Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Western States Training Update! 60 Day Countdown! Yet another Q & A

Q: The Western States Endurance Run is in 60 days. How are you feeling?

A: I feel nervous, excited and scared for a variety of reasons. While my training has been going great, the next 5 weeks are still tough and I haven't done any serious heat training yet! With a three week taper, that only leaves about 39 days of real training! Excuse me, while I freak out. 

Q: What has your training been like?

A: Over the past 4 months, I've run a ton of miles (Jan: 253, Feb: 274, Mar: 249, Apr: 253). That puts me at 1030 miles over 4 months. To put that in perspective, I ran about 1000 miles in 2013. Since December, I've run 14 long trail runs over 20 miles (20-25mi.: 4, 26.2mi: 4, 30mi: 4, 36mi: 1, 50mi: 1). 

Q: That is a lot of miles! Have you been doing any cross training or injury prevention activities?

A: I'm glad you asked. I've been using a ton of kinesio tape, mostly on the bottom of my feet to keep the Plantar Fasciitis in check. I've also been foam rolling whenever I have some spare time in the evenings to take care of any soreness/tightness in my muscles. I've gotten an orthopedic massage almost every month to keep things in order/check. I'm working on my core strength and some light weight training for the arms about 2-3 times a week. I'm also hiking more on the treadmill - about twice a week to improve my hiking abilities (usually 2 miles at a 15% grade). 

Q: Besides a lot of miles, have you been doing any speed work?

A: Unless it's a taper/recovery week, Ann (my coach) has me doing one tempo run per week, and recently added some hill repeats on the treadmill (since she knows how hard it is for me to get to hills on the weekdays). 

Q: Sounds like your training has been nearly perfect! Has anything gone wrong? Any pain?

A: Things have not been perfect. I struggled a little in the last 10 miles of the American River 50 Mile race. I've had a few "niggling pains" that have come and thankfully gone. I had a few runs where I felt tired and burnt out. I still don't know this will all work out. Overall, things have gone amazingly well. It is a bit shocking to think how far I've come and what little time is left till my big race! 

Q: How is your coach, Ann Trason, working out? Any stories about your coaching experience with her you'd like to share?

A: Ann Trason may be a ultra running legend, but she has become so much more to me. She has become my coach, mentor and friend. She is kind and caring. She is the kind of person that you'd trust babysitting your kids or fur-babies. And she is an excellent, knowledgeable and responsive, coach! I am very lucky and blessed to have her coach and mentor me in this journey of a lifetime. Regardless of how Western States turns out, I have already won - an amazing journey with a great coach and friend. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Running is Suffering

I have been getting re-acquainted with Buddha's teaching on suffering lately. My wife had gotten copy (audio CDs) of "Coming Closer to Ourselves" by Pema Chodron from a colleague, so we have been listening to it during our morning and evening commute. I had studied some of Buddha's teachings and philosophy back in college when I majored in Philosophy at San Jose State. During my long run on Saturday, Buddha's teachings about suffering came to life and brought me to a more enlightened state of being. Words will surely fail to describe all the thoughts and feelings I had that day, but I know I have to try. 

"Life is suffering". Life is full of suffering, regardless of how blessed you are or think you are. Suffering is complex subject. We suffer due to sickness, death, pain, and a variety of things that are outside of our control. I thought about the suffering in my life and the suffering of everyone close to me. Compared to many of the friends and family I know, my suffering is minuscule. My brother has Cerebral Palsy. A friend is fighting Cancer. An uncle has lost a son to suicide. Another uncle has lost a son to Heart Disease. I cried for them. And I cried tears of joy for all my blessings. I have two beautiful daughters and a loving, supportive wife! I laughed at my own suffering. It was a very emotional run. 

I have been suffering more lately during my long runs. I took a few moments to try and understand why I have been suffering. I have been training for the biggest race in my life - the Western States Endurance Run, and it represents something that I really want. And for that reason, I was suffering. I was afraid of an unfavorable outcome on one of the biggest stages of my life. And because of that fear I had stopped listening to my body on these long runs. Most long distance runners know that on long training runs, you need to listen to your body and just take what it gives you in a very relaxed manner. Save the aggressive running for races or for the shorter speed oriented training runs. 

After 13 miles, I was tired. My training plan for the day included 30 trail miles. I took a 20 minute break to rest and recover before heading back on the trails. I did not know how much further I could go. My coach had told me to "do what you can." So my plan was to go as far as my body would let me. Suffering is greater when you resist that which you cannot change. Because I wanted to do well at Western States, I had been running harder during these long runs. I was resisting the possibility of failure at Western States. When I realized this, I let it go. I accepted my fate at Western States and it automatically lifted a huge weight of suffering off my spirit. And miraculously, I could listen to my body again. I could simply take whatever my body gave me, whether it be a slow hike up a hill or a relaxed shuffle down a hillside. And I could run with the ebb and flow of the earthly trails. I was one with the world around me. It was a beautiful run. I felt so blessed and so alive.

With a mile before arriving back at my car, I tried to assist a little furry caterpillar across the trail, so that it won't be trampled on by any unsuspecting hiker or runner. But instead of climbing on my little branch, it took it's time across the trail - much like the way I found myself running my own pace. We accept our fate and our pace, and in doing so, we lessen our suffering. 

On a scenic hilltop, I stopped and practiced a few Tai Chi movements. I am more than just my running. I am also a martial artist, a husband, and a father (among many other things). I am blessed regardless of what happens at Western States. Even though I deeply desire a good finish at that race, it does not define who I am or who I will become. It is all part of the path to MY awakening. I found such joy and peace during those last 12 miles. 

At the end of run I found a little inch worm and two other little bugs on my shirt and arms. I gently helped them get back to their home on the trails. 

During those 12 miles, I also ran into a fellow runner wearing a bright yellow Adidas shirt and Boston blue shorts. I cheered him on and told him that I recognized his Boston colors. I may have also yelled out, "Boston Strong!". Congratulations to all you Boston Finishers today!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Yosemite Long Run

This past weekend, I went to Yosemite with my family! My parents and siblings all went. About 20 of us stayed at the Yosemite View Lodge Hotel, which is only a short distance from the entrance to the park. We went on a easy hike in the morning with the kids. In the afternoon, I went back into the park to go for my long run. I was still recovering from the American River 50 Mile from the previous week, so I was only planning to run around 15 miles.

I parked at the Bridalveil Falls parking lot and started my run through Yosemite Valley. It was a glorious run. I ran up past a ton of tourists on the Mist Trail, past waterfalls and all kinds of amazing sights. I did not want to run back the same way I had run, so I decided to hop on one of the free shuttles to get back to my car once I was done with my run. My run was not easy. There were some really steep sections that could only be hiked at a snail's pace. At 14.3 miles I ended my run and hopped onto a shuttle bus.

That would have been the perfect ending to a great run filled with gorgeous sites. But I made a mistake. It turns out the shuttles don't go as far as the Bridalveil Falls parking lot, where I parked! I was tired. I had already run for 3 hours. Usually another 5 miles after 14 would not be a problem, but I had no more fuel and it was getting dark and cold. Instead of hitting the more windy trails, I chose to run back on one of the main roads. It sucked. But I got it done. Here are some more pictures from the run! And one bonus picture of my family.

Monday, April 7, 2014

2014 American River 50 Mile Race Report

"You are not qualified to quit."

I met some wonderful new people at this year's running of the American River 50 Mile. Michaela ran Western States in 2012 as her first 100 miler. She shared this piece of advice with me. Unless you're injured, you do not have the qualifications to decide to quit. Leave those decisions to the doctors and the running experts. It was simple, yet very profound.

Throughout the day, I ran into friends, both old and new everywhere I turned. The volunteers and crowd support were amazing! The weather was perfect. The course could have used a little less pavement and poison oak, but we can't have everything we want, can we?

For 36 miles, I ran really well. I executed my fueling plan flawlessly. Unfortunately, I neglected my hydration, and that eventually affected my fueling. By mile 40, I had slowed down to a crawl. I felt nauseous and did not feel like eating anything. I was tired - really tired. Jim Magill offered some friendly encouragement as he passed me here. This guy is 67 years young and still running strong! After a few miles of "crawling", I was eventually able to run better. The last 3 miles are all uphill, but I was able to run in most of the last 1.5 miles, which made me happy. I finished in 10:25:33 (340/826), which was a respectable finishing time. It wasn't finishing time I wanted, but I wasn't supposed to be racing anyway. Let's just call it a good training run for Western States!

Other notes:
I decided not to run with Vespa, again. I have not decided whether or not to use Vespa at Western States yet. Instead, I chose to consume as many calories as I could (along with my Pediasure). I should have also planned to drink more water - that would have helped! I was originally planning on running with a new pair of La Sportiva Crosslites, until I talked to Ann Trason about it! I ended up using an older pair that has less tread, but felt much more comfortable.

I took more pictures this time!

There were some fabulous views along the course!

 The pavement sucks, but at least its surrounded by beauty!

Wildflowers were everywhere on the course!

 Watching the sun rise during a long race is a special treat! I just had to stop and snap a picture of it!

We start in the dark, but it gets brighter pretty quickly! Especially if you're running in the second wave at 6:15!

Folsom Lake is really dry! But still really pretty.

 More pavement. But at least I met a new friend along this pavement! Blakely was his name, and he is a philosophy professor! Since I got my bachelor's degree in Philosophy, we had to chat about it!

A friend took this picture of me crossing the finish line!

Watching the sun set after getting a shuttle ride back to the start in Folsom, California