Sunday, January 31, 2010

Long Run Revelations, Part I - There Is No Such Thing as Work/Life Balance

"There is no such thing as work/life balance....there is only life balance."

I'm starting a new section of my blog called "Long Run Revelations" in honor of those moments of clarity that often kick in on those weekend 20-milers. For me, it's about two hours into the run when my body transcends the pain, my brain goes into hyper-awareness, and my soul opens up like a sun-hungry flower. It's a blissful state, and when it happens I always feel like I've stumbled upon something divine.

Usually about the time I'm thinking of nothing but the rhythm of my feet, the most profound thoughts enter my head. This week was a repeat of one of my favorites - "there is no such thing as work/life balance...there is only life balance".

The term work/life balance defines itself with unneeded polarity,  putting "work" and "life" as the two opposing forces on your emotional and spiritual see saw. I don't remember where I heard it first, but it was long enough ago to absorb without question. The contrast of work and life distracts one from the last word in the phrase - "balance" - and by doing so, kind of defeats the purpose of the term. By simplifying even further, I think it provides clarity.

"Life balance" rings more true for me. Life has many facets, and each of them can be tapped into for positive energy, including work. What's most important is to understand every part of your life where passion gives you energy and optimism, and make sure you get regular feedings.As the band Us3 once said, "you gotta get mad knowledge of self". Work does not have to be the black hole that sucks everything else into its vortex. If you work on things that excite you, surround yourself with fun and passionate people, you shouldn't need to compromise. Know thyself and there is no excuse for being in a job that erodes your passions.

That goes for any dimension of your life. Occasionally assessing to make sure no one part is becoming the black hole of your world (ie, training, parenthood, hobbies, etc) is the best way to determine your life balance. The long run is a great place to do it.

Hope you are all having a great week!

- SD

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

So lactic acid is good now?

I don't even know where I heard it first, but I always thought that burning sensation in your muscles from anaerobic activity that inevitably forces you to quit was "lactic acid building up in your muscles". After reading this very informative article from Matt Fitzgerald on, it turns out I was way wrong. In fact:

1) Lactate is actually a direct and indirect fuel to the muscles.

2) It DELAYS fatigue in muscles, not cause it.

3) One shouldn't minimize lactate buildup during training, one should increase it.

Boy, did I have that one wrong! Matt writes a great article, historically walking through the scientific understanding of lactate, and even offers some walkaway (or sprint-away) tips for training. Be sure to give it a read.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hey, Masters Runners - Are You All-American?

Soon after I finished the San Jose Half Marathon last year in 1:19:34, a fellow runner came up and said, "Congratulations! That's an All-American qualifying time for your age group." Sweeeet! I'm All-American!

Wait, what does that mean again?

I caught up to the gentleman and quietly asked what he meant by "All-American", hoping not to guffaw like at the 2004 Park City Marathon when I blurted out "what does it mean I qualifed for Boston?" to a round of belly-laughing disbelief. The runner was happy to explain that USA Track and Field (USATF) had established age-graded standards for long distance running to signify the "top 5% of finishes", and he was pretty sure I was under the Men's 40-44 time for the 1/2 Marathon. Ah, I see! That sounds pretty cool.

Wait a minute...if it's so cool, why haven't I heard of it before? Is it because I'm new to the Masters ranks? Certainly at least one of my 40+ running pals would be boasting about being All-American if given the opportunity and few beers. Is it because "USATF All-American" has it's roots in track, and I'm new to the track scene? I did just Google "what is the steeplechase" the other day, after all, so it wouldn't be a surprise if I'm out of the loop. Or maybe it's one of these too-easy-to-achieve standards that is the equivalent of saying you were valedictorian at summer school? I figured it was time to investigate.What I found was pretty interesting.

(The perfect post-race snack for an All-American...see, there's fruit! It's good for you!)

What Is "All-American"?

If you're like me, when you hear the term "All-American" you probably think of the NCAA or football. Only a handful of athletes can get this moniker, either because they were a top finisher at a national event (track, cross-country, etc.), are high academic achievers, or were selected by the press to be on an All-American Team (football). In other words, these cats are the real deal and probably closer to the top 1% of all athletes. To be All-American is the big time.

The USATF, it turns out, does have All-American time standards for both Masters track and field, as well as road running. The track standards cover all indoor and outdoor track events, with age groups ranging from 30-34 to 90-94. The road running standards cover road races from 5k to the marathon, in age groups from 40-44 to 90-94. All of them are posted on the National Masters News site.

After a few minutes of perusing the qualifying times, I was perplexed. Whereas some of the standards for my age group seem really difficult (4:24 for the 1500m? Not in my lifetime), others seem far too easy (3:17 for the marathon? I wouldn't crack the top 100 in my age group at Boston with a time like that). Not to mention that comparing the road and track standards, there are discrepancies in the target times (10k on the track is 33:30, but on the road is 43:31...also your per mile pace time for a 10k on the track has to be faster than a 5k on the track). I was going to have to dig a bit more to understand it.

I exchanged some e-mails with Randy Sturgeon, Publisher of the track and field magazine National Masters News, as well as Jeff Bower, Secretary of the USATF Masters Committee, to understand more about how the standards are established and maintained. All of the standards are currently under review for 2010, but here's what I could piece together.

The track and field standards have been around for 20+ years, and nobody is 100% sure how they were initially established. The most likely possibility is that a target of the top 5% of performances was established for the youngest age group by looking at all participants in USATF events for the year, and then age-graded using a WAVA-like calculator. Since some events, like the 5k, might have had more participants and thus a lower average time for the top 5%, it would explain why something like a 10k race would have a faster per mile time. I checked with some track athletes online, and the consensus I got was that these standards were difficult to achieve. Most of the Masters track athletes were aware of these standards, and many had spent years of training to get their All-American time for their favorite event. The All-American standard signified achievement, and appears to work well to encourage Masters runners to strive and push their limits. That feels legit to me, although the standard times are potentially outdated.

The long distance/road running standards were established about three years ago to serve a similar purpose of giving Masters athletes a benchmark for distinguished performance. It appears the goal was to signify the top 5% of performances, but similar to the track and field standards, it's unclear what the process was to establish them. IMHO, these standards feel too easy, and a few others agreed with me that they are probably closer to the top 20% than the top 5%. Then again, I'm sure there are 1500m runners looking at the marathon times and thinking "not in my lifetime". Setting standards is a clearly a tough challenge.

I suspect the intent was good on creating the road running standards, but the target times were dragged down by the "Oprahfication of marathoning". I love Oprah and am quite proud of her marathon finish, so I don't mean to belittle her effort at all. But she's a good representative of the current state of marathoning, where total participation in the US has skyrocketed beyond 400,000, and the average finish time has lengthened to 4:41:33. Less than 1.7% of runners complete a marathon under 3 hours. I suspect this is less about us running slower, but more about the surge in ranks of people at the starting line.  If you take the finishing time of ALL runners in your age group, no matter if they ran or walked, then a 3:17 marathon probably is close to the top 5% for 40-44 Men. So the All-American standard is likely accurate in identifying the top 5%, but does it achieve its purpose to motivate?

What Does All-American Mean To You?

The truth is that the established All-American standards could very well be a good stretch goal for a majority of Masters runners out there. Take a look and see what your standards are - if it looks like a good goal, go for it! You could be an All-American. If that means something to you, then that is all that matters. Train like hell, hit your time, get the shwag, and wear it with pride.

The super-elite probably could care less about this All-American moniker and will instead compare each other in the old fashion way - finish times. Perhaps this why the USATF All-American term isn't thrown about more often. I know among my fellow marathoners, terms like "Boston qualifier", "sub-3/sub-4 hour", "ran for the national team", and "took 10 minutes off my PR" seem to have more meaning. But if I run into someone who says they ran an All-American standard in track and field, they are demigods in my eyes. Respect is all in the eye of the beholder, no matter what the moniker.

What do you guys think?

- SD

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Smiling Through the Woodside Trail Marathon

On Saturday, I had the great pleasure of joining 120 runners for the Woodside Trail Marathon in Woodside, CA, put on by Coastal Trail Runs. This 5k/11 mile/22 mile/marathon race was a great way to share my stomping grounds with some new trail runners and enjoy a day of perfect winter running before a weeklong storm.

Coastal Trail Runs is the sister organization of Pacific Coast Trail Runs, focusing on marathon-and-under distances to attract new recruits to the wonderful world of trails. Based on the number of hands that shot up in the air when RD’s Brian Wyatt and Marissa Walker asked “how many are running their first trail run?”, they are certainly succeeding. But what could be more attractive than a crystal clear winter day in the Santa Cruz Mountains, a perfectly marked course, and buffet aid stations? They will all be hooked for sure.

(Babysitter sick? No problem - let's make it a family hike!)

At 9am, they sent us off into early morning shadows of the redwood canopy of Huddart Park. The 5k runners blazed down the single track, slowing only when Richards Road (mile 2) started to climb. I was about 10 people back, running along with Daryl Hultquist, who had taken advantage of a business trip to run some trails far from his home in Maryland. “Our hills are about 200 feet tall”, he said, pacing himself up the first 2,000 foot climb. He was certainly going to enjoy this marathon! After this climb, we would run 5.5 miles of the Skyline Trail to Wunderlich Park and do a down-and-up loop before returning.

(Taking the single track)

(The redwood canopy gives us plenty of cover)

Being my home turf, my feet fit the grooves of the trail like a comfortable pair of slippers. Honestly, it was a bit unfair to the others to know every nook and cranny, and I quickly picked my way through all but the first three 5k runners. I sang along with my steps (Kelly Clarkson…I know, pretty corny) and absorbed the sun-sprinkled warmth through the swaying tree branches. Winter running in California is truly marvelous! I hit the first aid station (mile 6) in 50 minutes, and Sarah Spelt and Aaron Doman let me know that I was the first of the marathon/22-milers to arrive. Probably a bit too fast this early in the season, but I was having a blast so I took the refill and ran.

(Not sure how I got this effect, but pretty cool!)

 I couldn’t see anyone behind me, so I cranked Wolfmother on the iPod and made my way down the Skyline Trail. It’s funny how a trail you have run 100+ times can look so different if you just slap on a number and have some ribbons to follow. I ran fartlek style, staying in my aerobic zone until just the right hill or guitar solo demanded a surge. I reached aid station #2 (mile 11) in 1:30, finding the brave volunteers manning the “high altitude” aid station and staying warm against the growing breeze. They filled me up with a smile and sent me down into Wunderlich Park.

(The storm provided a few obstacles, photo courtesy of Dan)

(The awesome volunteers at Aid Station #2)

No matter how many times I do the loop through Wunderlich, the climb out just messes with my head with all the false summits and long fire roads. I figured some comedy could assist and switched the tunes to They Might Be Giants “Science is Real”, a hilarious kids album to learn about cells, gravity, and the Kelvin scale. I giggled my way back up the summit, much to the delight of the many hikers out enjoying the morning.

(Gene Weddle goes the full marathon)

(67-year-old Lynnard Phipps leads through the marathon course)

Back at the aid station (mile 16), the 22-milers were getting their grub on. I was still just on water (thank you, Vespa) so I did a quick refill before joining them on the return trip. It was great to have some company! There were lots of smiling faces still working their way towards us, and each graciously made room for passing while shouting words of encouragement. The PCTR/Coastal Trail Runs community overflows with optimism!

(Marie Lanka tackles the Skyline Trail)

(Jodene Laramy cruising through the 22-miler)

I flew through the next section, my legs on autopilot and (falsely) thinking we were almost done since our driveway was near. The consolation prize was seeing my family waiting for me at the last aid station (mile 21), dogs and all! Martha (the Bernese Mountain Dog) tackled me while Rocky (the Pug) got to work on the salt in my knee pits. Sophie was all smiles, and Christi was packing her .44 Magnum Canon camera. I didn’t want to stay too long since this was a race after all, but Sarah let me know I was well ahead of the rest and gaining on the first few folks in the 22-miler. I guess the home field has its advantages! We snapped a few pics, and I was on my way to the last long descent..

(Crossing Kings Mountain to meet my crew!)

(Sarah Spelt hangs out with Christi, Sophie, and the dogs)

A light rain kicked in, hinting at storms to come (prediction was 20” of rain in 6 days), but for now it was blissful. I am one lucky soul to call this my backyard. With one quick huff up to the Crystal Springs Trail (that part is always hard), I eased up and enjoyed the final two miles of single track and fire road.

(Jason Chan coming down the Chinquapin Trail)

("Look out, I'm not stopping!" says Marie Lanka as she comes in the finish)

I breezed into the finish in 3:36:04, good enough for 1st place and an awesome coffee mug trophy. The 22-mile winners had arrived about 10 minutes ahead of me, and Daryl (4:01:54) took second in the marathon with Rachel Rodriguez (4:05:08) just a few minutes behind to win the Women's division. Finland's Mikko Valimaki (1:17:52) and local Caitlin Roake (1:30:37) took honors in the 11 mile, and Michael Popov (32:32) and Lisa Penzel (37:35) won the 5-miler (all results). We relaxed in the winter sun, eating snacks and sharing stories of our favorite sections of the race. It was so fulfilling to hear their perspective and experience the trails through fresh eyes. My hike home found me seeing once-familiar trails brighter and more vivid, noticing details with a childlike curiosity. First time trail runners, you are welcome any time, my friends!

(Daryl takes 2nd place, then heads out to catch a red eye to go skiing with his kids)

(Laura Guest and Scott Lucchesi, our 22-mile winners!)

My thanks to the RD’s and volunteers of Coastal Trail Runs for a great race, and congratulations to all the runners (especially you first timers!). I hope to see you all again soon, and look forward to seeing more smiling faces in my backyard. For those interested, Pacific Coast Trail Runs will be back in Woodside on February 6th – come check it out!
- SD

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Semick, Roes Named 2009 Runners of the Year

 As many expected, Geoff Roes and Kami Semick won the UltraRunning Magazine Ultramarathoners of the Year. Geoff also picked up the performance of the year with his course record at Wasatch. Congrats to 83-year-old Bob Hayes and Dipal Cunningham for their Age Group Ultramarathoner of the Year Awards; check out their stats below!

Be sure to stop by Geoff's blog and give him a congrats!

- SD

(from UltraRunning Magazine)

Semick, Roes Named 2009 Runners of the Year

Kami Semick of Bend, Oregon and Geoff Roes of Douglas, Alaska have been voted the 2009 UltraRunning Magazine North American ultramarathoners of the year.

Semick won all six races she ran in 2009, including two world championship events, the IAU 100km World Championships in Belgium and the IAU 50km World Championships in Gibraltar. She was also the winner of three of North America’s most competitive events, the Miwok 100km race and the American River 50 Mile, both in northern California, and the White River 50 Mile near Mt. Rainier in Washington. Semick, who also won the award in 2008, received first place votes from all 20 of the voters, the first unanimous selection since Ann Trason in 1998. Semick’s win at the 100km World Championship was voted the outstanding performance of the year.
Jamie Donaldson of Littleton, Colorado finished a distant second in the voting, with Krissy Moehl of Seattle taking third. Donaldson won the Badwater 135 Mile race across Death Valley for the second consecutive year. Moehl was the winner of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc 103 Mile race in Chamonix, France.

Roes set course records in four of the five races he completed during the year, including the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run in Utah, which was voted the outstanding individual performance of the year. Roes also finished under the existing course record in the only race he lost in 2009, The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile in Sausalito, California, where he finished second to Uli Steidl of Seattle.

Roes out-polled 2006 winner Karl Meltzer of Sandy, Utah with Michael Wardian of Arlington, Virginia placing third. Meltzer won five 100-mile races in 2009, but tellingly placed second to Roes at the Wasatch Front 100 in September. Wardian was the top American in both the World Championship races, placing third in the 50km and sixth in the 100km.

In age group awards, Bob Hayes’ 10:47:45 time at the Le Grizz 50 Mile in Whitefish, Montana was honored as the top male performance. Hayes, from Missoula, Montana, is 83 years old. Dipali Cunningham’s stunning total of 514.83 miles at the Self-Transcendence 6-Day Run in New York City was voted top female age group performance. Cunningham, 50, an Australian native living in New York City, posted the best female six-day total ever on American soil.

A panel of 20 voters from all regions of North America submitted ballots this year. An ultramarathon is generally defined as any race longer than a 26.2-mile marathon. There were 493 ultramarathon races held in North America in 2009.

Friday, January 08, 2010

My First Indoor Mile - 5:09 At The Armory (NYC)

Last Thursday, I had the great pleasure of joining 150 track athletes for the NYRR Thursday Night at the Races at The Armory Indoor Track in New York City. This casual competition brings track runners from all over the northeast to compete in the 800 meters, mile, and 2-mile on a recently renovated indoor track considered to be one of the fastest in the world. It was my first attempt at the mile, my first experience on an indoor track, and the first time I had even been above 89th street in Manhattan (embarrassing, I know). In short, it was AWESOME.

(Crushing the indoor rubber)

Entering The Armory

I might as well have had “n00b” (that’s text for newbie) written on my forehead when I showed up in my suit and tie, straight from a business meeting, and walked into the Armory with my jaw agape. New Balance and NYRR have built nothing short of a shrine with the renovation, and compared to the sub-zero temperature outside, it was paradise.

(The entrance, photo courtesy of LotusPhotographers)

(Always 70 degrees and perfect!)

The n00b-factor increased when I changed into my road shoes and Inov-8 shirt, a striking clash with the sprinters warming up in track spikes and lycra singlets. I felt like a California cougar walking in on a pack of New York cheetahs about to have a showdown.

“Yo, Clark! You here for the old man mile?” asked one 25-year-old black athlete with a giant M on his track suit, covering thighs that either of which would dwarf my torso. It took me a second to realize he was talking to me, and when I looked his way, his entourage chuckled in unison, in on the joke.

“Clark?” I nervously replied, ”I’m not sure if I get it.”

I’m emitting n00b3 at this point.

“Clark Kent!” he said, getting a rise of snickers from his mates, “ We saw you do the quick change in your coat. That was faster than Superman.”

He was right – since there wasn’t a change room, I had wrapped my overcoat around me and changed underneath it (the male equivalent of the Flashdance bra change) just yards from where they were warming up. I laughed out loud once I got the joke. A bit too loud, actually, eliciting yet another round of laughs from the crew.

(In case you need a reminder of that Flashdance scene;
the guy version isn't nearly this sexy, although about that steamy)

I moved to introduce myself, but since he was warming up it was a bit awkard. He sized me up head to toe, then toe to head, pensively stroking his chin.

“So let’s see…boys, I think 45, 50 tops,” he declared. I assumed he meant my age, but then thought better than to assume given that my age was largely the reason I was a step behind in this conversation already. He threw me a bone, “What you say, Clark? Can you bust a 4:45 mile?”

Ah, he was talking about my PR for the mile. I had a nametag that said “miler” right on it. Duh.

n00b4, here we come.

“This is my first time at an indoor track, so I have no idea,” I replied, continuing my warm up routine. I stared over at the track, watching it gleam with new rubber and paint under brand new lights, its high-banked corners suggesting superhuman speeds that required centrifugal force to be contained. For someone who runs mountains, this was as foreign a concept as running on the moon. And about that exciting!

“It’s easy, man,” he said with a welcome voice, “just run fast and stay in the game. If you’ve got a move to make, you gotta be in the game to make it.” The crew all nodded, and continued with their strides and stretching. With that, my coaching session ended, and he took off with his team. I never got his name, but couldn’t thank him enough for the advice.

The Race

So what should my target time be for the mile? I have never tried it, and there were a lot of new variables.. I remembered the blogger challenge between Craig Thornley and Andy Jones-Wilkins to run a sub-5 minute mile last year, and figured that was a sensible crazy-ass stretch goal for a 40-year-old. If anything it would be educational to run with a bunch of people who already could do sub-5 and determine if it was even attainable.

There were 50 runners registered for the mile, and the heats of 12 were selected based on your target time. The process of selecting the heats defined the term “stepping up” – they start rattling off times in descending order like 4:10, 4:15, 4:20, and runners step up when they think they can do that time. By 4:20, we had our first heat. By the time the third heat was selected when I stepped up, the first heat was DONE RACING. Cheetahs, indeed.

(4:40, step up!)
As I waited for the call for “5:00”, I met some of my fellow milers. It was a really cool group of folks, mostly from local boroughs and nearby states, ranging in age from 19 to 70. Track clubs members old and new shared a passion, and were happy to brandish their team colors together. The organizers and volunteers were pleased to put on an event and certainly knew what they were doing. Anyone out here instantly had the respect of everyone out here, because we shared a common passion, and we weren’t afraid to put it on the line on any given Thursday.

I met some of the guys in my heat, and was pleased to see I wasn’t the only one sans-spikes. The speedsters definitely had the gear, but many were just coming to run on this great track and get out of the cold. I struck up a conversation with Giancarlo, a local road and track runner, and he was thrilled to hear that I did a 100-miler a few months ago. We laughed, knowing the equivalent here would be 800 laps! He was aglow from his recent marathon experience, and we commented how big of a “downshift” we were both taking to run the mile. I was certainly in good company.

(Take your marks!)

The start came, and I drew slot #9 just on the outside.

“To your marks!”, the started yelled. Just eight laps, I thought. My heart shot to 160 bps. And THEN the gun erupted.

The pace was fast to get position in the first corner, and my surge got me on the back of the pack on the inside lane. By the next corner, the pack was efficiently two runners wide and I swung to the outside. The G’s felt great, but clearly was tough on the hamstrings, similar to banking switchbacks on a downhill trail. Lap 1 - 36 seconds, lap 2 - 39 seconds. That was a 1:15 quarter mile, right on track for a 5-minute pace. It felt wicked fast to me, but I was having so much fun on the banked corners that there was no way I was slowing down.

(Haulin' ASS!)

On the next four laps, I began to understand the running term “boxed in”. The pack was tight, and I had nowhere to go running on the inside lane now that I was mid-pack. I just tried to hold pace since that was the only option, and the splits came in evenly at 38 seconds per lap. On the back of lap six, the pack split into two, with those “in the game” in the front pack and the rest of us slackers too stuck to chase. Oops. I was not listening to my helpful coach.

Some runners saw the pack splitting and swung wide to catch up, which in turn gave everyone some room to move. I had the space and started to pick up speed, but just as I shifted into high gear, my legs recognized lap #7 and began to burn from lactic acid build up. I picked a line on the inside and pushed as hard as I could without spontaneously exploding.

The bell rang on the last lap, and it was a two man race out front on a 4:50 pace. Meanwhile, the lactic acid fried my legs like drumsticks on the grill, and started creeping up into my stomach and chest. By lap 8, the pain seeped up past my neck and was pulling my facial muscles into contorted grins. I wondered if I would go full Zombie before I crossed the finish line.

The last straightaway came, and I leaned forward and had gravity pull me in. I finished in 5:09, and staggered off the track gasping like I had held my breath the whole time. I congratulated the majority of the group who finished in front of me as we all warmed down. All I could think was “wow”, and “Craig Thornley was right…sub-five minutes is waaay hard”.

(The 800-meter Women were too fast for my camera)

I drank water like I had been walking the desert, cooling down and watching the Women run a killer 2:20’ish heat for the 800 meters. I was astonished at the speed required to run that fast, and entranced by the sheer beauty of so many natural athletes in motion. No matter what age, size, race, or (track club) color, the efforts and talents of the people here are inspiring. We trail runners have plenty in common with our track brethren.

I obnoxiously said thank you to random people, and invited as many as I could out West to run some trails. My legs were shaking from the race, but I couldn’t tell if it was from being tired or wanting another go at that track. Such a thrill! I would highly recommend it, although I would suggest changing BEFORE you get there.

My thanks to those I met, the NYRR (I'm a member, baby!), The Armory, and the wonderful race organizers for putting on a great event. The adrenaline rush was exactly the break from routine I needed to see 2010 with fresh eyes (and fresh legs!). I will see you again soon.

- SD

(Lke my shower afterwards...although again, not nearly as sexy)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Hidden Benefits of Exercise (WSJ)

Laura Landro at the Wall Street Journal ran a HUGE article on the hidden benefits of exercise in the Personal Journal section. Some of the more interesting stats include:

* People who exercise regularly heal from colds 20-30% faster.

* People who walked briskly for 45 minutes, 5 days a week for 12-15 weeks reduced their number of sick days by 25-50%. 

* 36% of US adults didn't engage in ANY leisure activities in 2008. Can this be true?

*  Exercise can lower the risk of stroke by 27%, diabetes by 50%, high-blood pressure by 40%, risk of recurring breast cancer by 50%, colon cancer by 60%, Alzheimer's disease by 40%, etc., etc.

* Physical activity reduces erosion of telomeres, which essentially is an anti-aging effect at the cellular level.

The list goes on and on. There is also a great article about Dr. Paul Williams and his effort to dramatically increase the recommended exercise standards, and the push back received from the health community about saying such an increase will basically discourage existing couch potatoes to begin. Classic.

Definitely worth a read.

- SD

Friday, January 01, 2010

Planning My 2010 Season

(Beach intervals with Martha @ Butterfly Beach in Santa Barbara,
that big girl can run!)

One of my favorite rituals to ring in the New Year is to sit down and commit dates for my target races for the upcoming year. Not only is it a chance to reflect, but it's a great excuse to peruse the 2010 calendar with the staggering amount of trail races, ultras, triathlons, and century rides available. Oh, the places we will go! A full schedule is more than peace of mind - it's evidence that I choose to live in this world, instead of on it.

So how to choose from all the great races? I usually begin by reflecting on the previous season to determine which adventures "fed my spirit" the most. You know the ones - those shared experiences that have you aglow for days afterward, stumbling around work with a shit-eating grin on your face, deeply hoping that someone asks you about that ridiculous smirk just so you can tell them all about your adventure in vivid, undulating detail. Recounting the previous year (by reading my own blog!) often gives me a few tips on the right recipe of new friends, new trails, and new distances/formats that create this opportunity for epic experiences like these.

I took some nice long runs this week to ponder the 2009 season, and came to some interesting conclusions about where I had drawn the most inspiration:
  1. I enjoy a change of climates and terrains. Roads or trails, mountains or deserts, humid or dry, 30 degrees or 130 degrees, the varying extremes throughout the year kept the training fun and the races challenging. But could I mix it up some more? I haven't raced in a mid-west ultra, nor on the east coast. Add to this that I've never raced on a track, indoor or outdoor. Conclusion - challenge myself with some new locations and terrains.
  2. I enjoy a variety of race distances in the same year. 2009 had half marathons, marathons, sprint tri's, 50k, 50m, 100k, 100-mile, and even The Death Ride. Each distance presents its own challenge, and the variety keeps the training fresh and constantly changing. Could I stretch myself even more? What about racing all distances from the mile to the 100-mile? Conclusion - try and plan a year that contains everything from the mile to the 100-mile.
  3. I like to mix some favorite races with some new ones. I love new races, but it's also comforting to keep some favorites on the calendar too. It's like a comfortable pair of jeans that you always know will have that relaxed fit. Conclusion - make sure I have some favorites every couple of months that I can count on.
  4. I enjoy the "championship" races. This is a change from previous years, much to my surprise. Historically I preferred a series competition of 4-9 races like those put on by Pacific Coast Trail Runs,, Montrail Ultra Cup, PA/USATF, etc, to help structure my season. This year I tried a few "championship" races like Western States (the default 100-mile championship), the Lithia Loop Marathon (USATF Trail Marathon Championships), and XTerra (National and World), and really enjoyed the new mix of people and all-or-nothing effort. But I'm not a fan of putting all my eggs in one basket with just a few target races. Conclusion - try a few more of these, but don't get too obsessed about any particular race.
On top of it all, I find my work is taking me to New York City (NYC) every couple of weeks and I feel like I haven't taken full advantage of this running community. I'm hoping to try a few races in the NYC area. Plus the biggest rule of all - leave plenty of space in the calendar for non-running fun with the family, last-minute additions, and rest.

So here's what I've come up with for 2010. Let me know if you're planning to be at any of these, or see some opportunities I might have missed for the gaps in between!

Race (Date):

1/7 - Indoor Mile @ The Armory, NYC - That's right, a mile on an indoor track! Although I'm not in shape for a super-competitive mile, I thought this race would be fun to broaden my horizons and check out the whole indoor track scene. It's a good way to meet some new faces in NYC too.

1/16 - Woodside Trail Marathon, Woodside, CA - My backyard trails, with a new race put on by Coastal Trail Runs. It's always great to share the trails I so often run alone, and I look forward to that first aid station in my driveway. Many of you know I like to sign up for races and not race them per se, both to ensure I get in the miles and feed my 20-shirt-a-year shwag addiction. This is just right!

2/7 - San Francisco Half Marathon, San Francisco, CA - A road marathon through Golden Gate Park, and also a regional RRCA half marathon championship race. Sounds like fun, and a great checkpoint for my 50k the following month.

3/7 - Caumsett 50k, NYC - The USATF 50k Road Championships, known for wicked speed and a competitive field of Masters runners. Happens to also be in NYC! This is my goal race for the first quarter of the year.

4/20 - Boston Marathon, Boston, MA - I just can't get enough of this race, and running it with my father last year was an all-time great life experience. My obsession was helpful this year since I signed up before the raced filled in record time. This year it will be the first leg of the "Boston 2 Big Sur" Challenge, where you run two marathons in the same week on either coast. Should be a hoot!

4/26 - Big Sur Marathon, Carmel, CA - Part two of the "Boston 2 Big Sur" Challenge, and one of the great US marathons. I had such an amazing time here at my birthday last year, let's do it again! If you're looking at this race too, be sure to sign up soon - it's already at 91% capacity.

5/1 - Miwok 100k, Sausalito, CA - The lottery gods only granted me one race this year, but I am thankful it was the wonderful and scenic Miwok 100k. I will happily be back for my third running.

6/17 - Dipsea Race, Stinson Beach, CA - The 100th running of the Dipsea is this year, making it the oldest trail race in the US. I've run the Double and Quad Dipsea, but never the original. Assuming I can get in, this age-handicapped 7.6-miler will be super fun.

7/10 - The Death Ride Century, Markleeville, CA - I am returning to the 129-mile Death Ride cycling century with the same crew as last year. The schwag is top notch, and they serve two for one beers at the end! For some reason, I have no issues recovering from this ride so I think it's going to be okay packed close to other events.

7/22 - USATF Masters Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Sacramento, CA - My first foray onto the outdoor track, I will be running the Steeplechase. Given my lack of experience I doubt I can be competitive, but am looking forward to running a qualifying heat and getting a better understanding of the whole "track" experience.

7/31 - Burning River 100m, Burning River, OH - I was looking for a flatter 100m, something in the midwest, and this one happens to be the USATF 100m championship race this year. It sounds like a perfectly good excuse to try a very different kind of 100-miler.

9/19 - XTerra National Championships, Bend, OR - I had an awesome time at this race last year, and am hoping Christi and Sophie will join in on a week vacation in Oregon book-ended by two races. This is the first one.

9/25 - USATF 50k Trail Championships, Bend, OR - A brand new race in Bend, OR, will mark the return of the USATF 50k Trail Championship. After a week of visiting family and friends in Oregon, we will return to hit this race.

10/16 - Tussey Mountainback 50m, Boalsburg, PA - Another race I've heard great things about, and a chance to explore a new state near one of my work destinations. It is also a USATF Championship race for the 50-mile distance.

11/6 - Lithia Loop Marathon, Ashland, OR - I really enjoyed this race last year, much in fact to the perfect mix of a great running community, a town where I have a lot of history, and a gorgeous area. I will be coming back for the USATF Trail Marathon Championship with the family joining in the fun.

You'll notice a lot of USATF "championship" races on the calendar for me this year. The USATF schedule addresses a lot of my personal goals this year, and it just so happens that you can actually get IN to a lot of these races. I understand they aren't as competitive as other races like Western States or JFK, but they still should attract a good mix of runners.

It's a lot! But I seem to do best with a lot on the calendar. So much new experience here, I'm already giddy for the future pictures and blog entries!

I hope your new year is starting well.Wishing you the best for 2010!

- SD

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