Dare Mighty Things

"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

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Soggy 15k

Today was one of those days. I had planned to head back over to Bow Lake around lunchtime to run the actual race course...the one I mistakenly truncated last Sunday. The windblown rain made the 37 degree temps feel much cooler. I hate to be cold during a run, particularly a wet cold run. With a couple of extra layers I started out on the same counterclockwise pattern as last week. For me, the toughest part of a cold wet run is the first 2 minutes. Being wet is not nearly as bad as getting wet. Perhaps it was the extra clothing or the two late nights in a row, but I felt a little sluggish for the first 5-7 kms. Due to my less than adequate research last time I inadvertently took a wrong turn and missed a significant part of the course. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I got it right today. At approximately 8 km's the course began to gain elevation and it would climb roughly 100 meters in a little over 2 km's. I know that doesn't sound like much but after 8 km's and with 3 km's to go it was an impressive challenge. My pace slowed considerably as I kept my head down in the wind and attempted to stay focused on plugging away. I kept telling myself that today's challenge was giving me a psychological advantage over those runners who will experience this hill for the first time on race day. By the time I hit Tasker Hill I could feel the effects of 1.) my cold weather layers and 2.) the rain. I must have easily been carrying an extra 5 lbs. of wet clothing and to add insult to injury the overhand knot on the waist of my Ibex cold weather pants loosened and I ran the last 1.5 km's hiking them up every 15 strides. Very efficient indeed. In some strange twist of nature the wind blew in my face the entire way. That figured. I clocked in at 1:04:52 (6:57's). Considering the weather conditions, my training state, and my saggy wet pants I'd say that's pretty good. Time to move on to slightly longer challenges as I prepare for the Pineland Farms 25k Trail Challenge on Memorial Day weekend. Looking back at the last two years, I'll probably need to run sub 1:52:00 (~7:15's) to have a shot at a Top 10 finish. My PB on that course is 1:54:41 set in 2007 (15th overall). I've got some work to do, but I feel pretty good about my training to date. One more "on" week in this cycle.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Warrior Workout

I can't resist. Like any self-respecting endurance blogger I must open up my "training journal" and let everyone take a peek inside. But first...my take on a recent fitness "phenomena" ("gimmick" sounds sort of negative). I've read and heard a great deal of chatter lately about a very popular exercise program available through the TV. As an exercise physiologist this stuff is what I do. I'm sure you've seen it on TV and you probably know someone who's "doing it". You know what I'm talking about, it begins with "P" and ends with "X" and has a number between 89-91 in the middle. I hesitate to call it out by name for fear of some twisted cyber-fitness retaliation. Enough said. Don't get me wrong, I've paused countless times on the infocommercial. Who hasn't? It's really pretty tempting stuff. The packaging is nothing short of brilliant. Perhaps I'm bitter that I didn't sell this to the right people 5 years ago when I started doing it. Wait, me a generation X'er you ask? No, I was doing the real McCoy before muscle confusion made it into the popular vernacular. Don't be confused, any exercise system will work if there is an unconditional commitment to it's execution. The real question is this...what exactly does "work" mean? I read a great deal about getting "ripped" on their advertising materials, but is that really what endurance athletes are after from their resistance training routines? Does being "ripped" equate to injury free metabolically efficient performance? If you look great on the beach does that mean PR's at your local trail race? When this system's time has come and gone, what's next? Tell you what I'll do...I'll see your slickly packaged beach body exercise routine and I'll raise you one movie-based popular exercise system! That's right, the 300 Workout! Riddle me this, who looks better on the beach than a Spartan warrior? All kidding aside, when I heard about this exercise routine last summer I was admittedly skeptical. Very skeptical. Then I tried it and it happened, I became a believer...of sorts. The original workout is based on a series of six movements (the pull-ups are repeated) and 300 total reps. After running through it for a couple of weeks I thought it was interesting, but probably lacked the lumbo-pelvic-hip stabilization work that I feel is crucial to a solid endurance performance foundation. So like any decent exercise physiologist I went to work and tweeked it creating what I now believe is the optimal resistance training system for...me. Wait, surprised I'm not touting this as the "best thing since remote control television"? Don't be. What works for me probably won't work for you, but you may be able to lift one or two nuggets and apply them to your own programs. So, without further adieu I present Workout #1 of my own Warrior Workout;

1.) Rope crunch
2.) Pull-ups [narrow, wide, parallel, and underhand grip]
3.) Torso twist (physioball/medicine ball)
4.) Deadlift (dumbbells)
5.) Back matrix (physioball) [chop, flye, and scap retraction]
6.) Push-ups [military, lateral twist, split reptile walk, and inverted]
7.) Bicycle crunch
8.) Side step-UP to reverse lunge
9.) Scorpion twist (physioball)
10.) Floor wipers
11.) Hip extension (roman chair)
12.) Clean & press (kettlebell)
13.) Standing cable chop
14.) Bicep curl/tricep press [I often race sleeveless...pure vanity]
15.) Pilates full crunch

*Each exercise is performed for 20 repetitions.

I have actually designed four separate workouts with all different exercises and I rotate through them sequentially. These workouts take roughly 45-60 minutes and are performed only twice a week. I am an endurance athlete after all not a power lifter.

Credit is where credit belongs. One of my favorite websites for new exercises is maintained by fitness guru Ron Jones and of course the inspiration for this madness comes from the original 300 Workout...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bow Lake 15k

Although today is technically the last day of this first transition cycle, I decided to head over to Bow Lake and check out the course for the first annual Bow Lake Dam 15k scheduled for June 13th. The idea sprang from my new favorite website...MapMyRun.com. Seems as though I'm often the last one to the party with these cool running aps. Over a morning cup of Mt. Tam Blend from Club Caffeine Karen & I discussed our individual running plans for the morning. She planned to do her out and back up Mile Hill Road (aptly named and fiendishly climby) but wondered out loud exactly how far it was. That's when I remembered the MapMyRun.com website and in a couple of clicks I had her answer...11 right on the nose. I've got to give her a lot of credit, she's really embraced running hills. However, if you live in our neck of the woods you'd better embrace it or find another recreational pursuit. Strafford County has got to be one of the hillest in the entire state not named Carroll or Grafton. I must have spent close to two hours this morning busily mapping each of the loops we run...Donkey (6.04), 3 Town (8.34), and Pond Hill (8.56) to name a few. Really cool running ap that I'm amazed I hadn't checked out before. Anyway, while surfing around I searched the archive of existing maps in our area and low and behold there was a loop around Bow Lake. We've both openly talked about trying to loop the lake. Some industrious soul had done the work for us! I studied the map and sketched a rudimentary map just in case. I had run Donkey last week and felt pretty good. Last May I entered the Pineland Farms 25k Trail Challenge a little too confident and a lot too undertrained and had my arse handed to me by a course that takes no quarter. Knowing I had come up woefully short on my hard long runs last March-May I knew I needed to get my mileage up sooner than later. The Bow Lake loop would allow me to get a hard hilly 8+ in and get an advanced scouting report on the course I plan to race in June. Although not unfamiliar with the lake (we drive by it every time we head over to CBNA) I've not spent much time on the northeast side. I parked at the dam and headed out in a counterclockwise direction saving the infamous Tasker Hill Road as a descent. There was no way that the race would loop with Tasker as a climb...just no way. Province Road rolls along on the northeast side of the lake. This is going to be a gorgeous loop this summer. I took the first two miles or so to warm-up, torn between the concepts of "long" and "fast". When my legs finally came around I cruised the next three miles capturing every opportunity to glance over my left shoulder at the lake. Did I mention this is going to be a beautiful loop this summer? Shortly after taking the turn onto Bennett Bridge Road I anticipated the start of the climbing. What I didn't anticipate was that the road would end. Lake roads can often be a maze of dead end streets terminating in quaint little clusters of 3-season camps. Up to this point I was running very strong and the prospect of a sub-7 effort was very much in play. Then it happened. I probed a road that I knew was wrong and quickly turned around when I arrived in a driveway. For a moment I thought about turning around and running back in the same direction. But I quickly did the math and estimated my conservative 8 miler would now become more like 10. Not what I had in mind and probably a recipe for problems. As I doubled back and forth at the exact location that the road seemed to dead end I noticed a guy working in his garage and against my male instinct asked for directions. Thankfully, I soon learned the road didn't in fact dead end...but instead, became a snow covered jeep road that he called a "town road". Sub-7 was now just an afterthought as I gingerly danced over 1.5 feet of packed snow trying my best not to posthole as I finished most of the climbing the loop had to offer. I'm now a trail runner forced to the road out of convention, but I must admit that asphalt never looked so inviting. Picking up the pace I raced down Tasker Hill and finished with a kick back to the dam. Not sure why, after stopping to ask directions, but I stopped my watch when I finished. 1:02:something for 8.2 miles. 7:37's is really pretty good if you figure I probably spent a total of 7 minutes getting lost and then found. The combination of not enough mileage and the backwoods "town road" that is Bennett Bridge Road made it somewhat obvious that this wasn't the official Bow Lake Dam 15k course. After lunch I e-mailed the RD and she sent me the map I've used at the top. Sure enough, the course doesn't run up BB Road. What a relief. I won't be back at Bow Lake next week, but I'll be back soon. And this time I'll know where I'm going, or at least where I've been.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The next challenge

Monday, March 16, 2009

Has anyone seen my adventure race?

Like the TAB and shag carpeting, the 12-hour adventure race here in New England is becoming endangered. Our friends at Racing Ahead announced last week that they are "postponing" their mid-May adventure weekend at Pawtuckway State Park which was to include the only 12-hour adventure race on our schedule in 2009 (the Frigid Infliction notwithstanding). And to my knowledge, aside from the GMARA's Bitter Pill AR (which doesn't fit my schedule), one of the only 12-hour adventure races in New England...period. With my decision last Friday to forgo the NYARA's Longest Day & Night Adventure Race due to cost, my "Slow Twitch Decathlon" bid is now in need of a tenth endurance sport to add to the list if in fact Racing Ahead's NH-12 Adventure Race is scraped. Finally, after talking with Dwight we've decided to try and find another event to race together (with TLD&N crossed off the list). After a lengthy discussion, we are seriously considering the Peak Death Race in June. If we decide to go for it, Dwight will likely make history as the only person in the world to take on the Tough Guy and the Death Race in the same calendar year. The plan is to make a decision on the Death Race this week so we can begin "preparing" for the misery. Ultraendurance athlete extraordinaire, Ri Fahnestock wrote a great recap of the '08 event on our website. It can be viewed by clicking <<HERE>>. It's worth it for the pictures alone.

Picture credit: Chris, Steve, & Christine at the '08 NH-12 Adventure Race

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bottling Day

A month has passed since I first blogged about the birth of my 4th handcrafted creation. At that time, Unnamed #4, had just been boiled and transferred to the primary fermentor to begin it's journey. Fast forward to this afternoon and "bottling day" for the newest of my handcrafted ales...Blue Loon Belgian Wit. Truly a spring/summer ale, the Belgian Witbiers are traditionally a little cloudy and carry notes of coriander, bitter orange peel, and various other aromatics. A priming solution of 3/4 cup of cane sugar boiled in 1 pint of water was added to the bottling bucket and allowed to cool. Meanwhile, the siphoning and bottling equipment was sanitized. Because cleaning bottles can take quite a bit of time I actually did that yesterday. When the priming solution had cooled a little I siphoned the beer from the secondary fermentor to the bottling bucket and gently mixed the two together taking caution not to splash the solution. Once mixed, the bottling bucket was elevated and the bottles filled. For this batch I decided to use my liter EZ -cap bottles along with the smaller pint versions. Today's yield was just shy of 16 liters (or a little more than 1.5 cases). Two weeks of conditioning in the bottles and then the Blue Loon will be ready for consumption. Cheers!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Oh Glorious Rest

At the end of last year injury and illness forced me to take time off. Upon reflection, aside from the tick bite, the injury was on me. My lifestyle, interests, and physiology simply won't allow me to safely train hard for 10.5 months at this point in my life. That became painfully obvious. Not being able to run for 2 weeks and developing a blister on my foot from the night splint was all the motivation I needed to get it right this time around. As I planned my 2009 racing schedule I decided to break my training and racing into macrocycles with 2 week "transition" cycles scheduled in between. Although I already organize my training in 4 week mesocycles (with 3 weeks "on" and 1 week of "restoration") it was clear that I needed more planned periodic recovery. That's exactly where I am at the moment. Today is Day #3 of "Transition #1" and I'm happy to say that I feel 100% recovered from the Frigid Infliction this weekend. The plan is to drop my volume over the next two weeks by about 10% by principally adjusting duration(s). I'll also avoid speed work as it'll become a little less of a focus in the upcoming cycle anyway. As I look ahead the next few months will bring the Muddy Moose (14 miler), NH-12 Hour Adventure Race, and Pineland Farms 25k Trail Challenge. The next planned transition mesocycle will probably land around the second week in June before the summer push with a very busy July (24 Hours of Pats Peak & Pemi Wild Ultra), August (24HOGG & Great Adventure Challenge), and September (RTB) planned. There's no doubt that the most misunderstood and misused training variable is rest. I never did and never will, understand the "more is more" mentality. For me, I'll stick to the minimalist approach...train the very least to gain the very most.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Frigid Infliction Podium Finish(es)

Bolton Valley, VERMONT -- For the second consecutive year, acidotic RACING sent teams to the GMARA's Frigid Infliction Winter Adventure Race and came home with podium finishes. In fact, all three teams finished on the podium with two of our teams claiming division titles! acidotic RACING 2 (Sarah S. & Mike S.) captured a hard fought 2nd place finish in the 2-person co-ed division. Mike, in his first adventure race, showed incredible navigation skill and instinct. Several times during the race his calm analytical approach saved the three teams valuable time. Sarah once again displayed her unmatched backcountry skills and fitness in all four winter disciplines (snowshoeing, nordic skiing, post-holing, and tyrolean). She was easily one of the strongest competitors in the field. Ri & Jay M., our 2-person male entry, were by far the strongest and fastest acidotic RACING team. While the three teams worked together for the first few hours of the race, Ri & Jay pulled away after an efficient tyrolean traverse and never looked back. They gapped the other 2-male teams en route to a division title. Jay M., racing in his first adventure race, showed that his extensive background in endurance sports and his recent success in snowshoe racing were significant assets in the sport of winter AR. Ri, the ultimate multi-sport endurance machine, raced with a purpose from the jump and helped to drive all three teams forward to an early Top 10 position before he and Jay pulled away from the other acidotic entries to bid for an overall podium spot. Finally, our 3-male team consisting of veterans Jay & myself along with rookie Austin S. battled a host (well, one other) division entry to claim the first place prize. For his first adventure race, Austin didn't disappoint. We expected his alpine background would serve him well...and it did. He consistently led us during the skiing discipline and routinely put in additional km's by running to punch the passport. He was also incredibly strong throughout the entire event and displayed great teamwork by pulling without gapping even during the technical sections. Jay & I logged yet another adventure race together (perhaps our 10th or so...I should keep track but I don't). Team success is the ultimate determination of adventure racing performance. Based all of our podiums and expected Top 10 finishes we collectively represented as well as can be imagined. I could not have asked for a better group of individuals to wear our colors yesterday. I'm very proud of all of them. The smiles on everyone's faces at the finish was worth every moment of effort. On a personal note I was very pleased with my own performance. I had none of the health issues that have recently dogged me (cramping & achilles tendonitis). I felt as though my nutrition was very consistent. I drank close to 140 ounces in 10 hours and ate as much as I've ever eaten in a race of that length. My fitness was not a limiting factor and at times I felt as though I could have pushed harder. Looking ahead, there are 13 weeks before the Longest Day & Night Adventure Race. This will be our first 24 hour race. I'll use the 12-Hour AR at Pawtuckaway State Park in the middle of May as a tune up prior to the event.

As of this morning the overall results are not posted. I'll update the blog with the link when they're ready. I do have pictures up and they can be viewed on our Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/cobblemountain/sets/72157614968331488/. Below is a video clip from yesterday along with links to two others.

You Tube videos from the 2009 Frigid Infliction Winter Adventure Race:

Photo credits:
Jay M. on tyrolean (photo by Jim Dunn)
Austin, Jay D., & Chris at backcountry ski TA (photo by Jim Dunn)
Austin, Chris, Sarah, Jay D., & Mike at finish (photo by Jim Dunn)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Gear Check

Adventure racing is a gear intensive sport. Perhaps that's part of the reason I enjoy it so much? I really love everything about gear...collecting it, organizing it, checking it, double checking it, talking about it. You get the idea. The Frigid Infliction Winter Adventure Race is now less than 72 hours away and I am well within the "gear check" window. As far as everyone else in the family is concerned, the living room is not the ideal location for me to lay out my gear for this weekend. I am therefore relegated to the basement and my workbench. Two weeks ago you'd have been hard pressed to guess that's what was in fact buried underneath the mountainous collection of cardboard boxes, beer making equipment, and all other matter of the "miscellaneous" parts of my life that haphazardly collect there. Since the snowshoe racing season wrapped up and the adventure racing season was quickly approaching I found the motivation necessary to get things squared away on the old workbench/brewery. Above is a picture of some of the gear I'll bring with me this weekend. Not pictured is a duffel bag full of the clothes I'll use on race day. Over the past ten years of adventure racing we may not have gotten much faster, but we have figured out how to determine what we'll need to pack and what might be better left behind. My philosophy is to bring more than I'll need to the race, and then pack my bag the night before with those things that I absolutely can't live without. Generally, we'll pack the mandatory gear first and then systematically go through our individual "luxury" items and begin to take things out. The name of the game is to travel as lightly as possible without sacrificing fluids and nutrition. Tomorrow night will be the final run through gear check with Jay. [Dwight & I pictured at the 2008 Frigid Infliction]