Friday, April 18, 2014

Synchroblog: Why do we run?

What role does running play in your life?

Honestly, a larger role than it probably should! I've met some of my best friends through running.  I looked at schools for next year based in large part to the running scene and scenery available nearby.  Being able to get out the door for an hour or two helps keep me focused the rest of the time on whatever work needs to get done.

When did you start running and why? 

I played soccer competitively from the time I was 5 all the way through high school. I quit my traveling team in middle school because of team politics though, and signed up for 8th grade cross country to get back into shape for high school soccer after a very fat year off.  Little did I know that over the next few years my goals would shift completely; to where by my senior year I was mainly going to track practice over soccer practice and focusing much more on running.  So it has been almost 10 years now!

8th Grade Cross Country--I bet you can't recognize me!

Qualifying for state in high school. No shirts ever, who cares if it was October?

If you could only run one last run, where and with whom would it be and why?
This is a loaded answer, but it would be a long trail for sure.  Either the PCT or the AT; just so I could drag it out and relish in the act for as long as possible.  If I took one person, choosing right now probably Mr. Rudy Rutemiller--we've spent so much time in the mountains together the past few years, he seems the best person with whom to share a send-off like that.

Which is better, trail running or road running?  Why? 
A year ago, I would have said trail running without hesitation.  However, each have their merits.  I love trail running to get off the regular grind and as a great method of exploration.  Road running can be fun for how different it hurts.  I still vote trails though!

Groups or solo? Pick a side (for both) and defend it, or rather, advocate for it!
That really depends on the goal.  I've got a very specific answer though.  I love solo runs after a group run.  Those are the runs where we get to be alone with our thoughts, reflection really comes in and one can appreciate having the group, but still enjoy solitude.

Speaking of solitude, since I guess people actually read my blog, my favorite author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, died last night and everyone should immediately go read One Hundred Years of Solitude. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Iron-rich Recovery Curry

I'm going to mix things up a little bit and post something completely different.  FOOD!  I cook a variation of this curry at least once every couple weeks, sometimes once a week and it always lasts me a few days (even with how much I eat in a sitting).  This is also the first time I've written a recipe so bear with me:)  Some of the measurements aren't clear, they are just based on how Kroger sells produce.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 25 minuetes
The two overlap though!

  • 1 ~8 oz. strip steak* (I buy SimpleTruth Grass Fed)
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 3-4 carrots
  • 1/4 lb dry lentils, any variety (I use what I have on hand usually)
  • 2 Broccoli heads
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • 1 Package Golden Curry, at your preferred heat level
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry rice, your preference of grain**
*I've tried various cuts of beef as well as ground beef and bison, and feel like strip steak comes out the best.

**I have a rice cooker, and Nishika rice generally finishes at about the same time as my curry if I put it on between steps 5 and 6.

1.  Warm a large wok (I love my non-stick for cleaning purposes) over medium heat, with a liberal amount of olive oil in the pan.
2.  Dice the onion and at to the pan, sautéing until the onion begins to become translucent.  At the same time, cut the steak into 3/4 inch-across cubes.  Add the steak to the pan once the onion is nearly done.
3.  Chop the carrots 1/4 - 1/2 inch long pieces, and cut the sweet potato into roughly 1/2 inch pieces. Set aside the broccoli and kale for now. 
4. Once the steak has begun to brown, add the carrot and sweet potato to the pan and toss until all ingredients are well-mixed.
5. Pour  3 cups of water and your lentils into the pan (I use a full water bottle, and then add a little extra so that the veggies are nearly covered) and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
6.  While all of that is simmering, go ahead and cut your broccoli into florets and dice up the kale into small pieces.  I generally pile all the kale up, cut the stems off just above the start of the leaves, then slice 5-6 times up the stem and 2-3 times across length-wise.  Have this ready to go!
7.  After your mixture has been simmering for 10 minutes, break up your Golden Curry package and add to the mixture, STIRRING CONSTANTLY for ~5 minutes.  The curry will thicken as you go; and this style of curry is typically thicker than standard Indian curry. Once you see the cubes of curry begin to disappear, go ahead and add the broccoli florets and kale.  They cook very quickly, and the broccoli complements better when it still has a bit of crunch.
8.  Serve over rice and enjoy!

I came up with this ingredient list to get in some much needed calories, fat, as well as iron and other vitamins/minerals after hard races and training weeks.  This dish will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days or so, can be frozen, and goes well with rice, quinoa, or on soba noodles even.  When tweaking for yourself, adjust the amount of water you add.  So, if you cut out the steak to make it vegan, you'll add a little less water.

Feel free to comment if you have any questions or ingredient suggestions! 

Monday, March 31, 2014

See you in Squaw

With a poor Terrapin Mountain performance now a week past and my legs feeling springy again, this feels as good a time as any to write this.  This post is mostly a reminder to myself, but enjoy.

1.  Do what AJW says.  I got a coach, and in particular AJW because I trust him to know what is best.  Do not question.
2.  Hit workouts HARD and easy days EASY.  Generally I am happy to trot along easy on my easy days, but as training picks up, I want to emphasize it.  Easy days are for recovery, there's no reason to work on them. I'll be doing three workouts and a long run each week--I will need the easy days.
3.  Get my core routine up to 25 minutes.  I'm at 15 right now, slacking a little after taking a week off from it.
4.  Get to the mountains regularly.  In February it was far too easy to lace up my shoes and head straight out the door.  We're lucky in Blacksburg to have a myriad of wonderful trails and different styles of mountains nearby--take advantage.
5.  Believe I am capable of performing.  All spring various people have been telling me to go for top 10.  Regardless of whether or not that is a viable goal, it's time I start believing it is.
11. Recover. I'm lucky that I can get by (right now) working part time, living pretty simply.  I have a plum job too, and I do stretch in my cubicle sometimes.  I have a lot of time to dedicate to real recovery; I should make use of it.
12. Eat. Nonstop. All. Day.
13.  Make it to Colorado in May--and more so to the start line in Squaw Valley--in one piece and healthy.  I was teetering on the overtraining line last Fall leading into the Grindstone that never was. I was ripping a month later after a month shifted into short, faster running and away from mileage.  I should be better off this time around; with all the workouts the time on my feet should be lower but I am still going to monitor well.
14. Remember the main goal. I am signed up for only one more ultra prior to Western States because I have trouble doing races as training runs.  I love Promise Land--so there is no way I could not run again this year--but I have to make sure I keep it in its place and not overdo it there.
15.  Enjoy every minute.  I'm lucky that I get to do this and that my friends are going to be supporting me there.  I want to make sure I enjoy and relish every minute.
16.  Lastly, I will see you in squaw ;)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Synchroblog: ultraVT

Here we go!

How do you describe ultraVT to a stranger?
We are a group of students (and alumni), based in Blacksburg, who get together to enjoy the trails, kick each other's asses in workouts, and just have fun together. We enjoy easy runs, hard workouts, and racing each other every so often. 

When did you get involved with ultraVT?
From the beginning! Several students through the past 15 years or so complete ultras while at the school. I got into them separately, thanks to Eric Grossman, and after my first Holiday Lake 50k in 2012, I notices some guys around campus wearing the same race shirt. I started running regularly with the triathlon club, of which they were a part, and after some time we decided that there was enough interest at the school to branch off and establish our own team/club. Rudy and I put in the grunt work then, getting sponsors, doing promotion, etc. to get a good membership base and we just keep growing!

How do you see yourself within ultraVT?
Organizationally, I handle sponsors, orders, work on marketing/publicity like interviews, and usually manage trip logistics. I try to be the person with an answer to any question though. I've been at this for nearly 4 years now, and I love helping out the people just getting started since I've likely been through whatever they are working through right now. Jumping into ultrarunning definitely has a learning curve from high school cross country!

What's your favorite aspect of ultraVT?
Definitely the friendships.  We can push each other through a rough training run, and then get back to town and relax over a beer. We've all spent enough time together that our friendships are not simply running anymore.

What's your favorite trail run in the blacksburg vicinity?
Now that is a tricky question; everything has different merits.  Most likely either Dragon's Tooth or Butt Mountain.  I love Dragon's tooth because you push hard, go hand over foot briefly, take some risks, and you're done in <55 minutes.  Butt Mountain is really a classic Western-style run.  It is simple, uphill 5.5 miles to the top, check out the view, then turn around and run back down.  With brief tangents you go past both the Cascades falls and Barney's Wall.  

Any secrets you'd like to share?
London Underground has the best day-after-race breakfast in town.

Favorite post-race meal?
Curry! Or if I'm feeling lazy, steak & guac burrito (quesarito)

What do you want for ultraVT five years from now?
In five years, everyone currently involved should be graduated.  That time is when we will know if the team is established and here to stay.  I hope it has grown from its current state, and spread out even.  We are in an exciting time for mountain running and young people.  Sterling College followed us with their own ultrarunning team (that is fully endorsed by the school) two years after we established ultraVT, and with the newly established Collegiate Mountain Running Championship, I would not be surprised to see ultrarunning follow suit in the near future. I would love for Virginia Tech to be driving force in that level of competition.

New jams

Monday, March 17, 2014


I've become entirely too lax with this whole blog thing.  This post and the one to follow it should suffice to cover everything of note the past few months, and I plan in posting more regularly now that Western States training will be coming on full steam.

First, I got picked up for the Gu Crew for 2014 which is great.  I plan on going back to school in the fall without working, so any help to keep running is endlessly appreciated. Plus, getting a little support from a company definitely makes me feel as though I'm starting to do something right.

The year started with a truly epic road trip.  Epic is a tremendously overused word, but it fits the trip perfectly.  4500 miles in a car in two with two friends, plus another 600 on my own getting to and from Cincinati.  We hit a lot of mountains, a few canyons, and 15 different states.  Most of the trip was spent in Colorado, where we did a lot of vertical in a lot of snow.

I've spent nearly 5 months in Colorado now over the past few years.  Compared to natives, that is not much time but it is enough to provide a certain degree of confidence whenever I decide to go high.  However, no matter how much time one spends in the mountains, the mountains will always provide some new tribulation if you get cocky.

Patrick McGlade had a few days off work surrounding the new year holiday, so he served as our stellar guide for hitting new front range mountains [Rudy had never been to Colorado and Wyatt had only seen one 14er].  After turning down Grays Peak after losing too much of the morning to get down safely, we decided to hit Quandary a couple days later.  We shrugged off a snow forecast for Breckenridge, figuring the storm would hit in the afternoon as they so often do in Colorado.  Starting up the mountain was jovial and pleasant.  We played around and trotted up above treeline. But with about 1500 feet left to the summit, we entered another world.  Where below we enjoyed the sun with jackets unzipped and gloves off, we met an almost immediate shift in conditions that only got worse as we kept climbing.
Enjoying the climb before we reached the storm
Photo by Rudy Rutemiller
The path up Quandary from just above treeline is relatively simple, follow a ridgeline 2 miles until you top out.  With strong gusts of piercing wind and stinging snow, though.  Keeping to the path and avoiding the left edge was an interesting game.  Patrick and Rudy went off ahead as I struggled to keep upright, with Wyatt further behind me. I grunted my way up the mountain however, deeper into hell. Above ~13,500', the conditions were white-out.  The steady wind coming over from the right was enough to keep me braced for support, and the occasional gust was more than enough to blow me back a couple steps.  Step, step, pause, step, step, fall back two feet. Repeat.  At 13,800' I passed a man who knew what he was doing, dressed in a down jumpsuit with poles and mountaineering boots to keep himself upright.  Sometimes, I meet situations in the mountains that warrant laughing at the absurdity of it all--it was too cold for that here.  I kept a buff over my fast as long as I could, but before long that caused my breath to freeze both lenses of my sunglasses.  Pulling down the buff caused it to quickly freeze solid, rendered useless.  After this experience, I believe I know true cold.
Suffering on top of Quandary.  Note that I did not crop this--that white was up there.
Photo by Patrick McGlade
From here, there was only reason I kept pushing upward--Rudy and Patrick were up top and I had no way of saying "Fuck this, I'm turning back," which is all I had been thinking for the past several minutes as I continued grunting upward.  At 14,000 feet Rudy and Patrick came back down, and I thought, "Finally I can quit," but Patrick turned upward toward the summit again with only a few words of exchange and no time to argue.  I followed him.  I am glad I did, since it was only another 2 minutes to the top.  A couple quick photos and we turned downward.  The summit featured about 40 feet of flat, and the wind was so strong that I got blown off my feet mid-stride only a dozen steps from the summit post.  Terrified of worsening conditions, we bolted down the mountain.  Now came a new balancing act: avoid the drop-off to the right and the loose rock below foot. While trying to get blown over by the 60 mph gusts. While you can only see 5-6 feet down the trail.  I lost Patrick within a minute.  I saw him again 400' down the mountain, and I believe he was never more than 15 feet in front of me going down that stretch.  Not long after, we caught Rudy standing with Wyatt still on his way up.  Wyatt made the right call and turn back.

Rolling down the mountain near Wyatt
Not long after, I thought I was comfortable enough on terrain to open up my stride and hopefully get below treeline faster.  Almost immediately, I took what I felt like my worst fall every.  I landed square on on my front, with my forearm between my body and the rocks below.  I started screaming.  It took me nearly a minute to stop just screaming and try to do something.  I broke my wrist in middle school, this felt worse.  I rolled onto my back, hoisted myself to a seated position and tried to assess the damage.  The rock had at the least torn through my shell, which worried me about what lay underneath.  Standing up, I began walking downhill--running was too painful.  By the time we dropped out of the storm, I was able to run; my arm was not broken and I now attribute that pain mostly to the cold.  Again on the descent, we were met with a second world.  We descended out of the white-out storm into clear, sunny snowfields a few hundred feet above treeline.  We advised a few parties to turn back from their summit attempts--one of which did not even have crampons--and feeling safe again, took to playing in the snow.  We glissaded and postholed around on our way back down into the trees before trotting the rest of the way down to the cars.
Snow blowing off the mountain well below the storm.

Fighting the weather up high was the most harrowing experience I have ever had, and I plan to channel that suffering into every new adventure I have for quite some time. I have a new respect for the mountains--a respect that I think can only come with the outcome of underestimation and lucky success.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Recap and looking forward.

I wrote what is after the page break a couple weeks ago but didn't want to publish anything until after Hellgate.  I finished my season exactly how I wanted to crewing my ridiculously talented best bud and training partner Rudy to the crazy race at Hellgate I knew he had in him.  I think Rudy and I have shared something like 100 hours or more of trail time together since July.  I was so pumped to see him have the race he deserved.  I've been struggling with motivation to get back into more routing running, but that race gave me enough inspiration for the next six months!

I am also excited to be working with a coach for the first time since high school.  I'll be working with the master Andy Jones-Wilkins to make sure I am ready for the track meet in June.  I raced 10 Ultras in 2013 plus a myriad of fatasses and short races.  Cutting that out for 2014--it's time to get focused.

Oh yeah, I was in a magazine? Jess Daddio is a pretty stellar writer and it's great to see a semi-local magazine doing so well.

2013 was pretty awesome.  I ran in lots of places and just ran a lot in general.  PRs for every distance from half-marathon to 50 miles and I learned I can move for 40 hours if I need to.  I don't really feel like writing a lot, so here are the dirty details...

The numbers:
500,000 feet of climb reached on November 23th
I'll finish the year just over 3000 miles.

2014 Plans:

February: Holiday Lake 50k
April:  Georgia Loop FKT attempt and/or Promise Land 50k
May: train like a madman
July/August: Hang out in Colorado, climb a bunch of mountains, drink some bourbon, attempt Nolan's 14 depending on WS100 recovery
December: Hellgate 100k

Sometime: Figure out a damn 2015 Hardrock qualifier

I'm at a crossroads in life in general.  There's a good chance I'll be living in Denver come August, so I can't think about races for the fall until I figure that out.  If I'm on the east coast, you can bet you'll see me at Mountain Masochist and Hellgate.  If not, then who knows what I'll be up to. Edit: Barring exams on Friday or Saturday that weekend, I will do EVERYTHING I can to get to Hellgate 2014... We have to go back

Wyatt Earp turned me back onto this guy over the weekend.  Serious talent.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mountain Masochist: Consistency

I was waiting until more photos from MMTR made their way online before I posted this, but that still hasn't happened.  Please send me any you have!

3 year and 21 ultras later and I know what kind of runner I am. I like to hunt, to chase. I like to follow from behind and then pick people off as I go. It's a boost every time you pass someone. I'm not used to being "fast." My first ultra, a flat 50 mile, took me almost 12 hours. I've learned to suffer well the past 3 years.

MMTR is an interesting race.  The course rewards preparation and planning and punishes you if you don't.  To race the course, you have to hit the climb from miles 22-29 hard, survive the loop, and then finish strong.  Trying to hammer on a long sustained climb like that, that early in 50-mile still seems very risky to me, but that is the advice Eric gave me so I did it anyway.  That climb comes after 22 VERY fast and rolling but runnable miles.  You can't start too slow or you'll lose time on the "easy" half of the course.  Start too fast and you won't have anything left for the "hard" half coming after the climb.  So running MMTR goes like this: start hard-ish, then run hard, then run harder until you finish.

Hour 1: 7.12 miles
Hour 2: 14.25 miles
Hour 3: 21.75 miles
Hour 4: 28 miles
Hour 5: 34.5 miles
Hour 6: 39.8 miles (the loop)
Hour 7: 45 miles (the hellacious last single track)
39 minutes: last 5 miles

I did not realize just how consistent those first few hours were until looking back as my splits on Movescount.  I can't start ultras much faster than I do, but apparently I don't slow down too much.  Looking at the file, I faltered on the loop.  My pace coming down Mount Pleasant in that leafy mess was 13'59" per mile.

I definitely cannot complain; only analyze. I had a 17 minute 50-mile PR on a slower course than my last PR from two months ago, which itself was already a 62-minute PR.  Breakthroughs on breakthroughs.  I hope I keep it rolling into the Crooked Road 24-hour on November 23-24, my last race this year.

The narrative:
I'll say this: my foot hurt quite a bit on every downhill from about mile 7 onward. Two days later and I'm still not sure what was/is wrong with it.  Now that aside...I cruised pretty easy all the way to the reservoir, thought to myself, "time for the fun," took my first of many caffeinated gels and motored to the top of Buck Mountain.  I passed Sam Dangc, Frank the tank, and Jordan Whitlock running together in the 3 miles between the Long Mountain aid station and the top of Buck Mountain.  Talking to Jordan Whitlock after the race, he told me he thought I was just out for a run when I passed them here because I looked so fresh.  When I paused to fill my water at the aid station at the top of Buck Mountain, mile 29, the very familiar worker told me that 6th place was just a minute ahead. I blurted out "Oh shit." I was actually a little shocked.  This was the first time someone had told me my place all day long and I never expected to be in 7th place at MMTR, let alone this early into the race. I caught up to 6th not long after Buck Mountain and kept rolling up down and up to the loop, making use of the climbs to take some of the force off my foot.

Time to survive the loop. I was becoming a bit of a bumbling idiot at this point, mainly from having trouble getting down gels.  A quick bottle swap with my flawless crew of Rudy and Wyatt, and I was off. I did pretty well until the Mt. Pleasant turnaround,  then had to fight all the rest of the way around the loop.  I got lucky and slowing so much through here let me actually get two full gels down, providing the sugar to get me through the next hour at least.  I came out of the loop in a stupor.  I was out of it and walked straight into the gate leading to the aid station I left over an hour ago.
A cup of rocket fuel (or maybe it was mountain dew) sent me on my way. Liquid calories are liquid gold late in a race. I hoped I could still force down a gel or two in the remaining twelve miles. 

My crew drove past me along this stretch which was a nice boost and got me moving a little quicker to mile 42 where I would see them again.  I was actually saddened when I heard I wouldn't see them again after that to the finish, knowing how slow the next 4 trail miles would be.  I grunted a long, pleased to hike some on the short but steep uber leafy climbs, which allowed me to get down my last calories of the race.  I hit the top after the sketchy camper ( if you've run MMTR you know what I'm referring to).  With a deep sigh of relief I leaned forward to start the descent to the finish, hoping for the best with my foot and lack of calories.

Things worked out that I had enough ground on 7th to coast that last descent without any worry.  I was thrilled to cross the finish line and even more excited for a quesadilla on the couches.  Mountain Masochist is a very special race.  Lots of aid to encourage traveling light is coupled with a course that either rewards proper preparation or beats you into the ground for not respecting it.  I hope I can keep coming back to this one for years to come.

The Virginia Tech Ultrarunning Team got 4 guys in the top-16, two of whom were running their first 50 Miler.  These guys are going to do big things the next few years; I look forward to following their progress after I'm gone.

Quaker Cherry Pistachio Oatmeal for breakfast.
~14 gels and some Mountain Dew during

our awesome Patagonia jersey tops
PI Ultra shorts (great pockets)
Drymax hyper-thin socks
Nike Lunaracers  (honestly the best ultra shoe I've worn)