishment for most of these girls and I was just so proud of all of them. Watching the girls progress made me realize that it's not that hard, but kids need an example and just a little motivation. So, I'll continue to leave my running shoes all over the place, give my kids post-run sweaty hugs, take them hiking, and arrange our vacations around the outside. I hope they are getting the message.

My girls

The running has been going well. I'll probably hit 130 for the last two weeks with about 18,000 feet of climbing. These aren't crazy numbers. Some do this in a week, but for me, this is possibly my strongest two week running stretch ever. I don't feel like I could do much more without sacrificing work or family time. I feel like I'm right at the edge of breaking down and getting sick, but I think that's a good place to be with the 100 coming up in a little over 2 weeks. However, I am looking forward to backing off the mileage and tapering the next couple weeks. 

The Wussification of Ironman

I haven't written much lately. The training is going well, but the SD 100 is approaching too fast.

I had some friends race Ironman St. George a couple weekends ago. One didn't make the swim cut-off and the others that finished talked about what a hard race it was and their times reflected it, finishing an hour or two slower than I'm sure they would have on a faster course, or in better conditions. Ironman has had trouble with the conditions of St. George in the past...rain, heavy winds, heat, cold. I guess St. George in May is just unpredictable. It's a tough course, too. The bike course is one of the most difficult among Ironman-branded races, and the run, which was changed this year to an easier 3-loop course, used to be difficult as well. It's a tough race, worthy of the "Iron" name, or at least it was before the WTC decided that this year was the last year of Ironman St. George. Next year it will be a 70.3 (Half Ironman), and if that doesn't sell out, they will probably scrap the race all together.

Wait, isn't Ironman supposed to be hard? Wasn't the initial draw of Kona to test your mental and physical limits against the course, against trained and hardened competition, against the winds, the humidity, the heat and whatever nature decided to throw at you on race day?

You hear a lot of talk about fast courses, or great PR courses, and I really have no interest in doing one of these. If I'm going to do another Ironman, it would be something like St. George, or Silverman Triathlon in Nevada. Unfortunately, neither of these races exist anymore, probably due to the shift in the triathlon market from tough and gritty to shaved, carbonized, and fashionable. I have way more respect for someone who tried IM St. George and failed to make it out of the swim on time due to the wind and waves than for someone who threw down a fast time on a flat, multi-looped course. Is there anything worse than an Ironman race with a multi-looped marathon around city streets in the hopes of avoiding a steep grade or a remote area outside of town?

I get that Ironman is a brand run by a for profit corporation, and that they are doing what is best for their bottom line, but they will not be making any more money off of me. I'll stick to the races where 30-40 percent of the people will drop, and where I know I will have to train my ass off and fight some internal demons just in order to finish.

Joshua Tree Run

It's never just one thing that leads to a great run. The run at Joshua Tree was great for so many different reasons. The weather was beautiful, we were running on a gorgeous desert trail through a remote part of the park, Toby had put together a good plan, invited some great people, and the pace was relaxed. Or maybe it was because two weeks ago I didn't think there was a chance I could do any part of the Joshua Tree Traverse due to my shoulder separation. It could also have been the flow, the conversation, the mile markers ticking off faster than they normally do, or the fact that I wasn't going too far, just 23 miles of the 39 mile traverse. What made this run great was a mixture of all those things, plus Carlyn's glitter-bombed rainbow shorts.

I'm not going to write too much about the details and logistics of the traverse...I'll leave that in the capable hands of Jess, Toby, Ben, Paul and Carlyn. They did the traverse, crossing Joshua Tree via the California Riding and Hiking Trail. They let me be a tourist on their journey through the park complete with my fanny pack and shoulder sling (I couldn't carry a pack, so I looked to my Western European ancestors for a method of transporting gear easily and stylishly).

(Photo by Jess)

(Photo by Jess)

I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a little difficult watching the line of friends wind down the trail as I turned into the wind to head back to my car, happy that I was finished, but envious of the reward that comes after enduring the pain, and completing a journey. It was such an amazing run, and I wanted to keep that feeling going, although I knew stopping was the smart thing to do, and really the only option. I'm hoping that this becomes a regular route that we can do again, hopefully recreating some of the magic of the run, and next time I hope to be a traveler instead of a tourist.

Thanks for reading. Here are some pictures from the Joshua Tree run.

4 AM wake-up in time to watch the Super Moon set.

Breaking camp and getting the gear ready for the 5 AM start.

The trails are well maintained, near-perfect, single track bliss.

Is this still a thing?

Aid station at 19 miles.

My turnaround point.


5 Ways to Avoid Going Batshit Crazy When Injured

It's been two weeks since I hit a jump on my mountain bike, flew over the handlebars, cracked my helmet, and was diagnosed with a Grade III AC Shoulder Separation. As injuries go, it could have been way worse. Luckily, my running hasn't been severely affected, and I am seeing a light at the end of the tunnel and the light is closer and brighter than I assumed it would be two weeks ago when I felt a bone stick out of my shoulder where there should be no bone.

My running practice calms me and without it, I tend to get antsy, and yes, even after a couple of inactive days I start to go a little batshit crazy. For the sake of my marriage, work, and family, I came up with five ways to help me cope with the temporary running layoff.

Either the flash was really bright or the painkillers are working

1. Work at recovery. I received many kind emails and messages from readers when I posted about the accident. Some of the best words of advice were passed on by Sarah, who received them when she was dealing with a broken foot. She wrote, "be as dedicated and serious about your recovery as you are about your training." My main focus over the past few months has been on training for the San Diego 100 Miler in June. My main focus after the injury is still on the SD100, but it became more focused on losing as little fitness as possible through the recovery process. I emailed Tim and asked him to send me some good stationary bike trainer workouts. I flipped the handlebars over on my bike, making it easier to reach them and support myself with one arm. This was uncomfortable and it sucked, but it worked and I was able to get some sweat-puddle inducing, teeth gritting, quad burning rides in. I also started hiking. I hiked with the dog, with my kids, and by myself. I searched out the steeper trails in the area and pushed hard up them, not running hard, but hiking hard, which isn't much easier.

2. Review your schedule and set new goals. I looked at my schedule and started modifying, crossing things off, and adding things for the future. Gone is the PCT 50, the Camp Pendleton Mud Run, and I shortened this weekend's Joshua Tree traverse to a Joshua Tree 20-25 miler. I added a possible Mt. Baldy 50K, a second attempt at the 8,000 Meter Challenge, Napa Ultra Ragnar, and an ascent of San Gorgonio with Sanam, Jess and Nata. These will be later this year, hopefully after I am fully healed (from the shoulder and from the SD100)

3. Focus on other areas of your life. I used some of the suddenly found time that I would have been training working on some projects that had been stacking up and spending more time with my family. I try not to let the time I spend running interfere with my family life, but as the races and training gets longer, the time has to come from somewhere. So, over the past couple of weeks I've tried to bank some family time.

Running helps center me, and without this practice in my life, I needed to find a temporary replacement. Coincidentally, a publisher had just sent me a book to review. The book is called Running With the Mind of Meditation by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, and it is excellent (look for a more detailed review later). I decided to meditate more, a habit that I used to enjoy, but has slipped in the past few years. I can't adequately describe what this practice does for me, but it is healthy, cleansing, and I need to do it more.

4. Stay connected to the sport. I ignored Facebook, or at least I tried. With the majority of my friends being runners, it seems that someone is always planning some epic, beautiful, exhilerating run to end all runs. I would get invites for 30 mile runs in the mountains, a 50K entry would free up, a group was doing a 3,000 burpee challenge (well, that one was a little easier to ignore), and everyone was posting beautiful pictures from the mountains. As runners, we can't do everything, so I did my best to ignore the posts and the pictures from my friends. Although I did read blogs, magazines, and I watched videos to get the running fix. Some of the best stuff I read were from other injured runners at the end of their healing journeys. I was inspired by Cindy's comeback 10k. She has been dealing with Achilles injuries as long as I have known her and it seems that she has finally found a working solution, at least good enough to thrown down a 38 something at her first 10K in months. I also read Christian's account of his parasite and his recovery and figured if he could go through something that serious, I could manage a shoulder with a few torn ligaments and a beautiful Rigoletto-esque lump.

5. Push the limits. I'm not a doctor and this may not be the best advice for other (especially running-related injuries), and this is sort of what got me into this mess in the first place, but when my doctor told me I could run as long as I could handle the pain, I took this as green light to train. Listen to your doctor or your PT and don't sue me for saying this, but we're runners, and as runners, we're a determined group and not very smart. Everyone stresses rest when injured or overtrained, but I have yet to meet a runner who follows his or her own advice. So, I ran. I hurt afterward, but I ran hard with the bones bouncing loosely in my shoulder and I'd stop when they felt like they were grinding against each other. The duration of these runs stretched from a 20 minute jog a week ago to today's 90 minute run where I thought of the San Diego 100, knowing that just starting the race will be a small victory, but I visualized myself crossing the finish line, probably in a sling, with one hand raised in triumph. It was a good run.

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