Me and Dzangel

Me and Dzangel
RMC 5K 2007

Monday, June 29, 2009

You can teach an old dog new tricks!

They, whoever "they" are, say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. I beg to differ. As I get older I am learning new things every day. This includes my training and workouts. Do I always apply these new tidbits of wisdom and get wiser. Nope. No surprise there. I think that athletes, professional and weekend warriors, are very slow to try new things. We tend to stick with what we think works, even if it doesn't. You could beat us over the head with all sorts of evidence, scientific studies and real world results and still we would say, "I know what works for me".
My big sticking point has always been taking a day off or a rest day. I generally try to do something, anything, every day. It doesn't always work due to work or family obligations, but I do try. The workout may not be long or hard or high quality, but I try to get a few miles on the books. It is what has seemed to work best for me. I still believe this. I am learning to take some of the workouts much easier though. I am learning to take-wait for it-breaks during a workout. GASP!!!! It has always seemed blasphemous to me to take any kind of rest or break during a workout. On my longer runs I would resort to a shuffle rather than walk. God forbid, that would mean I'm not a runner. Runners don't walk. Well, this one does now. On my longer runs, especially trail runs, I am learning to take walk breaks. I do it either by time or I walk the nastiest hills. I did this on my 20 mile run on the Ice Age Trail a couple of weeks ago and then did a mountain bike race three days later and still did okay.
Another example. I did the longest road ride of the seasons last week on my day off. Nothing epic but a long ride for me. I did 55 miles on a pretty warm day. It had been in the upper 80's to low 90's most of the week and was still warm on Thursday. I had plenty of water, energy drink and some bars and hit the road. I had a route in mind but did a little wandering. About half way through I stopped at a historical marker in the middle of nowhere and stretched the legs, rested my butt and ate and drank a little. About an hour later I stopped at an intersection and did the same thing. I finished the ride feeling tired but satisfied. I admit I still feel a little guilty about taking these breaks, but I am learning to relax. These breaks, along with not always trying to push the pace and kill myself is helping. At least I think it is. By then end of last week I had ridden 5 days for over 180 miles and run twice for around 13 miles. This while working 6 days in our first heat wave of the season. Yeah, I was tired by the end of the week, but not exhausted.
I am going to keep trying this "new" method. As I get older, I am learning to listen to my body and slow down. My brain is accepting the fact that I am not some pro and resting means I can go longer and faster later.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Long trail run

Well, I finally reached one of my goals for this spring/summer. Actually it was kind of goal since I started running the Ice Age Trail. I wanted to run the entire length of the section near my home. I had come close a couple of times and have run all of it, just not all at once. It isn't necessarily long or really difficult. The terrain of the IAT here in central Wisconsin is varied and diverse. It can range from a wide open, flat field to what seems like roller coaster course through oak and pine forest. There are sections where I can just zone out and enjoy the scenery and places where I have to watch the roots and rocks so I don't end up face down in the dirt-and yes, it has happened. The hills aren't incredibly long or steep but the combination of hill after hill in certain sections can really put a hurt on me. I am learning to take walk breaks on my long runs. I take breaks by time or I walk the nastier uphills. I realize that on these long trail runs it isn't about time but completing the run. Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?
Anyway, this Wednesday, the 17th, I finally did it. I ran the entire length back to back. According to my Nike+ it measured 20 miles, end to end and back. This includes the scenic or alternate loops. I took lots of water and energy drink along with some gels. I wasn't sure how successful this would be when I started out. This was my first day off in fifteen days and I had worked 3-11 the day before and been on my feet the entire time. I had a small breakfast and no lunch. Yeah, I know, not the brightest of plans. It ended up being a little warmer and more humid than I thought it would be also. I guess this is one plus of working in a paper mill. It takes me little to no time in the summer to acclimatize to the heat. Not much air conditioning in a paper mill! I took my walk breaks, refueled once at the car and just set my mind to the task at hand. I was pretty tired by the end but not totally spent. I could have gone longer. How much farther? Not sure.
So, what was the point of this other than to prove to myself that I could do it? I am still toying around with the idea of running an ultra. I have Dances With Dirt in Devil's Lake in mind. I figure I might be off. The terrain should be somewhat similar. I just needed to see if I could get in a long and challenging-to me-trail run. Has this helped me make a decision? Not really. I always seem to waffle on things like this. It took me a couple of years to commit to a road marathon. Why? Again, not sure. I knew, really knew I could finish one. I guess I just wanted to do well, in addition to "just finishing". I'm not sure if my time could be called doing well, but for a first marathon I was satisfied. I think the same holds true for an ultra. I am 99% sure I could finish a 50K but I don't want to do death shuffle the last few miles. We'll see.
We'll see how smart this run was. I am doing another WORS race on Saturday. Hopefully I haven't emptied the tank completely and saved a little for the bike. It's not like I'm up there pushing the pace and racing for a podium spot but I do like to race hard and do my best. I'll let ya know how it comes out. It sounds like it could be another muddy race.
Gotta go.........

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Well, another crazy week and time for another post.
Work seems to be either feast or famine. One week the company I work for is down for a week and the next time I go over two weeks without a day off. Sure would be nice to find a happy medium here. I worked 11-7 last week without a day off and a 12 hour shift on Sunday. By the end of the week I was toast. I just can't seem to sleep during the day anymore and a nap at night before work is usually short and fitful. If I wake up and my brain starts working, thinking, wondering..... that's it for sleep. I need to find a way to turn off and sleep.
My training/racing has been going well. I am still trying to figure out how to balance running and biking and get good results in both. The WORS races I have done have been okay but I seem to run out of juice towards the end. The last race I did, the Big Ring at Nine Mile in Wausau was the same thing. I have never really done well here and I don't know why. I like the course. It doesn't have alot of singletrack and it has plenty of wide open ski trail to push the pace. The course was a little muddy this year from rain the day before. It was just enough to make it greasy. Kind of like riding through bacon grease. I did okay but just didn't seem to have alot of zip. Maybe it was from the crazy work schedule or just not enough training. I'd like to think it's my crazy schedule! I had to work after the race, so I hopped off the bike, checked the results, and headed for work.
My week of 11-7 was a mixed bag of workouts. I got in a couple of nice long runs. One day was on my favorite trail, the Ice Age, just outside of town. The other long run was on a new path around town. There is a newer bypass around our city and they thoughtfully added a paved path along side the highway. I had been meaning to try a new route. It adds a little something instead of always running the same tired routes. It's a nice route but could be a real bugger in the summer. No shade at all and if it's windy there isn't much to block the wind. Still, I like the route and am going to try and run it more often.
I haven't been putting lots of miles on the bike. I mean to but something seems to get in the way every time I plan a bike ride. Doing my car/bike commute on 11-7 is kind of a pain too. Somehow the extra time just seems more of a burden on 11-7. That, and the fact that if I am tired the ride seems never ending and then I finally wake up when I reach the car and am energized when I get home and should be ready for sleep. I did get in one commute last week on 11-7 and one so far this week on 3-11. The ride home after 3-11 was really enjoyable. Par of my route follows the Wisconsin River. This makes the ride a little cooler on hot days. It's wooded for half the route and the fireflies are out now. I try to watch the roadside for eyes at night so I can dodge the critters. Riding along and seeing all the fireflies lighting up makes it just a bit more interesting. Seems like there are eyes everywhere.
Tomorrow, Wednesday June 17th is my day off and I am planning a long run or ride. Depends on the weather. Right now, it is raining, which means a nice long trail run is probably on the back burner. I don't mind the mud, but running through the open fields soaks my feet and then the run seems to go downhill. The Ice Age is hilly so I don't want to risk a fall, which I seem to do every once in a while. The wet conditions will just make all the roots and rocks even slipperier. If it dries up a little I'll probably wheel out the road bike and just wander the back roads. Maybe get a little lost. I'll have to throw a couple bucks in the saddlebag and carry my cell, just in case.
It's getting late, dark thirty o'clock here, and I hear my soft bed calling.
Gotta go........

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Well, so much for another attempt at more frequent updates! It was my intention to update this every couple of days but something always seems to come up. If I'm not trying to get in a run/ride/race it's work around "this old house". By the time I sit down at night to relax it's time for bed. I'm not complaining. I love staying busy and having my schedule full makes the day fly by.
Since my last update I've done another WORS race. I went up to Rhinelander on May 31st. I had never been to this particular venue so I had no idea what to expect. When I do a new mtn. bike race I tend to take it easy on the first lap. I don't have a clue when to push, where the next singletrack is or how steep the next hill will be. I had no chance to pre-ride the course because I had to work 3-11 on Saturday. All I could see when I arrived was a gravel road start and finish.
The start went out quick, or at least fast for me. I tried to settle into a good pace and not get completely blown off the back. After some early hills the course narrowed and the singletrack began. Single track generally isn't my forte but this wasn't too technical and I didn't seem to be holding up anyone behind me. After the singletrack the course opened up again for the finish.
I felt good after one lap and tried to pick off some of the racers in front of me on the second lap. I got on the wheel of another racer in my age class and tried to get my second wind. I thought about passing a couple times but every time I pulled up even the other guy would pick up the pace. I knew there was still quite a ways to go so I just let him take the pace. Finally, after we popped out of the singletrack and on to some open trail we were both passed by a small group. I figured this was my chance and put the hammer down to try and stay with them. We entered more singletrack and I thought if I could just get far enough I would be out of his sight. I know when someone passes me and I lose sight of them I seem to ease up a bit. Apparently I need that carrot in front of me. Sure enough, when I had enough time to look over my shoulder, he was out of sight. I tried to keep up the speed through the last open sections and headed for the finish line. I hope I didn't seem like a wheel-sucker, but I guess that's racin'.
I was very happy with my results. My lap splits were just about equal for the two laps which I am always pleased with. As usual I finished about in the middle of the results. I felt good, the bike worked great and I finished in one piece-always a bonus.
I had the next day (Monday) off and decided to do a long trail run. I headed out to the Ice Age Trail to try a few new ideas. I wanted to try running with my Camelbak to see if I liked it better than running with bottles on a waist belt. After a two plus hour run I found I much prefer the belt. Maybe it's just that I've been running with it for so long, but the Camelbak didn't feel comfortable. Plus it seemed a pain in the butt to take it off to get a bar or gel. I also could really feel the water sloshing around as it emptied. I also tried a walk/run this time out. I ran for 25 minutes and then walked for 5 minutes. If I can ever fit an ultra in to my schedule, I would probably try some sort of walk/run combination. By the end of the run I was pretty wiped. Maybe not such a good idea to do a long, hard run the day after a race but sometimes I like to do some back to back hard workouts and what better way than to throw a race into the mix.
The next evening I did a group road ride. I planned on sitting in and just relaxing and held to that for most of the ride. It was a mostly easy pace on a gorgeous night. I did take a few turns at the front but never felt like I was pushing the pace. At the end of the ride I was tired but not exhausted, just feeling really good.
Now, I'm looking out the window at the rain and just imagining how muddy tomorrow's race is going to be. I am going up to Nine Mile Forest in Wausau for WORS #3. I have done this race before and have a good idea of what the course will be like. Lots of wide open ski trail mixed in with gnarly, rooted, rocky singletrack. Now throw in a days worth of rain, plus possibly rain tomorrow. I hope to do well but also need to save something because I have to throw my bike on the car and head straight to work after the race. This should be interesting. I'll let ya know more after the race.
I need to get in more running in the next few weeks since I am still entertaining thoughts of a summer ultra. We'll see how the next couple of weeks go.
Gotta go.....