Since January my blogging has been quite poor. I have written a few posts over at USA Triathlon for the Collegiate Recruitment Program page?? (here, here, and here), but otherwise have limited my blogging in an attempt to decrease distractions while I finish up my Masters degree. Well, school ended a couple of weeks ago which means no more class (I have taken my last college course ever!) and I am relieved of my coaching duties at NAU (the end of an era… this surely deserves its own, well thought out post). I am still working on finishing my final Masters project (think ‘thesis’ but with a little less novelty), which means I have not left Flagstaff for good. I continue to work and write everyday, getting more done now that I have a few things off my plate. My main focus continues to be training, which is probably the culprit of the delayed conclusion of this project. If I took a week or two to work all-day-everyday on it, I’m sure I would finish up, but with a big season of triathlon racing ahead, I’m not willing to do that. I don’t have a job to hurry home to, so I will continue the course I’m currently on until I have completed the project and finished up my Masters.

A lot has happened since my last posts besides working on my fitness, and since I took a 2.5 hour nap this afternoon and can’t sleep now, I thought this would be an appropriate time for a quick catch-up session.

  • At Clermont Pan American Cup I finished 17th and earned my first all-important ITU points. I wrote a race report for USA Triathlon.
  • A week later I won the Desert Classic Duathlon in Fountain Hills, AZ. It was my first PRO win, although it came under awkward circumstances. Basically, several of the other pros that were ahead of me off the bike took a wrong turn on the second run leg and I was the #1 benefactor of their mistake. There’s some discussion about it on Slowtwitch here.
  • My girlfriend Mo Huber took a coaching job at the University of Arizona. She began in May and has been living in Tucson since then. I miss her dearly and like it or not, I think I have a lot of Tucson in my future.
  • I was a discretionary selection for the FISU World University Triathlon Championships to be held in Taiwan at the end of June! This was very exciting news and a bit of a surprise. Lots of blog posts are sure to come concerning this race and trip.
  • I have applied for a spot on the World Duathlon Championship team, which will be held in Nancy, France in September. I’m hoping with a good result next week in Dallas will help bring me to the top of the list for team selectors.
  • Dallas. My next race is another Pan American Cup in Dallas on June 2nd. The field is quite stacked, with a few London 2012 qualifiers racing and the relatively-famous Lukas Verzbicas (go ducks!). Take a look at the start list here.

That certainly wasn’t an exhaustive list (get it? I can’t sleep!), but should satisfy all of your RunPD appetites for now. I’m really excited for the next few months and look forward to making time to share all of it with you.

Coach PD

After a long travel back from USAT Age Group Nationals, Mo and I made it back to Flagstaff safe and sound. Flagstaff is absolutely gorgeous this time of year, and it is great to be back to the familiar sights and smells.

Starting this new semester has been full of change for me. As all my loyal followers know, I am no longer competing for NAU’s cross country team; I AM COACHING IT! Coach Heins asked me last year if I would be interested in taking a graduate assistant position with the team. I have always been interested in coaching and this is a great opportunity to see if this is something I want to pursue in the future. My coaching duties include helping out at practices, recruiting, and getting some more publicity for the team via a blog (imagine that?). The blog is and I will probably include several more shameless plugs throughout the year.

"CoMo" and I working hard at George Kyte

The team has had one meet thus far, the George Kyte Classic at Buffalo Park here in Flagstaff. Both teams are showing lots of new talent and I am looking forward to seeing them reach their goals this year.

Training has been going pretty well these last couple of weeks. I have been getting my feet wet with the masters swim team. I try to swim with them every chance that I get. I am able to do a bit of running with the team, which has reminded me why I ran 100 mile weeks in college instead of my current 40. I have also gone on a few great rides with Joe Withers and have found a great group ride on Saturday’s as well. (…which deserves its own blog post. It is that much fun!)

Summer 2010 Training Part 4: Run

Before cross country really gets going in full swing, and the school year for that matter, I want to finish off this series of posts about my summer training. This is the last post of a four-part series.

While much of this summer was focused on triathlons, at this point in my athletic career I am still a runner first, triathlete second. With each training session I did, the underlying question was always, “How will this prepare me for cross country?” In the beginning, since I was forced by my recovering knee to slowly increase my running volume, I figured any amount aerobic activity would help. I slowly increased my running volume to 60 miles in 6 days/week and held that throughout the summer.

As I explained in Part 1, each week was laid out about the same. I wanted to get it one workout, one long run, strides 2-3x, and the rest easy-moderate running (often over hilly terrain). My workout generally consisted of a fartlek or a lactate threshold (LT).

My favorite fartlek comes from Coach Heins that we do several times each season: 5-4-3-2-1-1-2-3-4-5 with half rest. So it starts with 5 minutes “on,” followed by 2.5 minutes recovery. Next we do 4 minutes with 2 minutes recovery, and so on. The workout gets tough on the way back up. On the 2nd 3 minute pick up you will only have 1 minute rest before it, while the 1st 3 minute pick up had 2 minutes rest before. See how that could get difficult?

My LT’s were generally about 5-6 miles and I often went off of heart rate. Before the workout I might set an alarm on the Garmin to alert me if I go over, say, 175bpm. If I do, I must slow down. There’s no magic to these kind of workouts. Just a long sustained effort that will obviously make you strong physically as well as mentally.

I did most of my long runs with Chris Baird out at Sycamore Canyon. It is a great trail with a steady incline for the first 6.5 miles or so before reaching a pretty tough climb. I am a big believer in the power of the long run and the many benefits that come along with doing them weekly. As long as I’m training to be running, as a single sport athlete or triathlete, I will always find a place for long runs in my training.

Before each race I also did a little tune up session on the track. Some mixture of 800s, 400s and 200s. The purpose of these was just to get in some race pace or slightly faster than race pace running so I could feel what running fast feels like.

So with this post I conclude my summer. I start graduate school tomorrow, which I am a little anxious for. I am also beginning my final cross country season which I know will provide many great memories and blog posts!

The Graduate

My Farfar ("father's father" in Danish) and me after my graduation

Since I last updated this blog quite a lot has happened. Perhaps most notably is that I am a college graduate now. I earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering with a Minor in Mathematics with a final GPA of 3.48. I think I’m going to round up to 3.5. That’s legit, right?

I have taken my semiannual pilgrimage back home to Simi Valley where I will spend the summer training, eating my Mom’s delicious food, sleeping on my super comfortable bed, seeing best friends and working an internship three days a week. Sounds like the life, doesn’t it?

Today I had my first race since the Lasse Viren 20k I did back in December and will have a race report on that tomorrow!

Our Cure to Cancer

The semester is winding down and for senior engineering students that means you better have your capstone project complete. Yesterday was NAU’s UGRAD Symposium. Undergraduate students doing research or projects do a 1.5 hour poster session answering questions from judges and then a 20 minute presentation.

My group’s project was the build an automated Petri dish filling machine for the Adams Cancer lab on campus. We have successfully built a device that will fill 60 Petri dishes in under 15 minutes, allowing the lab to conduct more experiments and while spending less money on wages for students to fill the dishes. Everyone that got a chance to see it at UGRAD seemed to be thoroughly impressed, especially the Bio and Chem students. Little do they know our device is cutting down their hours of being paid in the lab. Suckers.

Below is a 5 minute video we made for our team’s website.

Automated Petri Dish Filler from ACL, NAU’s Senior Capstone Team from zach on Vimeo.

On top of all of this, I had three other projects due last week — one each in Aerodynamics, Finite Elements Analysis and Discrete Math. It feels really good to be done with the week. Now I can enjoy the weather on the trails and in the saddle and just worry about finals, like the rest of college students. Scary to think that grad school will likely be more intense than this.

“Only a fifth of what you normally do”

A month ago today I had surgery to remove Plica in my left knee. I am happy to say that I am now swimming, biking and running with some consistency. I have been doing a lot of rehab, nearly everyday since the day after my surgery, and I have to thank our team trainer Cherise for all of her help. She has so many athletes to care for and she always finds time to help me with exercises, ultrasound, and reassuring me that I’ll be back out there soon while I watch my teammates run workouts on the track.

Earlier this week I told Tim Freriks (Nicknamed “Rube” because he is our lone ranger freshman. You should hear his jokes.) that I was hoping to run about 20 to 25 miles this week. He responded with a chuckle and, “That’s like what? Only a fifth of what you normally do?” While my mileage is much lower right now, I am simply happy to be out there again, improving everyday, and not worrying about if/when my knee will hurt again. As of now I am still very glad that I decided to get the surgery. I have an appointment to see the doctor on Thursday so I should have a better idea of how my recovery is coming along.

Bus Canyon, Simi Valley, California
One of the views from one of my favorite runs

Since my last post I have been home for Spring break, back to school for 4 days, then home again to see my great aunt and uncle from Denmark. It is always nice spending time at home, especially this time of year when the hills of Simi Valley are all green. The little running I was able to do was truly a pleasure. I am so glad that I already have the perspective to realize “how good we had it” running as a youth and in high school. I feel like I have written this countless times over the last year on this blog: those trails are rich with memories.

Going home has a new perk this semester: Tina. My girlfriend Tina graduated from NAU in December, graduating with a double major in just 3.5 years. What a stud. Unfortunately this means that she isn’t in Flagstaff anymore. Long distance relationships aren’t my idea of fun, but this is just a passing thing.

Speaking of graduation, I have just over a month left of my undergraduate career! What’s even more exciting is that last weekend I received an acceptance letter to NAU’s Master of Engineering program. I still have at least an entire year of eligibility left and doing grad school seemed like the best way to make the most of my time here in Flagstaff.

Now that I am running more I should have more material. In the coming days I am hoping to have a good idea of what my goals will be for the next 6 months or so. (It’s crazy to think that cross country nationals were 5 months ago.)

Happy Spring!

Applying to Grad School

These last couple days have been consumed with getting everything together for my graduate school application. After graduating in May, the plan is to starts a Master of Engineering while I finish up my last year of eligibility here in Flagstaff. I have really enjoyed my college experience here and would like to take it a step further with a master’s degree. Plus I couldn’t imagine jumping ship four years into my collegiate career and finish my running competing for a different university.

The application is due in a week, so I am finishing up my r??sum?? and a statement of career objectives. I am thankful to have a brilliant girlfriend to help me edit and proofread this kind of stuff. Thanks Tina. 🙂

Surgery March 1st

I found out today that my surgery is scheduled for this upcoming Monday morning. I am happy to finally get this problem taken care of. After surgery, I will do rehab for several weeks and will be able to resume running approximately ten days later.

As of now I am leaving the Mt. Sac 5000 on April 16th on my schedule. If recovery takes longer than expected I will postpone my return to racing one week at a time. Hopefully, at the very least, I will be able to race a steeplechase in early May that will qualify me to run both the steeplechase and 5000 at conference.

Back in Flagstaff

On Sunday I returned to Flagstaff after a great four week stay in Simi Valley. I have not been able to jump back into training with my teammates, as I am still fighting a sore knee. The good news is that I got an MRI and there is nothing serious — no tears. Basically there is some inflammation behind the patella (knee cap) that is causing the pain. When the swelling goes away, the pain should follow suit.

My last post I mentioned setting resolutions, or goals, for the new year. With this minor setback, I may have to alter a few ambitions, but hopefully the big picture remains the same.

2010 Goals

  • Continue to improve my running by logging high mileage weeks.
    • This track season I really want to improve my 5000 time of 14:50 and my steeplechase of 9:09.
    • Compete at NCAA Cross Country Championships once again and improve on my 95th place finish of 2009. The ultimate goal is to be an All-American — top 40.
  • Improve my swimming.
    • I will try to get in the pool at least once a week for the entire year. Obviously, when time and running permits, I will spend more time in the pool.
    • Seek out coaching to improve my stroke.
    • Compete in some of the Ventura Splash and Dash aquathlon series events, assuming the series continues in 2010.
  • Compete in more triathlons.
    • I had a great time competing in the Breath of Life triathlon last June, and will likely do this one again.
    • As of now, the San Francisco Triathlon at Treasure Island in July is on my calendar. As I understand the rules, if I am one of the top-3 amateurs I will earn my elite license.

Now for a shout out: Congratulations to my girlfriend, Tina Johnson, for her first Half Marathon last Saturday! My parents and I went down to Irvine to watch Tina compete in her first race over 5k! She did a great job and I am so very impressed and proud that she has become a runner just like me.