Friday, October 3, 2014

Wings for Life World Run 2015 Champions Pick

On May 3rd, 2015 the Wings for Life World Run is back! Each national champion from 2014 has been given the amazing award and opportunity to choose any location in the world for the 2015 race! The below video announces each winners choice and it looks like my old home of Melbourne, Australia was the number one pick with 15 champions heading down under.

After a very difficult decision between 30+ locations looking at many variables- course, weather, competition, culture, previous visits, start time, etc. I have chosen to run in.... well, you'll have to watch the video! Scroll ahead to 28:45 to see my announcement!

If you would like to donate to Wings for Life, I encourage you to donate via my athlete page (which is not yet live) but in the top right of my blog you can click the Wings for Life logo which will take you to my own personal fundraising page.
Find a location near you or make a vacation of it and join me on May 3rd, 2015! SIGN UP HERE

Friday, September 26, 2014

XC and Stroller Racing

Keeping with my wide range of running disciplines I was back on the cross country course a couple weeks ago during the Friday night Rice University XC Invitational. The meet is a NCAA Div. 1 collegiate meet that allows open/unattached athletes, so other than the handful of athletes like me it was 170 athletes aged 18 to 23 years old.

While I did not win (only 20 seconds back), I believe I ran one of my smartest races, a text book race, how to run cross country (and all races):

Waiting in the car for the rain to stop, classic XC weather!
The race was started by long time friend and fellow coach at SVDP, Marion Jones, his gun shot sent 175 pairs of spikes across a field funneling onto the three loop course around Rice's rugby fields.

Position is important, the first 10-20 seconds of a race you can sprint almost full out without any repercussions for the rest of your race, but you must ease into your race pace after that 20 seconds. Not many did. In fact, I would say no one ahead of me including the winner ran to their full potential (fastest time) that night.

I was mid-pack at a quarter mile, we'll call it around 70th place. It didn't take long for people to start to fade, my pace never changed for the first three miles and I passed in the dozens. By loop two I had already passed 50 athletes and moved into around 20th and with one lap to go I was in 12th and just gearing up to start making my move. My splits were 4:53, 4:56, 5:04 so even I was slowing slightly but to my entourage of friends and family I was accelerating. Speed is relative.

For the final half mile I worked hard, concentrating on fast turnover and eyeing runners ahead to pick off. I chased down an additional seven and was head-to-head in an all out sprint for 4th down the final stretch. Even after I thought he had me I found a hidden gear but just a little too late. There isn't much else that feels so horrible and as good at the same time as cross country. The final half mile was in 2:18 for an overall time of 17:12 for the 3.5 mile course and 5th place.
  • Go out hard but settle into your race pace
  • Believe in your pace and believe in yourself
  • Maintain a high stride rate (everyone commented on how much faster my legs were moving compared to everyone else)
  • Look ahead and start picking people off one at a time, I was really in tune with others stride rate and picked off the slower ones
  • Start kicking earlier than you think, everyone has at least one more gear- hidden energy for the final 100m
  • Pump your arms to go faster
  • Even pace is most often the best way to run a race

Start of the Superhero 5km where we won in 15:43!

A week later Luke's Locker hooked me up (thanks Luke's) with an entry to the Superhero 5k, a local fun run in Katy benefiting Keep Kids Connected. I spoke with the race director during signup and was given permission to once again line up on the start line with Aley in her stroller with the goal of going sub 16. The weather was great; cooler temperatures, lower humidity, and barely any wind (the worst for pushing a stroller).

We got out on a strong pace of 5:05 and 5:07 for the first two miles, one high school XC runner led the way for the first half mile but after that it was just us two. I knew if I could have a strong third mile we had our goal but the legs started feeling heavy, I just concentrated on keeping the cadence high and chasing the lead cop car. I was blown away to see our pace dropping, the next mile was in 4:51 as we rounded the corners into the home stretch. 15:43!

I was so excited at the end I threw my hand up and didn't notice the stroller starting to go right, before I knew it the wheel struck the timing tripod and we came to a dead stop. Aley was a little shocked but everything was okay and I learned my lesson about celebrating at the finish line!

Can't wait for the new KidRunner stroller to come out, it attaches to the hip and is pulled rather than pushed. The prototype is currently with Max King in Bend, OR and I hope to see my own in the next couple months, before baby #2 arrives in March!!!

I raced for the first time in the Altra 3Sum shoe, while this is a shoe geared to triathlons and it took me a bit to get used to the bungee laces, they felt really light and responsive. The One Squared are even lighter but a lot softer and full of cushion, I like doing training sessions in the One2 and think they will also be a great racing shoe as the Altra Endurance team has already seen success with them at UROC 100km. My ultra shoe and high mileage trainer is the Paradigm and the trail version Olympus. A great quiver of shoes is key to healthy running.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Birthday Ultra Photo Blog

It all started with an idea, to run 30 miles on my 30th birthday, turns out it's 30 miles from my favorite taco place near home to the Houston location and at the same time I could link up the two Houston Luke's Locker stores... and a third Torchy's Taco location! Also turns out I have a friend that loves running and taco's just as much as me, once Matt joined the party the Torchy's Ultra was official. We started super early in hot and humid conditions to avoid extremely hot and humid conditions and here is how it all went down....

Start: Torchy's Taco Cinco Ranch

 Mile 0.25: Luke's Locker Cinco Ranch

Mile 2.5: We hit the bayou trails that led us into George Bush Park.

Mile 5: Boardwalk over the bayou in Bush Park

"I went to the danger zone..." then while I was singing this in my head we got lost and added 1/2 mile to the route.

Found the Noble Road Trail head, Melinda promised there would be a sign, more beautiful trail running through the park.

Until this happened.

Yep, he'll hold this pose all day...

Turns out while I was taking pictures of that little guy, I was standing next to a few of his buddies.. there are three venomous snakes in this photo that we know of...

Matt nearly dropped out at mile 9 with the snakes but it got much better.

After a short section of road we were into Terry Hershey Park and since it was my birthday I decided on more single track trails, yes, this has all been Houston so far.

Mile 16: Let the pavement begin

Mile 17: Facetime with the birthday girl (yep, same birthday!), big two years today! She was up early and jumping on her new trampoline.

Birthday breakfast with Mom and Charlie

Mile 21: Welcome to Houston
Commuting to work on foot!

Marathon! Starting to get hot!

Mile 27: Luke's Locker Houston, water and AC!

More water...

Matt enjoying a great aid station..

Boo Taco Bell!

Yay Torchy's Taco Sheppard!

WE MADE IT! A little longer, turned out to be right on 50km and the birthday girl was there to meet us. Thanks to wives and daughters for driving in to pick us up.

Lil Nookies birthday cake!

I'm not sure who these guys are...

This is how my friends show up for a birthday party, business on top, shorty shorts on bottom.

Oh, and the lingerie bag... contained a Torchy's gift card, thanks HATR's!


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The "Damn Good" Birthday

I wasn't sure if I was going to do anything "special" on my birthday this year but things just kept popping up suggesting I should: "any big running plans?", "Have your 30 mile birthday run planned?", "I'm joining you for birthday run!", and this article on Dave McGillivray, Boston Marathon Race Director, who just completed 60 miles for his 60th birthday.

So despite forecast temperatures in the 100's and high Houston humidity, I'm going to go for it! To add some more fun there's only one thing I like as much as running, and that as you all know is Torchy's Tacos! So I have devised a route that will take me from my local Torchy's and Luke's Locker running store in Cinco Ranch, past the Houston Luke's and Torchy's, and finish at Torchy's Tacos in Rice Village for a total of 30 miles.

Presenting the first Torchy's to Torchy's, Luke's to Luke's Ultra!

The route starts at Torchy's Taco's in La Centera, opening at 7AM I am yet to decide whether I want to wait that late to start (its going to get hot!). I will be joined by my buddy Matt (and anyone else who is interested for any/all of the run), pretty stoked to have Matt joining me for an ultra! His wife doesn't think he can run that far!

From there we will run through George Bush Park and find our way to Terry Hershey Park and along some of my favorite local single track of the Ant Hills trails which will take us all the way to Beltway 8, the outer loop of Houston. The next section of city streets I am not looking forward to as much but I'm sure the morning rush hour will keep us entertained, San Felipe Street will take us all the way to Luke's Locker on Gray Street before we head South on Sheppard to hit up Torchy's #2 and within a few more miles finishing in Rice Village at Torchy's #3 where I can really chow down on my birthday brunch.

The route is mapped out here, feel free to join along the way or just buy me a taco and beer if you see me! I will be updating Instagram and Twitter throughout the adventure.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Hunger of the Pine

This has been my running soundtrack over the last month during my mountain trail adventures. Can't wait for the new alt-J album in September (pre-order on iTunes now and you get this song and "Left Hand Free" right away). Was surprised to learn that the female remix bit is... Miley Cyrus! But don't let that ruin it for you. Video is a little gory, but I think there are some great metaphors for running and life. There is going to be some pain, some bumps along the road, things you have to deal with and ultimately at the end of it all you are the one in control. Sometimes you just got to keep running, even when you're taking arrows to the jugular!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Letter to Colin

Dear Colin,

The other night I received a phone call that no one; parent, friend, sibling, coworker, coach or anyone wants to receive. It was Coach Oumama with the news of your horrible accident, I was devastated just like everyone else. I could picture your father as she told me, "Pat does not want you to be sorry for Colin but to remain positive and strong, that's what will get him through". At first I was consumed with details of the accident and your condition but slowly drift to my memories of you as a fifth grader.

To me you will always be that little fifth grader, the special one, the one with all the heart and talent. The one with a constant smile, a shyness, but drive in your eyes that turned your small physical presence in to one larger than life. It was so special to be a part of this time in your life, to have some impact and guidance, it gave me purpose and maturity. It was even more special to watch you race this year as a high school senior, to see that you had carried on with even more dedication and passion for the sport. While you have grown a few feet taller, legs hairy, and even a some teenage attitude you are still that little 5th grader to me.

Thousands have come together in prayer for you to recover. I read your parents updates daily, following the ups and downs of your condition, wishing I could be there. I can't imagine how tough it is on them but at the same time they are taking advantage of being able to hold on to their baby boy, something no teenager lets their parents do! You have brought people together as we wait for your eyes to again open, we will wait forever if we have to.

I have to say I'm not much of the praying type, but then again maybe I am- this is the story of my last run in the Sierra Nevada mountains, these places always give me energy and vivid thoughts and this time I send them your way, is that prayer?

I stare at the moon, tonight is a rare "super moon"- full and closer to Earth than normal, tonight I run through the night in your honor. My coach drops me off on a mountain pass between Reno and Lake Tahoe, its almost midnight but the air is still warm and the moon and stars capture all our attention. I gear up and ensure my safety, this mountain ultra trail running is bizarre to purists of the sport.

"See you in Reno tomorrow, sometime..." I set off along the Tahoe Rim Trail, a section of the 165 mile loop I know well enough to run at night, the moon is so bright I don't even use my headlamp. The trail is clear and sandy but not to difficult to run, the tan color of the path shines bright around my moonshadow and the angle of the bright light casts shadows off the few rocks I need to avoid. I climb higher and higher over the next five miles through forests and past waterfalls, carving windy single track and on to dirt roads that bring me to a ridge line now over 10,000ft high. I can see the city lights of Reno (primarily casinos), the entire rim trail surrounding the lake, and small cars along the highway now far below. My first summit, Relay Peak, is the highest along the rim trail at 10,338'  but I want to get closer to the stars, my energy is still strong, legs fresh, and its too cold to stop.

I'm now bombing down technical trail, my headlamp still off, surely I'm not moving as fast as I think I am but the night adds a speed factor. My goal is to follow the ridge line to a second summit but I'm soon cut off from the path and am left descending a steep bowl of loose rocks. The moonlight continues to disguise itself, I have to turn and check that there truly is no car with its high beams behind me or another person with a light. I safely find my way to a trail junction, sometimes using the clearly visible North Star and the Big Dipper to keep going the right way. I am now familiar with my location, a saddle between Mt. Houghton and Mt. Rose where nine years ago I had guided a few boys your age on a trail run, during the day of course. Looking back at the steep cliffs of Mt. Houghton I decide it was a good summit to skip and begin a one mile long climb of 2000 feet to the summit of Mt. Rose.

The trail is a series of rocky switch backs slowly leaving the trees and becomes exposed on the backside of the mountain of bare rock. The higher I climb the more I wish you were with me to experience the moment, the more I think of how much you would enjoy this place, and the more upset and angry I become that you can't be here right now. By the summit I am cursing and questioning everything that has happened out loud, at what and to who I yell, I don't know. "Why?!"

On the summit I find a horseshoe shape wall of rocks that has built up over four feet high and provides a great wind block out of the cold air. After a moment of regrouping myself I take in the world below. Reno is off in the distance, colorful casino lights and houses still bright, the highway winds from the city up the mountain pass between Mt. Rose ski area and the true Mt. Rose summit where I stand. The ski runs and lifts are clearly visible and my eyes follow the highway over the pass to Incline Village and Lake Tahoe. The entire rim is jagged along the horizon with large snow capped California mountains and the lights from other cities like Squaw Valley, start of the Western States 100 mile ultra marathon. The moon drowns out the stars but they're still more impressive than what we get in Houston. Constellations, planets, and moving satellites fill the sky.

I stick my bright orange jacket on one of my hiking poles in the rocks and it whips and cracks like a flag as the sweat dries off in the wind. It's now two o'clock in the morning and I decide to sleep here, at 10,800 feet. After crawling into my sack of a bed I pull out my multi-tool and begin to carve your name into a flat stone. "Colin".

I wake around 5:30 to a burning red sunrise and the super moon just setting. After packing up in the cold I place your stone on top of the wall as if you were here on the summit with me. My fingers brush over the rough surface of the rock and your carved name. Before I run off, I speak to you to come back, open your eyes, and stay strong.

I will see you soon.


"Coach Cal"

To all of the Thompson's, I send my love during this tough time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Enchanted Solstice

The weekend of the Summer Solstice was spent camping out at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area with a group from the Houston Area Trail Runners for a solid few days of training.

Enchanted Rock, or "E Rock" for short, is a massive granite batholith- the third largest in the world with Ayers Rock (Uluru) in Australia being the largest. The park is located four hours from Houston, two hours North West of Austin in hill country (Bucees is exactly half way.

In addition to camping there are over 600 trad, sport, and bouldering climbs along with miles of trail for hiking and running only (no mountain bikes). Both the main dome and the smaller summit "little rock" are an absolute free for all for open "adventure" running on granite around pools of water, boulders, and cactus. This provided a great training ground to get some vertical running in, something we are greatly deprived of in Houston! The summits have a loop trail which also loops a third rock and two canyon single track trails link in-between providing enough running to keep any ultra runner happy for a lifetime.

Rock Climbing: Climbers need to check-in at the park headquarters and sign the book where there is also a guide book available for under $20. There is really not a lot of good beta online, from what I did see gave me the impression that this was a trad climbing area only (hence the 30lbs of protection I hiked with), this is not the case as we ended up climbing only sport for two days! The best online/app and free source is The Mountain Project (mtn project app) sponsored by Black Diamond which compliments the guide book well for extra photo's and descriptions.

We stuck to the backside of main dome which consisted of classic slab climbing- no hands, all palms, and feet on the smallest of any indentation you could find. The favourite climb of the trip was "A Walk in the High Country" as it provided an easy but exposed warm up. This is a fun route that starts far left of most the climbs on top of a boomerang shape ledge that wraps around and crosses the rest of the routes on the backside, sharing anchors, and eventually topping out on the summit. We did this again on the second day simul-climbing.

Trail Running: As mentioned there are a few main trails and lots of off-trail running that has zero environment impact as its all on rock. Note that there are pools of water on top of the rock that carry a miniature shrimp that they suspect survived since the ocean once covered the rock- when the pools are dry the eggs still exist for the next cycle so try and avoid trampling through! Leave no trace!

The trails range from fast and wide pea-stone gravel on the outer loop to and incline grade selection you want (way better range than a treadmill!). Some area's can be very technical and obviously so much so that safety gear would be required. Bring lots of water as it can get hot. The showers are open for everyone and are very refreshing, unfortunately no swimming in this park.

In addition to looking at the official park map for trails I suggest bringing up Strava to see the popular trails, this also provided some fun of going after the summit records. Enchanted Rock Climb starts at the base of where the actual elevation begins which is rocks steps, boulders, and single track before hitting the granite rock to the summit- the record is now set at 4 minutes and 35 seconds for half mile with 420ft of climbing on an average grade of 16% = leg & lung burner!!! The more official Strava route is "King of the Rock" which starts at the trail head, down the steps and across the creek before starting up the same route described above- the extra portion only adds 35 seconds.

Can't wait to get back to this beautiful park with the family and explore some more (we never ended up doing the cave). There is also a race in the fall which loops the park and finished on the summit which looks great.

This trip was also a bit of a last hurrah for our friend from France, Kevin, bon voyage and I'm sorry for the midnight beating, I thought you were a possum in the tent!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Spring Training Update

Wow, where did May and June go!?!?

Following the Wings for Life World Run I had planned to take it easy for at least a week which turned into more like three weeks due to a viral infection that knocked me out with sweating chills and full body cramps. But at least this gave my knee and calf that had been bugging me leading into the WFL race a chance to fully recover and I have not had any issues since returning to training.

Keller Williams 5k
The final week of May I kicked it into full gear again, running 63 miles and started getting familiar with the treadmill incline and stairmaster again. This is also the same week where the Houston heat really started to turn up and will be here to stay for the next three months. Most afternoon track workouts I have been doing in 90F with high humidity.

That last Saturday of the month was very special as I finally had the chance to run a race, an actual fun run, with Aley in the running stroller. Luke's Locker was great to give me a free entry into the Keller Williams 5k, a local race in Katy, and I discussed with the race organizers during packet pickup that I would be more dangerous starting at the back (as recommended). They were okay with me at the front and I tried not to be in the way although there was some close calls after the start with two people sprinting off the line and cutting me off. Our new friend Matt lead the first mile which must have been fun for Aley drafting behind an elite runner at 5 minute mile pace. I loved watching her hair blow in the wind as we cruised past cheerleaders yelling "Go super Dad!". The halfway U-turn up on two wheels went fine and we flew back in the lead. It was a hot and muggy morning but Aley and I were able to run away with the win in a time of 16:08!

Upper: The Luke's Locker Racers- Peter, Cal, and Rich.
Lower: The clock just going over 16 minutes, oh so close!
Thanks to Luke's Locker for the race entry and Bob & Chris for the photos.
Testing out The Altra One2

June has been FULL ON with a week still left in the month I've already put in over 200 miles, over 30 hours of training including some rock climbing and other strength exercises, and best of all I've been able to log over 18,000 feet of elevation gain, not bad for Houston! I have been in a good rhythm of meeting Matt for a track workout on Tuesdays and going super long on adventurous weekends. I've been putting myself through "hell week" training blocks, sometimes running hard four days in a row. My body survived despite going through serious shin splints or calf strains that now heal in two days if I push through some pain and keep going. These issues are all attributed to fast workouts on the track.

Long Runs: I have been having some good weekend adventures lately, trying to keep the mileage interesting and explore different areas (which means a lot of driving!). I have also not been worrying about pace or distance and just getting the set routes done and spending lots of time on my feet in very hot conditions. Early in the month I ended up running a full marathon on a mix of single track and rolling country roads by running from Buescher State Park to Bastrop State Park and back again. A gorgeous run I highly recommend, here is the route. On this run however I decided to just see what happens when I don't follow my typical, over prepared, thought out, Excel spreadsheet of a nutrition plan and just run, carrying about a liter of water. I had my first taste of Ucan just before starting out and the next 3 hours in 80+ degrees of thick humidity I was completely comfortable. The final 3 miles however was an absolute death march, something I have never really experienced! That cold Coke from the ranger station was a great way to finish off nearly 4 hours of running!

Torchy's Taco's Katy Grand Opening!
My next long run got nasty. Matt and I headed straight to Huntsville State Park (home of Rocky Raccoon 100) after dropping my girls at the airport for their trip to Canada. We were in the park for about a total of 10 minutes during the 3 hour run, spending the rest of our time fighting ticks, Texas size horse flies, spiders and webs along the thistle and poison ivy overgrown track of the Lone Star Trail. We tried looping back to the park via some private deer hunting land but could never quite get through (turns out we came within 100m of the park multiple times). Out of water, having only carried a hand held bottle each, I once again really enjoyed a cold Coke, this time from a lake house cooler along the way- FYI this cooler is stocked just after the Camelia Lake spillway crossing on a picnic table, nice gentleman to talk to over a cold drink. Do not do this run.

To aid in my recovery and maintain some amount of body fat I have been hitting up the brand new Torchy's Taco's in Katy. I've just about completed the entire menu including the not-so-secret-secret- menu with only a few items remaining. This place is dangerously good, damn good as they say. Don't go here, the line is long and I need my tacos.

Off to the races again, the Altra One2
 I would like to thank Altra for keeping my feet happy this year with an abundance of shoes. I recently received the brand new One2 and Paradigm, two road shoes I was much anticipating, I was not disappointed.

The One2 is a super light, streamlined racing and training shoe. It does however pack a lot of cushion so I wouldn't go as far to call it a racing flat. The construction is extremely well done with no seams and slick material. In general people are finding this shoe runs a half size too small but expect some pressure on top of your toes even when sized properly- this shoe does not have a vertical toe space like other shoes, rather the upper material meets the bottom of the shoe in a  >  shape. It can take some getting used to but it does no damage. You should also transition into these shoes just as the "Learn to Run" booklet, included with every pair of Altra's, recommends. These shoes are extremely soft on the bottom and have a lots of flex along with a wide toe box for natural foot positioning and motion.

Embrace the Space! Natural foot shape shoes by Altra.

The Paradigm's are the max cushion road version where as the highly regarded Olympus is the trail counterpart. I'm still adding some mileage to this pair of shoes but so far they feel great, very light, firm but cushy, and a nice rocker feel. I would be torn between The One2 and the Paradigm for a marathon race shoe but certainly anything longer, especially concrete with downhills, the Paradigm would be my shoe of choice.

Amazing and impressive to see a relatively small company, and still very new, able to produce such a high quality of product. The development of the shoe line is completely different than last year so be sure to get into your local store (like Luke's Locker!) to try the new Altra's out. Knowing that I have a stupid amount of shoes in stock, for me to get excited about a shoe pulling it out of the box like I did for The One2, says something. They also have camo soles and that my favorite color.

Thursday night All Comers Track Meet at Rice for a "race workout": one mile in 4:36 followed by the 3000m in 9:36