Monday, October 10, 2011

More Thoughts on Preparing for the Next 100 miler.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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