February 22, 2015

An actual winter day in Silver Fork!


Wow - it actually snowed this weekend (finally!), and was cold enough to justify putting on a jacket for the first time in about a month. Hopefully this is just a preview of our upcoming Miracle March and we'll have lots of powder days the rest of the spring.

We hit the Silver Fork Meadow Chutes for the some fun laps this morning...

This video of Andrea skiing sums it up pretty well:

A video posted by Jake Krong (@jkrong) on


Link to the video (if the embed code doesn't work)

And some photos - mainly skintrack stoke...







February 17, 2015

Saucony - Running shoes without the crazy

Today's New York Times had an article about the emergence of "maximal" shoes, with a big picture of a pair of Hokas. It was essentially the same article I remember reading 5-6 years ago if you swapped in the term "minimalist" and a photo of Vibram FiveFingers (or someone running barefoot on the sidewalk).

There is always going to be anecdotal evidence of something at the fringes working for a select group, and that's always going to make a lot of noise, because people love to gravitate towards anything that is new and at the extremes. I view running footwear like a pendulum - it may swing far to the left or right, but for the most part, the majority of runners will thrive wearing something that falls in the middle (and that's a big range).

Back when running barefoot with the Tarahumaras was all the rage, Saucony (somewhat) quietly launched the Kinvara, which in my opinion was and still is the best all-around running shoe ever made (the Kinvara 5 is the best iteration yet). I remember hearing the phrase "minimalism without the crazy" to describe the Kinvara and thinking that was spot-on. Lightweight, flexible, low drop, durable - everything you want out of a running shoe, and something that meets the demands of a lot of runners.

Now that the pendulum has shifted to the other extreme (maximum cushion), Saucony has once again responded to what consumers want, without getting nuts. I've been loving the Cortana 4 this winter - it's lighter and more cushioned than previous versions, and a bit more "plush" than the Kinvara. The new ISO series (especially the recently released Zealot) has very light, highly cushioned models that stay within the bounds of reasonable shoe geometry. Saucony's designs are backed up by actual research, not just the desire to create buzz.
Saucony Zealot - a full cushioned trainer without the crazy!

Competitor profiled the Saucony Lab a few week's ago. If you haven't seen this article yet, I'd recommend checking it out:

An Inside Look at Saucony's Innovation Lab

Some highlights...
“Minimalism was the consumer asking for something different. Our job is to figure out what they’re really asking for and then deliver it,” O’Malley says. “We can do that because we have no pressure to invent things here. We do have pressure to innovate. With an invention you start with the shoe, but with innovation you start with the runner. We innovate around the runner.” 
O’Malley says Saucony has “a very defined bullseye” and one that allows employees to be courageous. “We have to answer one question: ‘Does this make it better for the runner?’ And when that is your bullseye it gives you the courage to try things. When we want to take a risk we can get everyone in the room and debate it and ask the question ‘What is better for the runner?’ And that allows us to take calculated risks, more so than anywhere else I have been.”
On that note, I'm pleased to announce that I was selected for the 2015 Saucony Hurricane team. This will be my 5th year representing the best company in the business. I don't think I can ever imagine lacing up a different brand of shoes or donning another singlet. I'm very proud to be a part of their team.

February 16, 2015

Remember when it used to snow during the winter?

This infographic from the NWS is already outdated. We'll likely stretch this out to well over 50 days before anything changes. 

This morning I went back and looked at our blog's archives from Feb/Mar/Apr 2011. Holy hell, it snowed a lot that season! Every post had a sentence like "it snowed another 3-4 feet this week so..."

This winter has been dry and warm. Great for running (I've been running on soft surfaces all winter, and there's been no inversion this year either), not so great for slaying powder. Alta has only received 171" of snow so far this winter (average is 500").


Some recent posts from my favorite weather blogs put that in perspective...

Wasatch Weather Weenies: Alta vs Boston

Wasatch Snow Forecast talking about the outlook for a "Miracle March":
"...this pattern change will happen because if it doesn’t, Mother Nature is going to have to face the wrath of the entire ski/snowboard community of western North America!"

We're not going to let the lack of fresh snow keep us from being out in the mountains. There is always something awesome if you get out there and find it.

Evening skinning at Brighton

Timp at dusk

Searching for a Valentine's picnic spot...

Found it!


And at least there is low avalanche danger :-)
(which is great if you love bulletproof snow/ice and survival skiing)

February 9, 2015

2015 USA Cross Country Championships


2015 USA Cross Country Championships 12K - 40:42, 48th place

[Cross-post from FRB report]

The course was in excellent condition considering Boulder received significant snow last weekend, followed by warm and sunny weather (not to mentioned seven races before our race started at 1pm). The grass was a little spongy, but only muddy in a couple spots (including the ditch). There weren't any hills to speak of  (very nice) - the challenges were the altitude (5550') and the temperature (70s!).

I had a goal of breaking 41 minutes (6:50 per 2K lap). I knew the best strategy was to start at the back and just try and work my way up throughout the race. Passing people (opposed to being passed) builds momentum and positive energy. As you can see by the splits / place chart, I executed that plan about as well as I could have hoped to. There were 114 runners on the starting line, and almost all of them were ahead of me a few minutes into the race. On the first lap I just tried to avoid tripping, then kept moving up once it spread out a bit. I kept the effort very even for 11K, then picked it up and ran the last kilometer in 3:08. Maybe left a little too much left in the tank, but for my first race since Chicago, I wanted to err on the side of being conservative and be sure to finish strong.


I felt good about the effort and about running a smart race. Five weeks ago, I didn't think there was any way I'd even be in decent condition by now. I didn't get crazy, panic, or attempt to squeeze in a bunch of hard sessions to prepare specifically for this one. I just stuck to being sensible with my workouts (long-term vision) and let my body gradually adapt. I feel myself starting to come around now. I had a good steady-state run on the Tuesday before the race, so a nice week altogether.

That will be the theme as I continue to build towards London. I'm not expecting (nor attempting) any PR-fast tuneup races, and I'm not going to try and beat the big/benchmark workouts of prior training cycles. I believe that training accumulates over time and I've been at this for about four years now. If I stay consistent, healthy, and patient, I think I can time it right and be really fit in April... while continuing to have fun doing all the other things I love doing (ie. skiing a lot).

I'm glad I decided to open up the season in Boulder. There's always something worthwhile in running in national championship events. And there's something to be said about getting outside of your comfort zone (lacing up the spikes instead of flats) once in a while. I'll definitely make an effort to get to Bend over the next couple years for the upcoming cross country championships.

Andrea took lots of fantastic photos. She was all over the course with our friends from Colorado, who came to watch. Catching up with my friends from Vail was a major incentive for making the trip, and we ending up having a great weekend.

Full Results.

Photos...

Conner Mantz of Smithfield, UT dominated the Junior Mens 8K


Womens start



Here we go...


Fast guys



Regular guys







Final turn




Vail crew plus some people we never met before, but they cheered for me, so they're cool

Mt Sanitas w/ Ben and Kirsten


Suzy and River

Klementine!
(this may have been my first time holding a baby)

February 4, 2015

CROWBAR Ski Race

The 2015 CROWBAR Ski Race Podium

Andrea and I headed up the northern Utah for the CROWBAR Ski Race last weekend. This was our first SkiMo race on our own gear - although that wasn't a huge advantage over borrowing, as we didn't really get the chance to train/practice on our new skis beforehand. Andrea's were mounted up the afternoon before the race!

Our new toys

CROWBAR (Cache Regional Overland Winter BAckcountry ski Race) is a really cool event. It's the only all-backcountry randonnee race around. Check out their website and this video to get a feel for what it's all about.




That being said, it was a lot harder than I anticipated! I expected to finish in ~3 hours... and it took me 3:43... I was a full hour behind the top female. Andrea did the rec division course (6 miles w/ 3000' of climbing) as she continues to try and play it somewhat safe in her comeback from injury/surgeries) and was the first female... only a few minutes behind a pair of young guys. She'd be the first to admit that she would rather finish lower in standings and be able to do the full race course against the top females, but that wasn't the smart move (for now). In any case, she did really well and was pleased with her effort.

I thought a 10 mile race with 6000 feet of climbing would suit my strengths (being an aerobic monster) and buffer my weaknesses (everything else - transitions, downhill skiing, etc). Boy, was I wrong about that! I lost so much time on the technical aspects and sort of gave up on racing relatively early in the race. I'm not proud of throwing in the towel, but I still got in a good workout and finished the course in one piece (despite a handful of crashes).


Finishing stretch

Some thoughts that Andrea and I talked about over the weekend, in no particular order...

-We tend to avoid the bad snow when backcountry skiing. We search for the good stuff. In a race, you have to attack the crud - on skinny skis! That's really hard, and sometimes downright terrifying if you aren't a very good downhill skier to begin with. Some lift served ski days would actually be quite useful.
-Getting used to the skinny skis will take some time.
-Expectation levels in competition need to be adjusted, especially for the first year of doing this. Being a faster runner than everyone else means absolutely NOTHING in SkiMo racing.
-Running is more important. It's not worth taking chances (on downhill) that would risk injury.
-I have a tendency to get frustrated and then downward spiral. I need to work on staying composed when I have technical / gear issues.
-We need to practice transitions and have a consistent system (thanks to Christian for that tip)
-These races attract really cool, interesting people. It's fun to mingle and get to know / talk to them.
-What is better than spending hours skiing around in beautiful mountains?
-SkiMo might be a sport where we enjoy the training more than the racing. That's OK. And it's OK to be more of a participant in the races instead of a top competitor. It's still a lot of fun.

We spent the weekend up in Garden City, along Bear Lake. It was really quiet up there this time of year. We had a nice dinner at the only restaurant open, and then on Sunday did a nordic-style ski to Idaho and back. The Bear River Mountain Range has a lot to offer, and isn't that far from SLC. We'll be back for sure.



February 3, 2015

Andrea: Long Overdue Update

This is a long overdue update on my progress from Surgery #2 back in September of 2014. The last time I posted here I was only 6 weeks out from surgery - now I'm nearly 4.5 months out! It's been a while, but I really didn't feel like posting anything until I had finally made some progress.

The roller coaster of rehab that I talked about last time - "(I feel like I am on a never-ending cycle: pain ("I'm never going to get better") - some relief / not too bad ("I'm getting better!") - aggravated / pain ("this is never going to end")... repeat X a million times)" continued on for over two months (~4 weeks post-op to ~3 months post-op).  I didn't see any improvement for a long time. This was incredibly frustrating and disheartening. Danny became as much of a psychologist as he was a physical therapist, the poor guy had to deal with my breakdowns every week for quite a while. I tried to keep positive, but my hopes were definitely dwindling.

The corner turned (a little) in December. The swelling in my abdomen finally went away and I felt good enough to walk for 30 minutes every day. I was also able to bike with Jake on some of his runs. The bilateral was still there, but much more manageable. After the holidays, I was able to increase my activity level: longer walks, longer bike rides, a little elliptical, backcountry skiing / SkiMo, strength training, and yoga.

Jake made me an awesome chart of all my different activities :)


Right now, I would say I'm at about 60% of full health. That is a good amount of improvement, but it is definitely taking a lot longer than anticipated to get totally back to normal. Dr. Meyers gave me a 6-week recovery plan... that was completely unrealistic. For someone that discovers their core injury immediately or has a minor injury, maybe 6 weeks is possible... but for someone like me that has been injured for 2.5 years - there's no way that time frame is realistic. I have set my own goal of 6 months to feel "almost-normal".

Currently, I don't have much (if any pain) during rest... maybe 2/10 on average. After exercise I feel some discomfort/pulling on the right side between my right adductor and abdominal scars, and left pubic/adductor pain + abdominal tightness. Recently, my left side has been the limiting factor on activity.

I still have a long way to go. I don't know if I will keep getting better from here or if I will have another stall-out period of no improvement (I hope not). Ideally you'll see another update from me soon because that will mean things are looking up :)

January 26, 2015

Jake's Winter / Spring Racing Schedule - London Marathon!


2015 Winter/Spring Race Schedule

Feb 7th - USA XC Championships (12K)
Feb 28th - Phoenix Half Marathon
April 26th - London Marathon

SkiMo Race Schedule

Jan 31st - CROWBAR
Mar 7th - Wasatch Powderkeg

The obvious big update here is that I'm entered in April's London Marathon! Getting a spot in the race was not a sure thing and wouldn't have happened without some major help from the team at Saucony. As always, I'm so thankful for their support over the past four years. Some awesome folks at Saucony went out of their way to make this dream possible (they know who they are) and I definitely owe them one!

WHOA. Saucony is an awesome company. I'm very proud to represent them.
(Gonna need to find a pair of these)

My plan for the London buildup is to be conservative. I don't think I'll be able to knock out any very impressive tune-up races along the way nor will I even attempt to do the specific training for a fast XC race of half-marathon. I'm going to use these next three months to get marathon fit, get healthier, and be ready to pop one really good one over in London. I'll keep my running miles a lot lower than what I did leading up to Chicago (but considering the time spent uphill skiing, the training volume will probably be about the same). Two stress days per week is plenty - not two stress days plus a long run... the long run IS a stress day and I'll probably be incorporating a lot of quality miles / workouts into my longer efforts. I'd rather be a tiny bit under-trained than straddling the razor's edge and risk compromising my race performance, as I've done in the past. I have a tendency to get a little crazy 3-5 weeks out from a marathon when I start to feel like I'm in good shape. It will be important to be sensible during that time period (late March / early April).

Chicago took a lot out of me - I raced hard in a compromised state of health. My hamstrings took a beating, and I still feel the effects from time to time. So on that note I finally broke down and I'm going to start seeing Andrea's physical therapist next week, in hopes that he can help me get to the line 100% healthy this time around. I re-started some upper body strength training about a month ago, which I believe helps me hold form late in races... and get this - stopped eating ice cream altogether.

The other noticeable update is that the race schedule is now split - there's a running AND SkiMo component. Andrea and I took the plunge and bought our own SkiMo racing equipment - lightweight skis, boots, bindings... and are in the process of fashioning several pairs of racing skins (I even had a power tool out the other night and didn't seriously injure myself!). We have a long way to go before we are really competitive in that sport (I mentioned that a bit in this post) but we are both excited about making SkiMo a big part of our winters from now on. Check out some of those races I linked above (CROWBAR / Powderkeg).

The main reason I ski is because I love it - not for any training benefit. Drop in and float through some deep turns on a powder day and you'll know what I mean - it's a downright spiritual experience and hard to explain to someone that has never done it.

BUT I actually think backcountry skiing and SkiMo training/racing make me a stronger runner. All of the climbing at high altitude adds a huge aerobic stimulus, without the pounding of extra running miles... it works different muscle groups than running, which is especially helpful. There's a huge mental benefit in being out in the beautiful mountains during the cold, sometimes smoggy (in the valley) winter months. I'm sure plenty of people would still disagree with the idea of skiing a lot during a marathon buildup, and I have two words for them: [redacted by Andrea]  :-)

I anticipate Wasatch and Beyond will still be dominated by skiing posts for the next few months (daily log is here), so back to running for a bit...

I'm at a decent fitness level right now but nowhere near race form. I've been averaging 90-100 miles per week for the last couple months, I've built up my long runs to 20 miles, and I've slowly increased the length and dropped the pace of my tempo runs.

Here's the training summary from Chicago leading up to now (13 weeks out from London). I feel like I can be ready for my best marathon to date in three months.

Tan = Long Runs / Steady State; Brown = AT (Aerobic Threshold); Blue = Ski; Green = Faster
Orange Cloud = Smog.

I'll be the first to admit that I should have just taken 2+ additional weeks completely off after Chicago. At the time, however, I was thinking I going to bounce back and run CIM (in an effort to boost my chances of getting an entry to London), but I was too beat up from Chicago to do that. In hindsight I delayed my recovery quite a bit, to the point where even in December, I started to write off the idea of being able to run a fast Spring marathon. Hopefully I'll learn from that mistake and May will be a very low mileage month.

Details on the progression of AT runs (really, my only workouts other than a couple token sets of intervals) to date:

So that's where I'm at. Next stop on the running circuit = the USA Cross Country Championships in Boulder. What a terrible and painful choice for a season-opening rust-buster! It should be a really good experience and fun weekend with friends - that's why I'm headed there.