Friday, February 26, 2010

VO2 Max Test- Maximal Oxygen Uptake

I've always wanted to get this test done...basically to just see where I sit in terms of VO2. Most places charge quite a bit of money to get these tests done. That being said the moment our first exercise physiology class was over with this term I rushed to the front to ask Professor Gary Brodowicz if I could be one of the subjects for the VO2 Max Test. Little did I know that it would fall right smack in the middle of a 100-mile week, and just after I passed the 600-mile mark for the year thus far. I still couldn't pass up the opportunity and found out that it was much tougher than I anticipated.

For this test we used the Astrand protocol. I was asked to predict a good speed to start running at based on my pace knowledge. Also, the protocol starts me running at a 5% incline and increases 2% every two minutes. In hindsight I should have started a little slower, but we were still able to gather very pertinent information. I thought the test went well.

Treadmill Speed: 9.5 miles per hour running uphill....Check it out!....

So the results are in! First let me give you some of my excuses of why I think it is not as high it potentially could be: 1) not fully rested 2) I wasn't used to breathing solely through my mouth with that mouthpiece and a nose clip 3) I started too quickly...I think I could have adapted more if I started out a bit 8 mph....ok....blah, blah, blah...

VO2 max came out to be about 69 ml/kg/m.

For my age...and being an athlete they say the range is between 60-85. I honestly think that I am probably in the low 70's...and I did predict 70 so it's pretty accurate. Maybe I can try it again some time soon. In any case I learned a lot and I thank Dr. Brodowicz and the other lab assistants for getting me prepped up, making sure I didn't die, and creating the little film. One day I will be able to show my grandchildren what it was like to really run!

Well, speaking of the devil...I'm off to hit the sloppy trails before it gets dark and am looking forward to a 50-mile weekend starting tomorrow with a marathon in the gorge. Sunday will probably be an end to end Wildwood trail cutting it just short on Burnside.

Keep on moving!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Larch Mountain Inspired by Hagg Lake

(View from the summit of Larch Mountain in the Columbia River was much more clear and gave us views of five volcanoes...whew!...wish I brought my camera)

This week started with a strenuous climb of Table Mountain out in the gorge and ended with a spectacular venture on the opposite side of the river up Larch Mountain. Both times Joe and I tackled the climbs and danced the technical downhills with a bounce in our step that was influenced by the awesome weather we've been experiencing here in Oregon. Sunny, warm, dry weather in months that are known for their darkness and wetness. I'm not complaining! It's definitely been a great welcome for someone accustomed to the winters in the Northeast.

Today's 24 mile long run capped off another solid week of training. I've been focusing on quality runs that involve good climbing, speedwork, and of course...long runs. I definitely have been getting ample mileage too and it seems to be paying dividends so far. Next trail ultra on the calendar will take us to Chuckanut in less than a month. Hopefully all this gorge running will help in the middle 30k of that challenging 50k. I may end up racing the Shamrock 15k which starts right down the street from me in downtown Portland the Sunday before Chuckanut and use it as a "tune-up". Looks like a fun race! See you there? Better bust out some green clothes!...I've got mine already lined up. :o)

So...while milling around after the Hagg Lake 50k and 25k I caught up with Sean Meissner who had a few words for fellow ultra runner Matt Hart regarding their friendly little bet they have going. Sean looks really good in that pink vest and if you put your finger on his chin you can picture what he will look like with a mustache! (Along with the vest the runner with the slowest cumulative time between Orcas Island 50k and Pocatello 50-miler will have to wear the stache for six months...So far Hart has a 23 minute lead ;o)

Here's what Sean had to say to Hart!

Today's run in the gorge was inspired by taking in a different perspective of an ultramarathon trail race yesterday at Hagg Lake 50k and 25k down in Forest Grove, Oregon. I was able to help out at this race and direct people through a pretty technical area that crosses a creek and dilapidated bridge up the hill. I saw some people in pain but toughing it out, some shoes sucked off, and others just downright eat some mud (literally!). I felt that I got a little more "plugged in" to the trail running scene out there and, again, enjoyed the "Postcard" day weather. What a fun day!

Enjoy the little amateur video that I put together while volunteering at Hagg Lake.

Looks like 2010 is going to be an exciting year on a lot of fronts. If you haven't heard already Erica and I are expecting a little ultra runner this August! We just got through the first trimester and coincidentally the due date is on my birthday (Aug. 28th!).

I came across this quote earlier today and really liked it. Hope you do too...

Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense.The ultra runners know this instinctively. And they know something else that is lost on the sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being - a call that asks who they are ... - David Blaikie

Run strong and free!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Table Mountain

(Table Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge)

We headed out to the Columbia River Gorge yesterday for some good ultra training. Every time I've been out there in my short time living in Oregon has been an unforgettable experience. Monday was no different and added a new route to my list.

Trail run du jour: Table Mountain

Joe had the day off for President's Day and waited for me to finish my obligations so we could enjoy some of the uncharacteristically warm, dry February weather. We crossed the Bridge of the Gods, parked the car, and off we went through the beautiful Pacific Crest Trail just across the border into Washington. We linked on to a different trail and began our ascent to the very fitting name of Heartbreak Ridge.

If you are looking for a run that has a nice variety of terrain, elevation change, and technical rocky sections this is a good one. This route has some very strenuous sections but worth every moment especially once you summit the 4,000 foot peak. We ended up doing a lolly pop loop after we hit the top and descended back down to the car with about 17 miles on the Garmin. It took us just under three hours and we both felt satisfied in how strong we ran.

After looking back at the peak while driving west on I-84 back to Portland it's almost surreal and dream-like to realize that we just powered our way to the top of that beautiful open faced mountain. I'll now never look at it the same way.

On to the next...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Orcas Island 50k Plus

I went up to The Orcas Island 50k this past weekend and had a fabulous experience. It is such a picturesque area and the weather gods gave us an uncharacteristically warm and sunny weekend. Dan Olmstead, Tonya Olson, and I rode up together Friday afternoon and had great conversation and laughs pretty much the whole way.

Susannah Beck was so hospitable in letting us stay at her cozy cabin she is renting although many folks chose to stay down by the lodge. I met so many people and shared lots of great stories and laughed a lot. The food was immaculate and I was super impressed by James Varner and the "party in the woods" that he created. Live music, movies, good food, beautiful scenery and accommodations. I definitely recommend this event...It's worth every penny!

Here is a little video that I watched just before I hit the road for Orcas while I was looking for some trail footage. It had me thinking all weekend and...Yes...I think I felt it! May seem kind of weird but, regardless, Orcas Island is a pretty special place.

As for the race...well...I started off feeling really good. Mile two or three a huge great horned owl flew down right in front of me and perched on a tree right above the trail. It turned his head around 180 degrees and gave me a stare with his big eyes. I actually got a little scared and yelled just out of instinct. This is the second time I saw an owl right at the beginning of a race like that. The first was at like mile two of 100 in the Hood. So I looked up if there were any meanings. There were both good and bad omens of the owl but one of the bad omens was misfortune...which happened at both races. Who knows...I like to think about the good omens though but if I do see an owl in the future I will pay extra attention...or just quit then and there! ;o)

I was probably ahead of the others by a couple hundred yards. Eventually, we started hitting some tough climbs and Alex and Dan caught up to me. The three of us ran together until mile 10 or so. Going up some steep power lines I noticed that Alex and Dan were starting to pull away...especially Alex. I finally made the summit and was able to catch up with Dan O. Dan and I ran together for a couple more miles until we came to a junction that went right or left but no marking....ugh...we picked a way and eventually ended up hitting a landing area that had water gallon jugs spread out on the curb. There were some people close to the area and one lady pointed that the first place 50k guy went that way. We thanked her and hustled out of the area back into the woods. Then after a while we saw people running at us! Oh boy...wrong way...again! We ended up going like three or four miles out of our way when it was all said and done.

At that point we were both bummed but after a little while we just decided to kind of shut it down. We were given the choice to feel sorry for ourselves and to be a little angry, or we could accept it and enjoy the absolute beauty of the park and the weather. We chose the latter of the two. We finally got back on to course and as we came up behind people had to explain a bunch of times what had happened. Apparently, someone took down a ribbon....and who knows what that lady that pointed us in the wrong direction was talking about!

We ran the next 13 miles or so at a pretty relaxed pace and were actually able to stop and enjoy some of the spectacular views, which would not happen if we were gunning hard. Also, this was Dan's first race back since his little scare at Western States 100 so maybe it was for the best. With about 10k to go in the race I was feeling really strong so we decided to push it a little harder. I came into the finish a couple minutes before Dan with a time of like 5:42 or so...Probably about 80 minutes slower than projected.

I'll definitely go back to that race and redeem myself. Don't know if I'll be so lucky as to have that type of weather in early February though. Mile for mile that was probably one of the toughest 50k's I've run in my relatively short ultra career. 7,600 feet of climbing in 33 miles (or in my case probably close to 8,000 in 37).

Afterward we hung around the camp for the rest of the day and evening and enjoyed music, good food, and story sharing. I met so many great people including some of the best in the business (Scott Jurek and Krissy Moehl). I was really happy to see Matt Hart finish strong in his first race back since his injuries last year and for Sean to zip up and don the pink vest. We'll see how they do at Pocatello as they go head to head in Idaho in May. Bryon Powell from, who I haven't seen since Iroquois 100, made the trip and captured a lot of funny pictures I'm sure (send me some if you get the chance!) and was an integral part of the festivities.

Thanks James and volunteers and nice to meet and chat with so many. I feel that the ultra community is such a crazy, eclectic group of people and this was another super fun and adventurous weekend that will go down in the books of epic trail running. Enjoy some of the excellent pictures taken by Glenn Tachiyama by clicking HERE

As for me...this is the third time already this year that I have gotten lost. This has got to stop now! Hopefully, I'm getting them out of the way now and I look forward to the next one which is The Chuckanut 50k on March 20th. Before that I will be volunteering at Hagg Lake 50k/25k and I hope to see you there.

Happy Trails! :o)