Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Yesterday, an old friend called that I hadn't talked to in some time.

"Joe, this is Paul.  Want to talk a little trail running with you.  Give me a call."

OK.  Well, it didn't take very long to get around to returning that call.  In fact, I had kind of been hoping for a call like that from Paul.

You see, Paul and I used to play Ultimate (frisbee) together for a nationally competitive team when he lived in Portland, and that is how we met and became friends.  Most of our conditioning was done at practices or at track workouts during the week and consisted mostly of extended shuttle-type running, plyometric stuff, or interval work.  The aerobic stuff took care of itself from scrimmages and running on your own time.  At that point in my life I was not a runner.  Sure, I ran--often several times a week--but rarely more than four or five miles, and always by myself, and always on the roads, a track, or maybe a wood chip path through a nearby park.

There was one time, however, where I did run on the trails.  And this was with Paul.  He led us through some trails in Forest Park on probably a five or six miler, and I didn't know where the hell I was.  But I had a blast!  I remember trying to catch Paul, bombing down the hills, and the tight turns, and the mud, and the trees, and that feeling of both total focus and mental release that only happens on a good day in the trails.  That run will stick with me forever.

And there was the one season where Paul was training for a marathon.  I remember him having to sit out or miss some weekend practices because of his long runs.  I had no comprehension of a two or three hour run, but here was Paul cranking them out.  He even got up early to get a long run in one weekend when a few couples stayed the night together playing games at Suttle Lake in a cabin without electricity or plumbing.  I have to admit part of me was grabbed by that perseverance.  The marathon had always intrigued me in that "how is that possible" kind of way, and here was a guy I knew doing it.  Paul moved  to Logan, Utah before I stopped playing Ultimate and really started running, but his influence certainly never left.

So fast forward to yesterday and the phone call.  Turns out he had just ran the Antelope Island Buffalo Run 25k trail run and was pretty excited about it.  He did really well, and had been running in Vibrams no less.  Impressive!  He's got the bug.  He was already talking about the next one...Logan Peak.  28 miles with over 7000 feet of gain.

I have been wanting to get down there to run for some time.  This might be the perfect reason.

Thanks Paul!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring Forward!


Finally, the days are getting longer and the frosty touch of Mr. Winter seems to be nearly behind us.  The chickens are laying eggs, the bulbs are shooting, the grass is growing and the lawnmower needs sharpening.  It is time to put up the gloves, the tights, and the screw shoes, and find the SPF, visor, and sunglasses
(well maybe not just yet...the rain here lately has been laughable...but soon).

With this change in the season comes the beckoning call of snow-free upper elevations, the mountain trail hibernations ending their frozen dark slumber.  I know I can't wait to hit the high stuff.  There is just no better training motivation than a hard-earned summit view with the sun shining.  Its why I love ultrarunning.  Like this guy...(insert your own soundtrack)

On a side note-- Please keep the people of Japan in your heart and mind as they deal not only with the tragedies of the last few days, but the real uncertainty of the days to come.  For a link on how you can help go here...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fuel Efficiency

When I run in training, I usually take a pretty frugal approach, and I'm sure many others do the same.


I wear old shoes with thousands of miles on them.  If they rip I get them sewn back together.

I try not to drive to runs, instead going directly from my doorway (I'm lucky that i can get to some great places in an hour or less--Pittock Mansion is 5 miles away, Council Crest just over 6, and the St. John's bridge about 7).  I have a busy schedule and not driving saves a ton of time.  Perhaps more importantly, I like the small discoveries of running through the neighborhood at different times of day, different seasons, and getting to places by foot.  I like looking out my window, picking a spot across the river, and then running to it, looking back at where I came from and where I must return to.  Making my way through traffic lights and city streets, crossing bridges, and seeing restaurants and shops either opening or closing on my way to the trails makes it all a bit more exciting when I do get there. The dichotomy of the woods and the city makes me appreciate both worlds a bit more.

Also, I don't tend to take much fuel on my runs.  If I am going to be out for several hours I'll take some water and a gel or two, but that's about it.  I almost never take anything on runs under two hours.  Obviously, as it heats up water is critical, but I usually make due on very little.  I also believe it is a good way to learn to cope with running in a less than ideal state, to force a bit of a bonk and deal with it.  Running without a net, so to speak.  Drive on fumes.  Train your body to operate with little and it will be more efficient.

This last weekend, however, things were a bit different.  I still ran from home, but I had a cache of gels laying around so I put them to use.

I did a 20 miler both Saturday and Sunday morning, the tail end to an 8 day, 104 mile stint.  Each morning I woke up, got dressed, ate only a gel, and hit the road.  I ran up to Council Crest, jumped on the trails in the morning sunrise, made my way over to the zoo, up to Pittock Mansion, down to Upper Macleay park and back home.  I took a water bottle with nuun electrolyte and a stash of Gu, maybe a half dozen each time.

A run like this is something I normally wouldn't fuel much on, but this time I did, taking a gel every 30-40 minutes--similar to a race routine.  Didn't think about it much, just did it.  And it felt great.  I was never hungry.  My pace was faster than usual and I felt stronger than normal, especially the climbs and the finish.  And the Sunday run was even better than Saturday.

So here is the dilemma:  Running with calories going in is going to make the run easier and faster, but is it better? Obviously, I'm just an experiment of one, as they say, and I will have to play around with this some more.

I would love to hear what others do...