Monday, February 28, 2011

A Moment of Enlightenment

Several months ago I signed up for the Hardrock 100 and Wasatch 100 Lotteries.  I was not drawn for Hardrock, for the second time, and I forgot to send in a check for Wasatch so I am out of both.  (With Wasatch you register on line but have to send in a check.)  That seems a little strange but that is the way they do it.  Because I failed to finish Wasatch last year, I have to run a qualifier race for Hardrock this year, before I can get in the lottery, next year.  Marye Jo and I decided Leadville would be good.  We knew where to stay, she knew where the aid stations are located, and I know the course.

Saturday I went to the Leadville 100 web site to register and to my dismay, the race was full.  I never imagined The Leadville 100 would fill.  I actually didn't think they really had a cutoff.  In 2009, the year I ran it, about 450 started.  Last year I read somewhere that about 700 started.  It is still six months until the race, and it is full!  I have been reading about how many new runners are entering the sport but that was a shock.  Over the weekend I started looking for another race that I can use to qualify for Hardrock.  To be eligible for the Hardrock lottery you must have completed one of the following races in 2009 or 2010.

  • Angeles Crest
  • Barkley
  • Bear 100
  • Bighorn
  • Cascade Crest Classic
  • Chiemgau 100 mile
  • Coyote Two Moon
  • Eagle
  • Grand Teton
  • Grindstone
  • HURT 100
  • Leadville
  • Massanutten
  • Plain 100
  • Superior Sawtooth
  • Tahoe Rim Trail
  • Tour de Mont Blanc (163 km version)
  • Wasatch
  • Western States

So I started down the line.  Almost every race was full and a few had a waiting list.  Of course there is always the HURT 100 in  Hawaii.  It has a 25% finish rate.  Another race with space available is the Plain 100 in Washington State.  It is unsupported, unmarked, no aid stations, no water, no pacers, no shirts, but they do give you a map.  I would end up in Canada somewhere and still not have a race to get me in the lottery for Hardrock. 

The two I found that I was considering, until today, were the Big Horn 100 in Wyoming and the Grand Teton 100.  Then I decided what I need to do is volunteer at Hardrock and get an extra lottery ticket.  Then I decided a better idea is to go out the weekend before the race and do trail work and trail marking, hangout in Telluride a few days then volunteer for an aid station.  That is two extra tickets.  After deciding all that, I decided to enter the Grand Teton race as soon as it opens next month.  The Big Horn, which looks like a great race, is June 17th and 18th.  I could not take off a week for Big Horn, then two weeks later take off over a week to go to Hardrock.  Not to mention that I might not be able to walk up a hill - or even walk.

Actually, the Gran Teton 100 probably will not fill, at least not too quickly.  The race starts at the Grand Targhee Ski Resort in Alta, Utah.  The resort is located on the other side of Cascade Canyon and a little north of the Grand.  The reason it usually does not have many runners is the race is held on a clover leaf shaped course that is 25 miles long.  To make matters worse, each of the four lap passes through the resort three times.  In addition to 12 trips through the Grand Targhee the race has 20,000 feet of climbing.  Oh yes, the weather can be really cold and bad.  (Snow storms, hail storms, electrical storms in August, bad.)  That does not make for an exciting run, but the logistics will be simple.  Everything I could ever need is just steps off the course in the room.  If I forget something, no problem, I will be back in a little while.  The Grand Targhee area is a beautiful and the views of the Tetons are spectacular. That will make up for a lot.

I talked to my wife, Marye Jo about the idea today and she said it sounded like fun, except for the trail work.  Here is what we decided to "try-to-do."  I will go out Friday, July 1st, by myself, and work Saturday and Sunday.  She will fly in Sunday and take a shuttle to Telluride.  The best way to get to Telluride is fly into Montrose, Colorado and drive about 90 minutes to Telluride.  You actually can fly into Telluride but that is really expensive and Marye Jo said the would never fly into an airport on the side of a mountain with a cliff on the usual approach side.  We will stay in Telluride until Friday when we will work one of the early aid stations.  We need to fly back Saturday.  Can you tell I want to run Hardrock?

A friend of mine, Todd Henderson started a run here in Alabama called the Pinhoti 100 in 2008.  He is also the RD of the Cheaha 50K, a very well know run with a brutal finish.  Pinhoti was my first 100 miler.  Actually, this is a great race.  It is a point to point run the follows the Talladega National Forest and climbs over Alabama's highest point, Mt Cheaha.  The fist half the race is tough.  All single track, typical southeastern trail.  After mile 52, Adams gap aid station, there are some gravel roads and easier running. Last year the Pinhoti filled.  If you plan to run any any 100 mile race, you had better register the minute it opens.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Conditions & More running related problems

I had  planned on doing the next post on overuse injuries but I have decided to switch to another running related condition.  The conditions is Atrial Fibrillation and Atrial Flutter and it affects many distance runners and especially older ultra runners, like me.

AF is the most common cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm), and involves the two upper chambers (atria) of the heart. Its name comes from the fibrillating (i.e., quivering) of the heart muscles of the atria, instead of a coordinated contraction. It can often be identified by taking ones pulse and observing that the heartbeats do not occur at regular intervals. Risk of atrial fib increases with age, with 8% of people over 80 having AF.  This 8% figure includes everyone, not just runners.
In AF, the normal electrical impulses that are generated by the sinoatrial node, located in the right atrium, are overwhelmed by disorganized electrical impulses that originate in the pulmonary veins located in the left atrium, leading to conduction of irregular impulses to the ventricles that generate the heartbeat. The result is an irregular heartbeat, which may occur in episodes lasting from minutes to weeks, or it could occur all the time for years. The natural tendency of AF is to become a chronic condition. Chronic AF leads to a small increase in the risk of death.  The increased risk of death is because the irregular heart beat can cause blood to pool in the atria and can lead to blood clots.  The clotting occurs primarily in people with a weaker heart than a runner.  The runners heart pumps so strongly that blood does not pool, (usually).  The source of the problem is, as mentioned in the previous paragraph is the pulmonary veins.  The four pulmonary veins enter the left atrium (upper chamber of the heart) from the back side of the heart.  If I have a correct understanding of human anatomy, these vanes lay directly against the esophagus which can create a problem in itself that I will discuss in a minute.  The Vegas Nerves travel along the esophagus.  You probably know that distance runners have larger hearts than the average human and therein lies the problem.  An enlarged heart creates more pressure  against the esophagus and against the Vegas Nerves.  Sometimes the electrical impulses are picked up by the cells in the pulmonary veins and are carried into the heart.

My tracings looked a lot more like this bottom strip but with the irregular spacing from the first diagram.

I have had a heart rhythm problem most if my life.  I remember running in high school and feeling what I called "heart flutters" because that is what it felt like.  They occurred very rarely and seemed to cause no problems so I just ignored them.  This caused no problems until I entered a "sort of" adventure race in Wetumpka, Alabama called the Coosa Challenge.  It consisted of a 800 yard run followed by an 18 mile mountain bike segment, followed by a mile run to the Coosa River.  Then we hoped  on sit-on kayaks for a 4 mile, mostly flat water paddle (there was one good class III section)  and ended with a 5 mile run back to town.  It was a very hot early September day and following the bike ride I grabbed a "Red Bull" sitting in a barrel of ice and gulped it down.   Within seconds I could not get enough air and my heart was doing somersaults.  I thought I might be dying.  I had to walk the mile down to the river and didn't paddle very fast for a while. (Obviously, I wasn't very concerned about dropping dead on the trail.)  By the time I finally reached the takeout I felt better and thought I might be able to run to the finish.  By this time the temperature was close to 100 and there at the takeout was another barrel of Red Bulls.  I took one big drink and once again I felt like I was dying.  This time I realized it had to be the Red Bull so I threw it away.  I walked all the way to the end of the race. 

The same thing happened another time, this time drinking a "Powerade."  I was still blaming the problem on what I was drinking.  Finally in 2008, running the Imogene Pass Run, one of my favorite all time runs, I grabbed a cup of cold water at Lower Camp Bird aid station.  The same symptoms hit almost instantly and I knew the trouble was cold liquid.  It still made no sense to me, but that had to be it.  By 2009 I was having trouble finishing almost every run and race without having to walk for at least an hour while my heart settled back down.  Even then I had to run very slow and never uphill or it would start again.   I gave up and in 2010 went to a cardiologist.  He explained the  problem was atrial flutter and fibrillation.  He said we can try to control it with drugs, but if the AF usually occurs when running, I might just have to change my life style. Instead of changing my lifestyle, I changed cardiologist.  I also asked him why the AF happened when I drank cold water.  He informed that there was not connection, it was just a coincidence.  I knew that was not correct.  I contacted a friend and fellow trail runner who is a retired vascular surgeon to see if he had any suggestions.

I had to add a few pictures from the Imogene Pass Run.  First in about 1,000 feet below the summit, the second is the summit.  The third is a Tom Boy Road as it winds along a cliff band headed down into Telluride.

It just so happens that my friend had developed Atrial Fib not long before and had the atrial ablation procedure done.  His AF was now totally gone.  He suggested I see the cardiologist that performed his procedure, Dr Kay at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Medical Center.  He told me that UAB Medical Center was one of the three top cardiology centers in the US and that Dr Kay was the best.  I went to see Dr Kay and he put me a drug called Flecianide.  For much of the last three years I have had to constantly deal with AF.  Every time I ran I had to try to keep my level of exertion and my heart rate very low or I would trigger the AF. That was almost impossible, especially running hill repeats. The new drug worked great and since the first if this year I have been able to run as hard as my legs will carry me.  But I do not intend to take a drug for the rest of my life and the Flecianide was not perfect.  I still had AF episodes occasionally, like during the Mercedes Marathon, and there are other side effects as well.  We decided on the Atrial Ablation Procedure.  The procedures involves running a catheter up through Iliac vein into the Inferior Vina Cava into the right atrium.  Small punctures are made in the groin, arm, or neck area and thin, flexible tubes, called catheters, are inserted and threaded to the heart. Once there, the catheter's tip is threaded through a tiny incision in the wall between the left and right atria (septal wall), and is positioned to ablate tissue around the pulmonary veins or at other sources of erratic electrical signals that cause the irregular heartbeat

 Dr Kay started the procedure about noon Thursday and it took a couple of hours.  I was been back in my room by 3:30 and wide awake awake by 5:00 pm.  I feel great after the procedure and we went home Friday morning.  I had intended to work some Friday but I ended up laying around and sleeping most of the day, although we did go out to eat Friday Night.  Today I feel like I could go out and run hill repeats.  My wife will not even allow me to carry a bag of groceries up the stairs.  The Left Atrial Ablation procedure is not 100% successful.  I will know in about 6 weeks, when the scar tissue if completely formed, if the procedure worked.

I just wanted to make everyone aware that atrial fib can be a side effect of running.  The more years you run the greater the risk, especially running ultras.  And beware of gulping down ice cold liquids when you are very hot.  Dr Kay explained that because the Vegas Nerves lay against the esophagus the nerves can be shocked by a sudden change in temperature and can cause the electrical impulses to interfere with regular heart rhythm even if you do not suffer from atrial fib.

Would I do it any different if I could back up about 30 years knowing I would end up with AF?  Absolutely I would.  I would have started trail running and ultras a long time ago!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rules for the Run for Kids Challenge, May 28th

I just posted a couple of rules for the Run for Kids Challenge Blog to be held here in Birmingham on May 28, 2011.  I know a few of you plan to run the 50K or the 12 hour run so I thought I would list them here, too.  I know the waver says no headphones allowed but I think it would be ridiculous to not allow them in the long runs.

1.  We cannot allow any type of jogging stroller or any other similar device on the course with any run participant.  If you are familiar with the trail at Veteran's park, you know they are narrow and have a couple of very short but steep hills in the woods.  The 50K and 12 hour runs will have started at 7:00am so those runners will already be on the course during the 5K.  (I am assuming no one would actually consider trying to run a 50K or 12 Hour race with a baby jogger.)  We really have no idea how many to expect for the 5K, (the last 5K for Camp SAM had over 1,000 runners) but no matter, the trail will be very crowded during the 5K.  Any type of wheeled device could be dangerous for everyone.  Obviously, we have no control over others using the trail but if anyone is out there with a stroller or on a bike during the 5K, we will ask them please stay to the side of the trail where possible and allow runners to pass without obstructing the race.  I do not expect there will be many non-runners at the park at 8:00am.

2.  Headphones.  We will not allow them to be used by 5K runners for the same reasons listed above.  The trail will be crowded and everyone will need to know what is going on around them.  50K and 12 Hour runners will be allowed to use headphones during those races however we will ask participants in the long races to remove the headphones during the 5K.

If you have any questions, please contact me.
 David Tosch

Monday, February 21, 2011

Electrolytes and Hydration During Long Runs

I apologize for not posting anything for a few days.  Things got really busy after the Mercedes Marathon and now my son is off for a week, skiing.

I have had a request to review electrolytes and Hydration. I am taking a lot of this directly from the Run For Kids Challenge web site, "How to run the Race" page.

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.  By drinking so much water before the race you will be fully hydrated a the start.

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,  but that the water you do drink 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 or triathlon shop like Cahaba Cycle and Homewood Cycle here in Birmingham.  They carry a good assortment of electrolytes and can tell you about each one.  I am now using one called "NUUN" tablets.  You simply drop one tablet in your water bottle each time you refill it.  They are great because you don't have to keep up with when you need to take the next tablet.  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 as a backup.  Pick out a few and start using them in your training and see what you like best.  

After several hours of running I find it hard to swallow capsules.  I used Enlyten strips for a couple of years and really liked them.  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.  The longer you used them the worse the damage was so I quit using them.  I do still carry a pack of Enlyten strips with me.  If you do start to get a little "queasy" just eat a couple, like candy, and within minutes you are fine. 

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 for and riding some difficult  bike rides in the southeast 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 I have the link to Enervit Tablets to an site.  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!  I have been using them for over a year now and they work great.  Now, I don't even try anything else.

The following is the nutritional information for a serving of Nuun based on one tablet dissolved in 16oz (500ml) of water. There are under 8 calories per Nuun tab. Check it out:
Active Ingredientslevel (mg)
Sodium (carbonates)360.0
Potassium (bicarbonate) 100.0
Calcium (carbonate) 12.5
Magnesium (sulfate) 25.0
Vitamin C37.5
Vitamin B2500mcg
Other ingredients: citric acid, sorbitol, sodium carbonate, natural colors flavors, sodium bicarbonate, potassium bicarbonate, polyethylene glycol, magnesium sulfate, sodium benzoate, calcium carbonate, acesulfame potassium, riboflavin-5-phosphate.

Soon I will have more posts on running related injuries.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Injuries, Obvious and Not-So-Obvious

I am going to put running related injuries into three general groups and discuss each. Although they relate to any type of running I strongly suspect trail runners encounter there problems with a greater frequency than the average road runner. Our running environment is much more hazardous (perhaps even hostile at times) and we are out there for very long periods of time. Road runners consider a three hour run a killer. I ran 3 hours and 3 minutes last weekend and that including 4 hill repeats for half of that three hours. That was my taper run before the Mercedes Marathon this weekend. Do you know any road runner that does 8 hour training runs building up to a major race? Most ultrarunners do in preparation for a 100 mile race. By the way, I have done no scientific studies and no extensive reading on anything I am about to write. It is all my opinion, and we all know what that is worth! I will post an article later on overuse injuries. It is a real research study.
My three categories of injuries are: The obvious, the not-so-obvious and conditions. I use the term “conditions” because it more accurately described some problems resulting directly or indirectly from running.
The OBVIOUS needs little discussion. If you fall and hit your head on a rock and have to call your wife to meet you at the trail head to take you to the emergency room for 24 stitches, well, that is “obvious.” I was running along the crest of Double Oak Mountain on the blur trail. As I rounded a large cut log, I did not see the small, very solid rock behind it.  My trailing foot caught on the rock and I fell so quickly I could not even get a hand out to slow the fall.  The rock caught me just above the Eyebrow. I was 8 miles from my car so as soon as I recovered from the shock of hitting my head so hard, I called my wife to come get me.  I hiked the 2 miles to the north trail head holding my eyebrow in place.  I was quite  bloody and two pairs of hikers actually passed me and totally ignored me.  I cannot imagine passing someone that is obviously hurt without offering assistance.  (As the second pair passed I actually considered falling on the ground and acting like I was having a seizure just to see what they would do.  I think they would have hurried off.)  The impact traumatized the nerve to that section of my forehead so the injury never hurt, that is, after I got over the stunning effects of the impact.  The left side of my forehead up into my hair is still a little numb.  It was really fortunate that the emergency room physician was my wife’s cousin.  He took the time to stitch it up carefully (24 stitches total) and the scar is almost invisible. The fun part was, this all happened just two weeks before Halloween. Normally, I kept a bandage over the stitches. They were pretty ugly. On Halloween I put mascara on the stitches so they really looked even worse than normal and added a little stage makeup One neighbor kid came by three times, the final time with his mother trying to figure out if it were fake or real. I was back out on the trail the next weekend.

This picture was taken after the finish of the Dizzy Fifties, my first ultra, exactly one month later.  The scar is still very viable just above my left eyebrow. 

Unless you break a bone or tear something (ligament, tendon, muscle, etc.) in your foot, ankle or leg, it will probably not effect you training much, if at all. Well, I guess you need to throw in major shoulder injuries, too. I think I mentioned earlier that while training for the Imogene Pass Run several years ago I fell and broke a rib. I crashed right where I needed to be peaking. I actually sat out one weekend run before jumping right back into running hill repeats. It is probably a good thing I didn't fall again. I did try swimming two weeks later. Not a good idea! I think that about covers the obvious.
The subtle injuries can be much more of a problem. They may be nothing more than a sore ankle or hip that just doesn’t seem to get better. They may start as a slightly twisted ankle that seems just fine after a few minutes. They might start with a new pair of shoes that throw something off in your skeletal alignment. These are the injuries you have to pay attention to because they can cause serious damage before you even realize it. They can sideline you for weeks or even month or cause you problems for years.
A couple of years ago I started a 4 hour run at Oak Mountain. About 2 miles into the run I twisted my left ankle. It hurt, but seemed OK after hobbling down the trail a few minutes. I continued on my planned run to the other end of Oak Mountain State Park. I ran up long climb and 5 miles along the northeast ridge of Double Oak Mountain. Then I started down a long and tricky descent on the blue trail to the North Trail Head. As I started down I realized it was really hurting my ankle but I kept running. By the time I reached the bottom of the hill my ankle was really sore and swelling. I was about 6 miles from my car, the shortest way back, and I had to climb back over Double Oak Mountain. I considered calling Marye Jo but didn't want to alarm her. (The last time I called her to come get me was following the face-plant on the rock that resulted in 24 stitches.) I figured I could make it back. I ended up walking much of the way at least when there was no one around. I made the return trip on the mountain bike trail and it has a lot of traffic. I could not let anyone see me walking, of course. They might think I was just a hiker! When I did get back, my ankle looked like the proverbial “stove pipe.” That is, I no longer had an ankle. I had caused a stress fracture in my ankle and I don't even know when it happened. I was landing on my heal going down the hills because the ankle was hurting so much. I suspect the fracture occurred on that long descent not the when I first twisted it. I should have stopped. Obviously, I missed a several weeks of running. Did I go to the doctor with it???
After I started running again I would twist it almost every time I ran.  Obviously, there was some damage.  Finally a purchased an ASO Ankle Brace from Zombie Runner.  I wore it several months until my ankle felt good again and I stopped wearing it.  The ankle seemed fine and I had no more trouble with it until this year at The Wasatch 100.  Sometime during the night along the ridge above the Canyons at Park City, I twisted it again but so slightly I hardly noticed it.  By the time I reached the Rock Springs aid station at mile 87.3 it was so sore I could no longer run down hill and it was very swollen.  I wisely chose to quit although it was only 12 miles to the end.  Now, I am glad I quit.  It still bothers me a little and I am wearing the ankle brace every time I run.  Probably, if I have gone to a doctor and had it checked out when I first hurt it, it might not be bothering me now.  Next time I will.  Right!!

My left ankle has been my Achilles Ankle” for a long time. About 14 years ago I steeped on some uneven pavement going downhill while running pretty fast. I rolled my ankle and took a pretty hard fall. As usual I thought I could run through the “minor” twist, so I kept running. When I finally hobbled back to my house the ankle was black and blue and very swollen. That was the start of my ankle problems and that ankle has been very weak ever since. One problem many serious runners have, (I certainly do) is we tend to think we can run through about anything. We also think we can fix the problem ourselves. Some years ago I developed chronically sore knees. I started stretching a little more before runs and that did no stop the problem. Finally, I went to the drugstore and purchased two cheap “Ace Bandage” elastic knee supports. I wore them a few times and the problem seemed to go away. I think I also broke down and purchased a new pair of shoes. It never occurred to go to a doctor to find out why they hurt.
I guess this should go back up under Obvious.
Other than the face-plant, the only time I ever went to the doctor for a run related injury was about 1990. I was on a 15 mile run out through a very rural area near the town I lived in, Tallassee, Alabama. I ran down to a boat launch on an Alabama Power Company Lake called “The Middle Pond” where I turned around and headed back to town. The Tallapoosa River runs right through the middle of Tallassee and there are three lakes built by Alabama Power on the river near Tallassee. One is right in Tallassee and the other two are above it. The top lake is Lake Martin, one of the most beautiful lakes in the Southeast. It covers 44,000 acres and has 750 miles of shoreline. (Just a side note) About a mile from the boat launch there was a dog at a house that always barked and sometimes ran along with me. This time, on the return trip, the dog bit me on the lower part of my calf. It bled a lot but didn't seem to bad. I was about 6 miles from home so I ran on back home. (This was way before pocket size cell phones.) My calf began to hurt quite a bit during the final miles and continued to bleed . I knew I had to go to the doctor to report the bite and be sure the dog did not have rabies. Fortunately, my physician was a friend and member of my daughters Indian Princess Tribe, a wonderful YMCA program for fathers and daughters. He was our “Medicine Man.” At some point I will tell you a hilarious story from one of our camp-outs involving our medicine man and a local hospital, although my daughter does not have fond memories of the even. I always went in the back door of his office, otherwise I probably would not have bothered.
The verdict was that the dog put his K9s completely through my leg. Jimmy told me the wound is exactly the same as if someone had shot me in the calf with a 22. He cleaned it, gave me some antibiotics and told me to keep it up during the day and don't run until it heals. I did take the antibiotics but ignored the rest and kept running. One month later I still had an open would in my leg and fluid was constantly accumulating in my ankle. This time he gave me a shot and said, “ if You want it to heal, you will quit running.” I let it heal this time. The dumb thing about this whole episode was that I had been a “Meeter Reader” for Texas Power and Light in Dallas the summer between high school and college. I had learned how to deal with dogs and was pretty good at it. Any time a dog comes at you appearing vicious, attack the dog yelling like you intend to rip it in half. The results are humorous sometimes. I also learned “NEVER LET A DOG GET BEHIND YOU.” That was my mistake. I had probably run by that dog 50 times or more. It always barked but then settled down and watched me or trotted along with me for a few yards. Never again!


Thursday, February 10, 2011


I don't even know where to start on this subject.  Up until I purchased my first pair of trial shoes about 5 years ago I ran trails in my regular NIKE road running shoes, probably "Structures" and they seemed fine.  The problem was I kept rolling my left ankle and had a few pretty good falls.  Shoes designed for road running have a lot of heal padding and a very wide platform.  By wide platform, I mean that if you look at a road shoe from behind, the midsole and sole almost form a triangle.  The Nike Structure's sole was about 1/3 wider than  the heel pocket.  The widest point on the sole (at the heel) is almost 4 inches wide - my heel is about 2 1/2 inches wide.  That is a big difference. That design works great on roads or smooth trails.  If, however, you do roll you ankle, the wide base exaggerates the effects of the roll and potentially can cause much more damage than a narrow soled trail shoes.
I couldn't find a picture of a road shoe from behind, so just look at yours and compare.  This is a La Sportiva trail shoe.  The heel is just a little wider than the heel pocket and has much less padding so your food is much closer to the ground.  The point, don't run trails in road shoes.

Now, how do you decide which trail shoes to buy.  That was easy when I stared trail running here in Birmingham.  The local running store, Trak Shak, only sold a couple of trail shoes, I had run in Nikes all my road running life so I got the a pair of Nike "ZoomAirs."  I really liked them and ran my first Imogene Pass Run in them.  Trouble was, they fell apart.  It was Nike's first attempt at a trail shoe and they simply did not hold up.  I was in Chattanooga for the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon, in 2007, (my favorite triathlons,) and found out that a local running store specialized in trail shoes.  Everyone that worked in the store was a trail runner and they were a great resource for information.  They suggested a pair of Asics Gel-Trail-Sensors.  They were great shoes and I wore out two pair.  In 2008 (I think) I won a pair of Xterra's new trail shoes at the Xterra race at Oak Mountain.  They finally shipped them to me almost a year later, but I really liked them too and wore out two pair of them.  They are a little heavy and there were a lot of very light trail shoes coming on the market.  If each shoe weighs 1 oz more than another brand, how many weight do you suppose your legs lift over 100 miles?

I called an acquaintance, and fellow trail runner, Dink Taylor who owns the Fleet Feet in Huntsville, Alabama.  If you want to be impressed, read his bio.  He suggested either Montrail Mountain Masochist Trail Shoes or Inov-8 Rockliet 295s.  I had talked to several people that had Inov-8s and really liked them, including Dink.  I got the Inov-8s.  At first I didn't like them at all.  I was accustomed to wearing shoes I could tie the laces once and after that just slip my feet in them and go.  I tried that with the Inov-8s and that did not work.  They hurt my toes, especially my big tows on both feet.  I thought I would have to switch to the Montrails.  I kept adjusting the laces until I got them right.  I still have to tie them every time I put them on but I love them.  I know a lot of people swear by the Mountain Masochist shoes, too.  My Inov-8s are about worn or and I need to get a new pair.  I have considered trying a pair of the Masochist but I am so happy with the Rocklites  that I will probably stay with them.

Over the last three years the market has been flooded by new trail shoes.  Unfortunately, the only way to really know if a particular shoe is right for you is to take them out for a trail run.  I think the most important factor with regard to fit and comfort of a particular trail shoe is, "does it fits you foot"?  (Boy, that is profound!)  No matter how good a shoe is, if it doesn't fit...  Trail Runner Magazine frequently does trail shoe reviews as well as product reviews.  You can go to their web site and read the past reviews.  If you are fortunate enough to live somewhere that has a running store that specializes in trail shoes, you are lucky.  If no, give Dink a call at the Huntsville Fleet Feet.  They do ship.  By the way, Dink and his wife, Suzanne are the force behind and RDs of two great events, the Huntsville Marathon and one of the two best and hardest 50Ks in the southeast, Mountain Mist 50K.  (The Mt. Cheaha 50K is the other.)
Here is the course profile.  Those two final climbs are brutal.  

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Running and Bad Weather, FUN!

While skiing in Utah a few weeks ago we had a conversion with someone form Minnesota about the extremely cold weather in Park City.  The lot temperatures each morning, except the last day, were between -4 and -7 degrees Fahrenheit.  Consequently, we had the mountain pretty much to ourselves in the morning.  This person said, "There is no bad weather, just bad clothes."  To a point he was right.  I was never really uncomfortable that week, but I have been skiing since the early 70's and have learned how to dress for extreme conditions.  I have also learned a lot about dealing with the cold from ultrarunning.

Tuesday afternoon I needed to run one of my short midweek runs at Veteran's Park.  Trouble was, the storm was passing through that brought blizzard conditions from Texas to the Great Lakes.  The temperature was about 50,  it was pouring rain and almost dark when I started running although it was an hour before sunset.  As I sat in the car putting on my rain jacket and getting ready to go, I looked at the rain blowing horizontally in sheets and tried to convince myself it is just too bad to run and I should go back home. It was almost snack time and I could sit in the warm house and have some hummus and pita bread and a glass of wine with Marye Jo and watch the rain fall.

Instead, I hoped out and took off.  It was miserable for the first half lap of the three mile course.  The temperature felt more like 30 than 50 and the wind was gusting to 30 mph.  There were rivers of water flowing across the trail from one end to the other and I decided to just do one lap and quit.  By the time I finished the first half lap and headed into the woods for the next 1 1/2 miles I had warmed up and was beginning to enjoy the run.  It really is fun to go splashing through little streams and deep puddles.  A small creek that runs under the trail in the woods was almost over the trail and I was wondering if it would wash out before I got back on the second lap.

As I came by the car to start the second lap, I stopped by and grabbed my toboggan and gloves so the second lap through the open section would be a little more pleasant.  While running along one of the lakes in the park I heard a siren headed my direction on Valleydale Road and for some reason an old song from the 60's popped into my mind.  "They are Coming to Take Me Away"  (The words are: "they are coming to take me away, ha-ha, to the funny farm....")  I am sure some of the people driving along the park thought that is what should be done with the fool running in the storm.

The second lap was a lot more interesting than the first.  Along the lake where several small "runoffs" fed into the lake (they are too small to call creeks), a 30 yard stretch of trail had, in face, become a creek and I was running through ankle deep water.  Long sections of the trail were nothing more than giant puddles.  The trail in the woods was even worse.  In one section where the creek had overflowed the whole area was a lake with some places "mid calf" deep. It was also very dark in the woods even though it was not yet sundown.  At the he creek crossing near the end of the loop, the water was now up to the top of the large drain pipe and I am sure within a few minutes it would wash out but that was OK, I was finished.  It was actually fun and I had the park to myself.  There was not one other person out there.

If there had been lightning near by, I would not have run.  I have several exciting experiences with lightning over the years and that is one thrill I now try to avoid.  In an earlier post I told about my final long training run before Wasatch when I ran up Double Oak Mountain.  As I reached the ridge line, there was a bright flash and almost instantaneous boom.  I made a hasty descent and continued the run on a lower trail.  A couple of years ago I went out to the park for an afternoon run as a severe thunderstorm approached the park.  I actually went out to run because of the storm.  It is fun to run in a storm.  Right?

I decided to follow the bike trail up a 2 mile climb because it is primarily in a valley until the trail finally reaches the ridge.  There I would turn around and only be near the ridge a minute.  As I was going up, I could hear the thunder getting closer.  I reached the ridge and started back down about the time the storm hit.  The rain was falling so hard it turned the road (fire road) into a river and I could not see where I was stepping.  You need to see every step on that road because it is treacherous.  My other concern was the lightning which hitting the ridges above me every few seconds and here I was running through a river. I got to a three foot by five foot cover over a park map at a connector trail and stopped to get our of the river.

The wind which had been howling since the storm hit, but as I stood there it suddenly picked up dramatically.  Stuff started raining down from the trees.  There were large pines all around where I was standing and I was afraid one would blow over.  I moved over to the side of the sigh to watch the upwind trees so I could run if I needed to.  At that instant the wind began to shift around to the right.  Over about 20 seconds the wind changed directions almost 180 deg.  My immediate thought was that a tornado is very close.  The stuff falling from the trees changed from twigs and small branches to large limbs and pieces of trees.  I took off.  I ran down the trail as fast as I could toward the car but I was about one mile from the car.  When I was standing at the sign I had a small sheet-metal cover over my head.  Now I had nothing over me.  I realized I should go back, but I didn't and kept running.  Within a couple of minutes the wind began to ease up and I felt a little safer although the lightning was still close.  By the time I reached the car the storm had passed and a steady rain had set in.  After sinning in the car a minute I got out and ran another hill repeat up to the ridge.  As I ran back up I saw how many large trees were down along the road, including one that broke in half about 10 ft. up and actually fell across the road.  I decided not to go run in a severe thunderstorm, intentionally, again.

The point is, do not let the weather dictate when you run.  You cannot control the weather in a race.  If you have trained for months for a particular race, you will not skip it just because it will be colder or hotter or wetter than you expected.  So don't change you training runs just because the weather is not pleasant.  This is also when you can test our clothing options and see what works (good clothes) and what doesn't work (bad clothes).

I love snow.  We get very little here in Birmingham.  In 2009 it snowed in mid December.  There was quite a bit of snow at our house so I knew the top of Double Oak Mountain would have more.  I went out to run early the next day to enjoy the snow.  It was beautiful and I took pictures with my phone.  Here are a couple I took.  The next two were taken the day before at my house.

Yes I know by most standers this is not much show, but in Birmingham, it is a lot.  This year it snowed Christmas day all day but none stuck at my house.  I ran the next day at Oak Mountain and again there was quite a bit up high.  Here are a few pictures from this years run. This time I remembered to take a camera.  I love running in snow and never miss a chance.  I guess one of the benefits of living in the south is that snow is a rare treat.  In fact, the snow we received the last two years in the only significant snow in Birmingham since the blizzard back in the 90's.