8/1/06 What matters
One of the interesting things about Adventure Race training is that you can turn just
about any task into a workout. Yesterday, I was planning on paddling with Vicki. She
was bringing the boat, so I decided that I would ride over to Creve Coeur Lake rather
than drive. It only takes five more minutes to ride it and carrying paddles on the bike is
something one might have to do in an adventure race, so it makes sense to figure out the
best way to do it and test it out in a workout.
I found that by first binding the paddles together with little bungees, I could slide the
handles through the helmet loop on my pack and they stayed pretty much out of the way.
The tips of the handles did hit the seat when I'd stand, but it wasn't a problem. The
blades also stuck up over my head and they'd whack low hanging leaves that I would
ordinarily miss. Again, no big deal, but something to be aware of when ducking under
a less moveable limb.
Vicki was unable to make it, so I was stuck at CC Lake with a bike, pack, and paddles but
no boat. I wanted to get some training in, so I took some laps around the lake on the bike
path. You get some strange looks riding around a park with two canoe paddles strapped
to your back. I decided a long time ago that if it came to a decision between doing
something I liked and doing something that impressed strangers, I'd pick the thing I
liked. I actually found the reactions a bit amusing.
8/2/06 Dialing it in
One of the most common mistakes made by amateur distance runners is taking out a race
to quickly. The combination of the excitement of the start with the fact that you're
running on fresh legs (assuming you've properly tapered for the race) makes the right
pace feel terribly slow. It's not at all uncommon to go through the first mile 20-30
seconds faster than intended pace.
While such an error might not destroy short event like a 5K, in longer runs it is
devastating. The conventional wisdom in marathoning is that every 10 seconds fast in the
first mile is given back in the last six (thus costing you an entire minute). My own
experience confirms this. In 1996 I had planned on running the St. Louis Marathon in
3:15 (7:27/mile), so I was a bit shocked to hear 6:50 called out at the first mile marker.
The pace felt so easy that I assumed the marker was wrong and continued through mile
two at 13:45. I quickly backed off to my intended 7:30 pace and held it for the next 18
miles, but the damage was done. I slipped steadily after that. By mile 23, I had given up
an entire minute of pace. Mile 24 was 8:45 and 25 was nearly 9:00. Only the scent of the
finish got me through the last mile and a quarter at something resembling a run. The 100
seconds gained in the opening two miles were paid back with hefty interest and I finished
just under 3:23.
After that debacle, I added a pacing workout to my taper week before a big race. I run
8x400 at whatever my goal pace is for the race. This is a short enough workout that it
doesn't take anything out of the legs. In fact, it provides a nice stimulus to keep them
from getting stiff in the final few days. More importantly, it helps program in what the
proper pace should be. I haven't had any big pace mistakes since I started doing this.
Today I ran 6x400@90 in preparation for the Flat Five, where I'm still hoping to break
30 minutes. That will be a stretch given the weather prediction (expected to be nearly 80
even at the 7AM start), but I'll still at least start the race with that as the goal. If I can't
hold it, I've got two more races in the following weeks to put in a good showing. I only
ran six reps today because it was so hot. I was also doing a pretty good job of running
them right on pace, so I think I've got a 6:00 mile pretty much dialed in.
8/3/06 Taper gone wrong
Another common mistake is to screw up your taper for a race. Normally this comes in
one of two forms: you refuse to back down your training so you aren't rested for the
event or you quit training altogether and are stiff for the event. This week I've messed up
my taper in a more novel way.
First there's the heat. When you get hit with a heat wave during taper, the best thing to do
is just find a way to train indoors. If you have to train outside, do it in the very early
morning or late evening. I was doing OK with this, except for my dial-in workout
yesterday, which I intentionally ran in the heat because the race should be hot too, so I
need to know what the pace will feel like in those conditions.
Next there's volume. From Monday through Saturday, I had planned 3 hours of light
training, 1 dial-in workout (moderately hard), and one depletion workout (5 hours, very
easy). The depletion workout was to come on Tuesday, giving five days to fully restore
the muscles. The depletion workout went out the window because of the heat, but
everything else was about right until the wood chips arrived.
We just built one of these backyard playgrounds for YaYa. It's not huge, but it's bigger
than your standard swingset. We built it in the shady part of our backyard because the
grass never likes growing there. We figured we'd cover that area with woodchips and
have a nice surface to play on. Yesterday, 7 cubic yards of wood chips were dumped on
my driveway. It took three hours to move them to the back and spread them out. The
temperature was over 100 degrees for most of the time.
Even though the effort was reasonably low intensity, it was a long time out in the heat. It
also brought my 7-day active total to 16 hours, which is a bit high, although no worse
than it would have been if I'd got the depletion ride in. I don't think this has ruined my
chances this weekend, but it's clearly not optimal. If this weekend's race was really
important to me, I'd not be happy about it. I think my buildup has gone pretty well and it
sucks to spoil a good buildup with an error in taper. However, I'm a lot more interested in
the two races that follow. This weekend's race was always intended to be a benchmark
race, not the race. The original target was the 1000-Day (I was just going to do
the events from 8/11-8/15), now it's the Babler Beast Duathlon (8/13) and Alligator's
Creek Triathlon (8/20). I should be able to do a proper taper next week to be ready for
Babler and then hold the peak for a week after that.
8/4/06 The BEST brownie in St. Louis
I can't claim a definitive answer on this because I haven't tried every one and such things
are subject to individual tastes. But, if I haven't found the best, I've found something
A little background on why this is important to me. Most people would describe me as
thin. I don't see myself that way - I think I'm just what a normal fit person should be -
but every time I go to buy clothes I'm reminded that the majority of the population is not
particularly fit. When people see how much I eat, they tend to assume that I'm just one of
these folks that burns up everything with a high metabolism.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm actually a big fat guy who trains 600 hours a
year. The year I quit semi-pro cycling, I gained 60 (!) pounds. That's right, five pounds a
month for a whole year. I decided I didn't like that, so I started working out again and am
now back to close to what I used to race at. I eat a lot, but I have to watch what I eat. In
particular (and I've stated this before), I really have to be careful not to eat too much
Which brings us to brownies. Of all the sweet things in the world, brownies are my
favorite. Since I can't eat them very often, I've been on a quest to find a brownie that's so
good, I can be satisfied eating it only once or twice a month. I've turned up some good
ones, and not always in places you'd expect (Montelle Winery in Augusta, for example,
has an outstanding brownie, but that's a bit of a ways to go for a sugar fix). The hands
down best brownie I've had in St. Louis (maybe anywhere) is at Straub's Market.
Straub's is not a place you go looking for a bargain. It's an upscale grocery store in
Clayton. Their brownie is $1.95, which is the most I've seen anybody charge accept for
some crazy cappuccino-infused concoction at Starbucks or the absurd 8-ounce gut buster
at Schnucks. When I asked the girl at the bakery counter for one she responded, "Have
you had one of these before?" When I conceded I hadn't she smiled and said, "You made
a good choice." Well, that's the sort of confident salesmanship this country was built on.
And, in this case, it was well placed.
8/5/06 - YaYa's Birthday
Actually, today is my birthday and YaYa's is Monday, but weekends are better for
parties, so we switched. Here she is on her new swing before the party starts.
8/6/06 - First race
YaYa has done (and won) an orienteering race with me, but today was her first solo
effort. The Flat 5 had a Toddler Trot event as well. Here she is lining up for the start.
Even though she doesn't turn three until Monday, she was taller than almost all the
three-year-olds in the race.
It took her a few moments to figure out what was going on, but then she ran pretty fast
and wound up third. Most encouraging is the fact that she liked it so much, she wanted
to run it again after all the other kids were gone.
8/7/06 Falling short
My first boss was a guy named Rich Ruscio. He was smart and demanding. Some people thought
he was too much of a hard-ass, but I thought he was a good mentor to me. The first time I
failed to get something done on time he shrugged and said, "If you never
miss, your target is too easy." I still believe that and don't get too upset when a
performance falls short of expectations. I do think it's important to identify whether the
problem was an unreasonable goal or failed execution, especially in cases like yesterday
where it wasn't a small miss. I think yesterday's run had some of each.
Certainly, breaking 30 minutes for 5 miles was a reasonable thing to shoot for. My track
workouts have all been targeted for that level of fitness and my heart rates have been
right where they should be. I was a little light on tempo training and my taper could have
been better, but that doesn't explain missing by over a minute. (For those who don't read
my training log, my time was 31:20).
It didn't feel like the heat (low 80's, dew point around 70) was that big of a problem,
although I certainly was sweating. Given that most of my track and tempo work has been
done in far more severe conditions (at lunch time or early evenings whereas the race was
at 7:00AM), that seems like a bogus excuse. I think that if you can run the workouts at
the appropriate heart rate in tougher conditions, you should be fine, even if race day is
less than ideal.
Execution started off quite good. First mile was 6:03 and the second was 6:07. That's just
about as close to nailing the opening as I've ever been. Run even sixes the rest of the
way, kick at the end, and mission accomplished. Unfortunately, the next two miles were
6:30's. I probably could have run the last mile under 6:00 as the course was shaded at the
end, but there didn't seem to be much point. Running a 6:10 did move me up a couple
places to finish 8th.
As hard as it is to admit, there may be an issue with mental toughness. Most of my racing
over the past year has been very long (adventure racing), technical (orienteering), and/or
sporadic effort (bike racing). I haven't done the sort of events where you need sustained
effort at near VO2Max. I sort of sensed this at the Show Me State Duathlon, but chalked
it up to over-thinking strategy (I intentionally backed off on the bike to have better legs
for the run). I'm now thinking that I just need to learn how to put out a real effort again.
The problem with this is that you really can't train it. If you start doing maximal
efforts in training, you'll just crush your body. Only in races should you subject
yourself to that sort of strain. I've got two more races in this peak period. They're both
multi-sport on hilly courses so results are a little harder to evaluate, but my goal now is
to keep my concentration high and not let the effort slip midway through.
8/8/06 How steep?
Cyclists generally talk of steepness in terms of per cent grade. This is the height of the
climb divided by the horizontal length. At grades that are rideable on a road bike, the
actual length of the road (the hypotenuse) is close enough to the horizontal length that it
doesn't really matter which measurement you divide by.
If you pay attention to such things, it doesn't take long to develop a feel for what various
grades feel like. Last night, a teammate of mine asked me for a local example of a 10%
grade. I hadn't measured any climbs of that grade around St. Louis, but gave her a climb I
thought was close. I later measured it on a USGS map and found that it was, in fact,
10.2%. Having some example climbs is useful because then if someone says that a race
will have a climb of certain steepness, you can think back to one you've ridden.
Good example climbs are hard to find in St. Louis, because most of our climbs tend to
follow reentrants up ridges, so they have a short steep section where the road pops up
onto the spur. I looked at some of my favorite local climbs and found a few examples
with reasonably steady grades.
5% This is the grade at which most people start thinking they are climbing. Your
pedaling style changes because you can no longer coast through the dead part of the
stroke. You typically move your weight back a bit in the saddle and move your hands to
the hoods. An excellent example of this grade is the lower part of the Six Flags climb on
Allentown Rd (from the employee entrance to the private road on the left). Height 45m,
length 950m, grade, 4.8%.
6% This is still "fast" climbing where you usually stay on the hoods for
aerodynamics. If you're drafting, moving to the uprights may be more comfortable.
Marine Road from Creve Coeur Lake to Dorsett Road is a fine example. 45m, 750m,
7% This is the grade that most people think of as "power" climbing. You're out
of your big gears and aerodynamics is becoming less important, but you still should be
turning the pedals quickly with a steady stroke and no bouncing. One of my favorite
roads for hill repeats is the 7% grade up Marshall Rd from the Meremac River to the train
overpass. 67m, 980m, 6.8%.
8% Elite riders still consider this power climbing, but just about everybody else
has switched to "pure" climbing at this point. Small gears, high cadence, hands on the
uprights. The first climb on route T (from Bassett Road to where it first levels off)
heading from St. Albans to Labide is representative. 50m, 620m, 8.1%.
9% Well into the pure climbing gears by this point. This is about the grade
where alternating standing and sitting makes sense. Wirth Road (the westernmost road in
Babler State Park is slightly steeper than this from the base to where it starts to level off.
33m, 350m, 9.5%.
10% Most people are running out of gear at this point and have to stand for at
least some of the climb. Wild Horse Creek Road heading NE from Centaur is the
example I quoted to my teammate. 58m, 570m, 10.2%.
11% This is getting into the realm of "steep" climbing, where cadence is slower
and the bulk of the work is done out of the saddle. Short climbs of this grade are a fine
opportunity to put in really hard attacks as there is no benefit to the draft. Long climbs of
this grade are relatively rare, but if you hit one, you'd better have a pie plate on the back
wheel because grinding a 39x23 for more than a few minutes will kill your legs. Hog
Hollow Road in Chesterfield is what I use to practice this type of climb. 52m, 470m,
12% Even pro riders give this grade it's due and switch to a 25-tooth plate for
races featuring a significant 12% climb. John Cochran Drive (the easternmost road in
Babler State Park) is 12% from Bates Road to Lodge Road. This is a little deceiving
because you have a fast descent into it. If you want the real experience, enter this climb
from Bates Road. 52m, 430m, 12%.
Beyond 12% Grades above 12% are generally taken in the smallest available
gear, and usually out of the saddle. These are the climbs where if anything goes wrong
(missed shift, pulling a foot off the pedal, etc.), you generally wind up on the pavement.
It's too steep to recover before coming to a stop. I've ridden up roads as steep as 28%
with a 39x25, although it's faster to hop off and run. Pros encounter climbs in
excess of 20% in some of the spring classics and will sometimes get off and run, especially if
the road is wet. Extended sections of paved road over 12% are rare in the St. Louis area,
but there are plenty of short bits. One such example is the base of the Orville Climb up
from Eatherton Road which rises 15m in the first 100m (15%). For a taste of the absurd,
the Greensfelder Time Trial in the Tour of St. Louis features a short section of 25%.
Unfortunately, it's the wrong way on a one-way street, so it's kind of dangerous to train on.
8/9/06 Making the grade
What about all those slopes below 5%? Such inclines are usually not dignified with the
term "climb" unless they are very long. Instead, "grade" is used to indicate that you're
not really changing your riding style, just putting out more effort to keep your speed up.
They generally don't get much attention, but learning to ride them well can pay some
pretty big dividends in races.
Conventional wisdom is that you should attack on the steepest part of the climb. That's
not terrible advice - nothing busts up a field like 500m at 16% - but there are three
reasons you might want pick a different target: 1) everybody rides the steep sections hard,
so you're going to have to work for every meter of the gap you open, 2) the steep sections
are usually pretty short, so you won't get a very big gap, and 3) really steep sections are
the domain of the pure climbers, so unless you're one of them, you're not likely to be
Grades, on the other hand, offer lots of promise, even to those who don't climb
particularly well. Drafting is still very much an issue on grades and nobody likes to tow
the whole field along, so you might catch a break and get away without much of an initial
chase. Meanwhile, the fact that the incline is adding a lot of work means that your extra
effort translates into a bigger speed increase than attacking on the level. The result is that
you can often open a much bigger gap with less effort by attacking on a grade than a
Two local hills serve as good examples (unfortunately, neither is particularly well placed
to ever be used in a race). The first is Adam's Road in Kirkwood. Heading east from
Ballas, you first get 1.5Km of what's called "false flat." The grade is just over 1%. You
can see that you're going slightly uphill, but it feels more like riding on the level with a
soft tire. The road then steepens to 4% for half a kilometer before settling back down to
2% for the remainder of the grade.
Attacking on the steep section won't buy you much - it's neither long or steep enough to
get a decent gap. However, attacking right at the top of the steep section when the field is
starting to relax could have you 10-20 seconds off the front by the top. A more
sophisticated strategy would be to line up some teammates to set a blistering pace on the
false flat. This will get you to the steep section with the field strung out. Attacking from
the front when the field is single-file is very effective because only the first few riders are
in a position to respond.
Another grade I like to train on is Woods Road in Ellisville. As with Adams, the first
1.5Km are an easy grade (although this one is 2.5%, which is more "steady grade" than
"false flat"). At this point, the road becomes a bona-fide climb with half a kilometer of
steadily increasing pitch and then a final 200m section over 10%.
This hill isn't too interesting to a pure climber. The steep section is too short to do any
real damage so the only way to make a move stick is to hammer away on the flat after
going over the top. That could work, but another possibility is to go right from the
bottom. People will be reluctant to chase because nobody wants to get shelled off on the
steep section (particularly when it's reasonable to expect that the field will stay largely in
tact - getting dropped at the top of this one most likely means your race is over). That
sets up one of four likely outcomes.
The first two outcomes are highly desirable. The third is a wash and the fourth is
obviously a disaster. The actual likelihood of any of these depends very much on how
your abilities stack up against the rest of the field, but for most I'd say the chance of
getting one of the first two is significantly greater than the fourth and certainly better than
the chance of making an attack at the summit work. Getting results requires taking a few
You get a pretty good gap on the grade and stay away over the top.
A response forms about halfway up the grade and you get caught by a small group on the
The field keeps you close enough that you get chased down on the steep section.
The field chases you down on the grade and you go to pieces on the steep section.
I really will get back to writing about adventure racing one of these days, but here's a
photo that just needs to be shared. Do you even remember when something could make
you this happy?
(Click for full-sized image)
Olivia is reacting to seeing The Wiggles
come out on stage last night.
8/11/06 Summer flu
I think that's what I've got right now. I'm not entirely sure. Since this was supposed to be
a light week for training, anyway, I'm just waiting it out. I certainly won't be racing on
Sunday if I still feel like this.
Generally, I bounce back from sickness pretty quickly. My most dramatic turnaround was
a couple years ago when I went to the Badger A-meet in Wisconsin. I got sick on the
Thursday before the meet. The whole drive up on Friday, I was really miserable - I could
hardly breathe. I took generic Claritin the morning of the meet both days and ran fine,
missing the day-1 win by 2 seconds and finishing 2nd for the 2-day combined time.
You can get away with impaired fitness in technical races like orienteering and adventure
racing by minimizing your mistakes. In a duathlon such as this weekend's race, it's a
little harder to hide when you're off. Still, if this is the flu, I should be OK since that
usually passes in a couple days. The important thing is to get plenty of rest. If you
shortchange your sleep, you may still get over the sickness, but you'll be tired from
fighting it. I think my success in coming back from sickness is largely due to the fact that
I'm really conscientious about sleeping extra when I'm sick.
8/13/06 Must be present to win
I've written about this before, but today's performance at Babler Beast was probably the
most extreme case of the "feel bad - race good" phenomenon I've experienced. Although I felt that I was
completely over being actually sick, there was no question my body hadn't completely
recovered from fighting it (whatever it was - I never did figure that out). I
decided I'd ride to the race today, using the time to loosen up and decide how hard to
push. I was ready to just call it a training day if that's all my body had to offer.
In the early going, I was thinking to myself, "this is how my legs feel after racing,
not before." In particular, my calves felt completely blown, which is not a good thing on
a hilly course. By the time I got to the park (I took my time, so it was over an hour), most
of the soreness had subsided, but I still felt like this was going to be a medium workout at
Then the race started and things started working right. I've speculated that when you feel
bad at the start of a race, you adjust to the effort quicker because you're expecting it to
hurt. I think that was true today. I found a good rhythm very quickly and kept my effort
very consistent throughout the event. At the finish, not only was it a performance I was
happy with given my condition, it was a performance I would have been happy with under any
conditions. I knocked nearly a minute off my times for both the bike and second
run legs (the first leg was also a run this year since the pool was closed).
I very nearly blew this one off, figuring I just wasn't up to it. I'm sure glad I didn't.
Granted, winning my age group at a local duathlon isn't exactly a legendary performance,
but it's nice to get at least one good result out of this buildup cycle.
8/15/06 Back to the Woods
We got a break in both the heat and humidity today so it seemed like a good day to get
back into the woods. I ran at West Tyson. West Tyson is runnable year-round, but I
usually don't bother training in the woods in July. I've found that if I get in a few
sessions in August and then really hit it in September, my nav is sharp by the time the
October meets roll around.
Some of the more annoying bugs in the St. Louis area is
They hang out mostly in tall grass and weeds along the edges of fields. Their active
season here is roughly June through August.
I've never had problems with them at West Tyson before although they are very active
right across the river in Route 66 Park. I seem to have found a bunch of them when I was
running there on Tuesday. My left ankle is loaded with bites.
Fortunately, chigger bites usually heal up pretty quickly. They sure do itch in the mean
Today was the maiden voyage of my new
wheels. I rode some easy repeats on the Creve Coeur bike path. A few observations:
They are really fast. Most aero equipment is only noticeable in a wind tunnel or if you
time yourself over a distance in similar conditions. You can tell these are faster just by
feel. Most of that is due to the fact that they are so light (weight differences are easier to
feel than aerodynamic differences).
Although they are light, they don't seem to like changing direction. The handling takes
some getting used to. These are legal for mass start events but I'd never use them in
that context. This is mainly because I'd be afraid of wrecking them (they're twice as
expensive and not nearly as durable as regular road wheels), but also because I like the
quick response of a low-profile wheel.
The front wheel is reasonably stable, even in a good crosswind. I had considered the
606's, which use a lower profile front. I'm glad I didn't go that route because these are
just fine for someone as heavy as me (a really light rider might think differently). Since
the front wheel is the bulk of the drag, the deeper section is better as long as you can keep
it on the road.
They sound fantastic, especially on concrete. Not that you'd buy a set of wheels just
because they sound cool, but it's a nice perk. The carbon fiber really does a nice job of
resonating the sound of the tires.
8/20/06 Feel bad - race bad
Feeling bad at the start of a race doesn't always make you fast. Yesterday I noticed that I
was getting whatever has been making YaYa cough all week. I still felt fine, but there
was a fair bit of fluid in my lungs at the start of today's race, the
Alligator's Creek Triathlon.
The swim went fine (how bad can a 5-minute swim go?), but once on the hilly bike
course I was coughing up really gross globs of yellow stuff at the top of each hill. At the
time, it didn't feel like it was slowing me down all that much, but my bike time was a few
minutes slower than I expected and well behind some folks I usually beat.
The run went a little better. The run course was even hillier than the bike course, but I
guess I had pretty much cleared everything out by then. I finished OK (13th), but had
been hoping for a top-5 placing and maybe another 40+ win.
I'm glad I had a good result last week. This hasn't been a particularly successful peak.
The result at Babler certainly indicated that the fitness was there. Sometimes you do need
a little luck as well.
Things could have been worse. As I was finishing the run, I saw one guy come into the
downhill finish turn on the bike and wash out pretty badly. Hitting the pavement at 30
mph really sucks. It looked like he got away with just a bunch of road rash.
8/22/06 Sick again
After going through a pretty heavy base and an 8-week buildup with no illness, I'm sick
again for the second time in two weeks. I think that suddenly reducing your training can
screw up your body just as much as suddenly increasing it. Mostly, though, I think it's
just bad luck. Both times, YaYa and Kate have got it first. When you share a house with a
couple sick folks, you run a pretty high risk of getting it yourself.
This time it appears to be just a normal chest cold. Conventional wisdom is that if the
sickness is above the neck, keep training, otherwise take some time off. This is definitely
in my lungs, so I'm taking a day off today (and probably tomorrow, too).
I don't remember ever getting sick right after a really hard effort. It's hard to tell how
much of my aches are normal muscle soreness and how much is from the cold. I walked
over to the pool (about half a mile from my house) and sat in the hot tub for a while. That
helped a lot in terms of working out some of the stiffness.
8/25/06 Time to sharpen up
I got in some good training at Cuivre River yesterday. I had more
trouble than I would have expected early on. Not big mistakes, but
little bobbles approaching controls. One of my season training objectives
is cleaning up my approaches. I obviously have more to do.
Not too surprisingly, when I increased my pace near the end of the
workout, I was much better into controls. I've written about that
before - that slow paces make you sloppy. The problem is that most
adventure race navigation is necessarily done at a slow pace. I'll need to
work on keeping my focus high even when moving slower.
8/26/06 Busse woods
In most sports, it's normal to develop rivalries, some friendly, some less
so. A friendly example is the Buckley-Frei death match has been going
on for quite some time (although we don't seem to be facing off against
each other very much lately).
I've also developed a rivalry with a little patch of forest west of
Chicago called Busse Woods. I've competed there a half dozen times and
it has generally not gone well. I've done a similar number of training
sessions there, also with mixed results.
The problem is that Busse Woods is flat. Not completely flat, mind you.
There are contours, just incredibly subtle contours. The contour interval
on the 1:10,000 map is 2m and the lines are often more than 100m
apart. Most of the features are a single contour line.
There are other features to use: marshes being the most prominent, but
they too are mighty subtle by usual standards. Most of the marshes are
only identifiable by a slight change in the forest floor. You can see it
when you're in one, but they are very difficult to identify from more
than a few meters away. In short, lose contact on this map and you're
I try to train on this map every time I get a chance. I ran a course
from 2003 on it today. I ran at a fairly easy pace, although the heat
made it feel a little hard. I was reasonably clean - only a few bobbles
near the end. I'd consider it one of my better runs on this map, even
though I wasn't moving that fast.
I think my main struggle on this map has to do with the fact that I
don't really know how to simplify this type of terrain. Relying on bearing
and pace are too risky because there aren't many good catching
features. Staying in contact is the only way to go. Normally I can do
this by just noting a few features along the route, but here I find I
have to read just about everything because features are so easy to miss
(or misread for parallel features).
One of my training objectives for this year is to work on flat terrain.
When I set that objective, I had this map in particular in mind. I
haven't had any revelations just yet, but I'm determined to figure out
how to read this stuff. I've had one really good run at Busse - just over
7:00/K - so I know it's possible. I just can't do it consistently.
8/28/06 Adventure run
Adventure runs are like adventure races, except that they are done entirely on foot. The
navigation is typically pretty easy. The idea is to present the sport in a way that gives
good runners who lack nav experience a chance to be competitive. That's not what this
post is about.
I like to go out on training runs where I have no real plan for the run aside from some
general goal for the workout (distance, tempo, etc.). Yesterday, I had to pick up my car
form the long term parking at the airport (I drove back from Chicago with Kate and YaYa
who had been up there all week). I didn't really know the best way to get to the airport on
foot, but figured it couldn't be too tough to find. I figured the run would be somewhere
between 60 and 90 minutes.
My route took me through some areas that I wouldn't call dangerous, but are certainly not
places I'd choose to hang out after dark. I've lived in some genuinely tough
neighborhoods, so I don't get too freaked out when I see, for example, a girl running
down the street being chased by her boyfriend. I thought about intervening on that one,
but he was really fat and it didn't look like he was going to catch her. I got quite a few
people asking what was in my pack. I guess they don't have too many adventure racers
cruising through the hood at 11PM.
The run ended up taking a lot longer because once I got to the airport, I couldn't find a
good way to get to the parking lot. I finally ended up hopping the fence and running
along the interstate. I got to my car in just under two hours.
Of course it's good to have some structure to your training, but I find that runs like this,
particularly the ones where you run into some unanticipated difficulties, have a
rejuvenating effect on motivation. I spend so much effort trying to be in control of things
it's fun to let go for a while. We're training for races where the unexpected is the norm,
why not bring some of the adventure into training runs as well?
8/30/06 Yasso 800's
I've decided to do another marathon. I haven't run a true road marathon in 10 years.
Maybe that's how long it takes to forget why you went 10 years without running one.
Actually, running a marathon is not that big a deal if you've prepped. It's the preparation
that kills you. All those long runs on pavement take their toll on joints and muscles. I'm
going to try doing almost all my long runs on trail and just do a few on roads in the last
couple months before the race.
A popular marathon workout, that's also an excellent workout for any endurance event is
"Yasso 800's". This workout was concocted by Bart Yasso, an editor at Runner's
World. I take most of that mag with a grain of salt. It's not that they're wrong, but if
you tried every great new idea that they espoused, you'd be overhauling your training
every month. The Yasso's do seem to work, however, provided you don't run them too
often. The original article can be found
Yasso 800's are 10x800 at your marathon time divided by 60 with equal recovery. So, if
you want to run a marathon in 3:15:00, you run 10x800@3:15 with 3:15 recovery. That's
a much longer interval workout than normally recommended (usually 5 or 6 800's is
plenty), but it helps develop the mental toughness to maintain a pace when you are
already feeling tired. It should still be intervals though. If you're going anaerobic and
gasping for breath on the last 2 or 3, you're going to fast and won't likely hold your pace
in a marathon.
Because it is a tough workout, I run Yasso's more as a predictor than as a regular part of
marathon training. Last night I ran them starting at 2:59 and then slowly worked down to
2:55. I find that working down from your goal time increases the chance of a successful
workout. If you start running into trouble halfway through, you can back off a bit and still
get in 10 good reps at your goal pace. If you don't run into trouble, you have the
confidence of running slightly faster. I'm hoping that by January, I'll be able to start at
around 2:56 and work down to around 2:53. My goal is to break 3 hours, and I'd like to
have a little breathing room.
The longest solo race I've done was a 24-hour bike race in Michigan many years ago (I
didn't like it much). More recently, I ran the Flatlander 12-hour run, which was a much
better experience. While both of those events were solo, they were marked course events
with other competitors and meet volunteers around.
The longest solo event I've done where I was really on my own was three hours and ten
minutes at the SLOC 3-hour last year (the 10-minute overtime costed me the win, too).
The longest solo adventure race I've done was under two hours.
All that is going to change in a few weeks. With Vicky racing with an old teammate and
Doug helping out the ThoughtProcess team, I entered the
Berryman Adventure in the solo category. Winning time is projected at around 15
I'm not really sure what to expect. On the one hand, it will be nice to not have to worry
about what anybody else is doing and just focus on getting through the course. On the
other hand, 15 hours is a long time to be out there on your own. Having teammates
around can really help with motivation when fatigue sets in.
There are those who would claim that solo adventure racing isn't adventure racing at all;
that teamwork is an integral part of the sport. I don't really disagree, but I wouldn't know
what else to call it, so I'll go ahead and call it solo adventure racing. Some other things
that will be different:
Paddling will be slower for sure. Two people in the boat are faster than one, even if the
one is a touring Kayak (which is what I'll be using). As paddling is still my weakest
discipline, I'll need to work hard to limit my losses there.
Running through the woods will be faster. Even if everybody on the team is equally good
at getting through the terrain (which is never true, but I've been on a few teams where we
were all pretty close), an individual can still do better than a group. The reason is that on
any leg there are micro route choices (this side of the fallen tree or that side) that make a
few seconds difference. Some members of the team will take different micro routes.
Those taking the slower route slow down the whole team. Staying single file solves this
to some extent, but then you have people getting whacked in the face with branches. If
everybody got a map, this would be offset by redundant navigation (top orienteers run in
packs in mass start races for just this reason). But, with only one set of maps, there's no
advantage to the group.
Finding controls will be a lot harder. On a true orienteering map with standard control
flags and good clues, I lose very little time approaching controls. On the rough maps of
adventure racing, having multiple people looking for the control (whatever that might be,
although I believe Berryman does use standard bags) is a big plus. Even though I'm
typically the lead navigator, I'm usually not the first person to spot the control.
It will be lonely. That's not necessarily a bad thing; solitude is one of the things I like
about endurance sports. My biggest fear is a serious problem with the course (like a badly
misplaced or missing control). In a team, you can huddle up and figure out what to do. If
that happens when I'm out there all alone, it will not be pleasant. Of course, the worst
case scenario would be a serious injury. Hopefully, I'll be close to the front of the race so
if I'm really in trouble, I can flag down another team for help.