Coaching Services

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A New Birth


Saint Paddy's Day 2014 changed my life forever! At 7:54 AM, while most people woke with dreams of a day filled with Irish cheer and green beer, I witnessed the birth of my second child, Frances Whitaker Tiernan. Now I have two beautiful blonde little girls to chase after for the rest of my life. In the months prior to Frances's birth, I heard many theories as to how the shift from one child to two would affect my family life and training. The most dire of these maxims was one and one equals eleven. The extent to which this theory rings true will be revealed over the next few months, but surely the addition will put new demands on my family life and training. Regardless of what these demands will be, I feel incredibly fortunate to have two happy, healthy girls and an amazing wife in my life.

My Three Ladies
Nothing has given me more perspective about what is important in my life than the birth of my kids! I have been a trail runner since I was a young boy, and running has been a near constant fixture in my life, bringing me immeasurable joy and insight into myself and the world. Yet welcoming a precious little baby into the world reminds me that some things trump the importance of running. When I was a collegiate track runner, I used to laugh at the absurdity of what I had dedicated my life to. After all, I was literally trying to run in circles as fast as I could. Nowadays, I try to cover 100 miles, over hill and dale, in the shortest time possible. The question that begs to be answered is, why do this?
Big Sister Love
My answer is, I do this because it makes me a better person, therefore a better husband, dad, and teacher. I spent my late teenage years and early twenties chasing the dream of becoming a professional runner. Even though I knew true track greatness and Olympic dreams were far from reality, I was driven to reach my highest potential. Disillusioned by injury and side tracked by the party life, I donated a decade of my prime running years to the dirtbag kayaker and ski bum lifestyle. Now, when I see the Facebook posts and Tweets of young vagabond runners galavanting around the world on epic adventures, training like mad men, I sometimes lament the choices I made as a younger man. However, I would not enjoy the amazing life I have now had I not followed the path I did. I certainly would not trade it in for any other.
Dad and Jude - Ski Day
Today, after missing four of the last five days of running, I forgot this, falling prey to the debilitating thinking that too often plagues me. I made the mistake of reading those very posts where runners chronicle their latest adventure or training triumph. Seeing these, I counted the weeks till my next race - seven weeks. Dejected by the fact that I had barely run during the last week, and deterred by the short time left prior to my next race, I nearly skipped running again. It was only due to the insistence of my coach, who is also my wife, that I laced up and headed out on my daily constitutional jaunt. Once out among nature, I became motivated to do a solid hill workout. My wife got what she wanted- a husband in a better mood, and I also got what I wanted and needed- a great aerobic stimulus that left me in a positive headspace. While I may not be able to train at as high a volume as I would like, I wouldn't have the life I do if I were training at a higher volume. No matter how much training I get in prior to the Quad Rock 50, when the starting horn sounds I will be armed with the confidence of a life I love, and that has yielded pretty good results thus far in my ultra career.    

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Snow Slogging into Red Hot Redemption

Several weeks ago I awoke to nearly three feet of fresh snow outside my sliding glass door. The snow had been hammering so hard the prior evening that I received the phone call universally coveted by students, and welcomed with even greater excitement by teachers. "It's a snow day..." said the automated message. In my hometown of Aspen, where I still work, that equates to a double win. Not only is school/work canceled, but it's a powder day on the ski mountain. In my "interim years," the decade between the culmination of collegiate running career and the commencement of my ultra running career, you surely would have found me, with along with every other Aspen local on a snow day, shredding the pow! It always makes me laugh how no one can make it to school or work, but the entire town is fighting for that first chair. What does this have to do with running you ask? Well, it's challenging training to run a fast 50K with 30" of pillowy white snow blanketing the ground. 
Snowy Doorway
The 50 year storm, as it was dubbed in the local news, was unable to persuade me to strap on my boards to carve some turns. My trail runner passion won the day and I instead headed out to meet my good friend Jeason Murphy to shred the powder trail runner style. With roads in barely runnable condition, we decided to head to the the hills, Red Hill to be specific. Red Hill is our winter playground, offering a maze of earth toned trails, hidden amongst a forest of junipers. It's our go-to run that has a calming, meditative feel that makes trail running so enjoyable. However, the best part about Red Hill is it remains runnable throughout the winter, something nearly every other trail in the Roaring Fork valley cannot boast. Suffice to say, on this day, the trail was knee deep in fresh snow and we were the only idiots dumb enough to try and run, or even hike it. Upon my first stride I knew we were in for a superb adventure!
Jer and I on East Sopris Creek Road
Jeason and I eventually made it around a seven mile loop. It only took us 1:50. However, while this run clearly did nothing toward developing speed, it was a fantastic strength workout and a highly memorable excusion. The next day I took to the roads with Jeremy Duncan and Gina Lucrezi for a 23 mile loop. Again we were relegated to a pedestrian pace as we negotiated roads where mother nature had triumphed in the battle between the snowstorm and the snowplow. Since that big dump, the clouds have curtailed their frozen precipitation and the running conditions have steadily improved, allowing for faster running. And while the snow made training for Red Hot challenging, I can't help but think they set me up to have far greater success in the mid winter classic than the debacle that unfolded during my 2008 attempt at Red Hot.

In 2008, I landed on the cover of Ultrarunning Magazine after only my second ultra, Moab's Red Hot 50K. Of course, the cover shot was merely circumstantial, as I had foolishly charged to the front of the pack, photo bombing a shot of Tony Krupika and Kyle Skaggs. I paid the price for my early effort and lack of training, running what I consider to be my worst race ever. This year I was determined to do two things at Red Hot, train more leading into the race and go out conservatively. I am happy to say that I did one of the two. I was disciplined enough throughout the winter to put together a fairly solid block of training, but I was not disciplined enough to run smart. Being a teacher, I turn everything into a grade. One out of two is a 50%! That's a firm "F". Luckily for me my fitness was sound enough to prevent an epic blowup! 
Early Going at Red Hot
The funny thing about my plan to take it easy at the race's start is that, deep down, I knew I was going out with the leaders. Seventeen months away from racing created a hunger to compete that overpowered prudent strategy. So there I was, banging heads with the leaders, thinking I might just win this thing. Soon, Paul Hamilton and Dan Gorman slowly opened a lead and my thinking shifted to "let's podium." Not long after that, eventual winner Alex Nichols went flying by me like I was walking as I climbed a slickrock slab. The technical and punishing slickrock slowed me to a cautious pace, allowing a hard charging Mike Foote to roll me up. My soft snow conditioned legs were trashed when I hit the dirt road along the flat mesa preventing me from finding a faster rhythm. During the final descent  I was barely able to push my pace at all. I finished 5th, which I am pleased with, but running too fast a the beginning of the race may have cost me a place or two. It was a good opener, reminding me to race smart and I hope to build on it at the coming races.
Home Stretch at Red Hot
I suspect that we have turned the corner in regard to the challenging training of deep winter and I am a happy to have broken the racing ice with a solid performance. Now I turn my attention to our little Frances, coming in a mere two weeks. I feel blessed to live the life I do. I have an amazing wife and daughter, and will soon have another one to add to our growing family. I live in an incredible place and a spring and summer of cool races and adventure runs lies ahead. It doesn't get much better than that!
Chris Keleher Running Into the Sunset