I'm a professional runner, online running coach, and freelance writer. I love racing all distances and terrains, though I'd say the 50 mile distance is my forte. I'm the 2013 U.S. 50 Mile Road National Champion. Also gunning for the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon standard of 2:18:00. Running races that intrigue me and hoping to do a bit of world traveling while doing it!

If you are interested in coaching, you can contact me at MattAFlaherty |at| gmail.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Hoosier 5k Race Report - Quaff ON!

I decided to hop in the local Hoosier 5k on Saturday morning to get an under-distance racing stimulus ahead of the Boston Marathon in a couple weeks.  It's always fun to do a local race, and Bill Bartley and Ben Bartley of Indiana Running Company put on a great event.  I ran the half marathon twice when I was in law school here, back in the spring of 2009 and 2010, finishing 4th and 2nd.  It was good to be racing the streets of Bloomington again, which are always a challenge with their sizable hills (for road running anyway). 

I thought I could probably run under 15:00 on a flat course, but I thought mid-15s would be more reasonable for the Hoosier 5k course.  I knew I would have some competition from my new Quaff ON! Racing teammate, Danny Fisher, who is training for the Louisville Marathon in two weeks.  But the half marathon tends to be the more competitive race of the two, so we didn't have anyone else challenging us.  However, the Half and 5k start at the same time, and half marathon winner Jessie Davis (a 2:18 marathoner) actually got out hard with us.  

I hit the first mile in 4:57 by my watch, with Jessie and Danny in my slipstream.  I pushed a bit on the climb up Walnut from 17th to 11th, before really letting it loose on the descent to the square.  I kept the pressure on through the gentle downhill on Kirkwood, before turning onto Indiana to start the long climb towards home.  I saw a 9:08 on my watch as I passed the two mile mark.  Despite the quickness afforded by the downhill, I'm pretty sure I did not run a 4:11 second mile, so the marker must have been placed a bit early.  

I gave a quick head check, saw that I had a decent lead, and knew that I'd have the win as long as I didn't blow up.  I gave a good push on the uphills back to the Stadium, added a quick loop around the IU Credit Union (some tight turns!), and hit the final straightaway.  I passed the three mile mark in 14:25 and knew I would be right on the bubble of 15:00 for the full 5 kilometers.  The last 200m are a slight uphill, and I dug deep trying to dip under.  I didn't think I made it, but the official time was 14:59—nice to be rewarded for the final push!  There's a typo on the main results page that says I ran 14:49, but the searchable results show the official 14:59.  This was a PR for me for a road course, and all the better that it was on a tough course.  Bodes well for Boston, as it shows my turnover is coming around quickly after some quality workouts in the last month.  I struggled with a quick pace at last month's Napa Valley Marathon, but I'm feeling a lot quicker and smoother now.

Crossing the line: Trying out some new Salomon EXO 3/4 Tights and my standby shades, my Julbo Dust.

My friend Alan and girlfriend Beth made me a nice congratulations sign at Soma Coffee!
After the race, Danny (who ran a solid 15:27 for second place) and I went for a little cooldown on the Griffey trails north of town.  It was nice to get to know Danny a little better, as he's a great guy and a great runner.  He's based over in Columbus, IN and has run 2:2_ for the marathon.  Hoping to do some training with him in the future!  We finished back at the stadium to watch our Quaff ON! teammates, most of whom were running the half marathon, cruise in.  Everybody ran pretty well, and it was cool to have a good ten or so of us racing.  

Even cooler than that was our little after party at the new Quaff ON! Bloomington location (on Grant Street between Kirkwood and 6th).  The new bar /restaurant /tap room isn't open for another couple of weeks yet, but we got to enjoy the beautiful day on the expanded porch, quaffing some Busted KnuckleYellow Dwarf, and Hare Trigger IPA!

Quaffing some brews and checking out the soon-to-be-opened bar post-race.

Quaff ON! brews on ice
Busted Knuckle (English Porter), Yellow Dwarf (Dry-Hopped American Wheat), Hare Trigger IPA
The Quaff ON! Racing gang on the porch of the new Quaff ON! Bloomington location.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Quaff ON!

I'm excited to announce a new partnership with Quaff ON! Brewing Co., a stellar brewery based here in the heart of southern Indiana trail running country.  For the uninitiated, 'to quaff' is 'to drink heartily and with gusto' (and copiously).  That's pretty much how I like to run as well—heartily and with gusto—so it's a natural fit!  Especially when you consider my affinity for great beer and brewing.

Quaff ON! operates out of Nashville, Indiana, about a half hour east of Bloomington, at the foot of Indiana's best trail running in Brown County State Park. But its beer is available all over Indiana (and other states soon), and it's opening a tap room in town—Quaff ON! Bloomington—in the next month. 

The brewery has already had its hand in trail running for a bit with the Quaff ON! Racing Team, a great group of local guys and gals ripping up the trails. As the team's Facebook page puts it: 

"Amongst the picturesque hills and hollers of Brown County, Indiana, lies a landscape made for weekend warriors to get away from the concrete jungles and seek adventure on the numerous secluded dirt trails and challenging bike routes around the county."

I'm happy to be joining this crew and representing the Quaff ON! brand and its lively spirit in my racing and running adventures around the country.  If you see me racing around the Midwest or beyond (basically, any race I drive to), make sure to come say 'hi,' and hopefully I'll have a few Quaff ON! brews in tow to share!

You can get all the latest from Quaff ON! on its website, Facebook page, the Racing Team page, or Twitter (@QuaffONBrewing).

Enjoying a Hare Trigger IPA and a book post-long run!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Napa Valley Marathon Race Report

1st place - 2:26:15
Strava data 

- Article from Road Runners Club of America
- Article from the Napa Valley Register

For the second race of my 2014 season, I headed west, back to the Napa Valley Marathon, which I raced in 2013 as well.  I didn't run as quickly as I wanted, but I did come away with a win—and the accompanying first prize of my weight in wine—so I can't complain too much.  The race also served as the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) National Marathon Championships, so I won that title and an accompanying 3 liter "magnum" bottle of 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from Clos du Val, engraved with the RRCA logo no less!  

2008 vintage of Clos du Val Cab /RRCA winner's trophy.
While my time was slower than I anticipated, I'm not too concerned about it.  It can be a dangerous thing to focus too much on times—it's easy to get inside your own head.  For instance, I ran 2:25:38 at Napa for a close fourth place finish last year.  Looking at this year's 2:26:15, one could conclude I'm not in as good of shape.  The reality couldn't be farther from the truth.  I am leaps and bounds ahead of where I was last year, much stronger in many ways.  Looking at isolated data points can be useful, but it doesn't tell the whole story.  

I know from some recent benchmark training runs that I am quite a bit stronger than I was in early 2013.  I think I ran relatively "slowly" because I've got so little faster-paced running under my belt this winter.  It's been brutal for the whole Midwest, and ground conditions have rarely allowed for anything fast.  Also, I didn't back off much for this race at all.  I did a hard, hilly 24 mile training run just seven days out from the race; I was thus hardly fresh.  

Early race, Julbo Dust sunglasses raised due to the misting rain.
I found running 5:30s to be uncomfortable from the start, and when a pack of three broke away running mid-5:20s a mile into the race, I had no choice but to let them go.  One of those three quickly faded, so I was running alone in third place by mile 5.  I felt stretched hovering around 5:30 per mile, like I might be stepping over that invisible line—the one where you find yourself in a death march crawl to the finish the last 5 miles.  My family and girlfriend saw me for the first time at mile 7 (the course is point to point and allows for great spectator viewing), and I was so uncomfortable that my dad didn't think it was me.  He prides himself on being able to spot my gait from afar, and he was convinced that it was somebody else approaching because I didn't look smooth like I should that early in a race.

Working solo, I just tried to stay as relaxed as I could and not let the lead duo get too far ahead.  Around mile 10, one of the two, Chris Mocko, made a move to pull away from eventual third placer Ryan Donovan.  Ryan stayed pretty strong, and it took me nearly five miles to pass him.  But Mocko was gradually stretching his lead.  He looked smooth, and I didn't think it was likely I would catch him.  By mile 18 or 19, his gap was over a minute.  But I've run enough marathons to know that anything can happen in the last few miles.  Fading by 15-20s or more per mile over the last 3-4 miles is common.  I knew if I stayed within a minute or so, I would have a chance. 

Cruising down the Silverado Trail late-race
Unfortunately, I was hurting pretty badly myself.  You play mental games trying to coax your body into one more mile, then another.  'OK, you can relax for this straightaway, then back to work.'  'This is slight downhill, just loosen up and use it.'  Etcetera.  There's nothing quite like this feeling of being in quite a bit of pain with 8 or 10 miles to go.  Maintaining pace (or something close) seems an insurmountable task, but you just hold on and somehow gut it out.  It helps having run quite a few marathons (and ultras of much longer duration)—you choose not to believe your current sensory data and what your mind is telling you; you believe in the past results and experiences.  'I've done this before, I can do it again.'

Around mile 22, I saw Chris stop momentarily to stretch his hamstring.  I knew he must be hurting and having some issues, so I just kept grinding.  I started to close the gap over the following few miles, down to 20 seconds or so by mile 24.  Despite Chris's problems, he was maintaining a pretty solid pace.  I clawed to within 10 seconds as we neared mile 25.  I was digging deep and didn't have a lot of fight in me, but I had to try.  Chris glanced back, saw the small gap between us, and stopped again to stretch for a few seconds.  I passed and tried to push hard for a two or three minutes to create a gap.  I felt my calves were on the verge of cramping as I picked up the pace, so I had to be careful.  With a half mile to go, I finally took a look back.  I didn't see Chris in the immediate vicinity and I knew I had it.  

High fiving the fam.
I hadn't led a step of the race until 24.9 miles.  My family had last seen me at mile 18, over a minute behind, and they were waiting at the finish.  The announcer thought Chris would win based on slightly outdated reports from the course,  so he was talking to the finish line crowd about Chris's resume, which includes a recent 1:06 in the half marathon and wins at Napa in 2011 and 2012.  When I came around the final bend to take the win, it caught my family by surprise.  After nearly two and a half hours of hard work, I got to enjoy the final minute of the race, giving high fives to my family and the spectators at the finish.  I didn't realize it until a while later, but this was actually my first marathon win.  I've gotten second place a few times (Missoula 2007, St. Louis 2008), but never a win.

Saying a few words about the race at the finish.
One of the highlights of the weekend had to be the first prize—my weight in wine, as measured on a giant scale.  Four cases didn't quite tip the scales, so I managed to get a fifth case.  The wine was donated by the Silverado Trail Wineries Association, so it's all pretty stellar Napa Valley wine.  My sister and brother-in-law (in particular) and my dad are all pretty big wine buffs, so they were quite happy I'd won as well, as I gave them each quite a bit of the winnings.

The fifth case tipped the scales.

The winnings—one of the better prizes I've won!
I came back to the 2014 Napa Valley Marathon because they put on a great race.  It's kept pretty small in size (I think around 3,000 people), and it's run on a gorgeous, rolling, point-to-point course.  The organization is stellar, and the race is in touch with it's rich history.  For example, Dick Beardsley, still the course record holder, comes out to the race every year to speak and cheer.  I saw him out on the course in several places.  

Many thanks to the NVM organization.  I had a lot of fun, just like last year, and I hope to be back in the future.

  • I didn't have any breakfast pre-race, which is my usual marathon routine (fasting helps to promote fat oxidation, thus avoiding a bonk).
  • I took a small amount of Gatorade and one gel during the race.  I don't usually take any gels, but I was a bit worried I was burning too much glycogen with the uncomfortably hot pace, so I took it as insurance.
  • I tried out my Swiftwick PERFORMANCE TWELVE compression socks for the first time in a race setting and loved them.  They make great socks, across the board.
  • Race GPS data came from my Suunto Ambit2 S.
  • Thanks to my sponsors Salomon, Suunto, Swiftwick, Julbo, and UGo Bars for their continued support.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Three Marathons in Sixteen Weeks

Starting with the Napa Valley Marathon this weekend (Running USA preview here), I'm racing three marathons in a sixteen week span (as well as a couple of 50 mile ultras and a 10 miler): Napa (3/2), Boston (4/21), and Grandma's (6/21).  The focus on each race varies, but if all goes well, I'm hoping to come out of it all with an Olympic Trials Qualifying mark of sub-2:18:00.  Grandma's will cap the first half of my 2014 season, and I plan on taking a short break after the race before building up to the second half of my year.

Before I do any racing, it's hard to know exactly where my fitness is, but what I would call my "reasonable goals" are as follows: PR at Napa (sub-2:22:53), sub-2:20 at Boston, sub-2:18:00 at Grandma's.  If things go really well, I might exceed those goals by a minute or two.  Or I might not meet them at all; but I think they're good targets.  

I ran a 2:25:39 at last year's Napa Valley Marathon, good for fourth place.  It was my first serious race in a year, run on about 3-4 months solid training after a long injury layoff in 2012.  Which is to say I was not very strong and certainly not sharp.  This year's effort will share the latter aspect—I am not race sharp by any means.  I've been doing very few workouts; instead mainly focusing on quality aerobic running and building my mileage up.

In contrast to last year, however, I should be much stronger.  I got sick for about a week after the Pyscho WyCo 50k, but came back with a solid long run this weekend: a 24.2 miler with 1,390 feet of elevation gain, which I completed in a 6:10/mile average.  I know that I could not have done this run in training at this time last year.  In fact, when visiting Bloomington in late March 2013, I did this exact run and only managed a 6:48/mile average.  I am without a doubt significantly stronger than I was last year.  The question is just how much.  Napa is a quick course, and I've got some good competition coming from past champ Chris Mocko, so hopefully a PR is in the cards.  Either way, it will be a good indicator to let me know how realistic my Boston and Grandma's goals are.

Between Napa and Boston, I've got a seven week block with no racing plans—a perfect time to make some significant strength gains.  My mileage the last month has been in the 80-90 mpw range, and I hope to push it into the 100-120 range for the middle five weeks of the next training block.  I will still be running very few structured or intensive workouts.  Instead, I will work on hill springing/bounding, hill sprints, functional strength work, and hilly trail runs.  The mileage alone should enhance my aerobic strength (the "engine"), but I hope the work on the "chassis" will help me to run faster at Boston as well.  I also plan to include four solid long run workouts in the Boston buildup:

  • I hope to repeat my Boltinghouse run from this past weekend (linked above) two more times.  It is a grueling road route that will give me strength for the uphills and quad conditioning for the downhills. I also may try to hit the track at the end of these runs for a bit of quick stuff—maybe a few miles of alternating fast and moderate 400s shooting to average around MP, or simply a few fast miles.  This is tough to do 20+ miles into a run; but it's great for one's ability to close well in a marathon.
  • I also plan on two basic tempo/progression type of long runs on flatter ground.  Maybe a 15-20 mile basic tempo in the 5:40-5:50/mile pace range, and maybe a 20 mile progression in 5 mile segments (something like 6:00s, 5:45s, 5:30s, 5:15s for each segment if fitness allows).
So the whole Boston buildup will be Fundamental in nature.  I'll be building some great strength, but there really won't be a true Marathon Specific focus to the training.  I'm sneaking in a few workouts that will touch on specificity, but not much.  I'm hoping I can run sub-2:20 on strength.  If we have good weather in Boston, it can be a PR course.  It's net down; the Newton hills are really pretty mild compared to what I encounter in training and ultra racing; and I've got much better conditioning to the eccentric loading of the quads (when running downhill) than most marathoners.

After Boston, I'll have 9 weeks to Grandma's.  Now if I was smart, and I wanted to truly maximize my chances for running an Olympic Trials Qualifier, I would not race during those 9 weeks, except maybe a 10 miler or half marathon.  Instead, I'm racing two intensely competitive 50 mile trail races.  Which is certainly going to make things interesting. :)

I'll be doing more marathon specific work, as well as some quicker track workouts in the week leading up to Grandma's.  I'll also be doing a proper taper for the race.  But the simple fact is that much of that 9 week block will be recovery and tapering given my racing schedule.  So it will be interesting to see how much I can improve from Boston to Grandma's.

The OTQ is a big goal of mine, but the Trials don't happen until February 2016.  I've got this fall and all of next year to chase the standard if I can't quite hit it this spring.  So while I'll be racing all three of these marathons seriously, I'm treating them more as developmental races.  None of them will be raced optimally, but I'm hoping to hit some good results all the same.  I also get the chance to reacquaint myself with how to race a marathon well.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Psycho WyCo 50k Race Report

My season opener at Saturday's Psycho WyCo 50k race was a study in snow running.  Lucky for me, I've been running in snow all winter long, like most of us in the Midwest.  It made for a grueling race (and a rather slow time), but it was a great, longer-than-anticipated training stimulus, perfect for building strength and endurance.  

I put Psycho WyCo on my calendar a few months ago after my friend and Salomon teammate David Wakefield recommended I come out for a visit and the race.  It's put on by his friend Bad Ben Holmes and the Trail Nerds (they do a whole series of events, which seem pretty great).  I also had my eye on Scott Gall's course record (3:59:11) and a sub-4 hour time, which combined with a win, would have netted a handsome payday for an early season race.  But when Kansas City was saddled with a heavy dose of snow early last week, I figured any record attempt would be off the table.  I was still looking forward to a fun race, as Gall was slotted to defend his title and my friend Mark Thompson (2012 and 2013 Fall 50 winner) was also coming down from Iowa.  Unfortunately, Gall decided not to race.

Bad Ben happily rips up the sub-4 bonus checks
Photo Credit: Mile 90 Photography
The course consists of three 10.35 mile loops, with a fair amount of vertical for what one typically thinks of when thinking of Kansas.  The trails are also apparently fairly technical, though the snow pretty much removed this element.  In the early miles, I found myself in a lead pack of five, including Mark and a few local runners.  Our pack kept the pace relatively easy, breaking trail through 8+ inches of snow.  I was content just to sit and wait until the second loop to inject some real effort.  But when our pack surprisingly broke up on the climb to the dam (about midway through loop 1), I found myself in the lead with a small gap.  I figured why not press a bit, so I began to push as we entered the far section of the course.  The snow was deepest here due to drifting, and completely untouched in spots.  This was probably the most fun of the day for me, as you could just fly down steep descents through drifts of snow.

Moving into the lead on loop 1
Photo Credit: Mile 90 Photography
I knew that by the time I began the second loop, several hundred people would have been over the trails.  In years past, this has packed the snow into a very runnable track, making the later loops much easier.  Unfortunately, since the weather had been so cold, the snow was very dry and it did not pack well.  Thus, the second and third loops weren't really much easier; even though the snow had been run through, you would still slip and slide on basically every step.  I had my Salomon Spikecross, which leant about as much support as a shoe could in such conditions, but there was just no avoiding the feeling of running two steps forward and one step back for the entire race.

After a 1h38m opening loop, I pushed pretty hard on loop 2.  I wanted to make sure I got at least a sub-5 hour finish, as that also had a cash bonus.  It was probably a bit too much, as I was getting very muscularly tired by the end of that loop, especially my hip flexors.  But it was also fun, as I continued to really enjoy the steep descents and tight corners in the "Triangles" section of the course.  I hit a 1h32m split for loop 2, which actually would have won the 10 mile race as well; so that was kind of a fun accomplishment—running the fastest loop of the day for all races.

I was pretty spent heading out for loop 3, and I remember thinking 'man, if this was a training run, I would have zero will to go on right now.'  I thought back to a training run in early January on similarly snowy trails in Michigan.  I had gone out for a planned 17 mile run, breaking trail through 6-8" of powder, and I had to cut it short, managing only 13.4 miles in 2h14m.  And that's why races can be great for training efforts, especially for ultra marathoners.  You can often do in a race situation what you can't do in training.  It's a balance of course, and you can't "go to the well" too often, but used properly, races can be great training stimuli.  I think Timmy Olson is a good example of this.  You see him hop in a lot of 50 mile races where he really isn't competitive most of the time, but I think that's by choice—he seems to run them at about 95%, knowing that he can only go big a few times per year, like at Western States or UTMB.
A snowy descent on loop 3
Photo Credit: Mile 90 Photography
I got through loop 3 pretty uneventfully in 1h37m for a final time of 4:48:13 and a victory in the 50k.  Mark came in second in 5:22:18, with Jeremy Morris rounding out the men's top 3 in 5:30:14.  Shortly after I crossed the line, Bad Ben handed me a beer, which I welcomed gladly.  David was hanging out as well, having just run the 10 Mile himself.  He was helping to hand out medals and awards, so I got to chill for quite a while post-race, watching the lead women and other competitors come in, and enjoying a number of beers and some great homemade chili.  Bad Ben is a rather accomplished homebrewer, and he had a great IPA and dry-hopped saison on tap for all competitors and spectators to enjoy!  It was fun to chat with some of the locals about these trails and the other Trail Nerds races.

Post-race with Bad Ben (RD) and David Wakefield
Photo Credit: Mile 90 Photography
Content post-race in my Salomon puffy and Julbo shades, beer in hand
Photo Credit: Mile 90 Photography
I owe a big thanks to David for hosting me, Bad Ben and his crew for putting on a great event, Beth for crewing for me, and also to my sponsors for their continued support.  I couldn't asked for a better season opener.  It was a lot of fun, and it's got me excited for the coming year!  Next up is the Napa Valley and Boston marathons in March and April.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Fitnotes: Swiftwick, Snowy Weekend Racing, and Boston Bound?!

Joining the #WickNation

First of all, I'm excited to announce that I've joined the Swiftwick team of athletes.  I've loved these socks since I first tried them last year while working at Fleet Feet Chicago.  I've tried just about every brand of socks on the market and no sock wicks better.  When they come out of the washing machine, they're essentially already dry.  I used them when I ran Cayuga Trails 50 Mile last year, which included several waist-deep creek crossings, and I had no problems with blisters.  My favorites that I've tried are the ASPIRE, though I'm excited to try others like the PERFORMANCE and the wool-based PURSUIT soon!  Additionally, these socks are made the United States, which is great.  For more information on these kickass, patriotic, hydrophobic stockings, check out this rave review over at iRunFar.

Training and Psycho WyCo 50k

Meanwhile, my training (which you can now see on Strava) has been progressing pretty well, all things considered.  This winter has been a rough one for us Midwesterners, but I've managed to run 80, 80, and 90 miles the last three weeks, which is certainly better than I was averaging most of last year.  I've gotten a few light workouts in as well, though I think I need to mostly focus on mileage right now while ramping it up.  The workouts are leaving me too tired, so until I'm squarely settled in the 100-120 mile per week range for a month or so, I think I need to back off on the intensity a bit.  

Like I've been telling all my coaching clients, it's important to remember right now that when ground conditions and the weather are total crap, it's the internal load that matters most—the effort exerted by the body—not the external measurement (i.e. pace).  Spring will be here soon enough and as long as we've been working hard through the winter, the speed will come back.

I feel like my fitness is coming around well enough for my season opener this weekend at the Psycho WyCo 50k in Kansas City.  I was hoping to chase after the course record that Scott Gall set last year at 3:59 (it's a tough, technical course!).  But with 10 inches of snow on the ground, and likely no snowmelt between now and race day, that's probably off the table (along with the $500 on offer for breaking it).  But it's all good; I've heard great things about this race, and I get to see some old friends from the trails, including my Salomon teammate David Wakefield and my buddy Mark Thompson.

No World 100km Championships = Boston?

Finally, I read some unexpected news today.  The IAU World 100km Championships in Latvia, which were to be the focus of my year, were cancelled.  This is a real disappointment, because the World 100km Championships were cancelled last year too.  They were supposed to be in South Korea last year, but the host organization apparently couldn't come up with the funds.  Then South Africa offered to host once South Korea backed out; but South Africa ultimately backed out as well, and the 2013 Championships did not take place.  

The press release from the IAU states that "[t]he Local Organizing Committee unfortunately has not been able to secure the sponsorships required to host the championships."  Call me crazy, but why don't we require bidding committees to have sponsorship secured when they bid?!  According to the IAU, they are in the process of securing a new host country.  However, this all seems eerily similar to last year's fiasco.  I'm optimistic that a backup venue will be found, but it's hard not to let this news have an impact on my racing plans.

I had planned on racing the Mad City 100km /USA 100km Championships in Madison, Wisconsin this April in order to compete for another U.S. Title and to cement my spot on the World Championships Team for the U.S.  However, with this new uncertainty, I don't think I'm going to race Mad City anymore.  I'd hate to structure half my season around it and then have it not matter (for World Team purposes, anyway).  Additionally, I already have two qualifying marks that may well get me selected to the team anyway (from my races at Tussey mOUnTaiNBACK and JFK 50 last year).  

The reality is I'd be much more excited to race a few other races in April/May than Mad City—namely the Boston Marathon and the Ice Age Trails 50 Mile.  I've wanted to race Boston for quite a while, but it just never really made sense in my schedule before.  I thought that 2014 would be the year, but I abandoned that thought once I decided to race Mad City.  So it would be exciting to put Boston back on the schedule.  The difficult thing at this point might be getting into the race!  I seem to be right on the cusp of their sub-elite standards, so we'll see if I can secure an entry.

I would also like to return to Ice Age.  I was fourth last year, in one of the deepest years in race history.  I felt I had a good race for my fitness at the time, but I was still returning to form following 2012's injury woes, and I know I can do a lot better on that course.  I would like to try to tackle Andy Jones' stout course record if preparations go well between now and then.  Ice Age is a storied race, and Jeff Mallach does an outstanding job with it.

So that's what's going on with me.  I hope you're excited about your own training and racing plans too!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Julbo, Training on Strava, and Early 2014 Plans

As 2014 begins, I've joined Julbo sunglasses as a new sponsor.  I first tried a pair of Julbos when I won a free pair during the low-key hill challenge the day before Western States.  I really like the variety of styles available, as well as the athlete-driven designs in the Performance line.  My favorites so far are the Dust (you see Ian Sharman in these a lot) and the Ultra.  Both have Zebra lenses, which change according to external light conditions.  This is extremely useful running trails, as once you hit a tree-covered section of trail, you rarely want dark shades.  The Zebra lenses lighten right up so that you can still see the subtleties of the trail.

My Julbo athlete profile can be found here.  And they also did a welcome to the team interview on the Julbo blog, here.

Additionally, I have begun tracking my training on Strava.  My Strava athlete profile and all of my training can be found here.  I may still post some training updates here from time to time, but the day-to-day can be seen on Strava.

Finally, I've been thinking more about my 2014 plans of late.  I felt 2013 was a successful comeback year after a nearly full year of injury in 2012.  I took a much needed break—close to two week of no running—after the TNF 50 Champs, before slowly ramping the mileage back up over the past four weeks.  This week I should be over 100 miles again and I'm adding in some light workouts.

I more or less have my entire 2014 planned, but some of the later races aren't set in stone yet.  What I do know for certain is my schedule for the next three months.

First up is the Psycho Wyco 50k in Kansas City on February 8.  Scott Gall set a stout CR here last year, and I believe he'll be back to defend his title and record.  My buddy Mark Thompson (two time Fall 50 winner) is coming as well, so we should have a fun one!  My Salomon teammate David Wakefield is running the 10 mile and will be my gracious host for the weekend.

Next, I'll be returning to the Napa Valley Marathon on March 2, where I was fourth in 2:25:39 last year.  That was on just a few months of consistent running and very few workouts.  Hopefully this year I'll be nearer to 2:20.  I won't be training specifically for it, but I should be getting fairly fit by then.

Finally, I'll head up to Madison for the U.S. 100km National Road Championships, hosted once again by Tim Yanacheck at the Mad City 100km.  I'll be hoping to add another national title to my U.S. 50 Mile Title, but I'll face formidable competition from (I think) Zach Bitter, David Riddle, Eric Senseman, Mark Thompson and others.  The winner at Mad City gets an auto selection to the IAU World 100km Championships in Latvia this summer.  Many of the other members of the 6-person team will likely be selected here as well.  I've got two current qualifying marks (my 5:28:11 at Tussey Mountainback and 5:44:37 at JFK), but they aren't a guarantee for team selection, so I'll be throwing down in Madison.

Pumped for 2014!