Jan 29, 2010

Krupicka Video

I'm a little short on time this week, so I regret that I won't be able to write anything today. Instead, I'll post an Anton Krupicka video that I came across this morning.

(If you can't see the video, please click here.)

As in any niche sport, ultrarunning has its share of top performers that those of us involved follow. My personal favorite is Krupicka. Read his blog, his insight is very valuable and he's a great writerer as well. Here also is a recently published article about him that is very interesting: click.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Jan 27, 2010

Warning about barefoot running

This found its way to my email box yesterday:

I assure you, any self-interest these people would have in your buying running shoes is just a figment of your imagination.

On a completely unrelated topic, today is supposed to be an epic day in fanboy history. I can't deny my own curiosity. I'll be watching.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Jan 25, 2010

Listerv Gold Part IV - 100 miles is a long way

Time for another edition of Ultrarunning Listserv Gold, a semi-regular feature of this blog where I quote something I found inspiring, interesting, or generally valuable on one of the various ultrarunning email distribution lists I subscribe to. To view all editions of ULG, please click here.

After finishing my first 100, the next one was much easier, just because I knew I could do it. It sounds like you have a mission to make Leadville your first 100. But, in my opinion, you'd be MUCH better prepared for Leadville after finishing at least one other 100 first. Even if it's dead flat loops in a 24 hour event, or 'just' going 80-90 miles. It is going to give you a much better chance at finishing LV. A hundred miles is a long way. It's a hell of a long way when you're not sure you can do it. Throw in a couple of laps on Hope Pass and it could be pretty daunting. -Joe Judd

This is not the first time I've published something Joe Judd wrote to ULG.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Jan 22, 2010

Hard Work is its Own End

Here is an article that I started back in March '09 and never published. It's been sitting as a draft this whole time. I think it's pretty good, so I'm going to dust it off, revise it for what I'm doing currently, and post it now.

My Observation
The more serious I am about something I'd like to accomplish in my running, the less motivated I am.

In the past, I have set aggressive goals. Not what you're used to seeing if you're a reader of this blog, but the kind that are more typical of a runner. Think Boston Qualifier in a specific race, and you'll be on the right track. Almost invariably, they've ended up in failure - and I believe the failure is due to the fact that my training becomes a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.

Working Hard to Accomplish a Goal

Take speedwork. Normally, a runner who wants a BQ will go to the track and run speedwork sessions specifically tailored for that BQ. The speedwork is pain that the runner experiences in order to accomplish some other goal. It's a lot of hard work, and hopefully that results in delayed gratification.

Apply that to any running workout - tempo runs, long runs, hill training - and they all add up to a TON of time spent, working on a goal. People probably get some sense of satisfaction from the training, or perhaps even enjoy it - in fact, I find it hard to imagine a long-term consistent runner who doesn't - but their primary purpose to train is that goal race - otherwise they'd just be running, with no schedule or no plan. Nothing wrong with that, lots of people are like that. They rarely race and probably don't read this blog. For the rest of us, training is a means to an end. If you don't believe me, head to your newsstand and pick up a copy of Runner's World or Running Times. Half of the articles include a training or nutrition plan - usually in the context of a race goal.

Working Hard for Hard Work's Sake

There's something funny about me and hard work - I love hard work - but only for hard work's sake. Speedwork - I usually enjoy doing it, especially when I feel like I'm going to die. But here's the thing - as soon as I do it for some purpose other than to just do it, it gets tedious and the enjoyment goes away. I stop doing it.

I think this is why I enjoy trails so much. Hiking the same trails that I run isn't all that appealing to me. But when I run them, the hard work that goes into running up a hill unthinkably steep to the regular asphalt runner, or running down a rocky technical trail, or just zoning out in the solitude - the hard work - it actually becomes the reward.


And when I really think about it, I love to race for the social aspects of it, not for the competitive or the race itself. Looking at what races I'm interested in for 2010, a common denominator is that friends are planning on them as well - and going gives me an opportunity to see them and hang out. The culture lends itself to friendliness. The race is thus just the context of a get-together.

This isn't to say that the race itself has the same significance as a daily training run - it has more. This is evident just looking at my log. Clearly, I run extra hard or extra long on race days. However, I wonder if it's merely the mini-competitions in the back of the race pack - something unique to racing - that motivate me. Contrary to better advice, I tend to put in hard efforts on my daily runs - not quite race efforts apparently, but I'm definitely neglecting the easy days that runners are supposed to take in between hard days. The only difference between a routine training run and a race, therefore, is the competition.

One Day at a Time

So how do I apply this observation to goals that I have, and that I don't want to give up? Specifically, the goal of running every day this year? A friend, who is a cancer patient, said last week about his prognosis, "Today, then tomorrow. Nothing more." I thought that was a great attitude and I hope I'm not neglecting the significance of his situation by borrowing that mentality for my running goal. As of today I'm 22 days down and 343 days to go. That is a hopelessly long time for all but the most goal-driven people I know. But if I can manage to focus on Today, Then Tomorrow - Nothing More, perhaps I will find success come December 31.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Jan 20, 2010

On running when sick

I knew it would happen. Didn't know how long, but - eventually - as certain as death and taxes, I knew it would happen.

Of course, I was hoping it would later, rather than sooner - but what I hoped doesn't really matter.

What I'm talking about is the first real challenge to my running streak - I've caught a cold.

You see, if I caught this cold 100 days in, I can rationally defend my stubborn adherence to keeping the streak alive. But 19 days in - it's not that big a deal to just get better, and re-start it. So since I can't be rational about it, I'll just use the fact that I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer as an excuse for my stubbornness a mere 19 days in.

Opinions from people who are actually smart about such matters

The conventional wisdom regarding running when sick is that it's ok when all the symptoms are "above the neck" - congestion, headache, sore throat - not an excuse to avoid running. On the other hand, "below the neck" symptoms, specifically fever - are very good excuses. People who know better suggest that I'd be dumb to try running with a fever. So when I woke up early this morning feeling like crap, I wasn't sure what I was going to do. My wife commented on how hot I felt. I felt a little chilly. I wasn't sweating, either.

How I feel vs. objective measurements

Confident that my temperature was high, I dug out a thermometer and took an actual measurement and found that I was actually not running a fever. Relieved, I took three aspirin and waited a half hour. Aspirin happens to be a magic bullet in my Experiment of One, and I actually felt fine at 6:15am when I drove to the gym.

Still being cautious, and knowing that my current feeling of well-being was, frankly, drug-induced, I made sure to run very easy this morning - limiting myself to a mile on a treadmill in about ten minutes. Sorry smart folks, but this was unavoidable. Nobody but other runners will understand this - but no matter how sick I felt, nothing was going to stop me from slogging a mile this morning. It might have taken 15 minutes. It definitely would have sucked, I would have hated it, and it certainly would have been pretty stupid in objective terms. But I did it anyway. Like I said, if none of this makes sense to you, then you're probably not a runner. But for those of us who do run, it's at least understandable, if non-sensible.

By the way, Amanda S calls these short runs "fake zeros" and I love that term. Just get the job done, even if it makes no difference in the training.

Streaking and the problems streakers face

Of course, I'm not the only person who deals with this, and a quick google search confirms this. The USRSA provides no exceptions "for genuine excuses like being sick, injured or laid up in hospital." To maintain a running streak of any distance requires a little bit of luck - and for the 90 or so people with 20+ year running streaks, perhaps a lot of luck. These people have gone 20 years without any sort of hospitalization or severe injuries. But these 90 people didn't get there with luck alone. I'm sure most all of them have had their bouts with sickness (even fevers) & injuries. But they all somehow managed. So I'm guessing that I will be ok, too - especially if I keep the sick days to "fake zeros."

I'll leave you with a few quotes from the aforementioned google search.
He’s run hours after hemorrhoid surgery and aboard a cruise ship while a tropical storm hit. Then there was the day 20 years ago when he broke his left foot. Although he managed to get home and to the hospital, his foot “was so swollen they couldn’t even put a cast on it,” Covert recalls. “So the next day I wrapped it in an Ace bandage, put on a makeshift boot, and hobbled through. I wasn’t going to miss my run.” source

"Running with a torn hip flexor was the toughest," he said. The broken kneecap and the suspected burst appendix presented challenges nearly as daunting. But the day his wife, Irene, was in labor with their daughter might only have made Davidson run a bit faster.source

"A few years back I had a minor operation. I went running that morning, and actually got out of the hospital that evening. It involved getting a few stitches but I was still able to run the next day. Another time I had a very bad dose of the flu. I was in bed all day, with my mother looking after me. She went out to the shops for a short while, and I seized the opportunity. I was really knocked out, but said I’d go for it, and skipped out for a run."source

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Jan 18, 2010

It's good to be on a trail again

I did something fun on Saturday.

I went on a trail run.

Now, unless they've been paying close attention to this blog and my training log, friends who know are certainly wondering, "So what? Steve is always trail running." And normally, they'd be right. But looking back on my logs, the last time I actually ran on something other than a treadmill belt, asphalt or track was October 17th - when I DNF'd a 50K after falling and banging up my knee.

This last Sunday was January 15th. Nearly three months without any dirt. What was I thinking?

I don't know - because let me tell you - it was downright glorious. Now, I was planning on hitting the trails that day anyway - and the weather was not being taken into account. But as luck would have it, Saturday was the first really beautiful semi-warm day we've had in a couple of months. It was well over 50F with blue skies. My schedule didn't allow me to run until the mid-afternoon - by then the trails were muddy, snowy - and in a couple of places, treacherously icy. And my hill-fitness desperately leaves something to be desired. But none of that matters. I ran a couple of flat miles and then hit the hills. Probably half of the run was rocky and technical. An hour and 16 minutes on the trails went by faster than 20 minutes on the treadmill. I walked probably half of the uphills - and averaged about 13:20 for the whole thing. Slow - but happy.

If you're a reader of this blog who deprives yourself of the pure unadulterated pleasure of trail-running - you have no idea what you're missing.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Jan 15, 2010

Truth in Advertising

Here's an amusing anecdote for you to contemplate on your weekend long runs:

(if you can't see the video above this line, please click here for the youtube version)

Did you see the fine print?

Because if you didn't, it says,

"Each ¼ cup serving of Manwich contains a ½ cup of vegetables."

I guess that's possible if you really really really squish those veggies into the concoction of tomato paste and processed meat and preservatives and whoknowswhatelse in that can..

(via Obesity Panacea, who actually does know what else is in that can. i'll give you a hint - lots of salt.)

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Jan 13, 2010


Winter in New York

My routine has been remarkably similar lately, because I've been unusually reluctant this year to train outdoors. I don't know why, but every time I think about heading out in the cold, I opt to drive to the gym - last year, I was more likely to suck it up and run outside. Since Thanksgiving, however, I have run outside precisely once - on a track, and for only two miles. Everything else has been treadmill, up to 8 miles. I've been doing it daily in the new year, but it's been daily on the treadmill.

Getting Really Good at One Type of Running

One of the pitfalls with setting a goal to go out and run every day is doing the same exact workout every single time. This makes sense, because the mindset in trying to develop a daily routine encourages this - or else it wouldn't be a routine. Set the alarm, wake up, get dressed, get in the car, drive to the gym, pick out a treadmill, choose a podcast to listen to, tighten my shoelaces, press 6, press 0, press start, go for 30 minutes, finish up, drive home, shower, etc .. I could probably get into a routine like that and maintain it for a while. And what I'd end up with is better physical fitness - and I'd be excellent at running 6mph for 30 minutes on a treadmill. However, when the time came to go trail-running again, or perhaps to race a half-marathon - my specificity of training will have been optimized for something completely different and I will not live up to my potential.

Treadmills and trail 100-milers

Now I can definitely vary the treadmill workout simply by running under different settings. Go faster. Go slower. Adjust the incline. Add intervals. And after a straight week of 6mph consistent running, that's what I have started to do. But the reality is that my next race is a trail 100. And while running on the treadmill is definitely better than nothing, it's not ideal.

Man up and Get Out in the Cold

This is why I plan on breaking out my Garmin GPS watch and heading to Ramapo Reservation over the next few weeks to restart outdoor trail running. At the reservation, I will have the option of running flat, running hills, running technical, and running smooth - so everything I need is right there - I've just got to get over the main thing that has been keeping me away: the cold.

The Treadmill is not Without its Uses

Having said that, I don't plan on phasing out the 'mill altogether. My ultrarunning friend Meredith once gave me a treadmill workout that is very relevant to 100-milers - fast walking with an incline. I tried it out, I can attest that walking 4MPH at 10% is definitely harder than running 6MPH at 0% - and will pay large dividends come March when Umstead comes around. As a result, if you visit my training log, you should expect to start seeing workouts where I have a 1-mile running warmup (keeps the streak alive), followed by 3 or 4 miles of walking..

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Jan 11, 2010

Little goals inside of big goals

One of the strategies for success I have in my goal of pulling a 365-day running streak in 2010 is to define small goals to accomplish on the way to the large goal.

The Long Winding Road to Failure

A year is a really long time to do something consistently, and I believe that is the reason so many people's new years resolutions fail. I am no less susceptible to failure than the next guy, and if the many failures I've had in my life have taught me anything, it's that I'm on a collision course with yet another disappointment in 2010 unless I implement a strategy to overcome decreasing motivation as time goes on. When eleven days into a long-term goal, it's easy to stay excited - but after one hundred and eleven days, the attention will be on the overwhelming reality of "two hundred fifty-four days to go." I imagine the sheer magnitude will be downright discouraging - and discouragement, if allowed to fester, will inevitably lead to failure - at least for me.

Pulling That Lofty Goal Down From the Stratosphere

It seems to me that if I broke the project up into smaller chunks, that fickle and elusive successful result will come closer into reach. What if the goal wasn't two-hundred fifty four days away? what if it was just thirty days away? Could I set monthly goals that wouldn't be so overwhelming? And could I make them challenging enough to actually be interesting? Perhaps if I sat down at the beginning of every month and created a goal for that month, I could by the end of the year - almost by accident - accomplish the bigger goal.

The Plan

This idea didn't occur to me on the first of January, but rather this past weekend, over a week into the new year. It seemed prudent, then, to let the goal for January (and probably December) simply to be "to run every day." In January, the excitement of the large goal is such that I don't have to have set a sub-goal in order to get to the end of the month. However, come February and every month thereafter, expect me to publicly declare the goal I'll set for that month. If the ideas that I have already are any indication, I guarantee that it will be interesting to follow - and tough for me to accomplish.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Jan 9, 2010

one goal for 2010

(this was meant to be posted on friday at 10, but i guess never hit "publish", so it stayed as a draft. I publish it saturday morning instead.)

I approach 2010 with a bit of caution when it comes to what goals I'll have. Looking back at 2009 I consider it a pretty good year, especially considering the finish I had at the Tetons. However, the goals I set a year ago are a far cry from what I actually accomplished. I ran a mere 817 miles in 144 days over the year. How pathetic! I didn't run a marathon or more every month. I didn't lose any weight at all. To be honest, looking at the numbers I feel kind of like a schmuck for feeling like I had a decent year.

Having said that, I decided that I would have just one goal in 2010: To run every day.

And to make sure I don't cheat, I am going to use the qualifications as accepted by the United States Running Streak Association (Yes it does exist) to define a "run":

A running streak is defined by USRSA as running
at least one continuous mile within each calendar
day under one's own body power (without the
utilization of any type of health or mechanical
aid other than prosthetic devices).

Running under one's own power can occur on either
the roads, a track, over hill and dale, or on a
treadmill. Running cannot occur through the use
of canes, crutches or banisters, or reliance on
pools or aquatic devices to create artificial

In the past, I have had running streaks as long as 61 days, and I found that the streaks really helped me to stay consistent in a way that "I'm going to run 5-6 days per week" couldn't. And my races were better for it, too. A pitfall I noticed when streaking, however, was just doing the minimum every day and ending up with less than ten miles per week. I will have to be careful not to let that happen again.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Jan 6, 2010

Umstead 100-miler Countdown

Holy crap!!

(if you can't see a countdown, then it's about 79 days until Umstead as of Jan 6th)

I've got some work to do. Once again, I have disregarded my eating during the Christmas season and ended up fat again. Oddly enough, people are telling me that I look thinner, but the scale doesn't lie.

I hate to say it, but the reality is that I've blown off the last three months of preparation and weight at least as much as I did when I registered for this thing. Rocky Raccoon proved to me that a 300lb guy can get away with doing 50Ks and even 50Milers but 100 miles is a completely different story and if I have any hope of finishing then I've got to focus hard during the time I have left. It's not too late - I can make a huge difference with 3 months. But I can't be procrastinating anymore either.

Watch this blog for updates.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Jan 4, 2010


Well, I didn't make it down to Delaware on Saturday. Couldn't sleep on Friday.

As a result, Tony invited me to go with him on his run on Sunday morning. But when I was still awake at 1:30am, I knew I wasn't going to make that either.

Since Christmas, I've been in the nasty habit of sleeping late, and that has really been affecting me at night, and in the mornings.

Last night, I was able to doze off before ten, probably thanks to the left-over half bottle of wine from New Years. And I even managed to wake up early (4:30am) and get to the gym this morning, picking up three easy miles on the treadmill before 5:30am.

As a result of waking up early this morning, and with a little luck, I'll be able to fall asleep relatively early again tonight. Hopefully that will set me back on the right track in terms of a sleep schedule.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Jan 1, 2010

Race Preview - Team Slug Fattest But 50K

Happy New Year!!

Tomorrow I'll be heading down to the swampy trails of the first state and pick up another ten laps at the Fattest Butt 50K.

I am not taking this race very seriously, and may opt for less than ten laps. This is definitely more of a social event for me, just to hang out and see some friends.

The RD isn't taking it very seriously either. Here is a message he sent to us a few days ago:
Subject: Fat Butt next Sat...This is NOT a RACE

"OK Sluggos, y'all know the drill ... Be-Low Fat Ass-Style ... Not a Boston Qualifier, But tyme will be Kept ... Be at park gate @ 8 AM, and be sure to bring what-ever sustenance ya need to finish with ya. As always, TSI will supply stale bread and pond water. Easiest 50K non-event (In The World ... 99.99% finish rate) ...you must finish not under 4 hrs, but before dark. In past, Temps have been 0 to 75 degrees & we've had rain, snow, sun, hail, sleet ... blind flyin' squirrels have been wicked this winter, be sure to bring yer repellent... "

And people wonder why I love doing this stuff. (:

That reminds me.. i've gotta go pick up some blind flyin' squirrel repellent.

(sorry this blog post is a little late. i was up late last night.)

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com