Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Getting Started By Gary Cantrell

I guess it is cheating to keep using articles I copy from Ultrarunner, but they are good, I give proper credit and things are really busy right now so here is another.

An article from Ultrarunner Magazine.

There seems to be a consistent demand for how-to articles on ultrarunning. Newcomers to our joyous sport eagerly seek advice on how to minimize the time spent as novices so that they can play the game without learning many lessons through painful experience. So, in answer to that call, I will offer you the tips of an experienced plodder. These are not secrets to becoming one of the great ones -- that is all done with talent and hard work. This article is about how to have fun. After all, that is what ultrarunning is all about.Not very long ago choosing an ultra was an easy task. If it was possible to find one within your geographical area, that was your race. 

Times have changed and now we see a great variety of choices in each month's listings. Since no one can do them all, and most of us can do very few, a selective process is necessary.The first factor to consider is distance. Weigh this factor based on your experience. If you have never even run a marathon, then do one first. Certainly many, perhaps most, of us can successfully negotiate an ultramarathon without prior experience at the marathon distance, but that is not the point. Ultrarunning reserves its greatest rewards for those with the patience to work toward long-term goals. The first lesson that we each must learn is how to take one step at a time; that is how every ultra is done. Marathoners deal with a mythical 20-mile wall. For ultrarunners there turns out to be a series of walls, each indicating a change in the basic nature of the race in question. If we bypass all these landmarks and run a 1,000-mile race after our first 10-km, then we have wasted the opportunity of enjoying the personal fulfillment at the successful passing of each of these barriers.

Here is an evaluation of the different race groupings as I see them. Most ultrarunners would agree with this division, although the exact cutoff points depend on individual ability and the nature of the course.
  1. Races under 20 miles are your basic road races. Be it a 10-km or a 30-km, the factors to be reckoned with are roughly the same. Being able to finish is not the question; it is simply a matter of how fast.
  2. The 20-40 mile distance consists, essentially, of races similar to a marathon. Fifty kilometers is technically an ultra, but it is run simply as a long marathon. At these distances mistakes no longer penalize only your finishing time, but bring to the fore the very real possibility of failure to finish at all. The 20-mile wall is real, and going beyond it while attempting to perform at the maximum of your ability is an accomplishment to be proud of.
  3. The range between 40 and 70 miles brings us to the realm of the 50-mile and 100-km. The barrier we passed at 20 miles seems only to have been put there to prepare us for the bigger wall waiting between 40 and 45 miles. For the average runner, walking is now an important part of the equation for success. Still, these are essentially running events.
  4. Races between 75 and 100 miles put us into elite company. Walking is now a major consideration and sleep deprivation becomes a new critical factor. If the barrier we conquered to reach 50 miles seemed demoralizing, the wall between that and 100 miles is devastating beyond description. Training and experience may render marathons and 50-milers routine, but even the great ultrarunners will tell you that 100 miles is always hard.
  5. At 120 miles and beyond we reach the multi-day level (if you can run 120+ miles in an event that is not a multi-day, then my advice will be of no use to you anyway). At these distances the barriers are no longer clearly defined and periods of depression and elation rise and fall as inevitably as the ocean's tides. Here, during these ultimate running experiences, we one day reach the realization that no longer are we limited by distance, but only by the time it will take to achieve it.

So my first sage advice is to take each of these steps one at a time. Savor each moment of success, celebrate each passage into greater things separately, and, most of all, learn to appreciate the journey as well as its completion.
Now that you have decided to work your way up the ultradistance ladder, there comes the choice of which races to run. The variety here is almost infinite. There are the choices between road, track, or trail, and the great variation in race organization, from the small low-key events to the mega-races such as Western States. Again, my philosophy is one of gradual accretion of difficulty. Begin on the more moderate track or road courses and work up to the monsters.
As nice a dream as it makes, running one's first 100-miler at Western States is an error. First, why enter a lottery situation and take a slot that someone more experienced could have filled, someone whose dues are paid? Second, why combine two magic moments and ultimately get only half the thrill? Your first hundred and your first WS should each be savored individually.

When selecting your races, start well in advance, go through all the listings, and send for every entry form that interests you. Don't be afraid to ask questions about items of concern, such as probable weather, requirements for handlers, and so on. The information you collect will be useful far beyond that one year's running. The wise ultrarunner is out to experience every type of event available; if two of your choices are irresistible, then one may have to become another year's dream.

For your first race at some landmark distance you want to select a moderate course and a small event. The moderate course is due to the fact that your challenge will be merely to make it, and that is enough. Choosing a small event will mean that most of the runners and race people will know what you are after and you'll be aided by the kind of personal support that such a special occasion warrants.

Later, as the distances become part of your normal range, you can go after the challenges of the monster courses and the celebrations of the big races. Some will become annual pilgrimages and others you'll taste once only as you move on in the quest for new experiences. These decisions may not be so much conscious decisions as simply a feeling you'll have in your heart about certain events.

There is one final consideration in picking an ultra: location. Initially you might prefer to stay close to home and concentrate on the race itself. As he or she matures, the smart ultrarunner begins to think about more exotic locales. Ultrarunning constitutes more than just an opportunity to travel; it is a reason to travel. The average tourist visits a place by staying in a motel full of tourists, visiting tourist places, and, generally, leaving without ever really "seeing" the place at all. As an ultrarunner we go and spend our time with the local runners, doing something that gives us a genuine taste of the locales we visit.

Each year Tennessee is visited by millions of travelers. They go to Opryland and ride carnival rides, they visit the Grand Ole Opry and see a show put on just for them. They do a multitude of things that are found in every other tourist spot in America and then carry home cheap souvenirs stamped with "Tennessee," or "Smoky Mountains," or some such, which are identical to souvenirs stamped "Philadelphia" or "Hawaii." At the same time, about fifty out of these millions come for the Strolling Jim. These visitors sit on the porch of the old Walking Horse Hotel and talk, they eat a little dust on gravel roads, they cross creaky old wooden bridges, and they spend their time as guests, not tourists. These people go home with a genuine taste of Tennessee. Veteran ultrarunners call this the "s___ in the woods" tour. While some people drive cars plastered with stickers stating the names of places they have visited, I can point with pride to having defecated in the woods in places ranging from Maine to Hawaii. Sure, lots of folks have been to Pensacola Beach. I, however, have squatted amongst the briars in a swamp to relieve myself. They have passed through; I have been there.

So my third bit of advice is to constantly look for new places to race. There are only so many hot spots for touristing; there are an infinite number of wonderful places to visit.
By Gary Cantrell

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Article in Trail Runner: Online

Liquid for the Long-Haul -August 2009 
Hydration systems to suit your needs 
By Allison Pattillo and Mike Benge

Copied from Trail Runner: Online  Magazine from an article from August 2009
I know better, but I often hit the trails at lunchtime sans water. Then co-workers have to endure my dry, hacking cough for the rest of the day. Thus my assignment to test and review hydration systems was either ironic or carefully calculated.
To set the parameters, I polled runners on our website, and discovered their thirst-quenching preferences were evenly divided among handheld bottles, waistbelts and backpacks.
Testing time saw us on the trails, in races and back at the office debating the merits of the latest models. Now, I don't leave the office without water-and it's a happier place


-light and convenient
-often equipped with small pockets for a gel or keys
-protect your hands in a fall
-encourage drinking
-you have something in your hand
-need to plan for refills on longer runs
-make your hands cold or sweaty depending upon the weather

Fuel Belt Sahara Palm Holder 
$15.95; 22 oz bottle; 3.7 oz empty weight
Simple carrier with zippered gel pocket, mesh trash outer compartment and Velcro key compartment. With a securely locking hand strap and bright colors, this handheld is the bargain of the bunch.

Editor's Choice
Nathan Quickdraw Elite 

$25; 22 oz bottle; 4.1 oz empty weight
This unit features a mesh, moisture-wicking, adjustable hand strap with thumb slot, which allows alternative hand positions and eliminates the need to "grip" the bottle. Strap adjustments are made via a Velcro strip that wraps under the bottle and holds tight without loosening-- although some testers cut off circulation by cranking it too tight. A zippered pocket with key clip accommodates a couple gels, and an external mesh pocket holds trash. 
This is the bottle I like best and have two of them.

Tried and True
Ultimate Direction Fast Draw Extreme
$22; 20 oz bottle; 4.5 oz empty weight
This proven performer features an elasticized, mesh hand band with a tension-lock strap and small zippered pocket. A neoprene sleeve covers the BPA-free bottle to keep your beverage cold and hand warm, plus provides a cush grip. The Kicker Valve, a unique soft-plastic nipple, can be a bit confusing to first-time users, but with a couple swigs and flicks (to get it into the closed position), most testers praised its merits.

And here is my addition, the Amphipod:  Handheld Thermal-Lite™ 20oz.  
• 20oz. ergonomically contoured insulated handheld bottle with pocket
• Great combination for hot and cold weather use
• Comfortable, fully-cushioned breathable slotted design
• Insulator is easily removable for maximum use versatility and washing
• 40% flatter Hydraform™ bottle eliminates hand cramping tension
• Expandable zipper pouch pocket for iPod, phone, nutrition, keys and more 
Company website: http://www.amphipod.com/
I have this one too, but the verdict is still out.  I like the neoprene sleeve over the bottle.  It helps keep the liquid within cool in hot weather and keeps it from getting as cold in cold weather.  It also insulates you hands from the cold liquid which absolutely freezes your hands in cold weather, even when wearing gloves.  The bad thing is the bottom loop of the holder is only held in place by the tension of the hand strap.  If it is not really tight, which seems too tight to me, occasionally the bottom strap just falls off the bottle.   The bottom strap also falls off when refilling the bottle occasionally.  I think I will try to buy another sleeve and use them on my Nathan bottles.

-offer hands-free, unencumbered running
-hold one or more bottles
-have pockets for extra storage
-will jostle if the fit isn't good
-can cause excessive shirt bunching
-not the best choice for high-waisted runners

Tried & True
Amphipod Run Lite 2+ Trail Runner

$36; 21 oz bottle; 8.6 oz empty weight
The unique, barely-know-its-there Amphipod system features a soft-mesh Velcro-closure waistbelt with a zippered pouch for gels, electrolyte tabs and energy bars, and "quickdraw" bottles that snap into modular docks. You can move, add or subtract docks, and the standard carrier accommodates both eight- and 10.5-ounce bottles, making it a great racing setup.

GoLite Hydrosprint 
$40; 21 oz bottle plus 5 oz gel flask; 10.5oz empty weight
This belt features a breathable, quick-dry, mesh belt and adjusts for a comfortable, no-jostle fit. Stretch-mesh hip-pockets hold necessities and the angled, insulated bottle holster keeps water cold and handy. When the "load stabilizers" were cranked down to prevent bouncing, some testers found it difficult to reinsert the bottle. A gel flask nestles in a holster next to the bottle carrier; just be sure to shove the flask in its pocket so you don't lose it. 

Editor's Choice
Inov-8 Race Elite 3 

$35; 22 oz bottle; 6.4oz empty weight
Large weather-resistant and stretch-mesh wing pockets provide room for everything you need on a two- or three-hour run. The angled bottle sleeve allows easy access, and an elastic loop hooks over the bottle to make sure it stays put. The Race Elite 3 has wide straps and padding for comfort, and mesh to keep you cool. Testers liked wearing it both in the 

Natha Speed 4R Hydration Belt  My Addition to the list.  I really like this belt and use it for most long runs and races.  It has four 8oz bottles that I use to hold energy drink mixes.  My belt has 10 oz bottles.  It is also available in a 2 bottle configuration.  It is available in small, medium and large belt sizes.  I have never used this type of belt for just carrying water but I guess that would work just fine.

Lafuma Cinetik Bottle Plus   
$29.95; 22 oz bottle; 5.9 oz empty weight
The wide, soft Velcro waist-band was comfortable and secure and the diagonal water-bottle positioning made for a clean swipe and return. Bonuses are a handy stash pocket on the waistbelt and a rear pocket to accommodate an extra layer.

-great for long runs where you want extra gear and food
-offer ergonomic designs for a comfortable, non-jostling fit
-can result in water sloshing, which either relaxes you or encourages frequent pit stops
-can get hot or dig into shoulders if not well designed
-can feel encumbering

Camelbak Octane XC 
$60; 2.1 l bladder; 1 lb 5 oz empty weight; 90 cu
This streamlined pack features an external fill reservoir (made of super-tough plastic treated to eliminate 99.9 percent-according to Camelbak-- of the slime that typically grows in reservoirs) fitted in an insulated pocket. The back panel features raised, mesh-covered foam for enhanced ventilation. An external zip pocket, dual waist-belt stash pockets and external bungee allow space for a jacket, snacks and essentials. Mesh shoulder straps provide a cool, secure fit, and nifty Velcro strap tabs keep excess webbing from flapping.

Gregory Rufous 
$89; 1 lb 1 oz (bladder not included); 480 cu
With an aero-mesh back panel this pack features a hydration port and sleeve with convenient back-fill access, internal-compression system for on-the-fly adjustments and two water-bottle pockets. Dual, stretch-mesh waistbelt pockets with cargo stabilizer loops, an internal mesh organizer and pocket with Velcro closure, plus plenty of external loops ensure you can carry gear to spare.

Tried & True
Nathan HPL #020 

$85; 2 L fluid capacity; 6 oz; 800 cu
This pack features a unique harness system that adjusts via side straps to give a comfortable, vest-like fit. The shoulder straps are lightweight, wide mesh, with an open pocket on one strap and a small zippered pocket on the other. A compact rear compartment features an outer zip pocket, divided for bars and other small items, while the main pocket holds the included two-liter bladder and offers room for extra layers. This is a wicked setup for ultra racing and long weekend runs.
 I have this pak and use it almost every training run and in some races.  It holds 2 Liters of water and has zipper storage in front and a large zippered pouch on the back.  It also has a pocket for one 10oz bottle in the front.

Osprey Talon 5.5 
 $69; 1 lb 1 oz (bladder not included); 240 cu
Available in two sizes with a unique torso-length adjustment, this pack ensures a locked-on fit. Snap-clip load lifters allow quick access to the three-liter-bladder-capacity hydration slot. Two stretch gel pockets on the shoulder straps, a stretch-woven front pocket with bungee, and large top-access inner and tool pockets provide plenty of room for gear. For maximum ventilation, Osprey uses mesh and foam in the back panel, and an external tow strap gives you the option to attach stragglers.

Salomon XT Wings Hydration Pack
$70; 12.8 oz empty weight; 366 cu
Don't like sucking from moldy bladders, having a hip belt jostling around your lower back or holding anything in your hands? Well, complainer-voila! This pack features rigid, three-sided bottle carriers with matching bottles on each side hip "wing," allowing quick-draw access. The three-sided bottles aren't especially ergonomic but work. Unpadded, mesh shoulder straps and well-ventilated, padded back keep you surprisingly cool. The slim, main compartment, with inner-organizer mesh pocket and bladder sleeve accommodates extra layers. 

Filling a bottle out of a cool mountain stream speaks to the rugged individualist in all of us, but, to stay healthy, purify that water before drinking it. 

Aquamira Water Treatment Drops and Water Purification Tablets
(www.aquamira.com) and Potable Aqua tablets (www.potableaqua.com), are super lightweight, proven performers which use chlorine dioxide, a broad-spectrum water purifier. 

Aquamira Water Bottle & Filter
$26.95; 22 oz; 5.9 oz empty weight
Aquamira has fitted an activated carbon microbiological filter to a Nalgene sport bottle, with a pop-up spout and flip-top lid. The replaceable filter treats up to 230 refills, and, according to Aquamira, traps 99.9 percent of Giardia, Cryptosporidium, organic material and water borne pathogens. Flow is a bit slow until the filter is fully wet. 

SteriPEN Journey 
$99.99; 5 oz with batteries
Simply stick the ultraviolet lamp in your water container, push the button, watch the clock countdown on the LCD display screen and drink when the smiley face appears. This idiot-proof, hand-held, water purifier treats up to one liter of water at a time. For larger volumes of water, treat one-liter batches then transfer to your container of choice.

Many of us have a love-hate relationship with our water reservoirs--they keep us hydrated on the trails, but if improperly maintained get moldy and taste funny. Here's how to keep your water fresh and tasty.
- Empty your reservoir after every use.
- Then, refill the reservoir with warm water and add one of the following:
       o half cup of baking soda and a little lemon juice
       o one teaspoon of bleach
       o a couple of denture-cleaning tablets
- Shake it to make sure mixture fills the tube as well, and let sit for at least an hour or overnight.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A few Tips on Technique

Technique I:  Roll with the fall.
It is now 88 days until the start of the Tahoe Rim Trail 100.  I have originally developed a training plan for running the Bear 100 in mid September but Tahoe is July 16th and 17th.  I plan my training schedule in terms of "weeks-out" and this last weekend was 13 weeks before the race.  According to my revised plan to be ready for Tahoe, last weekend was supposed to be a 5 hour run.  I could only manage a very difficult 3:35.  (The run wasn't any harder than my normal runs, I just had a really hard time running.) This was the second run after stopping the medication I have been taking since the first of the year, "Flecianide" for atrial fibrillation and I think I was having some residual effects from it.  This weekend I again planned on running 5 hours but instead I ran 5:45 and felt great.  I even took a swim about half a mile from the end of the run.  We had two storms last week and the second, Friday night, (the one that caused so many tornadoes in the southeast) must have produced a lot of rain.  There was water standing all over Oak Mountain State Park. Places I have never seen water.

After 8 hill repeats in the first 3:25 I ran to the other end of the park, to Peavine Falls.  It is always really pretty after a large rain.  Then I ran back the 6.25 mile blue trail to the north trail head where I was parked.  Here are a couple of pictures of Peavine Falls, now just imagine three times volume of water shown in the pictures and that is how it looked Sunday.

There was a small stream about 3 feet wide and 6 inches deep crossing the trail on the descent just over half a mile from the end of my run.  I guess I was looking at the water instead of where I was stepping, because in all the years I have been running at Oak Mountain, I have never seen so much as a damp spot at this particular place.   I tripped and rolled right into the stream, which brings us to the first technique I will talk about.  When you fall while trail running, ROLL.  Actually, I have always rolled when I fall running, even road running.  I don't even think about it, I just roll.  The water it felt pretty good, I was really tired and hot and the temperature was about 80 by then.

I try to be very careful running downhill.  When you are running uphill, a fall in no big thing.  You are running  slowly, I will rephrase that, I am running slowly and about all I have to do is put my hands out and push myself back upright.  Downhill is another story.  If you hang a foot solidly, your upper body is sort of "flung" to the ground.  Going downhill your upper body has more time to gain  momentum before that abrupt stop.  If I tripped on some of the steep, rocky sections I run hill repeats on the results could be bad.  I was running downhill when I fell in the water and the area is really rocky, but either I missed the rocks or my hydration pack shielded me.  I only had a couple of scrapes and a very uncomfortable cramp in my calf.  I ended up on my back in the water and had to roll over a log, downhill to get out.

Most of the time when you trip, it is possible to avoid a fall.  A couple of quick steps or a bounce off a hand (Nathan hand held Quick-Draw bottles help here) and you manage to stay upright.  I have read a couple of articles on falling during trail runs and they do not recommend fighting the fall too hard. They say it is usually best to just go with the fall and ease the landing with a roll.  A sudden long step as you are falling forward can injure a muscle or a joint.  Actually, every fall I have had that did serious damage happened so quickly that I didn't have time to react.

Technique II:
Running up hill.  If you are a skater, you know what a crossover step is.  (Or if  you ever watched speed skating in the Olympics) you know how skaters go around a turn with the inside hand on the back and side stepping around the turn.  When you are running up or walking up a steep hill, try switching to a crossover step as you climb up the hill.  That is, turn your feet out at about a 20 deg. angle to the right of your line of travel.  Exaggerate your arm swing of the right arm and swing it across in front of your body with some force.  Hold the left hand relatively still (just like the skater in the turn.)  After 15 or 20  steps with you feet turned to the right, switch sides.  Turn  you feet to the left 20 deg. and exaggerate the arm swing of your left arm.  What you are doing is taking the majority of the strain of walking or running uphill off the quads and shifting some of that effort to other muscles in your legs.  Your quads have a little rest and you save a little more energy.  This really works.  I use it in all my weekday runs at Veteran's Park on the one very steep, short hill.  I try to remember to use it on weekend runs, too.  I did remember to use crossovers at Wasatch.  Give it a try.  Well, maybe not quite this much of a crossover step.

Technique III:
I don't remember where I read this but it may have been in the same article suggesting crossover steps.  This rule (suggestion) is for running or walking up a very steep section of trail.   If you are trying to decide whether to take one step or two up a particularly difficult section, take three Steps.  Three small steps use less energy than one or two larger steps.  The thing to keep in ming is that your goal is to cover 50 kilometers or 50 miles or 100 miles.  The less energy you use to cover each mile, the greater your chances for success.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Layers:  Of course, everyone knows the trick to dealing with cold and varying temperatures during runs or races is layering.   About the only rule here is never wear cotton.  Wear a “technical” type top that wicks water away from your skin.  I have several “Coolmax” tops I wear most of the time in cooler weather. I have light weight ones for cool weather and heavy ones for cold days and nights.  I also have two “Hot Chillys" tops that I wear in frigid conditions.  The Hot Chillys are also the base layer I wear skiing on very cold days, cold as in sub-Zero temps.  If it is hot and I expect to be in the sun for hours I wear a very light weight, white, Coolmax, long sleeve top to block the sun.   There are other good options for layering, I just like Coolmax.

If I expect it to be fairly cold during my entire run or race, I wear a short sleeve Craft top as a base layer.  It is a thin, fitted top that is extremely warm.  I don't wear it if it will warm up during the day.  Over the Craft top I will wear a Coolmax layer.  If it is cold at the start I might add another layer of heavy Coolmax, or a layer of fleece.  I try to estimate what the temperature will be later in the day and dress so I can remove top layers and still be comfortable when it warms up.  I want to be able to pull layers off as needed and not have to take off a bottom layer.  To put it another way, start layering with what you want to end up wearing and end up layering with what you want to start with.

Suppose it is 28 deg at the start of a long race and the forecast is clear and 65 by mid day.  I would start with a short sleeve technical shirt under a medium weight Coolmax top.  I would probably not wear a Craft top because it would be miserable when the temperature reaches 60.  I would either wear a light jacket at the start or wear a pair of arm warmers.  I have a pair of Pearl Izumi arm warmers that I frequently wear in moderately cold conditions instead of a jacket, especially if there is no chance of rain.  They are available at any bike shop.  You can pull them down if it gets warm or pull them back up if it gets cool again.  I actually pull them up and down a lot.  It may be cold and windy on the top of a ridge and I pull them up.  As you descend into a valley, the hills block the wind and it gets warmer so I pull them down.  When I no longer need them they are easy to pull off without even stopping.  I just tie them somewhere if I think I will need them later otherwise I just stick them in the next drop bag.  Another popular brand among ultra runners is Moeben Sleeves.  They have a small pocket for storage on the side.  An extra pocket is always nice.

Socks: I wear two types of socks depending on how wet or dry I think the course to be. If I expect the trail to be dry and warm, I will usually wear “compression socks.” I use them for long ultras and the run segment of Ironman events. Read about the claimed benefits and consider a pair.  I have a pair of Zoot Compression RX socks and I like them.  Most makers of compression clothing also make Compression "Calf Sleeves."  I intend to get a pair of calf sleeves before Tahoe so I can combine the compression with Drymax socks, the other type socks I wear.   They are available in several weights and do a great job of keeping your foot dry in wet conditions. Earlier this winter I ran in wet, heavy, snow for about 4 hours of a 5 hour run. I had on a pair of heavy Drymax Trail Running Socks and my feet were never cold.   If you know your will have stream crossings in you run, they will help get your feet dry quickly.

Shorts: Take you pick. Wear what is comfortable. I like shorts with pockets. I usually wear one of two types of running shorts.  I wear a pair of Nike running shorts with deep side pockets much like an ordinary pair of shorts or slacks. They are great as long as you don't put too much stuff in them. When they get too full, they interfere with arm movement. The other shorts I use are called “RaceReady” shorts and have shallow pockets all across the back and side. The pair I have has 4 pockets across the back and two small ones on the side with Velcro closure.  Brooks makes very good running shorts, too.  A lot of ultra runners wear short length tights or triathlon tights.  I have not tried them.  I also like my Texas Longhorn, burnt orange shorts!!

Gaiters:This is one item I recommend to every trail runner. I wear them every time I set foot on a trail. And In my opinion, there is only one gaiter suitable for ultra running and I have three pair. They are “Dirty Girl Gaiters” and they are great. Follow the link to their web site and order a couple of pair. I have never had to stop and empty trash out of my shoes when wearing them. They weigh nothing and they are “dirt” cheep.  They are available in 60 or 70 patterns from plain to extreme.

If you cannot find the clothing or equipment you are looking for at you local running store try theZombieRunner website.  They specialize in ultrarunning gear.  That is why most of the links to specific item I provide are to Zombie Runner.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Equipment for Ultrarunning Revisited

This was on of the first posts I wrote back in 2010.  I thought I would add a few additional comments.

There is no answer to what is the best hydration pack, headlamp, water bottle, electrolyte tablet or running shoes or any other piece of equipment for running ultras. Go to any race and look around. You will see runners wearing every type of trail shoe made and even a few wearing road shoes.  You may even see a pair if "Vibram Five Fingers."  Some will be carrying water bottles, some will have on water belts and some hydration packs.  The list could go on for half a page.  So how do you decide what works best? In many cases the only way to decide what you like is to try it.  You may even find that you like to train with one item but actually race with another as I often do in long training runs.  Hand held water bottles hold a maximum of 20 oz.  Two bottles will only give you 40 oz.  That doesn't last very long in hot weather.  My Nathan 3Liter X-Treme hydration pack holds 100 oz.  I also use it in longer races if I intend to use trekking poles as I did at Wasatch and will at Tahoe.

Clothing:  About the only critical variable here is the weather you expect to encounter. It is a good idea to anticipate the worst possible conditions you might experience.  Many race websites will give you the average conditions on race date.  Some races list the conditions on race day for past years.  The wisest thing to do is look at on the internet and find what range of conditions you might expect at the race location.  Check out the Record High and Record Low for the days around the race date.  This can be a little scary sometimes.  I read an article in Ultrarunning Magazine last night about a 100 mile race in Florida this January.  The temperatures at the start were in the 60s but during the race a front came through and dropped the overnight lows to 32 deg.  That is pretty cold for Florida.

50K are pretty simple to plan for.  Check the weather the night before and and you will know what to expect, probably.  If conditions are a little questionable, take an extra heavier jacket.  I have a Brooks "Shelter" jacket that is made out of material similar to the lightest spinnaker cloth.  The entire jacket can be wadded up in the palm of you hand and almost nothing shows.  I carry it if I think rain is likely and the temperatures are in the 50s or 60s.  Running in 65 deg temps in driving rain and wind can be really miserable without a jacket.  If rain is a possibility you might want to stick a jacket in a drop bag just in case. (A Word of Warning: Occasionally drop bags get lost. Keep that in mind when stuffing the bag.)  If the race is long like a 100K or 100 mile race, the planning gets a little more complicated, especially if you are an average runner or even a really slow one like me, and expect to be on the course for 24 hours to as much as 48 hours, you have to use  your own judgement.  Weather forecasters just aren't that accurate, and the higher the terrain, well, who knows. (In the Rockies, you can encounter blizzard conditions in July.)

If the race is in the mountains, east or west, you have to be prepared for serious extremes.  The first year I ran the Imogene Pass Run in Colorado, the race route was changed the night before the race because the snow was too deep over Imogene Pass and "whiteout" conditions were expected during the race.  The race takes place the weekend after Labor Day.  I have mentioned the 100K I ran in Utah, the Katcina Mosa, where the temperatures hit 100 deg. as I was on the climb up to Windy Pass.  The high temperatures had been in the low to mid 80s for a month before the race.  They only hit 100 race day, then right back to the 80s.

In 2008, the Leadville 100 was hit by some of the worst weather the history of the race. Here is the description of the weather from someone that was there On race day, Mother Nature decided that a 100-mile run between 9,000-12,600 feet was not tough enough and unleashed a weather system more indicative of October than mid-August.  Temperatures fluctuated from the high 30s to the mid 50s and racers experienced everything from bright sunshine to driving rain, thunder, lightning, hail, and even snow.  The point is, just be prepared for really bad conditions, and if it turns out to be beautifully, great. 

Jackets: Jackets come in a variety of types and if you intend to be running 100 mile races you will need several types available to you.  Primarily, a light, wind resistant and water repellent jacket for cool or damp and cool conditions.  A medium weight wind and water repellent jacket for cold conditions and cold, damp weather.  You will also need a "Monsoon" jacket, preferably with a hood for hard rain in cool or cold conditions.  Hypothermia can occur at temperatures as warm as 50 deg. F.  A twenty mile per hour wind at 50 deg can have the same effect on your skin as 32 deg.  If you are soaked, 50 deg and a strong wind can be dangerous.

I have Six different running jackets that I use regularly.  I have two light jackets, one for races and one for training runs.  Two medium jackets, a Pearl Izumi bike jacket and a medium weight Brooks (Thank you Mallory, my daughter.  It was my Christmas present from her.)  I have two heavy jackets with hoods,  a Lowe Alpine and a Marmot.  The are just about waterproof and wind proof and work great in really bad conditions.  I use one of them several year ago at the Mt Mitchell Challenge.  Mitchell is a race run in late February from Black Mountain, North Carolina to the top of Mt Mitchell, the highest pint  in the eastern United States.  The run is 20 miles up and 20 miles down and gains 4,324 feet on the climb up.  The run stared in steady rain at about 50 deg.  A lot of runners were wearing light jackets or no jackets.  I was wearing a toboggan,  warm gloves and my Marmot Jacket with a hood.  By the Blue Ridge Parkway the temperature was near freezing.  Steady rain was still falling and we had been running up the trail in ankle deep water flowing over ice.  The park service closed the top of the mountain due to "whiteout" conditions on the climb above the parkway and turned everyone around except the first 50 or 60 runners.  I missed by about 5 minutes and was perfectly comfortable while other runners around me were complaining about being very cold.  Seven runners made it to the top and had to be brought down with hypothermia.  Most of the rest that make it to the top opted to get a ride back down.  I think I would have been fine going to the top and running back down.  I was prepared.

I take all six jackets to races in the Rockies.  Drop bags are usually dropped of at the prerace meeting so I can wait till the last minute to decide what I will need in which drop bag on the course.  If the weather is uncertain, I can start with what ever seems appropriate and Marye Jo can keep backups in her aid station bag.  

Next I will talk about layering, socks, shorts, and so on.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

And a Few More Aid Stations

I decided to throw in a few more aid station pictures from Hardrock.  These are in the  correct order for the running of the race in the clockwise direction.  Actually, the first picture is of the Mineral Creek Crossing just a few miles from the start.  This is not an aid station.  The creek was low this year.  I think all of the pictures are borrowed from Blake Wood and taken during the 2010 Hardrock.

This is the KT Aid Station, the first AS, at 11.5 miles.

After KT comes Chapman Gulch and Telluride.  From Telluride, runners climb 4,390 ft to the top of Virginius Pass at 13,100 ft, mile 32.7, Kroger's Canteen.  The following three pictures are of Kroger's.

Looking back down toward Telluride

And over the other side toward Governor Basin and Ouray.

After Kroger's, you descend to Governor Basin AS then Ouray at mile 43.9.  Ouray is the low point on the course at about 7,700 ft.  From there the route climbs over 5,000 ft to the top of the next pass.  Engineer aid station (below) is located just below timberline on the climb up.
Engineer Aid Station located at 50.9 miles.  This is the Aid Station I was offered but had to decline.  To get to this AS you drive in a 4x4 up to near timberline on one side of a pass, carry everything up about 2 miles to the  pass and down 2 miles to the aid station location.  You are up all night supplying runners, then close after the last runner goes through sometime after daylight.  Then you pack up everything and climb back over the pass and back down to the truck.  I decided, actually, my wife convinced me, this would be really a dumb thing to do since the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 is the following weekend.

This is the Pole Creek Aid Station at mile 80.8.  They have to pack everything in to this one too.

And finally, Cunningham AS, the last aid station at mile 91.2.  After this aid station you still have a 2,500 foot climb over Dives-Little Giant Pass at 13,000 ft before reaching the final descent to Silverton.

I really wanted to help with an aid station but I also have to finish a Hardrock Qualifier 100 mile race this year to stay eligible for Hardrock in 2012.  I plan to go out to Silverton July 1 and do trail work a couple of days and do at least one day of trail marking.  That should be a pretty good final workout for the TRT 100.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Calf Pain that feels like you just ripped a muscle in your calf.

After the Atrial Ablation procedure 5 weeks ago I had to ease back into running.  Three weeks ago was my first real run after the procedure.  I ran three hill repeats and an easier one hour loop at Oak Mountain.  Two weeks ago I ran four hill reps followed by the same one hour loop.  Saturday, I ran 6 hard hill repeats, all between 12:10 and 12:40 followed by a 1 1/2 hour loop.  That run just about killed me, but it was a good run.  I have to jump back into training pretty hard because the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 is 100days from today.

Yesterday I ran at Veteran's Park on the flat 5K course and 5 miles into a 6 mile run I started to feel a discomfort in my right calf.  Within 200 yards it had become so intense I could no longer run so I hobbled back to my car.  I tried to stretch it out but it hurt too much so I left.  When I got home, I could barely walk.  I would have been concerned, but this is the third time this has happened.

The first time was 6 or 7 years ago.  I was about 10 miles into a 14 mile run when I started up a long gentle hill.  Like yesterday, I began to feel a slight discomfort in my right calf.  In less than a minute I had to stop and stretch my calf, but it did no good.  I managed to run only another 50 yards and I could go no further.  The pain was so bad I was sure I had torn a muscle.  Of course, that made no since because I had been running for well over an hour.  It was a long walk back to the car.

I could not run again for several weeks and the problem finally went away.  Then, in 2007 while training for the Mercedes Marathon, it happened again.  Two weeks before the race I was doing a fast two hour when again I noticed a pain in my right calf.  Again the pain became much worse very quickly but this time I stopped running before it got really bad.  I stretched a little and started walking back to my car.  This time I was able to run, very slowly, most of the way back.

I just so happened that an old friend of mine, John Cobb, the aerodynamics guru of cycling, was coming to Birmingham the next weekend to do bike setups for Vulcan Tri Club.  He was staying at my house and during a conversation I mentioned how frustrated I was because I didn't think I would be able to run Mercedes.  I explained what happened and he said, "I'll be right back," and left the room.  I minute later he came back carrying something that looked like a striped dumbbell.  He placed my lower leg on it and had me roll the sore part of my calf over it.  I just about went through the roof it hurt so bad.  I continued rolling my calf for a minute or two which was all I could stand.

John explained,  the problem is that muscles expand quickly with exercise and fascia, which surrounds the muscles, stretches very slowly.  At some point the muscles are no longer able to function correctly because they are severely restricted by the fascia.  He said that is what happened to me.  Rolling the muscles is actually stretching the fascia.  He told me to buy a roller and work on my calf and it would be fine by the race.  I was not able to find one in Birmingham but a guy was selling "The Stick" at the Mercedes Marathon expo Saturday afternoon.  I told him what had happened and asked if The Stick would fix it.  He said it would solve the problem and proceeded to demonstrate how it worked.  This hurt even more than what John had me do.  I was barely able to walk out of the expo and I was sure I would not be able to  run the race the next morning.

I got up planning on going down to the expo hall and finding the guy and demanding my money back for The Stick and telling him how he had ruined my chances to run the marathon.  I was really mad.  But guess what?  When I got up my calf was fine.  It was not even sore.  I ran the race without the slightest twinge in my calf.

Now I use "The Stick" occasionally but no as often as I should.  If I had used it after my weekend run, yesterdays problem would probably never have happened.  You can believer that I did roll my calf last night and this morning and I will continue to roll it.  I have no time sit out for injuries.  The next two weekends I have to run 5 hours and increase hill reps to 8.  To be on schedule for The Tahoe Rim Trail 100 I need to be running 6 hour with 8 hill repeats starting on April 23.  Then the following week, April 30th, run back to back 6 hour runs.  May 14th I will need to start 8 hour run.  I can't wait!

The point is this is:  If you are rapidly increasing the duration or intensity of your training runs I would recommend getting one of "The Sticks" or other similar roller.  But don't limit it's use to you calf.  Roll every muscle in you legs and hips.  It will even work on your shoulders and neck.  If you use a roller after every hard workout you probably not have the problem I had yesterday.  Actually a wine bottle works fine, too.