That Time I Ran Up the Tallest Mountain In Spain (a few weeks ago)

“Lets do something stupid.” 
SLB XI didn’t need anything to make it special. It was epic. The athletes, the rides, the weather, the whole experience was just perfect. I felt like SLB was finally turned over to itself. Communidad (community) was the word that kept passing through my mind. My affinity for everyone individually and collective is so high and so strong as the mix of old friend and new energy really has created something magical. Maybe it was BECAUSE of this that I wanted to do something special. It was like I wanted to honor and show respect to what I was experiencing. I didn’t need it for training. It was too long and hard to be useful. I didn’t need it for the experience, I had been up this mountain more times than I could count via bike. Honestly, as I started the 34k run from 2000 to 9000 feet I really had no good reason for why I was about to run up the largest mountain in mainland Spain which when the Tour of Spain dares to use it always proves to be the hardest climb of the tour. 
As I got moving I noticed the first part is insanely steep at sections. I was having a really hard time keeping my heart rate down. I set a limit of 5 beat below my LT so I would have something left in the tank but honoring that limit would prove hard.
I also noticed my calfs were on fire. It’s one thing to run a hill; it’s different to run 45 minutes and not have a single step that isn’t up. At the hour mark I hit the quarry; 20+ grade and where Cadel Evans lost the tour of Spain. Today it was pura Paz (pure peace) I normally make it here in 40 minutes or faster so I did the math and realized this was gonna take 4 hours. After that is the spot I proposed to Christine at and I stopped and just took in the view and memories for a handful of seconds and water (see photo of my heart shaped feed zone). It’s just one of the most amazing spots on earth. It’s magic. 
After that you hit the main road. It’s less step but the wind, altitude and cold start coming on as you are above the snow line. At this point the first people from the camp started catching me. I had taken off as soon as we got here to get a head start whilst build bikes dress and warm up. I had no bike :-) it was nice to see people again and Chris Langford gave me a bottle which was, like, totally the best thing ever. I chased down a Carboom gel and felt better for the next 5k. 
Math gets surreal when doing something like this. Normally I might run 3-4 minutes per k. Now 5 min per k is flying and 6-7 minutes is happening. The next 12k went down well and we hit the ski station where the pro roadies stop. We don’t stop there and go another 9k to the military station. 
This is where things got brutal. The thinning air was killing me. My high altitude tent is in storage (long story) and I was coming from true sea level. Running at 8000 feet was like breathing threw a straw while a grown man sat on my chest while trying to sprint. Walking in my lightweight Brooks Launch even felt heavy and put me into zone 3. A few running steps and my heart rate went to 180. I was over 3 hours in. I was above the tree line and wind was legit. 
With 6k to do I came unglued. I had a hard time eating or drinking. I was shuffling and death marching. I looked like the walking dead. A few pro road cyclists came flying by me and they looked so fast and effortless, like birds using the wind. They made me hate myself. I was consumed with self hate, and curing myself for doing something so stupid. It got dark inside. But The top of the mountain was in front of me and I realized the shape of it is so iconic (see photo) Tattoo idea perhaps, I thought to myself. I have never gotten a tattoo of a training run before but this kind of deserves it. 
As I finally crawled to the top I saw the athletes who beat me there. I crawled into the van that was already loaded with bike and mumbled “get me off this f(ck!ing mountain.” And with seconds we were on our way down. I was wrecked. We drove down and at the bottom I sipped Drip Drop, ate a Pure Fit Bar wrapped myself in my Champion System hoodie and track suit pants (baller) and tried to pretend I didn’t just destroy myself for a long time to come. But wow was it worth it. Looking back, I can’t stop shaking my head at how stupidly good that was. 
   
 

SLB XI Camp 2 Reflections

SLB XI Camp 1 reflections 
“Every tool is weapon if you hold it right.” – ani 

SLB started 11 years ago because I was racing early and needed a warm place to train to work on my weakness: cycling. Spain was picked because it’s epic, and the Costa Del Sol area because it’s where much of the European pro roadies go to live and train this time of year. Lastly international travel is an adventure and how you grow as a person. 

For the first time in a long time I didn’t have an early “A” race planned so I can into camp under trained and hoping to not over do it. That is impossible as I discovered. There is no easy way here. It’s big rides, climbs, swims, runs, core work and punishment. I am exhausted ; But I couldn’t be happier with the monster I gave birth too even as it devours me. 

It would be easy to begrudge the pain. But the reality is even without this being a critical step to some race; it still holds all its value. For the first time in a long time; coming the camp and doing the camp was the ends in and of itself. I am here, to be here; and just be here this year (my big races are all later summer fall and next winter). This change in perspective and purpose has given me a new relationship to the experience. I have been able to just enjoy it; even as it shatters me physically (and enjoy the physical shattering even).

Finally after 11 years I can just look around undistracted by my own training goals and marvel at all the athletes encouraging each other. The breath taking views (Bc they make you climb 6000 feet to see them) and the local culture: the Alhambra, the Moorish baths, the Roman arches and the 900 year old churches. My legs are tired but my spirit is full and heart aches with gratitude at all the people that have come here and contributed to SLB and made it a truly special community. It’s magical, pure and simple. 

Thank you to everyone who came last week. The way you pitched in, in both helping make the camp run well and with so much positivity was amazing. We love you. 

  

5 tips for performing well when traveling as an athlete

I logged 4 international races last year including a few half way to the other side of the earth. Here are 5 key tips:

1) Use caffine wisely. Skip it to sleep on the plane. Get on the plane decafinated so you sleep. Use as much plane time as you can to sleep. Sleeping, even naps release healing chemicals into yur body that are critical to wellness. When you get off the plane only have caffine early in the morning, local time. This will help you adjust to the time change. 

2) have a big ass water bottle. Fill it in the airports. Put it in your seat. Drink it. Bug the flight crew for extra drinks. They ration out the right amount based on non athletes. You need to perform better then most. Flying dehydrates you and being dehydrated will really wreck your performance. When you land drink a ton more water until your normal. 

3) get on local time. To do this you need to give yourself a day per hour time change ideally. Your body won’t perform well if it feels like it’s 2am. Try to stay up until local bed time. If it’s bed time and you can’t sleep take meltonin which is what your body isn’t producing naturally because it doesnt know its bed time. Beware: this can make you groggy so don’t use it the night before the race! 

4) plan the trip to be a fun vacation. See the sights! Get away from the race venue. Stay in other towns etc. this will keep your mind off the race and the stress of race nerves. Get into town 48 hours prior to deal with pre-race stuff but besides that skip hanging around the venue. 

5) PACK PRO FIT BARS! You want a high protein bar because your not training and the high protieny k sugar ration will keep your sugar from spiking and crashing. Also you want foods that are easy to pack and travel with. Also produce isn’t gonna make it through customs. Having a healthy food stuff will prevent you from being forced to buy over priced and unhealthy newsstand airport “food”. 

  Photo: breakfast in Istanbul. Turkish Coffee in Turkey! Witj profit bars. 

  

Coffee Snob 1.2

Coffee Snob 1.2

Got me some new coffees to review!First from Boston Common Coffee was the Guatemala Antigua Panchoy. The is named from the area it is grown which is the oldest coffee producing lands in the country. The coffee is a mix of fairly complex flavors but all are subtle enough to not really notice, rather it stirs into a single flavor that I found smooth and yummy. It seems to be comprised of nuance hints of spice, smoke, flowers and something sweet. But again it’s really subtle and nothing like a “flavored” coffee you might get from a chain. 

The second coffee is the Congo Microlot. What’s a Microlot you ask? It’s a special and best area of a farm. So Boston Commons Coffee get the best of the best of this areas coffee and it pays off with a really great brew. It has a hint of something sweet like agave but also something tart. It’s got a touch more of a richness than the two others but I really love that because it gives a stronger darker brew. Or maybe I just brewed it stronger as I was training pretty hard at the time. Again it not a strong flavor, but you can sip it and feel like there is a complexity to it. 
The last coffee was the Boston Common Holiday Blend. A true blend of different areas the key to this is the flavor it has. Carmel, fruitiness and chocolate make you feel like Will Farrell from Elf making it himself and saying to you “smiling is my favorite.” It’s the perfect start to the 12 days of Xmas or the 8 crazy nights of Hanukkah. It’s not sickly sweet like a chain dessert coffee

So it’s awesome in the morning but for a few weeks even the morning should have a taste of sweetness! Get some next year so you can wake up with some holiday spirit.    

Get some at  www.bostoncommoncoffee.com 

 

Join Team Continuum in 2016! 

Dear reader,
Please consider joining Team Continuum for upcoming athletic events that are otherwise sold-out, including:

the NYC Half Marathon (March 20) SIGN-UP HERE

the NYC Triathlon (July 24). SIGN-UP HERE

the Paris Marathon (April 3). Email us at info@teamcontinuum.net to be put on a first-come/first-served list for registration. Please include “Paris Marathon” in the subject line.

the NYC Marathon (November 6) PRE-REGISTER HERE

I can help with race preparation, including individualized in-person coaching, and/or with customized programs and workouts, video analysis, and training plans. All free! 
As a member of Team Continuum, you also have access to our entire coaching staff, including sports nutrition experts, physical therapists, strength coaches and even a sports psychologist who can help with the mental aspect of sports and training. We can provide the personal support you need to achieve your goals from top results, personal bests and to finishing something you’ve only dreamed of. 

We can provide you with the support you need to transform yourself into the athlete you’ve always thought was in you, or even returning to the athlete you once were. All while helping families struggling with a cancer diagnosis.

I’m here to answer any questions you may have, and I look forward to helping you achieve what YOU want to accomplish this year.  

(Photo: me giving a one on one run form clinic last week with one of the Team Continuum athletes) 

 

Why Ryan Hall Isn’t a Relgious Crack Pot Who Ruined His Running Career.

I heard Ryan Hall retired. It would be easy to mock him. He departed from wise and skilled coaches to do “faith based training.” Literally, he let the spirit of his lord guild his training. 

The results were not very good. He went from the best American to a broken down athlete, physically and mentally wasted until he retired, a full 7 years sooner than someone like Meb who has an army of scientists coaches and assistances. 

It would be easy to rip him for that. To take this as a shot to prove science over religion. To lump him into the same group as religious people who don’t take medicine because God will heal you. 

But to do so would be to miss the real point of why Ryan Hall or any of us run. For ourselves. Because it’s not the results, the fame of even as professionals the money. It’s because we all seek something from running beyond that. By all accounts Ryan Hall used running to connect himself to something dear to him, his faith. I don’t share his faith, so Intuitively to me it looks really silly at first glance. 

But then I remember that with a nice pay check on the line while leading the race and running up Squall Valley I dropped back to suggest to second and third place at the time that we take a moment to appreciate the sunrise. That too would look silly unless you accept that some things are more important than money, results and finishing times. 

Ryan Hall, was a professional runner, but he was a runner first and he ran for the same reason we all do; and while the result may have not been what he hoped for the process is exactly what he needed and wanted and ask yourself if the journey isn’t the real reason we run, not the destination. 

After all, deep down, why do you run? 

  

How To Cheer For Football. 

As an endurance sports athlete you might not know anything about football or any team sports. But you can’t talk cyclo cross results in the break room
so let me help with this handy guild of who to cheer for and against.  Besides it the play offs.

New York Giants (for): my team. Grew up with NYC TV and my godfather was a giants fan. Add Lawrence Taylor who I idolized for his sheer intensity (my single most important trait as an athlete) and it was on.
Colts (against): colts left a good Union working class town in the middle of the night breaking the hearts of the city. They then moved into a dome. Domes have no business in football. Plus they moved to a wing state and a right wing town. I loath them.

Pittsburg (for): rust town, and a fan base that lives and dies with their team. Fans that care that much always make me cheer for them. Tough guy coaches and teams with manly swagger too.

Patriots (for and against): they cheat, they cut beloved players. They win. I love how they play the heel. I want them to win so we can keep hating on them for winning; for cheating; for knocking up super-models and killing people in Hartford.

Denver and Seattle (for): outdoors, bad weather, bad ass fans; and weed is legal. I don’t smoke but I hate drug laws. Get high mile high I got your back. Also what the hell is a Sea Hawk anyways?

Washington (against): I love DC and lived there. Your name is racist as f$(k and your owner a total d-bag. Change your name and we can talk.

Buffalo (for but it’s complicated …): awful winter and they play outside and it’s town America forgot, total under dogs. But I love that they lost 4 Super Bowls in a row: that was so brutal and I can’t help but love that kind of pain. You aren’t as racist as DC but Buffalo Bill was a dbag who killed Buffalo to starve Indians so rethink your name maybe?

Miami, Jax, Tampa Bay Carolina, Tenn and Arizona (against): football needs snow. Sorry. It’s nothing personal.

Dallas / Huston (against): hate Texas so hard. Dallas is arrogant and Huston is still Texas filled with Texans.

Oakland (for): love death metal vibe, and sick fans who come out when the team sucks. Add the black uniforms and bad ass marketing and the fact that it’s the gritty city next to the tech hub of rich kid transplants and I wish you all the best.

Green Bay (for): cold, outside, sick fans; and the own the team. Socialism for the win.

Cleveland and Baltimore (for): rust towns that got new teams and redemption. I also loved the intensity Ray Lewis brought; reincarnation of Lawrence Taylor. Also my bad had great shows in both those places.

Detroit and NOLA (for): yes they play in domes but they need them as shelter for the poor during emergencies so they get a pass. Detroit is so jacked up anything they get that’s good you want them to have; and NOLA is so awesome to visit you can’t help but love the Big Easy.

A different type of polarization training  

Welcome to winter. Dark days, cold air and the next race is months away for most. For athletes who have strength as a weakness or athletes over 35, winter strength training is critical. That said, for runners there are countless miles they want to do and for triathletes there are three sports already so mixing in even more sounds crazy. This leaves the question: How do I incorporate strength training into my over all training plan?

First, let’s talk about how to do strength work. Endurance sports athletes aren’t meat heads. They tend to not be comfortable in the gym. They hope by simply going and rubbing the gym all over themselves they will be fine. Nope. You got to do work. So make sure you come to do work. Own the space and make strength work this time of year your key workouts for the week. Play some slipknot and get up to get down.

Now with that said leaving the gym after a hard gym session is going to leave you hobbled. Within 20 minutes of finishing have protein to aid muscle recovery and building back better what you just tore down. I use www.purefitbars.com. Vegan, gluten free, no gmos, and 18 frames of protein and taste as a bar it travels well and is waiting for me in my gym bag. 

The next few days you won’t be doing high effort work because your hobbled. But unless your a winter hero there is no reason to be doing super high intensity work right now. If you do you won’t last to the last race late next fall. Plus your doing high intensity work in the gym; if you wear a heart rate monitor you will see really high output in the gym if you go there to really hit it hard and limit rest while also doing a circuit style workout.

This means you need to polarize your training making the rest of the stuff easy. For swimming focus on drills and form. Same with running. Lots of drills and zone 2 stuff. Same with cycling. Focus on building strength and power in the gym and base outside it. 

Like traditional speed/base polarization; strength/base polarization ensures your focused and able to crush the early season strength work when that’s what matters most. 

Photo: I earned those world champion rainbow strips; and I earned them because of the work I did in the winter in the gym.  

Coffee Snob Episode 1.

Boston Commons Columbia Supremo:
My first coffee from Boston Common Coffee was Columbian Supremo. Columbian coffee is a mild, smooth coffee that is dangerous because it’s delicious and easy to drink. But don’t be fooled it’s not less caffeinated. Those who travel to Spain with me will love this it because it’s often made from the arabica bean which is common in Spanish Coffee. 
This makes an ideal coffee before races when nerves are high and stomachs are weak. It’s also my go-to for running for the same reason. 

Boston Commons Peaberry Kimmel: 

My second coffee was the Peaberry Kimmel Estate. Peaberry is the 5% of the coffee plant fruit that that isn’t fertilized like the other 95% and it grows differently. Because of this it is rare and often expensive. Peaberry roast differently and most believe better.

My experience with Peaberry is that it’s oddly euphoric. I know that’s a weird way to describe a drink but there you have it. Honestly it’s hard to describe the coffees effect and taste because it just has a weird blissfulness to it. I hate sounding like a hippie but, I can’t help it here.

The other benefit to a Peaberry is that it has to be carefully selected so it may have a higher over all quality. 

The taste like much of coffee depends on the roaster and this coffee had a medium flavor; not so dark as to be overly bitter but not weak or boring. 

Boston Commons Costa Rican Coffee:
Costa Rica coffee is rocket fuel. Famously high in caffeine it’s amazingly good for waking the f$(k up when you don’t want to. Starbucks uses Costa Rica beans (they use the same beans but screw up the roasting and brewing) so if you like the jolt of Starbucks but want you’re coffee to not taste like burnt battery acid try this. It has a medium taste; strong enough that you are aware your drinking a powerful coffee but mild enough that you finish the cup without having to question if you have a hole in your guts. 

In fact my wife asked me the day I switched to the Costa Rican if I brewed the coffee differently because she was wired at work and couldn’t figure out why. 
It’s widely considered among the best in world in terms of taste and makes up 20 percent of Costa Rica’s work force including surfers and American burn outs. You know you love those dudes so feel good getting this one and put some Central America sunshine into your chi this winter so you don’t despair when it starts to snow and is gray dark and miserable.