Sunday, February 26, 2012

move it, and lose it.

I know what you're going to say to me, "You're in great shape, you don't need to lose any weight."  or possibly, "Well, if you want to lose weight, that shouldn't be a problem for you, because you exercise so much."

But the truth is, I've been at least ten pounds over the weight that I would rather be for several months now and I've been watching the scale creep up to an undesired weight, despite the fact that I've been exercising most days of the week.  I went for too long after the Wasatch 100 last fall eating whatever I wanted, while my weekly mileage started to dwindle...  Drinking a beer or two each night was no longer a reward but rather my standard practice.  Can you say, "empty calories"?  And eating cookies became my go-to comfort food.  This might be all well and good if I were still running like I was last summer.  But I haven't been.  The 50k at Pemberton a few weeks ago was a personal (fast) record for me, but honestly?  I felt like the chubbiest runner there.

So, when Lent started this past Wednesday, I decided to do what I usually do each year... give up the sweets.  Cookies, candy, chocolate, and the like.  I do it for a couple of reasons:  although I'm not Catholic, my dad and cousins were and are, and I think it's good to sacrifice something that you really like once in a while.  See how it feels to live without that little bit of comfort that you usually turn to.  Try to find other ways to cope with your stress.  It's tough, but it's rewarding in the end.  The other reason is because when I give up sweets for the period from Ash Wednesday to Easter (six and a half weeks), I typically lose at least 5 pounds, or even 10.  Gives you an idea of how much sweet stuff I'm really eating when you know that.

After talking with my running friend, Sue, I also decided to cut out the empty alcohol calories.  Well, most of them anyway.  Mid-week beer is gone, sadly.  And weekend beer is going to be limited.  I'm trying for 4 drinks on the weekend.

Another thing that I've done is to re-establish my part-time job of exercising.  For the past few months, my exercise has ranged anywhere from 5 hours to 12 hours per week.  That might seem like a lot to some people, but for me it's really not that much.  I'm used to exercising at least 15 to 20 hours per week when I'm running in the summer, or if I'm out skiing in the winter, which I haven't been doing that much of because our winter has been so sparse this year.  This week I got nearly 20 hours of exercise.  Today I went skate skiing with the dogs for an hour and a quarter.  I felt a little woozie.

One reason I may have felt light-headed was that I have been counting (and have decreased) my calories for the last week.  I downloaded an app on my iPhone to help me out, and there's also an on-line link that I can update my caloric intake and exercise each day.  I was actually pretty shocked when I plugged in a couple of days at the beginning of the week, and found that I was easily consuming 2000 to 2200 calories per day.  There's no way I can lose any weight with that amount of food intake!  So I set my limit at a more realistic (weight-loss) intake of 1650.  It was 1625 for a couple of days, and I felt like absolute garbage, so I bumped it up just a little bit.  On the days that I've been skiing or ski touring all day, I allowed myself to eat closer to 2000 calories, because on those days I am burning upwards of 3000, but for the most part I've stayed right between 1600 and 1700.

The results, you might ask?  After a week of meal planning and increased exercise, I have lost 3 pounds.  Maybe 4 if you take my weight this morning when I was completely dehydrated after drinking a pot of coffee and before eating any breakfast (which is another think I'm trying to do-- eat breakfast.  At least 200 to 300 calories before 10am.  It's tough.  I've never really liked eating breakfast).

So now I'm thinking, maybe I should try to lose a little more than 10 pounds?  You all probably think I'm crazy.  But I just think that running will be so much easier if I'm leaner, especially around the mid-section.  I'll keep you informed.  If you'd like to encourage me, I would love to hear it.  If you would like to criticize me, kindly keep your words to yourself.  And no, there will be no before and after swimsuit photos.

At this point in my life, I'm choosing to move it, and lose it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

weekend touring

It was a great holiday weekend of ski touring this weekend.  Got out with my touring partner from last winter for a quiet day in Silver Fork.  The first run was a bit crusty, but supportable crust.  Met a handful of other folks up there, but it seems the majority of crowds were in areas further down-canyon.  The second and third runs we got into some pretty soft snow, surprisingly so, and after a good second lap decided to shoot for a third.  The sun made a short appearance through the clouds for the third run, and we were happy that we stayed.

Touring was followed by nachos, beer, pizza, more beer with some out-of-town friends, storytelling... a great day in all.

Day two of touring was an early start:  the alarm went off at 5:25am.  Thankfully, the Cuisinart coffee maker did not disappoint, and after setting the timer for 5:15 the night before, coffee was ready as I stumbled out of bed.  Even had pizza from the night before as my touring lunch (although the temps were so cold, it was frozen in the top of my pack.  Ice crystals.  But still delicious).

The sun was out all day on day 2, upper Grizzly Gulch, and Brendan took lots of photos of neighbor Kate, whom he is making a video about after surviving breast cancer 2 years ago.  She had a great ski season last year post-chemo, until she tore her ACL that is, and had to get reconstructive surgery on that.  So this year is the year to really kick all that into the past.  She is skiing strong.  We were out for 6 hours, and had some rubber-legs by the end of the day.  The sun heated up the slopes as we exited Emma Ridge and we kicked off some good size sluff-avalances.  Super-slow motion slides that were really fun to watch morph down the hill.

There were a lot more people out on day 2, probably because the sun was out too.  It was cold and clear up top, with great views of the slopes I had skied the day before.  Today is gray and dreary in the City of Salt, and no new snow overnight, although I talked with my brother and he said that they have gotten 7 inches in southeastern Idaho, and it's still snowing.  I think I'll spend today stocking up on supplies, and wait for next weekend to get out again.  Might ski one day this week, but the dogs might have my hide if I neglect them like I did this weekend.  They already dismantled my work-bag that I left in the living room out of frustration while I was out touring on day 2.  I can't say that I blame them.  If I were left at home on such a beautiful couple of days, I would have been a little upset too!

Day 1 ~ Silver Fork Meadows
Day 1 ~ great view of Flannigan's Chute.
Persistence pays off ~ finding soft snow in Silver Fork.
Day 2 ~ Superior Sunrise
Day 2 ~ Kate and Brendan on the early-morning approach up Grizzly Gulch.

Sweet rime frost in upper Grizzly.

Girl Power ~ Kate.

After everything that has happened in the last two years, this quote
is even more meaningful, "When you realize how perfect everything is,
you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky."

Kate and Brendan approach Emma Ridge,
East Bowl of Silver Fork in the hinterground.

Slough avalanche with mid-day heating ~ Emma Ridge.
In Brendan's words ~ Kate schralps down Emma Ridge.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

if you can't laugh [at yourself and your dogs] they you shouldn't be out there...

Lori throws down some decent turns through the sugar.

Today was an attempt at ski touring with the fluffy dogs.  Simply stated ~ my dogs will never be avalanche rescue dogs.  Maybe nursing home therapy animals, but mountain powder masters, they are not.  My friend Lori and I headed up to Daniel's Summit, out Highway 40 from Heber.  It was a beautiful sunny morning, with temps in the 40s.  The snow was knee-deep and rotten today, and the dogs were wallowing pretty badly.  (Except for Ofer, Lori's little 40 pound Springer Spaniel, who seemed to be floating on top of the snow pack compared to my 75+ pound fluffies.)

Dogs figure out it is easier to walk in the skin-
track than wallow in the deep snow.
Needless to say, the dogs are sleeping soundly after all of their hard work now that we are home.  They gave us some good laughs while we were out.  Bounding up the trail initially, then slogging through the deep snow (still smiles on their faces), then we skied down and thankfully they figured out to stay in our tracks to make the going a little easier.  Then Ofer stole my glove and wouldn't give it back.  Lori put it best, "We are like a doggie junk-show out here!"  Dogs stepping on skis, laying on skis, kicking snow on skins, attempting to render them useless.  Man, was it fun.  And lots of laughs.  And as if I couldn't laugh enough at our cute dogs, look at the picture Lori captured of me.  Yeah, I'm a dork.  I have my skins stuffed down my pants and the front of my jacket so that I wouldn't have to tour our 150 foot hill with my pack on (lazy... ).  The turns on our low-angle hill were surprisingly sugary and good.

We did three laps on our little hill (my dogs did the third lap leashed to a tree.  They only barked until I was about half-way up the hill, then settled down.  Panic ensued when I got back to them and "couldn't get the leash off of them fast enough" in their opinion, I'm sure).

Yup, I'm a dork. 
A great morning ~ stretching the legs in the fresh air.  It was no epic ski day, but it sure was entertaining.  If you can't laugh [at yourself and your dogs] then you shouldn't be out there, in my opinion.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pemberton 50k

A few months ago, I started talking with my long-lost friend Brian about running the Pemberton 50k in the Phoenix area (my apologies to my Phoenix-area friends whom I did not meet up with on this trip.  I left Salt Lake Friday afternoon, ran the race on Saturday, and returned to Salt Lake on the 7am flight on Sunday).  Brian recently caught the trail-running-ultra-bug, and has been soliciting advice from me.  I have asked him to take everything I say with a grain of salt, because I am an established middle-of-the-packer, but admittedly a "finisher" (if you look away from my previous DNFs at Wasatch, and I redeemed myself last fall in that department, so there you go... )

So I decided that since this winter has been less good for skiing and much better for the sport of running, I would continue to hold my weekly mileage at 20-30 (I was doing 40-50 this past summer) and bust out a 50k.  After signing up for Pemberton, I started looking at the particulars of the race, and saw that it would indeed be a challenge for me, although a different sort of challenge.

The races that I run (I like to call them "events", because rarely am I in contention for the podium... ) are typically Intermountain- and Mountain West-style events, meaning long, drawn-out affairs with lots of elevation gain and small groups of friendly faces.  A race that I used to run years ago, the San Juan Solstice (formerly the Lake City 50) has grown so much in recent years, that I have lacked ambition to return, although the course itself is spectacular.

My most recent 50k finish was the El Vaquero Loco, in Afton, Wyoming in 2010.  What a spectacular home-style event!  And I did end up busting out a 3rd place ladies' finish in 7:47.

So anyway, I was talking about Pemberton 50k in Fountain Hills, AZ (northeast of Phoenix).  From appearances, this would be an event on non-technical trail, primarily road-racers/marathoners, who were looking to do a little different style of event.  Not your typical trail race by the standards that I am used to, but good nonetheless.  Also, rarely do I run this far in the winter, and typically do I end gaining a few pounds and feeling a bit slower than I do in the summer months.  So, this quick course would quite the challenge for me.  There is an almost imperceptible climb that takes place over the first 7 to 8 miles, so slight in elevation gain in most places that you would think you are running a flat course, when in fact you are gaining about 100 feet per mile.  Not enough to see with the naked eye, but enough to make you think to yourself, "Why won't my legs go any faster?  What is the problem, here?"

Then you top out on a mesa of sorts, taking in the red rock peaks near Scottsdale and the McDowell Range and the miles of open space containing hundreds of cartoonish saguaro cacti, all with different limb attachments.  The second 8 miles of the loop through McDowell Regional Park is more noticeably downhill, and you get the feeling as though you can make up a little bit of the time you lost on the first part of the loop.

The transition area is the campground, and a small crowd of cheery faces is there to greet you and move you happily into your second lap.  The second lap, being the same in geography as the first, unfortunately is just a little bit noticeably more difficult, in the fact that yes, you are in Arizona, and you realize that you are thankfully here in February (as opposed to July) because the temperature starts to warm up, but admittedly is nowhere near as bad as you could possibly imagine it being in July (105?  110?  ouch).  Up on the mesa, halfway through the loop, the wind seems to disappear and the air is quite stagnant.  You start to feel your legs, and hope that the (ever-so-slight) downhill will begin soon.  I was almost a little too warm in my capri-length tights, but wanted to do everyone else the favor of not blinding them with my Utah-white-winter legs.  I hope they appreciate the sacrifice I went through for them.

I knew this would be a good day when, at the pre-race chat at 6:45am I heard a jovial voice behind me and realized that it was my coach from last summer, Ian Torrence, who got me to my first Wasatch 100 finish.  That guy could make an airport TSA official smile.  And his smiles and encouragement continued through the race, as he was volunteering at the second aid station, 5 miles from the finish.  To my further delight, his dog Zoroaster was also volunteering, and tentatively gave me a nudge on the first pass through their aid station when I said hello to her.

There were some fast folks out there this weekend.  Kristina Pham took the women's course record down with a time of 3:47 and Josh Brimhall won the men's race in somewhere around 3:30.  Despite the fact that I thought my legs would seize up from my continual fast cadence, I was able to keep forward progress a reality, I was happy with my Personal Record of 5:44 for a 50k... took about 2 hours off of my 50k time from El Vaquero in 2010.  What a difference a little (less) elevation gain makes.  Results are posted here.

This was a great, small event with a lot of really friendly people.  Most of the participants (around 150 total) were from Arizona and a few from Colorado, and not many from Utah and other more northerly locales.  It seemed like there were a lot of road-marathoners, and I was even asked by one girl if the Hoka One One shoes I was wearing were "trail shoes"...  yes, my Hokas got some funny looks.  You don't see many of them down in the flats of Arizona, unfortunately, but I did my best to talk them up for the wonderful shoes that they are.

My friend Brian scorched his first official ultra-run in 5:17.  Congrats to him.  He is well on his way to having a great summer of training, and looking forward to the Leadville 100 in August.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

jitter, jitter, jitter....

Munich, Germany, August 2008.
A friend of mine, who knows how much I love coffee, passed on this link to me.  The guy who wrote this blog post clearly loves coffee as much as I do, and has so eloquently put that love into words.  When I am at mile 20 of a 40 mile run, I think of when it will be and where my next cup of coffee will come from.  When I am puking nervous before a race, somehow I am able to drink a half-cup of lukewarm black coffee.  When I have a headache, I drink coffee.  Because come on, it can't hurt now, can it?  I too, have been at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon on a Rim to Rim to Rim run and thought of coffee.  I have brewed a pot of coffee at 7pm and asked my grandmother if she wanted some (she did.  black.).  This post is sheer brilliance.  Read on, coffee lovers.  And enjoy it ~ good to the last drop.

Link to blog is found here:  Hey Coffee, I Love You.
Vail, March 2009