Saturday, October 14, 2006


For the last year I've been mentally switching between being a road walker and an ultra/trail walker. Back in March I mentally switched gears to roads. Then in early summer I switched back to ultras. Then in September I switched back to roads. Here is my basic dilemma: Time.

I love my family, and I love to spend time with them, especially my seven year old daughter. She gets upset when I take a one night business trip, and usually on the weekends we are inseparable.

My problem is that when I train for ultras it takes so much more time. Here is a typical long training day for ultras:
1. Drive to Lake Grapevine, at least 45 minutes.

2. I try to do 27 miles most long walks (I'll ramp up before a longer race, like 50 miles). My pace is always slower than my road pace, maybe 13:00 - 14:00 minutes per mile. If we split the difference and assume 13:30 per mile, then that is 6 hours and 4 minutes.

3. I usually take a brief break at my car every nine miles (I park in the middle and go out 4.5 and back 4.5 miles). Maybe ten minutes per break, so 20 minutes.

4. Drive home, at least an hour because I usually stop for a Starbucks Latte or a drink somewhere.
So not including prep. time and cleanup, that is over eight hours! If I get up at 3:00 AM and get to the lake by 4:30 (I usually get up at 3:00, but have a bad tendency to dally and not get on the trail by 4:30), that means I get home around 12:30 or 12:45. That's about half of my Sunday with my family shot.

If I stick to roads, here is a typical long training day:
1. Drive to White Rock Lake, about 20 minutes.

2. I vary from 15 to 24 miles, depending on what I'm training for. Let's assume 18 miles. I'm also much faster on roads, anywhere from 10:45 to 11:30. Let's assume 11:20 (my marathon PR). That adds up to 3 hours and 24 minutes.

3. I usually only take one break and it is much shorter, about five minutes.

4. Drive home, getting a drink on the way: 30 minutes.
So again, not including prep. time and cleanup, this is only about 4 hours and 20 or 30 minutes, roughly half of the ultra training time. I can easily get up at 4:00 am and be on the trail by 5:00, which means I would get home around 9:30. Some days I get home before my daughter is even out of bed, or while she's having breakfast, so I really haven't lost any time with her.

I started this post with the intention of arguing for a way to do ultras again. I love the natural aspect of ultras; I love the smaller races, the people, the trails, the lack of fanfare and hoopla, the beautiful places I've been (I'll never forget Cassoday, Kansas, Syllamo Trails in Arkansas, Laurel Highlands Trail in Pennsylvania), etc. I really want to do ultras. But I don't see how I can; I just don't think it's feasible right now. Maybe down the road as my daughter gets older and has more activities of her own things will be different. But right now family is much more important, so I guess I've made my decision. I'll stick with roads and marathons for now and then see what the future brings.

On another topic, I'm going to start biking to work heavily again. I was doing it very regularly in the winter, then in Spring and Summer work got too busy and hectic (and I was traveling a lot) so I did it rarely. But my wife and I want to really reduce our spending and be more responsible. My car is seven years old and needs some maintenance, and the gas mileage is not as good as my wife's car (and, of course, is nowhere near the miles per gallon of my bike!). It's also good exercise, it's also good for the environment. I've seen a lot more bike commuters in Dallas lately; I think that is partially due to higher gas prices, and partially due to my increased awareness because of my own interest in cycling.

I need to get a new bike sometime in the future (my cheap Target bike is not going to last long) but I think I'll ride my current bike until it dies. I've seen some really nice commuter bikes at REI for $300 or less (I can't believe how LIGHT they are compared to my Target clunker) so when the time comes I'll get one of them. I have lights, bottle holder, mountable rack, etc., so really all I need is the bike.

That's all for now. 18 miles tomorrow, then I start tapering for the marathon two weeks from tomorrow. I'm excited to race again; I haven't done a long race since last December, and I haven't done any races since my disappointing performance last May at the Memorial Day 20k.

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!