Thursday, November 30, 2017

2017 Indian Creek 50-Mile Race Report

Back in April, I wrote a brief post about my desire to move up from the marathon distance and begin exploring the world of ultra running. Shortly thereafter, I planned my 2017 race season, which would culminate in an attempt at my first 50 mile event: the Indian Creek Fifties, hosted by Human Potential Running series.

Why I chose Indian Creek Fifties
There's no shortage of fifty milers in Colorado, so why did I opt for Indian Creek? It came down to a number of factors that, when combined, actually made the decision pretty easy.
  • The Timing Was Right - I had a few work obligations that prevented me from racing in September, and the weather in Colorado is actually pretty damn nice in October anyway.
  • The Course Was Exciting - Coming from a road marathon background, I wanted to run a true mountain ultra. IC50 is a beautiful romp through Roxborough State Park and boasts nearly 9,500 ft of lung-busting vertical gain. Every step of that race is a climb or a descent. Nothing is flat. Perfect!
  • The Event Itself Was No Gimme - Race director "Sherpa" John LaCroix makes a point of saying that runners will face a ton of adversity during the event, and, from what I could tell, he wasn't exaggerating. The aid stations are spread out* (at least for my limited experience), there are stretches of trail with residual flood damage from 2013, and did I mention the vert?
The exhilaration of putting in my credit card number and clicking "Register" was a rush, but it quickly faded into a chilling thought:

"Oh crap. What have I gotten myself into???"

Ultra runners are dudes with beards who live in their trucks and cover 100+ miles per week in the mountains, and here I am...this short, stocky road runner who is lucky to run 100 miles in a month! I'm the guy who chows down on pepperoni pizza while reading ultra-stud Scott Jurek's vegan manifesto. My favorite part of Ultra Runner Podcast is when they talk about beer! 

I was a suburban wannabe, and I had just committed to a 50 mile mountain race.

"Shit. I better get training."

Training Leading Up To The Race
On top of everything else, I had created a goal in my head: I wanted to finish the race in under 12 hours, conditions permitting. Achieving that goal would require a level of consistency that I had never mastered as a runner, but I was excited to give it my best shot. I aimed to push my boundaries every time I laced up my shoes, which led to a lot more fun than I'd anticipated!

On my days off work, I would browse Trail Run Project and look for routes that sounded fun. One of those was a muddy June slog around the High Lonesome Loop Trail, which tops out above 12,000 ft in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Another time, it was the Boulder Skyline Traverse, which, as Peter Jones later pointed out to me, I had foolishly undertaken on the hottest day of the year. In years past, I would never have even considered outings like these! But fear and ignorance turned out to be amazing training partners, and the more I suffered, the more confident I felt. My heart, my legs, and my spirit were growing, as was my weekly mileage. I only maxed out at 40 miles in my peak training week, my nutrition was garbage, and I wasn't doing any cross-training, but I felt great about the journey. I felt like an ultra runner.

The Race
My crew chief (a.k.a. my amazing wife Alex), my pacer Will, and I got a hotel room in Castle Rock the night before the event. Will is a bartender at a local brewery, and he and I had grown into friends and training buddies over the Summer. The Indian Creek Fifties allows 50 mile runners to have a pacer for the final 18 miles of the course, and Will was stoked to be along for the journey. We had a big, noodley dinner while I pored over my pacing charts and aid station details, and I slept like a brick that night. Not surprising. As Alex can attest to, I tend to sleep well in most circumstances.

The pre-dawn drive to the starting line was about 30 minutes up a twisting canyon road, but we eventually arrived to the chilly starting line and I got checked in with the race volunteers. The wind is notoriously strong in Roxborough State Park at 5am, so we huddled in the car while I double checked my gear. Among other things, I was using:
  • Nathan Vapor Air Hydration Vest w/  a 2-liter bladder.
  • La Sportiva Akasha trail running shoes.
  • Balega Hidden Comfort moisture wicking socks.
  • Garmin Forerunner 230 GPS Watch w/ heart rate monitor.
As for nutrition, my plan was as follows:
  • 1 Gu packet every 30 mins.
  • 1 SaltStick tablet every hour.
  • Some "real food" and a cup of electrolyte drink whenever I hit an aid station.
  • Drink water to thirst.
When I was certain I had everything I needed, we left the heated comfort of the car and shivered toward the starting line for a pre-race briefing from Sherpa John. He's as passionate as they come, and he shared some rousing words about overcoming adversity that the day was sure to present. Before I knew what hit me, the race had begun. I fist bumped Will and gave Alex a kiss, and began my journey into the unknown.

The race starts right off the bat with a healthy climb. I made sure to power hike the ascent rather than try to run up it, knowing that my legs would be toast if I tried. I watched other runners motor up the hill, unsure whether I should be amazed by their fitness or amused by their folly. Ultimately, I chose to mind my own damn business and run my own damn race. Smart choice.

The climb gave way to a beautiful downhill bomb-fest just as the sun first started to creep above the horizon. I opened up my legs on these early downhills to make up a little time on my slow climbing pace. The legs were feeling healthy and fresh early on, and there would ultimately be more hiking later, so I figured what the hell. Things were going according to planned...

...until I got to the first aid station and realized that I had made a terrible mistake.

I had assumed that there would be gels at the aid station. I had assumed that they were pretty standard fare. But you know what they say about what happens when you assume...

The aid station was packed with tons of food, but no gels. The realization dawned on me that, since I had only brought a handful of gels to the race (stupid), I was going to have to severely modify my fueling strategy for the day. Time to improvise. This is that adversity that Sherpa talked about. Let's do this.

My plan switched to eating a couple hundred calories at the far aid station, and then stuffing my vest pockets with enough Oreos to get me to the main starting area, where I had a few more gels waiting in my drop bag. I would still have to be conservative with them, but I could make it work. I would have to.

Adversity reared its ugly head again on the second loop, when the fatigue began to set in and the climbing began in earnest. Mile 27 marks the start of a particularly memorable stretch: 5.5 miles and 1600 ft of relentless uphill grinding. It doesn't sound all that dramatic when you take it out of context, but when you're halfway through your first 50-miler, staring up that hill can be a real bear. This, for me, was where the mental game started coming into play. The 50k runners, who had started their race later in the day, began zipping past me looking fresh and strong. The midday sun seemed hotter somehow. It was rough. 

By the time I made over the hill and back to the start/finish area to begin the final loop, I was more than ready for Will to join me on the trail and lift my spirits. Alex refilled my hydration pack, I stuffed my face with aid station snacks, and Will and I set off for the final 18 miles. I was still moving pretty well, so we were able to keep up a good trot.

I can't begin to describe how wonderful it was to use a pacer for the end of this race. There are plenty of folks who prefer to run solo, but that ain't me! At least not for this race. Having Will there just to chat with as I grinded through those last miles was so crucial. He kept me out of my own head when I was getting negative, and he whooped and hollered alongside me as I found spurts of energy and motivation. With 5 miles left, when it became clear that a sub 12-hour finish was probably out of reach, I turned to him and said, "Buddy, I don't think sub 12 is happening today. I'm sorry."

"You're doing great pal," he assured me. "Don't even worry about it."

A minute or two passed.

"You know what?" I said, "Fuck that! Let's go get it!"

"YEAH!" he shouted, "THAT'S what I'm talking about! You're an animal!" We both charged up the final 1400' climb that lead to the finish line.

That valiant uphill effort lasted.... oh, probably 20 seconds before my lungs and legs pulled my hopes right back down to Earth, reminding me that I was 46 miles into the longest run of my life and I was climbing a damn mountain.

With a quarter mile left to go and the evening sun sinking into the horizon, we passed through the parking lot and rounded the corner into the finishing area. Though the final couple miles were mostly hiked, I stubbornly broke into a jog once we crossed into sight of the volunteers and spectators of the finish line. No way was I gonna walk it in now.

Twelve hours and twelve minutes after I had set out, I crossed the finish line of my first 50-mile race.

Holy. Crap.

Sherpa John was there, and I gave him a monstrous hug and thanked him for organizing the event. He congratulated me and handed me a badass clay finisher's pendant handcrafted by a local artist. I collapsed into a camping chair, and a volunteer handed me the most delicious bacon cheeseburger I've ever tasted. Will and I cracked a couple beers as the sun set behind the Rockies. As the temperature dipped and the cold began to settle into my tired bones, I couldn't help It was one of the most profound moments of my life.

I missed my time goal, but I crushed my "experience-some-really-hard-shit-and-come-out-the-other-side-a-stronger-person" goal. And I'll take that any day. If you'd like to dive into the nitty gritty details of my day, you can check out my Strava activity.

Oh, and I can't say enough about how well-organized the event was, particularly the generous volunteers! They trudged all that food and drink uphill into the woods on foot! Unreal.

If you're exploring mountainous ultras and looking for a relatively small event with a ton of heart, you've found your race. Indian Creek checks all the boxes and brings the adversity in spades.

Go get lost in the woods and find yourself.

~JVB

*EDIT: Looks like there's been another aid station added for the 2018 IC50!  Sweet.

Friday, October 6, 2017

September 2017 Recap

On an early September jaunt with my running buddy Will, I confided in him that I was concerned about my training leading up to October's Indian Creek 50-miler.

"Why? You've been rocking it," he told me. "You'll be fine."

I explained that I would be starting a daytime acting gig in mid-September that would completely destroy my routine, and that the weeks leading up to the race would be some of my most limited in terms of time spent on my feet running.

And, as fate would have it, I was right. The final two weeks in September, when I should've been hitting my peak training mileage, I was stagnant. As in zero miles. Nada.

Before you say that I could find time to run if I really wanted to, let me explain my life during this time. I'd get up at 5am, go to work until 3pm, go straight to my second job, work there until 10pm, and then go home and sleep about 6 hours. Five days a week. And I was even busy on the weekends, working at the bar during the day and performing in the evening. So when exactly am I supposed to run?

If you've ever trained for a long-distance running event and then tapered in the weeks leading up to the race, you know how maddening it can be. A reduction in activity leads to the concern that you're losing your hard-earned fitness. Confidence fades, and before you know it you're questioning every decision you've ever made.

But amidst all this doubt and worry, there's a second voice playing in my head. The voice of reason. It's saying, "Calm down, tiger. It's not a big deal. Life happens. It's not like you could quit your job to go running, so make the best of what life has handed you and go enjoy yourself."

I'm going to do my best to listen to that second voice, because if I let the worry consume me, my chances at finishing this, my first 50-miler, are in jeopardy.

So....in the spirit of openness and embracing reality, let's look over the numbers from September.

Warning: they're very ugly.

SEPTEMBER TOTALS:
Distance: 80.7 miles (down from 161.4 in August)
Time Spent Running: 14:47 (down from 33:49 in August)
Elevation Gain: 9,034 ft (down from 22,458 in August)

Woof.

~JVB

Thursday, August 31, 2017

August 2017 Recap

August was a monster month for me! Once my lingering digestive issues cleared up, I really hit the trails hard. I can't believe how much running I got in this month. It's a great confidence boost heading into September.

AUGUST TOTALS:
Distance: 161.4 miles (up from 126.9 in July)
Time Spent Running: 33:49 (up from 32:16 in July)
Elevation Gain: 22,458 ft (up from 17,311 in July)

THE BIG PICTURE:
A hundred and sixty damn miles. If you told me a year ago that I'd run that many miles in a month, I would've laughed at you. That's more than double what I was running in 2016. And the elevation gain? Holy smokes. Lemme put this in perspective: in all of 2016, I gained 23,825 ft total. I almost eclipsed that in this month alone! I'm excited about these numbers, and I'm not embarrassed to say so. They may not seem impressive to you, but they're a HUGE mark in the victory column for me, and I'm very proud. :)

THE GOOD:
  • Numbers continued on an upward trend.
    • I don't know how long I can keep that up, but I'll do my best! All I know is that I'm really enjoying running right now. When it feels this good, it's hard to stop.
  • Lost a little weight.
    • I'm down to about 152 lbs right now, hovering between 11 and 12% body fat. I'd be thrilled to tone up just a bit more in the next month, but I'm more than happy with where I'm at right now.
THE LESS-THAN-GOOD:
  • I honestly don't know.
    • Things are just clicking right now. I'll continue to gradually increase my weekly mileage and hope for the best.
Okay, that's all for now! Let's go run!

~JVB

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

July 2017 Recap

The good times continued to roll for the most part in July. I hit a few speed bumps later in the month with the loss of a friend and a round of stomach problems, but nothing that entirely sidelined me. I still feel terrific about the progress I'm making as a runner!

JULY TOTALS:
Distance: 126.9 miles (down from 131.4 in June)
Time Spent Running: 32:16:41 (up from 29:34:16 in June)
Elevation Gain: 17,311 ft (up from 14,387 in June)

THE BIG PICTURE:
While my overall mileage was slightly down for the month, I made consistent gains in both time spent running and elevation gain, which is fantastic (and, arguably, more important). July saw the official start of my structured training plan for Indian Creek, and so far I've done a pretty good job of sticking to the plan. I can't expect every month to be a massive improvement from the previous month, but as long as I can keeping inching forward in my health and fitness, then I'm happy!

THE GOOD:
  • Time on feet went up.
    • I'm spending more time running! 32+ hours on my feet is a new monthly high for me. It's easy to get out the door when I'm discovering new trails and routes. :)
  • Elevation gain up.
    • I have no idea how I continue to see increases in this number, but it's happening and I'll take it! I used to dread the idea of a hilly run (which is silly, considering that my marathon PR is on a hilly course), but now I'm really starting to enjoy the ups and downs.
  • Nutrition getting better.
    • I like to celebrate victories that aren't based on numbers (although I suppose technically you could say my weight is a number). I've started really focusing on eating high quality foods in reasonable portions, and I'm down by about 3-4 lbs of body fat (hovering around 11.6%). But more importantly, I'm starting to feel better. 
THE LESS-THAN-GOOD:
  • Strength training.
    • My strength training circuit has taken a bit of a back seat in the grand game of "How Much Time Do I Have Today," and I'd like to re-incorporate those exercises into my week.
Okay, that's all for now! Let's go run!

~JVB


Saturday, July 1, 2017

June 2017 Recap

A warm Skyline Traverse on June 8
Wow. June was special.

No, nobody's going to start throwing sponsorships my way, and I'm not making any podiums anytime soon, but my numbers were off the charts compared to my usual monthly efforts. Something's changing in me...

I'm very proud of my June. Let's have a look.

JUNE TOTALS:
Distance: 131.4 miles (up from 99.6 in May)
Time Spent Running: 29:34:16 (up from 18:33:11 in May)
Elevation Gain: 14,387 ft (up from 4,389 in May)

THE BIG PICTURE:
The steady mileage increase continues! Since I've got almost a full 4 months until Indian Creek 50, I've been using this early training time to build my aerobic base and strengthen my legs. My goal was to increase my mileage a little bit every week, and I've been mostly successful! But additionally, I logged more time running in the mountains than ever before. I'm trying things I never would've tried in the past, believing full well that I can accomplish them. I'm running on a whim more often, instead of having to plan everything out days in advance. This. Is. FUN!

THE GOOD:
  • Mileage way up. 
    • 131 miles is easily the most I've ever logged in a month. and sure, plenty of elite runners log that kind of number in a single week, so I'm not gonna settle with 131. But for me that's a huge leap forward!
  • Time on feet way up.
    • So much of mountain ultra running seems to be about spending a lot of time on your feet, making that relentless forward progress. I'm thrilled that I spent almost 30 full hours running this month! Again, easily the most I've ever logged in a month.
  • Elevation gain WAY up.
    • This is the biggie for me. I smoked last month's elevation gained by a full 10,000 feet! I mean... to put this in perspective, in all of 2016, I only climbed 23,610 feet. The entire year. So to say that gaining 60% of that number in a single month in 2017? Yeah. That's a huge win for me.
  • Trying new stuff.
    • It was so warm during my Skyline Traverse that I had to dunk myself into a stream to cool my core temperature down a bit. I ran through water, mud, and snow without blinking during my High Lonesome Loop run earlier this week. I endured hot, miserable temps all month long. These all seem like trivial little things, but to a guy who has historically avoiding running in anything above 70 degrees, or would panic at the thought of a water crossing, this is a huge shift in mentality.

THE LESS-THAN-GOOD:
  • Social media.
    • I'd like to build my social media presence more, and find new ways to engage with the running community. I know that has so little to do with actual success when it comes to the sport, but I enjoy the hell outta meeting runners and sharing pics and stories with them! It's part of the fun for me, and I'd like to hold up my end of the deal better instead of just being a consumer of others' adventures.
Okay, that's all for now! Let's aim for 150 miles in July and see what happens!

~JVB



Thursday, June 1, 2017

May 2017 Recap

Mt. Sanitas summit on 5/30
It's June, friends! That can only mean a handful of things here in Colorado: The Rockies baseball club will start their annual downward spiral into irrelevancy, there will be daily rain showers from 2pm-3pm, and I'm going to start reading trailhead/peak condition reports in hopes of sneaking in an early 14er or two!

MAY TOTALS:

Distance: 99.6 miles (up from 75.5 in April)
Time Spent Running: 18hr 33min 11sec (up from 12:54:53 in April)
Elevation Gain: 4,389 ft (down from 6,151 in April)

THE BIG PICTURE:
In a month that saw me complete my first ultra at the Greenland Trail 50k, I'm proud to say that the progress I finished April with has continued! I still feel focused and motivated. Like I hoped for at the end of last month, I've steadily begun to increase my weekly mileage, while making sure to take all the steps necessary to prevent injury and burnout.

THE GOOD:
  • I'm starting to get my nutrition figured out a little better. 
    • As Alex and I sell our house and wait for our new one to be built, we've been staying with family nearby. I was concerned that this would send me into a downward spiral of restaurant food and Starbucks coffees, but the opposite has happened. We've been preparing more meals at home than ever before, most of which are whole foods based.
  • I officially registered for my first 50-mile event!
    • I'll be running the 50-mile course this October in the Indian Creek Fifties.
  • I ran more consistently in May than in April.
    • I was back in action within a couple days of finishing Greenland, and I took fewer unplanned recovery days than in April. Score!
THE LESS-THAN-GOOD:
  • While I ran more often, they weren't necessarily quality runs. 
    • I only finished the month with one fartlek run, one long run (aside from Greenland), and one mountain run. The rest of my miles were at a very easy pace. And while that certainly helps to further build my aerobic base, I need to really make sure I'm getting in those quality miles, too!
Okay, that's all for now! Let's aim for 120 miles this month!

~JVB




Monday, May 29, 2017

Change of Plans

Well, the 2017 race schedule I laid out for myself has changed. With my Summer schedule potentially filling up more than I had foreseen, I called an audible and scratched both my mid-season 50k and my late Fall 50 miler. Instead, I'll be focusing my training efforts on running the Indian Creek 50-miler this October.

I chose the Indian Creek Fifties, which is part of the Human Potential Running Series here in Colorado, mostly because the timing worked out well with my schedule. But, upon reading some race reports from previous participants, I concluded that it would also present a fair challenge in terms of not only distance, but in net elevation gain as well (just under 12,000' of net climbing).

Enough talk. Time to get training!

~JVB

P.S. - Had a blast running the Colfax Marathon Relay with my dear Red Shirt Racing Team last weekend! Love sharing miles with those guys and gals. :)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

2017 Greenland Trail 50k

Yesterday I had the pleasure of running my first ultra-marathon at the Greenland Trail 50k in Larkspur, CO.

But this race report begins, as most do, well before the starting line. My training leading up to this event was probably the most focused training I've ever had for a race. Now, that's not to say it was the best training, mind you. There have been plenty of times in the past that I've trained for a marathon by simply running balls-out fast for 7 or 8 miles a few times a week. But I never really understood my body and what was happening to it. This time, I had plenty of base mileage runs, as well as a handful of fartleks and tempo efforts. The training felt smarter.

The morning of the race, as Alex and I made the hour drive down to the starting line form our house, we watched the sunrise into what would turn out to be a cloudless, bright, blue Colorado morning. Greenland Trail is an area of open space and grazing land that sits in a little valley just south of Larkspur, and it can be easy to overlook. After all, Pike's Peak looms large on the horizon above. But the beauty of the place itself is undeniable. Nestled at the foot of the mountains, the views are really stunning, and, as I looked out the window, I was reminded of why I opted for a trail event in the first place.

The atmosphere at the trailhead was a perfect example of why I love these smaller events. We didn't encounter the anxiety-inducing security measures or throngs of people that greeted us at the Chicago Marathon last fall. Instead, there was a little dirt parking lot and a handful of volunteers helping us get our race packets and relaying any pertinent info. Alex could sort of amble about wherever she pleased, taking pictures and relaxing in the grassy spots. It's weird to say, but it felt like a family reunion more than a race with strangers.

The race began, and I settled into a slow comfortable rhythm right away. The voices of so many ultra-runners from so many interviews were playing through my head on repeat: "Don't go out too fast. Don't go out too fast." So I didn't. I wore a heart rate monitor for this race, and vowed that I would try to keep my pulse in a comfortable aerobic zone for as long as possible. There was a pack of about 5 or 6 runners who seemed to have the same idea, so I settled in and ran with them.

The 50k course at Greenland consists of four loops, each about 8 miles long. For my first loop, I naturally wanted to take a lot of mental notes so that I'd know what to expect for the rest of the afternoon. I paid close attention to the distance between aid stations, course conditions, and terrain features. And one feature became evident about 3 miles into the course: there was much more elevation gain than I was expecting. Mind you, it's not all that uncommon for ultras in Colorado to feature massive amounts of hills, but Greenland Trail is known to be a relatively flat, fast ultra. And, for me, coming from a road marathon background, it turns out that "flat" and "fast" apparently mean something very different. Much of my time on the uphill stretches was spent hiking more than running.

In that first loop, another important factor made itself known: the weather. There wasn't a cloud to be seen anywhere, and, as I mentioned before, this race was on open space. As in OPEN. Zero trees. By 8am I was already starting to heat up. Near the top of the largest hill, I found a patch of rapidly melting snow nestled behind a grove of nearby bushes. I bent down, scooped up a handful, plopped it into my hat, and stuck my now giant hat back onto my head. It may have looked goofy, but the feeling of that ice cold water dripping down my neck as that snow melted was pure bliss.

In that first loop, given the growing heat of the day and the hills, I happily put my ego to bed and threw my (already unrealistic) desire for a sub 5-hour finish out the window. It would be a day to simply learn and enjoy myself.

During that first loop, I picked up a running buddy named Mike. Mike and his family live only minutes away from Alex and me in north metro Denver, and he was at Greenland running his first trail ultra, too. We settled into a pretty comfortable rhythm where we could chat and run at the same time, and I was incredibly grateful for it. Running too quickly too soon has always been an issue for me in distance events, but running with Mike made sure that didn't happen.

Alex, meanwhile, had set up a little hangout spot next to the aid station and was waiting to take pictures and give me an emotional boost at the end of the first loop. I gotta say, it gave me something great to look forward to on the three remaining loops. I got in and out of the aid stations fairly quickly, stopping only to top off my handheld water bottle, grab a couple gels, and down a cup or two of gatorade. And speaking of the handheld bottle, I was SO glad that I went that route as opposed to the hydration pack. If I had to sip on warm water all day from a bladder and then wiggle that damn thing off my back at the aid stations to clumsily refill it, I would've been miserable. Plus, having the handheld allowed me to splash water over my head periodically as I ran. I can't stress it enough, I'm SO SO SO DAMN GLAD that I opted to use the handheld.

As for the gels, I was taking one every 30 minutes, along with a SaltStick capsule every hour. The "real" food at the aid stations (muffins, chips, pretzels, etc) looked so appetizing, and I definitely would've indulged had this been a longer event, but gels had been sufficient nutrition for my long training runs, so I stuck with what I knew and relied on them to get me through.

By the end of the second loop, the heat had gotten to be too much, so I ditched my shirt, lathered on some sunscreen that I had stored in a drop bag, and did my best Anton Krupicka impression for the final two laps.

I was feeling pretty good toward the end of the third lap, and I wanted to finish fast, so Mike and I parted ways and I picked up my pace a bit for the final lap. Don't get me wrong, I was still walking up most of the hills, but I still had enough gas in the tank to (relatively) bomb down the downhills and make up a lot of that time. And ultimately I was able to do the one thing I love most in an endurance race: finish strong with good form and a smile.

So there you have it folks. Baby's first ultra. I finished 35th overall with a time of 05:51:23, solidly in the middle of the pack. And I'm actually pretty satisfied with that.... For now. *insert evil laugh*

~JVB

Monday, May 1, 2017

April 2017 Recap

Green Mtn. summit on 4/12
Happy May! Is anyone reading this? Am I talking to myself? Oh well, wouldn't be the first time in my life. :)

As I really start to focus on my ultramarathon training, I'd like to start taking a page out of Kendrick Callaway's book by writing a summary of my training at the end of every month. In each of these posts, I'll include my monthly totals for mileage, time, and elevation gain, as well as general thoughts on how the month went.

The idea behind this is to give myself an opportunity to reflect on my successes, analyze missed opportunities, and make the most of the time and energy that I put into this sport. At some point, every runner has to ask, "Am I doing everything I can to be the best I can?" I'd like to make sure that the answer to that question is "Yes" more often than not.

So here's my first monthly assessment. Let's have a look.

APRIL TOTALS:

Distance: 75.5 miles (down from 84.7 in March)
Time Spent Running: 12hr 54min 53sec (down from 13:12:00 in March)
Elevation Gain: 6,151 ft (up from 3,992 in March)

THE BIG PICTURE:
I am finishing this month with very little regret, and with a strong sense of forward progress! I feel focused and motivated. Most of my goals for the month focused around prepping for the Greenland Trail 50k, and I feel super confident about that event. 

If there's anything I've learned from looking at my peers' stats on Strava, as well as listening to stories on Ultrarunner Podcast, it's that I need to start increase my weekly mileage. Right now I hover around a mere 20-30 miles per week. That's fine for marathon training, but ultras are a different beast. Let's see if we can't work that number up to around 50-60 per week by the end of the Summer!

THE GOOD:
  • I started keeping a running journal. 
    • For a while in 2014-15, I was keeping a basic training log to help track my mileage totals from month to month. Once I got on Strava, I let my spreadsheet lapse. And a lot of my focus lapsed with it, so I'm back to the spreadsheet! I've built it from the ground up instead of using a generic template. It includes elevation gain, weekly totals, average heart rate, and even a column for notes.
  • I increased my elevation gain. 
    • Living in the burbs, I've got a lot of flat pavement to run on. In April I went to the mountains and got my climbing muscles working. With incline comes strength and speed, so let's keep it going!
  • I filled in my training/event calendar. 
    • I loosely modified one of Sage Canaday's 50-mile training calendars to plan the rest of my year. The goal is to finish my season with a 50-miler.
THE LESS-THAN-GOOD:
  • I still don't have my nutrition dialed in. 
    • I work at a BBQ and craft beer joint, and I get free food when I'm there. Talk about a recipe for disaster! It's so hard to say no to a pulled pork sandwich and a pile of fries when that's all you can see and smell.
  • Too many unplanned recovery days. 
    • I let myself get away with too many lazy days. Sometimes I'll use the weather as an excuse. Other times I'm "too busy." I'd like to start holding myself accountable.
Well, that's all I've got for now! I'm going to be running the Greenland Trail 50k this Saturday, so wish me luck! The weather is looking great. Knock on wood.

~JVB




Monday, April 10, 2017

2017 Event Calendar

You may have noticed a change in me recently.

About a month ago, I came down with a sickness. I woke up with it one morning, and I've been walking around with it ever since.

That sickness: the overwhelming desire to run ultramarathons.

I don't know how I caught this disease, but the symptoms are plain to see:

When I'm backstage getting ready to perform, I devour chapters from Cory Reese's Nowhere Near First or Bryon Powell's Relentless Forward Progress

Any time I spend in the car is accompanied by episodes of Ultra Runner Podcast. In fact, I started at the very beginning (episodes from 2011) and have downloaded so many that I maxed out my phone's storage.

Before I go to bed, I binge watch YouTube videos of athletes running in the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, or UTMB.

And the running. Dear god, the running.

No moment is safe. Anytime I have more than an hour of free time to relax and unwind, I'll black out and then wake up to find myself wearing shorts and Mizunos, and I'm 3 miles into a trail run. I'll ask, "How did I get here?" But I know the answer.

I have a problem. Whatever fever it is that compels runners to want to test their limits, I've caught a bad case of it. And I'm told that, while there isn't necessarily a cure, it is treatable.

So here's my 2017 treatment timetable:
  • On May 6, I'll start with the Greenland Trail 50k in Larkspur, CO. That race will be my first foray into the world of ultrarunning. This one has been on my calendar for a while now. Maybe it was the gateway drug...
  • On May 21 I'll be teaming up with my beloved Red Shirt Running Team to tackle the Colfax Marathon relay! This is our third straight year at this event, and it's a blast every single time!
  • Later this summer, I'll jump back into the ultra world, but peppering in a bit more vertical gain at the Pikes Peak 50k in Colorado Springs on July 29.
  • And finally, to cap off the season, I'll run my first 50-mile event in Moab, UT at the Dead Horse 50 on Nov 18. Yep, folks. I'm gonna make the jump from 50k to 50m just in time to stuff my face with turkey and gravy. Scared but excited!
So that's that! It won't be a speedy recovery, as I'll be slowing down significantly from my marathon race pace, but it'll certainly be a beautiful journey.

Okay, enough with the metaphors and maladies.

If you're ever curious about what's going on in my training, or if you want to tag along for a run sometime, you can get updates and analysis right here. I'll be updating this blog semi-regularly, in hopes that it'll keep me honest and aware as I begin to increase my weekly mileage.

Also, I'm a total rookie at this, so if you wanna dole out any words of wisdom, I'll take 'em!

Thanks y'all! See you on the trails!

~JVB