Thursday, May 26, 2011

Memorial Day training weekend is almost here on the Western States Trail.  It kills me that I won't be there.  I had played around with the idea of going up and hiking/jogging from Foresthill to the River.  I figured I could do that and still enjoy myself.  But then reality set in and I thought about it for a few minutes and I know that it  would not be the smart thing to do.  I would most definitely get caught up in the excitement of things and it would be hard not to run and the possibility of hurting myself is high.  So.......with much sadness, I will stay home and do a hike/joke thing closer to home.  My Doctor said that I could run on a paved surface or treadmill as long as I don't fall.  I don't think Foresthill to the River is what he had in mind.  :)  
“It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.” ~Proverb
   I am lucky enough to be sponsored by La Sportiva shoes.  Yesterday I got  a new pair in the mail.  They are the Quantum trail shoe.  They have a funny wavy sole and they are ergonomic, adaptable, shock absorbing, stable and lightweight.  I can't wait to try them out! 

 My daughter Courtney had surgery today and had her Tonsils removed.  A big deal when you are 21 years old.  I feel so bad for her because I know it's going to be a painful and uncomfortable recovery.  Hopefully, she will be a healthier person without those gross Tonsils that constantly get infected.   

To everyone heading up to the WS trail this weekend, have a BLAST!  I will be there in spirit!!                                        

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rhabdomyolysis and Ultrarunning

This weekend I read a story in the new June issue of TrailRunner Magazine titled, Up Against a Hardrock. It is a story about Diana Finkel's amazing 2010 Hardrock 100 race and its devastating aftermath.

I was especially drawn to this story for two reasons. The first is that in 2006, I was lucky enough to pace my good friend Stephen to a great finish there. I promised myself and Stephen that I would return there to kiss the rock myself. The second is that in 2006 and 2007, I ran Wasatch 100 and experienced, both times, the same condition as Diana did after Hardrock. It is a story worth reading because as extreme athletes, we push ourselves beyond normal. Sometimes we can push our selves over the edge and into a sometimes fatal condition, and always a very serious condition called Rhabdomyolysis.

I read this article that was written by Diana's husband and it took me back to my Wasatch DNF, where I was unable to finish because I knew I couldn't continue the last 25 miles crawling. It took me back to my 2nd Wasatch where I knew I had Rhabdo again, but I just had to redeem myself and finish this time. Both times I was hospitalized and was very sick. I was stupid during that 2nd Wasatch when I recognized the symptoms and practically crawled my way to the finish, sicker than a dog. We as ultra runners sometimes do stupid things. We cross health boundaries to achieve higher goals we set for ourselves and sometimes they have dire consequences. Rhabdomyolysis is a serious condition in which muscles break down quickly and spill their contents into the blood stream. Myoglobin is a protein that is contained in muscle cells, and if enough is spilled into the blood stream, it can clog the kidney's filtering system and lead to kidney failure and a variety of other serious medical consequences and complications. While muscles routinely get sore after physical activity, rhabdomyolysis takes that muscle injury to a higher level. Rhabdomyolysis is the result of massive muscle destruction.

Unfortunately, I have not returned to Hardrock to run that spectacular and difficult race. Rhabdo got in the way of that. I have done a couple of successful 100's since and several difficult races without problems. I hope Diana will be back to run 100's without issues too. Rhabdo is a reminder that we must take our health seriously even while pursuing our dreams. Maybe someday I will get a chance to kiss the Hardrock, maybe not. I'm okay with that.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear the lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

- W.B. Yeats

Friday, May 13, 2011

Walking with a purpose

Let's see.... four rattlesnakes in three days, a coyote, lot's of deer and turkeys, and a owl and her family high in a tree. This is what my daily hikes have presented to me. As a runner, you miss so much. Now, as I am rehabbing, I am seeing so much and enjoying what I am encountering. I thought walking would be so difficult for me. I can run 100 miles, but I hate to walk across a parking lot. Walking has always been too slow for me. Slowing down and hiking has brought some balance to my life that I have not had in awhile. I actually am enjoying the hiking. I happen to live in an area with miles and miles of beautiful mountainous trails and I am seeing them as never before. Hopefully, the power hiking will make me a stronger hill climber. I hope it helps me "walk with a purpose", when I need a break during a long race. Sometimes we need to slow down in order to build up. I hope I am doing that.

It's been six weeks ago today that I had my shoulder surgery. I am getting closer to the time when I can run. I am trying to practice patience. This video inspired me. I always need inspiration and something to keep me motivated. I hope this video sparks your fuse today. Kilian Jornet is an amazing athlete. The man named Bruno Brunod that Kilian speaks of in this video is his hero and also an inspiration to him. Today they are an inspiration to me.

Don't separate mental training from physical training

If you’re running, you’re training your mind as well as your body. Remember that.

Written by: Matt Fitzgerald

Your mind, not your body, gets the final say in determining how fast you run in races. After all, you set your pace mainly by feel (perhaps with a little help from time splits), and that sense of feel—those cues of comfort and discomfort—come from your brain. Obviously, the mind and the body are linked in such a way that you start to feel awful—that is, you start to feel the need to slow down—as your body nears its physical limits. But the mind is always a step ahead of the body, as has been shown in numerous studies finding that when athletes quit an exercise test in exhaustion, their muscles remain physically capable of continuing. It’s an intolerable level of suffering that precipitates the bonk.

Because the mind is always working with the body during running, the mind (which is to say, the brain) is also always being trained along with the body during running. It is while you run that you develop and refine the sense of feel you use to find your maximal sustainable pace. The brain changes physically in response to training every bit as much as the muscles do.

Mental training in endurance sports, as in most other sports, is typically treated as something separate from physical training. You do your run in the morning and/or afternoon—that’s your physical training. Then, in the evening, you lie down and close your eyes and envision yourself running prettier than you real do—that’s your mental training.

There’s nothing wrong with mental rehearsal, but all the visualization and talking to yourself in the mirror in the world won’t improve your running performance as much as taking full advantage of the mental training that occurs during your training runs. Your race performance is ultimately determined by how fast your mind/brain feels your body can go, and that, in turn, is determined primarily by how fast you have proved to your mind/brain that you can go in training. It’s all about confidence, and confidence comes from hard evidence of what you can do. You can’t talk yourself into having the confidence that you can run a sub-four-hour marathon or whatever your goal may be. The only way to build real confidence in your ability to achieve any race goal is to effectively prove it in training.

Therefore I encourage all runners to approach training firstly as a means of building confidence in their ability to achieve their race goals. On a practical level, this means you should create and execute training plans that are overtly designed to maximize your confidence. Don’t worry about which workout you need to do to boost your VO2max, and so forth. Those details don’t matter. Just think about the sorts of specific training experiences you need to have behind you going into a race in order to arrive on the start line confident in your ability to achieve your goal.

You also need to think in terms of setting yourself up for success in your training. Do everything you can to minimize the number of failures you experience in your training. For example, if you’ve planned a critical “peak” workout intended to put the finishing touches on your race fitness and prove your ability to achieve your race goal, be sure to rest up for a few days before that workout so you can crush it.

I’m not suggesting that the body is not important to running. Of course it is. What I’m suggesting is that you don’t really need to think about your body in training. That approach is unnecessarily complicated. The point of training is to get ready to achieve race goals, and the single best indicator of relative readiness to achieve race goals is confidence. This is something that all of the best athletes understand, but that all-too-many age-group runners miss.

Six-time Ironman champion Dave Scott said it well in an article for

I knew going into each race that my confidence would help to support a fast day and a successful outcome. After transitioning from coaching myself to coaching others, I knew the best place to start was to establish and build upon an athlete’s confidence level. The technical stuff is secondary if you don’t have the inner-drive, mental edge and physical foundation to take the leap.