Friday, July 29, 2011

Time for a New Plan

"The best laid schemes of mice and men Go often askew,."  Most people think this famous line,  written by the 18th century Scottish poet, Robert Burns,   was original with him.  In reality, Burns copied it from a much earlier poem, the Old English epic "Beowulf."  Here is the original line in Old English.  "ofer swanrade secean wolde, mærne þeoden, þa him wæs þearf ðone siðfæt."  I know most of us have a little difficulty reading Old English so here is the modern translation as accepted by most scholars.  "The best laid plans of ultrarunners for electrolyte balance and hydration often go to hell-in-a-handbasket."

That is exactly what happened to me in the Tahoe 100, TWICE.   Yes, twice I managed to totally get my electrolytes out of balance, and twice it made me really sick.  The first time was in the middle of the afternoon the first day.  I realized pretty quick what happened and fixed it.  The second time was in the middle of the night and it effected the rest of the run.

It is almost impossible to add an exact amount of water to the bladder of any Nathan hydration pak, or any hydration pack for that mater.  Although the measurements are on the bladder itself, the slightest push, tilt or lack of attention will result in an incorrect amount being added.  If you are just adding water that is no big deal.  If you need 30 oz to get to the next aid station and you end up with 27 or 35, you will still get there with no problems.  Without knowing exactly how much water was added I never knew exactly how many NUUN tablets to add.  Just to be save, I threw in a little extra NUUN tablet.  If I added 12 oz of water I needed 3/4 of a tablet.  But I did not add 3/4 tablet, I threw in one whole tablet and so on.  I thought it best to err on the side of too much electrolyte than not enough.  Consequently the problem compounded itself.

Actually the first screw-up was not an accident.  At one aid station I added water but forgot to add NUUN tablets.  I soon realized that the mix was too weak so at the next AS I added one additional tablet to the number I needed for the amount of water added.  The mix still tasted weak so at the next aid station I added one more extra tablet.  By this time I probably had twice the recommended concentration.  After that aid station I started feeling sick so I ate a ginger chew.  By then the water began to taste really bad and was becoming hard to drink.  I ate another ginger chew.  I realized there was way too much NUUN stuff in the water.

I stopped at the next aid station and poured out some water and added plain water with no NUUN added.  I began feeling better in a while and by the Snow Valley Peak aid station  (mile 43) I felt good.  By the time I reached the Spooner Lake AS (Half way) I felt great and started back on the second loop on a 30 hour pace.  I still felt pretty good at Hobart (mile 56.)  It was now dark and very windy and cold up on the ridge and again I started feeling sick at my stomach.  I was reduced to walking most of the ridge to Tunnel Creek (six more miles.)  By then, the only thing I could eat was the chicken noodle soup.  I ate a cup as I headed down the "Red House Loop" trail, the hardest section of the course, for me anyway.  The loop consists of a very long, very steep, very slippery descent on a gravel road.  At the bottom are several stream crossings of very cold water.  Then you start the 4 mile climb back up to Tunnel Creek on another very steep, slippery gravel road.  (Slippery because of lots of loose ball-bearing size rocks, not mud.)  Things were made worse by feeling sick all the way down and up.  (I walked virtually all the Red House Loop.)  At the red house AS I again ate soup and that helped a little.  I was also eating ginger chews when I could find them.

I finally dragged myself into the Tunnel Creek AS, ate more soup and picked up a few more ginger chews and started out for Bull Wheel AS at about mile 70.5.  By the time I got there I had figured out that the problem was again incorrectly mixed electrolytes.  From Bull Wheel it is 9.5 miles to Diamond Peak aid station so I added a lot of water and no electrolytes..  I grabbed a few electrolyte capsules just in case.  The trail continues to follow the ridge for several miles before starting a 5.5 mile descent to Diamond Peak.  As soon at I started down this steep descent I felt good enough to run all the way to the Aid Station.  I actually passed a number of other runners.

By now I had gone all night without being able to drink even one 10oz bottle of Perpetuem.  I took one bottle out of my Nathan belt and put it in the  pack just in case.  I left the Hydration belt with Marye Jo at the aid station.  (Diamond Peak is at mile 80.)  I also only took two Honey Stinger packs and only ate one the rest of the day.  I could still only eat soup and Vespa.  (I have not mentioned my Vespa pouches.)  I think they must really work because I was eating virtually nothing but an occasional bowl of soup and a slice or two of orange and Vespa every 3 hours.  This is the stuff I was experimenting with that helps you burn fat instead of carbs.

I continued to eat bowls of soup and a few slices of orange and drinking nothing but water.  I did manage to swallow one electrolyte tablet per hour.  After the Hobart aid station we had a 1,000 ft., 2.5 mile climb to the Snow Valley Peak aid station at mile 92.7.  (Does any one else have a problem with a mountain named "Snow Valley Peak?)  By this time I felt good again and literally ran the final 7+ miles to the finish.  Actually, I raced a guy about 5 of those 7 miles.  He stopped about 2 miles from the end and I did not.  Then I could not stop because I was afraid he might pass me back.  Of course I never looked back to see if he is back there.  I am sure you know the rule.  "When you pass someone you must never look back to see how far back they are.  If they see you look back, they know you are worried about them and they may be emboldened to speed up and pass you again.  If you never look back, they assume you don't care that they are close behind you because you know you can speed up and run off and leave them if they try to pass you back."  Anyway, I never look back after passing someone, ever.

So what am I going to do about this problem?  (Electrolytes) I have two options.  One is to quit using trekking poles and run with handheld water bottles.  That way it will be easy to see exactly how much water I add and throw in the correct number of NUUN tablets.  I like the poles though, and intend to continue using them in any race with a lot of very long climbs like Wasatch, Hardrock and Tahoe.  I am going to start experimenting with other options in my training runs.  One is to use a waist belt to hold the water bottles when I am using the poles.  It is hard to get the poles back in the backpack so I may try a sling for the poles.  Another thing I will try is using the Nathan Pack but carrying an empty 20 oz bottle so I can add the exact amount of water I need.  I think this will be the best solution for when I run with poles.

Do any of you have any other ideas?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Link to some of the pictures I took during the race.

I took a lot of pictures during the first day of the race.  Here are the ones that are not too embarrassing.  Some were pretty bad.  Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Pictures.

Here are the pictures Marye Jo took at the race and some of the Tahoe area we took after the race.
Marye Jo's Pictures.

A few are repeated from the post earlier today, like this one.


Tahoe Rim Trail 100

Last weekend Marye Jo and I headed out to Tahoe so I could run the Tahoe Rim Trail 100.  This is the most beautiful race I have ever run.  The course follows the crest for about 9 miles along the east and west sides of the eastern crest of the Tahoe Rim Trail.  This section is repeated four times during the race and has absolutely spectacular views of Lake Tahoe, Marlette Lake and Washoe Lake (near Carson City.)  The trail is fine granite sand from one end to the other and was the most comfortable trail running I have found anywhere.  It was like running at Veteran's Park here in Birmingham.  (The location of the Run for Kids Challenge)  Let me modify that.  With 21,000 ft of elevation gain and almost all single-track trail, it is not quite like running at Veteran's Park.  The trail surface is just as smooth.
Just before the 5:00AM Start

This is mile 50, the Start/Finish are at Spooner Lake.

And the Finish.  You might guess I was happy to be there!

I actually finished in 33:17:07 but it took a minute to get around to taking a picture.

Below are four pictures form along the course.  First is a section along the crest of the TRT.  
You will notice I am not the only runner stopping to take pictures.

Looking back at Lake Tahoe from near Tunnel Creek aid station.

One of many snow traverses.  Some had to have steps cut into them to be able to cross.  Some like this we were able to just walk up.  The problem was, in the heat of day they became very soft and slushy.  At night, the refroze and became treacherous.  If you slipped, it would be hard to stop your slide.

The approach to Snow Valley Peak, the high point on the course at 9,214.

I was about to forget this one.

I will post more pictures from the race and the area around Tahoe as soon as I have a few minutes.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hardrock 100 Trail Work

I have a lot of pictures and video from the trail work and marking I did last week for the Hardrock 100.  I will post some of them as soon as I have a few minutes.  It was a lot of fun and hard work with some really interesting and amazing people.  Almost all had done Hardrock before, most had done it several times.  We worked on some spectacular trails, several blasted right out of the side of cliffs.  I only thought I was about to die on three occasions and was absolutely sure I was about to die on one.  Here is a brief description of the 4 work days.

 We arrived in Silverton Wednesday night and Thursday morning Marye Jo dropped me off at Ouray.  I went with the trail marking crew up from the Governor's Basin aid station location (about 10,500 ft) to the top of Virginius Pass (Kroger's Canteen) at 13,100 ft .  Most of the last 2,000 ft was all on snow.   Some of it was pretty steep.  One of the lower snow fields funneled into a couloir.  We had to traverse a 45deg. slope, at least 100 feet across and about 20 feet above the drop into oblivion.  That is where I knew I was about to die.  I don't think the trekking pole I was carrying would have stopped my slide if I had slipped.  After reaching Kroger's and hanging out for a few minutes taking pictures and trying not to be blown off the ridge by 60+mph winds, Everyone else went back down to Governor's except me.  Marye Jo had driven on to Telluride where we were staying the rest of the week so I continued on to Telluride.  I climbed down into Marshall Basin then up and over Mendota Ridge (12,500 ft) and then down into Liberty Bell Basin and took the Liberty Bell Trail down to town.  The hike down from Mendota Ridge to town was on "ground" not snow.  I could finally relax a little.  (Except for the lightning!)

Friday we did trail work up on Ouray's "Bear Creek Trail."  (There is also a Telluride Bear Creek trail and a Silverton Bear Creek trail)  This was quite a hike along about 2.5 miles of trail blasted out of the side of the cliff wall.  At places, a fall would send you down the cliff more than 400 ft.  We dug out a wash, (beyond the cliffs) creating a trail that can be safely traversed about 20 feet above the creek.

Saturday we scouted a new trail that will have to be used this year up from Telluride to Oscar Pass.  (There is a contested mining lease high in Bear Creek that is 300 ft wide and spans the entire canyon.  The owner has closed off the trail and threatens to post armed guards and have any trespassers arrested.) We also cleared a new path across Bear Creek "Telluride," Over a  large fallen pine.  The original route was too dangerous due to the 100+ inches of snow that fell in April and May that is now melting.  All the streams are at very high levels.  (crossing that stream was the 2nd time I thought I would die.)  I hiked up about 500 feet higher into La Junta Basin and intended to go over a pass to the old Hardrock course on Bear Creek and come back down, but I would have to cross a snow bridge over a raging creek so I opted to turn around and head back down the way we came up.  

Sunday was trail work up on that same trail, called "Ballard Mountain Trail."   We had to repair several washes on the way up and cross through about 0.5 miles of trail blasted out of the cliff wall.  This time the potential fall was more like 300 ft. but the trail was even narrower at places.  Most of our time was spent trying to dig a narrow trail across a very unstable, 100 ft wide section of a wash.  We tried to dig out a path at least a foot wide, but every time you knocked out a rock, everything above it slid down the hill.  We finally had a decent trail created that seemed OK.  Then someone pulled out one more rock.  This started a new landslide that continued to pull down more and  more of the hill side above us until finally a near car size bolder was released and that pulled down even more.  After everything finally stopped moving we had to go back and dig out about 20 ft of the trail again, hoping no more came down on us.

I feel like I got a pretty good workout.  You should try to keep up with Rick Trujillo (Hardrock board member and President of the Imogene Pass Run Board) for two days!  Even when he is carrying a chainsaw!