"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." -Teddy Roosevelt
Full disclosure first...Kahtoola is sponsoring our three snowshoe races this winter. However, I will admit that I race in another brand and probably have nearly every snowshoe manufacturer represented in my garage. Even a pair of Tubbs circa 1930. The conditions for this afternoon's workout at Mt. Blue Job were best described as a 'tweener'...somewhere between needing snowshoes and not. The 1-2 inches of snow overnight and cold temps today helped to cover the icy rail with a serviceable surface. The inevitable and predicable bare spots still persisted however, particularly in the open easterly facing areas. Here is where the '08 KahtoolaFLIGHTdeck set-up with the FLIGHTboots was perfect. My ASICS running shoes slipped right into the overboot which are designed with a crampon-type bottom and binding which "clips" into the snowshoe. Literally, I was running in the snowshoes until I hit a bare icy spot at which time I clipped out of the snowshoes and within seconds was running with the snowshoe in my hands. No fuss, no muss, no straps...pull the lever and the boot pops right out of the binding. And, what's most impressive is the fact that after running through an icy creek, mud, and more snow I was able to clip right back into the binding without a hitch. Try that with your snowshoes. By their own admission, these folks aren't ready for the hardcore race scene yet, but to be very honest with you...they don't need to be. They've got a fantastic product that performs exactly as advertised. Now I just hope my brother doesn't want his snowshoes back.
It with great anticipation (and more than a little trepidation) that I announce I am returning to competitive Nordic skiing after a 27 year "retirement". [That's me in the picture to the left (#89) at the Pale & Peddle in Henniker, NH in January of 1979. Notice my "little bro" Jay, #38]. How could I have known at 13 years of age that I would miss the sport as much as I did? Part of the reason for my initial retirement was so that I could focus on basketball and be with my friends Dwight and Thom. [Not to mention, chicks dug guys who could ball...and much to my surprise I later found out that didn't mean 'cry like a mama's boy']. Back in the day, the Bill Koch ski league was a great outlet for my budding endurance sport passion. For the better part of 4 winters I raced in and around Northern New England in the race series named after the first great American cross-country skier (and Brattleboro, VT native), Bill Koch. Later, as an exercise physiologist, I would marvel at the superhuman metabolic engines of world-class cross country skiers with their VO2max's of 75+. As as endurance sport, in my book, it has no rivals. I've always thought that if given the chance to be any Olympic athlete I would be a Nordic skier. You can take your Michael's...Phelps, Johnson, and Jordan. For me, the greatest athlete of all-time will always be Bjørn Dæhlie (Google that one...). A special thanks to my mother who saved these great photos all these years!
You'd think that as an exercise physiologist, multi-sport endurance athlete, and owner of racing team I, of all people, should have no trouble finding motivation to grab a workout on a snowy New Hampshire weekend. Well, the past 48 hours came and went and about all I can claim in my "training log" is a meager 20 minute ice-crusted road shuffle followed by 10 minutes of running around the backyard in my '08 'retired' snowshoes on Saturday. Thanks to fellow teammate Steve Wolfe I did fashion myself a pair of screwshoes (after my pathetic shuffle) but even that wasn't enough to get my sorry rear end outside for some exercise today. I've got a 30k Nordic race at the end of January and if I don't turn things around soon it's going to start keeping me awake at night. Lack of snow was officially crossed off the excuses list today. Tomorrow is the beginning of my first restorative week, but I honestly feel like I've had three weeks of restorative. As planned however I'll weigh-in tomorrow afternoon and face the music. This is suppose to motivate me. I think I'll bring the screwshoes to work tomorrow just in case...the roads are still a little messy.
It's starting to become evident that my lingering Achilles tendonitis isn't getting any better. In fact, 24 hours ago it was bad as it's been in months. Monday's run was really not that fast, although as soon as I got back to work I realized that I had crossed some imaginary (seemingly random) threshold. I walked with a noticeable limp the rest of the day...and all day Tuesday. Although today is typically a run day, I had decided last night to use the x-trainer at the gym. That dreaded device for me means one of two things...either the roads are impassable or I'm hurt. I can run for 2 hours in the woods and it seems like 20 minutes. Without my iPod there's no way I can stand 10 minutes on that thing. My feet went numb but I managed 30 minutes. This is the last "on" week of the first cycle and after my restoration week I think I'm going to go back to the drawing board and come up with a little different strategy. How much up tempo running does it really take to prepare for a 30k XC ski race?
Although not a single point has ever been scored in the new Granite State Snowshoe Series, it seems as though we're already the "favorites". At least that's my athleto-centric interpretation of the snowshoe racing world now that there's one more team in the mix, Dungeon Rock Racing. Although these folks are the "new kids on the block", don't mistake this group as a bunch of winter neophytes. A very good friend of acidotic RACING, Bill Morse of Team WMAC, apparently got a little tired of getting snow kicked in his face so he and his WMACbrethren have teamed up with a couple of smaller snowshoe racing teams (ie. Wicked Racing and Comprehensive Racing) to form an ubersnowshoe racing conglomerate. In classic Holtzian style, Morse is downplaying his team's chances while discreetly raising our expectations by implying that we are in fact the team to beat. While we may disagree about who is or isn't the favorite this winter, the one thing we can agree on is that team competition will make snowshoe racing in the Granite State Snowshoe Series even more enjoyable.
December 6th is really early for me to be "racing" at the 5k distance. Heck, I'm less than a week into my first mesocycle of '09. Having 1.) already done Tabata's on Wednesday, 2.) still having pain every day, and 3.) beginning to prepare for a 30k nordic race at the end of January I thought it would be wise to turn the event into a "long" training unit. Christine's Crusade 5k Trail Run presented by TEVA was an event that we were supporting behind the scenes with volunteers and event management consultation. The RD, 'Drea McCusker, is a teammate of ours and her sister is the namesake of the event. My two oldest and I arrived early to help fellow teammate, Steve McCusker (husband of the RD), set up. My car thermometer read 16 degrees when we pulled into the PCA campus in Dover. I felt pretty good about the decision to set the course the day before as the ground had frozen pretty solid overnight. After setting up I decided to begin the first of 5 loops I planned to do on the course. I wanted to get in somewhere in the ballpark of 7-9 miles that morning. At the beginning of the second lap I spotted local elite runner Jim Johnson scouting the course in the opposite direction. I had not met Jim before, but learned of him through another teammates blog and had begun to follow him through his own entries. After introducing myself he was gracious enough to switch directions and finish his warm-up with me. By the way, that would be the last time we'd run together that morning...more on that later. Jim discussed a little of his background, his current team (Central Mass Striders), and his plans for the coming snowshoe racing season. While we ran and talked we met up with another local elite runner, Tim Cox of PR Racing. Tim, his fellow coach Brent Tkaczyk, and a strong showing of their CBNA track & field program were there to race and support the cause. Turns out that Tim and Jim knew of each other but hadn't actually formally met. Those two would battle, along with Mainer Bob Winn, for the lead with Jim ultimately pulling away and winning the event. Having already run 3.5 before the start of the race and not really needing to run the next 3.5 hard I forced myself to hold back when the "GO!" command was given and the race began. To be honest, I probably ran a negative split on Lap #4 overall as my competitive juices flowed and I saw a number of friends and acquaintances ahead of me and within "striking' distance. Within 200 meters of the finish I finally caught former UNH prof Bob Kenefick and ran with him to the tape. Can't remember the last time I crossed a finish line and neither looked at the clock or my watch...I still had another loop to run. When I looked at the results later in the day I actually ran 7:17's. Not bad. I lingered in the finish area for a few minutes, drank a couple of cups of HEED, and went out to sweep the course for my final 'glory lap'. Although the course was mostly flat, it was the longest I had run in a couple of months and I really didn't have any significant pain issues while I was moving. This morning was a different story unfortunately. Predictable soreness in my left AT which renders me hobbled for the first 30 minutes or so when I get out of bed. I think I'm probably going to go back to the boot and perhaps a week or so of the 800 mg of IBU daily. It probably also wouldn't hurt to get back into the habit of my Hammer Nutrition Whey just before bed in an effort to promote protein catabolism and tissue repair. The first week of training went pretty well. Taking today as a zero day before hitting it hard again tomorrow. My first race of '09 is six weeks away. Plenty of time.
Nearly everything from my waist down hurt this morning. It's mornings like these I wish humans had never invented stairs. The soreness in my adductors (and my AT) did prove at least one important thing...my transition period was perfect. In reality, it was probably the change in approach in the gym that made my adductors angry. Either way, it's a good sign. My typical approach on Wednesday is some sort of "speed" work. I've got less than 30 minutes to spend during my lunch break so I need to optimize my time. From April through August I'll use the BHS track to do any number of a half dozen workouts I've designed. Okay, that I've "borrowed" from Runner's World. That's not important. With winter looming and the track probably only available for another 4 weeks or so it doesn't make sense to me to start something and then switch to something else. That's why this time of the year I do Tabata Intervals on Wednesday's. Or, as they are otherwise known as...4 Minutes of Hell. Originally developed for the Japanese speed skating team, researcher Dr. IzumiTabata published a study of the technique in a 1996 issue of Medicine & Science In Sport & Exercise. Essentially, Dr. Tabata determined that a high-intensity training protocol of eight sets of 20 seconds of maximal effort (170% VO2 max) followed by 10 seconds of active recovery resulted in a 28% increase in anaerobic capacity and a 7 ml/kg/min increase in VO2max. It was one of the first studies to demonstrate a simultaneous increase in both anaerobic and aerobic capacity with one single training method. I began using this technique last winter when the track was covered in 4 feet of snow. While there is little doubt that the sports I enjoy training for and racing are predominately aerobic, to ignore the anaerobic contribution of a killer climb, a mid-race surge, or a final kick is at my own performance peril. Tabata's, by definition (170% VO2max), are suppose to be agonizing. In fact, if they aren't you're probably not doing them intensely enough. Any more than one of these workouts a week takes away from priority aerobic training and significantly increases the likelihood of overreaching issues. I did seven reps today and felt pretty happy with that performance. I may sleep downstairs tonight.
Now the heavy lifting begins. All in all it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. Honestly though, I always think it's going to be really bad. In my mind I was suppose to be happy if I was under 180 lbs. and 15% body fat. After 6 weeks of drinking 5 gallons of my first handcrafted ale, Hail Mary Ale, I'm thinking I should try to figure out how to brew 'lite' beer. I came in 3 lbs. heavier and almost 3% higher then in September during my last macrocycle. My trusty Tanita told the story...
177.4 lbs. 11.3% body fat
I've got high school buddies that would trade me that in a heart beat. For me, I've got to get lighter and leaner. The bright side is today is only December 1st. From now on, my training comes in 4 week cycles. I visit Ms. Tanita at the end of every cycle. The goal for next weigh-in is <176 lbs. and <11.0% body fat. The hard part will be figuring out how to drink the same amount of beer and eat less.
"Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction." - William James