Monday, January 14, 2019

Annual Planning ...

So, this is our year. This is the year we achieve those goals. This is the year where we make our mark. Many of us have created some sort of plan- maybe a New Years Resolution, some sort of racing and training goals for the coming year. These athletic goals focus around races and events we have scheduled and signed up for. Maybe you won a coveted spot in one of the Ultra Lotteries, or you are attempting your first 50k, or 5k. They all need a plan. Most likely you have made a resolution before, and on occasion you started at training day one and train your butt off till training day 260 (this year Aug 17th) and nailed your event! Let's be real here... that rarely happens. Ask me how I know...?
"A goal without a plan is just a wish" Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
From training day one to that race on your calendar there is so much wiggle room, so many opportunities to fall prey to defeat."I will start tomorrow", or "on Monday.." All that negative self doubt that maybe "I cant...." Well, I believe you CAN and I have a couple ideas on how you can better prepare yourself and plan ahead.  I try and think of my year of training as an ultramarathon. I try and plan for it similarly to an ultra in a couple of ways:

1. How to eat an elephant (ask my friend Reid!). It's tough for me to think of a 100 mile ultramarathon in its entirety, even though I have completed a few.  Just standing at the starting line and thinking that I have 100 miles ahead of me is overwhelming. I really have to micromanage the miles into shorter chunks, 10-12 mile sections, or aid station to aid station. My annual training plan needs the same attention. I need to break it down to smaller blocks that allow me to focus on a specific section as well as check in with my goals for progress and alignment. I break it down to monthly blocks and create a working plan for that one month. I try and test myself with 2-3 challenges for any particular month. The first one I map out is directly related to my goal(s). It may be a distance for training or a particular amount of hours of training in the month. In peak season I have done speed challenges as well as vertical gain challenges. Whatever your goal, this first challenge is a good part of the direct work needed to get you there. The second monthly challenge is indirect- its a challenge that will test you. I like this one. I have tried 15 minutes of daily meditation every day in the month, a push up challenge for the month, drinking only water, a 30 day yoga practice, starting and finishing a book.. It's a challenge, and, if completed, will make the mental mind tougher. The obvious other healthy benefits are an added bonus. I have already forgot what I did a month ago today, and so it's easy to let even these monthly challenges slip by- I try and write down a quick note on how my day was vs my monthly map. At the end of my week I will put together a recap using the daily notes and check for alignment. All of this breaks the season down into bite size pieces. This is the ground level perspective.

2. Don't go out to fast. This is said at the start of every ultramarathon..and do I take heed? Not very often... I (sorta) redeem myself by practicing this within my annual goals at least. It is so easy to go lickety-split into these annual goals. They are fresh and you have a full head of steam! Remember, it's a long season. Training day 259 is quite a few monthly blocks away. Motivation is great but if you are diving into your training hard right now- can you sustain it? Can you make it to the finish, mentally and physically healthy? This one gives you the birds eye view, from slightly above. These monthly blocks can be created ahead of time to spread the training amongst them as to ensure proper proportion as well as building on each other. Next months training map will build on this current one, and so on. The idea is not to do July's work in January. Maybe I can take my own advice in my next ultra...?

3. Have a plan B, and a plan C. This is the window seat, the 10,000 ft view, peering into the big picture. Even in the most perfect of training seasons, events on race day can fall apart. There are so many variables in running 100 miles over 24 or more hours. So much can change, some within yourself and some external issues can arise and change your race. In ultrarunning as well as in your annual plan...and for that matter, in life- You have to be flexible. You have to roll with the punches and adapt to changes that life throws at you. This isn't your hall pass to walk away from your goals when your tired and lose motivation, when it gets tough, but more an understanding that things will not go according to plan. You may not get Tuesdays workout in- you better have a good reason, but it may not happen. Don't sweat it- move on and do what you can. Be willing to realign your goals if needed. Be willing to change the plan when it's not working for you anymore. It's ok.

There are so many ways to get to that starting line. My hope is that you get one thing from my suggestions that helps you plan your season, and finds you at the top of your game at that starting line. Enjoy the Journey!

 




Saturday, December 1, 2018

Still...A Pretty Good Year

Image may contain: Brian Passenti, standing and outdoor
Fruita Trail Festival


Mid April I competed in the Fruita Trail Festival by Gemini Adventures. I raced the 50k with a fair result as well as volunteered the next day to help with the half marathon. Reid and his crew work day and night to make all their events special, and it shows.

I am a race pacer for Beast Pacing. You know- the runners that carry the sign for a target finish time or pace.- that's me. Its such a rewarding experience and a great way for me to give back to my running community as well as get a workout in! Early May I paced the Colorado Marathon with the 4 hour finisher group. Mid July brought me to "...a place where the beer flows like wine, where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. A little place called Aspen..."-Lloyd  I paced the Aspen Valley Half Marathon. I attempted to pace the 3:50 group at Boulder Backroads Marathon too soon after another race and had to pull the plug at mile 23 and hitch a ride to the finish. Luckily, no runners were impacted by my inability... and my last race of this season was Denver's Hot Chocolate 15k (9.3 miles) as the 7 minute per mile pace group. Its always a good time with the Beast crew!

I tagged another three trips up Mt. Sopris... That middle one was a bit sketchy as Thomas and I spooked a mountain lion out of a tree...otherwise, I just love this place...

I ran the inaugural Sunny Half- a half marathon in and around Sunlight Mtn Ski Resort with 3k vert total in late July.

I ran the Snowmass Loop and found myself face to face with a big cinnamon bear...

I tagged the new rerouted South Elbert trail this fall after our friends exchanged vows.

Image may contain: 2 people, including Brian Passenti, people standing, sky, mountain, tree, outdoor and nature
Above the lake in Leadville
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Mt Elbert
The biggest of my athletic goal was the Leadman series. 5 races escalating in difficulty finishing with my favorite, the  Leadville Trail 100 Run. This was a challenging series and I found myself chasing cutoffs in both the 100 mile mountain bike race and 100 mile run. All in all I finished, not as high as I first had hoped but I still got it done.
Image may contain: 3 people, including Brian Passenti, people smiling, people standing
My new Leadman Pick Axe- Dig Deep!

We spent a lot of the summer in Leadville with my races, a family camping trip, and a wedding. We took a short family vacation this fall to Disney Land.  This was a quick drive to Cali with stops in Vegas to "get out and stretch the legs". One day at the park and the other spent at the beach. Fun was had by everyone!
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Splash Mountain!


I am on my third job this year-
I was working with the Recreation Center in Snowmass Village for a few years and left in April. I took a retail managers position at a local store selling shoes and left there in September. I am current getting paid to install solar for commercial and residential applications...
I have bounced around a bit this year, and not sure where I will wind up. Prior to this year I've had two jobs for 17 years, so not really a comfortable or common situation for me to put myself in. These are all great places to work. I guess I'm still unsure what I want to be when I grow up...

What I didn't do-  I didn't get a 4 pass loop in- circumnavigating around the Maroon Bells, I didn't get to stand on the top of a 14,000 ft mountain that I haven't done before, I didn't get to Moab for that desert trip, I didn't visit the San Juan Mountains, I didn't get the girls out to camp off the grid, I didn't leave enough time for that weekend getaway with my wife...

These things that I didn't get done will still be there for our next adventures, still there for the taking. The list ebbs and flows and inevitably will overflow as it does every off-season. With the completed and yet to complete... still... a pretty good year...

And so.., today is December 1st. The last month of the year, but more so- the beginning of my 2019 campaign. With almost 8 weeks off from structured training, I was able to put on 12-14 lbs...and I'm not too worried about it. Today was a 3.5 mile snowshoe and just like first days of most things, it hurt. I walked a bit, I looked around and took in the surroundings, and I even brought the dog who cant keep up when I am in better shape. It's not always going to be an easy and painless process. Regardless if I hit my target goal for the upcoming season or not, I always try to enjoy the journey...

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Life with running




I read a lot about running and recently have been reading about recovering addicts. I also read about people who find running and it changes their lives. The best is when a recovering addict finds running. I think those stories are great. I sometime wish that I had similar stories of finding sport. Mine is just slightly different...

I started running at a very early age. I was probably only seven or eight years old. I ran on the local track team my dad helped coach. I got my start as a sprinter because that's what my older brother did. I was mediocre. After two or so seasons, I got my chance to run the mile, and that's when I found running...
After that first mile...
That was it...
I was hooked and never ran less than the 800m again. 

That single mile would change my life in so many ways that I didn't even know of at the time.
I loved every minute of running at that age. I would get lost in the tree tops from the high. I would get lost for hours running through the North Jersey burbs for "training". I had no structure, no training plan, no tapering or periodization, I could just run. It was simple then...

I've run ever since. I have run almost my entire adult life. Some years I might have run just a couple hundred miles the entire year, and others over 2,000 miles. On more than a dozen of those years I even added in swimming and biking when I was a triathlete... But I've always had running.

I'm not a fair weather runner. Actually pretty far from it. I prefer the elements, the tougher the better. Blizzard conditions, -10 below zero, over a hundred degrees, bring it on...I can remember my run in the rain on my wedding day just as well as I remember my run on the day of my friends passing. I can easily recall running to the finish with my girls after a week long stage race. It's not always easy for me though. I struggle with motivation, fitness, time, burnout and over-training... When I do overcome those obstacles, the act of running is still simple. Fresh air, heart pumping, lungs burning... running.

I have used running to shake off a hangover. I have used running as transportation. I have used running to get lost and explore.I have used running to help keep me grounded. It's been there for me through the thick and thin.Running has always been a part of me, that thing I can just do. That thing I can always rely on to be there to clear my head of all other thoughts and just move. Running gives me that mental reset. Running gives me that endorphin rush, that high that I've chased for so many years. I work through my lifes' problems while running. I find answers to lifes' riddles that puzzle me otherwise.

Life for me without running is hard to imagine. Even though I have to work harder now to achieve my goals, eat right, structure my season, running is still just as enjoyable as it was back on that track so many years ago... I am thankful that I've had running for so many years of my life and have used it at times when I've needed it most. 

So... I will set my alarm...set out my running clothes tonight... and chase away those negative thoughts...the self doubt... and attack my run tomorrow.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Reflections...




25 years ago...
The train windows flash the passing stations creating the effect that we're moving faster than reality...
The train car rattles and softly sways giving opposite sensations of complete loss of control and slight comfort. The rhythms collide and become hypnotic. It's midnight, or so...and I'm just trying to get to Port Authority. My heart is racing and my body is perspiring from my angst and the warmth of the subway platform. My mind has slowed...almost at ease, calm.  Hypnotic...

Colorado Trail...
The beam of light from my headlamp creates tunnel vision and at this point its entrancing. My peripherals are lost in the shadows and the overhead cover of the forest makes an even tighter squeeze of the night. It's midnight, or so...and I'm just trying to get to May Queen Aid.The trail falls with twists and turns, rocks and roots, making my pace both an uncontrolled stumble and something closer to running. My heart is in a race and racing, but my head is calm and focused. The rhythms collide and become hypnotic.

...and then it becomes familiar. I've felt this before...I've survived this before...and now I am reliving it. Totally different, but just the same. In this moment, I am both scared and invincible.
Tunnel Vision
These two moments couldn't be farther from each other.... The first is my recollection of  running wild in NYC. With my head full of cocaine I was riding the A Train out of Spanish Harlem.The second is mile 83 of the Leadville Trail 100. I am bombing down one of the tricky sections of trail racing the clock.

These addictions are similar in that I'm chasing the high and that my tolerances leave me wanting more, needing more. My mind is comfortable with the chaos and feels at ease while the world moves at a different rhythm. I love that section of trail even after 85 miles and I loved that train ride as much.

I no longer use those substances and choose to find my highs in sport and life. I am fortunate to have these as an outlet. My outcome could have been so much worse.

By no means am I promoting either of these as "healthy". These are just my experiences and how I see the similarities...

Midnight by Coldplay












Thursday, February 1, 2018

Om Shanti...

Ganesha at the Denver Zoo

I often write about my trail adventures hence the name of this blog. As much as running has changed and shaped my life, I often see running as taking the drivers seat and all others forms of exercise falling to the trunk. I can talk...a lot...about running...

I was in a yoga class this past week and reflecting... reflecting on how long I've been practicing yoga. I cant actually remember when but I am sure my first class was well over fifteen years ago. I am sure I started because I was a stiff and tight triathlete and I thought that it might help. I remember thinking that I was just there for the physical properties of yoga and all the "Om" stuff was for those other..yogi's. 

It started just that innocently.
It was soon after those first few classes when I recall that one time... the one time that the "Om" actually vibrated... it actually vibrated my body... and my ears...and what seamed like the room!
It was only for a moment and I soon dismissed it as a fluke. I mean, that doesn't really happen... right?

Buddha at the Denver Aquarium

That one vibration...changed the why and how I practice yoga. Sure, there are the physical benefits to an active yoga practice. And sure I stay healthy as a runner and ward off injury when I practice on a regular basis....but those were not the main reasons anymore. I began to learn the translation of some Sanskrit words and feel  empowered by their meaning. I began buying books on yoga... and read and reread them. I sought out different types of practices and tried them. I started to hear the messages that were being passed along. I started to see the changes in my mindset. I was transforming...

...and so back to me reflecting in my sunrise yoga class...and how far I have come... and how the process has manifested into what it is at this current moment. It amazes me how things change, and recreate themselves, into something else entirely.
...And I sit there in my comfortable position thankful that I showed up that first day, and thankful for the encouragement of the practice, and... just thankful...Namaste





Sunday, December 24, 2017

Adrenaline Junkies....

I get it, the bigger the better. Its the way of our culture. If one is good, then 20 must be mind blowing...
In my athletic experience, 5k's are the gateway to the 10k, and then your finding yourself signing up for that half marathon... Sprint Triathlon to 70.3 Half Ironman... I don't think I'm alone with these thoughts, but I also know that others may not relate.
2008 at Tempe Town Lake
I've been there- done that- all the way through the Ironman to the 100 mile run... but where does it end? When will it all be enough?
If its not the distance, its a Personal Best. Speed and distance are interchangeable for me, for these "Natural Progressions". As options continue to grow in race distances, so do I in the desire to try and race faster than my previous PB. I often drift off in thought of how awesome a 3 hour marathon finish would be and of completing some of the worlds toughest endurance foot races... Boston in 2019, the Badwater 135, oooh...and the Moab 240...But would those be enough? Could I just mic drop and walk off?
2010 in Winfield
I get a huge sense of accomplishment from these event, and even more so the harder or tougher they are. Ironman was a 5 year plan for me. I raced my first Sprint Triathlon in 2001 and realized my dreams of an Ironman were possible at that awards lunch. "Anything Is Possible" is the Ironman mantra for a reason... But soon after these events I find myself still looking, still searching. That sense of completion and accomplishment doesn't end there, it leaves me wanting more.  But more of what?
This past summer, as I was completing one of the tougher events I've done, I found myself daydreaming of even tougher longer events. As I brought my mind back to the present moment, it got me thinking that I may never answer this question. This process will be as long as it needs to be to see the end.
I was recently asked what my best race is. My thought out answer is that my best race is in front of me. It hasn't happened yet. My best might be my next half marathon or 50 miler, or another one of my bucket list adventures.  When it happens, that best race is only a short lived moment as I will shoot for something even better, faster, farther...
It's that dangly carrot that I continue to chase...

The constant pursuit... 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Onward and Upwards...

 * Updated 5.15.18*
It's been 18 months of sobriety and so much good has come from it! When I think about my drinking, I can't recall any good that had come from it... a couple fun times but mostly pain and struggles. This story below was the breaking point for me. I had known that I needed to change, but was waiting for a moment, an event to define the need for action. Boy did I get lucky.

Wow...
A year...
December 9th, 2016
...sometimes it feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago, both wrapped up in the same moment.

That night started like many of the nights before it. Dinner with the family in town, and drinks. Back to the house, and a few more drinks. I ride my bike to the neighbors, and drink more....
...and then its blank...

That's the routine. Sometimes a bit different, maybe the bar, or a party of sorts, some type of gathering, anything really. It wasn't that I needed a reason, I could find one.
...this time was different though...
This time I crash my bike and I'm hurt badly.
This time I need surgery to fix my drinking problem.
This time my face looks so bad that my girls are afraid of me.
This time somethings gotta change....

They say that hind sight is 20-20 and if I'm being truthful with myself, my drinking was out of control. It's hard to see clearly in the middle of the storm. This particular moment wasn't the first sign, but the straw...
I feel fortunate that this was my outcome, that I didn't hurt anyone else, physically. Like many of us, I have many more flaws to work through.Without alcohol to hide behind, its much easier to get moving in the right direction.
Sometimes you get an opportunity to look at a failure as a time to grow. This is that for me.

I tell people now that I broke my face, and quite literally I did. I broke a bad habit too...

Me and my Girls- post surgery