Monday, May 31, 2010

"The Hay is in the Barn"

This expression is commonly used amongst runners when they have completed their training and are transitioning into the tapering period before a big race. Farmers used to sit back and admire the hard work they put forth stacking bails of hay into the barn for the winter knowing that the hard work is finished and now it is time to relax a little. I think it is a great analogy and that is my current status right now with Bighorn 100 right around the corner.

So with five months behind us this year I took a look back at my "bails of hay in the barn" and to be honest I feel quite pleased.

For the month of March I started feeling like I was getting some good fitness back, had a good race up at Chuckanut, and felt like I was honing some speed back as well. I only ran 285 miles for that month but felt like I really focused in on some quality rather than quantity.

April was a solid month for me and I trained right through a win at Peterson Ridge Rumble 60k, and had a solid 3rd place performance and pr at Capitol Peak 50-miler. I ended up running 346 miles for the month of April and felt like I was starting to reap some of the rewards of increased volume.

I really couldn't be more pleased with the month of May. I mixed things up a little this month and added a little spontaneity and spice into my training, and I feel that my body and mind responded well. I ran 401 miles for the month that included a course record 50k performance down in Reno, NV at the Silver State 50/50. We had a fun road trip down to Nevada and it was good to get to know the central Oregon crew better. I also headed up to Seattle on a whim this past weekend for some good training with Krissy, Justin, Gary, Tom, and Piper. I also wanted to get one last long night-run in before Bighorn so last night around 11pm I grabbed my new Petzel Myo headlamp (totally recommend this lamp) and hit the Wildwood Trail going over Pittock into Forest Park and back home for 20 miles. The quality of light illuminating from my headlamp left me feeling more confident as I head into Bighorn without a pacer or crew. Also, after running a solid 34-mile effort on Saturday with 10,000 feet of climbing, I really simulated what it would be like running through the muddy trails in Wyoming in the middle of the night. It was definitely surreal and at one point in the run I truly felt and heard a little voice say, "You're Ready". I got home scarfed down everything in sight, took a shower, and then stayed awake to drive my mother-in-law to the airport at 4am. Needless to say I spent the first half of Memorial Day in bed! ahhhhhhhhhhh!

(Justin Angle, Tom Ederer, Me, Krissy Moehl, and Piper on Tiger Mt.)

Feels good to "have the hay in the barn". These last five months have been so great getting transplanted into the ultra running scene out here in Oregon. I've been so lucky to have epic training grounds in The Columbia River Gorge and Forest Park, and feel that they have contributed to my improvement of strength and speed. I have met so many wonderful people too and am truly honored to be running with some of the great ultra runners I used to read about in magazines when I was relatively new to the sport back on the east coast.

Thank you Erica for putting up with me and supporting me when it probably seemed that I was running (or thinking about running) constantly!...and all the muddy shoes, sticky Gu packets, dirty car, obsessing about little minor injuries, etc. etc.! I was definitely getting some confused looks when I told Erica and her mom that I was heading up to Seattle for a 34-mile training run, and then I was going to run through the middle of the night when they were sleeping. Thanks for understanding :o) You're gonna be a great momma Erica and I'm excited to start this new "ultra-marathon" with you as we become parents.
(beautiful pregnant momma...with her momma!)

I know a lot of people are really looking forward to all the hype of Western States 100 this year, but I feel that Bighorn 100 (which takes place the weekend before) is going to be one of the most competitive years ever. It definitely feels good to know that the bulk of the training is finished and that all that I have to do is rest up (which can be difficult), and get myself to Wyoming in a good head space. In a couple weeks I will be ready for another amazing adventure into an absolutely scenic part of the country, and take another crack at the daunting distance of a 100-mile ultramarathon!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Silver State 50k Race Report

It seems that some of the benefits of spontaneity ended up paying dividends for me this past weekend at The Silver State 50k in Reno, Nevada. I had a really fun time traveling to Nevada for my first time with Sean, Ashley, and Jeff, and it was great to get to know them better. Also, staying at Jeff’s place in Bend and meeting his wife, kids, and pets was a treat to say the least. Thanks for the hospitality! :o)

We left Bend Friday morning and drove about four hours and then stopped at a campground that Meissner knew about and we all went for a five mile run to loosen our legs and break up the ride. Man it felt good to run with no shirt on and feel the sun on our skin. After that we continued on for a few more hours into Reno and made our way to the restaurant that was hosting the race packet pick-up and race briefing.

After carbing up some more and seeing some familiar faces we headed out to the motel which was a five-minute walk from the starting line. Ashley and Jeff were running the 50-mile race and Sean and I opted for the 50k. Both races boasted big climbs and very exposed terrain, and the weather was looking to be in the upper 70’s. This race was a really good trainer for Bighorn (for Ashley, Jeff, and I), and the stage race in Moab that Sean has coming up.

Race morning around 5:30 a.m. after Jeff and Ashley left for their 6am start I called my niece Lydia on the east coast who was turning 7 years old. I wished her a happy birthday, chatted for a few, and then after a bit Sean and I made our way to the starting line. It was a little cool in the morning but sunny and I could tell that it was going to be hot. I lined up at the front and within moments we were off! I wore my bright blue Inov-8 F-lite 230’s. They were a great choice for a dry Nevada course and I even had some folks approach me afterward intrigued by the shoe and the brand.

The first few miles of the race were gently climbing and I held back as best as I could with a group of five or so runners. Surprisingly I was feeling really good considering I had not tapered for this race and had already run 65 miles for the week leading up to it. As we continued Chikara Omine and Peter Fain (the course record holder) dropped off and it was just Victor Ballesteros, Chris Knorzer, and I. We started hitting some long, decently steep climbs and the sun was really starting to beat down on us. Also, as we were climbing upwards of 6,000 feet I was starting to feel the lack of oxygen affecting my running (we would eventually climb to over 8,000 feet). It wasn’t much, but enough to leave me gasping a little as we climbed allowing Victor and Chris to pull away. I kept powering up though and never really let them too far out of sight. The climbs kept going and going and I reminded myself that this is what Bighorn 100 is going to be like next month. There were some epic views of the Sierra Nevada mountain range from the top and I loved the singletrack sections as always.

On the downhills I would open up my stride and just bomb! Eventually I would catch up to the two and we all must have switched out the lead like ten times. The next 10-12 miles were like a “cat and mouse” game with Victor and I as he would catch me on the ups and I would surpass him on the downs. Chris remained out in first just a little bit ahead and was looking strong and consistent on everything.

Around mile 18 there was another long, exposed climb and the cumulative miles on my legs combined with the heat had me feeling the burn as I hiked and struggled a bit. I just didn’t have a lot of power going up and I watched Victor just motor up the long technical hill and disappear. At this point I re-directed my thinking to Lydia and her birthday party and picturing everyone out on Nobles Hill in NY state having a good time. Then I started remembering when she was born and how much life has changed since then. Next thing you know I was at the top and feeling much better! :o) I knew that the majority of the way to the finish was downhill and that I was able to catch these guys all day on the downs. I popped another S-cap and gel and decided to get after it and run these last ten miles in honor of Lydia’s day of birth! :o)

Miles 21-31 I just hammered like a mad man! It wasn’t long before I swooped past Victor and then Chris, and once I passed them I kept laying the hammer down to ensure not getting passed back again. At one point (around mile 28) in a huge open area I took a look back up the mountain and didn’t see anyone for a long way. I knew that if I just stayed composed that I had it wrapped up. I had enough fluids on me and blew through the last aid station with my scopes on the finish.

Finally I made it into the finish area and read the clock. It said 4:02! Peter Fain’s course record was 4:25 and I had no intention of going after that…let alone smashing it…it just kinda happened! A couple minutes later I turned around to see Victor coming in to the finish who also came under the previous course record. Not long after that Chris, and then I was super excited to see Sean Meissner show up feeling good. Nice running guys!

I went straight to the kiddie pool that they had at the gazebo area, hosed myself off, and submerged myself in the pool. Next, I visited the complimentary massage tent and enjoyed a nice flush, and then made my way to food. What a great selection of home made meals with many vegan options and super friendly volunteers to serve you. My favorite item was the Spanish gazpacho…I went back a few times for more! :o)

After nourishing ourselves we knew that the 50-milers would be showing up relatively soon. Through “guesstimation” Sean predicted around 7:20-7:30 for Jeff to arrive and maybe another hour for Ashley. Literally about one-minute after Sean said that I look over and see a green Team Patagonia shirt way off in the distance! “There’s Bronco!” Jeff came in for the win in like 7:12 just missing the course record by 86 seconds. Ashley was next and she put forth a stellar performance coming off of Macdonald Forest 50k last weekend and placing 2nd in 8:20 behind superstar Joelle Vaught. I guess as a carload we did quite well and represented “Team Oregon” properly! :o) We all headed home with significant sunburns and good memories of a fun weekend.

This is a really well-run event and the race directors put a lot into it and were super friendly and funny guys. Thanks again! The course was marked superbly and it’s a great trainer for races like Bighorn 100, Tahoe Rim 100, and Western States 100. Speaking of Western States I recognized WS legend Tim Tweitmeyer come in the top ten of the 50k…and speaking of legends I was able to meet and talk with the man who created the now ever-so- popular Western States 100 named Gordy Ainsliegh.

This was a really cool weekend for me and I am learning that sometimes it’s exciting to just say forget the planning and structure (and the taper!) and to just be a little spontaneous in life and to just go for it! :o)

Check out the full results HERE

Next up…Bighorn 100!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Spontaneity and Specificity

Today (Tuesday) around 2:00 pm Pacific Standard Time I was sitting at my computer after my classes thinking of where I was going to go for my second run of the day. Some good options in Forest Park came to mind, and then my mind soon drifted off to the weekend. Where should I go in the gorge? Is there still going to be snow up at the higher elevations? I need to get some big miles in! Who will join me? Anyone? I can go solo if need be...then I remembered that I had wanted to make a trip down to the Bend, Oregon area to run at Smith Rock.

I did a little internet surfing and then realized that fellow ultra runner (who is also running Bighorn 100) Jeff Browning won't be available for running because he's traveling to a 50-miler out of state. What 50-miler was that again? Oh yeah...Silver State 50-miler just outside of Reno, Nevada. So I looked at their website....oooooh....they have a 50k too...uh oh...and Sean Meissner is signed up too!....ooooooh.......let me look at the course. Good climbs (like Bighorn), exposed terrain (also like Bighorn), at elevation, hot temperatures....oooh...and we've been talking a lot about specificity in my exercise classes. This could be a great little simulation for me as a long effort that will be part of a 110 or so mile week. Let me give those guys a call and see what their plans are...

My initial thoughts were, if anything was going to happen, I'd somehow catch a ride to Smith Rock... run a bunch of mountain miles...then camp and roll with these guys to Reno and run the 50k as a stout training run. Well as I researched it more and chatted w/ these guys I realized that there were indeed options of catching a ride to Bend (a shuttle from Union Station to downtown Bend...and they give student discounts too! ;o), but the whole Smith Rock thing was a bit much.

So in a matter of like 30 minutes I talked with Erica, weighed my options, and quickly made a spontaneous decision. I arranged a shuttle bus to Bend, to get picked up by Browning, crash at his place, and leave in the morning with three amazing ultra runners (Browning, Meissner, and Ashley Nordell) for Reno, Nevada and The Silver State 50 miler and 50k just like that! I will have to do some work on the bus on the way some things off when I get there, and definitely do some reading on the shuttle bus back to Portland on Sunday.

We'll be splitting gas four ways and a cheap hotel room Friday night, running lots of miles Saturday...which is calling for about 80 degrees, and camp Saturday night somewhere around the Nevada/Oregon border....ROAD TRIP!!!!! wow...I better go dig out my sleeping bag and tent again! :o)

(Some desert trees out on the course of the Silver State 50)

Jeff Browning has run (and won) Bighorn 100 three times, Sean Meissner has run the 50-miler and has been out there multiple times, and Ashley ran it last year and is running it again this year. It's going to make for some good conversation to and from and it'll be great to pick their brains a little.

I've never been to the state of Nevada...but they better watch out...they don't know that they got coming! ;o) Team Oregon! wooohoooooo!

Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.

~ e.e. cummings

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Vegan Athlete

Over the last five years I have competed in endurance events ranging from triathlons to road races of all distances that include 10k's, half-marathons, and many marathons. About three years ago I discovered trail running and ultramarathons and they have been my passion and main focus ever since...although I still dabble in other races as part of my training.

Lately, I have been getting numerous emails from people all over the country regarding being a vegan athlete. Most are intrigued and have questions about how I get certain nutrients. Just recently I received an email from a Montrail sponsored athlete named Matt Hart who has a lot of experience and such enthusiasm for endurance sports. I have noticed that Matt also has a true thirst for knowledge and information and recently has been on a nutrition kick. He asked me if I'd be willing to share a little bit about my typical day of training and eating, and I gladly agreed to share some of my experience of being a vegan athlete.

This blog post is about how I fuel myself nutritionally day in and day out and gives a little insight into being a vegan athlete.

First...a brief history:

About two and a half years ago after watching a documentary by Woody Harrelson called "Go Further" a seed was planted in my brain about changing my diet and lifestyle. Check out the trailer's worth watching in it's entirety because, not only is it very eye-opening and informational, it is quite entertaining as well!

From that point on Erica and I decided to give it a go but only lasted about 12 days until I "caved-in" at a restaurant and ordered a NY strip steak while she ordered the jumbo scallops. I wrote it off as, "I'm an athlete and I need the protein, etc." and I really was feeling a little sluggish and tired in those 12 days. As we fell back into our "old" diet the thoughts of Woody's documentary still lingered in our heads and Erica continued to read more literature about veganism. She would continually read me tidbits of information and I would kind of push them away still thinking along the lines of, "that doesn't apply to me...I'm an athlete...I have special needs!" But, like Woody said...a lifetime of eating and thinking is difficult to change right away.

As time went on we continued to stay open-minded to more information and came across a woman named Colleen who started "Compassionate Cooks". Honestly this was the nail in the coffin for me. On the podcasts delivered by Colleen she debunked myth after myth for me and did so in a way that was not "preachy". Something shifted inside of me and I felt that this was beyond just nutritional needs, but for the sake of other living beings. That would be the last time I purposely consumed animal flesh or products save a few very minimal pieces of dairy here and there.

Long story short I continued to learn and read on and on about the whole world of endurance sports athletes that are successful on a vegan diet. Of course the big ones are Scott Jurek and Brendan Brazier and I have been in contact with both of them and greatly respect them as athletes and their philosophies. I also lived in the same city (Ithaca, NY) as the world renowned researcher at Cornell University (and author of "The China Study") T. Colin Campbell, and have learned so much in that book. Campbell has joined forces to create a powerful movie that will be airing this summer called "Forks Over Knives". Watch the trailer HERE. There are many more excellent books out there and tons of information on the internet if you are interested.

Since I have been vegan I have experienced way more benefits than I ever would have imagined. I have gotten much faster and stronger. My endurance and energy levels have improved immensely and I recover so amazingly quick. Most importantly I feel extremely healthy spiritually knowing that I didn't have to kill or exploit another living being in order for my wants. I get all my nutritional needs from plant-based whole foods and to make sure of it I just had a blood test to confirm. My doctor even raised his eyebrows!

So what does a typical day look like for me in terms of training and eating?

A lot of my philosophy involves simplicity and variety and fun. I try to eat many different types of foods that are in their natural state and am lucky to have a farmer's market to buy local fruits and vegetables walking distance every Saturday morning. Then the fun part is finding recipes, putting on the chef hat, and hitting the kitchen!

One of my favorite morning recipes is one for Steel Cut Oats...seen HERE. It cooks while you sleep and for early morning risers and runners this is perfect to get you out the door. I will usually have a little before I go, and then some more when I return from my 6-10 mile morning run, coupled with about two or three different types of fruits. Lately I have been eating those little Cutie Mandarins, Grapefruit, Apples, Medjol Dates, Oranges, Berries, Cantaloupe. Like I said I always mix it up as far as fruit goes.

Lunch time I usually go for a big salad, again, with lots of variety. Different types of greens and vegetables. I sprinkle seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin along with some ground flax seed for Omega 3's. I often accompany salad with some sort of whole grain such as brown rice, Millet, or Soba Noodles (buckwheat). Some sort of lentil or bean is usually in the mix and if you are a vegan then you definitely eat your fair share of the nutritionally loaded pseudograin quinoa. As of late I have been accompanying my lunch with one of Brendan Brazier's recipes called "Garlic Oregano Yam Oven Fries" from his book Thrive. Check out the recipe HERE...They are so tasty and very nutritions! Sometimes I run in the afternoon too based on my schedule. With high mileage training you basically have to get in the miles when ever you can...and are eating quite often!

I continue to eat fruits throughout the day and very often after a run I will make an easily digestible power smoothie in the Vita-mix. If I had to choose one thing to keep in the whole kitchen it would be this machine! It's a vegan's best friend and makes life so much easier. I add frozen fruit, greens, carrot, fresh ginger root, a little hemp milk (and hemp protein mix), banana, etc. and drink down a nutrient dense shake to replenish after a good hard mountain run. I also like to experiment with different ingredients to see what I like. My palate has changed so much over the last two years that often when I crave something sweet I usually think of some "new" fruit to try.

Dinner time is usually much of the same philosophy of trying to mix it up and give the body a nice variety of nutrients. I try to stay away from refined sugar, flour, etc. but I am not perfect and I don't attempt to be. Running at night is also a common theme during high mileage weeks (right now!) so double running days are common. Another thing I love about being vegan is that you never have to wait too long to go run because your body is not having to work so hard to break down, for example, meat. I remember when I was eating a lot of meat I would have to wait sometimes like three hours before I went running after a meal. I am not a person that relies heavily on faux meats, etc. or tofu. I do, however, like tempeh and other fermented foods, but I feel that I get all the protein I need and more from the whole foods that I eat.

The weekends are usually huge days for me in terms of running and eating and often times I devour everything in sight. Lately I have been reading a lot about leaning towards mostly a raw diet but not sure because I really like to eat whole grain pastas, cous cous, wild and brown rice, lentils, etc. But then again I never thought that I would be able to eat foods that didn't involve dairy and meat so we'll see!

There is a lot of good information about vegan diets and ultrarunning HERE. I invite you to have your own experience and try things out and make a decision based on what works and your own personal beliefs. I have found something that works for me in a multitude of ways and honestly never see myself going back to eating animal products.

I will close with something that I love that Scott Jurek told me about promoting being vegan. He said that he tries to use "the soft sell approach to make people more intrigued...and much like running an have to show that anyone can do it!"