As I am preparing for this next trip to Nepal and the first-time experience of running a marathon at high altitude, I find myself constantly thinking about the similarities between training for a goal that will test me at every level and that of my day job, guiding a team of high powered professionals in a constantly changing environment. Never claiming to have all the answers I look for wisdom and inspiration from those who have faced similar situations, succeeded or failed, but learned important lessons nonetheless. High altitude mountaineering attracts a different breed of person – no surprise there. The ability to feel fear and acknowledge that death is your constant companion does two important things: it focuses you with an intensity rarely experienced in our day-to-day, and it enables you to get comfortable with changing what you are doing. There is no comfort in staying the wrong course. In these environments success equals survival. Once you realize you are able to clear the space around you of all “noise” including that created by ego, you are no longer frozen in fear but able to move forward.
I am reading “HIGH ALTITUDE LEADERSHIP” by Chris Warner and Don Schmincke and I highly recommend it. Leadership is tested every day in large and small ways. Team dynamics are enhanced or destroyed by fear, ego, lack of leadership etc be it at 26,000 ft or in a conference room at sea level. There are so many great passages in this book that it’s hard to pick one as an example. One that is more relevant to the business side:
“Comfort promotes politeness.
But politeness eats truth.
And lack of truth eats profits.”
Another just as relevant in extreme conditions as in those deemed more civilized:
“There is nothing pleasureable, sexy, or exciting
about taking just one more step
when your body is totally aching and exhausted,
but on the climb, it makes the critical difference
between success and failure.”
Don’t conquer the peak; Conquer yourself.
High Altitude Leadership
Monday and Friday I workout with Mary-Alice at 6 AM. It’s dark and only going to get darker. No matter, my eyes adjust quickly and I see the free weights have moved from 12lbs to 20lbs each. As with any goal as it becomes closer your preparation and focus have to increase. With 71 days to go we are bumping up my workouts and the intensity with which I train. I can see the results of the strength training and it’s positive impact on my running. The hardest thing for me is to take those “rest days” off. That is a real challenge for me.
The race organizers finally sent out the roster of runners and their home countries. I was somewhat surprised to learn there are 27 women registered – more than I expected. Out of the 75 entrants 2 have had to drop out for medical reasons. I’m sure they are disappointed and I hope things go well for them. I feel a sense of camaraderie with these “strangers” based on the singular fact that we have all chosen to participate in this adventure, to put our bodies and minds through some tough extremes. When I’m training at this level I know there are 72 other people in 15 other countries around the world working just as hard (maybe harder?) in anticipation of Dec 2.
FRIDAY’S WORKOUT 9/16
20 Kettle bell swings w/35lbs
12 lateral jumps over bar
12 squats w/overhead thrusters w/40 lbs
8 50 yard lateral runs w/24 lbs
20 dead lifts w/40 lbs
20 presses balancing on a roller, alternating leg raises (my personal favorite :()
24 lunges w/24lb overhead weights
As horrible as it sounds (and looks!) this stuff works. The whole workout takes about 35-40 min. So with warm-up and coach Mary-Alice stretching you out at the end you are done in an hour.www.maryalicefittnes.com
I have been methodically preparing for this adventure on every level. I have researched the proper clothing (to the extent that it exists), inquired as to what foods I’ll be eating 2 weeks prior to race day and what will be available at the aid stations. I need to start getting my body used to different foods before I arrive in Nepal. Most importantly I need to train with the same available calorie intake and foods as I’ll have available on race day. I’m used to carrying GU energy gels and take one about every 40 min on a 15+ mile run. Aid stations provide a smorgasbord of choices, from PB&J to bananas, oranges, M&M’s, nuts, gummy bears etc. One of my favorites is boiled potatoes dipped in salt and it’s a good thing because that and “porridge” is all they will have on the race. I’ll carry my own gels and 2 water bottles. I add GU Brew powder for electrolyte replacement to one bottle and keep the other plain. I rarely drink sports drinks during a race and wait until after to replenish electrolytes but considering the physical depletion I’ll be experiencing at altitude I’ll want to keep replenishing my body. GU gel has 100 calories, 40mg of sodium and 20g carbs. ROCTANE has the same calories but 125mg of sodium, 25g of carbs and a whopping 35mg of caffeine. They both give you potassium and sugar which will be necessary since there will be no foods available that contain either. Mapping out the nutrition plan to support this trip is every bit as important as the physical conditioning.
FEET FIRST!I have wanted a pair of La Sportiva trail shoes for a looong time. They are hard to find in retail stores so I finally ordered a pair from Zappos. The customer service rep I ended up talking to (their site was down) turned out to be a young woman training for a relay race out of Las Vegas. We chatted for about 30 minutes about our upcoming events, training programs, the importance of the proper shoe, why her ankle hurt after 5 miles – it was like we had known each other for years. The power of connection, totally random, was just another gift from being open, available, and focused on pursuing a goal. Had I been looking for Prada heels I doubt I would have “engaged” with customer service in the same way. Prada’s are a pair of shoes, La Sportiva Electron’s are personal – they are like my skin right now. They should be here on Tuesday and I can’t wait. The soles look like you could run over hot lava so I hope they also handle glacial ice.
6:00 AM and I meet Mary-Alice in the park in front of the San Francisco Yacht Club in Belvedere. It’s getting light later each week but you don’t need light to swing a 25 lb kettle bell 80 times or do 100 overhead thrusters, push-ups, sit-ups, box jumps, the list goes on. 45 min of the best workout you can imagine. This program really works!! My overall strength and endurance is pretty phenomenal and I wouldn’t be getting this from just running. Strengthening my quads with lunges, squats and more trips up and down Pagoda Lane’s staircases with 24 lbs of weights than I can count will definitely save my knees. 2 days a week of cross fit is a key component to preparing for this trip.
Posted on September 13, 2011 by admin
Mileage sign at SCA trail
All week I had planned to change up my training route and head over to Mt Diablo. At 3,864 ft it puts Mt Tam’s 2,574 ft into the “why bother” category. I downloaded a trail map based on sanctioned runs that take place on that trail system and mapped out what looked like a beautiful 20 miles. As I was getting ready to leave a friend texted me that there were fires on Mt Diablo and maybe I should reconsider. Fires combined with the 45 min to an hour drive it would take to get there made my decision a quick one and I found myself in the parking lot at Rodeo Beach once again. The great thing about entering lond distance runs is they mark the trail and calculate the mileage for you. 20 miles is 20 miles, not 18 or 25.
I headed up Bunker Hill Rd to Coastal Trail, took that over to Miwok, Old Springs, down to Tennessee Valley, up and over to Muir Beach (1/2 way down), back over to Tennessee Valley, up Marincello, to Alta, to SCA, out to the Golden Gate Bridge, back up to Coastal, down to Bobcat and back along the road to Rodeo Beach. The sun never came out and it must have been blowing at least 40 mph up on the ridges but it didn’t matter – I had a blast. Maybe it was the fact that I had not run more than 1 miles during the week and my legs were fresh but I felt fantastic! Those slimy little Chia seeds in water that I drink every day do seem to up my energy as well.
Goal is to keep practicing my downhill technique. I can run uphill all day long but those steep, rocky downhills are a challenge. I’m visualizing form and speed, overcome the “intimidation” and get more comfortable each time. That’s the goal for next Saturday.
After 10 days in Montana it’s good to be home and training on familiar trails. What had started to become monotonous and routine seems fresh and exciting again. The joy we find after taking a break! The trail runs in Montana were amazing. The 7,000 ft elevation gain in Glacier National Park from 3,000 ft to 10,000 ft, was the best training I’ve had so far. It was close to 30 miles up and back in about 7 hours. There are some photos posted in the gallery. Excellent trail conditions until I hit the timberline, then mostly scree and assorted geological surprises. I better get used to it – that will be the first 10 miles of the marathon except it will also be covered in snow. So far I’ve run in the Marin Headlands last Saturday, Mt Tam on Sunday & had a killer cross-fit workout on Monday. I’m looking forward to another 10 miler in the Headlands early tomorrow morning before work and then a long run (20 miles) on Saturday possibly on Mt Diablo. My meal planning is on target. Once I passed over the Carbonara last night and went straight to the salmon on greens I let go of that moment of temptation and enjoyed the satisfaction that comes with making the right choice.