Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Conventional Wisdom vs.... the World

In Steven Levitt's book Freakonomics, he cites Kenneth Galbraith's definition of Conventional Wisdom as - a set of unproven facts, hypotheses we like to believe true because they make us feel comfortable and give us some sense of control over what happens around us. Experts have their own agenda and their own interest in mind; and expertise is nothing more than a clever but often ruthless way to make money or to gain power from the monopoly of information.

As much as I wanted to read this book, I ended up listening to it on tape during one of my recent road trips. It is one of the best non-fiction read/listen to's I have ever read.

When I heard the chapter on Conventional Wisdom, I immediately made the link to my life as a runner AND.... get this..... my former years as a classically trained tuba player.

Yes..... I had aspirations to be a professional tuba player. One of the things I found interesting back then was, how much one practiced (time) did not necessarily correlate to how well they performed in auditions and recitals. I remember early on focusing on practicing smart and working harder than anybody else on core fundamentals. I spent more time than any of my peers playing "long tones", 5-10 minutes at a time playing one note. I would see how great of a sound I could make.

I never mastered some of the technical aspects or range I was supposed to, but I competed well during the years I focused on it.

I stepped away from it for almost 15 years. Came back to playing just for fun, and played one of the solos I struggled with the best I ever had during a father's day church service.

After that performance I remember thinking "why couldn't I have played it like that in college?"

Conventional Wisdom would say I should have been at my peak with all of the time, focus, and intensity I had. I was even studying under one of the best tuba players in the world, Rex Martin. (I still keep in touch with him, now that my oldest son decided to be a tuba player)

What I had traded all of the hard work, grinding, and high expectations for was a pure love and joy of creating beautiful music. Nobody in that audience would know if it was good or bad, they had never heard a tuba solo. I actually had the choir director in tears. She was expecting Tubby the Tuba.


After qualifying for Boston at the 1992 Chicago Marathon, I figured I had proved to my friends I was a good runner.

I did not run Chicago that year and the year before for myself. I ran it for other people. I can't explain why.


After not running for races for 10 years, I had a mild mid life physical crisis. I was out of shape, and wanted to be a "marathoner" again. I went full throttle on training and racing. I returned to Chicago to miss my time by about 40 seconds.

I spent the next 4-5 years trying to improve on that, all the while pounding my body into submission. I continued on a gradual slope of slower and slower.

I had this goal of breaking 3 hours. It became more and more out of reach.


Somewhere in there I ran the Superior 50K, and fell in love with trail running. In a strange way, the pressures of having to run fast were gone. And the race was like no other. I drove my wife nuts talking about the race for weeks on end.

I ran Ice Age 50M the next year, and had just as much fun (and I didn't even know the Lapham Gang yet.....).

A few weeks after that I pulled a muscle in my back building a patio. Ouch.

I did not run for 2 months.

August 1st of that year, I was a National Night Out in our neighborhood. Just about everybody came to me asking "what crazy race are you doing next?". The next day I ran 8 miles.

5 weeks later, I ran the Superior 50 Mile.

Conventional Wisdom would say 3 weeks training with a 2 week taper would not translate into success. I pulled off a 10:42? (may have been :52). LOVED IT.

I knew I had found my new home. Ultra/trail. Either.

I did fall off the wagon the following month and run Whistlestop Marathon. Just a momentary lapse of reason.


I first heard of Phillip Maffetone in 1992 when reading a book. I was so intrigued by this theory, I went out and tried to buy a book he wrote. He had not written one yet. 18 years later I buy his book "The Maffetone Method", advocating a low intensity approach to peak performance.

Conventional Wisdom would say you can't run fast, or at a high level with almost all of your running at a slow pace.

Mark Allen proved that wrong.

I used that method to run injury free in 2008, and set new pr's in 2009.


I am tired of running "LSD's" 50-80 mile weeks (or more here and there).

I travel 3 out of 5 weeks for work.

I have 4 kids.

I have a beautiful, wonderful, understanding wife.

I love the sport of Ultra/trail running.

These don't all work in a pretty harmonic way.


Conventional Wisdom would say Crossfit and/or Crossfit endurance are foolish attempts at becoming better at, or maintaining my current level in this sport.

I can cite 3 people, who I don't know and have never met, emailed, or have had any contact with.

Brian MacKenzie - Subject Matter Expert on Crossfit Endurance
-completed WS100 and Angeles Crest 100 using this program
Mark Matyazic - 2nd place at Javelina Jundred last year (I can't verify if he followed this to a "T")
Kim Battipaglia - Winner of the Dances With Dirt Green Swamp 50 mile this year. She went from 100 mile training weeks down to 15 I believe.


Crossfit and Crossfit endurance are not "cross training". Cross training is riding your bike as a workout, or swimming instead of running.

CF and CFE are very specific programs, designed to do and achieve multiple things to your body. They are... training.

I have felt more beat up after these lower body workouts than after a 30 mile run.

The CFE aspect has "programming" behind it (which I am working on getting dialed into). You follow an Interval/Tempo/Interval sequence MATCHED with anaerobic strength and conditioning workouts. You can choose the latter from the CF or the CFE site.

This is not a necessarily a "low mileage" program as it is an elimination of "LSD's". And if you think that is easy, try running a "tabata" workout and 3 hours later do any of the workouts.


Many of you have made the connection to Adam saying "I didn't work for him". Well, Adam did not follow the programming. At all. (Adam.. feel free to chime in). I suggest people be cautious disproving a theory by only looking at the failures. Adam beat me to the 100k point in that race by a wide margin, and I dropped as well.

Training was not my downfall there, it was a combination of a few other things.

The people who put on CFE ADVOCATE HEAVILY that programming is the key to success.

I just got an email from a guy who has been following CFE, and was surprised during his 10 Mile time trial to pull off a 56:50. Yes, he was fast before, but that is smoking with any type of training program. Way to go Redbarron. Nice work.


Bottom line is, Conventional Wisdom has led me astray many times in my life. I don't look at everything obvious and think "Conventional Wisdom?", but I do get cautious when people start speaking in terms of absolutes.

I can't do 70-80 mile weeks right now. My absent posts from November, December, and part of January were reflective of my state of mind and motivation.

I love being a part of the Ultra/trail community. This blogging thing started when I took a leave of absence from work a few years ago, and turned into this.

I can take the criticism, and any crap anybody wishes to deal my way. At the end of the day, the race clock tells all.

If I can finish 1 hour behind people like Dehart, I am happy. If I pull off a good race now and then, even better.

Nothing beats running with the ultra gang, telling stories, drinking home brew, and sharing a common bond that only they seem to understand. And none of us seem to be able to explain.

Thanks for reading.

I am now getting fired up again and having fun.

Sorry for the typos and grammatical errors. No proofread tonyte

Adam Wins

I could not maintain the pace after 1k, and came in 2k at 7:03. A far shot from 6:40.

First 5 laps (200 meter track) I was tracking 38-42 seconds. Came in the mile at 5:36 and sucked wind for the last 200 meters.

It was fun. My buddy Jim Sheehan was there doing one of his final workouts before next weeks big events, and his buddy Bod (former Moundview HS coach) was there timing us. Many of you probably know him.

It was a good time, and good to get a real scenario trail on a measured course. Have not done track work in A LONG time.

I am thinking of going back to Irish for a day 10 Miler as a benchmark from last year (yes, Steve, I was already thinking it).

A full response to all of the skeptics tonight or tomorrow.

I was actually under the impression that only 3-4 people even read this darn thing anymore. Thanks for everybody's "concerns".

Oh yeah...... those of you comparing me to Adam at Superior last year failed to mention that I dropped out of the race too. Does that mean my high mileage training was flawed? Ahhh.... gas on the fire

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Small Milestones and The Really Important Stuff

First the Small Milestone.

After getting beat to a pulp in the CF gym last week, my runs suffered. I was supposed to do a 10 mile Time Trial mid week. 3.5 miles into it, I was just not into it. Did four, and was dizzy. Mild panic set in. Here I am thinking "100 Miles is a lot longer than four". It was only a day after the killer workout, and a couple of long days on the road (I was also in a crappy hotel fitness room).

Took the next day off.

Did a crappy sprint interval workout on Friday.

Got my butt "tabatad" yesterday with my wife calling out the times. That was.... fun.

Had to do 20 Min Time Trial today. I was sore from the Sumo Deads and squats, but it's all mental, right?

Was able to pull off 3.21 miles in 20 minutes. This was supposed to be "As much distance as you can cover" in that time, but I left some on the table.. A lot actually. I was afraid of a serious bonk, and needed some self esteem.

Could have banged out an 18 something 5k no problem. Yes, it is treadmill, but not in race enviro. Maybe I should do one of those evil 5ks.

So I call that a good workout.

The really important stuff.


I put together a Sweet Stout, highlighted with Cocoa and fermented with coffee. I made one last week, and upped the ante on the batch today.

Pulled off a SG of 1.069! That means around a 6.8% ABV kids.

Active krausen in less than an hour!

77% mash efficiency.

How about that, Steve?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

We have a new State Champion in Minnesota in......

Concept 2 Rowing.

Yes, Adam Harmer took first place at the competition down in Rochester today. He used his skills as a runner/pacer to row a smart race.

2 Kilometers in 6:49. That is the time I now have to beat running on Tuesday morning.

Great job Adam.

On a funny note, he said a lot of the guys there were dressed in all of this technical gear. Hmmm, why would you need aerodynamic clothing for a stationary rower? And it's not like wicking clothes will help you in a 7 minute competition. Oh well, maybe I am ignorant. Okay, strike the maybe.

Fear and Loathing in Metcon Land

What is a Metcon?

I took this from one of the CF Forums, Eugene Allen does a great job of explaining it.

The meta part of the word is for metabolic and that has to do with your energy systems. You have certainly heard and used the word metabolism and have a sense for slow and fast metabolisms. Some people walk by a bakery and gain two pounds and others shove everything they can get their hands on down their pie hole and never gain a pound. Metabolic - energy systems.

The con is easy, that's just conditioning and the contraction metcon is shorthand for the CrossFit methodology for improvement of the cardio vascular and cardio respiratory systems through a variety of functional exercises executed at high intensity.

Another person described a metcon as:
The metcons are the ones where you want to puke, and lay around for a while on the floor afterward.

While initially, one would think "Okay, but this type of training is totally contrary when training for a 100 mile race" (especially when I am up against "The Fastest Matt".

Well, check out this article. Again, I don't know if it will work for me, but more of the reasoning why I am trying this "scheme".

The drawback to these is.... well.... they just kill you. Not just the pukie feeling, but you start to get dizzy and loose grip on reality. They are also workouts you have to be 100% prepared for when going in.

I write this as I am putting off doing one right now
"Tabata this!"

"Tabata This!"

Tabata Row (substitute Sumo Dead Lift High Pull ups - google it)
Rest 1 minute
Tabata Squat
Rest 1 minute
Tabata Pull-up
Rest 1 minute
Tabata Push-up
Rest 1 minute
Tabata Sit-up

The Tabata interval is 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest for 8 intervals.
Tabata score is the least number of reps performed in any of the eight intervals. Unit for the row is "calories".

Post Tabata score for each exercise to comments and total for final score.
E.G., 10, 22, 9, 15, 15 = 71

It is a little confusing, but the scaled forum does a good job explaining it.

The fun thing about these, is you can easily compare yourself to others (not that I do it a lot, but it is interesting to see how I match up).

So if you are interested, do "Tabata This!" this weekend and let me know what your points are.


My 2k run will be on Tuesday due to the indoor track having an event today.


Weird work schedule for the coming week. I will be at the MSP Home and Garden show all Wed-Sun. If anybody is going, come by the Premium Waters booth and ask for Matt the coffee guy. I will make you a cup of joe.

Update "Tabata This!"

My Score = 45 (fewest # in 8 sets)
SDHP - 10
Squats - 14
Pull ups - 4
Push ups - 7
Sit Ups - 10

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

This better work

....I mean, these workouts better pay off because I am getting my rear end handed to me.

On the road this week, decided after my last appt. of the day to stop by a Crossfit affiliate gym. Small fee, they let me work out and use their stuff. Herb, the owner, even gave me some coaching. Great guy, and took the time to show me where I was cheating. He also brought weights over to me during the sets so I wouldn't have any down time. Uhhh... ouch.

The Crossfit community, I am learning, is a different breed. Not like you would think, though. The founder isn't trying to get rich off of it, and is not trying to make it "big" in the traditional capitalists sense. He just wants a strong group of affiliates producing "fit as shit" athletes. They are not trying to convince people of their way, they are trying to challenge you to a new level.

So my experience today was pretty cool. It can be initimidating to walk into a gym which looks like it should be ground zero for mixed martial arts training. People just tyring to get fit.

I wanted to do what looked like to be a killer workout. I decided for the "pack" level, and scaled it down even more in a few areas. (I can't do muscle ups, and my squat cleans need some work).

Here it is
75 pound squat clean - 10 reps
20 toes to bar (hang on a pull up bar and swing your feet up so your toes touch it)
20 box jumps (24 inches)
10 mucsle ups (ended up with rings at about 5.5 feet and did jumping muscle ups)
25 lb dumbell push press (one in each hand)
20 double unders (I was thinking of you, Andrew)
95 pound thrusters - 10 reps
20 pull ups
20 burpees - almost turned into pukies
200' walking lunges with 25lb plate overhead

Time - about 27 miuntes.

About halfway throuh, I started thinking "what I am doing?" and "This better work". 100 miles is a long way. So was this one.

I am still supposed to do a running workout tonight. I might put it off until tomorrow.


Great job to Dr. Nic at Run Toto Run. I lost my life's savings on that one.

Brian P. keeps raising the bar with his performances, 3rd place overall.

Of course, Helen and Val getting 1st and 2nd respectively.

Looks like everybody is upping the ante.


And in case you didn't know, I have another challenge with Adam, "Mr. Primal".

I have to run faster in a 2k than he can row on a concept 2 rower.

I think I have to beat 6:41. I think I have it in the bag, but we will see. I am going to try and do it on Saturday.


And my warm weather Sunday running buddy will be competing in the World Masters Indoor Track Championships in 2 weeks. He will be doing the 800M and 1500M in the 60-65 age class. Representing Team USA! Hopefully I didn't slow him down.

Friday, February 12, 2010

This Week - The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

I decided to be more cliche today, hence the title.

From this week:

The Good
1 - Completed this workout
For time:
50 Wall ball shots, 20 pound
25 L Pull-ups
40 Wall ball shots, 20 pound
20 L Pull-ups
30 Wall ball shots, 20 pound
15 L Pull-ups
20 Wall ball shots, 20 pound
10 L Pull-ups
I did this at a Bally's in Brookfield, WI. I had a lot of strange looks. Took 31 minutes

2 - Got to run with the Lapham gang on a fresh 8-12" blanket of snow.

3 - Did the squat workout on Wed with no problems.
Resting 60 seconds between sets:
Back squat 2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2

The Bad
1 - See #1 above. It got ugly really quick. I finished, but it gone bad.

2 - See #2 above. I got dropped, or as they say it at Lapham "#%@&$#*", at the top of the peak. Jeff and Robert left me hanging out to dry (the squats from that morning caught up to me, as well as the extra 1/2 hour with Todd E.).

3 - Failed "Stephen" on Monday.

30-25-20-15-10-5 rep rounds of:
GHD sit-up
Back extension
Knees to elbow
95 pound Stiff legged deadlift

Made it to 7 reps on the Knees to elbow on the 25 rep set, and was done. Was dizzy and gone for about an hour.

4 - Only made it 2 rounds on this one.
Five rounds for time of:
Row 500 meters
135 pound Power clean, 12 reps
95 pound Thruster, 15 reps

And, I scaled down the clean to 95 pounds on the second round.

The Ugly
1 - See #1 above. I was a sad heap tredging through that snow at the 2 hour mark.

2 - See #2 above. It got ugly in the end. 2 reps on the pull ups and then a short break.

3 - #3 above. Knees to elbow are not fun.


I was asked why I spend more time running with the Lapham gang than any of my fellow Minnesotans'.

The answer is simple.

With my job, I actually have more business in WI than I do in MN. When I am on the road, it is easy to go out for a fun run if I don't have to work with customers. When I am traveling a lot, it is hard to bail on the family when I am home.

I will start venturing out in March.


Entering Zumbro tonight.

Game on

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Dark Side of Ultrarunning

I was bummed to get the message late last night (early this morning) that my buddy Kevin dropped out of Rocky Raccoon 100. He made to mile 89.

He said his legs were trashed at 80, and tried to walk the last 20 but was getting too cold.

What most non ultra-heads will have a hard time grasping is, why didn't he keep going just to finish? He even had at least 14 hours to do so? "Gee... I would have just found a way to finish" (not my voice, the voice of the critics)

Here I will take the liberty of guessing what was in his head and why (KG, feel free to set me straight).

When you are done, you are done. PERIOD. And it is not like being done in a Marathon. One gets to the point in a marathon where they can't run anymore, but they want to. Then, they run/walk. Do that for 8-10 hours, and you won't care anymore. And if you have done it before, you won't want to do it again. You get to a point in some ultras where.... aside from all of the hard work and sacrifice you have put in.... you just don't care anymore. It is really hard to convince people of that. I think at its core, it is a survival instinct.

Also, when you can't walk anymore, it really kills your mindset as a runner. Yes, you can take a 5 hour nap, wake up, and probably finish under the cut with no problem, but that is not the race you want to run.

There is "Just Finishing, and there is JUST FINISHING". There is a big difference.

The longest 11 miles are the last 11 in a race like that. Once your plan and goal is toast and out of reach, it is hard to give a crap to stay on the course.

Kudos to you for nailing first 80 in 14 hours, and first 50 in under 8!

People also may say "he went out too fast". Well, there is only so much you can slow a racer down. Time on the feet works against you if you slow down too much. It is a delicate balance.

So Kevin now joins us, the elites, who have at least one DNF under their belt. It's about time!

By the way... I like your style of going for it. I had a feeling you wouldn't be able to go out easy.


Karen Gall kicked some butt out there with 27:44 I think. Great job Karen. There is someone who runs with a purpose and literally runs for her life. I bet she is a lot more competitive than the leads on. :)

Wayne Nelson PR'd his 50M with a 12:26. Great job Wayne. 2nd 50?

Not a bad showing for MN.


Next week - Run Toto Run

Helen, Joe, Tony and a bunch of others are going to go show the Trail Nerds how its done.

I look forward to those results (Nic...... you aint' got a chance).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Big Dawg Day

In Minnesota, we get a lot of 3 dog nights. This winter has had many.

With Crossfit Brand X, they scale the workouts into sizes of Dogs (dawgs)
Big Dawgs
The Porch
The Pack

I have done a few workouts to standard, but barely. And they take me forever.

Today I did

Five rounds for time of:
Run 400 meters
30 Box jump, 24 inch box
30 Wall ball shots, 20 pound ball

Time 33:37

I filled an old basketball with sand and taped it up.

Also, today I did a 12 minute time trial for the Crossfit Endurance workout.

I thought I would give 2 miles a shot on the deathmill, and I succeeded. Yeay. I know it does not count as the road, but it is close enough to give me confidence that I can run that hard for that time. I could have gone faster. Maybe next time.

I have not run back to back 6's in a LONG time, so I am getting psyched.

Tomorrow is "Griff" (supposed to do it Tuesday)
For time:
Run 800 meters
Run 400 meters backwards
Run 800 meters
Run 400 meters backwards

Should be pretty damn funny.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The next big race

As the Arrowhead progresses on, another race looms on the horizon.

Kevin Grabowsky "The Big Grabowsky", or Mr. Grabassky is headed off to the Rocky Raccoon 100 this weekend.

I caught this photo of him a few weeks ago, and had my camera set to the "capture thoughts mode" I tried putting the angel and devil on each shoulder, but the clip art sites are really annoying.

I just now looked at the list to see if there will be a WI/MN border battle, and there sure is!

My friend Karen is signed up, but not sure if she is running or not. And Hendrie Grant, who I have met a few times, is on the list.

Hendrie was not a happy camper towards the end of Afton 50k 2 years ago. I learned some new words.

Good luck 'sotans. Beat the sconnies.

And there sure a lot of Sconnies signed up.

I will be watching. The "Grabowsky Era" might return.

Monday, February 1, 2010

And they are off

The Arrowhead Ultra just got under way.

I finally took the time to look at the registered runners and did not realize there is another fast one gaming for Storkamp's course record.

Zach Gingerich.

I would love to see the cartoon bubble above John's head right now. It is probably something like this "No way I am going to let this kid take my CR. I don't care if he ran Badwater in 26 hours."

This shall be a fun one to watch.