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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Matt's First Summit

Matt's First Summit via Bicycle

Way to go Matt. I never grow weary of taking people to the top of Mt. Diablo. It's a chance to vicariously relive that massive sense of accomplishment. We have put in quite a few miles together over the past few months, and even rolled up as far as the ranger station, half way up, a few weeks back. But in reaching the top at last, today's success was a great way to finish the year.

Total mileage for the day was right around 50 miles, so his first attempt at climbing to the top was not half baked by driving to the base of the mountain like some of the rest of us have done. The winds were variable throughout the day, but nothing like the gale force winds that beleaguered us on our last visit to the the mountain. In total, the weather was splendid, with temperatures topping out in the 60's and nothing but sunshine.

We discussed options for his first century coming up next year, and at this rate, he'll be ready by spring. Looking forward to many more miles in the next year. Ride on.

Monday, December 26, 2011

It Takes a Long Time

7:16 am - Day after Christmas - Briones

It sure takes a long time to train for a marathon. Yes it takes months to prepare, but I mean it takes a lot of time out of a week too. My training for the Mt. Diablo Ultra - a 50k - has brought my long weekend runs up to well over 20 miles and finding time to run those distances means more than flirting with creativity.

Thursday of last week, my wife and I sat at the kitchen table discussing the best time for my weekend's long run. I didn't want another out and back route and was hoping for a route that would reward me with an end point over the hills and far away from my start. That meant I needed some form of a ride home.

Friday night was an option, if my friend Jeremy was willing to chauffeur me home. With their home several hours away, he and his family were staying the night at our house so I could take them to the airport early Saturday morning. I suppose we could have squeezed it in Friday night, but Saturday morning was certainly out. Saturday being Christmas eve, there were all day yuletide preparations, so I didn't bother to mention it as an option. Christmas day? I've managed similar feats of courage in the past but have always been more heavily invested in emotional capital and had the doghouse better stocked.

That pretty much toasted the weekend. I had given my employees Monday off, so when I recommended that I finish at a Starbucks where my girls and I could have breakfast after the run, a compromise for Monday morning was signed.

My workout took me from my home in Martinez, completely across Briones Regional Park (bagging Briones Peak at 1486', plus another 1000' in accumulated elevation gain), through the Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill corner, and on to the Railroad Starbucks in Danville - 22.5 miles.

Last week I took off - as a rest week - after the weekend prior riding 105 miles on Saturday and then Sunday morning running 21 miles with over 1500' of elevation gain. That cost me not only all day Saturday, but also Sunday and Monday in an irritable half-comatose recovery state. A week off was well-advised and inevitable since my wife was out of town for 5 of those days, and I had charge of our progeny. I managed to rest most of the week with only one slip-up on Friday, running 5 miles behind the jogging stroller.

So now it's half way through this week and I'm searching for that next block of free time in the vicinity of the weekend. Yet, somehow that block of free time isn't all that's required. Preparations begin a couple of days in advance by rearranging my sleep time to be sure I'm getting at least 6 or 7 hours of rest per night. The evening before the long run is serious prep time, with water bottles laying about the kitchen, tennis shoes by the door, and various layers of clothing strewn conveniently about for most efficient application in the dark of the next early morning. I'm basically lost to my family for small segments of time as I mentally check off the required items and lay them out where a 2-year-old won't purloin them, but where I can't miss them.

Then I run.

Home again, the process works in reverse. The ice bath, consumption of large quantities of breakfast, and shower take at least another hour. A load of laundry (because my wife flatly refuses to touch my soggy clothes) is also recognized as part of the weekend run.

All said, I suspect that the time spent running is less than half the time invested in the run. Add the reduced efficiency in limping about for the next 24 hours, and the inevitability of waking up halfway through a bedtime story with a 2 year old beating me with another book and an 8-year-old jamming her elbow in my ribs, and I would say my family is likely as heavily invested in my running (and cycling) as I am.

I wouldn't have you think that all is mission oriented though. Our happy little tribe is bustling with activity, so the integration of more is always taken "in stride." And, there is plenty of carefree time for all of the family. As a matter of fact, some of that free time has contributed to the recent expansion of the tribe. Well, actually only one of us is expanding currently, but soon enough we will be squeezing in time for another little member. I thought we had dodged the double jogging stroller - maybe not.

Happy New Year.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Ice Bath

People raise eyebrows and bystanders begin backing away slowly and quietly when I say that I will take, or have taken, or recommend that they take an ice bath. Otherwise pleasant and engaging conversations turn - well - cold at such an innocuous reference.

I mean what's the big deal? We converse fondly of going home to take a nice hot shower, or to soak in the tub. What is it about an ice bath that spins this in such a socially unacceptable direction? Like you've never settled into a tub of ice water? No?

So I ponder... What is the percentage of humans who have intentionally lowered themselves into a bathtub of frigid water? Probably a very small number. That small number is no doubt just a shade smaller than the percentage of humans training for ultra-marathons right now. Broadly recognized as bunch of self-destructive lunatics, both of those cohorts include me in their number. Along with other shorter runs, I am now consistently mapping runs of over 20 miles at least once per week - and after those runs I sit in a bathtub chilled with ice cubes for upwards of 20 minutes. I recognize that most Americans find it hard to understand why anyone would choose to run any distance further than that between security and their gate at the airport, and am thus likewise impelled to understand their similar aversion to an otherwise unlikely means of perpetuating the ability to run distances far in excess of the airport itself. What I just said was, if you can't figure out why we run, then you probably won't understand the ice part either.

My understanding of cycling, running, and endurance sports in general has developed over the years - in direct correlation to my list of injuries. A misconception I harbored for many years was that a sore muscle or joint (overuse related) should be heated to relax said muscle or joint. I have since learned that immediately after a workout, heat is the enemy. In the past I have inadvertently been exacerbating the inflammation in those sore muscles with heat and thus furthering the damage. To my chagrin science has proven that ice is the solution.

So, you see, contrary to popular belief a nice hot relaxing shower or bath immediately following a hard workout is not a really great idea. It seems really great - believe me - especially on those bitter cold mornings when the water I'm carrying has frozen and I've been running for hours alternating between sweating my way up hills and freezing my way down. A hot bath just beyond the finish is spectacularly motivating after the tears caused by the cold dry air have frozen my eyelashes together. Unfortunately a diabolical little interlude has become modus operandi.

After learning of my need for ice I began strapping on ice packs after a long run, and I thought that was torture. When I realized that our collection of ice packs stored in the door of the freezer was shy of sufficient, I feared I was missing something. My fears were realized when I learned of The Ice Bath.

OK, so I started out thinking they were nuts too. One website I read recommended letting your family and friends know when you are going to be entering the ice bath, lest they hear your howls, come running, and inadvertently rescue you. Oh boy do I understand.

Now my routine is typically along these lines:
  • Finish running and lightly stretch all leg muscles.
  • Remove all unnecessary clothing items (Hat, gloves, jersey, shoes) because everything is completely soaked with sweat. Steam rises in clouds from my body as the cooling begins. Yes even on those sub freezing runs, my body can't figure out that maybe shutting off the spigot would get me more lovin when I get home. Even my 2 year old has no affection for daddy when I waft in after a hard run.
  • Fill mug with leftover coffee, place heating pad in microwave for 2 minutes, begin grabbing whatever doesn't move out of my way - and eat it. The cooling process has been effective and I begin to be more or less comfortable.
  • Begin running cold water in bathtub while microwave is doing it's job, and add 2 trays of ice cubes. Goose bumps begin forming.
  • Assemble my phone (To surf the web and keep track of time), phone charger, coffee, food, and heating pad near the tub.
  • Place heating pad over shoulders. I'm now getting cold.
  • I sit perfectly still, because after 5 minutes everything under water is numb. If I move...
  • But it takes 5 minutes before I can sit perfectly still. I'm shivering so violently that the bathwater is trembling and my coffee is breaking over the edges of my mug. I don't touch my phone until I've regained fine motor skills lest I drop the phone and become famous as the first person ever toasted in a tub of ice water.
  • 15 minutes pass and I'm struggling my way out. I've never made it all the way to 20 minutes.
  • I cannot walk normal, but not being able to feel your legs after running 20 miles is sort of OK. My daughters know to steer clear of Frankenstein.
  • More coffee, Breakfast, More coffee.
  • Then at last, a long hot shower.

See that's not so bad. I strongly feel that folks shouldn't judge what they haven't experienced themselves.

The beauty of ice is that - it works. No it's not fun, but then so much of what we do can't be classified as fun or any other derivation of a good time. Sometimes we have to do things because they make us better. Not to mention, if you think a hot shower would feel good after a long cold run, just imagine how nice it feels after the ice.