August 23, 2014

2014 Top of Utah Half Marathon

Photo from HJNews.com

2014 Top of Utah Half Marathon - 1:07:37 - 1st Place

I've said this before, but I love running the Top of Utah races! The courses are great, the competition is excellent, and the races are always very well-organized. After a hiatus of nearly four months from racing, it felt great to break the tape today at the TOU 1/2. This is the second time in three years that I've won this race.
Here's a shortened version of my FRB race report (that link has some more details / splits / wolf tattoo discussion) and some snippets from a local newspaper article follow at the bottom of this post.

My goals for this year's TOU 1/2 were:

1. Win
2. Finish the race strong
3. Continue to build overall momentum with my running

I'm not at the fitness level I've brought into this race previously (recent training summary), so I ignored the splits being spit out by my watch, and focused on running a smart race that would put me in position to accomplish all of the above goals.

Going down the canyon, I hung back to see who else would take the initiative. Jason led the early miles, while Fritz and Steve eventually moved up to him. According to the timing mat I was 17 seconds back of those guys at seven miles. I wasn't sure how I felt - not great, but not bad either. Then it seemed like Steve moved even further ahead and had a good sized lead on everyone. At the nine mile mark I was probably almost 30 seconds off the lead and needed to get moving. I passed Jason during the 10th mile, then Fritz during the 11th, and finally got Steve at the top of the Millville hill in mile 12. I had a good amount left in the legs and was able to stretch the lead out to a comfortable margin. It felt good to break the tape.

Obviously the time was a lot slower than I've run here in the past, but I'm not reading anything into that. For where I'm at right now, I got everything I wanted out of this race. One positive that sticks out is my attitude over the final miles. I had the chance (and contemplated taking it for a few minutes) to cruise in and use excuses like "it's your first race in a while" and "you've got a lot of miles under your legs recently" but instead I told myself "go get everyone" and I ran the last 3-4 miles exactly as I planned. I also remembered around that time that I had already spent the prize money on Thursday (another set of Dynafit bindings) so I had better win it back!
Jake Krong loves running in Cache Valley.
In fact, the Salt Lake City resident referred to the Top of Utah Half Marathon “definitely my favorite half marathon.” 
It’s hard to think Krong will change his mind as long as he keeps shining at one of the state’s most popular half marathons.
For the second time in four years, Krong reigned supreme at the TOU Half, which concluded Saturday at Zollinger Park. The 30-year-old came from behind to edge Steve Shepherd by 12 seconds. Krong covered the 13.1-mile course, which starts at the Hyrum Hydro Park up Blacksmith Fork Canyon, in 1 hour, 7 minutes, 37 seconds. 
“It’s my slowest time on the course, but I kind of knew that coming in that I was really just trying to run for the win today,” Krong said. “I kind of hit a low point in my training in May in June and had to take a little time off, and then I’ve been building back up. So, I knew I wasn’t as sharp as I’ve typically been. This is my first race in almost four months ... so it feels good to beat some quality runners, and I feel good about this moving forward to the fall marathons.”
Krong was unable to challenge his personal-best time of 1:05:39 on this course but, considering the time he took off, was pleased with his performance. The champion of the 2012 Top of Utah Marathon, who is currently training for the Chicago Marathon, actually trailed Shepherd, Fritz Van De Kamp and Jason Holt by 20-30 seconds for much of the first half of the course. 
“I didn’t worry about my watch today and just tried to catch guy by guy,” said Krong, who finished with a 5:08-per-mile clip. “And even with about four miles to go, Steve still had probably 25 seconds on me, so I really had to boogie up the Millville hill to catch him. And I finally took the lead in the last mile and ran just under five minutes for the last mile to win it.”
Cache Valley

Top 4 Men

August 21, 2014

Tennessee Wedding

Andrea and I at the new property we purchased
(we wish!)

A couple photos from a four day trip to Tennessee. This is apparently the stretch of time when our best childhood friends get married - Andrea's friend Meghan this past weekend, and my friend Mike's coming up next month. Makes for fun travel!

The wedding was at Crescent Bend on the Tennessee River

ALWAYS wear Saucony shoes. Even with a suit.
On Monday we walked around the Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville

August 20, 2014

Chicago Marathon Training #2 - Blue Collar Approach

"The schedule is pretty simple. We don’t have complicated workouts. We just do the basic 3-4 types of reps, the tempo run, and the long run with relatively high mileage. There are no drills; there is no core or lifting—any of that. I do put a little of that in myself, but from my standpoint you just need to be fit from running to be good at running." - Molly Huddle
A good quote that jives well with the approach I've been taking this summer. Here's a bunch of random but connected thoughts about my training for the past couple weeks.

My first Chicago Marathon training recap left off on July 27th (link). Since then, I've continued to make some nice progress:


After weeks of 115, 125, and 135 miles, I bumped it up just a bit over these past three weeks and did 135, 140, and 145 miles. I added one mile to the long run each week, and kept alternating between 200s on the track and 30 second hill reps once per week. Simple stuffI've continued to extend the length of the track intervals while progressively ratcheting up the pace a little bit each week. Workout details: 5 x 2000m3 x 3000m2 x 4000m1 x 5000m.

This weekend I'll run the Top of Utah Half Marathon - my favorite race in Utah and one where I've performed consistently well in the past (2011 - 1:05:40, 2nd; 2012 - 1:06:03, 1st; 2013 - 1:05:39, 2nd). I'm not in shape to challenge my course PR - my goal is to compete for the win, and continue to build momentum.

Another way to look at the first half of the buildup towards Chicago is this handy little chart...


Not impressively fast workouts by any means, but I'm staying very patient and looking for gradual, consistent improvements.

Bloodwork done a few weeks ago shows my levels moving back in the right direction after hitting a lowpoint in June:


This loop in Park City's South Snyderville Basin has become my new favorite long run:


August 4, 2014

San Francisco - Wine Country


I've been pretty fortunate this year in regards to work-related trips - in March I went to San Diego and Atlanta - and last week I had a meeting in San Francisco, conveniently scheduled for Thursday/Friday which allowed us to extend the trip into a long weekend with our friends Nate and Nora in the Bay Area.

For the first two days in San Francisco I primarily did my running along the Embarcadero (Fisherman's Wharf, etc) and did an out and back across the Golden Gate Bridge during a 23 mile long run. Over the weekend I did all of my running in Golden Gate Park, which has a ton of bike paths and cool trails.

Unfortunately the weather in the city was foggy and chilly for the majority of the weekend, so we headed north to the vineyards of Sonoma for sunshine and warmth... and (lots of) wine! 

The wineries we toured were Benziger Family Winery and Gundlach Bundschu.

We had a great time and are looking forward to another trip to the Bay Area at the end of September.

Blustery summer conditions in San Fran
Brunch at the Fremont Diner



Benziger Family Winery
Gunclach Bundschu Winery
These grapes were delicious to eat right off the vine

Lots of barrels, worth LOTS of money

Post-wine tour #2

July 29, 2014

Provo River Falls and Trial Lake

Andrea icing down in the Provo River

Pioneer Day(s) is one of the best parts of living in Utah - extra vacation time in July! Although we've never actually stayed in Utah during this time... 2010 - John Muir Trail, 2011 - Tennessee, 2012/2013 - Tetons. This year, however, we decided to stay closer to home since we'll be traveling a lot in August. We spent the 24th checking out the wildflowers in Little Cottonwood Canyon. And then after knocking out a long run in Park City, we headed up to the Uinta Mountains for the rest of the weekend and camped at Trial Lake. The higher altitude along the Mirror Lake Highway (~10,000 feet) provided cool temperatures, which were a nice break from the SLC valley furnace.

Provo River Falls


Trial Lake from our campsite



Sunset at Trial Lake
Lily Lakes

July 27, 2014

Chicago Marathon Training #1 - Laying Some Base

Knocking out a long run in Park City on July 26th

In my last training update, I was slowly starting to get back into the swing of things. The night I made that post, I got really sick, which put me in survival mode for a full week. I missed a few days because I could barely get out of bed, then really struggled to even complete easy runs for five more. On the way home from our trip to Steamboat Springs, I wondered whether it was even worth thinking about Chicago anymore. But then we counted the weeks and I realized I had a touch more time than I originally thought.

As I wrote on my log for July 8th...

For some reason I had an idea stuck in my head that Chicago was 12 weeks from July 4th weekend, and on the drive home from Steamboat we were discussing potentially shifting the timeline to a Nov/Dec target because my fitness is poor at the moment (May/June were definitely a regression) and it's going to take some time to rebuild. Then we actually counted and it turns out I have 14 weeks, which is a world of difference for me right now. I'm very motivated to get going, but I'm also essentially starting this buildup from scratch and need some more time before I start the workout cycle. Luckily I have two things going for me - I don't mind training in the heat, and I can handle jumping straight to 100 mile weeks as I start putting down a mileage base. With consistency and patience (lots of patience!), I think there is enough time to get ready for a marathon by October. I'm not going to repeat 2013's summer racing frenzy (it would be ugly, anyways). Gradual, incremental fitness progression is the primary objective for the rest of the summer... the more boring this looks, the better. 

First 7 weeks of summer training
The hair is coming back!

In the 3 weeks since I wrote that entry, things have started to come around. I've increased my mileage, knocked out some 20+ mile long runs, and started incorporating some track sessions such as 8 x 1000m and 6 x 1500m. As I move forward, I'll extend the length of the weekly track reps while hopefully dropping the pace. The long runs will stay easy (whatever easy means when you are running 20+ at 6-7K feet) for a few more weeks before I start adding some quality component to them, and I'll keep doing either some hill reps or short track reps once a week. It's a simple schedule, and my hope is that by the beginning of September, I'm fit enough to crank it up another notch.

It feels good to be knocking out 20 mile days again in the heat of the summer. This is my favorite time of the year to train. Some people hate the 100 degree afternoons, but I think they really provide a huge boost... when you toe the line on a crisp 45 degree morning in fall.

July 25, 2014

Peak Wildflowers


Late July is usually the peak time for wildflowers in the Central Wasatch, and this year is no exception. Get out and see them while you can! These photos were all taken in Snowbird's Mineral Basin, but my guess is that Alta's Albion Basin has an even greatly density of flowers and diversity of color. 



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