Jun 28, 2010

Badwater is less than two weeks away!

Less than 14 days until the start of Badwater! Ran with Tony on Friday after work and we're all psyched to get going!!!

This will be my third trip to death valley, but the first in the context of any sort of race. I went through some of the photos I shot on my first two trips, and thought I'd share some of them here.

Photos from April 2005 road trip:

Look ma, I'm hot! (it was actually only 105F)

Pahrump, NV - halfway between Las Vegas and Death Valley

Leaving Shoshone, CA

Somewhere between Shoshone and Badwater

Salt flats

The sign 275 feet above the road says, "Sea Level"

Yes, there is water at Badwater

Closer look at the water. Don't drink it.

~10 miles from the start of the race

Furnace Creek. Gas ain't cheap in the middle of nowhere

Photos from September 2004 road trip:
(probably before I ever heard of the badwater ultra)

Thermometer in the Shade. In September. After 5PM.

Ravens hold their mouths open, presumably to dissipate heat.

Sand Dunes outside Stovepipe Wells


My understanding of Tony's darkest moment in 2009 is probably near where I shot this.

Panamint Valley

Father Crowley Point

Exciting point in the race - the right turn onto 395 going into Lone Pine

Whitney Portal Road, Lone Pine

Mt Whitney

New entries for Steve's blog are published on Mondays and Thursdays at 10:00am NY time

Jun 24, 2010

Stress Test results

This blog post is intentionally late today, as this morning at 10:00 I was still in the Cardiologist's office.

Short answer: She could find nothing wrong with me.

An echocardiogram, a stress test (see picture above) and bloodwork were done and everything came back normal. The cardiologist stopped the stress test at 13 minutes because that was "long enough" (I could have gone longer.) In fact, everything is very good, except that they still don't know why my performance has decreased and my resting heart rate has increased. At the very least, we eliminated any problems with my heart, and I imagine that if I'm going to have a medical problem, I'd prefer that it not be a heart problem.

So - what is it? Very mysterious. Nothing blatant stands out. Overtraining has been suggested, so I took some time off running (a couple of weeks) and saw little improvement. Cutting out caffeine had no effect. All the bloodwork (thyroid, CBC, CMP, and lipid) came out great. Weight hasn't changed significantly. Age hasn't changed significantly. No significant change in diet or work/home stress life.

Maybe something endocrinological besides the thyroid? Perhaps my hypothalamus shit the bed after the caumsett/umstead 1-2 punch? Ultrarunners sometimes overwork their endocrine system and recovery from this type of fatigue apparently takes weeks after you start resting. I didn't think to ask if the bloodwork I had would pick this up, and I'm not sure she would know the answer to that anyway. I'm just shooting into the wind here. Honestly, I have a hard time believing an endocrinologically-caused scenario, but I suppose it's possible. What else could it be?


Wanna know my cholesterol numbers?

Total: 170 (Healthy range: 125-200)
HDL (good): 59 (Healthy range: >=40)
LDL (bad): 99 (Healthy Range: <130) 
Total Cholesterol to HDL ratio: 2.9 (Healthy Range: <= 5.0) 
Tryclycerides: 59 (Healthy range: <150) 

  New entries for Steve's blog are published on Mondays and Thursdays at 10:00am NY time

Jun 21, 2010

Alone Time - Katahdin via Knife Edge

Update: I made it to the summit of Katahdin - ascending via the Cathedral Ridge and Descending via the Knife Edge to Helon Taylor. I skipped Mt. Rogers, Virginia (Katahdin was enough.) click here photos from the trip.

Alex and Joe are leaving town for California next week; they'll be gone for about 18 days and I'll have some alone time for a while, including July 4th weekend.

To be sure, the majority of this alone-time is going to be normal routine for me. Wake up, go to work, go home, go to bed. Get a few runs in. Whatever. However, I decided to take advantage of the 3-day weekend and do something I feel like I've not done in a long time: a solo road-trip. (The last solo road-trip was to Chicago to run the marathon there in 2008.)

As of this writing, I've been to the highest point of 31 states.

In my project to visit the highest point of as many states as I can, there are two left east of the Mississippi that I've not yet been to: Maine and Virginia. Ticking off both of those states is as good an excuse as any to get a road-trip in (really, do I need an excuse?), and right now I'm particularly interested in spending some time alone, on the road, and on a trail.

Knife Edge, Mt. Katahdin, Maine.

The first state I'll visit is Maine, where on July 3rd I have a reservation to park at Baxter State Park. I'll hike up Mt. Katahdin via the Knife Edge (weather permitting), a precipitous mile-long ridge between Pamola Peak and South Baxter Peak. As narrow as five feet with several-thousand-foot drop-offs on both sides, I've been wanting to climb the Knife Edge for years, both to satisfy my personal curiosity and to see if I can handle the exposure. Indeed, the Knife Edge is probably the closest you can get to big-mountain (Western USA) exposure without leaving the east coast.

Capitol Peak (CO) Knife Edge - Gnarlier than Mt. Katahdin Knife Edge

After climbing Katahdin, I will probably make the very long drive from Maine to southwest Virginia to hike Mt. Rogers, a decidedly more mellow mountain.
Katahdin has moose, Mt. Rogers has... wild ponies? (yes, actually, it does.)

Like I said, the drive to Mt. Rogers is long, but the hike is relatively easy: 8 miles round-trip with a couple thousand feet of climbing. No biggie. On the way, I'll likely come across members of a herd of wild ponies who live in the area. Indeed, the hard part about this highpoint, and the reason Virginia hasn't been ticked off has been completed, is the drive - nearly 600 miles from Suffern, and 1100 miles from Mt. Katahdin. Yes, if everything goes as planned (and that's a big if), I will drive over 2000 miles that weekend, by myself..

.. which should take care of the solo roadtrip bug for the at least the year or two.

New entries for Steve's blog are published on Mondays and Thursdays at 10:00am NY time

Jun 17, 2010

Listserv Gold Part VIII - Free Advice

I actually have two articles that I had planned to write for today. I was wondering all week which one I should post. And now, it's Thursday - I've been too busy and haven't finished either article.


Then, out of the blue, someone on the ultra list posted a link to an article on the Free Advice section of Stan Jensen's run100s.com web site (a site I visit often.) Free advice section?? I've not seen that!

If you go there, you'll find a couple dozen articles on ultrarunning. I've only read a couple (Really busy this week, remember?), but it seems like there's a mix of useful/serious stuff and funny stuff. Perfect.

So, hit the link above for the following articles:

How to reach 100 miles in 24 hours by Kevin Setnes
Running at altitude by Chip Tuthill
All about Ultras by Dana Roueche & Mick Grant
Trail running is better than sex by Don Herres
Downhill training a collection by George Beinhorn
Advice on your first 50-miler by Andy MacGinnitie
And a few more tips by Karl King
Various stuff about fluids
How to get to Grand Canyon by Jennifer Aviles
Grand Canyon II by Jennifer Aviles
The five "Hypos"
Jan Ryerse's tips: your first 100 to a sub-24hr 100
Ultra advice for low-mileage runners by Ed Furtaw
Various medical problems
You might enjoy ... by Brick Robbins (for Movin Shoes)
Some ultrarunners' occupations
Art of Pacing by Gary Wang
Ultra Philosophy by Eric Robinson
Quilts from T-shirts by Jackie Kelley
100 milers ranked by difficulty (a work in progress)
"Real Food" by Karl King
"Recovering from ultras" by Karl King
Other resources (UltraRunning, lists, etc.)
Trail Runners Test
Track Ultras checklist
Ultra Test
UltraWhining Test by Larry Gassan
"Top 10 Reasons to Run Ultramarathons" (PostScript version)
You know you're an Ultrarunner if ...
Some words of wisdom re: H2O by Karl King
Largest Ultras from UltraRunning
The Grand Slam: 4 months, 4 100s (start planning)
What is an Ultramarathon? by David Blaikie
Five Stages to Becoming an Ultrarunner by Matt Mahoney
Shawn McDonald's UR Advice
Heat index (temp. & humidity)
Your First 50-Miler by George Beinhorn

New entries for Steve's blog are published on Mondays and Thursdays at 10:00am NY time

Jun 14, 2010

Race Report - Jami Erlich 1-miler and REACH 5K

Joey's race result: 1 mile in 9:40, second place in Kindergarten division
Joey's finishing kick. Photo by Carl Cox http://www.carlcoxstudios.com/

The day before this race, on Saturday, we ran with Joe's TaeKwonDo class. The master never has him do more than a single quarter-mile lap at a time, but he runs a total of 10-12 of these laps during the workout. I ran with him most of the time, and had to keep him from racing the faster runners. He didn't want to hold back, but I told him that the patience would pay off in the next day's run.

I made sure to run with him and pace him during the race. As would be expected for a kindergarten race, all the kids took off like bats out of hell from the starting line. As we settled into last place, I told Joe to let them go ahead, and "you'll see what happens." Sure enough, within 100 yards the kids had already started walking. Within 200 yards we were passing them, and as we started up a hill 300 yards into the race, Joey started catching the front-runners, who were walking.

Each time we'd catch them, a group of 3 would take off again and run a few dozen feet in front of us. This kept recurring with increasing frequency and I was sure we were finally about to pass them for good when I saw a water stop. Sure enough, all the kids stopped for water but I told Joe to keep running, and we never saw those kids again.

Except for Rodrigo. Rodrigo does nothing but play soccer every night with his father. He was out in front from the beginning and never let up. Like Joe, he also didn't stop at the water station. I kept an eye on him, but any hope that we'd catch him waned as the distance between us increased down the hill after the turn-around.

Going downhill now, I picked up the pace significantly, probably to 9 minutes per mile, and Joe had no problem keeping up. The 1st through 5th graders, who all had a head-start (5the graders went first, 4 graders went 20 seconds later, and so on), were all around us and we were dropping them like flies. We continued to push after it flattened out, all the way until a hundred yards before the finish line, when I told him to go as hard as he can and try to beat some more kids.

I overheard one of the teachers in the school say, "Hey look, it's Joe up here with all the bigger kids - he's a Kindergartener!"

My race result: 5K in 29:31.

Joey watching me looking fresh at my finish. Photo by Carl Cox.
Let's review my goals:

B-goal: 29:40
A-goal: 29:10 (which would be a PR)
Dream Goal: sub-28.

The start of this race was a mere half-hour after the start of Joey's race. Needless to say, I was nice and warm. I also had run 13-14 miles the day before, in a combination of speedwork and long/slow/semi-distance.

In the first mile, with a few rollers, I pushed and got winded pretty quickly, but never let up. Despite the effort, I was disappointed to only see a 9:39 split at the 1-mile point, I thought my effort was closer to 9:15. Settling into the second mile, where there's a pretty big hill, I continued pushing and was pleased to see a 9:37 split at mile 2. I wasn't going fast, but at least I was evenly-paced. The steepest hill of the course occurs in mile 3, but it's not terribly long and is followed by a nice long downhill, so I gave it everything I had. After cresting the summit, I opened it up on the downhill as soon as I was semi-recovered, too tired to go super fast but not ready to slow down either. I wasn't aware of exactly how fast I was going, so I nurtured an illusion that I was running an 8:30 3rd mile (including that steep hill), which would give me a sub-29 finish (and a PR.) I pushed as hard as I could at the bottom of the hill with 300 flat yards to go, but when I finally could see the clock from 100 yards away it was turning 29 right then and I knew the PR was gone. I didn't have anything left for a finishing kick, but I probably managed to maintain the downhill pace all the way to the finish. I don't have a 3-mile split but the last 1.1 miles took 10:14.

I figure that the sub-29 would have easily happened if I hadn't put such a hard day in the previous day, and I still managed a negative split only 30 seconds off my PR, so I can't really complain. And - I beat my time last year at this course which was 29:40. A B goal is still a goal, and I hit it pretty solidly.

Still, I struggle with the nagging thoughts that, just 4 months ago, I ran a sub-25 3 miles on a treadmill. I can't come close to that now. What happened to all that speed?

New entries for Steve's blog are published on Mondays and Thursdays at 10:00am NY time

Jun 10, 2010

New schedule, race preview

Second Base
I have found the three-updates-per-week thing to be difficult to maintain. Many weeks, I'm overwhelmed with stuff to write about, but more often than not, I have to look pretty hard to find something.

My race schedule is also getting lighter as we expect money to pay for travel and entry fees to dry up a bit - that gives me even less to write about.

So, starting today, I'm going to a 2-updates-per-week schedule. You can come to tursi.com at 10am EDT/EST on Mondays and Thursdays to get the updated blog post. Or, you can wait for facebook to pick it up, where it is displayed on my wall as a "note". Facebook does this on its own schedule, and has taken anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 days after publication to poll my site for updates. (Kind of frustrating, actually.) Google Reader (which is how I get all the blogs I read) picks it up immediately after publication.

Enough of the Meta-content.

Race Preview - REACH 5K, Sunday June 13

I ran this race last year. It had an unexpected hill. My time was 29:40. I'll probably struggle to run a similar time this year, because of my mysterious slow-down in race times. I know I'm capable of running it in about 26:30, but.. not in the last few months.

B-goal: 29:40
A-goal: 29:10 (which would be a PR)
Dream Goal: sub-28.

The race is 5 minutes from my house.

I plan to do a 12-mile run on Saturday..

It has a big hill.

I'm pretty well trained for hills right now.

All these factors will influence my time..

New entries for Steve's blog are published on Mondays and Thursdays at 10:00am NY time

Jun 7, 2010

May recap, June goals

Wow, I decided to took one day (memorial day) off of updating this blog, and it turned into a whole week off!
Unrelated but cool: Joey ran 2.5 miles with is TaeKwonDo class this weekend
Ran 18 out of 31 days in 19 distinct workouts
Total Mileage: 141
Weight on May 31: Unknown
(Weight on June7: 311 +6)

Ran 111 days in 115 distinct workouts.
Total Mileage: 569

Here were my May goals:

And that brings me to May goals:
1. Run 31 out of 31 days
2. Run 100 miles at the 48-hour race, and 200 miles total
3. Weigh 280 on May 31, losing 25 lbs
4. Complete 5 ascents of Bear Mountain, including one double-ascent

My May goals were quickly canceled by Tony and Herb offered to help me with my training. I've mentioned Tony numerous times in this blog before, his qualifications are apparent. Herb is a fast runner who has run Boston in 3:05 and has a half-marathon PR at about 1:30. Needless to say, both of these guys know what they're doing (more so than me) and I'd be stupid not to accept their advice.

Here's how the conversation with Tony went down.

Great. I think that the smart thing to do is focus on Javelina as your "A" race, the one you care the most about finishing. We will get you ready for Damn Wakely and the ST Marathon, but you have to figure that if there is one thing you want to do in 2010 it is to finish a 100 miler.

Now, go to Facebook and announce that you have retained me as your coach/guru/shaman, and the first order of business is to abandon the mile-a-day streak, and that you will be finishing your first 100 in October.

And there you have it. Tony and Herb are giving me a training log and I'm running it.

In other news - I have felt like utter hell on all of my runs lately. I can't remember the last time I actually felt good when running. I'd like this feeling to stop, please.

If there is anything wrong medically, I guess I'll find out on the 24th when I have that follow-up appointment with the Doctor. Otherwise, I'm not sure what's going on. A couple of people have suggested taking a week off, because the symptoms I was having sounded to them like overtraining. It was a risky and drastic proposition, but I decided to do it because my runs have been so miserable and I'm feeling like I'd do almost anything to get back to where I was. So, on Saturday of Memorial day weekend, I did 3 miles easy and didn't run again until the next Saturday, in which - I saw little improvement. Damn.

Weight is, of course, always an issue for me, and may be what's behind the crappy runs lately. The magnitude of the crappiness seems to be an overly-dramatic effect for just a few pounds, but I suppose it's possible. Either way, it would be fantastic if I can lose a few pounds before Badwater (and, by extension, Wakely Dam.) I feel like I have tried nearly everything out there, and nothing has seemed to work for more than a week. Yet, I'll keep coming up with ideas and every time I'll believe this idea will finally work.

So, this time, my brilliant plan which can't fail is:

Step 1: Plan everything I eat.
Step 2: Log everything I eat next to the plan.
Step 3: Do this in a public matter, so people can see where I'm screwing up
Step 4: ???
Step 5: Profit!

Ok, steps 4 and 5 are a little iffy, so I would be thrilled if the effect is simply to lose a tremendous amount of weight. It seems to me that will make the biggest difference possible. I've done it before - my lowest weight in 2008 is 130lbs lighter than my max weight in 1997. I don't need to lose that much. 100lbs would be fine. (:

So here's where you can see my eating log and plan:

The June goals (starting on June 7) are thus:
1. Do whatever Tony and Herb tell me to do
2. Plan and log everything I eat in the link above.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time