Ultra Distance

So I decided to take a few weeks off of the writing thing. I realized that keeping a set day to write made it feel like a chore and thus I started to feel guilty for not writing on my set day. And two weeks went by. But, that’s how this should be. Writing should come from the heart and soul and shouldn’t be a forced activity. I write for me.

That said, the last two weeks have been great! I am slowly bumping up the mileage and this last week topped out at about 28 miles for the week. Soon enough I will be at 30 and beyond. Which, I must note, is pretty crazy to think about, considering that I never considered myself a runner. Heck, there have even been times in my life where I would say I hated running. Funny how things change.

While ramping up the mileage I looked for training plans. Some for marathon distance. Some for half marathon distance. Some for beginners. Some for intermediates. It was all just too much. I have a very finite amount of time in which to run. That would be the few hours before work and the hour or so after. Going out for fartlek (seriously…?) runs or anything else too fancy just doesn’t work since I commute and run at the same time. This means I am carrying a backpack with food, clothing, and everything else I need for the day.

I happened to be talking to a friend of mine who is a very accomplished marathoner and half marathoner (we’re talking a masters level runner who has PR’s in the 1:10 range for a half and the 2:30 range for a full. He gave me the best advice and training plan I’ve heard yet. During his 10 years of competitive running (30+ races per year) they followed a plan of no more than 10% extra mileage per week. So, there it is. I am just going to run and not exceed 10% of the volume that I did the week before. Simple. Eventually I will get more fancy, but running is one of the most simple sports around. I want to keep it that way.

So, why all this running? Initially I was running with the end goal of commuting through the winter while my road bike hibernates. But it ended up being fun and rewarding, plus, I wasn’t going to meet my goal of running a half marathon in 2018 if I didn’t start running at some point. Well, a few weeks ago I did 11.5 in the mountains in a decent time and realized that a half was doable. Around the same time I was listening to a favorite podcast of mine, Trail Manners. They are a local (to Utah) duo that pod about trail and…dare I say it…ultra running. They happened to discuss a race that I was already aware of, but hadn’t really thought about. It is in Montana, in a place that is dear to my heart. And the shortest distance is 55k. Or 34 miles.

Wait…what!? So I’m going to go from a morbidly obese male, to a cycle commuter, to a run commuter, to an ultra runner…by July 2018? Apparently that’s what I told myself. And for now I’m drinking the cool-aid. Registration opens in November and will sell out in December, so in a few weeks I get to put my money where my mouth is. And then I get to put my feet where the money is.

It’s funny, initially I wanted to keep this a secret. I didn’t want to tell anyone because I was afraid of failing. I didn’t want to be the “last joker” on course so I wanted to wait until I could at least be second to last. But then I watched a REI video, The Mirnavator, that changed my mind.

Beaverhead Endurance Runs…here I come. Slowly.

 Oh yeah, the weight loss. September was awesome, 6 pounds down for the month! That brought me to 80 pounds total and hit the point where I had to refresh the whole wardrobe, so there‚Äôs that!

Long Run…?

Well that was fun!

Last week I wrote about why this blog exists, read that here. Simply put…I got made fun of on a run and instead of getting angry I decided to channel that energy into writing.

At the end of that post I mentioned a 12 mile adventure that a friend and I would be undertaking. If you are from Utah, that would be the Wasatch Crest Trail from Guardsman’s Pass down to Big Water in Millcreek Canyon. If you are here local-or if you ever find yourself in Salt Lake City-do yourself a favor and research this trail and go for a run! There was quite a bit of back-and-forth driving because we did this as a point-to-point, but, it is one that will be at minimum an annual excursion. You can see the full trip stats and pictures here!

The trail starts at a pass overlooking the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon as well as the Heber valley. It is what I would call gentle, with a few good climbs but only 900′ of total vert over our 11 or so miles. You do, however, lose roughly 2200′, so make sure your knees are feelin’ it that morning! On even numbered days you will share the trail with mountain bikers, which we did…on a holiday. And, despite what you might think, it wasn’t that bad. You can hear the bikes screaming down the trail and have plenty of opportunity to bail out of the way.

One of the things I enjoy about getting out on the trails is the sense of community that exists, even when you are meeting someone for the first time. This trip was definitely no exception. We ran into the crew from Balanced Art Multisport, an elite triathlon training powerhouse. A few of them were kind enough to share some miles with us, even though they are way more capable of crushing than I am. A bit later down the trail a group of bikers rolled past and asked us to keep our eyes open for an iPhone, which, about 10 minutes later, my friend snagged from the bushes! Needless to say, when we finally got in touch with them they were stoked! Aside from these experiences, pretty much everyone you meet on a trail will at least acknowledge your existence and say “hi.” They aren’t stuck in a device (I’m sure I’ll talk about the growing trend of being in the mountains with headphones in or worse yet a speaker blasting) or feel too insecure to make eye contact like we so often see on sidewalks or in elevators. Just make sure you return the favor, it makes the experience better for everyone!

If there was one special experience from this run, it is the confidence I gained. I have had a somewhat secret goal to run a half marathon by the end of 2018. There have been moments in the last year when I thought that would be impossible; times when I contemplated allowing that goal to slip away quietly with no one but my wife and I being aware of the failure. After this run (we ran a total of between 7 and 8 of the 11 miles) I not only know that I can run a half next year, I know that I will be completing that goal. More to come on that in the future, because I still need to pick my race and get prepped.

To wrap up the running, this was my highest volume week. A whole 19.5 miles (yeah, I want that half mile recognized). As small as this seems, this is another huge accomplishment for me. Aside from being my highest volume running week ever, it serves as a proof of concept. I have been commuting on my bike since March, and with the fast approaching winter I knew that it was time to start running. My commutes will total 20 miles per week, which as recently as a week or two ago, I didn’t know if I could handle.

Finally, the weight loss. I have been averaging about 5 pounds of weight loss per month over the last 4-6 months. So far in September I am down about 1.7 pounds! I’m sure it would be a bit more but there have been some donuts and cookies-yes, plural-that were too good to pass up. Do I feel bad about those cookies and donuts? Maybe I feel bad for them, but definitely not because of them. Food and eating aren’t things to feel bad about. Rather, we should embrace them, acknowledge them, be mindful with and of them, and enjoy them. At the end of the day we need to be accountable as well. That accountability is to ourselves, not to anyone else, nor to the scale. So, I don’t feel bad about the donuts. I try to enjoy them and keep everything in perspective! Much like my running, weight loss is a long term game. Distance runners can rarely see the finish line at any point in a race until they are right at the very end. But, that finish line is there. It isn’t a moving target. Weight loss is exactly the same. In the middle of the process it seems like the finish line will never be there. And, for that matter, we even tend to lose sight of the starting line that we came from. So, take some time to walk and reflect on where you started, where you are, and remember that the finish line is out there!

See ya next week!