In the arena of endurance sports, what does “Less equals more” mean?
For me, it serves as a kind of beacon:
- Learning how to move forward with less energy.
- Training less while achieving better results, faster recovery and less injury.
- Less energy and less time invested while breaking through old limits to discover new abilities.
In my experience, this is a promising and rewarding path to Mastery in my life as an endurance athlete. However, it’s not some mysterious magical formula. It’s not a secret new training plan, and doesn’t include any cutting edge equipment or nutritional aids.
However, “less equals more” does require that we increase our investment in one critical area. Mindfulness.
Oh yeah, right… mindfulness. (Yawn.) Such a mundane, unglamorous, ordinary quality or skill, yes? Being more attentive, more present. “Paying” more attention to what we are doing, saying, thinking. Be here now. It’s so basic, it seems boring.
But wait! Mindfulness is our greatest, most infinite resource. There is no limit to our capacity to increase mindfulness in any area of life. And, it does not have to diminish with age. On the contrary, it can increase and intensify throughout our lives.
Pump Up the Volume!
A week after finishing the Oregon Double Iron (the oldest finisher in it’s 2-year history, and considered one of the most challenging doubles in the world) I volunteered for Lake Placid Ironman at a bike aid station. A nice way to enjoy the “afterglow” of my accomplishment.
My strongest impression as I observed the athletes: They were convinced that the event had to be hard on their bodies. They were fully committed to the notion that they had to hammer their bodies through a tremendous training volume in order to finish the one-forty-point-six. And the event had to levy a heavy debt on their bodies.
The ubiquitous expression - that I hear thousands and thousands of times during each and every event I do - “Good job!” - really applies to this way of approaching such an endurance challenge. For most athletes, it is most definitely work - hard labor. Like being chained and shackled, forced to break big rocks with a sledge hammer all day.
In some way, I wanted to wake each of these task-masters up and say, “There is an easier ‘Less equals more’ way!”
An “extreme” endurance event does not require extreme volume or extreme demands on your time. It doesn’t have to be grueling and extract an extreme toll on the athlete.
Can I gracefully complete 3 long-distance running events over three consecutive weekends after two months of just four training runs a week?
21 November: JFK 50-Mile Run
28 November: NCR Rail Trail Marathon
05-06 December: Hitchcock Hundred 100-Mile Run
After the Oregon Double Iron (17-18 July) I was scheduled to run Eastern States 100 four weeks later. However, in my gut, I did not feel it. I elected instead to go for an off-grid retreat with my girlfriend into the Adirondacks. It was a wise choice! My training to dropped off late-July through September, as I focused on teaching most weekends (as well as my usual weekday class schedule) for the second half of the summer and early fall.
With a 2-week tune-up I “raced” Survivor of the Shawangunks” (12 September) for 3rd in age-group. The following weekend, I “ran” the Virgil Crest 50-Mile (with 11,000 of elevation gain/loss) on a whim. I ended up trekking most of it with trekking poles. While that event was a “slog” that I did not train adequately for, I was satisfied with the balance in my overall life.
Committed to enjoying that balance without undue time and energy investment in the endurance bucket, I decided to take up the challenge outlined above.
- Two “base” runs 45 - 90 minutes each (Vibram 5-Fingers), followed by 10-15 minutes of a combination of jump rope, balance disc and calf raises
- One “long” run
- One track session 60-100 minutes
2 hikes/week 40-75 minutes
- With a weighted backpack: started at 76 pounds, built up to 97 pounds
- Using Vibram 5-Fingers
- Hiking up and down steep road inclines or gorge staircases here in Ithaca
120 minutes of swimming/week
- Varying duration and flexible structure to the swims
- Active recovery and additional mindfulness/neural training
2 functional strength sessions/week
- Drawing on my repertoire of body weight training and Pilates
- Basic equipment: mat and exercise ball
- Stretching for recovery and range of motion
A Few Training Details
The two “base” runs/week: Running from my apartment, I stay completely off pavement, wearing Vibram 5-Fingers. Lots of hills and off-camber running up to and around the Cornell Campus. Mixed surface: grass, dirt paths and trails, some gravel. Also included stair repeats and/or hill repeats as I felt.
One “long” run/week: Lots of variation in duration and composition. However, always off pavement, lots of hills and off-camber, mixed surface: grass, dirt paths and trails, some gravel.
For some of the long runs, I ran 60-90 minutes, then hiked with the weighted pack for 60 minutes, then ran again 60-90 minutes.
I also did 2 back-to-back long trail runs at Tremen Park, 30&31 October. The trails here include lots of elevation gain/loss, with a mix of rocks, roots and smoother sections. 30 October: 4 hours 20 minutes. 31 October: 5 hours 50 minutes. Both runs were on less than 100 calories/hour.
Hiking with a weighted pack is a new component for me this year - something I began late spring. It has really improved muscle fiber recruitment (strength), as well as joint alignment and stability.
My goal when I began hiking was to build to carrying more than half my body weight (176-180 pounds). I exceeded that to 97 pounds. There is a significant risk factor with this training. Every single step - especially the descents - required attentiveness. One falter with that much weight would most likely result in serious injury.
My last hike was 5 days prior to the first event - JFK 50.
I did not accumulate 120 minutes of swimming every week. The variability here enabled me to integrate my training schedule well with my teaching schedule. All of the sessions included a high degree of neural focus on technique - some at low intensity, some at moderate-to-high intensity.
Also the cold pool water, paired up with the steam room or hot tub, aided recovery from the runs and hikes.
The functional strength sessions are a real favorite of mine - something I have evolved for decades now. Simple equipment, excellent pre-hab that includes lateral stability work for hips, knees and torso.
I did virtually no cycling at all during this 2-month stretch, other than my very short daily commutes.
Constraint Equals Opportunity
As athletes, we often view the obligations and responsibilities of our everyday lives as constraints and limitations that compromise our training and fitness. However, these constraints serve as opportunities. They are opportunities to be innovative, creative and spontaneous in how and when we train. This requires flexibility and tolerance - valuable qualities for us as endurance athletes. Inflexibility on race day can be disastrous.
On the subject of "constraint and opportunity"... Compression wear. For lots of my training and for all three events I wore 2XU Compression Wear. Specifically, I wear a 2XU long-sleeve thermal compression top, 2XU compression tights (either full length, knicker, or full-length thermal) and 2XU compression socks. I also use the tights and socks for recovery.
These garments aren't just apparel, they are equipment. 2XU compression wear:
- Provides "muscle containment"
- Improves (return) blood flow
- Improves proprioception
I ran JFK (Saturday, 21 Nov.) in 10:53, finishing about the middle of my age group. I did this on about 100 calories an hour during the event. I enjoyed my morning ginger green tea with 3 teaspoons of maple syrup and some half&half prior to the start. Very little soreness after the event. New Balance Trail Minimus shoes.
Functional core strength the next morning, emphasis on stretching and recovery. Ran again 3 days later (Tuesday) - 40 minutes easy on rolling trails. Another 50-minute flat run with some strides on Thanksgiving Day. Also swam 30 minutes Monday, then 50 minutes Wednesday. Functional core strength again on Friday.
I ran the NCR Trail Marathon (Saturday, 28 Nov.) in 4:23. First half: 2:11:20. second half 2:11:40. 10th out of 26th in age group. Out and back course. This time I did not ingest any calories during the event, with the same morning tea prior to the event.
Swam 55 minutes the next day. Ran 2 days after the event (Monday), flew to Denver Tuesday to attend a 2-day training at Training Peaks in Boulder. Forty-minute morning runs there Wednesday and Thursday, and flew to Omaha Thursday night. Functional strength on Friday - emphasizing stretching.
Completed the Hitchcock Hundred in 34:41 (Saturday/Sunday 05-06 Dec). Last place and oldest finisher. With ideal weather conditions, and 19,000 feet of elevation gain/loss, only 17 of the 50 starters finished. (Iowa ain’t flat!) Without trekking poles, I probably would not have finished either. Wore a brand new pair of New Balance Trail Minimus - nice way to break in new shoes!
The event consisted of eight 12.5-mile laps. I had to walk the entire last lap. My low back seized up and limited my mobility and agility, but I was determined to finish.
I also sustained injury to my right ankle - swelling and soreness - that I did not notice until after the event. A few ice packs, but no other care. This was the first sports-related injury I have experienced in over 6 years.
Mindful minimal training prepared me well for my intended goal - to finish all 3 events gracefully. (OK, the finish for the 100 could have been a bit more graceful.) While I did not know the elevation profile for the 100 before running the first lap, the terrain for my training runs and hikes prepared me well.
The emphasis for my training is always mindfulness - awareness of every stride, every stroke. This approach maximizes efficiency. To reiterate, there are no limits to our awareness. Investing awareness - paying attention - is how we can reliably “Maximize return on our aerobic investment”.
Since the year 2000, I have called mindful endurance “zendurance”. I am now evolving that to a new level I call “kaizen-durance”. Continuous lifetime improvement through mindful endurance training.
I craft all of my training - swim, bike, run, strength - around neural fitness. And neural fitness requires acute, clear mindfulness as well as precise, efficient movement. Collectively this is kinetic intelligence - a term I coined decades ago while I was studying Modern Dance.
In early 2016, I am launching Kaizen-durance® Coaching Services, as well as Kaizen-durance® for Athletes. And, 11-15 February, I will lead the first Kaizen-durance® Triathlon Mastery Camp in Tucson, AZ.
The emphasis for all of these endeavors will be facilitating athletes in developing the skills to maximize efficiency through precise and mindful swim, bike and run technique. These skills include: perceptive, proprioceptive/balance, functional strength and joint stability. I will target neural endurance to sustain that efficiency for the duration of their goal events.
While the focus is neural training and fitness - kinetic intelligence - I will not disregard metabolic/aerobic training and fitness. My recent completion of Training Peaks University has given me many tools to track and train aerobic fitness.
If you wish to find out more about Kaizen-durance® - the Coaching Service and/or the Tucson Camp, contact me: shane(dot)eversfield(at)gmail(dot)com.
Bob Posey first envisioned the Trans Mass Ultra Triathlon in the autumn of 2011. While we “run-bike-running” a self-supported version of American Zofingen Duathlon (AZ) in September of that year (Day 1 of my first Shawangunk Double), we played with this vision of an ultra triathlon traversing west-to-east across Massachusetts as a way of raising money and awareness for Duchenne Muscular Distrophy (DMD). Bob took this vision home and began the logistical process of realizing it.
In our visioning during AZ, we talked about the Hawaii Ultraman Triathlon Format - a 3-day point-to-point event that first arose on the Big Island of Hawaii (also home to Hawaii Ironman) in 1983. Ultraman honors the Hawaiian principles of “aloha” (love), “o’hana” (family), and “kokua” (service). Now designated as the Ultraman World Championship, the event circumnavigates the perimeter of the Big Island (my home 1990-2003). With a 12-hour time limit each day, the distances for each day/activity are a result of this complete circumnavigation:
- Ocean Swim 6.2 miles (Kailua Pier to Keauhou Beach)
- Road Bike 90 miles (Keauhou Beach to Volcano0
- Road Bike 171.4 miles (Volcano to Hawi)
- Run 52.4 miles (Hawi to Kailua)
In 2006, I had the great fortune to participate and complete Hawaii Ultraman. As a former resident, I embody a powerful experience, and respect for the “mana” (life force) of this sacred place. My Ultraman experience (along with the 6.8 earthquake that shook the island a few weeks before the event) strengthened the deep embodiment I feel.
Bob did considerable research and drafted a proposed course that began at Stockbridge Bowl (a lake in the Berkshire Mountains) and finished on MacMillan Pier on the tip of Cape Cod, in Provincetown. To make the distances, he added a few “dog-legs” to the bike and run course.
Bob also approached some friends who know DMD personally through their son Charley. Bob proposed to produce the event to raise money for “Charley’s Fund”, a non-profit raising money “to accelerate the development of life-saving treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.”
The joy and benefits of mindful, graceful movement are a powerful and central element of my life-path. Hence, I feel so much empathy and concern for those who suffer from any disease that causes immobility and paralysis - such as DMD, MS, and ALS. In the past, I have dedicated many of my ultra endeavors to eliminating these diseases.
As he moved forward with this vision, he realized that traversing dozens of municipalities created a daunting permitting process as well as the liability issues. With a family and full-time job, he indefinitely postponed the process.
Regardless, in 2012, Bob and I did an abbreviated, self-supported version that stayed in western Mass. (This was the 2nd event of my 2012 Triple Ultra. Find out more about that event-series here.) Since that “pilot study”, the Trans Mass Ultra Tri has stayed with me…
My annual process for “drafting” the upcoming endurance sport season is one of “gut instinct” - as is my method of training and racing. (For considerable discussion on this method of training, see Zenman’s Essays, especially “You Animal, You!”, and “Training and Racing by Intuition”.) In the winter/early-spring of 2015, I felt oriented to focus on ultra events and set a goal to complete one multi-day ultra each month - June through (at least) October, with the Trans Mass Ultra (TMU) as my June event. However…
Due to family and work responsibilities, Bob was unable to train adequately to join me, and also unable to provide support. I was willing to “go solo”, but by the beginning of June, I had still not found a “saint” willing to accompany me in a vehicle as I traversed Massachusetts for 3 days.
Regardless, for early-season training events, I scheduled two single-day races in May: American Zofingen Long Course Duathlon, 17 May; and Cayuga Trails 50-Mile Run (CT50), 31 May. On short notice, I skipped AZ to work that weekend. (Still, it had provided great motivation for my training.) I did complete CT50, and it was a great experience! Such an incredible course… and right in my “back yard”! (I biked from apartment to the start.)
At this point, I was shifting my focus towards my July multi-day event - the Oregon Double Anvil. So, seven days after CT50, I did a single-day 160-mile bike ride - again right from my apartment in Ithaca. (Gotta say, I love the Finger Lakes - my home!) I followed that ultra ride the next day with a relatively flat 20-mile run - my first run on flat terrain in many months. On Friday of that week (12 June) I did a 65-minute hilly hike with a 55-pound pack (part of my training regimen this summer), and followed that with a 3:45 very hilly ride.
I felt hammered that evening as I was driving to the Total Immersion Swim Studio to teach for the weekend. (Well, no wonder: I had accumulated over 28 hours of training over 7 days. …And there was the CT50 the day before that weekly training cycle.)
As I was driving the 4 hours to the Swim Studio, I thought of one of my Ithaca Swim Mastery clients, Carter Thomas, as a potential “support saint” for TMU. At a rest stop, I emailed an inquiry to him. In the “Subject” line, I wrote “A Big BIG Question”: It was a short notice inquiry, as I wanted to do this event in the 3-day period of Tuesday-Thursday 23-25 June. I had set these dates because on weekdays there would be far less vacation beach traffic on the Cape, and this was as close to the solstice as I could get - providing maximum daylight.
By that evening, he indicated he was in! And he was willing to use his personal vehicle, saving me from renting a car for a week. It was a Jeep - not much space, not the utmost comfort, but adequate and adventurous!
“Hmmm… It’s 12 June and I want to start 23 June. Uh gee, I’ve got 10 days to taper and prepare.”
The “solo pioneering venture” 2015 TMU was a great opportunity to hone my skills of “not knowing”. There were so many uncertainties going into this event:
- Carter and I were acquainted, and I had a sense of his diligence and passion for learning and discovering. But how reliable and how patient would he be? How would our personalities mix?
- What was the water temperature? (I would be in the lake for over 3 1/2 hours)
- What was the bike course terrain and road conditions? How much traffic would I contend with?
- To put it even more simply: What was the bike course? What was the elevation? What was the distance each day?
- I had the same questions for the run course. Distance? Terrain? Surface? Traffic? Starting location?
- Where would we be staying each night?
- And, of course, the unknown for any event: What would the weather be like each day?
My last-minute decision to make the TMU sojourn had left no time for Bob to compile and send us the maps and info on the courses he had researched (but never completely sampled).
I was able to attend to one the uncertainties ahead of time: Accommodations. Bob and his family would host us the night before (Monday). I reserved a hotel room in Sturbridge, MA for Tuesday night. (At least I knew the start and destination for the Day 1 bike ride - I just did not know the course.) And one of my Swim Mastery clients offered us accommodations at the base of the Cape in South Denis for Wednesday and Thursday nights in their summer cottage. Ah, some comfort in the vast unknown.
I also looked online at the Cape Cod Rail Trail, and realized that the start was very close to South Denis, where we would be staying. I decided that the trail head would be the end of the Day 2 Bike and beginning of the Day 3 run.
As for the rest of the uncertainties… I choose events that can serve as quests. To embark on a quest is to live with a question for a period of time, to be present and diligent in each moment, not striving for an immediate answer. Each quest - each question - provides an opportunity for me to be “Comfortable With Uncertainty” (to quote the title of a book by Pema Chödrön). The TMU had lots of uncertainties. Bring ‘em on!
One of the books on my night table at home? “The Book of Not Knowing”, by Peter Ralston - 600 pages of how to use “not knowing” as a tool for mindfulness. I welcomed the uncertainties of this whole vision.
Carter, Bob and I gathered at Bob’s kitchen table at 9:00 PM on Monday night and looked over his notes for the proposed course. One glance and I knew I could not follow them while riding a bike, or running: The font size was tiny, and there seemed to be turns every mile or so. At best, they would provide some guidance for Carter.
Yet, I did not feel any anxiety at all. I was clear in my intention to make this sojourn. My step-brother Charles "Chip" Calvert had died of ALS just 4 weeks prior. I admit, he and I were not close, as my mother and his father married after I had graduated from college. I saw him and his family only on holidays. Regardless, I felt concern for him and his family as he experienced the loss of mobility and ultimately life.
Carter and Bob figured out how to load the links to Bob’s “Map My Ride” version of each day’s course into Carter’s phone, so that he could use that as navigation - driving ahead and stopping to guide me at the turns. (Providing we had cell phone coverage throughout.) And for Day 1, Brian Spagnoletti would join me for the first half of the Day 1 Bike Course, and was familiar with that much of the route. That would provide Carter and I with some “rehearsal time” before we were on our own. My biggest fortune in this area: Carter already had considerable experience using Google Maps for vehicle navigation. And Google Maps allows the user to select “Bike Route”. This would become an essential tool in our sojourn.
I made it clear that I had no attachment to adhering to the distances and time limits of the Ultraman format. I was compelled to honor my step-brother and to honor the spirit and character of the west-to-east sojourn across Massachusetts - from the Berkshire Mountains to the tip of Cape Cod.
At 11 PM, it was time for bed.
Up at 5AM, I did my morning T’ai Chi, ate a two bananas, some strawberries and some Hammer Soy Protein and rode with Carter to the start - Stockbridge Bowl - as I sipped some hot tea. I donned my 2XU V:1 wetsuit, got in the water, turned on my GPS, and began to swim at 7:40. No fanfare, no “Ready, set, go”.
Water temp was (for me) a bit cold, but I was not concerned. Swimming around the perimeter of the lake, I logged 4.75 kilometers. During the second loop, there was period of frequent thunder, and some rain showers, though no apparent lightning. Concluding the second loop, I had 9.9 kilometers. (I skirted even closer to the shore that time.) I did a short out and back to make it 6.3 K in just under 4 hours.
My swim volume in training leading up to this had been minimal - averaging at best 2 hours per week since early April - less before that. The longest swim was 80 minutes (24 May). Focusing on ultra events this year, my swim training serves (as it does most years) as active metabolic and muscular recovery, with a focus in every session on efficient technique - nothing more. I was happy with the TMU swim performance and did not feel overly fatigued in my upper body. (To view the Day 1 Swim GPS data, go here. For details on how to view the data, see notes at the bottom of this essay.)
After a leisurely but efficient transition, changing into 2XU Long Course Tri Shorts and Tank Top (under my jersey), Brian and I headed out for the first 45-50 miles of the bike through the wooded foothills of the Berkshires. And the sun came out!
I enjoyed camaraderie and humor with Brian and settled easily into the riding. The course was beautiful and hilly, with low traffic. And surprisingly, throughout the two days, the drivers were patient and tolerant - with just a few exceptions.
I felt a bit light headed by early afternoon. I attribute that to minimal nutrition intake during the swim - about 400 calories total. I fueling all day on Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem and Endurolytes - about 150-200 calories per hour on the bike. It did not seem to be enough to compensate for the swim deicit. However, we stopped in North Hampton around 3 PM for a burrito. That cured my light head. Carter and I bid farewell to Brian (who turned around) and we continued east under a brief drizzle.
Carter directed me very well through the rest of the Day 1 bike course to Sturbridge using Bob’s data. There were just a few risky sections of highway-speed traffic, and no shoulder. I had one flat tire on a moderately fast descent, but was able to easily stop before the tire was completely flat.
We made it to our hotel in Sturbridge before dark, and just 20 minutes before some wild thunderstorms moved in. I rode 93 miles in an elapsed time of 6:23 - pausing the GPS only at lunch and changing the flat tire. (To view the Day 1 Bike GPS data, go here.)
After unpacking and buying some food at a supermarket, I ate simply, and went to bed around 11.
I arose at 5:30, did T’ai Chi, and some bike maintenance. After some strawberries, bananas and Hammer Soy Protein, I put on my 2XU Bib Cycling Shorts and Tri Tank Top under my jersey. It was time to saddle up for a day of unknown adventure!!
We started out following Bob’s proposed TMU route. That lasted all of 7 kilometers. I pulled off the road and called Carter. We were supposed to stay on US Route 20 for 20-25 K. Even with my “hi-viz” vest and blinking tail light, this route was deadly: No shoulder, lots of trucks and 50 MPH speed limit. Carter picked me up and we back-tracked to the hotel.
It was time to employ the suggested bike route from Google Maps - first to Plymouth. It was time to “wing it”. We were now “on-the-fly”. And it worked! We got on some quiet and beautiful back roads. “Ah, I can do this aaalllll day!” Now I could enjoy the beauty of Massachusetts without the assault of traffic. I did not care how indirect the route might be.
Heck, I had my GPS unit, so I was “getting credit” for all these beautiful miles!
Carter did an incredible job of getting us all the way to Plymouth on some great roads - sometimes diverting from Google’s suggested route if he saw something that looked better. We had now traversed from the mountains to seashore. What a change.
From Plymouth, we headed south towards the base of the Cape. There were a few stretches of road that were risky - narrow or non-existent shoulders, combined with potholes and cracks. I had to exercise non-stop vigilance and accept expressions of impatience and anger from drivers. And once - just once - I had to rack the bike and accept a ride from Carter. There just seemed to be no way to cross a major bridge with very heavy traffic and no shoulder. OK, I “cheated” for a mile or so. However, I did pause the GPS.
We continued on to South Denis, and Carter navigated us to the trailhead for the Cape Cod Rail Trail. Ah! No more hyper-vigilance. I was so relieved. The ultra run the next day would feel so much more relaxed without the dangers of cycling on the road. I rode 137 miles in an elapsed time of 9:31 - pausing the GPS only for lunch, a few minutes in Plymouth, and the bridge crossing. Again, for the whole day, I fueled with Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem and Endurolytes.
We drove to our friend’s cottage for the night. While everyone else went to the shore to watch the 8:45PM sunset, I sorted and organized gear - pulling anything out of the jeep that was not run or nutrition related. I ate simply and laid down at 10:30.
(To view the Day 2 Bike GPS data, go here.)
One last time, I arose at 5:30 and did T’ai Chi. The weather forecast was again favorable: Clear skies, temps into the low 80’s, with low humidity. I put on 2XU Compression Shorts and Compression Socks, and we headed to the trail head. I began running at 7:40.
Carter and I set our first re-fuel spot just 7K from the start. When I got there, he had not arrived. I waited 10-15 minutes, pausing the GPS. Still no Carter. I looked at a map posted there. Ah, two parking areas 200 meters apart! I started the GPS and ran to the second one. No Carter. So, I ran another few hundred meters down the path and turned around - doing laps of 300-400 meters back and forth. With the GPS, I was “getting credit” for the distance, so no worries.
After 20 minutes of this, I had run out of hydration/nutrition, and there was no water available. I had no money and had chosen to forego the cell phone to eliminate weight. I decided to continue on. I ran another 800 meters down the Rail Trail… and there’s Carter sitting in the jeep. Whew!
I refilled my one hand-held bottle and continued on. When we were looking over the maps the night before, I decided to add in an out-and-back spur on the Rail Trail - east to Chatham - before heading north for Provincetown. Otherwise, I wasn’t sure I would get 50 miles - my intended goal. So I passed by the turn-off to Provincetown, and continued east.
All of my run training this season (with the exception of the 20-mile run mentioned earlier) has been on mixed, non-paved surface and all of it hilly. I prefer and enjoy this kind of running, and it was good preparation for the CT50 mentioned earlier. However, for this TMU run - after 2 days of long-distance cycling - I was running flat paved surface, in shoes I did very little training in. I figured the run would be relatively flat - as most rail trails are. However, I envisioned a packed dirt surface, not pavement.
By 20K, I was beginning to feel some soreness in my right arch. I attribute that to lack of training on flat paved surfaces. At 25K, I changed from the New Balance Minimus Road shoes (very thin, with minimal cushioning) to the Altra One - shoes I have run less than 40 miles in. (Twenty of that was the recent 20-miler.) These shoes provide more cushioning - something I do not like. I prefer the more accurate “feel” of a very minimal shoe. (Most of my base training runs at home are in Vibram 5-Fingers.)
By the time I finished the out-and-back to Chatham, and returned to the rotary on the “trail” to head north towards Provincetown, I had logged over 30K (18 miles). Hmmmm… I began to realize I would easily exceed 50 miles by the time I made it to Provincetown.
In my ultra running experience, there are occasions where my biomechanics just don’t quite sync. This was one of those times. I suspect this was due to the factors mentioned just above - pavement, flat terrain, long days in the saddle, etc. Nevertheless, I continued on, taking the occasional walking break and appreciating the beauty of landscape and the fact that I did not have to contend with motorized vehicles.
Carter and I were once again “dancing” very well. At every meeting point (usually 6-8 kilometers apart), I would refuel - now with Hammer Nutrition HEED. I also enjoyed either a slice of watermelon, or a few strawberries. My foot was complaining, but did not seem to be getting worse. At 50K, I had my first shot of caffeine - 32mg in an energy gel. It helped me focus and push on.
At 57K, I took 200mg of ibuprofen - enough to lower the inflammation in my foot, but not enough to mask the discomfort entirely. I wanted to be able to monitor the sensation, so I could avoid injury. I walked about 2K while it took effect, then was able to run 2-3 miles at a time with only short walking breaks. I felt encouraged!
I reached the terminus of the Rail Trail at 62K - about 38 miles. By Carter’s estimates, I had about 20 miles more to go. Yup, this would be a long day. Both of us expressed patient resolve that we would see this through. To keep it in perspective, “Here we are in a beautiful location, with warm but ideal weather conditions. Neither of us is experiencing the terror of gradual paralysis that those afflicted with ALS, MS, or DMD may experience.”
Simply put, we were “Good to go.”
Carter had found that Google Maps indicated a recognized “Bike Route” from the CCRT terminus all the way to P-Town that kept us off the major artery (US Rte 6) except for a 2-mile stretch. I re-fueled and begin to trot along a quiet road that looped us out to the east shore. The desolate road rolled and snaked up and down the the ancient wooded dunes of the Cape. I welcomed the hills, the twists and turns. And I was captivated by the beauty and solitude. I resolved to run at an easy pace, with very short walking breaks, until we reached our destination… without asking “How much further?”
At one point, Carter suggested an overgrown two-track trail - just over a mile long. I was game! Carter bushwhacked the jeep ahead of me. It was getting to sunset now, and the flies and mosquitoes were peaking. In this wooded sanctuary, I had to run without walking, or get absolutely swarmed by insects. Nothing like a little motivation.
By the time I got to the 2-mile section of US Rte 6, it was dark. I broke out my vest, donned my headlamp and set it to flashing mode, and turned on a handheld light as well. I felt very safe running on the left shoulder facing traffic - pulling the brim of my hat down to shield my eyes from the oncoming headlights. I ran this section non-stop. The faster I moved, the sooner I would get off the highway.
Once I did get off the highway, it was back to quiet rolling, twisting roads. Peaceful and dark. No problem! I kept a steady - albeit slow - pace and ambled forward. Finally we reached the western shore of the Cape and I began the final stretch along Rte 6A. Now there were frequent beach cottages, small hotels and restaurants. Still, I could not see the lights of P-Town.
Carter was now stretching the distance between our re-fuel points, since we would be on the same road from here on out. This was a smart move on his part. If he stopped more frequently, so would I. And I didn’t need to.
I got a few glimpses of what I now know is called Pilgrim Tower, lit up and beaconing us to Provincetown. It was difficult to gage how far away it was. And it was not worth the mental energy of making conjectures. All I had to do was to keep moving forward… gracefully.
As we got closer there was gradually more activity - pedestrian, bike and vehicle traffic. What really struck me: Not one bike had lights or reflectors. It seemed so risky to me. It’s 11PM, and I suspect many of the drivers are at least somewhat under the influence.
The final approach to P-Town seemed to take forever - a sure sign of a great endurance event, yes?. But I remained patient. I knew I could persevere. I have a healthy, strong, agile and fully mobile body. Finally, I saw Carter, refilled my small flask, and he said, “I’ll meet you at MacMillan Pier.”
I didn’t ask questions. I just ambled on. And then, all at once, I found myself in the center of town and I could see the tower. I did not have to ask where the pier was. I found it no problem.
I sighted Carter near the start of the pier, went to the jeep to drop the lights and vest and get my phone, and we strolled out to the end of the pier. I shut off the GPS and looked at it for the first time in hours: Distance: 95.84 kilometers / 59.5 miles. (I’ll call it 60 miles since I had neglected to turn the GPS back on a few times after pausing it to re-fuel until I had run a few minutes). Elapsed time 14:35. (I finished at 11:38PM.) My pace was a “leisurely” (OK slow) 6.6 kph (4.1 mph).
After some photos, we ambled back to the jeep. We had an hour drive ahead of us, and no restaurants were open. I drank some Hammer Whey and HEED mixed in coconut water and we drove back to South Denis. No big fanfare, no finish line announcer, no medal. I had something much better than that short-lived glory: The Trans Mass Ultra was in my bones.
Back at the cottage, I took a shower and went to bed. Yes, the Trans Mass Ultra was in my bones.
(To view the Day 3 Run GPS data, go here.)
For each GPS link offered in the text: First you get the basic distance/pace/time stats (all metric) for that activity. Scroll down for Google map of that activity. (I have included screen shots of these maps in the text above.)
Below the map is a graph:
- At bottom left of graph are buttons that you can turn on and off for various “activity-appropriate metrics” on Y-axis. (You can overlay by turning them all on.)
- At bottom right, is "Tools" that enable you to change X-axis from time to distance. (I like the Y-axis as “Altitude” (in meters) and X-axis as distance (in kilometers) to see bike and run course profiles.)
Below the graph is a "Laps" area. Click on that to get details for each start/pause of my GPS. (Notice in Graph and Laps a few anomalies for elevation and one for pace in the run.)
20 May 2015:
Start it Up!
Although its late-May, I am just now offering the first entry of my 2015 Training Journal. I have been teaching quite a bit locally throughout our prolonged but lovely winter - both evenings and middays. I have also been writing another book with the working title “From Endurance to Zen-durance: Living Brilliantly Everyday Through the Practice of Training and Racing”. (Unlike the title, I don’t envision the book to be so long.)
In this Entry, I summarize my training throughout the winter and early spring.
To put my early 2015 training into context:, a few comments on the 2014 season: I competed in some of my favorite local races during the spring/summer season:
- Skunk Cabbage 10K
- Spring Dual Against CF
- Fly By Night Duathlon
- Keuka Lake Triathlon
- Musselman Half
- Cayuga Lake Triathlon
I thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie at every one of these races. My paradigm for “winning” at a race: The person who knows the most people at the event. (I’m sure I made the “podium” at every one of these races based on that criteria.) And I was very satisfied with the craft of my training throughout the season.
My competitive results for the season were satisfactory, though not spectacular. I did not make USAT All-American for 2014.
Beginning in September though, I seemed to find my real “groove”. No, I didn’t suddenly dominate my age group at any events. I began to train for and race longer events - mostly off-road:
- Shawangunk Double (including SOS)
- Xterra ASP Epic
- JFK 50-Mile Run
- NCR Trail Marathon
- Cajun Coyote 100-Mile Run
What really made the groove last autumn was the extensive trail running and long bike rides on gravel roads. The solitude and beauty of nature are so inspiring and spiritually nurturing - much more so than chasing speed through structured intervals on pavement. The craft of training in quiet natural settings integrates well with my overall health and well-being. And, its motivating!
I completed the last event - the Cajun Coyote 100-Mile Trail Run, 07 December - as the culmination of a 3-week spree that began just 4 days after I returned from an exhausting 2-week teaching schedule in Singapore: JFK 50-Mile, NCR Trail Marathon and then the Cajun on 3 consecutive weekends. (My recollections here.)
Through most of December, I focused on recovery, functional strength, easy swims, and a return to riding the TT (triathlon) bike that I had not been on once since Survival of the Shawangunks (SOS) way back in September. I also returned to running just 6 days after Cajun Coyote.
Functional strength training is something I do twice a week, year-round, at home, with very simple equipment: a mat, a small fitness ball. (I also use a 20-pound kettle bell for one exercise set.)
I really look forward to these early-morning 75-minute sessions! This mat-work - a mindful, slow and deliberate core-focused strength session (that also emphasizes lateral joint stability) woven with patient and thorough stretching always feels so restorative and invigorating. I have an extensive repertoire of exercises that I vary each time - simply allowing my body to dictate the order and selection. Many of the exercises I do every in every session; however, the order often varies.
These sessions provide me with nearly all of the general strength, stability, flexibility and mobility training I need. I also add one or two 10-15-minute sets each week of rope skipping/hopping and squats on a stability disc. I usually perform this set immediately after a run or bike. Occasionally, I also work a bit with resistance cords - also for joint stability.
Although I teach swim technique as my primary profession, I “confess” that most of my personal swim training functions for:
- Metabolic and muscle recovery - low-moderate intensity
- Neural strength and endurance - maintaining and refining the precise complex movement patterns essential to efficient swimming
- Research to refine my teaching methods
I do occasionally swim specific sets - working with the metrics of cadence, stroke length and distance - but much of my swimming is unstructured, intuitive exploration of subtle nuances. Keep in mind that I do perform drills regularly as an instructor. And - while my swim training is not rigorously structured for my metabolic system - I focus on technique every length of the pool.
Wonderful World of Indoor Cycling
Contrary to my swimming, my indoor winter bike training is always structured:
This structure keeps the training engaging with very few moments of monotony. Indoor training on the Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll stationary trainer is the most effective and time-efficient way to build efficiency and strength for the bike. The long winter months here in Ithaca are “highly conducive” to this intensive indoor training.
It took the final 3 weeks of December just to condition my body again to the “aggressive” aero position of my TT bike - despite my overall flexibility and functional strength level. The take-home here? If you want to ride a low front-end, you have to commit to training for it. While I have very few events in my sites for this season that will require the TT bike, I still train my technique and riding positions for it. And I do that almost completely inside on the stationary stand.
During January and February, I trained through a progression of strength-focused workouts very similar to what I have used in past years. Although - like the rest of my training - it is constantly evolving and refining. It is this constant innovative, creative process in the Pursuit of Mastery that keeps me so engaged and motivated to practice the training everyday.
After a patient 15-20 minute warm-up, I “play” with a combination of drills I developed for the Zendurance Cycling curriculum. After close to 10 years, these drills still serve to refine my cycling technique and efficiency.
My interval work on the bike - especially with a focus this season on ultra events - is primarily strength focused. During late December through February, I performed a set of 6-12-minute intervals with fairly high resistance. For this set, I maintain a cadence of 55-62 RPM at a PRE (perceived rate of exertion) of 6-7 (on a scale of 1-10). Just before and just after the set, I spin at 95-105 cadence for 5 minutes or so.
Before and after this on-bike progression, I dismount, put on Vibram 5-Finger Shoes, and a backpack with weights, and perform sets of single-leg squats - with a focus on gluteus engagement and lateral hip-knee-ankle joint stability. I also perform single leg calf raises very slowly - both up and down - with the pack.
To finish, after the second set of off-bike strength training, I mount up again and do a set of 30-second jumps at 90-95 RPM, PRE at 8-9. The purpose of this entire set:
- Train the neural system to recruit more muscle fibers for an efficient pedal stroke
- Neural and muscular endurance
- Lateral joint stability to reduce risk of injury and increase pedaling efficiency
- Maximally engage pelvic core and glute muscles for pedaling
Generally, throughout the winter, I perform this session twice a week. I follow this bike session with a 20-40 minute “cadence run” on flat paved surfaces(often snowy) in minimal road running shoes. (I use a Tempo Trainer and focus on maintaining a cadence of 180 strides-per-minute - no small feat for my big feet!)
Winter Cycling Outdoors
And since I do not own a car (for me, a real sign of success), I commute all winter the short distance to Island Health and Fitness by bike - my single speed, rigid fork, 29’er “slush-bike”. These brief rides in snow and slush keep my riding skills sharp. And -weather and time permitting - I can ride in unplowed parking lots for 10-30 minutes to practice my skills.
Winter Liberation: Running
And then there’s the enchanting winter running! While all of my swimming occurs in the indoor “chlorine chamber”, and most of my cycling during the winter occurs in the “velo studio”, I always run outside, in the winter wonderland. This is my “winter medicine”. It lifts my spirits to get out and run on the mixed soft surface that the snow provides.
This winter, we had snow cover constantly from Mid-December into early-April. Temps never rose above the high 20’s F, and dipped to 15 below. Many years of winter running in the Adirondacks - sometimes in temps dipping to 30 below - have conditioned my attitude to really enjoy this. (Respiratory stress? I ran 3-5 times a week outside, and never experienced any respiratory illness - not even a mild cold.)
While I live in the center of the “city” of Ithaca, I can run off-pavement (running the grass medians in town) up to the Cornell Campus and then… the options are limitless from there! As for hills, 80% of my running is hilly terrain.
During the winter - due to the cold temps - I run in the old New Balance Trail Minimus. Once the temperatures rises above 30, I return to the 5-Fingers for almost all of my running (with the exception of the transition runs mentioned above.) For me, the combination of minimal footwear and mixed terrain maintains great foot strength. The disadvantage of my training regimen is the lack of true speed work. However, once or twice a week throughout the winter, I do perform short hill intervals - typically 30-40 strides on steep pitches.
During those winter months, I often ran once a week at the 200-meter indoor track at Cornell. This session served for running drills, and short, fast intervals - strides. In my experience, the combination of mixed surface, hilly terrain and minimal footwear for my regular outdoor runs provides the benefits that most people seek through drills - stability, agility and mobility.
December through mid-March, much of my training actually follows a regular weekly schedule. The indoor bike sessions build predictably, the outdoor runs build in volume and long-run duration, the indoor track sessions build in interval repeats and distance. (Although the indoor track sessions were not this year consistently once-a-week.) The swims are usually flexible.
This fairly regular (predictable) regimen seems to propel me through the winter with:
- Measurable progress (especially the structured indoor bike)
- Winter enjoyment (outdoor runs - so beautiful)
- Always always always the pursuit of kinetic intelligence through a focus on neural training.
For this last element, kinetic intelligence, both a consistent predictable regimen and a flexible spontaneous “regimen” work well for training the neural system.
In the next entry, I will summarize the transition from this predictable winter regimen to the more spontaneous spring “passage”. I will also discuss how this combination is preparing me for my 2015 season - for me the Season of Ultra. And I will lay out my vision for the season…