Me and Dzangel

Me and Dzangel
RMC 5K 2007

Sunday, November 2, 2014

And there it was! Gone!

Not exactly sure where this post will go. It's starting (before editing) as a kind of an early year end recap. Maybe a preview of 2015 goals. Or maybe it will just end up as a rambling post as I try to sort things out.
This hasn't been the year I had planned on about this time in 2013. Not to brag, but I think I had an awesome 2013. I ran more than I ever had, farther than I ever had, spent a little time on the bike, and most important, I had a blast! I really, truly enjoyed the miles. I felt amazing, unstoppable. And then......
Wham!! 2014 showed up and kicked my ass. First I chalked it up to getting older. Not making excuses. Just finally showing my age and not being so much a genetic freak, as I have been labeled. I felt slow and lethargic. I started out the year on the cross country skis. I had a couple good days on the skis. Sunshine, effortless glide and the uphills seemed easy. Okay, not easy, but they didn't seem too bad. But they were few and far between. The Birkie kicked my butt, but I wasn't the only one who felt that way. Mother Nature had something to do with that. So I wasn't too concerned.
I hit the road for some running miles in anticipation of a big summer of running. My goal had been a marathon or ultra every month from May to October. Maybe a bit ambitious, but I felt it was achievable. First up was the Ice Age 50K. That didn't go well. If you're interested, you can read about that in a previous post.
So, I readjusted and reevaluated. I scaled back my plans and goals. Maybe a change of scenery would help. So I gave the running shoes a bit of a rest and put some miles on the bike. Lots of miles compared to 2013. Lots of commuting miles. Some really good recreational rides with some great people. Thanks Todd!! I did a 12 hour mountain bike relay and had a blast. Thanks, Wanda! And the summer started looking better than the spring.
I even listened to some wise and sage advice and saw my family physician for a physical. I mentioned all my little aches, pains and fatigue. . I think it helped that he is also a runner (and a damn good one too). He didn't just tell me to rest and take it easy. He understood my concerns. Blood was drawn,  x rays were taken and tests were run. I got some answers. After a short round of some icky medicine, I started to feel better. Finally!!
I had a good month or so at the end of summer.I ran a few late summer/early fall races. Felt good. Not fast, but I was okay with that. Had fun. That's the main thing. I felt like I was getting my mojo back. My motivation was returning.
And there it was-gone! As quick as it seemed to return, it's stay was fleeting and I feel like I'm back to square one. The aches and tiredness are back, with a vengeance I might add. My back has been so sore it hurt to even think of running. I tried a bike commute on my last 3-11 shift. A beautiful autumn day that was perfect for an easy to and from work ride. I paid for that most of this week. I could barely move on Monday. A week of  rest and I'm feeling better. I have even tossed some yoga in to the mix to stretch the back and hips and try to add some flexibility. Maybe it's working? I'll see. I'm trying to be patient, but I've never been good at that. 
Maybe work has/had something to do with this rut. I've been working long stretches without days off. A few stints of three plus weeks without a day off coupled with shift work really seemed to take the wind out of my sails. 
I hope this doesn't sound like I'm whining or complaining. I guess this is just my way of trying to make sense and sort things out. And elicit some possible solutions. As with patience, I've never been good at taking or listening to advice, but I'm ready now. I'm not happy with who I am right now or where I am. I realize I need to make some changes, but I'm not exactly sure what or how. The one thing I do know is that things will get better. Of this I am certain!
As always, thanks for tolerating this rambling post. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Coming back slowly

Time to empty my mind again. Things are starting to rattle around. 
I think, fingers crossed, I am getting back to where I was over a year ago. I'm hopeful that I've beaten or at least knocked back my case of babesiosis. I had a cardiac stress test and an echocardiogram. Both came out fine. I feel motivated to get out and ride, or run or anything for that matter. I even ran a couple races in early September. Just a 5K and 10K. I didn't set any PRs. But I didn't expect too either. But I felt good. 
I have that urge to jump in with both feet and really start ramping things up. I'm not going too though. As difficult as it is for me I'm going to take it slow. I'd love to do a fall half marathon or even a full. I even entertained doing the Fall 50. I need to build the endurance base I've lost and get back to where I was last spring. Back to when the miles felt effortless and a 20 miler seemed like a short run. I just need to be patient. 
I have big goals for 2015, at least I think they're big. Nothing firm yet. Stay tuned and I'll update my plans as 2015 gets closer. 
Thanks for taking the time to stop by and read my ramblings. I've had a few posts I haven't mentioned. Check them out if you're so inclined. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Getting back to normal-what ever that is!

If you have been following me, and I've been posting honestly, you know this hasn't been my best year. No endurance, lack of motivation, overall fatigue, no speed ( not that I ever had any of that to start). To put it in plain terms, just blah! 
I've never felt like this before. Yeah, maybe a few off days here and there. A sub-par race occasionally. An ache or pain here or there. But never, ever anything like this. It got me down at times. I would have the rare good day, but the crappy days and feelings were the norm. I was really starting to wonder if I age was starting to catch up with me. Not that I'm old. 
My better half, Tammy, kept getting on me to make an appointment for a physical. See what is going on in this once well oiled machine. I put the first appointment off. I just kept telling myself that I needed to train different. Train harder. Train easier. Cross train. Focus on one sport. Eat better. Lose a couple pounds. Add some muscle. The excuses were endless. 
The crappy workouts were endless too. I had no endurance. I'd plan for a long run - 15 miles or more - and end up running half that distance and feeling like I'd run twice the distance. A hard ride on the bike would have me beat for days. My plans for an ultra a month quickly went out the window. As did just about all racing. No WORS races. I did squeak in one 5K, mainly because it was just down the street. I did a 12 hour duo mountain bike race, but that was low key. Just for fun and to enjoy time with friends. 
Finally, I gave in and went to the doctor for a physical. Some well meaning prodding from Tammy (or were those threats) did the trick. It helps that my primary care physician is a runner. Not just any runner. An Olympic trials, sub 2:20 marathon runner. Sub 15:00 5K runner. He poked and prodded. Asked questions. Spent time really listening to what I was saying. Not what I'm used to in the exam room. He had some ideas, but nothing concrete without some tests. 
I gave more blood that day than if I'd laid the road bike down on a ride. Tubes of blood. For lots of tests. I think I was checked for everything! Then down for an x-ray of my back. I'd chalked the back pain up to age and work. And still to come, a stress test to see how the old ticker is functioning. No worries, just checking. 
And the results were interesting. Turns out I've got some moderate arthritis in my back. Now I know why it takes so long to get moving in the morning. Looks like I need to hit the core work again to strengthen my core. Maybe some yoga? 
Tammy wanted me to be checked for Lyme disease due to a tick bite a couple years ago. Good news. Negative. appears I have babesiosis, a different but similar tick borne illness.  Some of the same symptoms. I'm hoping, really crossing my fingers, that the medication will clear it up. Maybe it's wishful thinking, but after half a week of some icky tasting medication, I am feeling better. Just a little more spring in my step. We'll see.
The stress test is coming up. I'm more interested than concerned. It will be nice to see if the ticker works as well as I think it does. No matter what, that will answer a few questions. 
So, it looks like I need to listen to Tammy more often. And maybe take a little better care of myself. 
And, I feel like really pushing the training again. And I'm looking forward to racing. Let's see how things go for a couple weeks. Keep following along. This could get fun again!!
Thanks for checking this out! 

Sunday, August 24, 2014


I'm back! This could get to be a regular occurrence. I guess I have way too much rattling around upstairs. 
I had a pretty good week. Vacation will do that for a person. Relaxed, somewhat rested. No real plans this week. 
I had two excellent rides this weekend. 48.5 miles on Saturday and 31.1 on Sunday. Rides I probably wouldn't have done if I hadn't had somebody riding with me. Amazing what a little accountability will do to the training. 
I would have ridden, or run, these days. Just not that hard. 17.9 and 19.4 average speeds. Or that damn early. 7:00 a.m. on Saturday and 6:30 a.m. on Sunday. Wait, I thought I was on vacation!? 
Which takes me back to that word. Accountability.  According to Google-the fact or condition of being accountable; responsibility. Most of my miles are solo. My odd work schedule contributes to that, but I think many riders and runners are solitary. It gives us time to unwind, relax, de-stress and think. It lets our minds wander and ponder and solve problems. It keeps our significant others from wanting to do us grievous bodily harm!
Without a little accountability though, I think our training can get stale. Even suffer if we're competitive. I can't push as hard or as far if I'm flying solo, roads or trails. Just think of your last, or best race. Could you regularly recreate that time or effort by yourself? If you're like me, and I hope you're not, the answer is probably no. 
Now add a training partner to the mix. Even if it's infrequently. Somebody to shag your lazy butt out of bed at dark thirty in the morning. When it's dripping fog and 100% humidity. And again the next day, when you just want to sleep an extra hour and let your legs rest. Are you going to do that without a little prodding? Again, if you're like me, probably not! But, the rides were good. They pushed me harder than I usually go and made me work for the miles. Even without any races on the schedule, it felt good to go hard, fast and long (for me). Get a little out of my comfort zone, which I normally don't like to do. 
I will still put in most of my miles flying solo. Like I said, that's a part of who I am and my goofy work schedule. But I appreciate the rides when I have someone along for some conversation and to push me harder than I can by myself. Thanks Todd, for the extra push this weekend!!
If you're a solitary rider or runner, find another crazy person like yourself and put in some miles together. You might enjoy it and it might take you places you haven't been, whether that be a new route or new levels of training. 
Enjoy the miles!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Don't trust Mother Nature! But she can't stop me!

I think I'm starting to get my running mojo back. Not sure where it went, but I'm enjoying running again. Even looking forward to it. Planning routes. Slowly upping the miles. Today I was hoping for at least fifteen miles. I thought it would be a fitting start to 22, yep, count 'em, 22 days of vacation!
This run started out better than I thought it would. I only slept a couple hours. 11-7 shift last night and VACATION starting this morning. Hate to waste the day. Steady rain last night led to a bit of a muggy start, but the skies seemed mostly clear. I headed out of town with plans of doing around 15 miles. About 3 miles in I noticed that the sky was looking dark towards the west. I crossed my fingers and hoped it wouldn't amount to anything. At my only option to cut the run short I heard the ominous rumble of thunder. Well, maybe I'll take the turn and make it home before it rains. Whoa, that's not like me to make a smart decision while out running/biking/insert other endurance endeavor. Must have been the sleep deprivation. And maybe not!! I got less than a mile down the road and a light rain began to fall. Well, this isn't too bad. I guess I shouldn't have spoken out loud because I think I really pissed off Mother Nature. Another half mile up the road and the rain was almost a white out. At least there isn't a breeze, I thought. That lasted another couple miles, thankfully. The most nerve wracking part was the lightning. A couple cracks were close enough to make the hair on my arms stand up and to leave the lingering scent of ozone in the air. I tried to stay somewhat under some type of cover. At least I wasn't the highest point on the road like I had been about 10 minutes earlier! What had been planned as a nice and easy long run was changing by the mile. Amazing how nature can help you push the pace. By the time I got back in to town and hit the last downhills towards home, I was dodging small rivers flowing down the roads and running through ankle deep water. At least I didn't have to worry about the cars splashing me, because I couldn't have possibly gotten any wetter!! I don't think I've run in much worse. I was really thankful I decided on a run and not a bike ride!! But, in the end, I made it home. A little soggier and wrinklier, but home nonetheless. The street in front of the house looked like a small river. Water was pouring down the little bitty hill and up over the curb. Next time, I'll check the weather a little closer!! And maybe I'll check out plans for building an ark! Lesson learned!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wausau 24 - The 12 hour version!

Another lap finished!
My team mate, Wanda

Finally! Time to sit down, relax and spew out my thoughts on my last event. They've been few and far between this year. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. On August 2nd, I participated in the 12 hour mountain bike race at Wausau24. I competed in the mixed duo class with a great friend and awesome rider-Wanda. It turned out better than I planned, but harder than anticipated. That seems like a contradiction, but it's true. I haven't spent much, if any time on my mountain bike this year. It just seems like I've gravitated to the road bike this summer. No real specific reason. Just how things have been going. So, of course, due to this, I went in feeling pretty cocky and confident. I think I may have even entertained some smack talk about 24 hours solo next year!! Dumb ass!!  I didn't get a chance to pre-ride, which is probably a good thing in some ways and not so smart in others. I hadn't ridden at Nine Mile Forest in a few years. I had forgotten how tough and technical the single track can be. An 11 mile lap doesn't sound too tough. Again, dumb ass! Perfect weather greeted all the racers on Saturday morning. Sunshine, clear skies, a little breeze. A bit of rain on Friday helped knock the dust down. A classic Le Mans start got us off and running a short loop to our bikes. I lined up with another friend, Amanda, who was doing the 24 mixed duo with her husband, Darrin. We jogged/walked to our bikes and off we went. My first not so smart move of the day! After a nice roll out on some two track we hit the first single track-eventually. Due to being way at the back to the aforementioned stroll, I came to a complete halt waiting to enter the single track. And then it was stop and start for a few more minutes. It really wasn't a big deal, since my main goal was to have fun, but it would have been nice to be up a bit further in the pack. Lesson #1.  Pre-ride at least the start of the race! I finally got in to a good groove and started to flow through the single track. It felt good to be on the bike and weaving in and out of the trees. I felt comfortable and confident. Dumb ass! A few rock gardens further in the single track had us bunching up again. Still, no big deal. I relaxed and took my time. 12 hours is a long time, even as a duo. Plenty of time to make up time. Right?
About half way through my lap, I wasn't feeling as confident and cocky as I had been earlier. I was getting the bejeezus beat out of me. My hands were getting tired just trying to hang on to the bike! Oh, did I forget to mention I was riding a rigid 29er single speed? What was I thinking? I should have spent a lot more time on that bike. Getting used to the lack of any suspension or cushion. Lesson #2!
Finally out on to some more two track.Oh sure, toss in a nice gradual climb to let the legs relax! And then on to Ho Chi Minh!! I hadn't ridden this since ???? Man, I forgot how much fun it was! ( insert sarcasm here ). Actually, it was fun, in a challenging and sick way. I saw the sign about half way through that read "Daddy, make it stop, make it stop". Somebody has a twisted sense of humor!
Finally through that section and back on to some two track. And finally a chance to relax and get some feeling in to numb and aching body parts. And barely half way through the lap!
More single track followed, interspersed with enough two track to give me a chance to catch my breath and relax. I sped (crawled) across the line and out for another lap. Wanda and I had planned on riding two laps each to start. We did the first two exchanges this way before we went to singles.  Maybe not real smart. A look at the teams that finished ahead of us shows that they all rode singles. Lesson #3. Next year, one in-one out!
The laps and the day flew by. It was nice to have the extra rest time. On the other hand, it took me a little longer to get going with the long rest intervals. I enjoyed the down time watching the other racers come through. I caught up with friends I hadn't seen in a while. Planned for next year. Tried to relax and refuel. Oh yeah, refuel. I didn't do very well at the whole rest, rehydrate and refuel thing. Lesson #4. I had a great plan. Next year, put it in to practice!!
I rode consistent laps, once you toss the buffet line waiting from lap #1. 1:14:29 - 1:04:13 - 1:04:05 - 1:08:06 - 1:06:24 - 1:13:25. The last lap was my night lap. I went out for lap number 5 at a little after 7:00 pm and finished around 8:15 pm. I didn't really need my light for that lap. And I really wanted a night lap. Lap 6 started at around 9:40pm and ended just before 11:00 pm. Full on dark! I had a new NiteRider Pro 1200 light and I wanted to see how it worked. In a word-outstanding. Combined with an older NiteRider MiNewt on my helmet I had no problem navigating the trail. I'm pretty happy with how I rode in the dark. I new I wouldn't be as fast as during the day, but I didn't slow as much as I thought I would. A little practice and I could probably (hopefully) knock off a few minutes.
All in all, I had a great time. Wanda and I had a great race. We had fun, rode hard, had a few bump and bruises-nothing serious, and finished tired but happy and pleased. 6th out of 12 teams and about 40 minutes out of a podium spot.
I learned quite a bit. More than some one of my advanced experience and age should be able learn. Hmmm....maybe I don't have it all figured out quite yet?
What went right? I picked a pretty good gear for the trails. I ran a 32x17 and was able to ride all of the course. Even as I got tired I still could get up the hills and through the rocks. Most important, Wanda and I had fun. No pressure, no expectations. Just smiles and miles of off road fun.
What did I learn? I'm still a bit over confident before race day. 12 hours solo would have been painful. 24 hours? Insanity!! I still need to work on my fueling strategy. I always have a plan in place. I just never carry it out. I need to spend more time on the trails. Road miles gave me the endurance. More trail miles would give me more strength.
Now I can't wait for next year. Not sure what I'll be racing, but I'll be back either as part of a team or solo! i forgot how much I missed the trails and the racing. Maybe a few WEM Series races?
Thanks again for letting me ramble. I know it's infrequent and long winded, but it helps me think and process things. I appreciate the time you spend here and all the comments!

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Ice Age humbles me-again!

Well, it's been a few days. Time for another race recap. Get ready, 'cause this one ain't pretty. 
I ran the Ice Age Trail 50K on May 10. I went in to this race with some pretty lofty goals. I was hoping to lop off a few more minutes from my previous years. I was hoping for somewhere close to five and a half hours! Now that it's all said and done, I'm glad I finished!
I had an entire week off of work leading up to the race. So I was fairly well rested. I didn't do any crazy runs or races. So I did learn from last years 5K six days before Ice Age! See, I do pay attention. 
I think my first down fall this year, and in previous years, is overestimating my fitness and underestimating the course. It has been described by 2013 50 mile winner David Riddle as "death by 1000 paper cuts".  While the 50K is obviously shorter, the hills wear you down just as quickly. To me they seem relentless. The 50K course is a 13 mile out and back and then two loops of 9 miles. So the hills you seem to think aren't so bad on the first loop seem cruel and unending on the second loop. And this year, they kicked my butt! 
Problem number two this year was not being able to take in enough fluid and energy. Not that I didn't have a plan or schedule set up, I just couldn't handle anything in my belly. It wasn't upset or queasy. It was more a bloated and full feeling. I've never experienced this before. I kept trying to take in some fluid and gel, but I felt like a balloon ready to pop! I may have any idea as to why I had this problem. I'll get to that in a bit.
I tried to "run" this year, instead of my run/walk strategy from last year. I felt really good the first 13 miles. Looking back at my splits, I may have started out just a little fast. Not much, but enough that it added up by the end. Maybe I need to revisit the run/walk idea. It really did seem to save my legs last year. By the end this year walking was not an option. It was a necessity. My quads and hips hurt. More than any other race I can remember. 
Getting back to the tummy trouble. Hindsight being 20/20, I think I can safely say I went in to this race with a bit of a bug. Not sure if it was something I ate, or a bit of a sinus infection, or ????? I felt a little sluggish and tired toward the end of the week. I just passed it off on my taper. I can't put my finger on it, but I just didn't feel "right". The day before the race I had no appetite. After running the 50K, I'm usually famished. This year, I ate a little bit because I knew I should. I spent Sunday feeling like I'd been beat with a lumpy lead pipe. Muscles ached, head banging, couldn't eat, what I did eat didn't stay with me very long. I felt crappy enough that I called in sick to work today ( the Monday after). That's enough of a hint about my run, because I rarely take a sick day. It's been years! Comparing my heart rate from last year to this year confirms my hunch. My average heart rate was 12 beats higher, and my max was 17 beats over last year. I think my body was trying to tell me something. Good thing I don't listen well. 
But, I finished! And for me, that is always my first goal. Everything above and beyond that is a bonus. The best part of the run? Running through the finish holding hands with my niece and granddaughter. 
Did I learn anything? You bet! I learned I can suffer and finish, even when I have seem inner doubts. I honestly thought about tossing in the towel before heading out on that last loop. Just for a second. But, I knew I could walk it in if I had to. I'm sure there were runners suffering just as bad as I was. I learned to listen to my body. If I had been smart and used some common sense, maybe I should have called it a day early. A DNF isn't always a failure. It can be a learning opportunity. Or maybe I should have not even left the start line. For me that's usually not an option. Between the trip down, hotel stay, getting to the race, I'll always at least start. But I need to put sense before pride. 
What's next? Not sure. I had a 100K in June in the back of my mind. But I think I need to rest and recover a bit. Maybe a road marathon at the end of June. And then there's Dances With Dirt at Devil's Lake in July. That course and I have a score to settle. 
Thanks for following along!

Monday, April 28, 2014

It's taper time again

It's a day off, sorta. 11pm-7am today. In my weird little world, I count that as a day off. Time to prattle on.
It's taper time, again. My first 50K of the year is on May 10. Today is supposed to be a rest day. And already I'm itchy to go out and put in some miles. Just a few. Honest. I'll do my best to relax and lie low. My training has been going really well. At least that's my biased, uneducated opinion. Although I don't have the miles behind me that I did at this time last year, the miles do seem easier. Effort seems easier. Pace is a bit quicker. I also don't have the long miles like last spring either. But, I was planning a spring 50 miler versus a 50K. I'm confident I can finish this one, and hopefully finish strong. I'm even entertaining a PR in the back of my mind. But that is not my number one goal. I want to finish and feel good as I cross the line. Anything else is just a bonus. Too many variables come in to play. Weather, a few little niggles I'm having. nutrition and hydration.
 I am feeling strong. I believe the miles I put in last year along with one marathon, three 50K and one 50 mile are starting to pay off. Hmmm, must be that specificity of training I keep trying to push. Run, and you might get the hang of running. I haven't had any really horrid outings this year. Even bad days are just kind of so-so. Hopefully this will lead to a strong year and some good results. If my work schedule cooperates, I am planning on an ambitious race schedule this year. I have some scores to settle with Dances With Dirt-Devil's Lake and North Face ECS Wisconsin!
The little pause I took seems to have jump started my running. I had a strong trail race at Iola on April 12. I worked 11-7 the night before. So, not much sleep the day before. Maybe a few hours Friday morning. 39°F and rain during the run. On muddy trails with patches of snow still hanging on for dear life! I felt good, paced myself well and finished strong. I even put on a bit of a kick through the last single track through icy, ankle deep water.
All in all, I'm as ready as I can be for this 50K. A few days of "graveyard shift" and then vacation. Easy miles and relaxing as much as I can. I may sneak in a 5K and/or a WORS mtn. bike race the weekend before the 50K. We'll see.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A short rest, and back at it

Definition of REST

:  reposesleepspecifically :  a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities
a :  freedom from activity or labor
b :  a state of motionlessness or inactivity
Or, another definition: something I'm good at ignoring. I'm great at squeezing in a quick 3 miler between quick changes at work and 2 or 3 hours sleep. It's something I've learned working shift work for 30+ years. Getting in a workout regardless of how I feel, whether I really need to or not. There's a key word in that last sentence-WORKOUT. That's how things were feeling lately. All work, no play. And admittedly self-induced. So some rest was in order. 
I can't honestly remember the last time I took a break this long-two weeks. Maybe never? Maybe a day or two. Injured, tired, extra work hours, .... you name it, I got in my workout. And 99% of the time I enjoyed it. Maybe not loved every one, especially when it was a tough one and my heart wasn't in it. But I got it done. That's how I work, and it's always worked for me-until recently. 
I could feel it coming on in subtle hints. Leading up to the Birkie, skiing was more of a chore than fun. The brutal cold and wind made some outings on the trail almost painful. The thought of heading to the basement to wax skis kept being pushed to the back of my mind. I did have a few amazing days on the snow. They kept the fire stoked, but barely. Running wasn't much better. The same cold, wind and snow made running a chore instead of a joy. Fighting the snow covered roads, unshoveled sidewalks and short days was a battle. Even a couple spins on the bike on the trainer felt forced. Everything hurt. My mood sucked. Always tired. I just didn't have IT, whatever IT is. As Austin Powers said, "I've lost my mojo!"
I slogged through the Birkie in my slowest time. Okay, Ma Nature and a foot of fresh snow may have had something to do with that.  The Point Bock 5 mile run a week later was a repeat. Slow, no fun, forced. Another week of almost dreading my workout and my body finally said "ENOUGH!" Factor in 23 days at work without a day off. Body and mind had had enough, or maybe too much.
The rest felt good. No worries about what to run today. Which wax to put on the skis. Should I do some intervals on the bike? Just rest. Read a book. Listen to some music. Try to catch up on some sleep. Deep down I had thoughts that maybe it was a permanent break. I though long and hard about deferring my upcoming 50K. The rest really did feel good. 
Then a couple questions from people somehow knocked me out of my funk. My long weekend off at work was coming up. Three, count 'em, three days off!! I was talking to my Mother and she asked what I had planned. Run? Bike? A co-worker asked the same thing. What was I doing with my time off. Some miles around town? I realized that for good or bad, I'm the guy who is out doing something, anything. It's who I am, for better or worse. I guess it's how you define me.
I slept a few hours after my 11-7 shift to start my long weekend. That's normal. I hate to sleep away my day off and it helps get my body get used to a few normal days of sleep/awake cycle. A few chores and then I hit the road for a run. Beautiful sunshine, brisk wind and cold, for March weather. A nice long run to ease out the kinks and stretch the legs. In hindsight, maybe a bit too long, but I knew I'd be a little sore. And I had fun. I enjoyed the sun on my face, the wind fighting me at times and then letting me sail when it was at my back. And I knew I was back. I'm looking forward to another run after this is finished. Not sure where, or how far. Maybe even a double today-some easy miles with my better half after she gets done with work. 
If anything good came out of this break, it's that I've learned that I'm not the guy I was 10 or 20 years ago, or even last year. Life is busy and hectic. Take it one day at a time. Have fun, and if it's not fun, try something else. Take a day or two off occasionally. My silent sports endeavors may define who I am, but they're not all that I am.
So, I'm back. I've got some events planned. I'm not even going to call them races. I'm my only competition this year. I can't wait to hit the trails, when and if the snow melts. I can't wait to take a long bike ride on a hot and windless day this summer. 
Follow along. This could be an interesting year. Thanks for letting my ramble and vent!
Sven of the North

Monday, March 3, 2014

Birkie/Bock recap

Wow! Glad those two events are done! The 2014 American Birkebeiner and Point Bock Run were two of the coldest events I've ever participated in. Add in fresh snow the day before each event, and it adds up to my slowest times for each. 
Conditions for the Birkie on February 22 were challenging to say the least. Over a foot of snow fell from Thursday in to Friday. 20-30 mph winds blew the snow everywhere. The temperature at the start was just above zero, with a headwind all the way to Hayward. The trail was as good as could be expected. It was churned up by the start of my wave. Skiing in mashed potatoes for five hours was tough. After 50K of picking my skis up through that snow, I was beat. After seeing what the course looked like in the first couple Ks, I knew it would be a long day. My goal was to relax and just make it to the finish line. No PRs this year. My hat is off to all the groomers, who put in long hours under tough conditions. And congrats to all who finished a tough event made even tougher this year thanks to Mother Nature. 
A week later, March 2nd, and it was time for the Point Bock run. This year marked the twelfth running since the event was was brought back to life. It's become an annual can't miss event for me. I worked 11pm-7am the night before, so again, no PR was in the plan. Factor in a starting temperature around 5 and a brisk wind, plus little running and no speed work and it again adds up to my slowest time ever. But, I did meet my time goal and ran pretty even splits, so there were a few positives. 
So, two slow, sub-par outings. This has lit a little fire under my cold hind end. I know where my training needs work. And it will be work. But I love a challenge. I've got a little over a month until my first trail run-mid April at Iola. A 15K. Hopefully not in a blizzard like last year. Mother Nature has to relent eventually. Then a few more weeks to the first ultra of the year-Ice Age 50K. I've got my goals for these, so I better quit rambling and get running.
Happy miles!!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Shift work and training

My training last week, or lack thereof, got me pondering  shift works pros and cons. Sometimes it works in my favor, sometimes not so much. I realize that in today's world everybody is busy, but I feel shift work adds some interesting challenges. 
This is what my normal (can you call it that?) schedule looks like. 11pm to 7am one week. The next week it's 3pm to 11pm. Then it's on to 7am to 3pm. Six days per week. One weekend off every six weeks. The quick changes between shifts from Sunday to Monday allow me maybe 4 hours sleep. 
On the plus side, it enables me to train at times when most people can't or won't. That in itself is good and bad. I've biked at 2:30 a.m. Not always by choice! I've hit the road running at 3:30 a.m. to get my miles in on the way to work. It lets me get out in the morning when I work 3pm-11pm, instead of fighting for those last few minutes of daylight during the winter months. In the summer, my bike ride back to the car at 11pm is usually the coolest time of the day to put in the miles. It lets me get in a few extra hours when I work 7am-3pm. In the winter, those extra minutes of daylight can be precious. 11pm-7am shift has benefits, believe it or not, depending on how much/when I sleep. If I want to hit the gym, early afternoon is usually quiet. The roads are usually quiet during my bike ride to work at 10pm. 
Another plus is how the training at odd hours helps my racing. At least I think it does. Since I'm used to these odd hours, getting up early for an event is no big deal. Running or biking long hours and trying to refuel is no big deal. I'm used to eating at all hours of the day and night, so stomach issues have never been a problem. If I ever move up to the really long distances, shift work has conditioned me to being awake and on my feet at all hours of the day. Quick changes have me used to getting my training in on little rest. I've actually had some of my best races on less than optimal sleep. 
Shift work makes me optimize my time, as best as I can. Some days that means my training is incorporated in to my bike ride in to work. I think the two a day workouts I get when riding or running to and from work help my body get used to recovering quickly and also being more efficient when tired. 
Ah, and now for the negatives. If it makes me optimize my time, sometimes it just doesn't supply enough time to optimize! With only one day off per week, and one weekend every six weeks, some days there just isn't enough time for everything to get done. I hate wasting that one beautiful day off doing chores/mowing lawn/running errands/etc....but that's life!
In the winter, while I'm trying to cross country ski, waxing my skis for one days conditions and then not getting out that day means I'm probably going to have the wrong wax when I do get out. I've had that happen a few times this winter. I guess I can call those extra resistance workouts!
The lack of days off and odd shifts make it hard to schedule races. Unless it falls on my day off or a week of vacation, I don't know if I get my requests for extra time off until the Thursday before the weekly schedule comes out. Sometimes that's not enough time to register. If it's a lottery or the registration needs to be in months ahead of time, I don't know if I'll have that day off until it's too late to commit or back out. 
Then there is always the chance of not having ANY day off and/or unplanned overtime. If my relief calls in sick, I can be forced to work overtime. An unplanned 16 hour shift when I've got the bike can make for an interesting ride back to my car. In the summer, a week (or three) with no day off makes for some creative training schedules. 
It makes sleep and recovery more difficult. I've been doing this for 33+ years, but sometimes my body just doesn't want sleep at 4pm before 11-7, or it doesn't want to got to bed at 9pm while it's still daylight in the summer.
Add in all the other interesting tidbits of working shift work - and some days I really feel like I've got my work cut out for me!
With all the fun and games of this crazy schedule, it's all I know and I think I've adapted pretty well. I still get in quality training and compete regularly. It makes some days harder, and some days impossible. But it's made me who I am! And I wouldn't change that!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Invincible? Maybe not.

I've been thinking again. That usually means I have too many things rattling around in my head. Time to get them out and try to make sense of them. 
I have always thought of myself as pretty bulletproof. In my 29 years of semi-serious weekend warrior athletic endeavors, I have rarely been injured. Aside from the odd twinge here and there, I don't get hurt. No major bike mishaps. No muscle tears. No broken bones. No torn ACL, MCL or any other alphabetical combination. 
This may be pure luck, good genes, or my choice, wise training. But, this situation seems to be slowly changing. 
In the last year, I've had an unusual number of injuries and aches. 
After running more miles than I ever have last spring, my right foot started acting up. I even went to the doctor (gasp!) to have it checked. Never did come up with a firm diagnosis, and it seems to be 99% better.
I took a tumble in a local 5K when I tripped over a crack in the pavement. Bloody knees and hands. And then a left knee that ached for months. It even affected my spring 50K. 
A tweaked back late summer. Sore hip and hamstring after the Fall 50. I crossed skis just last week and went down. Landed awkwardly on one hand. Something tore/popped/sprained in my thumb. Still aches and can't grip anything. 
And I've been taking more rest days. Just because (gasp again) I'm tired! That never used to happen. 
Could it be that time and age are finally catching up with me? Triple gasp!!!
It looks I need to keep training smart. Quality vs. quantity. I do realize I'm not a kid anymore. On the other hand, I'm not going to let my advancing dotage slow me anymore than I can help. 
Keep following along and see what I can hobble through this year. I have some big ideas and plans. More on that later.