Category Archives: Training

When it’s ok to ignore the big picture

I find running to be a very ‘big picture’ endeavor.  It involves setting goals that take months and/or years to reach.  I know in the very best scenario, I’m looking at 2018 until I have any chance at Western States – with one lottery ticket.  In all reality, it will be some time much beyond that.

In addition to the goal setting, there’s the thought and planning involved with creating a training plan to get through those months leading up to a big race and shuffling your schedule around on a weekly basis to hit those training plans.

The weeks leading up to race weekends involve planning the travel and logistics of the race.  Do I need to book a hotel?  Am I flying?  How is my old man going to find me on the course at any given time?  Am I carrying hydration for the whole race or do I leave some Tailwind in a drop bag.

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Custom Map I put together for my Dad to find me during my first Ultra

One of the coolest logistical moves I’ve seen is the custom trucker hats I read about over at The 100 Mile Mark.

Honestly the ‘big picture’ is why I love ultrarunning – I’m a planner.  I love to set goals.  And I love to challenge myself.

But … (you knew there was a but coming based on the title, eh?)

There are times when I need to ignore the big picture – specifically when it’s time to actually run.

Looking at the big picture can be very overwhelming at 2:40am when my alarm rings.  I have to get out of bed and run for how many hours??

Prior to my first ultra, my parents wanted to know what time they should be in town to watch.  They live in Cincinnati – some 5 hours away from Kalamazoo.  I said something to the effect of ‘Oh, it’s a long race, you can leave when I start and still make the finish line before I do.’

Then I thought to myself … Oh shit – what did I get myself into?  They’re going to be driving, from CINCINNATI for less time than I’ll be running!! … and I had a small panic attack.

I find while I’m running, it’s always best to live in the moment.  I don’t think about how much further I need to run (I did that once on an 18 miler and bailed after 4 miles, only to go back to bed for a couple hours – it was the beginning of the end of my training for my first 50 miler last year).  I don’t think about how many more days I need to get up before 4am this week.  I don’t think about how many more hours of sleep my wife is getting each week by not running – Ok I have thought about that a few times, and it makes me want to run straight home and jump back into bed.

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Living in the moment during the Marquette trail 50k – 2015

Simply put, when it’s time to actually run, our friends at Nike said it best – Just do it.  That’s when I find it ok to ignore the big picture.  I roll out of bed, gear up, head out the door and enjoy each step in the moment.

Relax, breathe, run.  And watch the stars.

I leave the big picture thinking for a later time – usually when I have a beer with me.

Have you ever been overwhelmed with your big picture running goals?

Week of 11/22/15 – 900 miles on the family truckster

Miles this week: 24

2015 YTD: 1206


This was a tough week.  Mentally tough as we spent most of Thanksgiving weekend at a funeral.  Tough from a running standpoint based on the holiday and funeral.  Tough for spending about 900 miles in the car, in rain and traffic and construction over the holiday weekend.

I came into the week planning to pull my back to back long runs up to Monday / Tuesday.  This would allow me to work around the Thanksgiving double run-eat-run 10k races I planned to run on Thursday / Friday mornings.  It would also allow me to get my mileage even with the holiday and funeral over the weekend.

Well … that running plan went to shit.

Monday / Tuesday I was exhausted.  Literally too exhausted to get up and run.  It happens sometimes – I tell my wife it’s my tired phase.  Sometimes I just need to sleep. We piled into the family truckster Wednesday night, to drive across the state to the in-laws for Thanksgiving.  Just before we get on the highway, my wife hollers – ‘Don’t get on, don’t get on!’  She saw the traffic piled up under the overpass so we passed on the highway and pulled over to check our phones.  I pulled up Waze and it looked like this …

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At that point we bailed.

Since we didn’t make it to Detroit Wednesday night, I didn’t make my run Thursday morning.  Since we were headed to Ohio for a funeral early Friday, that shot my run Friday morning as well.

So Wednesday night I was sitting at 0 miles with both races out of the picture.

I managed to drag my ass out of bed early enough to run 12 miles, through the rain, Thanksgiving day before we hit the road again and enjoyed my first holiday lights of the season.

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Thanksgiving was good, but I was missing spending it was my side of the family based on the circumstances at hand.  But I still stuffed my face and enjoyed the company of my in-laws.

Friday I was up early again for another run through the rain – this time 6 miles.  Then it was in the car to head South.  I followed that with another early 6 mile run, again through the rain – what the hell??, on Saturday morning.

Saturday evening it was back to Detroit to pick up the kids and on toward home today.  All told, we logged about 900 miles on the family truckster.  Unfortunately I only logged about 24 on my legs.  All in the rain.

I wanted to run again this morning, but I didn’t take enough clothes with me for the rain.  Each morning after my run, I stuffed the wet clothes in my gym bag and rolled onto the next town.  I don’t mind running in the wet.  I don’t mind running in the cold.  But I do mind putting on something wet to go run in the cold – so I passed this morning.

I guess it was only fitting to do all of that running in the rain.  Some how it seemed to match the sadness of the weekend.

One bright spot on the weekend, aside from the Thanksgiving dinner – I tried Buffalo Wings and Rings last night – holy awesome wings!  When we returned to my in-laws I told them I needed a beer and wings.  Buffalo Wings and Rings happened to be close so my father-in-law joined me for a beer while we waited on wings for takeout.  They were AWESOME.  HUGE wings and the sauce (roasted garlic) was perfect.

Well, that’s pretty much how the week went.  Here’s to this week being better on all fronts.

How was your Thanksgiving?

What are your favorite wings?

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving all – good luck with your turkey trots and fourth helpings of turkey and gravy.

IMG_3485.JPGThere’s no turkey trot on the agenda for me this year, but I did make it out for a 12 mile milk run this morning – realized we were out last night and I can’t enjoy my Kellogg’s breakfast cereal w/o it!

With that 12 miler I’m ready for gravy (that’s really what I’m in it for).

OK, gravy and PIE! (Apple please)

Speaking of the 12 mile run, I gotta give it to Smartwool – they make some awesome stuff.  I was wearing my long sleeve mid-weight shirt this morning.  We had mid-40s and rain.  Not a heavy rain, but a steady rain for all but the last 35 minutes or so.  When I got home the shirt was damn near dry!  My body heat must’ve been enough to keep it drying through the run.  I also didn’t get cold at all.  Smartwool (or Icebreaker – they’re both awesome) is about all I run in anymore.

With that – it’s time to load up the family truckster and point it East in search of gravy, where I’m thankful to spend the day with family and delicious food.  Safe travels to all those who’re headed out of town and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Week of 11/16/15 in review …

Miles this week: 38

2015 YTD: 1082


The watch keeps creeping earlier in the morning.  That’s the story of the week from a running standpoint.  As the runs get longer, the watch rings earlier.  Such is the glamorous life of an ultrarunner.

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Good morning sunshine!  Err … good morning darkness.

I only logged 3 runs this week, but they were pretty good ones – 12 / 6 / 20 milers.  I don’t think I was out of bed, on a running day, any later than about 3:15 this week.

I’d originally planned on 4 runs, but I had the opportunity to attend the annual meeting for Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy.  They’re a great organization, protecting many, many acres of land here in Southwest Michigan.  My wife and I have supported them for many years.  Well, their annual meeting was at a bar this year.  And our friend now works for them.  So … I thought I’d attend (who doesn’t like free beer!??).

After a couple delicious Michigan beers, and some catered food, suddenly waking up at the crack of dawn well before the crack of dawn, seemed like a bad idea – so I bailed on one run and extended my run on Saturday morning to 20 miles.

My runs were ‘ok’ this week.  I’m still plugging away at the target HR runs (80% – 145/146 BPM).  So far I haven’t seen any improvement in the second week, but I’m committing to this for a couple months.  More to come on that once I’m finished …

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Saturday’s run was the first snow run of the year – yippeeeee!  The alarm rang at 2:30am and I ran 20 miles, alternating loops around my 4 mile blocks – to the North and to the South.  Not the most exciting course, but it was my first ‘cold’ run of the season and my first snow run.  I wanted to keep it close to the house in case I ran into issues.

One thing that still confuses me is why my pace has to slow to keep my HR in the correct spot, as the distance increases.  I thought perhaps I was hydrating poorly, so I focused on that Saturday, but it didn’t seem to make a lot of difference.

Any ideas??

I tried something new with my hydration on Saturday as well.  I wore my UD SJ vest under my shell.  The thought is the heat will prevent the bladder, tube, from freezing.  This run was barely below freezing so of course it worked great, but let’s see what happens when we hit the double digit negative temps of a Michigan winter.

Since we did get snow, we had to make a snowman.  My kids love snow.  I love snow.  It worked out great!

Daddy – what’s a pipe?

Eh, they’re cool – but people don’t really smoke them anymore.  Snowmen do though!

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Yes, that’s a pipe, don’t judge.

Currently I’m about 20 miles behind on my annual running goal.  However, if I continue to follow my plan between now and the Yankee Springs Challenge, I should end up on the good side of the goal.

My body’s feeling good and I’m ready to continue rocking this training schedule through Christmas.

How was your week of running?  See anything cool?

 

Derailed this morning …

This morning’s run was derailed by the 2yr old’s meltdown around 2:30am.  I can get up early for a run, but I need a pretty solid night’s sleep to make it happen.  With somewhere between 4-6 hours a night, I definitely go for quality vs. quantity.  When the quality isn’t there, neither is the run.

She’s in a phase now where she wants covered up, but can’t won’t do it herself.  Sure, I could go in a few times a night and cover her up again, but that somewhat perpetuates the issue.

We chose cry it out last night – which means it lasted awhile.

Ok – so this blog post was just derailed by the 4yr old falling out of bed.  What’s going on here??

These events remind me of one of the reasons I started this blog.  When I first started running farther and farther, I didn’t know how I’d make it work with young kids at home.  I looked for blogs of folks who were ultrarunners w/kids to get some perspective, but I couldn’t find any.  Thus, I wanted to share my experiences of ultrarunning, with young kids at home, in the instance someone else is curious about it in the future.

So how do ultrarunners make it work with young ones at home?  I don’t have the whole answer yet, but there are days we don’t – like today.  The majority of the time it’s all good though.  It just takes some patience and some quality sleep.

What I will say is my family comes first.  I’ll always do my best for them before I do my best for myself.  If that means covering them up or letting them learn to do it on their own, and it costs me a run, I’m happy to do that.

Here’s to trying again tomorrow!

 

 

Week of 11/9/15 in review …

Miles this week: 33

2015 YTD: 1044


I’m back.

Running-wise / health-wise, I feel like I’m finally back in action.

Guess what else is back – my appetite.  Holy moly, I packed on quite a few lbs. this week.  Beer will do that.  And donuts.  And more beer.

33 miles isn’t a huge number for me, by any stretch, but after the ankle issue post-GR Marathon, struggling through a chest cold and crawling out of ‘The Hole‘ I’m finally content with my running this week.

*sigh of relief*

Monday’s run was awesome.  I wasn’t expecting clear skies, but the stars were out (sweet!)  Not only was I treated to a beautiful sky full of stars, but I saw another meteor (double sweet!).  Seeing the stars is one of my favorite things about the early morning running.  Unfortunately we’re getting into the time of year, here in Michigan, where it clouds over until April.  Better enjoy them while I can!

Friday was supposed to be my first of the weekend double.  The weekend double is the biggest difference between training for a marathon and an ultramarathon.  When I was marathon training, I loved sleeping late on Sunday.  With ultramarathon training I don’t get that anymore – it’s back to back long runs.  That is, unless you move the weekend double to mid-week and go to work as a zombie.  This is the approach that I like to take, at least some weeks, so I can still sleep late on Sunday.  (By late I mean 6:45am today – kind disgusting really …)

Anyway, back to Friday – I was supposed run 12.  I’d done some reading recently about HR training and I thought I’d give it a go.  Seriously – how slow would it possibly be to run at 146 BPM?

SLOW!!!

I made a couple of laps around the blocks near here (they’re big – I live in the country) but then I had to bail due to Taco Bell from the previous day’s lunch.  Fire sauce doesn’t mix well with ultra running.  If you’re curious, that was a 10:25 pace for 8 miles @ 146BPM.

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Saturday was scheduled for 14 miles so I took the opportunity to run around Gull Lake.  I haven’t done that in awhile so that sounded nice.  I took the opportunity to run without a headlamp again for part of the run.  It’s very calming and relaxing.  Again I went for the HR training and ran at 146BPM.  When I say ‘ran,’ that’s somewhat deceiving.  There were definitely sections where I had to walk to keep the HR low, but this is a somewhat hilly course.  I also noticed the longer I went, the more easily my HR elevated.  That got me to thinking why … I don’t have an answer yet, but it’s something I’m going to look into.  I finished the run at 10:48 pace.  Slower than the first run.

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Venus as seen while running w/o Headlamp

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Good morning!

Today was the third HR training run.  I target 146BPM again and again I was even slower.  For 6 miles I clocked a blazing 12:05 pace.  WTF is going on here!?  Was it the beer I drank last night?  The coffee I drank this morning?  I don’t know.

What I do know – HR training isn’t for the ego.

I plan to stick with the HR training for at least the next couple of months.  I’ll write a post when I’m finished and let y’all know how it went and what I learned.  Based on what I’ve seen so far I’m definitely curious about what’s causing the HR to elevate higher than it seems like it should be.  I’m also curious to see if my pace eventually starts to drop.  That’s what’s supposed to happen.

Aside from the running this week …

I had a wonderful visit with some family I haven’t seen in awhile.  While in Columbus I enjoyed some Skyline Chili – my absolute favorite.  Damn that stuff is good.  I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

My wife texted me Friday afternoon about a last minute babysitter.  Someone was back from college and in need of beer money.  I jumped all over that and we enjoyed a very good dinner at Four Roses. If you’re in the Kalamazoo area, check it out.  Very good food!  I recommend the maple mustard ribs.  They also have an awesome beer selection.

Speaking of awesome beer selection, we hit Bell’s Brewery after family photos yesterday afternoon.  For anyone who loves IPAs, they have a double Two Hearted Ale on tap at the restaurant.  It was fabulous!  Their food is amazing too.  I recommend their smoked wings and poutine (duck poutine!).

Today we took the girls out for a hike before lunch.  Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy does a tike hike once a month in their local preserves.   Bow in the Clouds has a creek so my kids were definitely in.  That means they have something to splash in and throw rocks in.  Score!

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Bow in the Clouds Preserve – Kalamazoo Michigan

That about wraps it up – how was your week?  Did you enjoy the miles?  See anything cool or drink any good beer?

I don’t always want to run

Here’s a secret that many non-runners don’t understand.  We (At least) I don’t always want to run.  I mean, I do, but I don’t.

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Not all runs generate viral Instgram shots.  They’re not all 45 degrees and sunny.  They’re not all beautiful fall sunsets.

As I stand in the kitchen prepping my Tailwind for tomorrow’s 12 miler, I hear the wind howling outside.  It’s November.  In Michigan.  It’s not really that unusual for this time of year, but this howlin’ session comes with 50mph gusts.  And rain.  There will be no stars.  No Meteors.  Just me and the rain and the wind.

By the way – mixing the Lemon w/caffeinated Raspberry rocks!

Couple that with a rough week that’s prevented me from running the last couple of days (the details don’t really matter at the moment) and prepping some Water Street coffee and sleeping in sounds much better at the moment.

I try to get at least one of my back to back long runs in during the work week.  That gives me at least a Saturday night to enjoy with my wife, where I’m not crawling into bed at 9pm.  And it gives me a morning to sleep in and cozy with her and the kids in the morning, watching Monkey George Curious George.

But that means getting up at 3am tomorrow.  And with 3am will come the November howlin’ wind and some rain.  It will be a mental test in the morning.  Am I complaining?  Eh, not really.  It’s kinda why I love this shit.  But even though I love it, doesn’t mean I always want to do it until it’s done.

And that brings me to another secret – I’ve never woken up early for a run and then regretted it after the fact.

So while there are days I don’t always want to run, I know in the end it’s worth it and I’ll most likely enjoy it in the end.  That’s what I mean by I do, but I don’t.  At this very moment I don’t, but thinking about how I’ll feel post run, I do.

After all, it’s only early if you’re still in bed and ultras don’t run themselves.  Who else is in for an early run tomorrow?

Week of 11/2/15 in review …

Miles this week: 25

2015 YTD: 1110


Although the week started out slowly, I finally feel like I’m starting to get back into the swing of things.  After a nice 7 mile run early in the week, I deliberately took a few days of rest to finally kick this nagging chest cold that seems like has been hanging on forever.

That brought me to the weekend, and it was awesome!

Saturday morning started out sleeping in (more rest for the cold) followed by my favorite time of the week – breakfast with my girls.  Eggos all around!  I run to eat worse, vs. eat to run better!

After swim lessons with the oldest, it was off to 7/11 for Slurpees (new tradition I guess, we’ve done it two weeks in a row) before heading out on the first of three runs over the weekend and our last stroller run of the season.  Even though it was a bit chilly, we enjoyed it.  No monsters or alligators chased us on Saturday – just leaves.  And lots of ’em, it was VERY windy.

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After the stroller 6 miler, I dropped her for a nap and headed out for a quicker second lap.  It felt good to get a little speed in the legs.

My wife and I had a chance to get out, as adults, on Saturday night and enjoyed an awesome meal at Principle Food & Drink.  If you’re ever in Kalamazoo, try it.  It’s awesome – specifically the spicy pork craklin’s and the Korean BBQ wings.  Wow, wonderful indeed!

Speaking of food, my wife killed it in the kitchen too by making two of my favorite meals and chocolate chip cookies (they’re the best chocolate chip cookies).  I’m a little scared of what the scale’s going to say in the morning.

Hey – I thought this was a running blog, not an eating blog …

Ok… back to running …

That brings me to this morning’s run, and it was AWESOME.  Wow, what a sky full of stars.  My wife told me Saturday night there was supposed to be a meteor shower overnight.  I’m glad I made it up in time to run under the stars.  This was the first time I ran w/o my headlamp.  I had it with me, and turned it on a couple times when there was a car nearby, but most of the time it was off so I could enjoy the stars.  I did see two meteors along the way as well!

I did cut he run short though.  My route took me past the house about half way.  That was a mistake – the coffee was calling my name and I bailed on the last few miles.  In the end, it was for the best.  My girls woke up right after that and it let me make banana bread with them while my wife slept in.

All in all though, 25 miles this week is finally a number I feel decent about again.

As for Western States – it’s time for those who’ve qualified to enter the lotto.  There are a few folks I follow on Twitter or Strava who are throwing their name in the hat.  I wish them all the best!  Two more years and I expect to do the same!

Week of 10/26/15 in review …

Miles this week: 18

2015 YTD: 1085


Definitely not my favorite week of running.  This was supposed to be the week that I begin rolling with my training for the Yankee Springs Winter Challenge 50k.  Instead – I was sucked further into ‘The Hole.

Monday started off well enough with an easy 6 miler to test the ankle.  The early morning brought lots of stars and a beautiful fat moon setting into the early morning sky.  My ankle held up ok, but was still a little sore through the day.

Tuesday / Wednesday / Thursday / Friday was disappointment after disappointment after disappointment after disappointment.

I couldn’t get out of bed to run.  For anything.  I’d been fully sucked into the hole.

With some prodding (begging?) from my wife I made it out for a 6 miler on Saturday, and it was beautiful.  Cold, pouring rain, beautiful.  One positive out of the run, I ran a mile in under 8 minutes.  I haven’t done that in a while, but 45 degrees and pouring rain can make one move a little faster.

One of my employees asked about my weekend today – I told him I ran.  It rained.  And I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts.  So you went right home then?  Nope.  I ran faster.  And it was awesome.  You’re crazy.  Aren’t we all?

Sunday was about as beautiful as a day comes in Michigan – Perfect cloudless sky and about 60 degrees.  I took the family over to Kellogg Forest for a hikeImage 11-2-15 at 9.54 PM

Family Hike – Kellogg Forest

The girls had a great time learning about moss and ferns and petting a little garter snake we found.  My oldest daughter taught us what a beech leaf was.  She’s 4.  My wife and I are a wee bit older.  I Googled it – and she’s right – my wife told me as we rounded another corner.  At least we’re getting our money’s worth at the Nature Center preschool??

After the run, the girls went home for a nap and I was back at Kellogg Forest to run trails.

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Sometimes Ma’ Nature stops me in my tracks and all I can say is ‘Whoa!’

The 6 miler took me past some of my favorite areas of Kellogg Forest – including the geocache where I proposed to my wife.  With a ring pop.  Time has changed things.  It was a bit overgrown now, and the pine trees that were about knee-high at the time towered over me.

I also spent some time running along the North Country Trail – the same trail I’m planning to run my first 50 mile race on in August – albeit a section much further North.  It’s cool that it’s so close to home.

That was the week – in a nutshell.

On side note, October was an odd running month.  It was by far my lowest total mileage for the year (barely over 70), but yet I crushed the Grand Rapids Marathon – so I feel great about that.

(By the way – I hear the coyotes raising hell outside at the moment.  I love hearing that.)

Let’s see what November brings.  For now, I’m off to see if I can find the Northern Lights.  They’re supposed to be visible here tonight.

Week in review – 10/25/15

Miles this week: 3

2015 YTD: 1067


After my 3 miler on Tuesday, I spend the week on the DL.  My ankle was in rough shape after the Grand Rapids Marathon.

I spent the weekend, in New Orleans, with my wife.  I took my running shoes, but never ended up running.  I’m anxious to get out there this week and test the ankle again.  While I never ran in the big easy, I did walk about 20 miles over the course of the weekend and the ankle felt pretty good.

New Orleans was a good trip – awesome food!  If you make it down there, I recommend Lüke – very good gumbo and shrimp / grits.  Also, if you make it down there – DON’T STAY ON BOURBON STREET.  It might be fun to party, but when you’re ready to sleep, it’s nice to sleep.

The beignets at Cafe Du  Monde – definitely a winner!

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‘Coffee is strong at the Cafe Du Monde
The donuts are too hot to touch
Just like a fool, when those sweet goodies cool
I eat ’til I eat way too much’ – Jimmy Buffett ‘The Wino & I Know’

We spent Saturday riding out to a couple of the plantations, had a nice lunch at Oak Alley and awesome tour at Laura Plantation.  It was on the drive out to the plantations that I saw my alligator roadkill – not something you see in Michigan!

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The remnants of hurricane Patricia rolled in late Saturday night so we had one last nice dinner and bounced out of town early (Sunday vs. Monday), and we’re back to Michigan.

Here’s to a week with some more miles and more stars!