Monday, December 4, 2017

The Tapering Lows

A week and a half ago, I strained my hip. Last Monday I had a massage, and my therapist determined it was my psoas muscle. Often the day after a massage I will be sore, even have bruises, but this time I was sore for five days! It slowed my running and I was even limping!

This has happened multiple times, I come down with some aliment in the last few weeks of training. In November 2011 I didn't have a good workout the last four weeks leading up to my marathon, but the last two days before the race I started to feel better and then ran my PR.

It could be mental, psychosomatic. It could be my brain is subconsciously making me feel pain so that I don't over do it in the last few weeks, because I have a tendency to over do it, to over train, or more appropriately, over live. The last few days it has made me more thankful to God for the physical fitness blessings he has given me to even attempt these kinds of adventures. If this is my last race ever, or if I become paralyzed before the race on Saturday, it's okay, I don't deserve any better. Certainly, an injury is depressing, but more importantly it reminds me that I am not in control, of anything, even my own body! Sure, I have a lot of influence over my body, but I don't totally control it. Anyone who believes he or she truly controls much of anything is fooling himself or herself.

Fortunately I had a nice 10 mile trail run last night and a pleasant 18:24 5k tempo on the track tonight. Provided I recover and rest up well the next four days and five nights, Desert Solstice could go quite well. However the race goes, it's not about me or what I did or do, it's about God, and what he has made possible. So I ask my favorite question, what is possible? And that is what I aim to explore on Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Planning to Run the 24 Hour American Record at Desert Solstice 2017!

In the aftermath of my 154 mile run at the North Coast 24 in September 2014 I did a lot of research about ultra running, and in particular the 24 hour run. I realized that I am very much capable of setting the American 24 hour record. Before I attempted it I needed a good "short" ultra, which I had at Mad City 100k this year. Second, I needed more experience to nail my nutrition, which I've acquired over the last three years of ultra racing and mountain running. The third thing it would take is a good solid build up to the race. Last week has confirmed that I am fit enough to attempt the record. December 9th from 8 AM Arizona time to December 10th at 8 AM at the Desert Solstice 2017 I will try to run 278 kilometers or 172.74 miles. That's 8:20 mile pace for 24 hours strait.

Sure, it's arrogant to say that, but let me explain some things about the 24 hour run.
  • Very few of the top ultra runners run the 24 hour run. Most prefer to stick to the trails, doing 50 and 100 milers.
  • I was the youngest person on the USA 24 team in 2015, and the youngest man by 9 years. The people that do run 24s get into it later in life, which I hope gives me more opportunities to chase wins and records than the average 24 hour runner, and I like moonshots, swinging for the fences, big risk -> big reward.
  • There is a perception, even among most ultra runners, that it is very boring running in circles, so people don't even try. Personally for me, thinking about hydration, nutrition, stomach stability, shoes, socks, bathroom breaks, breathing, and chatting with competitors fills up the time quite a bit. You are always around people, unlike a trail race where you may be quite alone.
  • It's so pure. A trail race I struggle to give 100%, because that means your feet are barely lifting off the ground and you could hit a rock or root going 12 mph down a hill and wipe out. On a rubber track, that is not a risk.
I'm having the best build up I have had in three years! I ran a 1:19:30 21k on the track last week, and I recovered from it well. I've had two 100+ mile weeks with one more planned. I haven't done that kind of mileage since 2014. It really is quality over quantity, but you need a decent level of quantity, it's not an either/or decision.

There will be live tracking at this link, and possibly some Facebook Live events, as well as numerous Facebook updates. My sister will be crewing for me for the fourth time (previously one 24 hour, one 50 mile, and one Nolan's 14 attempt). So during the race she would be better to contact than myself. Side note, congratulations to Camille Herron, Eliud Kipchoge, Shalane Flanagan, and Galen Rupp for their inspiring runs this year setting records and winning races! When I see so much success it helps motivate me to see what I am capable of!

Get excited! Tune in to watch this carnage! There are many factors, my last three weeks of training, weather in particular, that could derail the race. I honestly give myself only a 30% chance of success. Of my three previous 24 hour races only one really went well. It's really hard to predict what is going to happen 130 miles into a race. I'm announcing this so that those of you that might be interested can tune in and spectate, and speculate, how I am doing. It's such an obscure event and I'd like to bring it a tiny bit more publicity if possible. Also, if USATF or USADA wants to drug test me, or a university wants to make me part of a study, now you all know.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Risk and Failure

I've been thinking about risks lately and failure. What is the risk to test X in Y environment? What is the risk of taking job A? What is the risk of climbing mountain B? What is the risk of not climbing mountain B?

It is interesting how my perspective on risk has changed as I have grown older. For starters, I'm more aware of the risks, across the board. On a mountain I now realize the many ways I could fall that I might not have appreciated before. At a race I realize the worst that could happen is roughly what happened to me at the 2015 24 hour world championships. I can't imagine it being any worse than that, at least in a road race or track race. So why not swing for the fences? Worst that happens I flop and spent the last six months "wasting" my training cycle. Yet, the truth is, by staying in shape, I'm not wasting a training cycle, even if I "waste" the race. It's more experience and I can come back and try again.

Similarly, 2010 was a pretty rough year for me, and after it was over I sought the safety and security of a big stable pay check, and a pension. Now that that has been achieved I'm curious what options might be out there with more upside, even if there is substantially more downside. Like the questions of climbing the mountain above, it's a risk to do it, and a risk not to do it. I don't have an answer to which is the better risk to take, and I don't have any secret announcement to reveal, I'm just saying I am curious in a way I was not over the past six and half years now.

People seem to regret the things they did not do, rather than the things they did do. Psychology Today seems to write about regret every other month. In other words, it feels strange sometimes to talk about the risk of not climbing Mt. Everest, or the risk of not running 24 hour races, but those are legitimate risks that I will regret if I did not do them.

On the topic of failure, it is so much dependent on how you view it! I will be honest, I'm not always the most optimistic about my failures, but on the other hand, based on the feedback I get, I'm more positive than a lot of people. After I returned from Everest in 2014, many people viewed that as a failure for me. I did not get above basecamp, at least on the actual route. Yet for me, a situation like that happening, while unexpected, was a possibility. The best 8000 meter mountaineers seem to average about one summit for every three 8000 meter attempts, so showing up at basecamp, and not getting a shot at the summit, that happens, a large percentage of the time. At least, it used to happen more frequently when weather forecasting was not as good, equipment was not as good, and people were not as skilled.

Similarly, when Janzen Gear failed in 2010, it hurt, and I don't like talking about it, but I learned a lot from the experience and it helped me to realize that even if I fail, life is not over, there will be other jobs. I've said in the past, and it's a constantly changing number, but I am comfortable with about a 30% success rate, but as I realized recently, it depends on what we are talking about. Despite what people may think, because I don't talk about it as much outside of work, I put way more energy into my engineering than I do my running and mountain climbing, and I would really like a higher rate of success in that part of my life. Similarly, I like to have more success in running than mountain climbing (as measured by achieving my race goal time or distance, and summiting the mountain) because I run maybe two big races a year, yet I can climb seven 14ers in seven days, and the consequences of a potential failure (death) on a mountain are more significant than in a race.

Similarly, Ed Viesturs said that the statistics of 8000 meter mountaineering deaths didn't apply to him, and I get what he means, so many people die from inexperience (or overconfidence) that if you can rule that out, the statistics are much different.

Risks are all around us, and we all fail regularly, it's just a question of which risks will you take and what failures are you okay with?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Exhausting Lifestyle of Running 100+ Mile Weeks

Tonight I slogged through nine miles of sore running. I'm not injured, or sick, and last week I did my first 100 mile week in a long time, maybe three years. I remember the days when I was younger doing 100 mile weeks and I remember the great workouts. Running 6:15 pace and having a conversation, running a 20:12 6k tempo, running 5:30 miles like they are easy. It's easy to forget the days like today, where every foot step was a struggle, when it is hard to get out the door, when 8 minute mile pace is as fast as I'm going to go. Yet as I struggled out there for more than an hour the hazy memories of soreness, exhaustion, and heavy steps came flooding back. All of those forgettable days I've had with those dreary runs, came back to me like a long lost fortune. Some people call these junk miles, but I did an 8k in 29:43 yesterday! Today my legs didn't want to run, they wanted more recovery. By running I slightly increased the damage, the microtears, in my leg muscles. My body will react by working harder to heal those muscle fibers and make them stronger.

There are a lot of lonely, forgettable, slow runs when a person is trying to be as fast as he can be. Yet in many ways those are the runs that make the race. When I am exhausted at hour 23 on December 10th in Phoenix, I really want my legs to keep running, and days like today make that moment easier.

Saturday, September 30, 2017


Show me the ultrarunner who has not had issues. I don't think that person exists. It's too much of a painful lonely sport attract people like a giant party. It's not just finish lines and after parties. The vast majority of it is out on the road and trails, alone, putting in the work so that maybe hopefully for that one short moment everything will culminate in a personal record and I will have achieved something I doubted was possible year ago.

Case in point, I hit the glycogen wall hard this morning on my long run, very poor carboloading after my run yesterday.

Sunday, September 24, 2017


I just finished watching "Black Hawk Down" for maybe the tenth time. I had an army recruiter in my dining room in the fall of 2003 and I am thankful that I did not enlist because surely I would have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. First of all, thank you to the veterans that have served so that we have a country where it is possible to voice descent. Second, I do not understand why you do it, why you go into harms way. Even as a teenager I realized that the danger of bullets and bombs was significant. That was ultimately why I did not enlist. If weather or conditions are bad in the mountains, we take a rest day, I've had dozens, but in a war, you have to go when it is time to go, regardless of the danger. Third, my appreciation deepens every time when a mountaineering person dies. Ueli Steck dying was a big deal for me, he was the best Alpinist in the world. If you take the risks, even 0.1% long enough, say 1000 days, the odds catch up with you.

When I was young and watched Kelly's Heroes and Midway war seemed exciting. Now that I am older, I cry. It's heartbreaking. Why do we do this? What is the point? The current drama with North Korea, can't we sit down with them, China, South Korea, Japan, Russia, and talk about what we want, and dare I say, our fears? I realize world peace will probably never happen, but I see movies like "Arrival" and I want it to happen. You can't threaten someone into being peaceful forever, the motivation has to come from within, when the person aspires to a higher standard.

As Josh Hartnett grows throughout the story his obliviousness is lost. It's hard to ignore the question, "what changed?" He did... what else? I am not sure. Frankly, if war only changes the people who directly experience it, we will never be rid of war. Many of the most peace loving people I know are war veterans.

I'm rattling on. I am grateful that despite the hardships I have faced in life, like my recent burglary, I still enjoy a life that is more privileged than the vast majority of the world, and I did nothing to deserve it. I was simply born in the right place and the right time to the right parents. Thank you God!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

I was robbed.

Life = eventful. It's Sunday evening and I'm laying on my couch waiting for it to get dark enough I can fall asleep. I'm exhausted from my 12 day round the world trip to India via Qatar then South Korea and home via Japan. Last weekend, while I was gone I was robbed, my nice blue Trek Madone carbon fiber bicycle was stolen along with my Garmin Fenix 2 watch, my Cilogear 60L worksack, an iPhone 4S, and a 60 Whr battery. And my house was made into even more of a mess than usual.

I didn't run today, I'm exhausted from the travel. It was a five movie type of weekend, lots of laying on the couch. I read about Irma and watched the news and it's all so heartbreaking. My friends in Florida are probably being flooded tonight. I saw people in India that will never have the financial wealth and physical benefits I have like healthcare. And the person or people that broke into my house ransacked my medicine cabinet probably have a drug problem, something they cannot control. It doesn't make me angry, it's heart breaking.

Why me? I mean, why am I not the robber addicted to drugs? Why was I not born into a low caste in rural India? Why don't I have any running injuries at the moment?

I'll be just fine. Pray for those less fortunate than me.

Sent from my iPhone