The Perfect Trap

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”
― Anne Lamott

A common phrase uttered in the world of sport is: practice makes perfect… or, better yet, perfect practice makes perfect. In relation to competition, this may be the very thing that is holding many of you back from peak performance.

Competition in sport has a way of exposing your weaknesses. Maybe you train to your strengths, or obsessively compare one workout to the last, judging your performance in the present moment. These tendencies, over time, become hindrances to progress. You improve by encountering failure, embracing the unknown and using experience to move your forward. This is the antithesis of perfection.

In the above quote, Ms. Lamott is speaking of writing, and obsessing over perfection. How will this look? How will this be perceived? How does this make me feel? Is it (am I) ready? Its application is directly relevant to sports and competition. In endurance sports, you are your main rival. The other competitors are their own rivals on race day. It is your body of work that is represented when the gun goes off. All dreams of perfection must be released and the importance of acting and reacting must be prioritized.

So, how do you avoid the perfect trap? Here are a few examples:

  1. Ditch the watch: run by feel and emotion. Biofeedback is fun to track, but it can hinder the mind if the numbers aren’t where they “should” be.
  2. Train with a group: training partners, friends, and teams can provide the necessary stimulus to lift you into a new training experience. *Communicate with the group members and understand the goals of the workout before beginning.
  3. Go off road: nature is calling. Hitting the trails is a great way to add new and dynamic stimulus to your training. The mind works harder to engage with the environment. The body reacts to sudden terrain changes. Pace and speed go out the window when the terrain dictates movement. Also, proprioception, coordination, mobility, and strength are enhanced by training off road.
  4. Remind yourself that your finishing time matters to no one else. Nobody cares, but you. Nobody remembers, but you. Release the social pressure of achievement and be happy to be able to participate.

As the great Stoic Marcus Aurelius wrote:

“The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.”

We take on these difficult challenges, because they bring out the best in us, on that given day. Be happy in the moment and embrace the beauty that competition and sport bring to life.

Onward and Upward!

Effective Strategies For Health and Wellness Pt. 2

The previous post was a bit of an extended lead in to this one. Now, onto the nuts bolts of applying and implementing knowledge.

Sleep/Wake:

  1. Get to bed on time. Put some closure on the day. Plan the next days events, including your workout time. Schedule everything.
  2. Wake up EARLY. Just a few minutes at first. This is step #1 in winning your day.

Nutrition:

  1. Schedule a cheat-day. Keep it the same day, no matter what your week entails. I like Saturday.
  2. Keep foods out of the house that are known culprits of indulgence: alcohol, peanut butter, potato chips, any and all sweet or savory snacks.
  3. Hydrate first. When feeling tempted to eat, or overindulge at a restaurant, drink a large glass of water first. Then, make the proper decision.
  4. Join or start your own group, for accountability purposes. Believe me, there is power in numbers when seeking to elicit change. Well established, in place, peer and work groups are great places to start. Who doesn’t want to make positive change?

Cardio/Aerobic:

  1. Think about activities you’ve been interested in in the past. If they’ve gone completely dormant ask yourself why, then decide if their benefit could possibly outweigh their cost. With a new mindset/outlook/goal you might be surprised at the answer.
  2. Get it in before the day starts. Four days each week wake up to that early alarm and start moving. I find getting it in before sunrise gives me a lot of power and momentum to seize the day. Start with 20-30 minutes for the first 6-weeks. Patiently increase your time each subsequent week until you reach that 50 minute sweet spot.
  3. In areas or times of inclement weather, or simply if you prefer indoor exercise, try utilizing media to make the time pass and gather knowledge at the same time.
  4. Seek enjoyment! The mind is powerful. If you believe what you are doing is improving your health, giving you more enjoyment, and increasing quality of life, you are more likely to be proud of it.

Strength:

  1. Keep it super simple (K.I.S.S.). No sense being overly creative here. The same exercises that worked in the early 20th century still work in the early 21st century.
  2. Be creative in your programming. Utilize ladders, timers, games, competitions, and keep track of your workout totals.
    1. Max reps in 10/20/30/60 minutes. Take 1-3 bodyweight exercises and do as many reps as possible in the allotted time period. Squats, lunges, pull ups, push ups, and dips work best here. Metabolic conditioning movements, such as burpees or squat thrusts are great as well, but don’t combine these with the other movements as they are most effective, in this format, when isolated.
    2. Kettlebells. Simple and sinister. Check these out, but be sure to learn proper form and technique. The best exercises are the Goblet Squat and the Swing.
    3. Deadlifts. If you’ve got a background in strength training, you’ve probably done a few deadlifts. Check out the form here, and then keep the reps simple. Build a solid base of 5-10 reps at 100-150% of bodyweight before cranking out super heavy sets.
  3. Rest 48-72 hours between workouts. Unlike cardio, it’s not advised to “lift” on consecutive days. You can get away with this in your youth, with hormones raging, but let commonsense play out and recover properly. Proper recovery insures we absorb these hard training sessions.

Yoga/Stretching:

  1. Do it. Once a week, minimum, spend 45-60 minutes breathing and stretching.
  2. Focus on the hips, low back, and shoulders. Breathing is everything here.
  3. The foam roller can be extremely therapeutic. I use it as a passive activity for my back and spine, but you can get extremely involved with it.

Search, Seek and Employ. The solutions are right in front of your eyes. Make the time. Make it happen.

Onward, Jake Lawrence

Greater Realities of Physical Fitness

Fitness can be an attempt to go beyond the ordinary human experience. It begins with exploring the limits of the body, and it then explores the limits of the mind. Ultimately, it explores the limits of the whole person. One discovers from hand-to-hand combat with the self—or through a transport to indescribable areas of the soul—that there are indeed other and greater realities.

George Sheehan, Personal Best

To most humans that participate in an exercise program, it is simply about how to get the most “results” in as little time as possible for the least amount of money. Looking at it from a purely functional standpoint this is all any of us should really seek to invest. These should be the parameters for decision making when it comes to which path to take to fill the physical fitness, health requirement of life. The practical approach if you may.

On the other hand, as you know or may have heard, there is a large and growing population that is increasingly drawn to more committed pursuits of fitness. This ranges from multi-pitch rock climbs, peak bagging, summit pushes, triathlons, marathons, trail runs, thru-hikes, ultra-marathons, and multi-day swim/bike/kayak/run events. This transformation is not immediate, often taking many years of varying experiences and participation before finding true passion and play in our physical selves, becoming how we see, experiment and ultimately enjoy our lives.

For some this starts with athletics at a young age and continues. For others, a void is filled later in life out of either necessity or desire. A person may try many forms of exercise before one takes a firm grip on our being. It is at this moment that we’ve found our play. The rest of our lives will be enhanced because of this discovery. Physical activity is the one positive we can add to our lives that requires just doing, and not subtracting or stopping some negative health behavior. Discovering that you can run or jog is a powerful feeling. I remember packing my running shoes on a trip to San Francisco several years ago and setting off on a early morning run, hoping to run across the Golden Gate in the early morning hours. That day I experienced something transcendental. Finishing that run I knew that running was my play. Running would be the physical activity that I could not live without. First and foremost I am a runner. All other labels are descriptions come secondary to this elemental fact. I have found my play.

Fitness can be as simple as doing as jogging for 30 minutes, 4 days per week. Put in the basic minimum and you will enhance your life. But allowing yourself to find joy in movement will change your life. Passion, adventure, fear, excitement, travel, exploration, experience, and competition all blossom when we begin to explore our perceived limits. Opening up your soul to the experience of self-propulsion and you may never look back. The athletic soul seizes the moment in each day. A powerful display of the human spirit.

The best example I can give you is of myself. I’ve always been obsessed with fitness. At a young age I found that by working my body I could change my appearance. The more time I spent exercising the more my body changed. This newfound control of my outward appearance was powerful. It felt good to be different than my peers. I liked the commitment, the isolation, and the rewards of daily practice. Fitness had become my “play”, whereas for others fitness was either completely lacking from their life, or it was a necessary requirement, another thing to be checked off the list, done but not experienced. During this period I was often told I was missing out, spending too much time in the gym, too much time garnering knowledge and information, and neglecting the social, group dominated behavior of our teenage years.  What I came to realize is mediocrity likes to keep everyone on the same level. The outliers usually remain that way as people can only judge and comprehend what they have direct understanding of. I liked this distinguishing fact that fitness gave me.

For many years I mainly did what I liked to do in the gym. For me, this was weight training. Time was not a worry, thus I was not rushed to get out of the gym and onto the next thing. You could even call it traditional “bodybuilding” training. Isolating joints, muscle groups, movements became the theme. This lasted until I experienced the first major transition in my adult life, college student to college graduate. This change brought with it a geographic shift as well. Moving from the Midwest to the Southwest. As I met new people and experienced a new way of living my enthusiasm for life and fitness massively shifted. During this time I learned the term “functional” and how that applied to fitness training. Through a friend, I was exposed to gymnastic, suspension training, and body leverage techniques. This new form of building strength was enlightening. Instead of moving a weight I was now moving my body. Suspension training is all about establishing a solid mind-body connection, learning and mastering movements while displaying control (or lack of). This black and white, can or can’t was eye-opening. I loved it. Improvements and accomplishments came slowly. Practicing difficult movements that don’t give you the instant gratification of success that others dish out in large doses takes a serious amount of dedication. I found that willingness was a rare commodity in the gym scene so I often trained alone, after business hours, or with a friend in the isolation of our garage.

Evolving. Over time I found you can only take gym-environment fitness training so far, and I took it about as far as I could. After a few years I began to supplement the strength training with trail running. Instead of running 3 x week and strength training 4 x week I was doing the opposite. Trail running allowed me to experience my surroundings at a visceral level. I was beginning to learn how to relax while training. As with anything new the challenge came with a steep learning curve. Developing aerobic fitness and efficiency takes time. To run for more than 45 minutes is a learned talent. Endurance athletics is passion driven and definitely not something you can force. In order to come back week after week, seeking micro improvements, the activity must be enjoyable. Along with the positive physical feedback trail running gave me, I enjoyed being away from the city’s smells, sounds, distractions, and conveniences. Trail running was becoming my elixir. My way to escape, explore, and be exposed to the elements of my environment. It soon transformed into a way to test the fusion of my training techniques (strength, flexibility, endurance, mental) in competition. The added element of competition, which for me was the missing link in other forms of fitness training, gave structure and significance to every training session I engaged in. Competition or racing provided purpose to the process training. The race became a test and an opportunity to see what I could do… what kind of effort I could give over the course and terrain. It also gave feedback as to what areas I needed to work on, improve in, or prioritize to have more success, or compete better next time.

Remembering that fitness must be enjoyable is key, even suffering and pain, when welcomed with knowledge that it never lasts, can add excitement to your weekly training. This is why I race. Racing is a unique option to endurance athletes as it is so readily accessible. In most places you can find a race, or multiple races to choose from every weekend. The choice is always yours as to how easy, mellow, mild, or hard you want to compete. Once the mind is set on a course of action the body is either restrained in pace, or set free and unleashed to discover new physical limits.

The challenge never has to cease or become dull. Today there is so much variety, so many choices and race types, and hundreds if not thousands of ways to keep it fresh and keep the mind and body interested in the activity or sport.

My challenge to you is to jump into your training. Make a commitment to pick up an activity you enjoyed in the past… learn a new training technique, learn how to swim, how to ride a road or mountain bike, or run with a relaxed mind and attitude. Let the activity and your enjoyment in the process of learning, and being a beginner, keep you coming back for more. Set short-term goals, read about this new “thing” in your life. Find a mentor. Read the sport journals and find inspiration in those that have mastered and taken their skill in the activity to the limits of perceived possibility.

When I run all things feel possible. All of my goals in sport, business, and life feel achievable and within reach while I run. The glory of a completed run leaves me feeling relaxed and complete. My breakfast tastes better, I eat slower, and the cold water I drink cleanses, refreshes, and satisfies my deep thirst.

The uncertainty of the next challenge or race keeps me on edge, not in a bad way, but in a way that connects me with the naivety of the inexperience and anticipation of my youth.

Find your trail. Seek out an active lifestyle. Be forever in anticipation of the challenges that lay ahead.

Realistic Fitness (training)

The Meat:

Do your own thing. No, seriously, do your own thing. You don’t have to train like a pro athlete, nor should you want to. You don’t have to be a vegan, vegetarian, paleo, gluten/dairy free or whatever to have “the look”. You don’t (nor would I recommend) have to quit your job (you’re good at it, get better), to complete a super inspiring bucket list race. We are, understandably, attracted to the “lifestyle” we watch on film, TV, and the web, or read about in magazines, journals, and autobiographies. It’s a beautiful thing… portrayed simplicity… single minded focus… me and my goals… freedom of doing what I want, when I want to, etc.

The Rest:

I’m a firm believer that the mind is our strongest, sharpest, and swiftest tool. Whether we think we can, or can’t we are right. Competition and training place us in direct contact with these thoughts. A few years ago, when I started running trail races and ultra-marathons I had no idea what my potential would be. I knew that as long as I didn’t quit, I would finish. Obvious right? Lining up for my first trail half-marathon in Los Alamos, NM I didn’t know if I’d come in last or towards the front. It was a big unknown, and it concerned me. I’d placed a certain level of importance on how well I would do. Why? I attached “self-worth” to my placing in the race. This of course added stress and anxiety to an otherwise completely laid back and positive experience. In the end the race went well. I started off conservatively, and pushed hard on the back half of the race to finish 6th place overall. I felt good about myself. I felt relieved.

Being self-coached lends itself to walking a fine line. The physical and nutritional is pretty easy to maintain as long as you listen to your body. On the other hand, the mental, emotional, and rational side of physical fitness is very difficulty to keep control over. You see we can talk ourselves into or out of doing anything. We’ve all done it. It’s a tough habit to break and even to recognize. Self-assessment is easier said than done.

The past weekend I found myself browsing facebook and twitter for information on upcoming trail races around the country. After a few minutes of clicking I found myself reading athlete training logs, and blogs from around the country. People are very open in what they are doing to prepare, posting workouts, miles ran, elevation gained, etc. In my head I started comparing my fitness and workouts to what they had done and were doing. I felt I was getting behind. My worry bounced from my climate (icy, snowy, long hard winter), to my lower leg tendinitis, and to other “reasons” why I wasn’t putting in big miles and epic training runs in preparation for my race season. I made excuses (it’s not important anymore, I have other goals now, etc.). A few days later I was thinking back on the first trail marathon, 50-mile trail race and 100-mile trail race I ran back in 2012. I went into each event totally naïve, with no expectations. My goal was to do my best and to finish the race. In short, I raced well that year. I placed 5th overall in the Leadville Trail Marathon (June), 10th overall in the Leadville 50-mile race (July), and 2nd overall in the Heartland 100-mile race (October).

I was excited to compete and it showed in my results. No expectations. No pressure. Plenty of smiles, miles and finish line jubilation were experienced.

Since then I’ve had races that went really well and a few others that didn’t go well at all. In hindsight, the races I competed poorly in I went to them over-trained, tired, mentally fatigued, and with a little self-doubt. I put too much pressure on myself based on past performances. I didn’t rest enough. I raced too often. I was racing and training without a coach. I did it the hard way and it showed.

Athletics are no different from academics or business. To be our best selves we need mentors, leaders and coaches. No excuses. Our time on this planet is so short. Each experience and endeavor deserves our best effort. Our most intelligent approach to the process, which will lead us to the product, can be the most elusive piece to the puzzle.

As a coach by profession, my job is to make you headstrong, confident, injury free, and able. Through self-trial and error I’ve learned invaluable lessons on performance, prioritization, and realistic goals, planning, training. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything as they’ve made me a better coach. Where I am on the path is where I want my students to be, without the low points, struggle and self-doubt that it took me to get here.

Intervals

Intervals

I just finished reading an article in the New York Times about HIIT, or, high intensity interval training. The title of the article, “How to Get Fit in a Few Minutes a Week” caught my eye, as titles like that usually do. The article does a good job of using science and study to give evidence based recommendations to the reader without too much complication in application. The concern is benefit and improvement in aerobic endurance capacity.

The “hacking” of fitness and health is extremely popular. The common theme is that we don’t have time to workout anymore. One hour of physical activity is just too daunting of an endeavor for the common human. The reasons why this is so are far too many to discuss here, so in interest of sticking to the topic I’ll move on to the nuts and bolts of interval training.

The body adapts very quickly to the stress we place upon it. If we do the same thing, at the same intensity day after day, week after week, our improvement stops, and as is often the case, overtraining and a loss of fitness can take place. Not good. Doing intervals is an effect way to layer differing intensities on top of a solid base aerobic fitness foundation.

  • What I mean here is that after running 50 minutes, 6 days per week at a moderate intensity, for 8-12 weeks it would be wise to substitute a couple higher intensity interval workouts into your week. You’ve got a base, now we can work on getting faster, building speed and power, 30 seconds of very hard effort followed by 60-90 seconds of recovery jogging, for as many as 10 repetitions.
  • Or, speaking in terms of strength training, instead of doing 4 sets of 15 kettle bell swings or burpees, resting between sets you would do 8 sets of 20 seconds of exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest. This varied demand takes us out of a certain comfort with the exercise and training, forcing us to adapt and become more efficient in the movement.

These are just two examples of application. Implementation of interval training is not a daily occurrence. Recovery is essential to improvement and sustained fitness gains. A good standard to follow is 48 hours between these workouts. Here, we are not talking about complete rest. It is always advisable to perform a lower intensity, endurance based or corrective exercise on these recovery days. Looking at our week of training, usually 6 days, we can space these sessions on days 1/3/5 with our targeted aerobic/endurance or corrective/recovery workouts on days 2/4/6.

Creating a flow in our training is essential. When thinking of efficiency don’t focus on cramming the workout into 8-12 minutes of pure sprint/recover training. Instead focus on optimization of those 30-60 minutes you are working on your fitness. In the gym take 3 full body exercises: burpees, kettle bell swings, and ball slams. Use an 8 x (:20/:10) or 4 x (:30/:30) format for each exercise, resting 3-5 minutes between them. Simple and effect application for 4-6 weeks, followed by assessment of progress toward your goals is the standard assignment.

Remember. Know your desired outcome (point B). Whether you are trying to get fit from a long period of inactivity, diligently training for a competition, or fixing a problem or weakness in your fitness (mental, physical), you need to keep an accurate assessment of your training.

As Dr. Phil Maffetone (endurance athlete coach)  says: Work + Rest = Training

 

 

Commit. Learn. Resolve.

 

Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second. Give your dreams all you’ve got and you’ll be amazed at the energy that comes out of you.

-William James

There is a common theory in the fitness industry that most programs will work for 6-weeks, few will provide continuous results, and none will work through merely “trying it”.

Be discerning and educate yourself on the path you decide to take.

What we can learn from the quote above and this statement is that it is through commitment, learning and resolve that we change. Life is a constant personal competition. If we seek to give our best on a daily basis great progress will follow. The key is to keep the competition personal. Avoid judging your progress, work, and accomplishments based on what others are doing. This will help to avoid burnout and keep us on a path of continuous improvement.

In the context of fitness, whether you win or lose is not based on where you placed in the race or competition, but solely on if you gave your best. We have to be willing to risk failure, to open our mind to new possibilities. Let the competition, test, or deadline bring out your best. You may win, you may blow up, but if you truly give your best, you will have learned something.

Commit to what you start. Continue to learn and own what you are doing. Use this information and self-analysis to strengthen your resolve.

Heartland 100 Race Report

Flint Hills, Cassoday, KS.

Warning: this will be pretty graphic.

  • Thursday, October 11, 2012.

My wife Jody and I arrived in El Dorado, KS at 6:15 PM. We got checked in and picked up some supplies from the local Walmart. It felt good to arrive and we were both relieved to be at our destination (base). We had a spinach salad for dinner and some greek yogurt for dessert.

  • Friday, October 12, 2012.

Man, I’m hungry. I awoke early and went down to sample the breakfast offerings, which seemed to be pretty good. Headed back to the room as Jody was waking up and we went down for breakfast together. I ate some more and then did my customary 2 mile day before race run. The weather was getting noticeably worse, rain was coming and wind was howling. We cleaned up and relaxed for a bit before going to lunch at a nice little place called Jacob’s Well. We both had soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. It was excellent. We made one more trip to the store before heading back to the hotel to await the arrival of my Dad and Grandparents. I made a small spinach salad for myself at this point and kept hydrating as is customary. We relaxed a bit more before heading to Cassoday for the pre-race briefing. The weather was now pretty miserable, thunder crashing and rain pouring down. The weather was the main topic of the meeting as there was a lot of concern for being safe and cautious during the race. We left feeling excited and a bit nervous about the pending adventure. Arriving back in El Dorado we picked up the family and went to get dinner at a place called the “chop house”. It looked nice on the website, but they had recently changed there menu to be more of a truck stop, cheap food establishment. I was hungry and ate what I ordered. “Rocky Mountain Trout”. It was pretty rubbery but went down OK. Headed back to the hotel we fueled up and I began to organize all of the gear for the next day. It was difficult winding down but finally turned the lights off at 10:30 with the alarm set for 3:30 AM.

  • Saturday, October 13, 2012. Race Day.

Awoke early and showered. Consumed my smoothie, but noticed it was hard to get down. I was not hungry… hmm. Drank some coffee to get things moving and we were on the road by 5:05 or so, arriving in Cassoday at 5:30. I got checked in and waited around in the gusting winds for the race to start. The nerves were setting in, but so was the excitement to run.

We were finally released at 6:00 AM sharp. I eased to the front with another runner and settled into a 7:55 pace. It felt good, but my guts were not settled. I’ve had this feeling before and it usually is not a good omen. We cruised along for a mile or so before being passed by a runner holding 7:30 pace, steady. I let him go and let the other runner (Jerad Fetterolf) run about 50 meters ahead of me. Cruising into the aid station at mile 8.2 I was out quick with a fill of water and a couple of gels. This next section was to be the most challenging as it was very muddy, the rain was now coming steady, and fairly hilly. Up and down we ran into the coming daylight. At about mile 10.5 I had to stop relieve myself, luckily I had a bit of toilet paper and used that as I ducked into a tree just off the road. Unfortunately, it was not satisfying.

I resumed running and stayed on pace, consuming a gel every 25 minutes and hydrating. I cruised into the Lapland aid station at around mile 17 in third place, 2:17 or so was my time. This is a crew access station so I saw the family. Dropped my headlamp, grabbed another gel and filled my water bottles. I was out and off for Teterville mile 25. about 1.5 miles outside of the aid I had to stop again to relieve myself. Not good. My guts were churning. I took some time here, but it was pouring rain and the wind was crashing into my right side. Running on I consumed gels regularly, like I had practiced, but noticed that my stomach was not happy with the sugar. Nausea was setting in. I was still running well but knew my calorie into and hydration may be suffering from the gut issues. I rolled into Teterville in 3rd place still, around 3:35. I cleared some rocks from my shoes and removed my compression sleeves. The rain was really coming now. I grabbed a payday bar hoping it would go down easy and provide some fuel.

Heading out of Teterville I hoped to keep my pace at around 8:20 to 8:30. Again, the weather got crazy. Wind, rain, thunder lightening… crazy! It was intense. I was slowed again by my body weakening. Flu like symptoms. I pushed forward. I caught my mind thinking of the miserableness my body was putting it through and feeling sorry for myself. I stayed in this train of thought for the next hour or so. I ate the payday bar and kept shuffling forward. It didn’t sit. It came up. Shit. Ok, just keep going. Need to get to Ridgeline aid station. There was an aid station at mile 31 or so that I stopped into after getting passed by another runner who looked strong. I drank some coke and grabbed some water. Jogging along I just kept moving. I felt weak all over. Depleted and had no appetite, the typical flu-like symptom.

About a mile down the road another runner caught up to me, Scott Hill, last years winner from Wichita. Really nice guy. He chatted me up and my pace quickened while I ran with him. After about 3 miles we were gaining on the runner in 3rd when I ate another gel. Soon, I had to stop and relieve myself again. Things were now getting painful. I pushed ahead. Entered Ridgeline, mile 36.5 or so. Stopped for a bit. Consumed some Gen Ucan. Trotted out of the aid station not feeling confident at all. Preparing my mind to be out there for 20 plus hours. My pace slowed to 9:30-9:50 per mile. I had to stop again because of my guts. Raw. 6 miles later I entered matfield green aid in 4th place (the lead runner, 2010 winner, had dropped at Ridgeline). I took my time. Took another Gen Ucan. Grabbed some orange slices, a cheese sandwich, and some ibuprofen.

Leaving matfield green I was now in 5th place. I stopped about a mile out of the aid to clear rocks from my shoes again. I shuffled along, finishing eating my orange slices. The rain and wind were kicking. Battering into my right side again. Eventually, I ran the hills pretty well, things were turning around. I felt strong… the first time all day my body was coming along. Great. I held a steady 9:45 on the hills into the wind and passed the 4th place runner who was now walking. I cruised this 7.5 mile section pretty solidly. Hitting the halfway point in 8:10 or so. Not bad for the hell my guts had put me through. Coming back it was steady headwinds and more rain. Everything was soaked. My feet were surely looking like hell, but nothing could be done about that. I stayed warm and protected in my Light Flyer Jacket from Patagonia. Great piece of gear. Gortex. It was during this section that I caught a glimpse of the runner in 3rd, Scott Hill, and his pacer. About 1 mile before the aid I passed them feeling strong. Entering matfield I was confident and grabbed another cheese sandwich, and some EFS gel mixed with water. Leaving the aid, climbing the small hills to ridgeline I started to feel weak again. Depleted may be a better word. Looking ahead though I saw the 2nd place runner with his pacer, walking the hills. A couple miles later I passed them and began more push to Ridgeline. Climbing the final hill there I was dealing with some strong foot pain as the water logged footwear had caused some irritation. The rain had mostly let up now so we were mostly dealing with the crazy gusts of wind. I stopped at the aid. Changed footwear, socks, grabbed my handheld bottle, had a Gen Ucan, grabbed some orange slices. Taking my time here I was passed by two runners, leaving in 4th place.

I shuffled along and did the best I could to maintain a steady pace. Not having a pacer was interesting. You are literally in your own head the entire time. It was at this point that I knew I wouldn’t feel great the rest of the race. Leaving with the headlamp assured me of having to deal with the pending night fall.

I soon passed the 3rd place runner. He was done racing. Now settled to walking. His pace in the first 50 was way to fast and his apparel was way to minimal for the weather conditions. I’m sure he felt like hell.

I grabbed a PB and J sandwich at the aid station with 31 miles to go and ate it. Soon I had what was to be my final gut pit stop. It was laughable now. Running this race on an average of 100 calories per hour was just plain silly. I kept drinking water and taking my S-caps. A few miles later I entered Teterville, mile 75 just as the sun was setting and darkness rolled in quickly. I drank some coke, which sat well thankfully, and left with a PB gu gel. Next aid was Lapland 8.2 miles away. I rolled out and found a decent pace. The coke was sitting nicely. 45 minutes later I was still moving well when I turned a corner and ran smack into the headwind. Daunting. This literally forced me to 11:45 pace, tops. Fighting forward. I stopped at the unmanned aid station and filled my water. Grabbing a fig newton, I pushed forward. I now was focusing on hydration just pounding water and salt, knowing my calories were pathetically low and having zero tolerance for food or sugar.

A few miles later I climbed the hill to Lapland aid. It was here I began to see all of the 50 mile racers, which was nice to have some interaction with others in the night on the trail. Arriving at Lapland I had no appetite. Filled my bottles, and searched for something to eat. It was great seeing my family at these aid stations. They were always positive and excited to update me on who well I was doing compared to the others. My dad informed me that 2nd place was only about 10 minutes up on me. I drank some coke, two cups, and ate a half banana or so. Jogging away I was ready to finish. 17 miles to go. About 1/2 mile out of the aid it hit me, nausea, all the coke and banana came up. There goes that I thought… I jogged on and found my stride, drank water, took salt and kept moving. 4 miles later I came to another unmanned aid and filled my water, took 2 cookies, ate them. Moved on. I was now turning into a zombie in the night. Run/walk was the technique now. I would run all downhills and mellow grades, but walked the steep portions in the night. Rolling up and down. Finally my watch said 92.8. I was at Battlecreek aid. The final manned aid station. As I entered I saw Scott Hill sitting on a chair eating soup I think. I grabbed some mountain dew, filled my handheld with ice and water and was out. Second place was mine, but I still had to finish. I ran the next 3 miles well. Pushing about 9:50 pace steady. Then I ran out of gas. It was flat, but I had to run/walk. I’d run a minute, walk 30 seconds. Drinking water constantly, I pushed onward. With about a mile left I saw the finish in the distance. I stopped and organized my pack a bit and looked up at the stars. It was a clear night. Full of stars and distant lightening storms blitzed the sky. Pretty amazing. I turned off the gravel road and onto the pavement, jogging to the finish. Closer and closer I came and saw my family there, full of energy and happiness. It was great. I crossed in 18:13 in second place. What a day. Epic. My mind had willed this, pushing my depleted body to the finish. I sat down, ate some chili, and began to freeze. We loaded into the Land Cruiser, which had an epic day as well shuffling the family around to meet me at the 8 aid stations. We were all exhausted and crashed upon reaching the hotel.

Never Give Up.

Finish what you start.

The Mind is Primary.

In order to break barriers and improve you have to go through some hell. Knock the door down, bust through the wall, keep pushing. Do not succumb to negative thinking. Use it as fuel. Beat it back.

A lot was learned about myself at the Heartland 100. Satisfaction is a sweet feeling.

Onward.

Gear Used:

  • Footwear: Hoka One One, Bondi B
  • Socks: Drymax
  • Bottoms: Pearl Izumi Ultra 3/4 tights
  • Base Layer: Patagonia Cap 1, SS and LS
  • Jacket: Patagonia Light Flyer
  • Watch: Garmin
  • Pack: Mountain Hardwear Race Vest
  • Salt: Succeed S-Caps
  • Gels: Gu, EFS
  • Generation UCAN corn starch
  • Handhelds: Amphipod

2012: An Honest Assessment

The first ultra-experience, Jemez 50k 2010

The first ultra-experience, Jemez 50k 2010

January 2012 was a turning point.  It was time to all-in, or continuing in that middle-area, of “OK” at lots of things, but “good” at none.  I had just completed a 6-week strength training block in the studio, working up to a 40 pullup max, and 5×315 deadlift.  This was great, but in the end I didn’t feel accomplished.  I was now weighing a solid 165, but was that the goal?  Train in the gym to be better in the gym?  Was I another “crossfit guy”?  Did that motivate me?  The answer to that question was no.  The gym is a modality, a tool to make you better at Sport.  It is not Sport nor can it substitute for it.  Thus, my energy turned toward my real passion… endurance.  Specifically, competitive distance/ultra-running.

Endurance is a strong word.  It says a lot.  When a person has endurance, to me, they are tough, strong willed, dedicated individuals.  See, you can’t fake endurance.  Profound, lasting endurance is earned day in and day out.  An endurance athlete has the ability to recover quickly, relentless pursuing the next goal or event.  Training through fatigue, learning how to actively recover and envision a future of breaking through barriers.

It was at that point, when others had begun their new years “resolutions” that I decided to make 2012 the year I gave endurance my focus.  Being a fairly impatient person, enough time had passed without giving this effort 100%.

Let me summarize happenings thus far.  I’ve competed in 9 events with 2 more coming up soon, from trail and road 10k’s to 50 mile endurance races.  My season will culminate in the Flint Hills of Kansas at the Heartland 100.  I’ve begun the process of building an endurance “base”.  This will take years, but the ball is rolling.  In each event I am a competitor and am racing.  The goal is no longer to finish, but to push my limit, or to out what and where that limit exists.

To say that I’m excited about the process would not do my emotions justice.  I’m thrilled to be in this position athletically.  Having a goal is key.  The mind needs to experience the urgency of competition and deal with the limitations of time.  Each day is a day to improve, take charge, devote energy to, focus on, and make that deposit towards accomplishment. Confidence is gained when you feel satisfied with the sacrifices made the previous day or week.  A bit faster, longer, harder each week.

I have a long road ahead.  Sport specific fitness for ultra-running takes time.  The human body transforms slowly, but nonetheless steadily.

Ask yourself if you are ready to commit… to be all in.  Give it 6-weeks, address the goal, want, or need and devote a portion of each day to it.  It’s like flossing, if you can floss every day you can make progress in the gym.  Don’t have the time or discipline to floss?  Good luck changing your body or accomplishing a goal.  Be honest.  Give it 6-weeks.  Assess where you are at, what was hard, what went well.  Make changes and keep moving forward.

Embrace the suck.  It takes guts to change.

Mt. Werner 50k Race Report

More than was anticipated…

This became a central theme to the birthday/race weekend. Driving up to Steamboat took a long time… really long. We left Albuquerque on Friday at about 9:00 AM and finally arrived in Steamboat around 6:00 PM. After picking up keys to our condo we arranged a meal for the evening and were in bed by about 10:00 PM. I had decided on racing with a hydration vest instead of handheld bottles as it may save me time in aid stations and leave my hands free of the extra weight. My nutrition was prepped with 4 Generation UCAN Packets mixed with some EFS drink, as well as 2 GU’s for later in the race.

Breakfast was simple, 1 can of Ensure Plus, 1 banana, and 2 UCAN packets, which adds up to roughly, 650 calories. All very easy on the stomach, which to me, is key for a pre-race meal. The temp was fairly cool and we stood around shivering for the race start at 7:00 AM.

Soon after we were off on what would be a 9.5 mile climb to the top of Mt. Werner. A small pack formed of 5 runners, with 1 runner, Trent Briney, off the front early. After about the frist 5k I was feeling pretty antsy to set my own pace and got to the front of the pack and created some distance from them.

After popping out onto a short road section and climbing for awhile I was caught by a runner with a very steady pace, Jon Dyck. We ran together until the top of Mt. Werner, and again as we approached the 6 mile out and back section of pristine mountain running. At about mile 10.5 I took a face forward fall while moving at a pretty good clip. This shook me for a moment and I stopped to inspect the wounds on my hands and right knee. Seconds later I was off running again. A mile or so down the trail I looked down to check my watch only to realize that it was gone. Bummer. $300 donated to the mountain. I tried to focus on just running after this and soon found an OK groove. My legs were not in top form as I didn’t taper for this race like I normally would. I kept the forward progress but did not have much pep if we went up any sort of hill/climb. Approaching the mid-way point and turnaround at Long Lake I moved into second place. Arriving at the aid station I filled my spare nutrition bottle with water and hoped to find some extra gels, but there were none. A volunteer doused my bloody knee with water and I left as quickly as I could. The next 6 miles were fairly rough as I could feel my glucose stores about empty. I consumed a gel at mile 17 and another around mile 20. I maintained my second place position during this time, but was not fully confident I would find my legs the rest of the race. Approaching the aid station I stopped to grab some water for my bottle and a shot of Coke. Coke always sits well with me and I was happy for the small boost it provided. Heading back down the mountain I stopped to pee and looked over my shoulder at a runner about 200 meters back and approaching quickly. Now the race was on. I then proceded to descend very quickly, but comfortably. About 2 miles later as I was cruising along I tripped/slipped for a second time. This occasion coming down hard on my hands and right shoulder and right hip. Ouch! Now I was plain frustrated and mad, but still had to race to keep my position. I found my rhythm once again and kept plugging down the hill. I extended my lead a bit through the single track section of the last 4 miles and finished in 4:55. Happy to break 5 hours, but more than a little banged up.

Great course. Excellent volunteers. Gorgeous morning on the mountain. Now on to the Mt. Taylor 50k in September, which is lining up to be another challenging mountain 50k.

An exciting mention for Mount Werner 50k in the Steamboat paper!

From Steamboat Today, August 5, 2012

Steamboat race on Mount Werner increases distance, looks to stay

Jake Lawrence of Albuquerque, N.M., crosses the finish line during the Mount Werner Classic on Saturday at Steamboat Ski Area. Lawrence finished second in 4 hours, 55 minutes.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Steamboat Springs — Jake Lawrence planned out his running schedule for the summer far in advance. The Albuquerque resident knew the Mount Werner Classic — in a new 50-kilometer format — was an option.

And on Wednesday, he finally registered for what would become his golden race.

Lawrence, who drove eight hours Friday, completed the 31 miles Saturday on his 31st birthday.

“That’s the reason we’re here,” said Lawrence, who had to get cleaned up from several falls on the course. “It was totally random and it fit. We wanted to go to a pretty place, and we’re here.”

Lawrence joined some 60 other racers competing in the well-known race with a new format.

After years of being a 5- and 12-mile run, the race changed to 50 kilometers this year. The race began at the gondola, went up the mountain and onto Mountain View trail, then turned around at Long Lake and descended back down.

For his part, Lawrence didn’t just make it an easy birthday celebration. He finished second overall in 4 hours, 55 minutes.

Boulder runner Trent Briney was first in 4:47. Steamboat Springs’ Bill Goldsmith — despite a nasty gash on his arm — was third in 4:57…

To keep reading the article, click here.