Wednesday, February 23

One digression leads to another...

Things have been very busy lately.  Currently in week 17 of the November OS and workouts are as tough as ever with longer intervals and higher FTP targets.  No issues to speak of other than being on the edge of fatigue all the time. 

My new Team outfit came the other day….. this is the tri top and shorts.  I also bought my first pair of bibs (not shown). 

I can’t wait to show off my new colors at Boston.  There should be 6 to10 EN athletes there all in Team garb.  IMLP is going to have over 30 athletes all in Team EN outfits.  That is going to be awesome!

The OS by itself isn’t too bad, but when I toss in lots of run volume as I ramp up for Boston and the 2 half marathon tune-ups, it adds up.  I also started swimming too.  So my normal Monday and Friday “off” days are now swim days.  I had signed up for some lessons but my instructor hasn’t really been all that great and she had to cancel twice.  I’m thinking of canceling the rest of the lessons and just working on my own again.  Most of my swims are 2000 or 3000 all pull.  I average about 1:55 per 100.

On the run front, getting ready for Boston has been going well since I finally got past the calf twinge that came on during the VO2 max sets in January.  I have been doing fairly well with my 2 key workouts – the long run and my mid-distance tempo runs.  Soon enough I will add back the third key workout: speed skills.  They usually come in the form of Yasso 800’s or hill repeats.  But between the cold crappy weather and the intense bike intervals, I just don’t have it in me to load them up yet.  Still have 8 weeks to go – plenty of time.
This past Sunday I did my long run of 22 miles on the Deadmill.  Yikes!  Well, it really wasn’t that bad.  It was much better than the single digit cold, windy, icy outdoor option.  Definitely turned some heads at EN….. They must thing I am loony tunes…..maybe they’re right…

My final long runs leading up to the race will sandwich 2 20’s and 2 half marathons like this ….. 20 – 13.1 – 20 – 13.1 – 12 then the race.  I did this last year leading up to the Kentucky Derby Marathon as I was seeking my first BQ.  The protocol left me fresh, strong and healthy – it was weather and my race execution that killed me.  I had been training in the cold NE spring and race day in KY was in the 80’s when I finished – well, I bonked.  Still I liked the training and I’ll try the same routine again, only I need do a better job of executing.

Big news of the week is my trip into Baxter State Park with Jim O’Malley and one other.  We’re calling it the Grand Tour of BSP.  It will be a 5 day, 65 mile ski with full packs to circumnavigate the park.  We start Saturday at Abol Bridge and head to a bunkhouse at Nesowadnahunk campground – 16 miles on the Tote road.  Day 2 continues on the Tote Road to South Branch Pond campground – 19 miles.  From there we head across the lakes and thru the woods to Russell Pond, only 9 miles that day.  From Russell we continue on to Roaring Brook, an 8 mile trip.  The bugger of that leg is a major river crossing that can be scary if the water level changed enough to break up the ice.  Then several miles of cross hill skiing that includes 10+ drainages – 20’ deep gullies with little brooks in them.  Steep in, steep out, go a quarter mile, repeat.  The last day is longer but mostly on a tote road some 13 miles back to Abol Bridge. 

The long range forecast is for 6” snow the night before we start which will really help to make conditions excellent.  Then the weather alternates between partly sunny and chance of snow.  Overnight temps in the single digits and daytime temps to mid teens.  Perfect conditions for a ski trip.  I hope to keep my pack to 35lbs with water and food.

Sunday, February 6

Breath, feel, live…

There is something fundamental about the psychological effects of rhythmic breathing brought on by sustained aerobic activity.  It sooths. It cleanses.  The process has the added virtue of removing the constant self-talk and chatter that goes on day in, day out within our minds.  Once free of the ‘noise’ our mind is left to wander about.  Thoughts come and go, ebb and flow and thus leave our conscious self unfettered by things other than ‘here and now’.   I don’t get to that Zen place every time I run, bike, ski, etc, but when I do it is magical.  Like yesterday.

As my last several postings show,  I’ve been suffering from fatigue and nagged by cramps of late and it has really gotten me down.  Desperate for change and wanting to go enjoy the excellent snow conditions, but suffering the guilt just from the thought of skipping a workout.  I know that to add more activity on top of the grueling schedule will only make the problem worse.   So what am I to do? 

My good friend Mandy said  “Steve. Go skiing. It won't hurt IMLP or Boston.”.  She was right and so I did.  Conditions couldn’t have been better.  Overnight temps were in the single digits but warmed to the mid teens by 10 AM as I prepped to go.  The cold overnight meant the snow texture would be at it’s best and I could use a colder wax  than if it hadn’t been.  As I headed towards the Bangor City Forest I contemplated my route and decided I would follow the Caribou Bog trail towards Old Town as a scouting mission for the upcoming race in 2 weeks. 

Not sure how far I’d go, I started out from the Tripp Lane parking lot (which was full at 10:30) and headed down the East Trail en-route to the Orono-Veazie railroad grade.  From there I headed north easterly along the rail bed towards Stillwater.  This part was a snowmobile trail but skiing was OK - mostly.  About a mile down on the left, the Great Caribou Bog Trail turned off into the forest.  One or two others had been there to brake trail and did a nice job.  Sure was good to be in a ski track instead of snowmobile trail.  Pretty soon I came to Outer Forest Ave and had to remove my skis to cross.  A car was parked along the road on the far side – obviously a skier. 

The first thing I noticed on the east side was the trail was machine groomed and in pristine condition.  I looked at my GPS to see I had come 3.5 miles to this point and was thinking I’d go another few miles before turning around to make a 12 mile day.  A mile or so later, I emerged from the forest out onto Caribou Bog – I was transfixed by it’s beauty!  That’s when it hit me,  “This is why I love to ski!”  

The sky was crystal clear and the deepest azure blue above the brilliant white blanket of snow.  Hardy spruce trees growing slow and sparse dotted the scene with their meager crowns and spindly trunks.  There may have been a breeze but I didn’t notice it.  I was too taken by the warmth of the noon day sun and the stark beauty of the landscape I was immersed in.  Yes, I do love to ski and this is one of the reasons.  This was a Zen moment.  Time stood still, skis flowed effortlessly, I was at peace.  The sounds of my breath mingled with the hushed glide of my skis on the snow.  It was like I just woke up and I was ‘Here now’, completely in the moment, taking it in like that was my only purpose in life.  The separation between mind, body, and place became blurred – I was one with my universe.  I did not feel tired, hungry, thirsty or wanting.  For that moment – maybe 10 minutes in all – I was completely immersed in total euphoria…. Complete bliss…… Yes, this is why I love to ski, run, hike…..

 As I skied along I passed others enjoying the day.  Some were out for leisure, others were clearly getting a workout.  Me, I was going for a long ski.  Not fast, but always maintaining a steady pace.  I stopped to chat with a couple at a trail junction hoping to learn which trail the race followed but they were less informed than I.  The one thing they did tell me was which way to Newman Hill and that was where I headed. 

On the way up the 1st climb (only 200’) I could hear another skier approaching from behind.  He was really grinding it hard – burning lots of matches along the way.  The guy passed me before the top and I realized he was probably 10 years my senior! Ouch!  Wasn’t long before I lost sight of him…. Decent down the other side was nice but made me realize I’d come a long way and was time to turn around.  GPS said I’d gone 8 miles so far, meaning I had 8 more to go.

The trip back was equally rewarding.  The big difference was I stopped to take pictures and video along the way.  Something I didn’t allow myself on the first half.  On one quick little decent, I was zipping along taking video and up ahead was a couple working their way up the hill.  As I approached they stepped aside to let me pass but gave me odd looks – I had both polls in 1 hand and a camera in the other.   Must have seemed odd…. "Hey, that skier dude thinks he’s cool…."

The last 3 or 4 miles were fine although I did have a hot-spot on the top of 1 toe.  I was in the groove and moving along on auto pilot.  Mindlessly striding, following a comfortable rhythm while slower than before, chews up miles with little effort till I reach the City Forest.  Back at the City Forest, there had been so many walkers, skiers, snowshoeers, and dogs that the snow conditions were marginal and the ski track blurred.  Now my mind was on one thing – finishing. 

Just over 4 hours of skiing, 1000’ vertical change (rolling hills), and 16 miles total.  I was mentally rejuvenated, physically drained and hungry.  Not once on the trip did I feel any cramps or tightness in my calf.  I did wrap it before hand but I am happy to say that even a day later and partially recovered, my calf still feels fine. 

Now the question is... can I get back to SBR training or do I need to continue to feed my soul?


Thursday, February 3

I must not be very smart...

Been a long time since I posted, too long really.  Several times I started to write something but it kept going in all kinds of directions.  Like I was scatter-brained or something…. Well, maybe I am but that is a different conversation all together…..

So now, today, after an epic failure last night on the deadmill I think I am starting to figure things out.  I am fatigued far more than I want to admit.  My HR is consistently higher than in past – especially considering I have been training regularly for 14 weeks.  My weight is above were I would expect it to be with the training too.  My calves have issues.  Not injuries – yet but bothersome none the less.  My feet even bother me.  Something I haven’t experienced in a long time.

Maybe what I need to do is forget all this training stuff and go skiing.  This is the best snow year we have had in many years and I have yet to get out other than for an hour with Carole at UMO 2 weeks ago.  Sure we had fun and the snow was nice, but it was short.  Also, when I go skiing with Carole, I actually want to be ‘with’ her – not off by myself just because I can go a little faster….

Then again, if I don’t continue the bike workouts, I will be diminishing my ability to do well at IMLP this summer.  To make it worse, every time I think I am ready for a run I get slapped in the face by my own lack of fitness.  Sore legs, sore feet, crampy calves and last night tight adductors and a funny weakness in my hamstrings….. I’m a mess….

What I think will help the run is if I can do 30 to 40 minutes at an easy pace 4 times a week, build to 5 per week.  Then add volume so I can get back to 35 to 45 miles per week in time.  Do like the experts say and only increase by 10% per week so I don’t add real injury to the weakened state I am in……

I also started to swim this week too. I’ve signed up for 8 lessons all on Monday’s at 6 PM and I figure I will swim on Friday’s too on my own.  

Seems like I just want to do too much.  bike 3 days a week, run 4 days, swim 2 days and go skiing 3 day too….I know that ain’t gonna happen – it’s just too much….. Especially if I am already suffering from deep fatigue……..