Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Week 1 of Relentless Forward Progress; a review and a plan

May Totals: 109.7 mi (+11,469 ft); 19:20:58 on trail

Goals don't have to be immense hurdles, they can and should be attainable steps that keep us motivated. They should be difficult enough to feel success when reached, and they should be personal enough to drive internal competition while remaining within ego's possibilities. I think this pretty much describes my lunar century. A hundred miles in a month isn't especially difficult given that it is somewhat less than four miles a day. It's the discipline of keeping to the days that makes it a challenge. Life too often draws us away from healthy and enjoyable pursuits as we lose sight of their necessity. So I'm happy I have made this start and reached my first goal, one of many to come.

I recently read Relentless Forward Progress, by Bryon Powell of iRunFar.com. Although it is certainly unwise to adamantly buy-in to a first reading of any literature, I couldn't help but be fully motivated while at the same time better informed about the long-term discipline and run-day focus it takes to be an ultra runner. I have second-hand experience from following, occasionally literally, my brother as he trained for, meditated on, and recovered from his first successful 100-mile race at the Antelope Island Buffalo Run this spring (8th place, he says). His enthusiasm was contagious enough that I began to contemplate similar adventures, but I had questions I really didn't know how to ask. He turned me on to iRunFar.com and after following a few of Bryon's race reports and reading his commentaries and personal experiences in ultra-running, I downloaded his recently completed book.

If you have any interest of running far, and far doesn't have to mean fast, Relentless Forward Progress works wonderfully as a beginner's primer; it will get you going and will remain at your side as you begin to feel the success of many, many miles. Although I've told Darren and Desna numerous times, "I'm not in this to compete, I've simply grown to enjoy the exhilaration of running trails," learning about the community of ultra events has peaked an unexpected curiosity. Using his own running and coaching experience, along with guest essays by competitors and specialists (all experienced ultra runners), Bryon clearly presents the whys and hows of ultra-running. He progresses easily from why people do ultras to how to train, and from what to expect from trails and your body to what gear to use; interspersed from start to finish are a myriad of other topics and experienced insights, significant (footwear and foot health) to mundane (how to pee during a race). Although I would like to have read a composite diary of an individual race (his race blogs are always insightful), maybe a based-on-true-events yet fictional aggradation of the best, typical, and worst things that happen during a 100-mile event, I finished feeling I understood a little, no, a lot more about ultra-running, for pleasure, challenge, and competition. I'm already reading it second time, but have already realized that good recommendations of any "how-to" book should simply end with "OK, I'm doing it."

And so my relentless forward progress begins today. In his book Bryon presents four training regimes for running ultras from 50k (31 miles) to 100 miles. These are based on how many miles a runner can get in during the week, with a focus on long weekend runs. He's well aware that many things vie for our time, so he's worked hard to develop a training regime that understands the real world while providing a regime of weekly base miles combined with the occasional very long, event-like runs and back-to-backs (B2Bs).  These teach you how to run on tired legs. Importantly, Bryon also provides guidelines for resting or tapering into your events.

I've chosen to follow his training regime for running a 100-mile event on 50 miles per week. The weekdays are very similar to my current training levels; it's the weekends that build to some challenging distances. That's when I'll learn to be an ultra runner. I did the first training run today, 6.3 miles in the wind of the Chocolate Factory Out-and-Back. In 12 weeks I'll do my first trail marathon; my first ultra distance (50K/31mi) is 14 weeks away.  I even penciled in the Lake of the Sky event at Lake Tahoe as the site of that week's challenge. We'll see if I'm brave enough to join other runners. Darren says, "Do it." If the Leadville 100 treats him OK, he's likely to join me. And because there are aid stations, Desna won't have to drive the jeep down 31 miles of the Pony Express trail, though that sounds like a nice run too.  Sometime in early November, I'll run 100 miles (maybe in Arizona). As Bryon points out in RFP, signing up for events keeps the pressure on the training program. But Trail Option is also about publishing my joy of running and keeping the motivation of a few friends and training partners.

This blog will document the ups-and-downs and many miles of the 24-week journey. I hope you'll come along.


  1. Pledging to do such a wacko though understandable thing to your audience here creates some pressure too. Cool! I am interested and slightly jealous--I must admit I thought perhaps Lily and I could join you some time, but you will soon be in a league, traveling more than leagues+, that is beyond me. Still, I know I will enjoy your journey and learn some new trails to tackle in the relentlessly now blowing winds... Here's to finding your limits and exploding them; iwwd :)

  2. I'm glad to be sharing this journey with you and look forward to the adventures ahead!

  3. By the way, I was 10th at Antelope Island!