July 15, 2014

Run Commuting

My friend Rob sent me this article from Outside Magazine last week: The Rise of Run Commuters.

I've run more miles than I've put on my jeep over the past four years, and the majority of those miles have been back and forth to work. I'd consider myself somewhat of an expert on run commuting.

Here are the things you need to pull this off successfully...
    Even generic brand plastic bags work great
  • Plastic bag. This keeps your work ID, and maybe a credit card or a few dollars, from getting sweaty. Sandwich/snack sized is fine, and each one should last you about 6 months. I don't bother carrying my cell phone with me on a daily basis.
  • Shorts / pants with a zipper pocket in the back. I recommend the Saucony Inferno split shorts, which have a perfect sized rear pocket.
  • Saucony running shoes. I suppose you could run in other shoes, but I'm not sure why you would want to even bother.
  • Access to a shower. I'm not exactly a Mr. Fancy-pants, but I think you should shower after running.
I've been run commuting ever since moving to Utah. My office is located about 5 miles from home via the most direct route, but I usually take a route with less traffic that is about 6 miles long. That is perfect for most afternoon runs. Since I usually run longer in the mornings, I'll add grass/dirt loops around two of the parks that I pass though along my way. On a typical ten mile run to work in the morning, half will be on soft surfaces. Not bad. 

Luckily there is a small employee fitness center located on the floor below my office, with two showers. That is the most crucial component to this entire process.

My office is in the building on the far right, and there is a Costco immediately behind it.
Is there a more scenic location for a Costco in the world?

When I'm doing simple base training, during a typical week I'll run commute four out of five days. Same holds true for marathon training, where I typically do just one workout during the week. On a "driving" day I'll bring a gym bag with several days' worth of clothes along with a bunch of food. I keep soap and a toothbrush in the bag. The following week I'll drive again and swap out a fresh gym bag with more clothes. It's pretty simple. I keep some extra non-perishable food in my desk (canned vegetables) along with some Powerbars (in case I run out of stuff I brought), and Costco is just across the street in an emergency situations where I need a gallon of peanut butter, a seventy two pound jar of sun dried tomatoes, or something like that.

During training periods where I find myself doing morning workouts at the track or on my tempo loop, I'll sometimes drive to work twice a week in those situations (on workout days) and run back and forth on recovery days.

Since driving to work takes around 15 minutes each way, I free up at least 30 minutes a day... but realistically it's a lot more than that - since I get right out the door and run in the afternoons (that's the ticket home, after all). If I went home first, I'd almost always find ways to waste time before getting in my second run... or potentially skip it! Run commuting makes finding the motivation to run doubles very, very easy... even when it's snowing or 105 degrees outside. You just get it done and don't think twice about it.

I know what you're thinking - nobody wants to run with a shirt in the summer, but you can't go in/out of an office building shirtless, no matter how much much of a bronzed god you are - what do you do about that? I've thought about stashing a shirt in the bushes outside of my building to put on when I arrive in the morning, then wear it out and stash it back outside for the following day. But I always worry it would disappear, and that isn't worth the risk. So during the hot summer months, I wrap a very light singlet around my waist when on my way to work and put it on at the end of the run before I go inside. Same deal, but opposite, in the afternoons.

The primary upside of the run commuting is that the White Wolf gets saved for weekends and trips to places where it really belongs, and hopefully it will last forever...

So, to summarize everything above: 1. Wear Saucony shoes, 2. Take a shower, 3. Treadmills aren't real running.

July 13, 2014

Mid-Mountain Trail

Labeling Andrea and I as intermediate level mountain bicyclists would probably be something of a stretch. We like riding from time to time, and obviously can climb well, but we generally prefer easier trails - especially on downhills. The smoother, the better!

Park City's Mid-Mountain trail is a pretty nice ride - we haven't ridden it in a few years, so we decided to check it out again this weekend. We started from Deer Valley's Silver Lake Lodge and rode north to the Canyons resort, then came back via the bike path. The section of the trail between Deer Valley and PCMR's boundary is the best - nice, smooth singletrack - most of it in the forest. The section between the Armstrong trail and the Canyons is a lot more rocky and somewhat annoying at times. So we'd recommend making a loop in the Deer Valley / Park City resort boundaries if you are like us and just enjoy cruising... and only doing the whole thing if you know how to handle a bicycle :-)

Ice cream cones are a necessity after being on the bike that long

July 8, 2014

Steamboat Springs

View of Steamboat Springs from the ski slopes

We went to Steamboat Springs for 5 days over the July 4th holiday. Despite living in Colorado for two years, I had never actually been to Steamboat. Now after less than a week there, I want to move there!

Below are some of the highlights. The BEST hike we did was the "Zirkel Circle" which got a post of it's own.

Zirkel Circle trip report and photos

Fish Creek Falls

280+ foot waterfall just a short walk from the parking lot. You can hike above the falls (the trail is steep!) to the upper falls and even more views.

Mt Werner

Steamboat's ski area has tons of trails for hiking and biking in the summer. One thing that is almost always true wherever there is a tram/gondola held true here - you can hike up and then take a free ride on the gondola back down.

Stagecoach Reservoir

Just a bit south of town, the reservoir has an awesome 10 mile dirt loop around the lake. Great place to run and bike.

Yampa River

The river was probably our favorite thing about Steamboat. It runs through the middle of town and really defines the area. It's a hub of activity and center of the area's fantastic bike path network. Easy access to fun river tubing was a highlight of the trip.

Zirkel Circle

Gilpin Lake in the heart of the Mt Zirkel Wilderness

Things that are awesome
: loop hikes, jagged mountain peaks, stream crossings, high alpine lakes, summer snow.

The "Zirkel Circle" loop has all of those things and more. Just North of Steamboat Springs, the hike links up Gilpin Creek and Gold Creek with a stop at (stunning) Gilpin Lake in the middle. It's a fairly easy day hike at 10-11 miles with just a tad over 2000 feet of elevation gain. We really enjoyed spending the day in the Mt Zirkel Wilderness and came away from this one feeling like we picked one of the best hikes in the Steamboat Springs area.

Trail map, directions, and other information.

June 27, 2014

Summer and Fall Plans

My last training / racing update was the lackluster end to the spring campaign. After a few weeks of mainly just run-commuting to/from work, I'm not quite ready to dive into training, but I'm starting to lay a mileage foundation and think about it again. I'll take a couple more easier weeks and then begin incorporating the early phase workouts in mid-July. I'm not going to try and jump the gun and rush my fitness - I think it's important to time a marathon buildup so you are hitting the race while still on an upward trajectory, instead of being in great shape but feeling like you are just hanging on.

If I feel like I'm starting to get in shape by the beginning of August and have confidence that I'm headed in the right direction, I'll stick with my original plan to run the Chicago Marathon. It's the most competitive (deepest) fall marathon at my level, and the course is ideal.

If for some reason I can't get myself going in time, the TOU / CIM double I did last Fall would be the backup plan. I love the TOU Marathon, but I don't see how I could squeeze it into "Plan A" with Chicago only 22 days later.

I'm not really planning on any target half-marathons for this summer and fall. I'll probably do a couple local races on the USATF-Utah road racing circuit (TOU 1/2 is always a favorite and this would be my 4th summer in a row running that race).

Saucony has me stocked up for logging some big summer miles...

June 12, 2014

Kinvara 5 - Best Kinvara Yet?

Isn't this a thing of beauty? It feels even better than it looks.
Sometimes it's hard to me to start the process of writing shoe reviews because I worry that people are just going to think - "well, of course he likes Saucony shoes, he runs for their team!" But I don't think I'm in the minority when I propose that the Kinvara 5 is the best iteration of this shoe yet.

Last year I had the opportunity to work with Saucony's lab as they "field tested" their prototypes of the Kinvara 5. We had lots and lots of runners wear the new models, provide feedback... then new prototypes came out, and the cycle was repeated. I can say with first-hand knowledge that Saucony really listened to what runners wanted in this Kinvara update.

The final result is something very special - I was impressed the minute I finally got to put a pair on in my size. The first word that came to mind was "luxurious." That is largely a function of the RunDry collar and PRO-LOCK fit system. The shoe fits like a racing flat, but is a little more plush - a shoe that feels fast but is suitable for everyday training. One thing I really love is that the forefoot feels just a tad bit wider - that provides a bit more room for the toes, and also a more stable platform for push-off.

I've been wearing the Kinvara since the shoe first came out. To be honest, up until this point, the original 1/2s were my favorite. I definitely really liked the 3/4s (and ran a lot in them!), but didn't necessarily love them.

Now, with the introduction of the Kinvara 5 - it's not even a contest. This new version of the Kinvara is my favorite running shoe of all-time... which is quite a statement to make after wearing them for 5 weeks, but I feel confident that assessment will hold true! Andrea agrees - she not only has worn previous versions of the Kinvara, but she also got to wear a lot of the Kinvara 5 prototype versions over the past year, and she says this is her favorite running shoe of all-time as well. We both don't even want to wear anything else on a day to day basis.

I still have Kinvara 2, 3, and 4 in my (extensive) rotation - the shoes just don't quit. But I might retire some of the older pairs now that the 5s are becoming the most desired shoe in the massive pile by our front door.

For tech specs, check the Saucony Blog: The 5th Generation of Fast

June 9, 2014

Spring Training #5 - An attempt to regroup - then the turtle icon appears!

Three straight turtle icons is bad news. Unless they are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Below are my key runs/workouts for the block of time between the Indy 500 half-marathon and the (early) termination of the Spring racing season. As I said here, it became obvious that the best-case scenario for Duluth was probably ~1:07 again, and I just didn't want to race there when I know I'm not anywhere near my best.

Week of May 5: 8K AT Tempo; 20 mile long run at Jeremy Ranch.

Week of May 12: AM 6 mile AT Tempo + PM 8 x 300m (1500); 10 x 600m (5K); 20 mile long run at Jeremy Ranch.

Week of May 19: LT Reps: 2 x 2.5 miles + 2 x 1 mile; 6 x 1000m + 6 mile AT Tempo.

Week of May 26: 20 mile LR at Jeremy Ranch; 12 x 400m; Bombed 3 x 2 mile (3 x 1); 20 mile LR at Jeremy Ranch.

Week of June 2: Bombed 15 x 1 minute fartlek; The End.

After running 1:07:00 at Indianapolis, I panicked - jacked up my mileage for no reason, lost confidence in myself, and generally fell apart. What started off as a mental hiccup turned into a physical one - my workouts got progressively slower throughout the month of May (hence the appearance of the turtle icon!). The fartlek on June 2nd was the (poison) icing on the cake - I jogged home from that one finally realizing I need to shut down my training for the spring. Compared to the rest of the training I did during the first four months of the year (post: #1 - #2 - #3 - #4) this was a very poor block of training, both in planning (ie. stupidly deviating from the plan) and execution. I got bloodwork done the day after my last bombed workout, and my Hematocrit and Ferritin were at all-time low levels.

So, a disappointing end to the spring... but I'll get back up from this. I'm going to take some downtime to re-charge mentally, then keep things very light/easy throughout June. When I feel ready to get back after it, I'll start building in July towards a fall marathon... hopefully Chicago if I can get my act back together... and run some of the local races in Utah during the summer.

May 15, 2014

Interview with Run Utah Magazine for USATF-Utah

I did a brief interview for the magazine on behalf of USATF-Utah. Check out the whole thing here: May-June 2014 issue of RUN UTAH Magazine.

UtahRunning.com, which publishes the magazine, has the best and most comprehensive race calendar in the state.

May 6, 2014

Spring Training #4 - Four weeks leading up to Indianapolis

Fourth installment in my training summaries. Previous posts: #1 - #2 - #3

Here are the key workouts for the past four weeks. Click the links for details/splits.

Week of April 7: - LT Shuffle: 10 x 3/1 minutes. I was coming off the Cherry Blossom 10 mile race on April 6th, so I was only planning one quality workout this week. The rest of the week was just easy miles and strides.

Week of April 14: 8 x 400m (1500); LT Shuffle: 8 x 5/1 minutes; 5 x 800m + 10 x 200m (3K/1500). A solid but not spectacular series of sessions. My splits in these workouts were very similar to the last time I ran some of these same exact workouts about a month before.

Week of April 21: LT Shuffle: 2 x 10/1 minutes (bombed workout); 8 x 600m + 6 x 400m + 4 x 200m (5K/3K/1500). The Tuesday workout was planned to be 4x10/1, but I had stomach issues and had to bag it. The Saturday track workout felt good... easy.

Week of April 28: 2 mile LT effort; Indianapolis 500 Festival Half Marathon (1:07:00, 16th place). I never felt sharp and got the pop in my legs as I tapered for the race. On Thursday I woke up with a very tight back and wondered if I could even race. Luckily I got it sorted out, but couldn't turn the week around and pull off a good race at the Indy Mini.

A disappointing race in Indianapolis...

Yeah, that didn't quite go as planned! I knew that sub-65 was probably not realistic at this point, but I did feel like my fitness was at a strong enough place to take down my PR.

Where did the long runs go?

The one thing you notice in this block of workouts is that I didn't have any long runs. I thought those long LT workouts (which are a total of ~18 miles with half of that mileage at LT effort or faster) would be enough to carry me through. The lack of aerobic long runs certainly wasn't the reason I ran 1:07:00, but I do know that I respond very well to that type of stimulus in training...

What adjustments will I make now?

One bad race doesn't mean the last two months of training were a bust. A number of factors contributed to a sub-par performance, and I know I'm in very good shape at the moment. However, I think you always need to be looking for ways to make beneficial adjustments. That being said, over the next month I plan to:

-Bring back the long runs (at Jeremy Ranch, the high-altitude, hilly dirt road that has helped me get very fit in the past)
-Drop the length/frequency of the LT workouts a bit. I've done a lot of them over the past couple months, so I don't need to hammer that system much more during this next block.
-Focus the multi-pace track sessions on 5000m pace.
-Increase my overall mileage. I've been living in the 90-100 miles/week range this year, after years of putting in 120-140 mpw during important training cycles. I'm very healthy at the moment, so I plan to ramp up the mileage for the next month. High mileage training is what I thrive on, and what gives me the most confidence going into races.

The big target race for the remainder of the spring is the Bjorklund Half-Marathon in Duluth on June 21st. I feel like I need a couple tune-up races before that one, so at the moment I'm planning to (change my race schedule AGAIN) and run a 5000m on June 7th (Jim Bush USATF West Regions Champs) and a 10,000m on June 14th (Portland Track Festival). The challenge is 3 PRs in 15 days.

My log for the whole month of April.. we got in lots of good skiing!

May 4, 2014

Indianapolis 500 Festival Half Marathon (The "Mini")

1:07:00, 16th place.

This one gets classified as a total BOMB. I've written up a race recap below, and kept it light because this is probably one of the worse races I've traveled for in a long time (ever?). These things happen. I'll make a few tweaks to my training - put in another solid block of training and be ready to deliver next month in Duluth. In a few days I'll post an analysis of training leading up to this race. I figured, even on a bad day, I'd be able to break 1:06, so this sort of came as an (unpleasant) surprise.

My report on Fast Running Blog:

I did not have it today. I could probably find some excuses about stuff going on that affected my performance, but the fact is that I ran 1:07 (on the dot - again!) which isn't something I should ever be doing at this point in my life. It's not acceptable. I am glad I have one more shot at a half-marathon this spring and 7 weeks to train for it before turning my attention to 26.2; I intend to knock one out of the park in Duluth and redeem myself for what has been a disturbing trend of solid training and poor racing. Ultimately, I judge my running based on actual race performances, and don't get any satisfaction about what I could/should have been able to do. The stopwatch and tape measure never lie.

The last time I was in Indianapolis, I got beat by Michael Jordan. On Thursday night I got a text message from a guy named Steve Kerr - "Hey Jake, I'll be picking you up at the airport tomorrow." You can't make this stuff up! Indianapolis-ans must have been secretly rooting for the Bulls during the 90s.

The Indy Mini is a pretty cool event - the biggest half-marathon in the USA with 38,000 runners! In addition to being a bucket list item for the masses, they also put together an impressive prize money purse which draws out a very competitive field of athletes. The course is nice and flat, as you'd expect in the Midwest... and why I keep coming here to run.

Almost 2.5 miles of the race is on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - which I had heard was a very lonely place... but it wasn't too bad - it just reminded me of my boring tempo loop! I actually wouldn't mind doing workouts there.

The RDs were very accommodating, and put me in a nice hotel (with my friend Paul) the night before the race. We burned the midnight oil until the clock hit 8:30pm (6:30pm our time) and then hit the sack.

I felt flat from the start of the race (on our warmup too) and never really got going, despite a more conservative start compared to other half-marathons I've run.

Splits: 5:02, 4:59, 5:09, 4:57, 5:13, 5:08, 5:05, 5:16, 5:05, 5:14, 5:02, 5:12, 5:06, :27 = 1:07:00

I knew going into this that I wasn't going after 65... but I figured I had a good shot at cracking 66 and taking down my PR. That race in Long Beach just doesn't want to give up it's spot on my sidebar!

On a positive note, I was able to beat Michael Jordan this time.

The top pack ran fast - 6 guys under 1:03! [Results]. Kenyans dominated. I think I was the 3rd American - in 16th place overall.

After the race I had a ton of time to kill before a 7:45pm flight home. I ended up at the hotel gym doing a lot of stretching while Frank Shorter was riding the stationary bike. I should have introduced myself, but I was afraid he would ask how I ran. Later, at the airport, Frank kept walking past me in the terminal, rubbing it in! He won the original Indy Mini, back when it started and finished on the track.

The craziest part of the day was the ride from the hotel back to the airport. I got picked up by Bill Cartwright, Stacey King, and Horace Grant. But not the Indianapolis versions... the real Chicago Bulls. I take it as a good omen from the universe that running the Chicago Marathon this fall is the right choice. Like I said, you just can't make this stuff up!

OK I made the last part up.