A Few Thoughts

Howdy folks.  Brian Metzler asked me these questions the other day and really got me thinking about why I do this stuff.  He are some of my responses.  (Read Below) Enjoy.  Currently on the road in Maine with the Western State College Nordic Ski Team at USCSA Collegiate Nationals in Rumford, ME. Then I will stay in Maine next week for USSA Junior Nationals with 2 of the CBNT athletes that I work with.  Great stuff….their goals have become my goals.  This season has been challenging at times; but super good at other times. Moving forward.  So far this trip to Maine is a nightmare.  Flight canceled, missed a race; lost bags. But; we have had good food and good weather and this is all part of what we do. PMA.  Feeling fit; have been training pretty well despite the travel. (Olympics, Steamboat, Maine, Maine, etc.) (lower volume, but good intensity.) Body is feeling healthy and really enjoying the sea level.  Live well. Train well. DC.

1. What is the lure of ultrarunning for me? What got me into it in the first place? Why is it so compelling to me? What intrigued me at first? Why I am still interested in it now?

Ultrarunning inspires me to challenge myself on a daily basis. The lure of pushing myself for 100 miles, not to mention the difficulty of the training load… this is what hooked me. This is what keeps me coming back. I love this stuff. Several friends (Scott Drum and Jake Jones) further planted the seeds for me to begin running ultras and once those seeds were planted… it was just a matter of time.

I think the most intriguing thing for me in running these races is the “mystery of finding out what is deep within me.” I am reminded of a quote from the Leadville 100 race t-shirt: “Do not be fooled by her beauty; for deep within is the grits, guts, and determination to move mountains.” I want to test myself to find where the grits, guts, and determination are within me. That motivates me. That inspires me. That gets me up in the morning. That is what gets me out the door, not just for running, but also in life. Lastly, I feel that I am gifted to endure. I feel one of the best ways for me to use this gift, at this time in my life, is to run ultra-distances. My goal with running ultras and with my ‘day job’; ski coaching; is this: “Set goal, state goal, work toward goal, keep eye on goal, achieve goal. Then? Inspire or teach others to do the same. “ Ultrarunning fits with this mission statement well. I don’t know how much longer I will run ultras, but I do know that I want to work within this mission statement forever.

From a training standpoint, I love the concept of “holding my hand to the fire.” I enjoy working at a high level and dealing with fatigue and discomfort. I believe that the more I can push through fatigue and discomfort… the further I can go next time. Repeat the cycle and there are no limits. I must believe this concept and I must get better at applying this concept to the rest of my life. I think too many of us shy away from discomfort, (myself included in certain arenas) and it is my intention to learn how to handle discomfort and challenges and difficult situations in the rest of my life as well. I think ultra-running can, will, and does help with this process. I also believe there are so many runners out there who have learned to apply ‘ultra-running-lessons’s to their daily lives. It is my intention to seek them out and learn from them. I must improve in this area.

2. What is my favorite Ultra Race and why?

So far? The Leadville 100. Forever? The Leadville 100. This race capitvated my imagination long ago and it will never let go. (I was in highschool when I first heard about it). When I was in highschool… I read an article about Ann Trason and her epic battle in the Leadville 100 with the Tarahumajara. Since that day… I have wanted to run the Leadville 100. Now that I have finished three times, including one victory…. I am still captivated by it. I will eventually get away from racing the Leadville 100 every year (not yet)(going back this year too!) and branch out to some other races… but I will always think of Leadville as the best and greatest. There is something about the altitude; the hardcore nature of the town; the terrain, etc. I am inspired by this race. I respect it greatly and I will continue to be impressed with everyone who finishes it. .” This says it all about the Leadville 100: “Do not be fooled by her beauty; for deep within is the grits, guts, and determination to move mountains.”

3. When you tell other people (non-ultrarunners) about what you do, what kind of reactions do they have? Do most people think you are nuts?

When I tell non-ultrarunners what I do… typically they are impressed and think I am nuts. Typically these folks ask all sorts of questions: “What do you eat?”/“How do you stay injury free?”/“Don’t you get tired?”/“How many miles per week do you run?”/“Why do you do this?” Etc… // I also tend to think some people are inspired by what I do. My goal with running ultras and with my ‘day job’, ski coaching, is this: “Set goal, state goal, work toward goal, keep eye on goal, achieve goal. Then? Inspire or teach others to do the same. “ Ultrarunning fits with this mission statement well.

I also think the questions that these folks ask are rooted in curisosity of the unknown or the unthinkable. Everyone connects with the concept of ‘endurance’ (endurance as a general life principle, not just running) at some level and when people find out what I do…. it allows them to ask questions to further understand and explore the concept of ‘endurance’. I love answering these questions, as it allows me to further explore and search my mind and my heart about the concept of ‘endurance’ as well. I love this stuff.

4. How many miles do you run at the peak of your training for a 100 miler?

I run up to 180 miles per week during my peak training. My average week during peak training blocks is 110 – 125 miles. My average week for the year as a whole is between 70 miles and 100 miles per week. During most of the summer and fall I do one speed session per week… usually repeat miles, or a tempo run. These ‘quality’ sessions allow me to have more confidence in my running; they also help to ‘lean me out’; and they also help with metabolic and biomechanic efficiency. During most of the year I also strength train on a weekly and daily basis, including weight lifting, core training, and plyomettric strength training. My average weekly vertical gain for my running is approximately 12,000’. Mostly I meet my volume goals on one run per day, but, during the largest volume weeks, I run 2x’s per day about 4 or 5 days per week.

During training, the concept I most connect with is consistency, which is a good thing as it helps me carry momentum; however, it is also a negative if things are not going as planned. I have mentally sabotaged many training blocks simply because things did not go quite as planned. (i.e. I was super busy, slightly sick, or too tired to train ‘perfectly.’) This is something I have worked on in the past 6 months: to let go of the need to have ‘perfect preparation.’ I feel substantially more confident going into this 2010 race season knowing that not everything in my preparation will go perfectly; and that is okay. I just need to do the best I can do and race as hard and as smart as I can. This is all I can ask; and thus all I can guarantee will happen.

The most enjoyable training runs for me are ‘medium-long’ runs of 2.5 – 4 hours. These sessions are long enough to produce a great training stimulus; yet short enough to do consistently. Also, these runs are still ‘short’ enough to really run the whole duration. These runs truly work me and are the ‘bread-and-butter’ of my training as there are several loop options right from my doorstep that I can hit on a consistent basis.

Perhaps the hardest thing I do in training are (hardest for me mentally) the short, recovery runs. Typically these runs occur on the days following the hard or long efforts and I am truly fatigued from those. Also, a 60-minute jog is hard for me to ‘sink my teeth into.’ It is easy for me to ‘mentally get up’ for a 3 hour run or a set of mile repeats, but it is mentally exhausting to get out the door for those short jogs that help recovery. I have gotten better with this as I know these runs are not only important for physical recovery; but also for mental discipline, and for the sake of momentum and consistency, which I have already identified as the concept I most enjoy about the training process.