Sunday, January 30, 2011

Base Layers in the cold.

I realized I have left out one of my most used articles of clothing in cold weather.  Several years ago I purchased a "Craft" base layer top for riding my bike.  I then purchased a second because I never wanted to ride or run without one if it is cold.  My Saturday run reminded me that I needed to mention Craft Products.  Actually, what made me think of it was I had a Craft hat until yesterday.  

When I started my run it was 32 deg. according to my car's thermometer.  For me that is perfect running weather for shorts but I like to keep my upper body warm.  I had on a craft "base layer" top (like the one pictured below,) heavy Coolmax long sleeve top and a short sleeve shirt on top.  The temperature would be above 60 by the end of my run.  I was wearing medium weight glovers and my Craft hat.  I ran hill repeats on the green trail, not where I usually run.  Like the white trail it gains about 500 feet but over about a mile.  The major difference is the green trail climbs over and back down two ridges before a final very long and steep climb.  About 2/3 of the way up the first ridge it began to warm up.  By the time I reached the top of the climb,  I had pulled off the hat, gloves and pulled down the arm warmers.  (Forgot to mention them.)

On the return trip down the final ridge, as I neared the bottom the temperature dropped dramatically so I put everything back on.  These hill relps take just over 15 minutes each (that is 15 up and 15 down), at least the first 4.  Each time up it go warmer up high and less cold at the bottom, At the top of the 3rd climb I had to stop and pull off the Craft (base layer) top.  I do not understand how something so thin can keep your body so warm, but it does.  The trouble with the top is, if it warms up like it did Saturday you have no option but to stop and take it off.  Because it is a base layer, everything on top must also come off.  In a short race like a 50K, I will only wear it if it is likely to stay cool enough that I will not need to remove it.  After 4 reps I ran back to the car and dropped off everything except the long sleeve and short sleeve shirts.  At the end of the run, 4 hours, 15 minutes later I again returned to the car to find one of my gloves laying on the ground by my car.

I picked it up and tossed it in the car and gave it no more thought.  When I came back to the car after 4 reps I ran into a trail running friend I had not seen in a while and talked to him a few minutes.  Somehow I dropped the glove and apparently, my Craft hat on the ground.  Of course, I didn't realize it was gone until I got home and started washing everything our.  I usually hand wash my gloves and hat and "special shirts" like Leadville and Wasatch.  I also wash out my hydration pack following a run. It gets a little sweaty but mostly because the vest gets sticky from the Perpetuem drink mix I carry and empty gu packs. 

This is my pool lost hat.  I will get another.  It is great on days where the temperature is freezing to about 50.  Any warmer that that and it starts to get too hot.  It is very thin and a cap will fit right over it.  A bike helmet, even my aero helmet fits over it, too.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Products I Really Like and other stuff

1. If you run trails very often you know every few miles you have to stop and dump the sticks and rocks out of you shoes. I have run 100 miles and never had to removed a shoe to dump the  trash out.  How?  I have a pair of gaiters, but not just any gaiters, Dirty GirlGaiters.  They are great and Cheep!  Actually, I have three pair. Go to their web site and pick out a style.  (They must have 60 or 70 patterns.)  You will never get on a trail again without them.   You can get a pair to match every outfit.  And you get some really interesting comments from non trail runners.   

They are so simple it is amazing.  They are made of spandex and have a tiny hook on the front that slips under  the bottom shoe lace and a piece of Velcro that is attached to the heal of your shoe.  That is it.  They are $17.00 per pair and that includes shipping.  This is one product I will urge you to BUY.  You will love 'em!

2.  Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Chapstick with sun block and a hat:  I learned at Wasatch this year how important these things can be.  I always remember sun screen, sunglasses and a hat but I did not think about Chapstick with sun block.  I did use regular Chapstick throughout the race but that was not enough.  The day after the race I realized my lips were a little chapped.  By the next day they, my lips, fell apart.  It took over a week of putting medicated cream on them to get them to heal.

Even is you are running in the summer in the southeast, where you are almost continuously under a canopy of trees it is still a good idea to use sunscreen.  If you run in the west at high elevation, it is critical to use sun block.  The sun is so much more intense at high elevation it can cook you before you realize you are in the sun.  I also like to have a very lightweight, long sleeve cool max or similar shirt available in a drop bag for those runs in the sun.

I cannot run wearing sunglasses in the woods around the southeast.  I have tried and I fall. If you saw the video from my run last weekend, rocks like that are not just in a few isolated ares they are everywhere.  When I wear sunglasses I can see the big ones just fine, but it is the small rocks that will get me. I do always try to wear a cap.  If is cold, but not too cold, I will wear a thin "skull cap" for warmth and a billed cap over it to keep the sun out of my eyes.  If it is really cold then I wear a heavy toboggan cap and carry a cap for when it warm up.  If I know I will be running for a long time in direct, intense sun and it is hot, then I will wear my "Zombie Runner, desert drape hat."  It is hard to see, but I am wearing it at the 2009 Florida Ironman in the picture below.  As you can see, I am wearing my sunglasses too!  I am also wearing my Nathan Speed belt and carrying my Nathan Quick-Draw bottle.  

I am about to buy a new handheld bottle by Amphipod, the Amphipod Hydraform Handheld with a 20 oz bottle.  I want to try it for two reasons.  It looks like it will be easier to hold and it is available with a neoprene cover over the bottle.  The biggest disadvantage of the Nathan handheld is that when it is cold, you hands freeze.  I have run several times on cold mornings (I mean in the 40s) and my fingers became numb with the Nathan bottle.  Gloves don't seem to help, either.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Managing Stuff for the Long Runs and Races

It takes me about 15 minutes to gather supplies for a 50K. It takes me weeks to get everything assembled and organized for a 100 mile run. This is partly because I will be running for a very long time as do most runners in a 100 miler. In one of my first posts I borrowed something Ken Chlouber, founder of the Leadville 100, said at the training camp for the 2009 Leadville 100. Forgive me, I am going to repeat it. The story makes the point of why it takes so much planning for most of us.

I went to the June training camp for the Leadville 100 trail run held in August. Sunday night, following the days run from Twin Lakes, over Hope Pass to Winfield, and back, I attended a forum with eight or ten locals who had finished The Leadville 100 ten or more times. The founder of the event, Ken Chlouber, was introducing Duncan Callahan, the winner of the race the previous year, and comparing his finish time to one of older 10+ time finishers. He said something like this: “After Duncan finished, he could have rested a while, gone to his room and taken a shower, had a big meal at a restaurant, gone back to his room and slept 8 hours, had breakfast and come back to the finish line in time to see – (Pointing at the older runner, probably as old as me) – John finish.” (I actually do not remember the name of the person Ken was pointing at, so “John” will do.) Of course, everyone had a big laugh, but it was true. Duncan could have actually done all that in 2009 and still made it back in time to see me finish.

This video is of Hope Pass, Inbound, during training camp.
In a previous section I explained how I try to estimate what time I will reach each aid station. This is especially important for the aid stations that allow drop bags. You need to know how long you will be on the trail between each drop bag station so you will know what supplies you need in each bag. For example, at Leadville, I knew I would be leaving the “Fish Hatchery, Outbound” at mile 23.5 about 9:00AM when I would need sunglasses and sunscreen and a light weight, long sleeve shirt.  (The sun is very intense at 9,000 ft.) That was easy to figure. Twin Lakes, on the other hand, is at mile 39.5 and is where you head out for the top of Hope Pass. The next drop bag is at Winfield at mile 50, the turnaround. The top of Hope Pass is five miles and 3,300 feet away and Winfield is 10 miles away. You have to try to figure out how long it will take to get over the pass and what you will likely need going over the pass?

Approaching the location of the Hopeless Aid Station, Outbound at training camp.

In 2009 at Leadville, We cheated. We were staying in Twin Lakes and our room was about 50 yards off the course. After checking in at the aid station I ran to the room to change socks. There is a creek crossing about a mile out of Twin Lakes and I put on "Drynax" socks and resupply for the trip over the pass. No need to pack a Twin Lakes drop bag and guess what the weather would be. I grabbed what I thought I might need at the room. As it turned out, the weather was beautiful and warm with no chance of rain and I was ahead of schedule. I will stay in Twin Lakes when I run Leadville again. It is about 20 miles out of Leadville so you do end up running back and forth a few times but it is so nice to have your own room at such a critical point in the run. It was especially nice inbound. The water in the creek crossing in the middle of the valley floor was ice cold and it was 9:30 PM. I was still cold when I got to the room to change socks. The room was warm and I could dry my feet in a nice dry towel and warm up before heading back out into the cold.

I knew I would be leaving Winfield for the return trip over the pass late enough that it would be dark long before I was back to Twin Lakes. As it turned out, I was going over Hope Pass, inbound just at sunset. It was absolutely spectacular seeing the sun set from the top of a 12,550 ft pass. I did stop and enjoy it for about 20 seconds. I was wishing I had brought a camera. I had my lights and warm clothing in the bag ready for the nigh in the Rockies.  I was also kicking myself for not bringing trekking poles for the "Double Crossing."

The top picture shows the approximate route of the run out of Twin Lakes across the valley floor.  The second shot is Twin Lakes with Mt Elbert in the background.  
Did I mention Twin Lakes is rather small.

The first 100 mile run I did was the Pinhoti 100 here in Alabama. I ran it unsupported. That is, I had no crew. Fortunately, I was able to guess correctly where I would need what on the course. My wife, Marye Jo crewed for me at Leadville and Wasatch. Having her there to help sort gear and cheer you on is the biggest boost there could be. It also gives you a reason to go on when you have just about given up. I know she is waiting for me at the next stop. And one other thing, if you screw up and forget something or loose something, like a flashlight in the middle of the night, which I did at Leadville, you know your crew will be waiting for you at the next stop to give you the backup.  At Leadville, I was not the only one that never slept during the race.  All the aid stations are easily accessible by car and Marye Jo was at every one, sometimes waiting for hours because she did not know when I would arrive.  That is dedication.  I cannot tell her how much it meant to me, but I did make her meet me at the top of the hill 7 blocks from the finish and run (actually walk) in with me.  She should have received a finishers award too.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Saturday Run at Oak Mountain.

This is how you train for 100 runs in the Rockies if you live someplace like Birmingham, Alabama.

Saturday I did my usual hill repeat training run at Oak Mountain State Park, just a few miles from my house.  I start at the North Trail Head and follow the White Trail to "Maggie's Glen," shown at the start of the first video.  I run from Maggie's Glen up the "White Trail" climbing 500 feet in three-quarters of a mile.  This is the best continuous climb in the park and this is how I train for runs like Leadville and Wasatch.  I ran 8 repeats on the trail from the bottom at Maggie's to where the trail levels out before heading back to Shackleford Point, the highest point in the park.  After the hill repeats I ran a loop through the park for about another one and a half hours for a total run of 4 hours, 39 minutes and 54 sec.

Each climb takes me about 12:30 and I walk up three short sections of the run.  The first is near the bottom, where the first video stops. These three sections are very steep and I walk these sections so I can run consistent times on all 8 reps.  I start running by the creek in Maggie's Glen in the clip above. The run begins with a gentle climb for about 100 yards followed by a short but steep section.  After that, the trail climbs straight up the side of Double Oak Mountain at a steady rate for about a quarter mile where it again angles up steeply for about 20 yards.  (Second walking section.)  After that the climb traverses left around to the ridge-line just below the first of three steep rock steps.

The second video is climbing up the first rock step (forgive me for using an Everest Term on a 500 foot hill.)  Descending this section will keep you focused.  After reaching the top of the first step there is a short gentle climb to the second step.  This clip ends at the top of the second step.

After the second step, the ridge continues to climb gently for about 200 yards before reaching the third rock step.  This is where the third video, above, begins.   At the top of the climb, (the turnaround point), I try to show the really pretty view, however the low resolution and quality of my camera leave much to be desired.

This final video clip is coming back down from the turnaround point.  It shows the terrain a lot better and you can tell that there actually is a nice view up there.  You can also tell that you do not want to spend much time looking around while running.  All those rocks on the trail are not very forgiving.

It doesn't look 500 feet high but it is.  Maggie's Glen would be off the picture to the right.  The white trail  follows the right side of that hill, up to the ridge facing this side of the hill and then on up to the highest point you can see in the picture. That is my hill repeat run.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Managing all the STUFF in a 50K.

Don't Panic, this is not what you will need to run a 50K.
The top picture shows what I started the Wasatch 100 carrying.  The blue bag to the rear contains my Hydration Pack and Speed belt plus a few extra bottles.

This second picture shows all my drop bags loaded and ready to ship.  Yes, ship.  I never trust the airlines to get all my gear to a race.  I pack it up the week before and ship it UPS. 

If you think I didn't wear all that stuff, this is me just before the start at The Wasatch 100.  I decided to wear the jacket because we drove through a rain storm just a few miles from the start.  If you look carefully the trekking poles are visible in my backpack. I am wearing the Nathan 3 liter vest and the Speed belt.  The small pouch attached to the vest is my camera.

Running a 50K is pretty simple. I grab a Nathan “Quickdraw” 20 oz water bottle and a few NUUN tablets, my “Speed Belt” with three 10 oz bottles and dump 2 scoops of “Perpetuem” in each. I pick up a few Honey Stinger gels and head out the door. I almost forgot. I also add two scoops of Endurox by Pacific Health to another 20 oz bottle to be mixed and consumed after the race. (It is a recovery drink.) Oh, and there are the Enervit tablets and a few ginger chews, too. I will also grab a bottle of water to drink on the way to the race. If I will be driving for an hour or two, or more, I will take some coffee and an additional snack. I think that is about it. 

Once I arrive at the race I will take out the three 10 oz bottles containing Perpetuem and add water to ONE. I then put all three bottles in slots on the “Speed” belt. I will fill the next bottle when the first runs out. (No extra weight.) I will already have estimated how long it will take to get to the first aid station and add just enough water to be sure to get there. (Probably 8 oz) Then I will drop in the right amount of NUUN tablet. (For 8 oz add ½ tablet.) I stick the gel packs where ever they will fit. Usually, I put two in a pocket that is easy to reach. I will stick a couple more in the back pocket on the Speed belt. I put the Enervit tablets in a baggie along with the additional NUUN tablets and zip them in the front pocket on the Speed belt. You want the NUUN tablets to be very accessible since you will need them every hour or so. I cut or fold the run number so it is as small as possible and pin it to my shorts. I put a chapstick in my pocket, lock the car and put the car key in the inner portion of the back pocket of the Speed belt and I am ready to race. A few minutes before the start I eat a “Honey Stinger” gel.

I have two pair of running shorts I like. One pair is made by Nike and has a large pocket on each side. The pockets are as large and hold a lot of stuff. Actually, they can hold too much. If you put too much in them, they bulge out so much they get in the way of your hand movement when running. The other pair are called RaceReady shorts. They have 7 pockets across the back. One meas pocket in the middle, two smaller pockets on each side and one thin, Velcro close pocket on each side. The only problem I have with the RaceReady shorts is remembering what I put in which pocket.

Actually, you would probably do just as well to grab a water bottle and some electrolytes and run the race and forget all the other stuff.  Most 50K runs provide gels and plenty of food at the aid station.  For me, part of the mental preparation for any race is the "getting ready" for the race.  You may know that bike racers and triathletes shave their arms and legs before races (many keep them shaved all the time.)  I do the same before any major triathlon, like the Florida Ironman.  Some competitors will explain how the hair causes extra drag during the swim or on the bike or that no hair helps in the event of a little "road rash."  Actually, the road rash part may be true, having experienced that first hand a couple of times.

In most Ironman events the competitors wear wetsuits.  No skin is exposed.  Shaving becomes irrelevant.  The real reason we do it is because, "if you don't shave, no one will take you seriously."  It does not matter how fast you are, if you don't shave you arms and legs other triathletes will consider you a "rank amateur," a beginner.  For me, there is a much more important reason.  I will start shaving weeks before the event as my training  is beginning to peak.  The shaving is part of the mental preparation for the race.  I always shave the night before the event.  Every time I shave I am getting ready.

For me, the planning and packing for an ultra is the same type mental preparation as is shaving for a triathlon.  This year for The Wasatch 100, I started sorting and packing gear weeks before the race.  I actually began examining the course on Google Earth and and the maps on the Wasatch website as soon as I knew I was in the race in February.  As my training was peaking in early July, I was examining the course elevation profile and overlaying it with distance charts to calculate how long it would take me to reach each aid station and what I would need in each drop bag.  For me, the mental preparation is almost as important as the training runs.

We happened to go skiing in Utah a few weeks after learning I was in the Wasatch race.  We checked out Lamb's Canyon (location of an aid station at mile 53) of I80 on the way to Park City.  I like to ski off Lift 9990 at the Canyons so I took the high traverse to the right off the lift and skied over to the edge of the crest where I could see Desolation Lake far below over the ridge.  Desolation Lake is the location of a very remote aid station at mile 66.9.  From there the course climbs 1,000 feet to within a few feet of where I was standing.  A couple of days later we went over to Alta Ski Resort (probably the best skiing in America.)  We took the Supreme Lift up the the "Catherine's Area on the far East side of the resort where we could see Point Supreme at mile 78.5, the high point in the Wasatch 100.  That will certainly "psyche" your mind.

Next: How I plan for the gear I carry and put in drop bags in 100 mile runs.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fueling during the race

Installment three from the How To Run the Run for Kids page.

In this section I often refer to "Long Races."  What I am talking about are races that will take at least 12 hours to complete.
In an ultra, especially the longer ones, it is necessary to eat and drink all during the run.  This is a foreign concept to most road racers and runners.  Just about everyone uses carb type gels these days and if you are not, you should start.  They really work.  Most runners can tolerate them for a several hours and you probably can run a 50K eating nothing else but I would not recommend it.  I can tell you from experience that after a while the thought of a GU will make you sick.  I suggest you start trying various other foods during your training runs.  Here is a list of things you will typically find at aid stations in 50K to 100 mile races:
    Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches (Races longer than 50K)
    Other types of sandwiches  (100 mile races)
    M&M, and other types of candy
    Potato Chips
    Soup or Broth  (Usually over night in 100 mile races)
    Cooked Potatoes and a bowl of Salt to dip them in.
    Cokes, Sprite, Gatorade, etc.
    Several types of Cookies and Crackers.
    Bananas and other fruit.
    Even Coffee  (Overnight in long races only)

You will need to figure out what you like and what you are able to eat while running, so start practicing.  When I started training for the Pinhoti 100 in 2008, I would take an assortment of food in my car to Oak Mountain for all my long training runs.  After several hours of running, I would stop by my car to refill water bottles and try a few new snacks.  I also carried various snacks with me on the run.  Every two to three hours I would have a quick bite to eat.  Sometimes I stop but usually I just keep running or at least walking.  What I found out is that I can eat anything that looks good to me at the time.  I have never really had a problem eating it if it looks good.  If it doesn't look good I just don't eat it.  (I have never tried a barbecue sandwich or a chili-dog, and furthermore, I will not!)

One other word on stomach problems.  Sometime during every long race I have run, my stomach starts to feel a little queasy.  One trick I have learned is to carry  Ginger Chews candy at all times.  You eat one and a few minutes later you are fine.  I do not know of any local stores that have  them, but Zombie Runner sells them and they are cheep.  We will have some at the Run for Kids Challenge.  The Enlyten strips also do a good job of settling you stomach.  You just eat a couple of strips like candy and in a few minutes you feel fine.

One very critical issue regarding food is what to eat, or more importantly, what NOT to eat the night before an ultra, especially long ultra.  Everyone that ever slipped on a pair of running shoes knows to eat carbs the night before a race and this is important.  Running ultras creates new issues, however.  Because you are running for many hours you do not want to have heavy, slow digesting food sitting in your gut.  Stay away from any type of ruffage.  A grilled chicken or salmon salad might be a great, healthy meal any other time, but don't eat it the night before an ultra.  Some people go as far as suggesting runners eat nothing more than soup or even a drink like "Ensure."  Just eat light and eat what can be easily digested.

In addition to figuring out what you like to eat during runs you will also need do experiment with various energy drinks.  I have been using Hammer Nutrition Products for the past two years and really like them.  Studies have shown that endurance athletes running for more than 4 or 5 hours need protein and carbohydrates.  Many of these mixes have a ration of 4 to 1, Carbs to Protein.  Try some of the energy drink mixes available at running stores and bike shops while training.  Most have carbs and protein plus a lot of other supplements.  I now use HAMMER PERPETUEM.  It taste good and I can drink it for 30 straight hours with no problems.  Like the electrolytes, there are many brands and types to choose form.  Most are available in individual servings, so buy an assortment of brands and flavors and try them all.  You may want to experiment with different water/powder ratios, too.  I carry 10oz water bottles on a Nathan Speed 4R belt during long runs and races and mix the Perpetuem at a ration of two scoops of powder to 10 oz of water.  At this ration one 10 oz bottle should last about one to one and a half hours.  
My eating and fueling rules:
  1. Experiment during training runs and know what you can eat.
  2. Eat a little at regular intervals along the run.
  3. Grab a sandwich and a banana at the and take it with you.
  4. Always eat on the move.  Never sit down unless changing shoes  or socks (in shorter ultras.)  
  5. Have your own supplies of things you like in a drop bag or cooler at the aid station. 
        (at the Run for Kids there is room for a cooler at the aid station.)
  6. Don't forget to eat and drink.  Don't Laugh, in 100 mile races you  can forget who you are.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hydration and Electrolytes

Here is a second excerpt from my website for the Run for Kids Challenge from a section on how to run the 50K or 12 Hour Challenge at Veteran's Park in Birmingham, Alabama.

On of the biggest problems ultrarunners have is staying fueled and hydrated during hours of running.  The longer the race the harder this becomes.  Your are burning calories faster than you can replace them and your body does not absorb water as fast as you are loosing it.  It is critical to begin drinking a lot of liquid (NO ALCOHOL) several days prior to the race.  The day before the race drink even more.  I drink so much water the day before a race I end up hopping out of bed every 2 hours to run the the bathroom.

We will provide water for all 3 races but the water will not be served in cups for the 50K or 12 hour run.  If you are running these races you will need to carry a water bottle with you.  There are several ways to do this.  I personally prefer a hand held bottle with a hand strap make by Nathan.  The one I use is called a "Quickdraw."  It has a pocket on one side that can hold a few supplies.  (I usually put my car keys or cell phone in it.)  There are also many type of belts that hold a bottle.  The Trak Shak has everything you will need.  Of course, you can just carry an ordinary water bottle.  Hydration packs work, but they are a pain to refill and really slow down aid station stops.  Since you will reach the water stop every three miles you really only need to carry a few ounces at a time.   I think you will find the hydration pack a lot more trouble than the other methods.  Start trying various hydration systems now so you will know what works best for you by race day.

During the 50K and 12 hour runs it will be very important to stay hydrated.  It will probably be very hot and humid during the race.  If you are running the 50K, you will be running until almost noon or early afternoon.  You should drink water all the time.  I probably take a drink every 5 minutes or so during runs and races.  You can handle a lot of small drinks much better than one big drink at aid stations.  Drink Constantly!

One of the major causes of stomach distress during a run is too much in you stomach.  If you are drinking a lot, as you are supposed to, the "too much" will likely be water.  So how do you keep from drinking too much water.  Usually the issue is not drinking too much water.  The problem is the water is not being absorbed fast enough.  If you are not taking in enough electrolytes with the water, the water will not be absorbed fast enough and will start sloshing around in there.  That is when you start feeling really sick at you stomach.

There are many good products available that will help solve this problem and they are all spelled "electrolytes."  Start at a local bike shop like Cahaba Cycle and Homewood Cycle.  They carry a good assortment and can tell you about each.  I am now using one called "NUUN" tablets.  You simply drop one in your water bottle each time you refill it.  There are several other types of tablets and capsules available.  One popular product is called "Salt Stick" capsules and I always carry a few of them with me in every run and race.  Start using them in your training and see what you like best.  After several hours of running I find it hard to swallow capsules.  That is why I like the NUUN tablets.  Sometimes I also use Enlyten strips.  They are like breath strips and come in a very small cassette.  You put one strip between your cheek and gums and let it dissolve.  Each one lasts about 45 minutes.  When one is gone, put in another.  In my early ultrarunning I used them almost exclusively.  They work great but have one major drawback. The Enlyten strips actually burn the tissue in your mouth after hours of continuous use.  Another good product that I like is "Cliff Shot Blocks."  They are sort of like "gummy bears" and taste good.  I usually carry some with me to eat like candy.  

Another product I always carry, training and racing, is Enervit tablets.  They come in a pack of 12 and are the best thing for cramps I have ever used.  I began using them several years ago while training and riding area bike rides like Six Gap in North Georgia and The Assault on Mt. Mitchell.  I eat one tablet as soon as you begin to feel twinges in my leg muscles and I never get a cramp.  It just goes away.  Most bike shops carry Enervit products but not the tablets for some reason.  That is why the link is to Amazon.Com.  The last time I ordered them, that was the only place I could find them.

My rules for staying hydrated:
1.  Drink a lot of water for several days before the race.
2.  Drink even more water the day before.
3.  No Alcohol for at least 2 or 3 days prior to the race.
4.  Do all training runs using electrolyte supplements.  
Follow the directions for each product)
5.  Use electrolytes before and during the race.

The NUUN tablets I use mix at a ratio of one tablet to 16 oz of water.  I don't like to carry any more weight than necessary.  If I know the aid stations are no more than 4 or 5 miles apart, I break the tablets in half or fourths before the race and put them in a zip-lock baggy.  As I come to the aid station I check to see how much water I have and figure how much I will need to reach the next AS.  I remove the lid from the bottle as I approach the aid station.  I will add either 4 or 8 oz (I mark 4,8,12 and 16 oz on the bottle for reference) and drop in a 1/4 or 1/2 tablet, put on the top and head out.  I don't like to waste time at aid stations, either.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How to run the Run for Kids 50K

My next several postings will come directly from the website for the run I am putting on here in Birmingham, Alabama as a fundraiser for Camp Smile-A-Mile.  Camp SAM is Alabama's camp for kids with cancer.  I will explain how I would suggest running The Run for Kids Challenge 12 hour run and 50K to be held at Veteran's Park here in Birmingham.   Although it is specifically for running an ultra at the 5K course in the park, the basics are the same.  

If you have run a marathon, then running a trail 50k will be very similar.  The primary difference is your time will be slower.  Even hilly marathon courses like the old Mercedes Marathon route had long stretches that were almost totally flat and the climbs, although long were gentle.  Trail ultras tend to be quite hilly.  Sometimes you actually end up climbing on all fours.  This is the case in Mountain Mist in Huntsville where the climb up "Water Line" is a little scary at the top.  A slip could send you 20 or 30 feet down the side of a waterfall.  Another good example is the Oak Mountain 50K right here in Birmingham.  After running down to Peavine Falls from the blue trail, you cross under the falls and climb up the hill to the white trail headed back to the aid station at the Peavine Falls Parking lot.  You are pulling yourself up that hill by roots and limbs.  Nothing on the Veteran's Park trail is anything like that, but there are several short hills in the trees that will slow you down.  The following sections well tell you how you can cope with the various situations and conditions you can expect to encounter in any ultra, even a fairly easy one like The Run for Kids Challenge. You are still running 31+ miles.

Just a little on how to run the race:
The steepest hill  at Veteran's Park is just before you come out of the woods near the back parking lot of Jeff State Community College.  Certainly in the 5K almost every runner will run up that hill.  The 50K is another story.  Few if any of the 50K runners will run up that hill and certainly none of the 12 hour runners.  Running up a hill like that uses far more energy than the time gained.  In fact, you may notice in the first lap where you will be running along with 5K runners that people are walking up that hill as fast as many are running.  There are three hills back in the woods that you may want to walk up rather than run, especially late in the race.  You may want to walk some even on the flatter section near the lakes.  In ultras it is just fine to walk when you need to.  

In 100 mile runs a lot of very fast people use a two minute "run-walk" plan.
That is, they run two minutes and walk two minutes on flat or very gentle up hill sections.  They will walk up all steeper hills and run down all hills.  I find I am most comfortable running about 3/4 of the flats very slowly, walking all up hill sections and running all downhill to a point.  Ultras in the Rockies (I have run races in Colorado and Utah) have some descents that are so steep, they are downright scary.  I will always walk down things like that.  It is too easy to fall and really get hurt.

Pace is an issue that can cause you problems late in the run.  In a typical road marathon or 10K, you probably try to hit the same pace per mile every mile.  This does not work in trail ultras.  There is so much variation in the trails on an average 50K, a steady pace is simply not possible. (Not to mention there are no mile marks in ultras, only aid stations every 4 to13 miles.) You have to go by "feel."  At Veteran's Park you will be able to shoot for a consistent lap pace, but you will be slower through the woods than on the open areas around the lakes.  You should also run a pace quite a bit slower than you marathon pace, especially in the first half of the race.  The 50K will be 11 laps around the park and if you still feel strong after 6 or 7 laps, you may want to pick up the pace slightly.  BEWARE:  Just like in a marathon, those last 4 or 5 miles can be killers.  If you ran your last marathon at a 4 hour pace you might consider starting at a 5 hour marathon pace.

So here are my rules for how to run an ultra:  
  1.  Walk up all steep hills.
  2.  Walk up gentle hills when you need to.
  3.  Walk anytime you need to.
  4.  Your pace early in the race should feel like you are crawling.

Trekking Poles

This section will be pretty short.  My rule for trekking poles is if there will be long, steep climbs like at The Wasatch 100 or Hardrock, use them.  If not, they are too much trouble to fool with.

I have seen a couple of people using them in local 50Ks but that is about all.  I personally do not like using them anywhere other then long, steep climbs or steep descents.  Since most runs in the Birmingham, AL area have only a few short, steep climbs with a lot flatter running between, they are just too much trouble.  When not using them, you either have to carry them or stow them.  I don't want to do either.

When I ran the Leadville 100, I did not have my poles and when I was making the double crossing over Hope Pass I wished I had them.  The climb is steep and long and the descent to Winfield is extremely steep, especially lower, down in the Aspens.  If I do Leadville again I will  picked them up at Twin Lakes, outbound, and dropped them off again on the way back through TL.

I did use them at Wasatch this year for the entire run.  I did not ever stow them although I did not really need them through most of the first afternoon.  My major concern with using the poles at Wasatch was that I could not carry my water bottles or a flashlight.  I spent considerable time through the summer figuring out how to manage with "no hands."

Hydration was the primary issue I had to resolve.  I had run with hydration packs before and really did not like them.  You never know how much water you have at any given time.  I used a Nathan 2 Liter pack in the Katcina Mosa 100K in Utah in 2008.  On the longest and hottest climb in the run, I ran totally out of water half way up the climb and the temperatures reaching 100deg. that day.  At the aid station before that climb I did not take the time to pull the bladder out and see how much water I actually added.  I climbed over an hour with no water at all and that was a disaster.  I never recovered and was not able to finish.

Of course knowing how much water you have is no guarantee either.  At Leadville last year I hurried through the Twin Lakes AS ( mile 40) too quickly and did not drink anything.  I also did not totally top off my two, 20 oz hand held bottles before leaving Twin Lakes.  By the time I was 200 yards past the AS I realized I was really thirsty and knew I should go back.  I did not.

I had gone to the training camp for the Leadville 100 in late June where we actually ran from Twin Lakes to Winfield (the turnaround) and back to TL.  I knew what to expect in the climb but we were not able to run across the valley floor.  In the spring there was a lot of runoff from show melt and the ankle deep creek we ran through in the race was a raging, class 4 river at the camp.  I did not realize how far it was across the valley to the start if the climb and the woods.  The valley floor is totally exposed and it was a hot day.

I emptied one bottle before hitting the climb and knew I would run completely out long before the "Hopeless" aid station which is located at timberline on the way up.  l started rationing my remaining water.  I did not actually run out but was consuming much less water than I needed.  I again became very dehydrated on the climb and my pace slowed to a crawl.  I finally made the AS where I drank a lot and totally filled my bottles before continuing on up to the top of the pass.  I was moving so slow I was sure I would not make the Winfield cutoff.  I felt so bad I had to walk all the way down the pass, and the almost four miles up to Winfield.  Fortunately, my wife, Marye Jo, was waiting for me at Winfield and make me take my time and rest, eat and drink.  After about 20 minutes I headed back  to the start of the climb over Hope again.  As befoer, I had to walk the four miles back downhill to the beginning of the climb, and of course, walk all the way to the top.

By the time I reached the top of Hope Pass I was beginning to feel better and was able to run most of the way down.  The whole time I was sure I would never make the cutoff at Twin Lakes, but i did and was able to finish.  I actually got to feeling good and ran much of the last 35 miles.  (That is the downhill and flat sections.)

Back to Wasatch.  I decided on a Nathan 3 Liter pack.  (No danger of running out of water.)  In fact, I was so concerned with running out that I started the race with a little too much water in my pack.  I did not need to add any more until the third aid station at Bountiful "B" AS at mile 24.  I will not do that again.  Another reason I like this pack is that it has storage space between the outer storage area and the compartment for the water bladder.  The trekking poles slip right in and stay put when you do not need them.

The solution to the flashlight issue I talked about earlier, in the section on night running.  I wore a headlamp on my head and another headlamp around my waste.  The combination worked great.

I train with a pair of old aluminum poles but purchased a pair of Black Diamond carbon poles for the race.  The poles are extremely light and I like them.  I did have a problem with one of the latches.  The latch kept coming open during the training run where I tried them out.  I adjusted the clip and then it started slipping.  I had it just about right for the race although I did slip some.  

I also have a 2 liter Nathan Pack that I like and use for shorter training runs but there is no place to store the poles.  

I don't seem to have much luck with "short posts."