Trail Running Training

My Fall-Apart Week(s)

I don’t know how I’m going to do this.


I’ve thought that before. I know I have. I get deep into a training cycle for a big race, and then I hit a point where everything goes to hell. Something that’s been working stops working. Social obligations keep interfering. Some part of my body starts to hurt in a way that isn’t normal. Whatever it is triggers a collapse that’s a combination of both mental and physical. My carefully-made plans for training fall to pieces.

(Oh, who am I kidding? My training plans are never planned carefully!)

Usually I get there and I think, “This has happened before. I can get through it.” And by the time I get to race day, it’s a distant memory that I’ve glossed over in my mind. I proudly recall training for my race. I grunted through the pain, figured out how to make it work, and persevered. I forget that along the way, I nearly broke.

But this one feels different. I don’t feel like I’m “nearly” breaking, I feel like I’m broken. I need to say it so I remember it, because I can just about guarantee it won’t be the last time I feel like this.

Trail Running Training

Still Moving Forward

Well, I’ve done it.

It’s one thing to talk about plans, and it’s another thing to commit to them. I’ve been talking about doing the 100K at Javelina Jundred this year, but up until yesterday, it was just talk. Now I’m registered, and it’s time to put my money (a pretty hefty race fee!) where my mouth is.

Training officially starts toward the end of June. I’ve been taking it fairly easy for a couple of months now and am starting to add more running days back into my schedule to get ready for it. Low mileage. I’m going to ramp up to this one nice and easy.

Miscellany Trail Running Training

Double Run Day Fun-Day

We now interrupt your flow of angsty missed-race agonizing to talk about an entertaining thing I did last Saturday morning: two runs on opposite sides of the valley.

Why? Because I felt like it, and I could!

Miscellany Training

Calming The Madness

You know what’s not good for your head? Working on a goal for several months and then not being able to achieve it. You know what’s worse? Not being able to even attempt it.

I’m a patient guy. Not an “I can put up with anything indefinitely” kind of patient, but in a goal-oriented way. I function best when I have something that I am working toward. As long as I feel like I am making progress toward it, I can do it for a long, long time. It doesn’t matter if it’s repetitive, it doesn’t matter if it’s painful, it doesn’t matter if nobody else understands it. If it is moving me closer to achieving the task I’m focused on, I can keep doing it.

The important part of all of that, however, is actually doing the thing at the end. I very rarely get to the end of a road I’ve been on and don’t do the thing, because I choose my goals carefully. I plan. I assess. I put a lot of thought into whether or not achieving the thing is realistic. As such, my track record is pretty good.

Miscellany Trail Running Training

When the Wheels Fall Off in the Home Stretch

This was supposed to be a recap of the training for my first 50 mile race.

It was going to be out at Monument Valley, where several of my friends were running the 50K. I was going to tell the story of how I found it, why I signed up for it, and what I learned training for it. Instead, it’s an announcement of failure.

A week before the race, I came down with the flu. I was laid out for almost three entire days. After that I started improving, but it was slow. I could still hardly move by the end of the week. I’d get up and move around the house, then have to take a nap to recover.

I had to cancel the race.

I just can’t even bring myself to write more about it than that. I’m devastated. I contacted the race organizers, and they gave my a partial rollover toward the event next year, so I’ll still get to do it. I just don’t think it’s going to be the same as it would have been the first time around. Next year, I’ll have at least one 50 miler and maybe two under my belt. It won’t be the adventure into the unknown that it was going to be this year.

I’m still recovering from the flu and probably will be for a while—it really kicked my butt—but all I can think about right now is how I can knock out a 50 before summer sets in and get that monkey off my back. I don’t think it’s going to be pretty, but if I don’t do it, I think I’m going to be real unhappy about it.

Trail Running Training

Training for My First Ultramarathon: McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50K

8 Months in the Making

I don’t think it was a formal goal when 2015 officially began, but somewhere real close to it, the idea of running a 50K started rolling around in my head. I had already signed up for the Phoenix Marathon, and over the course of 2014 had done a 15K, started trail running, done several trail races (including my first Ragnar), a half marathon, and a long 15-mile training run. I was wondering how I would feel about doing a race that would add an “ultra” on top of the marathon distance I was planning.

What I mainly remember thinking was that I’d like to try it.

Trail Running Training

Pemberton Loop: Long and Hot

Last weekend was the hottest on record in Arizona. Friday hit 117º, breaking the previous record for the day (8/14) by four degrees. Saturday hit 115º, breaking the previous record by three degrees. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights all recorded 93º as the low temperature, breaking the previous records of warmest low for all three nights.

So it would make sense that this was the weekend I took on the longest trail run I’ve ever tackled, right? 

Trail Running Training

Pass Mountain Trail: A Rematch

I am NOT coming back here again.

I’m starting to feel like I could retire if I had a dollar for every time I said that and turned out to be wrong. This time it was about Pass Mountain Trail out at Usery Park.

Once upon a time, I was a mountain biker. For a period of something like six or seven years (very roughly) starting in the mid-90s, I rode pretty regularly. It came and went in phases, sometimes more, sometimes less, but I had a lot of fun doing it and was okay at it. Eventually, though, the drag of working and going to school at the same time took its toll, and the weekend rides first waned and then eventually stopped. It probably didn’t help that I was working most weekends.

During the time that I was riding, I had two go-to destinations. My main one and first choice for a long time was McDowell Mountain Park, where you can find the glorious Pemberton Loop that I rode more times than I could even guess at, but Pemberton’s a long trail and a significant time investment (you’re going to hear more about that in an entirely different context soon). As I rode less and had less time available, I started mixing in rides out at Usery Park, which has a number of loops that can be strung together to create a ride that will fit just about anything you’re in the mood for, ranging from easy and short to hard and kind of hellish. The vast majority of my riding out at Usery was the easier and shorter kind, but one time I did the hard and hellish, and I decided I was never coming back to it. That’s Pass Mountain Trail.


Accurate Perception

“Today felt a little slow, even for me,” I said, as I sat down with the group at the end of this morning’s trail run.

I ran the Lakefair Half Marathon in Olympia, Washington, last week when the wife and I were on vacation up in the area, and I ran it pretty hard (finished in 2:03, a pretty big jump over my previous best time). I took most of this week off to recover except for one short, low-intensity run that ended up being cut even shorter than I’d planned because of a dust storm that came rolling in.

I felt like I hadn’t done well this morning because I wasn’t fully recovered. When I got home, I decided to check my times from the last several runs I’d done out on that trail (the San Tan/Goldmine loop out at San Tan Mountain Regional Park) to see how much I was off today. Here’s what I found:


So yeah, I really hit the nail on the head there.


Training for the Phoenix Marathon

I’m going to summarize 2 months of training runs into a single post, so picture a movie-style training montage, but… at the end of it, I’m running slower than I did at the beginning. So kinda like a training montage run in reverse. It would be completely inaccurate to call it the story of me figuring out how to run slowly enough to finish a marathon, but sometimes that was how it felt, and I like the sound of it, so I’m going to say it anyway.

It was a lot of miles and a lot of hours of running. My longest training run was 20 miles, which took me a little over four hours to do. I did that 20 mile run, a couple of 18s, and several 16s. You can do the math if you want, but I think “a lot” covers it pretty well.

The things I learned: