Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why run 50 miles?

I have been asked more than a few times as to why would I ever want to run 50 miles? I usually answer it with the following "to see if I can". And yes, I have also received many additional comments concerning my sanity that I'm sure many can relate to.

So why do a 50 mile event, well, because I don't know if I can and that is what intrigues me. How will I deal with the physical pain that I know that will come, how will I fuel myself, what will I think about for 12+ hours, what kind of pace should I run, how will the mental battle within go, so many questions and then you have the leap of faith that my training is enough except it's an even greater leap. I think this is part of what attempting a 50 will recapture that feeling at the start line that I have only had in marathons or 50ks, what am I doing? Can I do this? Then attempting it and usually getting through it.

You see, I won't be running 50 miles in training as a matter of fact many of the training programs only have you go to 30 but they do have you run on back to back days. Still a 20 mile leap of faith, that seems like a big leap. So, in a couple of weeks I am planning on 35 miles on Saturday followed by 12 or so on Sunday or vice-versa (12 then 35). Will this training method work, I don't know?

What I do know is that the weekend before last I ran 24 miles and the next day went 12 and that went ok except for some knee pain. Then this weekend I wanted to go 26 or 27 but I was feeling pretty beat up and decided to abort after 24 miles. On Sunday, I was real sore when I woke and then after procrastinating a bit I got out the door. I was surprised after a mile that I felt like I could have gone 12 or more but kept it to 6 miles as my dawdling had taken an hour or so away and time was a factor but as important I didn't want to do something stupid. That may have been a good decision as yesterday, I had very little residual pain and the legs seemed ok.

So the plan is for 2 to 3 more weeks of back to back weekend runs and and then I will taper for a few weeks, and then I will run 50 miles. I do hope that this style of training will get me to the finish. I think it will.

Will it, stay tuned, 32 days to go.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Less than 40 days but who's counting?

I am.......

I was about at my freak out point last week. My VST's were blowing out, my Salomon's had caused toe damage, my Rucky Chuckys were causing issues and my old shoes were retired for a reason. So I did what I needed to do, ordered additional shoes and also got some new trail socks as part of one of those yearly things we all get to go through and I added in a couple of decent back to back long runs over the weekend, so freak out avoided at least for another week.

The things that kept going through my mind is 50 miles, are you kidding, serious, nuts, what was I thinking? I had a friend who informed me that 50 miles is like driving to Red Wing, next time I see him I will let him know that it's only about 40 miles to Red Wing. I am pretty sure he will look at me, shake his head and walk away.

So for the next 3 weeks, I plan to continue to run 2 to 3 times during the week usually between 4 and 8 miles followed by running longer on the weekends. Here are my weekend mileage plans:

Week - Long run - 2nd run
Sep 27 - 26-27 - 12-13
Oct 04 - 30-31 - 12-13
Oct 11 - 34-35 - 12-13
Oct 18 - 20-21 - 12-13
Oct 25 - 15-16 - 12-13
Oct 31 - 50 miles

For my 30+ weekend runs, I plan to do those in Murphy and will probably do a couple loops each time plus a bit more. So will it get me to the start healthy with a chance at finishing, I hope so, I think so, at least that's my plan. I will check out the shoes and socks over the next few weeks and hopefully I will have a couple of options lined up by race day.

On my longer weekend runs I am working on getting in the time and hoping it gets me the distance. Last weekend I ran 12 miles with Karyn at a 13 or so minute pace, we ran for 20 minutes, walked/fueled for 2 minutes then I ran 12 more miles (I think) in Lebanon Hills, I say I think as my Garmin was hopefully having issues, when I was in the open it seemed my pace showed at 12 minute when I went under the trees it showed 16-17, is it possible my pace changed that dramatically, yes, but my hope is that it was just having issues because of the trees. What I do know is that we ran 12 miles (Cedar to Sibley House and back) and it took us 2:41:55, Garmin said 11.95, and then I ran in Lebanon for 3:09:55, Garmin said 11.35, I said that can't be right and I added a .6 mile to make it another 11.95. Am I wrong to do so, I hope not as there is no way I could've slowed down that much, it ain't that hilly and I thought I was running most of the time. I know when I will get confirmation if I am wrong, I would say sometime after the first loop in Murphy. On a totally different yet random note about my runs on Saturday, I counted between 8 and 9 snakes that I got to see on the trail. I am so glad we don't have poisonous ones and all of the ones I saw were between 1 - 3 feet.

I ran for another 3 hours in Murphy on Sunday, the first 6 miles were out on the horse trails (southern section) and it took an hour and 25 minutes. I then crossed over into the northern section and ran for another hour and a half. My original plan for the weekend was to run 34-35 miles and I was at 35-36 so I was happy to call it a day. Today, my legs felt fine, a little tender but not bad.

So the plan to get me to the start of Surf the Murph is real simple, three more weeks of build up, taper down for 3 weeks then start, endure, finish.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Garmin Elevation Maps 3

I exchanged a few notes with Scott concerning my recent posts on elevation maps which resulted in me reading through his blog Run like Monkey. He had a post on his completion of the Superior 50 which caught my attention, great report, and as I finished reading it, I noticed he had a link to Running Ahead where he had posted his Garmin info from his race. I noticed I could grab a "gpx" file from his site and did so and I plotted it in BimActive and sent a summary to Scott. I thought others might find it interesting and with his permission here is my comparison of his data in Running Ahead, BimActive, Garmin Connect and SportTracks

From Running Ahead
A couple of things to note, the elevation +/- and the mileage

From BimActive

Route Name: Superior 50 - SM
Location: Finland, MN
Distance: 52.66 miles
Elevation Avg: 1325 ft
Total Uphill: +7103 ft
Total Downhill: -7257 ft
Elevation Net: -154 ft
Difficulty: 4.5

I was not able to import the "gpx" file into Garmin Connect or SportTracks but I was able to export it from BimActive and then import it, so here is that summary.

Garmin Connect info

Garmin Connect had the mileage at 52.69 miles


To me it looks like all of the elevation plots are similar but the difference in elevation and mileage are worth noting. Here it is summarized in a table.

I will let everyone draw their own conclusions but I still like the way I use SportTracks with BimActive to look at my data. Why? I love the fact that SportTracks tells me how many miles up/flat/downhill I have run and I can import the data direct to it from my Garmin and then sync it to Buckeye. I like BimActive because I think it gives me the most realistic assessment of my elevation and I think it provides the best summary of the data.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Garmin Elevation Maps 2

Londell asked about running the same loop again and seeing how the elevation maps change. So today I went ahead and ran the same loop and compared the elevation plots from SportTracks to Bim Active and here are the results.

Here is a map of the run from SportTracks.

SportTracks - Lebanon Hills run - September 15th

SportTracks - Lebanon Hills run - September 16th

My conclusion is that the runs as plotted from SportTracks look similar but not the same. The mileage was identical for both runs 5.61 miles. I am running their plug-in for elevation correction which is supposed to smooth it our a bit. I will need to look into their forum to see if I can improve it any more.

Bim Active - Lebanon Hills run - September 15th

Elevation Avg: 927 ft
Total Uphill: +344 ft
Total Downhill: -370 ft
Elevation Net: -26 ft

Bim Active - Lebanon Hills run - September 16th

Elevation Avg: 928 ft
Total Uphill: +387 ft
Total Downhill: -390 ft
Elevation Net: -3 ft

My conclusion on Bim Active, it looks better than SportTracks but it still isn't quite identical although it looks real close. One difference that I can explain is that in yesterday's run I shut off my Garmin before I got to the top of the hill at the end of the run which is the cause of the difference at the end of the plot. Could the other minor differences be because although I ran the same trail I am sure I did not take the same tangent or is it simply the noise in the data. I did verify that Bim Active uses the USGS data for it's elevation plots but I am not sure how they correct for the noise in the data that SportTracks mentioned. Bim Active is free to use to import your data to, but they do offer a pay service where it appears you can use your cell phone as a GPS by installing an application onto your phone. They do offer a 1 day trial of this service and the yearly cost looks reasonable. What I haven't checked is what do I need from my cell phone provider in order to use this application.

So what next, well I will run the same loop in the next few weeks and plot it out one more time and see if I see anything else worth noting.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Garmin Elevation Maps

Someone asked about Garmin elevation averages on the mn-drs group recently so I did a quick look at my stats from tonight to satisfy my curiosity. I had posted before about the difference between these but I had never looked at all 4 together for just elevation. I have a Garmin 205 and the run was in Lebanon Hills, around Jensen Lake (the southern loop is open) out to the A frame shelter and back more or less. The updated southern loop is ok, lots of new bridges, they are low to the ground and S shaped. All of the rocks and roots that I have tripped on have been removed or smoothed over :-(. Other than that, I am glad it's open again.

Bim Active:

Elevation Avg: 927 ft
Total Uphill: +344 ft
Total Downhill: -370 ft
Elevation Net: -26 ft

My quick glance at the data says, low of around 910, high of 950+. The minor delta between the start and finish is a by product of shutting my Garmin off before I climbed back up from Jensen Lake. I was about 1/2 up the hill.


Garmin Training Center

Garmin Connect

Interesting differences, Bim Active says it is getting the elevation info from the USGS. Not sure where the other 3 go but it looks like they all go to the same place. I do like the hole I fell into around mile 3 that shows in Garmin and Sport Tracks (no hole or steep down followed by a steep up that I was aware of), notice it doesn't show on Bim.

After looking through this post, I went back and found the email and he referenced Murphy so I grabbed a couple of the plots from Murphy. I just looped around in the Northern section of the park and I did not follow the Surf the Murph course but I did enjoy my wandering around.

Bim Active
Elevation Avg: 935 ft
Total Uphill: +2001 ft
Total Downhill: -2011 ft
Elevation Net: -10 ft


Previous Post - Bim vs. Garmin clarifications

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Better day, still hope

Although I didn't run as far as I wanted (16 versus 20), I am still hopeful. I wore my Salomon's and didn't have any real issues until hour 3. I think my feet just swelled up a bit from the heat and my sore toes became an issue. My achilles seemed ok, no hamstring issues and only occasional foot pain. Next weekend I will need to go longer (thinking 22).

I ran the southern section of the Surf the Murph course but I didn't get out there until about 8:30 which allowed me to experience a bit more heat. I ran it counter clockwise and then reversed and ran it clockwise (just the southern section) and really enjoyed it. This is a nice section of the park, except for being a bit open which led me to getting a bit overheated, with all of the prairie grass it is a different running experience. I did notice that it is fairly sandy which leads to a bit harder workout, hopefully it gets a bit packed before Surf the Murph or it will take it's toll more than I would like. All things considered this section is well worth running and is an enjoyable section, markedly different then the northern section.

I do think this was the first weekend in months where the heat was an issue. Could've used this in July. After completing my clockwise loop of the southern section, I headed over to the Northern section for another 5 miles (had planned on 9) but I knew I was right on the edge of trouble between the shoes, the heat and just dealing with a bad run the day before. So I decided to just stop after having to walk more than I would have liked the last 30 minutes. I was just having too many slips and missteps for comfort.

So I will give some thought to shoes but I think the Salomon's will continue to work and my hope is that as the weather cools off and the toes heal up. I will be fine.

Gotta go watch the Bears.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Shoe issues?

Of course Murphy lives and I don't mean the park, right after I post about a nice series of runs and a feeling all was going well I have a couple of runs that have me wondering. Now I am about 90% convinced it's just shoe issues but that other 10% has me a bit nervous as I am now under 50 days until Surf the Murph.

Anyway, about my shoes, when I ran in Whitewater I kind of damaged a couple of toes on the downhills while I was wearing my Salomon's. Of course these are the shoes I was planning on wearing at Murphy, which last time I checked has some downhills similar to Whitewater. Great, now what? No problem, I can wear my Vasque Velocity VST's, wrong, my guess is that they won't make it to Murphy as the heels are bubbling up which looks like a precursor to the heels coming unglued and they only have 190 miles on them.

So I decided to pull out a couple of pairs of shoes that I had put aside. The first pair were my Vasque Mercury's, I had retired them after 350 miles as I was having some issues. Maybe it wasn't the shoes, so I decided to give them another try and I wore them on Thursday. The day was a disaster, I had to walk more often than I should on a 7 miler and my legs felt pretty toasted during and after, was it the shoes, not sure, should I try them in a 50, absolutely not.

Today, I pulled out my North Face Rucky Chucks which I had decided back in July were the shoes that were aggravating my left foot and my right achilles issues. I ran 4 miles in the morning as my daughter ran with her XC team. Not bad, decent pace, maybe these would work after all. Then I ran 10 miles with my wife later in the morning, excuse me she ran, I hobbled, I walked, I ran a bit, I power walked and I was darn tempted to crawl. Why? Well my left foot felt torqued almost from the start which led to my lower hamstring really feeling like it was going to cramp or tear. Add that to another issue that developed as the run continued, my right achilles was getting tender and I was starting to put 2 and 2 together. Did I mention it was a bit humid today and somewhat hot, that could have been my issue or the 2 runs in a day but nope I am convinced it's the shoes. Maybe I was right back in July, do I want to wear these at Murphy, No.

So tomorrow, I am heading to Murphy and I am wearing my Salomon's, I may try some Vaseline on the toes and see how it goes. I know I am going to go slow tomorrow as I want to get in 20 miles and my hamstring still seems a bit torqued tonght, so I will be going slow, repeat once more, go slow, walk breaks are ok, do the distance, get the time in. Think positive.

If tomorrow does go bad, I may just start freaking a bit about Murphy. Who am I kidding, I am already having those thoughts enter my head. What was I thinking, I just talked to someone about the 50 and I mentioned what I am sure will be going through my mind at Surf the Murph. One loop done, I could have run the 25k and I would be done. Of course I signed up for the 50 miler so I will continue on. Two loops done, I could have run the 50k again and I would be done. But no, I had to do the 50 miler, what an idiot, what was I thinking, oh yeah, I wanted to run the 50 as I wasn't sure I could and on I will go. As I finish the 3rd loop what will I be thinking, never again.

So let's hope tomorrow goes well as I really don't want to start freaking out about the 50 for at least 2 or 3 more weeks and I just need to remember that I am doing it to see if I can. Time doesn't matter, finishing does.

Oh, yeah one last thing that I do need to mention -- Go Bears, beat the Packers.

As to those that like the purple, good luck, I think you will need it before your season ends as the NFC North champ will be either Chicago (my pick) or the Packers.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Whitewater State Park

Sometimes, I have to remind myself why I love trail running, this weekend was not one of those occasions as I got to experience the joy and fun of trail running. I made wrong turns, enjoyed hills that were too steep to run and hills that scared me to run down, ran on rocks and roots, and up and down stairs, took in scenic views, slipped and slid, got a few strange looks, even had someone call me superman, I just had a blast.

First, I need to back up a bit. My family decided to return to Whitewater State Park in south eastern Minnesota. The weather was perfect, mid 70's during the day and lower 50's overnight and no rain whatsoever. We had stayed there back in 2001 on the exact same campsite (#75) and it was at Whitewater that my eyes were open to what trail running was all about. Before that I had run in Lebanon Hills and Nerstrand, both are very runnable with a mixture of service roads and single track with a couple of hills thrown in. But Whitewater had hills that hurt to run, be it up or down and it had some turns that made me a bit nervous as a misstep could have meant a nasty fall. It was like I was moving up to the real deal.

Whitewater state park is named for the river (more of a creek) that runs through the park, it looks fairly tame and I gather it has some nice trout fishing based on all of the folks I saw fishing it.
Although, I viewed it back in 2001 as a nice little creek check out this video from the floods of 2007 where this area of Minnesota received 15 inches of rain and this little creek completely flooded the valley and 7 people lost their lives. The damage to the park was devastating and the park was closed for a long time, the video is about 15 minutes long but it has a lot of information concerning the flood and the park in general, so give it a look.

I was able to run both on Saturday and Sunday, I am not exactly sure of my mileage as my Garmin and I had some issues but I ran for about 2 1/2 hours on Saturday and for 4 hours on Sunday. If you ever get a chance stay at Whitewater do so, plan to run the trails as it's the best way to see the park. The DNR lists 10 miles of hiking trails and that is probably about right but they are a very enjoyable 10 miles. On Sunday I decided to take our camera and capture a few pictures, hopefully you can get a sense of the park from them.

This is the trail leading up from the campground
More of the trail
A nice runnable sectionAnother uphill
And just a bit more.
Nice views from a variety of spots along the trailStairs, they have lots of stairs
I ended up going up and down this set twice or was it three times as I couldn't figure out where the trail had gone. So much for my sense of direction and reading trail maps.

The infamous bluff, back in 2001 when my family saw this section, it was nearing the end of a short cut that I took them on from Coyote Point back to the campground. It took a long time, I think I told them it was a mile or so, as it turns out it is a couple of miles and I am pretty sure I took a wrong turn back then to add just a bit more to my already miscalculated distance. I remember thinking it took us about an hour, they might say more like two.

On Sunday, a bald eagle flew right by our campsite along the river, it caught my attention as it's wing span was huge. It ended up stopping in this tree and was scouting out the river, probably looking for lunch. One last thing, as I was making my way over from Inspiration Point to Chimney Rock (about halfway through my 4 hour run) I passed a handful of folks who were headed to Inspiration Point(I went by a group of young adults, a young family and a young couple - notice how everyone seemed young to me, this happens when you get old). There are two ways to get to Inspiration Point, you can take the trail from the valley below up to Chimney Rock and then continue on to Inspiration Point or climb up the approximately 300 steps and just a bit of trail from the Trout Trail (one young camper told me she had counted 291 steps and then she said or was it 296, I just know there were more than a few).

After I reached my turn around time, I was heading back from Chimney rock to the stairs as I neared Inspiration point, the young couple who I had previously passed stepped off the trail, I said you didn't need to do that but thanked them and the young women said it's always good to let Superman pass, needless to say my weekend was made. I must've actually been running along the trail when they saw me, just think if they had seen any fast trail runners what they would have thought.

So it ended up being a great weekend even though I got a good dose of reality as to my conditioning as I ran and walked (ok, the right phrase would be struggled) my way through the park. Regardless of my running reality, it was fun.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Some good runs.......

Awhile back I had to take a step back with the hope that it would allow me to go forward and it might be working. You see after Chippewa I was a bit banged up and still I proceeded to hobble through May, into June, wobbled through a marathon and made it to July where I tried Afton. It was that day that I had to make a decision, continue and finish the 50k with an ever increasing probability of additional injuries or drop at 25k and take the time off my body was telling me it needed. I actually did the smart thing and dropped and then I cut back for a few days but I did not stop running completely, I just slowed it down a bit, reducing my mileage and I gave myself a little more time between runs.

Having just ended August with the highest mileage for a month this year and the most since last April which tied my high mileage month going back to 1997, I am actually gaining some hope. I have been eating better and with the increased running I am starting to see the weight move down and if I can keep from doing anything stupid I just may get to Surf the Murph with a decent shot for a successful day. I have been following the advice that Helen and others gave by trying to run longer on back to back longer days on the weekend. The weekend before Labor Day, I ran 14 on Saturday and then 17 on Sunday, the weekend before that I did 14 and 16, so some decent progress in getting my mileage up.

As to issues, all I have had thus far is some occasional knee pain and foot/ankle pain, the knee pain led me to take an extra day off to rest this past week and that will be my plan going forward, listen to my body and give it rest as needed.

Last Wednesday, I ran 4 miles before work in Hyland without any increase in knee pain during or after on the run so that was good news . On Thursday, I ran with Wayne in Lebanon Hills and we made it over to the western section, again no significant knee pain, yes. I do like running that section but coming over from Jensen lake takes some of the fun of it away as you have to pop out of the park and run through a neighborhood. Afterward my ankle was sore so I must've torqued it somehow, I don't think it will be an issue but I will need to keep an eye on it too. So I took Friday off (yet another example of playing it smart) and then I ran in Whitewater State Park on Saturday and Sunday with no issues (post to follow), followed by Lebanon Hills today.

Right now, I am hoping, no make that planning on setting my all time high for mileage in a month. I guess I never said but I got in 145 miles in August and if I stick to my plan, I should be over 200 in September. I know for some my monthly mileage would be done in a week but for me it will be real neat if I can hold together and do it.

Like Hannibal used to say on the "A-team", I love it when a plan comes together. All I have to do is keep it together for a couple of more months and then simply run my first 50, doesn't sound too hard at least on paper.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A forgotten post.

I was going through my drafts and I found this post from early July and thought some might still enjoy it.

This summer we had an unusual visitor to our kitchen window, a yellow finch (identified by our nephew who knows a lot about birds or at least a lot more than I do). The interesting thing is this bird kept coming back for about 2 weeks.
The reason he kept coming back is (at least we think) he was looking for his buddy's.

Who had some designs beyond playing.

My wife and I joked that we think he recognized the screen and window offered him protection. He would usually not fly onto the window sill unless the cats were present. He almost seemed to taunt them, we can definitely confirm that he did cause some frustration.

We hope he comes back next summer (and our cats hope we open a window, so he can come in and play :-).


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