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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year, New Balance

Happy New Year! The commencement of 2014 brings some exciting developments and adventures in my life. My family is preparing to welcome "Oh Yeah Baby," the name my daughter Jude has given her little sister who arrives in March. I am excited to have joined the New Balance outdoor ambassador team. February 15th marks my return to racing after a 16 month hiatus from competition. And 2014 will be my fifteenth year teaching middle schoolers. All this means I have to find that evasive balance that will afford success in each of these spheres. What more important area to begin with than family?

Molly and Jude zipping down in the orange toboggan!
Family! The most important people in my life, the biggest supporters of my running habit, are my family. Every member of my family has contributed to my running success, from the unending support of my parents to the vociferous cheers of my siblings; but it is my girls, Molly and Jude, who tolerate the many hours I spend in mountains, endure my incessant whining about aches and pains and smile at me when I geek out about running. This spring we are adding another little girl to our family! I feel so fortunate to be building an amazing family, and while this new addition will impact the time I have to train, the joy she will bring will far outweigh any inconvenience in my training schedule. My trusty treadmill and new head lamp will help me find the time to run, regardless of the hour. My family's willingness to help me be the best runner I can is amazing!

Jude helping me limber up

Criss-cross applesauce
New Balance! Another huge support for 2014 will come from New Balance. I have the honor of joining the New Balance  Outdoor  Ambassador Team for the upcoming season. After years of running unattached, I have already embraced the support that New Balance has extended. I look forward to joining a very talented group of runners sponsored by an outstanding company. I have been wearing their 1210's (Leadville's) for the better part of the past year and I love them. They are an amazing ultra shoe. The quiver of other models New Balance has to experiment with and choose from excites me. I want to thank, in particular, Monica Morant for making this relationship happen and the New Balance team for giving me this opportunity. You can bet I'll be sporting the Leadville's at the Leadville 100 in August. Thanks NB!

Casey Weaver heading up Midnight Mine Rd.
Training Again! The final month of 2013 was a surprisingly good month of training for me. In my last post, I bemoaned the trials of training in Basalt, CO during the dark, cold, snowy days of December. While there were certainly trying days that made it difficult to motivate, there were also some quintessential bluebird Colorado days. Additionally, I had a breakthrough on the treadmill that I owe to Matt Carpenter. I have traditionally loathed treadmill miles more than any other type of training I have done. However, upon reading an interview of Matt's where he described his own treadmill training, I discovered a way to make the treadmill more palatable: intervals! I have always used the treadmill on my easy days, often attempting to watch TV as a distraction to no avail. In his interview Matt said he only did interval workouts on his treadmill. I tried it and found minutes and miles zipped by with greater ease than just mellow aerobic running. This realization has already proved invaluable to my training.  Below are some shots of a few great December runs that reflect the best of what the Elks have to offer in the winter months.
Richmond Ridge - Top of Aspen Mt.

Jeason Murphy on Prince Creek Rd. - Mt. Sopris looming in the background
Runner's Set! The second race of my ultra career was the 2008 Moab Red Hot 55K. To say it did not go well would be a gross understatement. A better way to describe it would be, "the worst race of my life!" So it is with great anticipation that I return to this race six years later, seeking a little redemption. Red Hot marks the start of my 2014 season and it should be a blast. Many friends and ultra enthusiasts will be at the race and I look forward to the run. Last year I stepped away from racing for the entire season in an attempt to keep the priorities of my life- family, work, running, in that order. While my return to racing fills me with excitement, I imagine my results will benefit from keeping my priorities in that order. Cheers to stellar 2014!!!

Motivation for this year's race!

2008 Moab Red Hot 50Km 

                                PLACE NAME HOME TOWN Age TIME 
                                ===== ====================== ================== === = ===========
                                1 Kyle Skaggs Glenwood, NM 23 M 04:03:02.54 
                                2 Tony Krupicka Colorado Springs, 24 M 04:03:03.26 
                                3 Justin Ricks Pueblo West, CO 28 M 04:04:57.18 
                                4 Duncan Callahan Gunnison, CO 25 M 04:13:56.08 
                                5 Johannes Rudolph Boulder, CO 42 M 04:22:28.69 
                                6 Ian Torrence Ashland, OR 35 M 04:24:39.72 
                                7 Karl Meltzer Sandy, UT 40 M 04:25:59.69 
                                8 Susanna Beck Eugene, OR 39 F 04:28:21.81 
                                9 Scott Jaime Highlands Ranch, C 38 M 04:30:00.11 
                                10 Anita Ortiz Eagle, CO 43 F 04:34:30.93 
                                38 Zeke Tiernan Aspen, CO 32 M 05:37:36.07 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Lessons from the Italian Stalion

Of all the Rocky movies, none so captured my competitive emotions as Rocky IV. Upon its release in 1986, I was an impressionable eleven year old, the perfect age to dream big. I would venture to my snowy backyard and trounce up hills carrying logs and rocks, emulating Rocky's rustic training methods. The classic film pits the past-his-prime Balboa against the formidable and menacing specimen of human power and fitness, Ivan Drago, a young Russian fighting machine. While the youthful Drago has access to state-of-the-art training facilities and tools, and he is attended to by a cadre of sports scientists as he trains for the international throw-down, the aging Rocky secludes himself somewhere in the Siberian hinterland, training only with the tools of a frontier man. Rocky conditions himself for the fight by chopping wood and charging up snowy peaks. In the end, the old guy with the primitive training equipment wins.

I recently returned from a Thanksgiving holiday in the Bay Area, where I had the pleasure of sharing some enjoyable miles in the Marin Headlands with my friend Dylan Bowman. Cruising the buff trails, while taking in the brilliant views of the Pacific coast in shorts and a t-shirt, was not only luxurious, but it also enabled me to run fast, something I have been struggling to do in the current conditions at my home in the Colorado mountains. The onset of the truncated, dark, snowy and downright cold days of December upon returning to CO strangely reminded me of my boyhood fascination with Rocky IV. Somehow, if I imagine myself as a running Rocky, it helps entice me out the door into the wintery evenings. I liken my powdery slogs in knee deep snow to Balboa's triumphant climb up his own snow capped peak.

Prior to my trip to CA, I had recently allowed the idea that I was starting to regain some real fitness to slip back into my mind. Chasing my friend up the hills surrounding Mill Valley caused my to reevaluate that notion. I supplanted the idea that I was gaining traction with the idea that training in the central Rockies was a disadvantage. I thought, "How can I compete with runners who train in places where running fast is always an option? If I spend my winter slowly slogging through snow and ice, frequently in darkness, how will I have to ability to generate the leg speed to run among the elite?" It was in this moment of self doubt that I remembered what "The Champ" had taught me long before I started running: There is a silver lining in training under less than ideal conditions. It hardens you!

There must be some training benefit to slip-sliding at 20 minute mile pace on a moderate grade hill. Something is surely gained when I force myself to run in the frigid sub zero temps and blustering snow. Perhaps that something is mental resolve, a vital asset to employ at mile 86 of a tough hundred. Certainly, living at sea level in a hospitable climate, and training on runnable trails would benefit my neuromuscular system more than running in the winter conditions of the Elks. Knowing that, it is essential to my confidence that I see some benefit in training at the pedestrian pace forced upon me by the icy paths of the Colorado winter. Rocky's defeat of his menacing Soviet adversary, after training under spartan conditions, inspires the hope and optimism in me that helps me lace up to stride into the wintery nights. Here's to hoping that Hollywood doesn't lie!