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Friday, September 29, 2006

At the races

A bunch of exciting results posted in the last couple of weeks. I finally had a chance to scan the posts and check up on some friends.
September brought the end of the Slams - both the Grand Slam and Rocky Mountain Slam have finished and after a long summer full of traveling and tough racing a few troopers have made it to the ultimate finish line of their respective series. Darcy Africa overcame an Achilles strain after Vermont and a horrible stomach at Wasatch to be the fastest person to finish the Grand Slam this year! Andy Knight, at 21, became the youngest Slammer. Since 1986, 198 people have finished the Grand Slam.
As the season started Karl Meltzer hadn't even considered the RMS, but mid season decided to throw in Leadville and in the end set a new record in the Rocky Mountain Slam. Ty Draney completed his first Slam in 2nd and Roch Horton finished the RMS for the 2nd time rounding out the top three. Rickie Redland (hosted Skurka and I in Salida) finished the RMS again, 1 of only 2 women this year. The Bear 100 (which is the final race in the RMS) was frigid this year, in fact 2 inches of snow accumulated on the runners as they waited to start and a total of 9 or 10 fell throughout the race. Way to tough it out!
After a rough running season and busy year opening a new running store for Hal Koerner, I was very excited to see his name at the top of the Angeles Crest 100 mile results - CONGRATS Hal! Craig Thornley (Where's Waldo RD) finished top ten, Stacey Bunton (also from Oregon) looks to have had an awesome race placing 2nd female followed closely by Sue Johnston and Stephanie Ehret - Way to go Girls!

Currently fellow NW ultrarunner Scott Jurek is competing in the Spartathalon 246 km race. There is a live feed link; at last check he was leading the race by 6 minutes. There is quite an international field of runners and the top 20 are within 1 hour of each other.

Fall Colors

In order to post more than one picture in a blog I am at the mercy (until I learn) of the blog host to post the pictures for me. I have sent them on and hope they post soon to this blog post.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

On the Road again...

It is absolutely beautiful! The colors are out of this world; I've been taking pictures from my car and even had to stop a couple of times today. For those of you in Washington, get out to the pass! Snoqualmie is probably as pretty as I've ever seen it. I couldn't help but think that a run on the PCT would be one to remember. I'm now in southern Utah, stopped at the Green River Coffee Company (recommended by Roch and Catherine) very cool coffee, milkshake shop with all sorts of decor and paintings on the walls, plenty of books to keep one coming back for years. I'm headed to Steamboat Springs tonight to visit Rob Shoaf and then on to Silverton where I get to spend two weeks soaking in the colors of Silverton. I will post some of the pictures in the next couple of days, but better yet - get out there and see how beautiful this time of year can be!

Monday, September 25, 2006

To be a kid again

Today I got a total sense of Mommy-hood. I snuck in a run this morning along the bluffs and then joined Terra and Logan for a super fun filled day. First we met at the preschool in route for a field trip to the apple farm. After Mrs. Lane (apple farm owner) gave her little talk to the kids about the different types of apples and demonstrated how to pick them she let us loose on the golden delicious. We showed Logan the “icky ones” with worm holes and helped him reach some of ones hidden in the branches. We also inspected a couple that had fallen to the ground and were now being consumed by ants and bees. We ran into a few spiders having lunch on the flies caught in their webs; I have to be honest, spiders normally freak me out, but with Logan I found myself wanting to show him how amazing that insect is.

After apples we had lunch and ice cream in downtown Santa Barbara and did a little window shopping. Then Terra and I got to hit the gym for an hour of weights while Logan played in daycare and then all of us went down to the dive center where her Mommies group (different than Mom’s in Motion) met for swimming. Logan was by far the best little swimmer and most comfortable in the water. He showed me his cannon ball dive a couple of times. Pizza for dinner down by the water and then on for some hot chocolate to finish off the evening. I loved watching all of the families in the Mommies group take care of each others children; it was like how I imagine small villages raising children.

A fun filled day at a different pace. Experiences are a lot more fun when viewing them through the eyes of a child.

Tough point to point

On Sunday morning Terra and I met the Moms in Motion and a group from Santa Barbara Nine Trails to run the first half of the race course. It is a out and back and we ran the start to the halfway point (about 17 or 18 miles). I started with some of the Moms then moved up to catch Luis Escobar (the race director) and ran with his group for most of the 4 hours. Luis was great about stopping to show us some of the tricky intersections, point out the views and just let us enjoy the day. The lowest point on the race course is 400 ft and the highest is 2400ft, but in those 17 miles we climbed over 5500 and descended about 5100 ft; turn around and go back… this is going to be a tough race.

Along with the great views of Santa Barbara and the ocean the trail is just a lot of fun, lots of ups and downs, twists and turns, switchbacks and rocks. It is challenging and entertaining; there are only about 30 spots left, so if you are looking for a November race – this is the one!

Watching some of the Mom’s in Motion finish the 17 miles was great! They were all smiles and for most this was the longest they have ever run. They were talking about some of the points we’d covered the night before and asking more questions about going further. Mostly they were glowing and excited about their Sunday morning accomplishment.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Moms in Motion

After a quick flight to Santa Barbara this morning I find myself in sunny California to stay with the Hillyers for the weekend. Even though I am supposed to be taking some time off from running, I couldn’t resist the beautiful weather and borrowed the jeep and drove down to run on the beach, just for a little bit.

Terra Hillyer is the coach for a Moms in Motion team here in the city and tonight hosted a fun, delicious dinner for her team of athletes. The purpose of my trip here was to speak to these women about ultrarunning and my experiences in the sport. It was so much fun sharing stories with these ladies and hearing their early feelings on trail running. Most of these women are experiencing trail running for the first time and in listening to their take on the sport it is obvious that they each have the bug. Some are excited for the camaraderie that they have found running with this group and others love being out there, feeling like a kid, tying running and hiking together and having something that is theirs. Hearing these comments makes my heart smile, as these are the reasons I got into the sport and are why I continue to do it.

After a quick slide show about the Grand Slam in 2005, we did an informal question & answer which brought up so many great points about nutrition, hydration, training, bathroom stops and other topics. The founder of Santa Barbara 9 Trails was present and added the point of view from the “early days of ultrarunning” view, where instead of Shot she would buy tubes of frosting.

Tomorrow we will run half of the Santa Barbara 9 Trails race course as a training run. These women are gearing up to either run the entire race (35 miles) on November 25, or to complete the course as part of a relay.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

VO2 max and Lactate Threshold

This morning/afternoon I had the opportunity to retest my VO2 max and Lactate Threshold. In June of 2005 Dr. Emily Cooper took me on as a project and she was able to help me better train for the upcoming Grand Slam. With new goals in mind for 2006 we thought it would be a good idea to test where I am at now and figure out the things I need to work on before I begin racing again.

VO2 max is "the maximal amount of oxygen that can be used by the working muscles to convert fuel to energy. One's baseline is determined by genetics and lifestyle. VO2 max incorporates three systems 1)breathing which delivers oxygen to the lungs, 2) Heart and circulation propels oxygen to the working muscles and 3) muscles' ability to extract and use oxygen to burn fuel for energy." Lactate Threshold is "the shift from predominantly aerobic (burning fuel with oxygen) to anaerobic (burning fuel without oxygen) metabolism. Both of these are factors in ones training and knowing them can help an individual train more effectively.

The tests are very interesting and the analysis of the data is even more fascinating (to me).

The tests (in simple terms)
First you are strapped in to a face mask that measures gas exchange ratios. You lie down for 15 minutes, relaxed but not asleep. This gives a baseline, your resting metabolic rate (the bear minimum caloric output on a rest day). For this to be accurate you must not have eaten 3 hours prior.

The mask stays on for the remaining two tests.
For a runner to test VO2 max you run on a treadmill. (This can be done sport specific - bike is another option) After a warm up you settle in to a comfortable pace for two minutes. Then every two minutes the incline increases by 2.5%; the pace remains the same but the hill gets steeper. You push through these increments until you can not go any further.

After a rest you get back on the treadmill to test your Lactate Threshold. This one is not as demanding as they are watching to see where lactic acid starts to enter your muscles; you don't necessarily reach a maximum effort. The time increments on this test are dependent on when your VO2 and heart rate stabilize. So you first start at a comfortable pace, once you stabilize the speed increases by 0.5 miles/hr, stabilize again and then increase the speed. This continues until the gas exchange shows lactic acid (your body has changed from aerobic to anaerobic).

What I learned about myself:
First, based on my activity level my current resting metabolic rate is too low and I am burning 3% more protein than I should. By not consuming enough calories the body first decreases the metabolic rate and also burns proteins (lean mass) to make up for the deficiency.
To fix this:
I need to consume roughly 2200 calories a day (I am probably currently just under 2000, based on what the test shows) as a base and then add on the calories burned in workouts. By doing this my metabolic rate should increase and I should lower how much protein I am burning.

Second, Dr. Cooper distinguished heart rate zones and with the charts in the test report I am able to plan training based on how much time I should spend in each zone. An odd thing about me is that my zones on hill running are 10 beats slower than on level running. This is explained below.

Finally I learned that I am not able to reach my potential VO2 max; I had a peak at 58 ml/kg/min, but based on my age and past tests I should be closer to 64. By looking at the graphs and comparing the two tests Dr. Cooper deduced that my muscle strength isn’t strong enough to push my cardio to its max.
To fix this:
To build more strength I will start by adding leg press, calf raises and squats to my routine. 18 reps x 3 sets, 2-3 times a week for 12 sessions. This will prepare my tendons, ligaments and muscles for the increased work load. After that we will do a strength test to measure where I am at. The next phase decreases the reps and increases the weight. Finally to incorporate this strength into my training I will need to seek out workouts that require strength, basically provide resistance. Examples include running uphill in the mud, snowshoeing on a slight incline or running in the sand, focusing on staying in Zone 3B. By going through these phases I should 1) be able to reach my potential VO2 Max and 2) bring my heart rate zones to less of a discrepancy.

This is a basic explanation of a detailed and fascinating process. I highly recommend any one that is interested in analyzing data, loves training and/or seeks improvement to visit Seattle Performance Medicine. The team there is all about helping individuals be in the best health and reach their potential. There is a sincere dedication to and excitement for the patients and their progress.

Having this extra data does not change my main focus on having fun while training. Knowing the things I can do to be healthy and to be a better athlete is part of what keeps balance in my training.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Cle Elum Ridge 50k

The race went fantastic! The 2006 Cle Elum Ridge 50km trail run had 72 starters and 70 finishers, the weather was perfect for running, cool temps and only a few drizzles. You can see the results here and Glenn Tachiyama took some great photos; he really has a knack for catching people at their best while out on the trail. I have passed the race on to Chris and Marty Fagan and am really excited for all of the energy they have to keep this event going and to improve it as well. There is a lot of time and effort that goes into putting on an ultra and in the end it is always very rewarding to pull it off. The smiles and stories that the runners bring to the finish line are what make it all worth it.

This week I am trying to take time off, which is proving difficult. So I've taken to running errands on my bike, hitting a few extra yoga classes and getting things ready for the next segment of travel.

On Thursday I have an appointment to have my VO2 Max tested at Seattle Performance Medicine. Dr. Emily Cooper has been a very instrumental part in tailoring my training and helping me with nutrition. I am interested to see where I am at and to start making plans for next year's training.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

making plans

I scheduled myself “home” today after a couple of days running around and doing errands. I visited my parents for the weekend and got in a great run on the Pacific Northwest Trail. Yesterday I headed out to Cle Elum to pick up race permits and on the way back stopped at Denny Creek (exit 47 off of I-90) for a short but beautiful out and back run at sunset; the whole time very thankful that I have the time and flexibility to throw in great runs like these.

So it is nice to be home for the day, but of course I can’t sit still. I’m excited for to put on Cle Elum this weekend and am looking forward to marking the course solo on Friday. I’ve also started making plans for my next adventure.

September 23 I fly to Santa Barbara to speak to a Mommies’ running group and participate in the 17 mile training run on the Santa Barbara 9 Trails race course. I fly back on the 27th after spending some time with my friends the Hillyers: Chris, Terra and Logan. On the 28th I head south to Silverton, Colorado where I will be house-sitting for Emily & Ernst Baer for 2 weeks. Along the way I will stop to visit Rob Shoaf in Steamboat Springs.

After the house-sitting gig, I’m planning a visit to Nate, Petra & Hailey McDowell in New Mexico and then over to Phoenix to bug some girlfriends from college (Ashley Koch) and running (Jamie Mieras) before bumping over to Flagstaff to see Rick and Dawn Hatch. Finally, on to the Grand Canyon where I look forward to celebrating my 29th birthday with a double crossing of the “big ditch.” What better than a big party on the trail!

After the birthday party I’m either thinking to tour southern Utah, on a route that Roch Horton devised for this running traveler, or head west and drive up the California coast… time will tell.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

keeping busy

Since arriving "home" to my parents' condo in West Seattle on the 1st I've kept busy with a bunch of tasks that I've added to a very long list of things to do while away. The most exciting is this year's Cle Elum Ridge 50 km trail run, that I am race directing with friends Chris and Marty Fagan. The race will take place on September 16 starting at the Taneum Junction Campground in Cle Elum, WA. Currently we have 63 entrants and are looking forward to some great running, hopefully nice weather and one of the better post run meals (in my opinion) catered by the Canyon River Bakery of Ellensburg.

I also attended my 10 year high school reunion (just before the trip to Alaska). It was wonderful to see former classmates, catch up a bit on what has happened in the last 10 years and reestablish some contacts that had dissipated over the years.

Other than that I've done some cleaning and rearranging; trying to make the condo feel more like home and look forward to visiting with friends and family over the next couple of weeks.

an unexpected adventure

On Saturday (September 2) afternoon Matt picked me up and we headed out to the Olympic Peninsula for what was to be Matt's longest run and a bit of an epic adventure for us. We were excited for the 75 mile adventure and with how light we kept our packs. We planned to start at 1am so that we could reach the view of the Blue Glacier by sunrise. We tried to sleep in the car for the couple of hours prior, but were both pretty uncomfortable. We must have slept though because the alarm woke us. Matt took all of our gear while I drove the car 6 miles from the Hoh Valley visitor center, parked and rode my bike back. We got started just before 2am, snapping a few pictures and moving into the dark. The stars were amazing as we weaved along the river. Unfortunately we lost the trail for about an hour due to some major downfall and subsequent rerouting.
The route does an out and back to Blue Glacier; the climb and view were a wonderful way to welcome the sunlight. We made our way back down and I started take note of the time, these miles were taking a bit longer (treating water, taking pictures, talking with hikers, etc) than we’d planned, so as we moved on we decided to cut out the next out and back to heart lake (unfortunately) but with limited light power left after the morning we needed to get out before dark. Even with cutting out that small section, we were treated to some spectacular running, yummy huckleberries, beautiful lakes and fun conversations with passing hikers.
To keep this post shorter, we made it down to the last river crossing just after 7pm. Only 10 miles to go, but we could not find the trail on the other side. The guide book and signage had been perfect up to this point, but with the book’s instructions to “find the trail and hike 0.5 miles and turn left” we were at a bit of a loss and quickly losing the sun. We were fortunate to meet Duane who had come down the trail a couple of years ago and he got us headed in the right direction with a rough description of what the trail should do. We followed along and lost it, then doubled back and rechecked, tried to make sense and think logically, but now at 10pm running on very little sleep and facing the dark we made the decision to put on all of the clothing we brought for the “just in case”, curled up under Matt’s space blanket on some moss and roughed it till the sun came up.
Periodically Matt would ask if I was warm enough and double check that the growling we heard was my stomach (and not a bear!). The next morning we were able to easily make sense of trail and covered the last 10 miles and roughly 3200 feet of gain in about 3 hours. We were both very thankful to pop out on the road and see his jeep parked just as we’d left it. We both immediately reached for the recovery drinks we’d packed me Ultragen and him Recoverite and then clean clothes and Molokai flip flops.

What a (couple of) day(s)!

For more a little more, you should link to Matt's Blog. He has the pictures posted and will do a great job writing it up soon, I'm sure.