Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A new website - Run Your First Ultra

I am in the process of creating a website with all the information from the "Run Your First Ultra" Blog. The website is called "Run Your First Ultra."  The site will be laid out in index form with the topics in a logical order.  That is, there will be a "Training" Section, an "Equipment" section, "Racing" section, and so on.  It will make finding a specific topic a lot easier.  For example, if you want to read an article on "Night Running,"  look under training and find "Night Running," or the same article will be listed under "Equipment."

It is going to take a while to get everything shifted over to the new site.  I am rewriting some of the articles and updating many of them.  I am also trying to correct some of the "GLARING" errors I made in the original posts.  When I re-read something shortly after I wrote it, I see what I thought I typed not what I actually typed.  If spell check doesn't catch it I am not likely to see it.  It is a little embarrassing to go back and read some of the posts.

Take a look and let me know what you think.
Any suggestions will be welcome.  (and NO!!, I will not hire a proof reader!)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

I just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.  I still have three hours and 20 minutes.

David and Marye Jo

Thursday, December 22, 2011

C25K, How about 5K242K(marathon)2Ultra - Part II

Back in October I started a post about how to advance from a 5K, to a Marathon, to an Ultra.  I never even made it to the 10K.   .

First, I don't run like most people run.  I always run very hard.  I always run as hard as I can run for the distance I am running.  If I'm running 6 miles at Veteran's Park, (just down the road from my house), I am exhausted at the end of the run.  If I am running seven hours at Oak Mountain, I am even more exhausted at the end of the run.  In other words, I run hard every time I run.  I obviously run much faster when running short distances.

It is not necessary to always run as hard as you can.  You can accomplish your goals faster if you do run very hard,  but many people prefer to enjoy the journey and proceed a little slower.  If you choose to run at an easier pace, you can still follow the basic schedule I will set out below, just advance in smaller increments.  For example, when I suggest adding two miles to the weekend workout, add one mile and so on.  This will work just fine.

I ran a very hard 50 mile race Saturday.  My legs were quite stiff for a couple of days.  I really wanted to run Tuesday as a recovery run to loosen them up, but I  couldn't. I need to run today, but I can't.  My daughter, Mallory flew in from NYC for Christmas on Tuesday and running just didn't fit in.  If I had run today, instead of my usual 23 to 24 minute per lap pace for two or three laps, I would have run two laps at 25 to 26 minutes per loop on the three mile course.  Even though my time would be much slower than usual, at the end, I would still be zapped.  Five minutes later I will be fine, but never-the-less I would have run as hard as I could.

My point is, when you run, run hard.  Don't sprint at the end to get tired, try to run a steady pace that will exhaust you by the end.  That is important.  Anyone in fair condition can go out and run three miles talking on a cell phone and sprint the last 300 yards and be gasping for breath.  That does little or no good.  Run the three miles hard enough that at mile two, you don't think you can hold that pace for another mile, but hold that pace for that last mile.  Do not slow down.  Now it takes some practice to get a grasp on what you are actually capable of but always try to run so that by 2/3 of the way through your workout you are not sure you will be able to finish without slowing down.

The exception:  If you run every day, then you have to run an easy day after every hard day.  If you try to run extremely hard every day you will find  your running times are getting slower instead of faster.  At other parts of this post when I say run hard every time you run, I am talking to people, like me, that work and have a family and have a hard time finding time to run at all during the week.  As I have stated before, I run on Tuesday and Thursday at Veteran's Park here in Birmingham.  (Actually, I try to run every Tuesday and Thursday but it ends up being  more like three out of four weeks each month.)  At least one week a month I just can't fit both runs in.  Sometimes, like this week, I don't run at all.  Almost without exception, I will manage a long run over the weekend.  You can miss an easy midweek run.  You can't miss the big weekend run.  One other note for those of you running every day.  You should also skip one day a week.  Even world class milers, marathoners and ultrarunners take off one day per week.

So, I am going to assume you are running about three times each week and you have run several 5K races recently.  If you have not, stop right here and find three or four 5K's and run them.  Then come back and start reading again.

Your first goal is to run a 10K.  That means you must build your distance, obviously.  You also want to work on speed and developing a feel for how fast you are running.  We will discuss these next.  First, build distance. 

Building Distance:  This is the easy one.  (By the way, I am going to use a 9 minute pace as an example only.  Your starting pace should be based on how fast you can run three miles.  You may be able to run a 6 minutes per mile, or you may run at 12 minutes per mile.  What ever your pace is, that is, that is your starting pace.) First, try to run 2 miles a couple of days during the week.  Run three miles on the weekend.  Run at your starting pace.  If you are already running this much, figure out your pace an skip to the next weekend distance.  For three or four consecutive weeks run this same weekly workout schedule.  The three mile weekend workout should be getting easier.  On the fourth or fifth weekend add a half mile to your weekend run and run 3.5 miles.  The key is to run the 3.5 miles at the same pace as you ran the 3 miles.  Example pace, at 9 minutes per mile.  Repeat this weekly training schedule for four consecutive weeks.  That is, run two miles on Tuesday and 2 miles on Thursday and 3.5 miles over the weekend for four weeks.

On the fifth  weekend raise the weekend mileage to 4 miles.  Again, run at the same pace, 9 minutes per mile, just as you were running the three miles. Repeat the same workout schedule for another four weeks. Add another mile to the weekend run, now 5 miles.  Again, try to maintain that 9 minute pace (your pace.)  By now, it may be starting to get tough to hold your pace.  You probably should add one mile to one of your weekday runs, too.  If you are able to run 5 miles at something close to your pace (9minutes/mile), keep training at 5 miles and enter a 10K within the next month or two.  By the way, it is a good idea to keep running an occasional 5K.  You will find that you will be able to run a faster pace than you could when you started all this.  Even though you may have never run 6 miles in you life, you are ready to try that 10K.  The adrenalin will get you through it.  In fact, be careful.  You may reach the one mile mark and find you are running at a 7:30 pace instead of the intended 9 minute pace.  Don't worry about it.  Just slow down a little and keep going.  You will make it.

If you just can't hold that 9 minute pace for 5 miles, you may need to adjust your pace a little and that is OK.    Just keep your pace as fast as you can and still run every mile at very close to the same pace.  If you are running on a road, go out and mark where each mile is so you can check you pace.  I used to go out with a can of spray paint and spray a small line on the road at each mile.  If you pace drops dramatically when you go the 5 miles, then you may want to drop back to four miles and work on speed.

Building Speed:  If you are finding that you are not able to hold that "9 minute" pace for the 5 miles there is a way to increase  you speed.  It also works great if you wish to increase your pace.  The technique is called interval training.  The purpose is to get your body accustomed to a faster pace.  I like running intervals on a high school track and I would recommend you do the same.  WARNING!  If you have never run intervals, believe me, this is a hard workout.  I like running quarters, 440 yards (400 meters) which is one lap around a standard track.  Some like 220s others prefer 880s.  I would stick with the shorter distances for now.

Using our 9 minutes pace per mile, that means you are covering each 1/4 mile (440 yards) in 2:15.  What I would do is go to the track and pick a starting point and run 8, quarter mile intervals.  You are going to try to hit each 1/4 mile at 2:00 exactly.  That is slightly faster than you have been running in training.  I don't like to walk so I run constantly while doing intervals and I would suggest you do the same.  Start by running a slow lap or two to warm up.  As you start the third lap, pick a starting point and build up you speed as you hit the start line to the pace you want to hold.  Start you watch on "split timer" as you cross the start line.  Run one lap at the 2 minute pace, back to the exact spot you started.  Hit the split timer again.  Now slow down to a very slow "JOG."  (I despise that word)  Most watches display the split time for 10 seconds so check you lap time quickly before it shifts to displaying the next split.  You will immediately know if you are slow or fast and by how much.  The first couple of quarters may seem very easy.  By the fifth or sixth, they will not be easy, believe me.

You will probably be fast. As you come around the track for the slow, second lap, start the watch split time as you cross the line.  Run another fast lap and check you time at the end.  Slow down again to recover and jog a second lap.  Adjust your pace as necessary and run the third interval.  The goal it to run that 2 minute pace every "fast" lap.  You will be amazed how close you can get after a few workouts like this.  If you don't feel you need the entire lap to recover, then alternate starting at the 220 marks.  That is, run you quarter at speed and jog 220 yards and start the fast lap again.  This workout will substitute for one of the mid weed workouts in the beginning.

If you find you can comfortably run the 2:00 pace, then speed up a little.  Try the same workout at  a 1:45 or 1:50 pace.  Next you might try 10 intervals.  You can also vary the distance, running 220s.  Another great way to increase speed in run negative splits.  That is, start the 1/4 intervals at a 2:15 pace on lap one.  On lap two run 2:10.  On lap three run 2:00.  Keep reducing the time until you are no longer to hit the rime.  As you get accustomed to intervals, make the workout an extra midweek workout, say on Wednesday.  You will probably need to take it a little easier on the Thursday workout if you do.

At this point in your training I can almost guarantee that the next 5K you enter you will run a PR. (If  you are a new runner - not if you were a college miler or CC runner that has not run for 20 years.)  Enter another 10K after several weeks of interval training and you will be amazed at how much faster your time is.

You have now been running on this training schedule for about six months, possibly more and you will have have a very solid base and a good sense of your pace.  It is now time to start getting ready for the first marathon.  You will need to start running longer mid week runs as you lengthen your weekend runs.  That's next.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dump the GU's

This weekend I threw out about everything I thought I knew and understood about staying fueled during an ultras.  After the disaster at the North Face Challenge 50 mile race in Pine Mountain, Georgia I decided it was time to try something different.  In that race (Pine Mountain,) I started our running  like I was in a 50K figuring I could bluff my way through the last 18 or 19 miles.  It was the worst run I think I have ever had and by about mile 36 I could barely walk.  I literally imploded.  I honestly was not sure I could make it to the aid station at mile 38.

As soon as I got home I registered for the Lookout Mountain 50 mile race in Chattanooga, Tennessee with a little over 6,300 feet of elevation gain (held Saturday, December 17) and started my recovery from the disaster at Pine Mountain.  The following week I ran 6 miles on Tuesday (3 laps at Veteran's Park) and 6 miles Thursday followed by trail marking 14 miles of the Pinhoti 100 course on Saturday .  The following week I again ran 6 miles on Tuesday and Thursday and did another 4 hours of running while marking more of the Pinhoti course.  The next week I ran 9 miles on both Tuesday and Thursday but volunteered to help Todd Henderson with the Pinhoti 100 on November 5th and 6th.  Since I was up all night I decided to skip the run on Sunday.

The next weekend I did something I have never done before, I ran two races in the same weekend.  Saturday was the Ruffner Mountain 21K here in Birmingham and Sunday was the Xterra 21K at Oak Mountain.  I did pretty well in both although I ran an extra 3+ miles in the Xterra race.  They had a duathlon that started 30 minutes after the 21K and it just so happened that the 21K and the duathlon runners merged on the same trail at the same time, within a few 100 yards of the duathlon start.  Suddenly I found myself in a pile of much slower runners and started trying to pass when ever I had a chance or could create a chance.  While dealing with a jumble of runners I missed where the two races split and I ran the last couple of miles of the duathlon course. (It was also the finish of our race so it had the correct trail marking.)  When I got the finish I asked where the 21K went and someone directed me down the road to the turnaround. I knew something was wrong.  I was pretty far up in the 21K field but there was no one ahead of me.  When I got back to the person that sent me down the road I again asked where to go and she said to the finish.  I knew I was in trouble.  

I backtracked back up the mountain a ways thinking I had missed a turn at the top of the hill but within 100 yards I came to a blue plate with an arrow directing me right back were I just came from.  (Blue plated pointed the way for the 21K)  I then headed to the Start/Finish area to find out were I missed the turn.  I found out where I messed up and headed back up the mountain another way to intersect the trail where I missed the turn.  I was now officially in last place.  I actually got back to within two minutes of the 3rd place finisher and about 16 minutes behind the winner.  It was a good workout.

The next weekend was 4 weeks after the "Disaster at Pine Mountain" and 4 weeks out from the Lookout Mountain 50 Mile and I had to do a very long, very hard run.  I decided to try my new plan for eating during races.  I had reached a point that I could no longer tolerate any type of "GU."  I decided to take real food.  I made a couple of peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches, a couple of Honey Stinger Waffles and my usual Perpetuem mix.   I ran 7hours, 15minutes with 10 hill repeats on my usual trail plus 2 on a new trail that has just recently been opened.  It was on of the best runs with the fastest hill repeat times I have ever had.  

The following week I started my taper but still ran 10 hill repeats even faster than the week before, for a total of 5:44.  Again I only ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, HS waffles and Perpetuem.  The combination was working.  I never had to take an Enervit tablet for cramps, never felt the least bit "queasy," I actually felt great.

So that brings us to this weekend.  I decided to use the same plan for the Lookout Mountain 50K.  Friday I make 4 PBJ sandwiches, cut them in half and wrapped each half.  I filled eight "Nathan 10 oz bottles with two scoops of Perpetuem and grabbed a pile of Honey Stinger Waffles.  I loaded them in the appropriate drop bag and my backpack for the start and I was ready.  

I have learned that if things are not within my reach during the race I tend to not use them.  That is, If I have to pull my backpack off to the get something, I will probably just not bother and do without.  That is not good in anything longer than a 50K.  I still like the NUUN tablets so I put a baggie containing 6 tablets in the zipper pocket on each of my Nathan hand-held 20 oz bottles and I was set.  

The race started at 7:30 AM on top of Lookout Mountain, 1,500 feet above the surrounding terrain and it was cold and very windy (and damp) on top.  About 30 or so people were huddled around a very small fire waiting for the start.  I stayed there until about 30 seconds before the start.  We would run 22.5 miles before reaching our first drop bag. The course followed a trail just below the crest of Lookout Mountain for about 5 miles, along some spectacular granite walls.  (There is some awesome rock climbing around Chattanooga.)  We then rounded the north end of the mountain and began to make a 7 mile descent down the west side to a stream at the bottom of the hill. (The stream turned out to be flooded so for about half a mile we followed a gravel road just above the creek.) We then stared back up to the top of the mountain and the start/finish area at Covenant College.

I carried both hand held water bottles the entire race although one would have been adequate most of the time.  The aid stations were 6 to 8 miles apart but it was cool enough that I emptied one bottle between each.  Approaching each AS I emptied what was left in one bottle into the other and added 16oz of water to the empty one.  All I had to do was throw in one NUUN tablet and I was off.   I also did my best to empty the one 10 oz bottle of Perpetuem I had mixed with water between each AS.   Then I would open the next bottle with Perpetuem and add water.  I followed this pattern for the rest of the race.  At each aid station I would eat a few chips, something that looked like "Chex cereal party mix", maybe a salted potato or a cookie.  I even grabbed a few of their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the aid stations.  I put one of my Honey Stinger Waffles in my running shorts pocket for later.  At the aid station I would retrieve one of my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (unless I ate one from the aid station) and eat it leaving the aid station.  Starting at the Covenant College AS at mile 22.5, I started eating Ramen Noodle Soup at every aid station.  I would grab a cup as I was leaving and walk long enough to finish it.  Sometimes I also grabbed a small cup of coke.  Basically, I ate what looked good, I just made sure I did eat.

My fueling strategy worked great.  Although I started out way too fast (as I always do,) I slowed down by the mile 22 AS and took it easy for the next 20 miles.  I was feeling pretty tired for a while but after slowing in the second 20 miles I began to feel good.  By the final 10 miles I was feeling strong and ran all of the flat and downhill and much of the easier uphill.  I never got sick at my stomach and never had one cramp despite all the climbing.  During the final 7 or 8 mile climb back to the finish I probably passed 15 other runners.  My time was 12:47:49. 

So here is what I did:
  1.  I made four peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cut them in half and wrapped each half in plastic wrap.  
       They were evenly spaced in drop bags so I would always have a sandwich at aid station.
  2.  I placed Perpetuem drink mix in eight Nathan 10oz bottles and spaced them through the course so I            
       would always have at least one full bottle and one bottle with powder to be filled.
  3.  I packed 8 or 10 Honey Stinger Waffles so I would have a couple with me all the time.  (They are very  
       light so I don't mind carrying extras.)
  4.  MOST IMPORTANT, I took the time at every aid station to get out a sandwich or eat some real food,
       mix up my Perpetuem, and add NUUN tablets to my water.
  5.  I drank constantly.  I always drink more when I carry water bottles.  The one down side is you have to
       step behind a lot of trees.  
  6.  I did not eat even ONE Gu the entire day.  And I don't plan to ever eat one again.

When I unpacked everything Sunday I found that I had consumed 5 of the 8 Perpetuem bottles and eaten five of eight, half sandwiches.  Remember, I also ate several aid station sandwiches and other food at every AS.  After mile 22.5 I also ate a cup of soup at every AS.  I don't know exactly how many of the Honey Stinger Waffles I started with but I ate 6 or 8 of them too.

I am getting better at planning and scheduling and I always had what I wanted or needed when I needed it.  I also had extras.  In a final email runners were warned that there was a lot of water on the course, both mud and creek crossings.  And there were.  I had extra socks packed in two drop bags although I never needed them.  After slogging through a few miles of mud puddles you would cross a stream and that would clean you shoes and socks.  Therefore I didn't need to change.  I hope someone took some pictures of the climb up from Lula Falls to the top of the ridge.  Without the ropes someone had strung the climb would have been almost impossible.  (About 60 feet of mud with scattered rocks and limbs at, I would guess, 50% to 60% grade.)  Coming back down in the dark would have been no problem, though.  At least not until you hit a solid object on the way down.  Coming down you just hung on to the rope and slid.  And then there were the Falls.  I wish I had taken a camera.

I did make one planning error.  I did not get a new battery for the headlamp I wear around my waste.  It is the SureFire Minimus Headlamp.  It uses a 123A Lithium battery but I just didn't have time to go get one.  It was still bright although I had used it at the start of the Pine Mountain race a couple of months earlier.  I figured it would make it through two or three hours of dark.  I was wrong.  After about 30 minutes I realized it was pretty dim and tried to turn up the power.  It would not increase brightness.  I did have my backup flashlight in my backpack but I really didn't want to mess with it since I was carrying water bottles in each hand.  I decided if absolutely necessary I would dig it out.  I made do with with my headlamp the rest of the race.

Anyone in the Southeast looking for a great and 50 miler, take a look at this one.  Randy Whorton the RD does a awesome job and course is spectacular.  Rock Creek Outfitters is the major sponsor.  They sponsor the entire Rock Creek Series which includes the nationally known Stump Jump 50K.
Here are a few pictures taken by Jeff Bartelett.
The first 5 are along the trail just below the crest of Lookout Mountain in the first 5 miles.

 The trail near Lula Falls

 The flooded section below the mountain.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Training by Racing

Back in September I decided to run three races over five weeks.  They were two 50K runs on week one and week three and a 50 mile run on the fifth week.  I thought this would be a great way to train and it was. (Of course, I didn't finish the 50 miler, but that had nothing to do with back to back to back races.)  I have decided to continue racing as often as possible.

Last weekend I ran two races.  Neither was as ultra, but together they were a marathon although I made a modification to the second race to make the combined total an ultra.  More on that later.

Last weekend there were two 21K races here in Birmingham.  The first, the Ruffner Mountain 21K was Saturday and the second was the Xterra 21K at Oak Mountain State Park on Sunday.  I entered both.  The Ruffner race had a lot of tough climbs with about 1,400 feet of elevation gain and some really rugged trails.  I ran 2:10:13 and came in 16 out of 115 starters.  I was happy with that.

The Xterra race was not quite as hard with a fairly flat first 4 miles but the 21K runners were running with 10K runners and we all got caught in the middle of the Duathlon runners that started 30 minutes after the 21 and 10K.  They were really slow and obviously not trail runners so I had to spend a lot of time jumping off the single track trail, dodging trees and sprinting around very slow runners.  Somehow in the middle of all that madness I missed the place the 10K and 21K split and I ran the final two miles of the 10K course plus an out-back section of the finish of the 21K before realizing I was not on the 21K course.

When a corner worker tried to direct me to the finish, I told her I had not run any thing close to 21 K and started back up the trail to find out where I went  wrong.  I started climbing back up the "yellow" trail and within 100 yards came to a "blue plate" with an arrow pointing back down where I just came from.  (The 21K was to follow blue plates and I had been following blue plates.)  Obviously, I got off course somewhere way back.  Then I ran over to the finish area and found the "main guy" from Dirty Spoke Productions and asked where I missed the turn.  He told me and I headed back up the Peavine Falls Road about half a mile to where I missed the split.  I hopped back on the trail after loosing about 30 minutes and running at least an extra three miles.  I was now dead last.  I ran as fast as I could and made up a lot of ground and actually ended up missing 3rd in my age group by 3 minutes.  My time of 2:38:53 and I missed an age group win by 17 minutes.  But I got in a good workout.

After failing to finish the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 mile race in Pine Mountain, Georgia, I came home and immediately entered the Lookout Mountain 50 Mile Race in Chattanooga on December 17th.  This weekend I will have my only hard run since the 50 miles on October 15.  I plan to run 6 hours with, I hope, 5 hours of hill repeats.  It is time to start getting ready for Hardrock.  The drawing is December 1st!!!

Then I will recover by running two hours Christmas weekend and 4 hours New Years weekend the jumping up to 8 hours on January 7.  On the 14th I will run 6 hours and two hours the following weekend.  If it looks like I am tapering again that is because I am.  On February 4th I am entered in the Rocky Raccoon 100 mile race in Huntsville, Texas.  This is one of the flattest 100s around and I am curious to see how I do.  Flat hundreds are supposed to be incredibly hard because you have to run so much of the time.

Here are a couple of pictures I borrowed of the RR course from Wayne Nelson's Blog.
 A picture of Anton Kurpicka at Rocky Raccoon.  Run #1  I have never seen a picture of him wearing a shit.  Must me a sponsor's shirt.

I think this is the Start/Finish area.  This is a five loop course.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Great Experience for Ultrarunners

I did something a little different a couple of weeks ago.  I helped with the Pinhoti 100.  Todd Henderson, RD of the Pinhoti was an invaluable help with the Run for Kids Challenge last year and I told him I would be available to fill in where ever and for as long I was needed.  He took me up on the offer.

Over the two weekends before the race I helped with trail marking which is a formidable task on a 100 mile long course like Pinhoti.  The course has about 75 miles of single track trails in some very remote sections of the Talladega National Forest in North East Alabama.  I had run the race in 2008 and the Mt. Cheaha 50K in 2010, which runs on some of the same course in the opposite direction, so I was pretty familiar with some of the more difficult sections to follow.  I still got lost a couple of times.

The race started at 6:00 AM Saturday, November 5th.  I arrived at aid station 4 about 9:30 to pick up the trailer with all the supplies for aid stations through 16, including water.  The trailer was a bit heavy for my little Lexus SUV but it managed. By the time I arrived at AS #4 Karl Meltzer had already gone through the aid station on his way to a new course record, 16:42:20.  I hooked up the trailer, which eliminated the rear suspension on my truck, and hauled the load up to the top of Mt Cheaha to the aid station at Bald Rock, mile 40.9.  I unloaded drop bags, water jugs and aid station supplies.  Fortunately, that make the trailer a little lighter and I shifted some of the weight to the back of trailer before heading down the other side of Cheaha, the highest point in Alabama.  (Did I mention I had no hookup for trailer lights.)

The first stop after Cheaha was aid station 8 at the Silent Trail, then to Hubbard Creek at mile 52 (about 4 miles up a winding, fairly rugged and very narrow gravel road.)  Next was Adams Gap at mile 55.34.  Here I had to wait a while because no one was there to start setting up the aid station.  From there I drove over another narrow gravel and rock road called the Talladega Skyway, down the ridgeline of the Talladega Range to Clairmont Gap at mile 60.  Next was Chandler Springs, Porters Gap (the start of the Cheaha 50K) at mile 68.8.  I skipped the next two aid stations and went to # 16, Bulls Gap at mile 85.63.

The trailer was now empty so I headed back to Adams Gap.  I got back about 6:30 PM and settled in to wait for the aid station to close at 11:00.  This is the "happening" aid station of the race.  They play very loud music that runners can hear long before the reach Adams Gap.  This is a drop bag AS and Adams Gap is manned by a bunch of very enthusiastic volunteers.  They have a lot of lights, hot food and a large fire going and a satellite TV set up to watch the Alabama-LSU Game.  This is also the aid station where runners are past the hardest sections of the race.  Unfortunately, it was very windy and cold on top of the "gap." (In the South, they are Gaps.  In the West, it would be a Saddles.  In Europe and Asia it is a Col.)

As aid stations closed they brought their leftover supplies to Adams Gap and I loaded them into the trailer.  Finally about 11:30 the last runners were through and I loaded all the drop bags and supplies from Adams Gap.  Four runners had dropped at Adams Gap that needed a way back to the start so 2 runners rode with me and two more followed in the car belonging to the "sweep" and we headed back over the road to aid station 11.  There we gathered up more supplies and two more runners and we were off to Sylacauga and the finish.

This plan would have been great except I did not know how to find Sylacauga.  I retraced the roads I had driven earlier while making deliveries to AS16.  Todd had drawn me a map of how to get to each aid station but I still made three wrong turns and had to make a "U" turn after driving a short distance and realizing I was not going the right way.  Every time I turned around the the guys following me in the sweeps car looked at me with a bit of concern.  I think they had some doubt they were ever going to get back to Sylacauga.  I did to!

Finally, we reached the road to aid station 16 and passed a sign, Sylacauga 12 miles.  We made it back.  I dropped off the runners and took the trailer over to the high school stadium (finish line) and unhitched it.  I also removed my headlamp from the back of the trailer.  Since I had no trailer light connections on my car I had taped an orange trail marking flag over the lens of my headlamp and tied the headlamp to the back of the trailer.  I was glad the car was following me.

I got back to the start/finish line about 1:30AM.  Todd had gone back out to remark some of the trail where someone had pulled up the flagging at a road intersection and a couple of runners missed a turn.  I headed back to aid station 13, Porters Gap to wait for it to close at 2:30 and pick up supplies.  I stopped at # 12 on the way to check on a friend Dan, running the Chandler Springs AS but he had packed up and gone by then.  I found out later that he had no help and ran the aid station all night by himself.  If I had  known this, I could have gone back and helped instead of standing around freezing at Adams Gap.

I waited at Porters gap until the sweep runner reached the AS about 3:00, picked up a couple of more runners that had dropped and headed back to Sylacauga.  One of these runners had lost his running partner who had dropped earlier and I made a trip out to the hotel and waited while he tried to find his friend.  We then went back to the start/finish where I left him and went to get the trailer and haul it over to the Rec' Department to unload the drop bags.  The drop bags were loaded in large garbage bags so Me and another guy carried them into the rec center and unloaded the them in an organized piles by aid station.

The cook was making breakfast and I was really hungry and sleepy so I decided to try to sleep a few minutes while waiting for breakfast.  I sat down for a few minutes and gave up on sleep so I got some coffee and checked on breakfast.  It was about 6:15 AM and there was no sign of breakfast being served so I gave up and headed back to Birmingham, about 45 minutes away.  I stopped by McDonald's and got an Egg McMuiffin, hash browns and orange juice and headed home.  I got home a little after 7:00 and did manage to sleep 3 hours, but I hate to waste a day so I got up and got busy.

Although I was exhausted and it took a few days to recover, it was a blast.  I met a lot of great people and had a lot of fun.  Now I have a problem.  I really want to run the race next year, but I want to help too.  I guess I will wait to see how things unfold next year.  If you haven't done so, volunteer for a major ultra trail race.  See what it is like to work you butt off all night long while freezing in the middle of nowhere to help other runners achieve their dreams.  It is truly a rewarding experience.

Friday, October 28, 2011

C25K, How about 5K242K(marathon)2Ultra

I have been thinking about this for a long time.  How would I move from a 5K to running a Marathon to running an ultra?  I would do it just as I did back in 1979 when I ran the Azalea Trail Run, my first 10K.  Oops, I missed the 5K part!  Well, that is what I did.  I started with a 10K.  I ran that first 10K, in April of 1979, followed by every 10K in the Mobile, Pensacola area I could find.  I threw in a few 5Ks too.  I ran an 18 mile race in October and my first marathon, the First Annual, Barq's Root Beer, Panama City Marathon in December of 1979.  I won't suggest anyone try that training schedule.

I ran occasionally after high school, usually for two or three miles and no more.  I might go two weeks between runs then I might run two or three times in one week.  Between 1968 and 1978 I never never ran a road race.  I thought those were for really good runners and I was not a "really good runner."  My final semester at the University of Texas at Dallas I met some people that had a running route out the back of the campus for 3 or 4 miles and back.  The course went across the Texas A&M Experimental Farm, directly behind UTD, then followed Frankford Road to where we turned around.  Frankford Rd. was like running in the middle of nowhere.  All there was along the road were pastures and cows.  I wonder what it looks like today.

I felt like I ran pretty fast, at least faster than most of the others runners at UTD.  I was too busy trying to get out of school and find a job with an accounting firm somewhere along the Gulf Coast to enter any races.  I wanted to move to the coast so I could sail.  (Have I mentioned before that I love sailing - of course, I don't have a sailboat and don't have time to sail if I did.)  Occasionally I do check the internet for a J22 or J24.  At that time we had a Hobie 16 and raced almost every weekend at Lake Dallas (Now known as Lake Lewisville) or at regional races.

I found a job with an accounting firm in Mobile, Alabama and after graduation I was off to Mobile.  Within a few months I found an O'day 25 sailboat, sold the Hobie, and running took a back seat to sailing.  Then my neighbor told me about a race called the Azalea Trail Run in Mobile and he was going to enter.  He was definitely not a runner, so I decided to enter too.  I began training about 4 weeks before the race.

The following is how I trained as best I can remember, but it is pretty accurate because I used the same training pattern for years.

1.  I went out and found a 3 mile loop from my house. (Close enough to call it a 5K.  Good place to start.)
2.  I ran the three mile loop three times.  The first time it was not too hard and, of course, I don't remember how fast I ran but I probably ran about 21 minutes or a 7 minute pace.  Two or three days later I ran the 3 mile loop again at about the same pace.  This time it just about killed me.  (I remember thinking this is pointless.  I could never run six miles.)  Two or three days later I ran the 3 mile loop again and it was even easier than the first time.  (Maybe I can run 6 miles.)
3.  I added one mile to the course and started the process again, still running at the same 7+/- minute pace, and the results were the same.  Run number one of the four mile loop was not too bad.   Run number two - I thought I would die before I got back home.  It was terrible.  I was sure now I would not be able to run he race.  Run number three, what can I say?  It was once again easier than the first time I ran the four mile loop.    Maybe I can actually run the Azalea Trail Run after all.
4.  I added one more mile to the loop and again followed the same plan but I seem to remember that I did not get all three runs in before the race.
5.  A few days before the race I went downtown and ran most of the course.  I was not sure where the course actually went but I think I ran most of it.  I decided I could actually finish the race but I was afraid I would be embarrassed at how slow I would have to run.
6.  I ran the 10K.  As usual, the first mile was way too fast and it scared me to death when I saw how fast I was running.  I think I hit mile one at about a 5:20.  I was sure I would have to walk the last mile or two.   I was able to held that pace for about four miles then began to slow.  Mile four to mile five was the hardest.  Even today, the forth mile is the hardest for me in a 10K.  At mile five I realized I only had one mile to go and psychologically the run became a little easier but it still hurt.  Then there was the final 0.2 of a mile.  It felt like half a mile.

So is this my best suggestion on how to get from a 5K to a 10K.  NO!  Please remember, I ran the mile in high school and continued running "more or less" for the next 10 years.  I could go out at any time and run 3 miles at a 6 to 7 minute pace.  I would never suggest anyone try to advance from a 5K to a 10K that fast.  Over the next few weeks I will give my best suggestions on how someone should progress from "running" a 5K to "running" a 10K and on to a 100 mile ultra.  The quotes around "running" are to emphasize that I mean run the distance, not walk.  If you are planning on running an ultra you have to run.  With very few exceptions, every ultra, whether it is a 50K or 100 miles, will require you to run at least half the distance or you will miss cutoffs and be forced to drop.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How Not to Run a 50 Mile Trail Race.

Rules for Running a 50 Mile Race.
1.  A 50 mile trail race is NOT a long 50K.  It is a short 100 miler.  Plan accordingly.
2.  Decide how to pace the run based on it being a short 100 mile race.
3.  Design a fueling and hydration schedule for a short 100 miler and follow it.

So how should one not run a 50 mile race?
1.  Consider it a long 50K and run at a 50K pace and figure you can bluff your way through the last 20 miles.
2.  Run much faster than you had planned and forget about walking up the hills. Run up all hills and pass everyone you see ahead of you so you move up to about 30th position out of 213 starters by the third aid station.  (I started in the third wave, six minutes after the lead group stared.  The start was divided into three waves of about 70 runners starting 3 minutes apart.)
3.  Fly through the aid stations.  Grab a 1/2 sandwich and 1/2 a banana and refill the water bottle and head out.  Don't mix you Perpetuem Drink, don't add any (Not One) NUUN tablet to your water. Just take an occasional salt tablet if you think about it.  Don't eat any gu's the entire race.  Oh yes, eat about two bites of the banana and the sandwich and throw the rest away.
4.  Be sure to catch everyone in front of you at least for the first 15 miles.  (Did I already say that?)  This was part of the problem.  I cannot stand to see another runner in front of me without trying to pass them.  Of course, then you have to keep going a little faster so they don't catch you again.  After passing about 100 runners, going a little faster each time, you are moving along pretty quickly!

This plan worked really well for the first half of the race.  I started slowing about mile 25 or 26, but not too much.  I was walking up a few of the steeper hills by then.  At the Tower Aid Station at mile 28, I still felt great although my legs were starting to get tired but I was still running up most hills.  About mile 33 things began to unravel.  I started feeling really sick and my legs were zapped.  I started walking more and by somewhere around mile 35 I was no longer able to run up hill and could not eat anything.

By the time I had covered another very slow mile, I could no longer could run at all. The last mile or mile and a half to the Fox Den Aid station at mile 37.5 was bad.  Not only could I no longer run,  I could barely walk and was actually not sure I would be able to reach the aid station without sitting down to recover for a while.  About that time I called Marye Jo to meet me at Mollyhugger aid station (I thought that was the aid station I was almost to) and told her I could not go any further. (Mollyhugger Aid Station is at mile 42.4 but it took me so long to get to Fox Den I actually thought it was Mollyhugger.)

When I finally reached the aid station I realized it was not Mollyhugger and called her back to tell her I was at Fox Den.  I more or less collapsed on the side of the road to wait.  I must have looked pretty bad during the last mile on the trail.  Several people actually asked me if I was all right.  No one ever asked me if I was OK before.  I don't think I ever felt that bad before!  Saturday night I was totally wasted.  I had more energy after finishing the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 than I did after running that 37.5 miles.

When we got back home I was so disgusted and irritated with myself for the ridiculous way I ran the race, I decided I have to redeem myself.  I signed up for the Lookout Mountain 50 mile race in Chattanooga, Tn. in December.  I still intend to run at a fairly quick pace (but no as fast as a 50K) but I will walk up every hill that qualifies as a hill.  I will stop at every aid station and take the time to properly resupply and mix the supplies I need to stay fueled.  I will finish if I have to crawl.

I need to remember Kin Chlauber's words on three signs leading up the back side of Hope Pass in the Leadville 100.  "If you can't Run, Walk. - If you can't walk, crawl. - Just Keep Moving."

I think the picture was taken of Ken at the Leadville 100 panel discussion on the second night of the training camp for the 100 mile run.  I think this picture is from the year I attended.  The people in the background were all there  in 2009 and Ken was dressed just as he is in the picture.  All those on the panel, including Ken had finished the race more than 10 times.  Oh yes, the woman in green is the race director and a very rude person.  I don't think she has run the race 10 times.  I am temped to make a few more comments but, no.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Race

For the last week I have been trying to find time to write a report on my experiences at the North Face Endurance Challenge at Pine Mountain, Georgia.  So far I have about a paragraph.  The article will be on "How NOT to run a 50 miler."  I gained a new insight into running a race distance I had never run before.  I will try to finish it this week and share what I learned the hard way.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Almost Halloween,

I am sure all my neighbors will understand this.

I will put this out to stay in another week or so.

Ultra runners may have "Traumatic Brain Injury"

The following is an exert from an article in on the Wasatch 100 website.  All I can say is that almost everyone, except other ultrarunners, tells me I am crazy when I try to explain to them about running 100 mile races.  Maybe they knew something I didn't!   (I added the "bold Italic")

Aharon D. Shulimson, Ph.D., M.S.C.P.

In 1997 my fiancée and I (we got married two weeks later) became the rest stop captains for the Big Mountain rest stop. The 2011 Wasatch 100 was our fifteenth race. It has been great fun for us and our volunteers. As a psychologist I often pondered the question of what goes on in the brain of an ultramarathon runner that makes it possible to run 100 miles. There had to be something that separated ultramarathon runners from ordinary human beings.
Two years ago, I began to try to answer this question by recruiting Wasatch 100 runners who were willing to be tested using a quantitative electroencephalogram (QEEG). The minimum requirement to be accepted into the study was finishing one 100 mile race. Nine runners, many with extensive ultramarathon experience, came to my office to have their EEGs recorded.
Quantitative EEG is a standardized test of brain electrical activity. The EEG is recorded and then analyzed by a database that compares an individual’s EEG to what is statistically average for one’s age group. QEEG is often used as part of the evaluation process for persons with ADHD, traumatic brain injury, anxiety disorders and learning disabilities. Go to the link at the bottom of this page for a more detailed description of QEEG and to download sample brain maps.
The test results showed that the brains of the runners that I studied are different from the brains of average people in several ways. All of them had elevated levels of slow brain wave activity, elevated levels of fast wave activity, or a combination of the two. In the clinical setting, elevated levels of slow wave activity are often seen in persons with ADD/ADHD and traumatic brain injury as well as other conditions. High amplitude fast wave activity is a common finding in patients with anxiety disorders and alcohol abuse.
How does it help an ultramarathon runner to have elevated levels of slow wave activity, fast wave activity, or both? I have posed this question to several sports psychologists who use QEEG in their practices. They suggested the following: 1) The slow wave activity probably makes it easier for runners to go into "the zone" where they are running but are not fully aware of their surroundings; 2) The fast wave activity probably helps with maintaining energy and motivation over a 100 mile race course.
Thanks again to the runners who participated in this study. Anyone who has questions about the project or wants to share their thoughts about my conclusions can contact me through Facebook, email me at or call me at 801-671-4048.

Monday, October 10, 2011

More Thoughts on Preparing for the Next 100 miler.

I read an article in the July issue of Ultrarunning that got me to thinking about all I go through, and I suspect most ultrarunners go through, prior to every 100 mile race.  First there are the months of training, building up to distances and times that other, non-ultrarunning runners don't seem to be able to comprehend. Even marathoners.  When you talk about 8 hour runs with 4 hours of hill repeats they get this blank look on their faces and ask strange questions like "you mean eight miles?"  or "Over how many days?"  I do understand, however.  Back in the days when I ran on roads, I would build up to three hour training runs before a marathon, probably about 20 miles, and I could not imagine running any further than that.  Of course, we run a  lot faster on roads than on trials.

One key to the long training runs, as I have mentioned many times, is to always be training for that next 100 miler or next ultra, no mater how far in the future it may be.  If I am not signed up for any races, I am training for Hardrock.  I know eventually I will get in, maybe - In fact, I am always training for Hardrock, even if I am actually training for another race, like Tahoe.  To be truthful, Tahoe was a training run for Hardrock.  I suppose I am obsessed.

This "always training for the next race" is nothing new with me.  I have always pushed my limits by training for the next race.  There have been a few periods in my life since I started road running in the late 70's where I went for months without entering a race. Usually because I just didn't have time to race or train.  During those periods I found it really hard to make myself go out and run at all.  As you can guess, I really didn't run very hard, when I did.  I have to be working for a goal or I am pretty worthless.  Zig Zigler has a quote I love.  "If you don't have a goal, you are a wandering generality.  You got'a have goals."  (or something to that effect.)  It is certainly true for me.

Next there are weeks of planning race and aid station strategies.  That includes, but not limited to, time between aid stations, water needed between aid stations, supplies needed to reach the next drop-bag, which specific clothes will be needed at certain aid stations, where headlamp and flashlights will be needed, and everything else you could possibly need that you know you will never need unless you don't put it in the drop-bag.  Is that sentence legal?

So why do we go to all that trouble?  I think there are three reasons. First, we don't want to carry anything that is not absolutely necessary.  I have read stories that Mat Carpenter (multi-time winner of the Pikes Peak Marathon and many other mountain races) actually grinds away any part of his running shoes that he does not consider critical.  (That might not be a good idea for most of us.)  Second, you don't want to run out of anything critical, like water or any thing else that you absolutely must have to be able to complete the race.  It would also be  pretty bad to find yourself three miles from the aid station where you stashed your headlamp, and it's getting too dark to see.  In 2010, when I ran the Wasatch 100, I erred on the side of ridiculous on the climb to the first aid station.  After the start, the Wasatch climbs gently for about 4 miles, then it turns straight up the western slope of the Front Range of the Wasatch Mountains for a total gain of over 6,300 feet.  The climb culminates in the infamous, "Chinscraper" climb.  The trail then follows the ridge line to the first aid station at mile 13.35.  I was so afraid of that first climb that I carried 70oz. of water at the start.  I had so much water that I did not need to add any water to my pack until I reached the the Bountiful "B" aid station at mile 24.  I carried 4.35 lbs of water up the hardest climb in the race.  I should have started with half that much.  This is an example of really poor planning. (and Fear!)  Oh yes, the third reason.  We plan to finish "come Hell or high water" and in ultras we frequently get both and still  manage to finish.  Take a look at some of the pictures by Tanner Johnson from this years Hardrock 100.  This is the Mineral Creek crossings

Another example of poor planning, I guess, was an event I witnessed at Tahoe that I mentioned in an earlier post.  I was running with a man along the crest of the Tahoe Rim Trail headed for the Tunnel Creek aid station.  It was well after dark and this is the section that had so many large snow fields.  The moon was not yet up so it was very dark.  It was hard to follow the trail across the snow at night even with two bright lights.  The guy I was following kept getting way off the trail and I would yell at him that the trail was over where I was.  I couldn't understand what his problem was until he moved ahead of me at one point.  His flashlight was going out and he simply could not see the trail.  I always carry extra batteries but his light needed AA and I only had AAA.  We ran along a while and he again got off course.  Then I remembered that I had stuck a spare Fenix LED flashlight in my backpack.  I offered it him and told him to just leave it with the aid station workers at Tunnel Creek because he said he had a spare light in his Tunnel Creek drop bag.  As it turned out, we arrived at the aid station at almost the same time so I got it back.  I like the security of that extra light.  With spare batteries and a spare light, I know I will not be stuck in the dark somewhere on top of a mountain.

This year at Tahoe I did much better with planning except that I failed to consider that it is almost impossible to add an exact amount of water to a backpack.  I encountered this same problem at the Katcina Mosa 100K in 2008 where I totally ran out of water half way up the longest climb, 7 miles, in the race in the middle of the day, on a totally exposed trail, with temperatures reaching 100 deg.  At Tahoe, I ended up really sick at my stomach in the afternoon of the first day and again ALL NIGHT on the second lap.  I got the concentration of electrolytes way too high.  I have learned that if I am using either of my Nathan Hydration Packs, I need to bring a bottle to measure exactly how much water I add.  I will do that in the future.  I also learned I can swallow electrolyte capsules during the latter hours of a 100 mile race.  It is not easy, but I can get them down.

And then there are the gel packs, at Tahoe it was Honey Stingers.  In every 100 mile race I put them in every drop bag.  I plan on eating one every hour.  At Tahoe I probably packed 30.  After the halfway point I don't think I ate one more gel.  All-in-all, I probably ate no more then 10 or 12 in the entire race.  In every 100 miler I have run I came back with about half the gels I started with.  For some reason I keep packing them in drop bags.  Perpetuem drink mix is another story.  This is the "Hammer" product I have used for several years.  I like it and most of the time my stomach can tolerate it pretty well.  Sometimes I can drink them the entire race and sometime I cannot, but I will keep using it.

My new thing this year is Vespa.  Vespa is make of "Wasp" amino acid extract.  I helps you body burn fat instead of carbs during extended exercise.  All I was able to eat the last 14 or 15 hours of the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 was a little soup at each aid station.  (And I mean a little.)  Yet I was able to finish strong and actually race Joey Anderson the last 5 miles of the race.  I felt great at the end - relatively speaking.  How is that possible?  I was eating Vespa packs every three hours.  All I know is I was burning something all that time and I certainly did not eat enough soup to do much good.  It is, however, best not to dwell on what it is you are consuming when you drink a Vespa pak!

I am putting the Vespa the test right now.  I ran a 50K, 22days ago here in Birmingham and the Stump Jump, nine days ago in Chattanooga.  The North Face Challenge 50 mile race this coming weekend.  So far, I have been able to run strong and finish strong in both previous races.  Next weekend will be the real test, though.    Right now, I give Vespa a lot of credit for my completing Tahoe.

By the way, there is a great video of the 2011 Hardrock 100 on the first page of the Hardrock website.  It is by Team Salomon and notice that during the night the "Hell" struck.  Here is a link: Hardrock.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thoughts on Preparation for a 100 miler

I know I have written a lot about how I get ready to run an ultra, especially for a 100 mile race.  This preparation process in constantly evolving as I gain more experience.  Tahoe was my 4th 100 miler and I spent less time planning than any other 100 miler I have done.  Tahoe was also the easiest 100 mile race I have run.  When I got home from Tahoe I felt so good I decided I wanted to run another 100 mile race before the end of the year.  Unfortunately there were none within a reasonable distance that I could enter.

In 2009, after The Leadville 100 I had just over two months to get ready for the Florida Ironman.  I had done no swimming or bike riding the entire year so I had a lot of ground to make up on both.  The weather turned out to be really bad and I only got in a few swims before the race. Nowhere near enough for a 2.4 mile ocean swim and I really struggled in the second lap of the swim, but I didn't drown!  After Wasatch in 2010 I had less than two months to prepare for Ironman Florida and I had to do a lot of hurried training.  This time I had thrown in some swimming all summer and I was at least ready for that.

Following both Ironman events in 2009 and 2010, I sort-of backed off my training for several weeks.  When I started back I had lost a lot of ground or maybe I just didn't want to go out an suffer. < (I think that might indicate an attitude problem.)  Anyway, I felt like I was staring over from the beginning with my hill training.  This year was totally different.  Maybe because I had such a good experience running Tahoe, or maybe because I finally had a totally functional heart for the first time in several year.  It could have been going out to Telluride and Silverton and actually meeting so many people involved with Hardrock and doing trail work and trail marking on part of the course.  It was probably some of all of these factors but what ever it was, I could not wait until I had recovered enough to get back into hard training again.

What ever it was I wanted to get right back up to speed and run some more races.  The only two 100 mile races within driving distance of Birmingham are The Pinhoti, here in Alabama (and my first 100) and the Georgia Jewel.  The latter was eliminated because it was the same weekend as my daughters engagement party in New Jersey.  I am helping Todd Henderson with Pinhoti so it is out.  Since I cannot run another 100 miler I am just going to run a bunch of races to stay in shape.

On September 18th I ran a local 50K, the Autumn Equinox Ultra, out at Oak Mountain State Park.  My time was 5:42 and that is the fastest 50K I have ever run.  October 1st, two weeks later, was the Stump Jump 50K in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  (Last weekend.)  That one has over 5,000 feet of climbing an took me 6 hours, 32 minutes.  October 15th I am running the North Face Endurance Challenge in Pine Mountain Georgia.  This is a 50 mile race that I think is going to be pretty tough and I have never run a 50 mile race.  The elevation profile looks like a saw blade, as do most races in this part of the country.  In mid November I may enter the Dizzy Fifties in Huntsville and I will enter the Tashka 50K in Tuscaloosa on December 10th or the Lookout Mountain 50 Mile race on December 17th.  That one is getting really close to Christmas.

The Hardrock lottery in on (or about) December 1st.  At that point I will know if it is time to start building up my training runs to 8 hour of nothing but hill repeats or try to figure out what 100 to run next year.  I will probably enter the Wasatch 100 lottery again, so I can run that last 12 miles with 5,000 feet of elevation loss that I was not able to run in 2010 due to an injured ankle. It will be hard to pass up Tahoe though if I don't get in Hardrock.

A quick note on the StumpJump.  I came in third in my age group, "Super" Grand Master!!  That is a little patronizing, I think.  I missed second by 1:49 and first by 5:15.  If you saw my last post you know I missed a turn along with 8 or 10 others and lost 8 or 9 minutes.  I think I will pay more attention to trail marking at the 50 miler and all races from now on.  At the training camp for Leadville in 2009 I followed a runner right past the turnoff to Twin Lakes and ended up running about 2 miles down the trail.  I knew from studying the course map and Google Earth exactly where Twin Lakes is in relation to the "twin lakes."  It is at the far west end of the upper lake.  I was headed east and all the way to the moraine between the lakes and almost down to the road when I finally turned around and headed back.  I met a group of 5 or 6 runners that argued with me that I was now going the wrong way and should turn around.  I wished them luck and continued back up the way I had come.  Sure enough, after a very long and hard climb back up the mountain I reached the turnoff I missed.  The trail was very well marked with all kinds of flagging tied down the trail we were supposed to take.  I was back on course and out of water and it was hot, but I was almost at the end.  I could not believe it was possible for all those people, and me, to miss that much flagging.

So what is the point in all the?  It now seems to me that the best plan in to jump back into training as soon as you have had a reasonable amount of time to recover.  I did a couple of hikes where we were still in Tahoe and did run up a very long hill but that was it for about 10 days.  That second week I ran an easy 6 mile run on  Wednesday and did a few hills and a little additional trail running at Oak Mountain that weekend for 2.5 hours.  The third week I ran Tuesday and Thursday for 6 miles each day and 3 hours on the weekend.  The fourth week after Tahoe I ran 9 miles on Tuesday and Thursday and 5 hours on the weekend with 6 hill repeats.  The fifth week was the same as week four.  On week six, I ran 9 hill repeats in a 5 hour workout.  I intended to run 8 repeats but I felt so good I ran 9.  Week seven I ran 8 repeats followed by flatter trails to get in 5 hours and the following weekend was the Autumn Equinox 50K.  I think this plan works.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Run for Kids Challenge 2012 - Date Change

I really like having the Run for Kids on Memorial Day Weekend.  I selected the date originally because the race was to be held at Veteran's Park and I thought Memorial Day was appropriate.  I was very concerned about the crowds that runners would have to deal with during the day but that proved to be no problem.  Birmingham went from setting record low temperatures just over a week before the race to record high temperatures on race day.  The heat cleared the park.

By moving to Oak Mountain, even if it is hot, the park will still be crowded.  The beach area at the park is crowded all summer but especially when it is hot and Memorial Day is the single busiest day of the year .  The run would not created a problem for the park and park superintendent, Mike Jeffreys has given up approval for the run.  The problem is the crowds will interfere with the runners.  Memorial Day weekend there will be cars and people everywhere along the south side of Double Oak Lake.

We have decided to move the race to an earlier weekend in May.  I prefer May 19th. but that is the weekend the Oak Mountain Xterra Race has been held in the past.  We are trying to find someone with Xterra that knows the schedule for next year.  Tentatively, the date that looks best in May,5th.  Of course, we would have to serve Margarita's at the aid station and all runners would have to wear sombreros.

I am adding a new twist to the race this year.  I want to encourage runners to raise additional donations to Camp Smile-A-Mile by asking friends and family to sponsor them.  For example, a 50K entrant might suggest a donation of $1.00 for each kilometer run, or even per lap, (That is only $10 if they finish.)   We are putting together a package of gift certificates to area restaurants and businesses that the person that can raise the most in donations will receive.  We may also have a drawing for all runners that raise additional donations.


C25K - What a great idea

I received an email from a friend that had just started the C25K (Couch to 5K) program and wanted to know what I thought.  I had never heard of it so I started reading about it.  This sounds like a really great way to start a  running or walking program for non-runners.  Maybe I need to start a 5K2100 program!

I copied the first three weeks of the workout program directly from website.

WeekWorkout 1Workout 2Workout 3
1Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes.Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes.Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes.
2Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 90 seconds of jogging and two minutes of walking for a total of 20 minutes.Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 90 seconds of jogging and two minutes of walking for a total of 20 minutes.Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 90 seconds of jogging and two minutes of walking for a total of 20 minutes.
3Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then do two repetitions of the following:
  • Jog 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Walk 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 400 yards (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 400 yards (or three minutes)
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then do two repetitions of the following:
  • Jog 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Walk 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 400 yards (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 400 yards (or three minutes)
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then do two repetitions of the following:
  • Jog 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Walk 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 400 yards (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 400 yards (or three minutes)

There is an iPhone App available for $2.99 that she is using.  It apparently guides you through you workout. You select the week and it tells you what to do and times your training.  It is sort of like having a really cheep personal trainer.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Recovery from a 100 Miler

Proper training for an ultra, especially a 100 miler, is absolutely critical.  If you don't get your body accustomed to the hours of continuous forward progress (note I did not say running) then it will be very difficult or impossible to finish any race 50 miles or over.  As I have stated previously, and this is purely my opinion, anyone that can run a marathon can run and finish a 50K so here I am talking about runs longer than a 50K.

I have used a pretty simple plan ever since I started ultrarunning.  I run a long run on the weekend and two short runs during the week, ideally, Tuesday and Thursday.  The weekend runs range from 3 hours to 8 hours depending on the number of weeks or months until the next race and the length of that race.  On those major training runs I build up to 8 hours about two months before I plan to run a 100 mile race.   I will run three 8 hour runs and do back-to-back runs on one weekend before starting to taper.  For shorter races I run shorter weekend training runs and instead of tapering for 3 weeks, I will taper for two weeks or for a 50K one week.  I have two 50Ks and a 50 miler planned in the next 39 days and I have been running 5 hour training runs the last 4 weeks.  Sunday (September 4th) was my final hard run and I plan to run about 3 to 3.5 hours next Saturday as a tapering run.

The 50Ks are Autumn Equinox 50K, at Oak Mountain here in Birmingham in two weeks (on 9/18) and the Stump Jump in Chattanooga, Tennessee on October 1st.  I will use these races to boost my training for the 50 miler, The North Face Endurance Challenge in Pine Mountain, Georgia on October 15th.  I have never run three races like this so close together (each race is two weeks after the previous) and I am anxious to see how I hold up.  After each race I plan to run about 3 hours on the next weekend as a recovery run plus the two midweek runs.  I have never run a 50 mile race, either.  I felt like I came out of Tahoe in pretty good condition and I would like to hold that conditioning until I start serious training for Hardrock on January 1st.  (I am always training for Hardrock.  That is the carrot!)

After finishing Tahoe, I really wanted to run another 100 mile race during 2011 but there wasn't one close to home I could fit in.   I cannot run the Pinhoti 100 here in Alabama because I volunteered to help Todd Henderson, the Pinhoti 100 RD.  The only other 100 this year that is close by is the Georgia Jewel, which is also run on the Pinhoti Trail in Georgia.  The Georgia Jewel is the same weekend as my daughters engagement party in New York.  I decided to run the 50 miler instead and may also run the Lookout Mountain 50 Mile race in December.

We arrive in NY on 9/22.  The 9/11 Memorial opens to the public on 9/11.  If I do nothing else while in New York, I will go the the Memorial.  We went to New York last year for my daughters surprise 30th birthday party and went to Ground Zero.  That is a very difficult place to visit.  National Geographic Channel has been doing a series of shows on 9/11 and the "Rebuilding of the New World Trade Center."  I have recorded every show.  It is almost as hard to watch as visiting the site.

Back to the subject!
On of the keys to successful ultrarunning is proper recovery.  Running 100 miles, in my case, 33 straight hours pretty well zaps you.  (Is that not profound!)  Here is how I recovered, jumped back into training and now I feel stronger than I ever have.

I judge my training proficiency and conditioning based on my hill repeat times on one specific trail.  Right now, I am running 8 hill repeats faster than I was before Tahoe, finishing each "HR" under 13:45.  Before Tahoe, I could only run 6 repeats under 14 minutes.  The last 2  took 14.5 to 15 minutes to complete.  The last couple of weeks I ran at least one HR under 12 minutes.  I never did that before Tahoe.

Here is exactly what I did to recover from Tahoe, immediately after the run and over the next few weeks.
After I finished the Tahoe Rim Trail 100, I walked around a few minutes and stretched a little.   Then I sat around and ate and drank for a while then walked around more and ate a little more and drank a lot more.  It is a good idea to walk a while after finishing a really grueling race before sitting down or laying down.  After the awards, we drove back to the B&B near Kings Beach and I took a shower.  It is amazing what a shower can do.  Then, we went to eat dinner even though I had eaten quite a bit between only about 4 hours before.  I was still hungry and ate a full dinner.

When we got back to the room I took two Advil PMs and passed out.  Although I had not slept in about 42 hours if I don't take an Advil PM or Tylenol PM I will not sleep very well.  I also take one Advil or Tylenol PM before I go to bed after my hard weekend runs.  If you run ultras, sleep is critical.  Adequate sleep is as important to recovery as anything else you can do.

The next morning we woke up early (as always) and make coffee while waiting for breakfast.  I decided to drive over to a little bakery in Kings Beach and purchased a pastry until the Shore House breakfast was ready.  I sat outside and ate and drank my coffee.  The air was crisp and cold and the sky was crystal clear and that deep blue you only see in the western mountain.  After breakfast I took a huge pile of filthy clothes and shoes to a laundromat a couple of blocks down the road.  (I hadn't been to a laundromat since the 70s.)  Next, we went back to the little bakery and picked up sandwiches, drinks and cookies and headed out for a picnic.  We found a little park several hundred feet above the lake on the East shore and hiked down to the water.  We climbed out on some huge granite boulders and sat in the sun having a great time.  Then people started showing up and we realized this particular rock was a popular spot to jump in the freezing water of Lake Tahoe.  Here are a couple of pictures from the park.  The hike back to the park was no more than 1/2 mile but it had me huffing and puffing.

That afternoon we drove over to Heavenly Ski Resort and looked around and see if we might want to ski there some time.  We drove back to the Shore House B&B and read for an hour or so sitting in the garden of by the lake.  I kept shifting back and forth from the shade to the sun and back to shade.  It was too cool to sit in the shade in a short sleeve shirt and to hot in the sun.  I got a jacket and moved back to the shade. Then it was time for afternoon wine a cheese at the B&B then we were off to dinner.  Obviously food was high on the agenda.

By Tuesday I was feeling considerably better and we decided to hike up to Marlette Lake from the Tahoe side.  We drove up to a trail head and hiked up about 2000 feet in 4 miles to a beautiful overlook.  My legs complained a little on some of the steeper sections but did fine and we actually ran most of the way down.  Wednesday we decided to drive around to the west side of the lake.  We stopped a an amazing lava outcropping near Tahoe City.  The outcropping shoots straight up from the side of the road 250 ft and we hiked to the top and took pictures.  A nice couple took our picture.
Next we drove on around the lake to Emerald Bay.  Tahoe had received so much late season snow that the falls coming down into the west end of Emerald Bay were huge.  We took pictures and hiked around the top before deciding to hike down to the lake.  The trail is just under a mile in length from the Hwy 89, (the Emerald Bay Highway) to the park on the lake's edge 400 ft below.  We wandered around looking at a huge redwoods and beautiful house that is in the park, then I decided to try to run back up the hill.  I ran about 100 yards and had to stop a few seconds and I started again.  I made it all the way up then turned around and came back down to meed Marye Jo who was walking up.  I got to her, turned around and ran back up again, this time continuing on to get our car on the other side of the falls.  From where I met Marye Jo I had to run another 0.68 miles to the car.  Under normal conditions this wouldn't even be worth the effort.  Two days after running 100 miles, it was tough and I was actually surprised I could do it and ran fairly fast.  Here is a video I took above the falls.

We arrived home in Birmingham over the weekend and I did not run at all.  Tuesday I ran two laps, about 50 minutes at Veteran's Park.  Saturday I ran 2.5 hours at Oak mountain exactly two weeks after the start if the 100 mile run.  I ran twice, 2 laps each at Veteran's the third week after the Tahoe race and that Saturday I ran 3 hours.  (I think I ran 4 hill repeats and felt pretty good.)  That was August 6th.

The 4th week after the race I ran 3 laps at Veteran's on Tuesday and swam 40 minutes and ran 30 minutes at Oak Mountain State Park on Thursday.  Saturday of the 4th week I decided to try more hill repeats  so I  ran six repeats which took about 3 hours including the run to the start of the hill and back to get more water, and I felt great.  Then I ran an additional 2 hours and died.  It was 99 deg. when I got back in my car.  The 5th week after the race I did exactly the same three runs only the 6 hill repeats were a little faster.  Again, by the time I started the 2 hour loop the temperatures and humidity were almost unbearable and the loop was slow and a real struggle to finish.

That brings up to the 6th week after Tahoe. (August 27th.)  I ran Tuesday at Veteran's for 3 laps but did not have time to run Thursday.  On Saturday I headed out to Oak Mountain.  Hurricane Irene was heading up the East Coast of the US and pulling the humidity out of Alabama.  The air temperature was slightly cooler but still hot but the low humidity make it feel great.  I ran 9 hill repeats,  all under 14 minutes (two under 13 and one under 12 minutes.)  I finished the run with a loop and a total time of 5:05.  This may have been the best run I have had in years and by far the fastest hill repeats ever.

I will know more after the upcoming 50Ks but I think the way I eased back into hard training really worked great.  I was in good condition for Tahoe and I think I have been able to stay at that fitness level and actually improve.  I was a little discouraged until the 6th week when it was cooler.  The cooler temperatures and low humidity made all the difference in the world in my run and my attitude.