Sunday, April 3, 2011

Night Training

I like to train at night without a headlamp. It gets me in touch with more primal thoughts and feelings; it also helps to keep me light on my feet and more aware of my surroundings because I need to have an acute feel for the ground -- stepping lightly, with a slightly higher cadence relative to speed, and with the flexibility to roll over uneven terrain. 

Last night I went out for 88 minutes and had a rewarding experience.  It was quiet and the vibes were very calming.  I again realized that the darkness of the night is nothing to fear, but a really neat alternative to the "normal" life that most of us lead -- available to us every single day (i.e. night).

Many people fear being alone and in the wilderness at night, just as they fear death (even many of those that claim that they are positive they will be sent to everlasting joy in heaven with all their friends and family for some unexplained reason fear death).   Although most of my night training is a relative hop, skip, and a jump from "civilization," every time I am out there in the dark I feel more accepting and less afraid of what is "out there" and next for me.

You know the day destroys the night
Night divides the day
Tried to run
Tried to hide
Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side, yeah

Jim Morrison


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hill Repeats

My buddy Neil has been doing some hill repeats over in New Mexico.  Naturally, I could not resist the temptation to find a new hill here in Phoenix and bust out some repeats myself.  So I did-- this afternoon.  It was relatively hot, but I tried to keep it cool by focusing on effort, breathing, staying light on my feet, and getting stronger with each stride.  As a result, I had a "good time" cranking out 4 one minute repeats with 90 second jogs down the hill, followed by 4 more two minute repeats with two minute jogs in between on random up and down terrain.  I then wrapped up the 75 minute session with a few 30 second blasts up a few small bumps. 

The workout was hard and rewarding.  Thanks for planting the seed, Neil -- now go easy or you might kill me!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Blame Laird

Since incorporating Laird Hamilton training techniques both my physical and mental training has been a blast.  All I can say is mix it up, try it, and you will be a convert.  Whether you a runner seeking faster times, a hiker looking for better balance and climbing ability, or an older person looking to "stay young," continue to challenge yourself and, above all, enjoy your training.

Since Saturday:  two intense -- and very enjoyable -- Hamilton workouts; one 3:53 run at aerobic pace to Shaw Butte and back; and, I just hit a 1:45 run with 52 minutes hard -- the climbs were the best I've had in months.

Blame Laird.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Diversity Training

I practice law during the day (and sometimes at night). As an employment lawyer, sometimes I conduct "diversity training" for employers.  In employment law parlance this means "training for the purpose of increasing participants' cultural awareness, knowledge, and skills, which is based on the assumption that the training will benefit an organization..."

The is another type of "diversity training" -- one that will benefit your organism.  It entails mixing up your workouts and constantly incorporating challenging physical movements, different activities, and even new sports.

This morning I woke up and went in search of more diversity training from one of my favorite "mentors," big wave surfer Laird Hamilton (LH).  I do not know the man and could not surf a wave in a toddler wave pool if you paid me, but by watching and listening to LH I have learned a ton.  Sure enough, this morning on the web I found videos of LH and his buddies performing a variety of moves -- many of which I will now adopt and incorporate into my own training (I was also very surprised that record mogul Rick Rubin trains, let alone is so fit). 

Here is an "introductory" video.  There are links to more at the end of the video.  Enjoy:

I haven't lifted a thing or run an inch this morning but I already feel mentally stronger and fitter knowing I can incorporate some dynamic new moves into my training.  I am also very motivated to get at it.  Who knew diversity training was so easy?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Canyon

My older brother Dave imbued in me a solid taste for adventure that, thankfully, has not waned as I've grown older.   Boyhood adventures included exploring local woods and ponds around Mount Kisco, New York, hard workouts and appropriate homages to Arnold Schwarzenegger, and, when I was not much older than 11, a bicycle trip to Sherwood Island some 35 miles away that seemed like a trip across the country.  Little did I know at the time that these adventures would provide the impetus for later exploits on a grander scale.

Spontaneity is sometimes a subset of adventure.  My wife was kind enough to share with me about mid-week that I was free to fly if I wanted to go the "the Canyon" and do some trail running.  My friends and I call the Grand Canyon simply "the Canyon"  because it is a fixture in our sporting lives.  After pondering whether to go for a couple of days, I made a game day call at 0230 yesterday to head north.   Am I ever glad I did.  Moral to the story:  When in doubt, let it roll.

Given my sketchy fitness and the fact that I was going solo,  I decided to do the Hermit-Tonto-Boucher loop on the west side of the south rim that I have done many times.  The route is particularly intriguing to me because my good friend John Pearce and I almost met our final fate there about 15 years ago, only to be saved in the middle of the night by a miraculous spring dripping from the rocks above that literally saved us (we would later come to find it is aptly named Dripping Springs).

The loop starts and ends at the Hermit trailhead, which is accessed via the west rim drive, usually by taking a free eight mile shuttle from Grand Canyon Village to the trail head.  A good description of the initial part of the run is at

It is 8.2 miles from the trailhead to the Tonto trail junction, with 3430' of elevation loss.  Going easy, and not wanting to eat trail in the snow and ice conditions for the first 3 miles, I reached the junction in 1:30.  From the junction I took a left and headed 1.2 miles on the Tonto trail to Hermit Creek for water.  From there it is about 5.5 miles to Boucher Creek on the winding Tonto trail, including spectacular and sheer views of the Colorado River and Hermit and Boucher rapids.  I hit Boucher Creek in 3:03 and watered up, feeling pretty good from a measured effort. 

It is 9.3 miles from Boucher Creek to the Hermit trailhead, most of which is on the challenging Boucher trail.  After topping off my water bottles with water from the creek, the only decision remaining was how hard to hit the climb out.  The answer:  start conservatively, build on it, go to an all out effort, find a proverbial pain cave, and try and hit a sub-3 hour ascent.

The way I see it, there are four challenging pitches that comprise the Boucher trail.  The first is described (in reverse) thusly by the National Park Service:  "The descent to the Tonto Trail is nothing less than brutal, a physical beating in classic Grand Canyon style."  In short, you go straight up out of Boucher Creek without a break for what feels like about 2000 feet.  Notwithstanding this, I felt pretty darn good as I reached the top of this pitch at 3:48 running time with a moderate effort (remembering distinctly that last fall I had blown-up and moped along for several hours after pushing this initial section too hard).

After a relatively brief "flat" section  comes the second pitch -- the trail heads up the Supai formation, at times requiring hand work.   Ultimately, one turns left at the top of the supai and heads to the esplanade formation.  Here again, I felt relatively good -- even better than the first pitch.  A 3 hour ascent was becoming a feasibility.

The third pitch comprises a series of "sweeps" on the esplanade sandstone.  At 4:37 running time I reached the portion of the esplanade where one takes a right turn and heads up the west side of Hermit basin; it takes around about 12-14 sweeps on the esplanade sandstone to reach the upper head of the basin.  These sweeps can get tedious if one is bonking -- which I was for about 10-15 minutes until I pounded about 500 calories.  At the same time, it is pretty cool to look down and across the gigantic basin and see, in the distance, the Hermit trail you descended hours ago with fresh legs.

At the top of the esplanade I took a left hand turn and crossed over the top of Hermit basin which, after about 20 minutes of up and down running, rejoins the Hermit trail.  This section has beautiful and exposed views all the way into the Canyon.  I hit the Hermit trail junction at 5:32 and started the fourth and final pitch up to the Hermit trailhead; this took me 37 minutes working HARD for a total time of 6:09 for the Hermit-Tonto-Boucher loop.  Although I was pretty knackered and "missed" a 3 hour ascent by a tad, I felt good on this last section and was happily trashed upon finishing. 

In all, the day was great -- thanks to my wife, my brother Dave, and the host of other adventurers that touch and inspire us all.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In Like a Lion

Started a new training circuit today -- and this humble blog.  Easy 1.6 hour run in epic, bluebird weather.  Beware the Ides of March?  Indeed, beware sloth and train hard!