Thursday, 08 January 2015 10:37

Running Slower Will Make You Faster. Huh?

If you have been involved in endurance sports long enough you have heard the statement that running slower will make you faster about 1,000,000 times. 999,999 times you have ignored that advice but I am here to tell you that you should not ignore this advice. I am also hear to tell you that it is not that straightforward. I think when people here this statement about running slower they believe that all of their training should be done slower and that magically they will get faster. The fact is that you need variation and slow is definitely one of those variations. For the past 1.5 years I have been running slowly so that I can build up my endurance while also teaching my body to burn fat for fuel which in turn allows me to go longer as evidenced by the finish of the Lake Martin 100 Ultra Run amongst other ultras with distances varying from 31 miles to 50 miles. The training plans that I have put together are a mix of slow days, recovery days (not the same as slow days), trail runs and speed work that is not done on a track. In the rest of this blog post I will highlight various points for what I have done and why I think they have benefited me in becoming faster than I was 5 years ago.

Long Runs On Trails

When I decided to run ultra trail runs I knew that it would be imperative to get on the trails so that I could get used to the change in terrain but I did not realize, until recently, the effect that running trails would have on my speed. When you get on the trail and start running you are 'forced' to slow down in comparison to running on the road but what also happens is that you are more engaged with your core, you are strengthening your ankles and simultaneously doing speed work. How are you doing speed work? No trail is just flat. There are a lot of changes in elevation on a trail so you are doing hill work which is speed work in disguise. Along with that change in elevation you are going to be changing speeds and not on a set workout like 4x1 Mile repeats. This change occurs all the time and thus you are bringing in various muscles that you are not typically using on the road.

Speed Work During Your Mid-Week Long Run

Speed work is often thought of as taking yourself to a track and doing a 1 mile warm-up followed by some sort of repeat whether that is 400, 800, 1 mile and then a cool down. This is a terrific way to get faster but I find it unrealistic for trail or road races unless that marathon you are training for is on a track. Changes in the terrain are going to be all over the course that you run so doing speed work in those conditions will enhance your ability to recall those moments during training while you are racing. One of my favorite workouts is an 8 mile run that includes speed work. I start with a 1 mile warm-up where my pace is approximately 2:00/mi slower than the tempo pace I am going to attempt to execute. After that warm-up I head into 3 sets of 3x2:00/2:00 with 0.5 mile recovery. This means that after the first mile warm-up I go for 2:00 at my goal tempo pace, which is 6:45/mi and then 2:00 at a recovery pace. I do this 3 times which will total 10 minutes. Why not 12 minutes? The reason is that last 2:00 recovery is built into the 0.5 mile recovery pace before I do the next set. After 3 sets of this tempo work I cool down until I hit 8 miles. I have a loop that I run that works perfectly for this so I would suggest you have that type of loop and if it is shorter or longer make that adjustment.

Long Runs At Zone 1 / Zone 1.5 At A Consistent Pace

When I say long runs at Z1-Z1.5 I am referring to road runs that are 15-30 miles. My goal on these long runs is to have the fastest mile and the average pace per mile is within 10 to 15 seconds of each other. I do not want to go out and set records at the beginning and then bonk toward the end. I want to run efficient and effortless for the entire time and when I am done to look at the Strava app to see that the Heart Rate graph and Speed graph are flat regardless of change in terrain. This is a mindset and one that takes time to train but once you are able to conquer this thought process you can run 'forever' and being able to run for long periods of time allows you to teach your body to use fat for fuel and that means carrying less fuel which means that you have less weight on you and eventually you will run faster.

My Evidence That This Is Working

Here is the same loop from January 2014 in comparison to January 2015. You may say that the paces are the same but take a look at the suffer score from Strava. These runs were about a year apart at approximately the same time of the day and yet the suffer score is practically 50% less and that translates to having the run take place in Zone 1 versus Zone 2.5+. Being able to run the same pace with less effort will lead to faster times as I do not burn through glycogen as quickly.

running slower - run faster - training January 2015 - Suffer Score 37running slower - run faster - trainingJanuary 2014 - Suffer Score Of 70

 

On New Year's Day I ran a 20k at a pace of 7:31/mile with over 700 feet of elevation gain and my HR never entered into Zone 4. Approximately 50% was in Zone 2 and the other 50% in Zone 3 which is more evidence that running slower I have improved my running efficiency which has led to faster times for me.

Are You A Believer In Running Slower To Get Faster?

Published in Train
Friday, 06 February 2015 12:13

RR100 Cast Of Characters

RR100 was a tremendously successful race for me, read the race report here, but it never unfolds the way it did without a tremendous amount of support from some key figures. This cast of characters was either on-site or very instrumental in helping me reach the finish line in 19:22 or was there during my training and pushing me to get better as each session passed. There are many people to thank so let's get this cast of characters post (poached from Old Stude) started.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - race - ultra trail

Lead Actress: Pit Crew Chief aka Karen What can I say about Karen that I have not already said? She is the rock to my insanity. PERIOD. For those of you that do not know Karen came into my life as I was getting divorced. It was a hard time in my life as everything seemed to be crashing down all around me, but as Karen is apt to do on a daily basis she puts items and life into perspective. For the past 8 years she has been able to get me to see the forest for the trees and for that I am eternally grateful. On race day Karen's job was to make sure that my crew was ready to go when their time was called but to also make sure that I had everything I needed at the transition area to make sure that I did not spend unnecessary minutes looking for things. Each time I came around to finish a loop she would yell what do you need? Hydration vest fill-up, pancake, shirts, shoes, new watch. It did not matter as she was ready and kept me moving. Karen would send text messages to my pacers on Loops 4 and 5 to find out where I was and how I was doing so she could prepare the transition area for exactly that and nothing more. Of course, after I acted like the Tasmanian Devil in the area she would have to clean it back up and get it squared away for the next loop but she never complained about it.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail - race

Oh, just a little run through the woods of Huntsville State Park with Jeff[/caption] Lead Actor: Carrot aka Jeff Irvin I 'met' Jeff nearly 6 years ago and we were both getting our feet wet in endurance sports. At the time he was writing a blog as was I and we commented back and forth and from there our friendship took off. Since then I friendship has continued to grow and if it weren't for Jeff I do not think I would be running these long races. Jeff was the person who said: We should run a 100 mile race. I told him he is nuts but I would do the 50 with him. Before I knew it I was signing up for Lake Martin 100 and cursing him ever since but that never stopped me from signing up for RR100 this year or agreeing to race Bandera 100k three weeks prior or come up with ideas of running Coldwater Rumble 100 in January of 2016. We have even discussed running across the Gobi Desert together. Yeah, he ain't right. All of that being said I rely on Jeff for his analytical ability when it comes to gear, especially when it comes to the bike. I am impatient and do not want to review anything so I let him do the research and then just buy whatever he recommends. He got me running in Hokas and come early March I will be riding with power from the Garmin Vector pedals thanks to him. His friendship has been unwavering and invaluable.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - trail - ultra - race - run

A-Train and the misfit triathletes (Carrot, Baha, D-Rog) at IMTX 2013[/caption] Supporting Actress: A-Train aka Annie Annie is Jeff's Leading Actress (wife) and is my second sister. I cannot count the number of times that Annie and I have laughed at all the stupid stuff that her husband gets me into and how I never seem to say no to him at the same time. Simultaneously, Annie has asked me to look after Jeff at the races we do together since he seems to always end up in the Medical Tent or send me text messages when I am not at the race to ask me questions about Jeff. Her ability to laugh at our stupidity while supporting us is amazing and I thank her for allowing me to be a part of these adventures. If you want a glimpse into Annie's mindset about our friendship I will tell you a quick story about the first time we met. Jeff was racing IMTX in 2011 and I volunteered for the race and Jeff decided, without talking to Annie, to offer me his house to stay at in exchange for watching their pugs. When I showed up at their hotel room to get the garage code/key to the house the following conversation took place: Jeff: Hey Annie, can you give Jason the key and garage code to the house. Annie: This makes total sense. I am handing over my house to a guy my husband met on the internet. Jason: Not only that but he is from New York and is Puerto Rican. Jeff: And he has pugs so it is totally fine. To this day we laugh about that conversation and everything that has taken place since then. Supporting Actors:

rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail - race - run

Ninja and I before the start of the IDB Trail Run[/caption] Ninja aka Greg: If you read my race report then you know that Greg is a veteran of the RR100 race having finished it himself 3 years ago and then pacing every year since then. Ninja is one of the first people I ever ran a trail with. I met up with him at Cedar Ridge Preserve along with Sherrif as I was preparing for RR50 and LM100. When we were running you could tell he had an easy time on the trails as if he was born to run on them. Since that time until today I have found him to be one of the nicest people I have had the fortune to cross paths with. When I asked for pacers he was the first to respond that he was in and then took the impetus to ask if we all needed to sit down for dinner to discuss strategy. His confidence was very reassuring in the days leading up to the race and then when we were out on the course. The fact that he was open to a Bro Hug after the race was over was just icing on the cake.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail - run - race

 

Gorilla aka Jeff Bennett: This dude is my kind of crazy. There is not a challenge that has been presented to him that he has run away from. A Marine and a Kona qualifier how has ridden bike on the Tour De France course, run the Boston Marathon in a Gorilla suit, canoed for 61 hours straight and won the Burro race multiple times proves that statement to be true. Jeff was the first person I texted when Lake Martin 100 was over as we were heading back to Texas from Alabama. My message to him was: Consider this your first recruitment letter for RR100. Having paced our friend Raul at Leadville 100 and all of his experience in endurance sports plus his good-natured wit I knew I needed him on the team for the 1st part of Loop 5. It was going to get dark mentally at this point and having him draw stories from all his exploits would be the panacea to this mental downturns. It turned out to be true when Korean Charmin became the topic of choice after the Nature Center Aid Station. More on Korean Charmin in the Outtakes Post that is coming out next week.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail race

Sherrif, Old Stude aka John: I met John through the Wade 70%'ers group I started hanging out and training with in preparation for Ironman Arizona. Since that point, I would say that Sherrif has become one of my biggest inspirations and a person I respect immensely. His nickname Old Stude is not unwarranted as the dude is old but he does not let that stop him from getting better at these events. I look up to John as he does not allow anything to get in the way of him reaching his goals. Being tough regardless of circumstance is something I admire in people and Sherrif has that, but he is also the first person to lend a hand, slap you on the back and congratulate you. He is also not somebody who ACTS tough as evidenced by his finish at Ironman Chattanooga and the look of disbelief that came through his tears. John's ability to push himself inspires me to push myself and I cannot thank him enough for that. The Extras: There are so many other people who were involved in the training of this event that this would go on forever but here are a few: Lee who was willing to run the trails with me every chance he got and I appreciate him for joining me on those early weekend runs through the North Shore Trails of Lake Grapevine. Dog Bait - John was not around a lot but that is because he is retired and can go gallivant around but his message just before the race was beyond supportive and I replayed it over in my mind as the race went on.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail - race

Drum - Michelle is a fierce of a competitor as you will find but would not know it because there is always a smile on her face.  Through Strava and text messages she sent enormous amounts of support and confidence building encouragement.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail - run

Goat - Jeff has never met a stranger and is always prepared with a positive word(s) to help you through anything.  His ability to tell me that I am crazy but say it in a good way gave me one good laugh after another not to mention the Peanut M&Ms as fuel before Loop 5.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail - run - race

 

Train Wreck - Marc travels a long ways to come and hang out with our group for training rides and races.  He is willing to help anybody out and when I finally went to run with him in his neck of the woods he returned that by buying me breakfast.  Just the kind of guy that he is.

]rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail - race - run 

 

The RR100 Cast of Characters That Helped Me Reach 19:22

Thank You.

   

Published in Race
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 06:29

2015 Bandera 100k Race Report

2015 Bandera 100k Ultra Trail Race will not be an event I will forget for a very long time.  When Jeff mentioned that we should do this race as a great way to end the peak weeks of training for Rocky Raccoon 100 I thought it was a great idea.  When you are running 85-90 miles per week the more races you can involve the better as it takes away the monotony of running on your own, plus it allows you to test pacing and nutrition strategy. As race day neared I started to worry about the effects of running on such a difficult course would be on my legs.  I worried about injury and getting sick as the forecast was not a pretty one.  On race day all of these went away except for keeping true to my only two goals for Bandera 100k.

  • Goal 1: Stay vertical.  Do not take chances to avoid falling and what could lead to injury.
  • Goal 2: Finish under 16 hours and get yourself a lottery ticket to Western States 100.

How did the day go?  What are my thoughts on the race organization, the course, the volunteers and everything in between?  Let's find out.

Friday January 9th - The Day Before Bandera 100k

On Friday I drove 5 hours from my home in Dallas to the Flying J Ranch where Jeff had booked us a room.  On my way down he texted me that he upgraded our room to one that had a kitchen and a laundry room.  Little did we know how important that laundry room would be. When I got to the hotel and brought my bags in Jeff and I went to grab a bite to eat and then over to the pre-race meeting and packet pick-up.  While at packet pick-up we met two athletes that had run Bandera 100k the previous year and they were able to answer the three questions we had.

  1. Q: What time should we show up?  A: Get here prior to 6am so you get a close parking space and not dealing with lines.
  2. Q: How hard is it to pick up drop bags? A: Crossroads drop bag can be picked up as you are leaving the park.
  3. Q: Are there any sections on the trail that you can run? A: Yes, middle 20 for sure. First 5 tough as well as last 5.

After hearing that information we set out to eat dinner.  Keeping to the program of eating like a King for breakfast, a Prince for lunch and a pauper for dinner I decided to have a greek salad and fried pickles.  After having a bowl of fruit before bed I was set.

Saturday January 10th - Bandera 100k Race Day

4:30am wake-up call.  Breakfast of coffee, toast with peanut butter and sliced banana and it was off to the race site. I decided that I did not need drop bags on the course and just packed a bag for the start/finish line.  In that bag I had a pair of fresh shoes to change into along with a full change of clothes.  Jeff and I made a commitment to ourselves that we would make a full change of our upper body clothes regardless of how good/warm we felt.

Loop 1 - The First 31

When we lined up I repeated my 2 goals in my head as the clock was counting down.  Having Jeff with me and running into training partner Troy at the start helped to calm me down to just run and not 'race.'  Once we started moving the nerves left and it was time to execute the plan of start slow and then go slower.  We ran with all of the 100k participants for the first 5 miles which included a section that is vertical and one athlete slipping on the ice and falling backwards into Jeff who blocked him while I grabbed the front of his shirt.  I made a mental note to make sure to be careful at that spot when I came around for Loop 2. When we reached the Nachos aid station things started to clear up in terms of athletes.  The spreading out started to take place and we could start to run.  This is also the first time on the course where the sotol is not tearing you up.  The sotol cactus hurts as it pulls your skin when you run through it.  There is no avoiding the cactus so you have to suck it up and get through it as best you can. [caption id="attachment_9797" align="alignright" width="600"]bandera 100k - race report - ultra trail run Bandera 100k Course Profile[/caption] Jeff and I stuck together through the sections from Nachos to the Cross Roads Aid station and then when reached Mile 20 he mentioned to me that I could go ahead if I wanted to secure a good time because I was able to descend really well.  I told him that if I get the itch then I would go ahead.  When we hit the last mile before getting to the Cross Roads Aid station a second time I was in heaven.  I latched onto Troy's hip and we descended that last mile at a very fast pace and I was loving it.  I had a huge smile on my face and when we hit the aid station Troy and I were laughing that we were actually able to run.  I waited around for Jeff and Troy took off.  After Jeff came into the aid station we headed out and this time after about a mile I kept running and was now on my own. I kept repeating my race strategy which was to run the flats, walk the hills and cascade gracefully down the descents.  I could feel that my legs were strong and I just kept on plugging until I reached the Last Chance aid station where I grabbed a couple of Oreos and moves on. In the last 5 miles from Last Chance to the Lodge I came upon an athlete that was walking and seemed to be walking gingerly.  When I caught up to him we were chatting and he told me that he fell at the 11km mark and probably broke a rib.  When I asked if he was going to stop at the turn around he said that he would because he was having trouble breathing and could feel the rib floating.  I was in awe that this guy went past all the aid stations between the 11km mark and what was now about the his 45k mark and still moving.  Tough. Tough. Tough. When I got to the Lodge I stuck to the plan of making a full upper body change so I swapped out my wet and sweaty tops for dry tops and it felt great.  When I took off the Hoka OneOne Mafate and put on the Hoka OneOne Stinson Trail shoe it felt even better.  My feet felt light and I was ready to run.  I opened a foil packed with a FlapJacked pancake and ate it as I set out for Loop 2. [caption id="attachment_9805" align="aligncenter" width="172"]bandera 100k - ultra trail race - runner - race report Check out the mud on my shoes at the end of Loop 1[/caption]

Loop 2 - The Second 31

As I started running I could feel how light I felt.  My hydration pack felt lighter which told me that I would need to fill up at some point because being out on those trails without liquid would not be a good idea.  My feet felt great and it seemed as if the mud was not sticking as much to the Stinson as the Mafate.  The best feeling though was the fact that I was dry. During the first part of Loop 2 I kept repeating to myself that I needed to race the daylight.  I am not a fan of wearing a headlamp and with the trail being difficult and my first time on it I wanted to get as far into the loop as I could before having to wear the headlamp. [caption id="attachment_9806" align="alignright" width="199"]Bandera 100k - ultra trail race - race report Middle of Loop 2 - Notice how clean my shoes look now[/caption] It was at this point that I made the decision that aid stations were pit stops and not an opportunity to strike up conversation.  My goal was to stop at the aid station and down two cups of coke and grab two Oreos to eat as I walked.  When I hit Nachos there were about 10-15 athletes hanging around and I went right past them following my plan.  Relentless Forward Motion was the name of the game at this point. As I came upon hills that were not steep I made the decision to run them as opposed to walking them because at this point I have nothing to conserve my energy for.  I ran the flats, the uphills and descended and I felt myself getting strong.  Reaching Chapas I followed the aid station plan and kept moving. When I hit Cross Roads the first time on Loop 2 I refilled my hydration pack as well as the two Oreos and Coke and then kept on going because I knew in this section there were some steep climbs as well as the fun descent that I wanted to hit in the daylight.  I was fortunate enough to do so and when I got to Cross Roads the second time I grabbed a cup of coffee because the sun was setting and I could feel that I was getting cold when I left aid stations due to their warmth inside the tents. As I left Cross Roads I was only focused on getting to Last Chance.  4.2 miles and nothing else mattered.  During this section I came upon Ted who was Bib# 333 and I stuck to his tail as much as I could.  Eventually Ted and I ran into two other athletes and we all ran as pack for a while.  After about 1 mile one of the athletes pulled over to use nature's restroom and we kept going.  When we reached Last Chance I could tell that we were covering quite a bit of ground at a decent pace and yet my legs still felt very strong.  When we left we ran into another athlete but it was not long before it was just Ted and I. After having run 5-6 miles together we finally decided to chat.  As I found out Ted lives in Austin and is from Zimbabwe.  What a great conversation and what a great way to kill the last 4.7 miles.  At one point I told Ted that when we hit the field he did not have to worry about out sprinting me because my only goal was sub-16 and injury free.  His response was: the podium is all yours.  We had a good laugh. Ted and I were clicking off the miles and passing a few runners when I told him that I thought we were finally done passing other athletes and this was with about 1.25 miles to go.  Sure enough within minutes a head lamp appeared from behind us and I remember hearing Ted say something along the lines of: somebody caught us. That was all I needed to hear and for whatever reason I took off like a jack rabbit.  I began descending as if it were a perfectly gorgeous 55* day out with the sun shining.  Except it was below 32*, raining and muddy beyond belief.  When I finally stopped descending and realized I had smashed my toe and knew I was within 0.25 miles of the finish line I had thought I would stop running and coast in.  My legs had a different idea and I kept running.  In fact I ran so much and so hard that I wound up being that dude that passes people as they get close to the finish line.  I apologize to the two ladies I passed but my legs were moving without my control it seemed. As I crossed the finish line I looked at the clock and saw 12:52.  Not only did I eclipse 16 hours and earn a ticket into the Western States Lottery but I also beat the 14 hour goal and was now below 13 hours as well.  WHAT?!?!?! [caption id="attachment_9795" align="alignright" width="300"]bandera 100k - ultra trail runner - race report USATF 100k National Championships[/caption] The official from USATF asked if I was in the Championships and before I knew it he was handing me a medal as well as getting a belt buckle from Joe the Race Director.  I walked into the lodge area to get my gear as I was expecting to go to the car and change and then come back to get Jeff when I realized he was standing in front of me.  When I asked how he managed to close so  fast he told me that he crushed his ankle and was driven to the finish line.  I was bummed because our number one goal to stay injury free was not accomplished by Jeff.  We walked back to the car and got changed when I saw the back of the USATF medal and it showed 3rd Place M40-49.  WHAT?!?!?!?! Two days later I am still shocked by the race I had.  It was nothing I expected but I am very happy with the outcome.  More importantly I ran this morning and my legs feel pretty good.  In addition to that Jeff says his ankle is feeling much better and he thinks he will be more than ready for Rocky Raccoon 100 on January 31st.

Thank You

Thank you to Joe for putting on a wonderful race.  Thank you to all the volunteers who braved miserable conditions to support us.  Thank you to all the athletes for lining up to run and making this an experience I will never forget.  Thank you to my wife and stepson for their never-ending support of my dumb ideas.

Published in Race Reports
Wednesday, 03 December 2014 12:56

How Do You Do It? A Question I Get Quite Often

This simple question was asked of me twice in the past week and I answered quite simply as well: Because I love it. Truth be told it is far more complicated than that but in reality it is also that simple. I do the things I do because I love them. I do not have the time or patience to do things just because. When I put my training plan together I do so with a purpose. Each run during ultra training has a meaning whether that is recovery, tempo, trail or just long. Every swim, bike and run session during Ironman training has a reason. The idea of junk miles just bothers me and so I study and analyze the training and figure out what worked and what didn't.  If it worked I keep it in the plan but if I felt that it was nothing more than filler I drop it and fill that space with something I think will work. Obviously I do not just pull training sessions out of thin air so that means that I spend time reading.  Lots of reading.  Reading about training, recovery, nutrition and more all plays a part in how I do it.  I make every attempt to leave nothing to chance but also know that I cannot control everything from beginning to end and somethings will just happen regardless of how well I have planned. Back to the question that was asked and the answer I gave initially became a long conversation about my training and how they could not do it and that there was a difference.  The next question was:  I see your training and I see you working hard but what are you doing when you are not out here training with us?  That was sort of the key question to the getting to the answer of How Do You Do It? Here is the answer I gave him and maybe it can help you tackle your next training cycle for an upcoming race:

  • Understand the goals that you have laid out in front of you. This means that you must make an honest evaluation of yourself and your capabilities.  When I started racing Ironman I thought that I could be fast enough to qualify for Kona.  After the first race I was certain that I could get there because I just finished in 12 hours.  Two more races with finishes around the 12 hour mark proved to me that getting to Kona was not going to be as easy as just showing up.  For Ironman Chattanooga I wanted to PR and if that meant that I finished in 11:52 then so be it but it would be a PR.  This made a huge difference as the stress of having to go fast was removed.  I punished myself during 13 weeks of training and when I crossed the finish line in 11:00:50 in complete shock I realized that the work I put in was setup to establish the realistic goal of setting an Ironman PR.
  • Train properly according to your schedule. We all look at our schedule and see the upcoming session and get ready then head out the door.  The plan may call for an easy 5 miles but you start running and before you know it you are dropping paces only seen during a 5k race.  You are thrilled and you let everybody know by posting your Garmin watch to ALL of your social media platforms.  The next morning you go out for that 10 mile run that includes 4x1 Mile repeats and it feels as if you are running in quick sand.  The problem?  Your easy day was too hard and now that the key hard day is here you cannot perform.  Remember that easy days are easy and hard days are hard.  Stick to that and you can get through the training plan with little to no issue.
  • Proper Nutrition AND Rest AND Sleep.  I cannot stress this enough but this is just as important as nailing that track workout on your schedule. Two quotes that have stuck with me over the years are:
    1. Stress Is Stress.  This comes from my previous coach Maria Simone of No Limits Endurance.  When Maria and I would have our weekly chats in the lead-up to Ironman Texas 2013 I would scoff at this notion but the statement stuck with me and when I feel the stress coming on I focus even harder on eating properly as opposed to turning to Twix and Oreos.  I also will go to sleep at 8pm because I know that my personality is becoming more abrasive than normal and if I am not going to sleep early I am sitting on the couch without electronic devices and just staying in the here and now.
    2. Can You Fill A Car With Half The Amount Of Energy Needed To Travel A Certain Distance And Still Expect To Get There?  Essentially what this question is asking is do you expect to perform at the top of your game if your body is not filled with the energy it needs to get there.  If you do not sleep enough you will not have the energy.  If you do not properly fuel and hydrate your body you will not have the energy.  I am not saying that you cannot have a slice of chocolate cake but I am saying that you cannot have the whole cake and expect to perform at your best.
  • Pay attention to your gear. Your gear will experience wear and tear over time and will not perform in the way it was intended.  What typically happens from there is that we adjust ourselves, rather than our gear, and before long there is a twinge in your calf or a pinch in your hip.  Start by checking your shoes for wear and tear or go for a bike fit.  A millimeter here or a millimeter there can make all the difference.  I use Strava as well as Google Docs to keep track of the miles on my running shoes.  If I feel anything in my legs as I am running I immediately look at the shoe as well as the data on how many miles I have in them.  If the bottom of the shoe looks good then I pull out the insoles and replace it because that will degrade over time faster than the outsole of the shoe.

As you can see it is a bit more than the original answer of I Love It, but each of these pieces and parts allow me to love it.  By paying attention to the little things I can go out and accomplish the big things like Ironman and 100 Mile Ultra Trail runs.

Do You Have Any Tips And Tricks To How You Do It?

Published in Train

Ultra running is defined as anything longer than 26.2 miles, or the marathon distance.  I recently joined the ranks of ultra running by participating in 4 different events over the months of February and March.  The distances covered were 50k (31.1 miles), 50 Miles and 100 Miles.  In the past these distances would have been daunting.  As a matter of fact the 100 mile distance is still daunting and will probably always give me pause before hitting the register button.  The 100 mile race has the opportunity to present so many obstacles, especially on the trails and in the middle of the night, that it is the race that I think I will always question my preparedness just before the start of it. The question of ultra running being 'good' for you physically came up earlier today when Regina posted a video and tagged Jeff and I in it.  I watched the video and found myself shaking my head at every comment the athlete made.  All of it made so much sense to me except for one comment:  "I have a lot of fun doing this but I don't think it is necessarily good for you."  It was this comment that started a conversation amongst us, including Kevin.

The consensus seemed to be that running this distance, in the video the athlete is running 135 miles, is not good for you physically.  At first I agreed but then I started thinking a bit more about it.  At what point is there diminishing returns on a race of this distance?  Athletes are not necessarily going into Zone 3 and Zone 4 in their heart rate, so what is the taxing portion?  Is the question more about being sleep deprived?  What about those in the armed forces that are up for longer periods of time? More questions than this popped up but the reality, for me, is that this is not a scenario in which you are looking to improve fitness.  Your fitness is achieved in the weeks and months leading up to the event.  Your body is then restored during the recovery phase, which for me is currently at the end of Week 2 from Lake Martin 100.  Did I gain any fitness over the course of 28 hours?  I highly doubt it but I did gain something much more valuable at this point and for the future. What I gained from ultra running was a mental advantage and that is priceless and will pay dividends going forward.  When I first took on this challenge I looked at the miles that I would be running on a daily and weekly basis during the training.  Weeks that included 85 miles and 90 miles.  Back to back days of 31 miles and 20 miles were staring me in the face.  They seemed so daunting but as the training continued these became commonplace and while not 'easy' they were no longer frightening.  My mental ability to comprehend the distance, break it down into manageable parts and then achieve the goals improved from Day 1 through the start of the race.  During the race I was able to rely on the fact that I had put in 18 weeks of training that involved 1,000 miles of running and I was prepared, both physically and mentally. Today I am looking at a race schedule for the start of 2015 that includes a 100k, 100 miler and 50 miler all in the course of a month.  3 months ago I would have laughed to keep from crying.  Today I smile and say:  Yes, I can do this.  Today I think to myself about how awesome it is going to be to go through the training and accomplishing the daily goals and race goals.  This mental edge will allow me to perform day in and day out and to achieve even better physical fitness.   This to me is far more of a benefit than any detriment that may or may not come from running 100 miles in a given day. A year ago there was an article on TriathleteMagazine.com regarding what happens to the human body during an Ironman.  This was an interesting look into the physiological process that takes place.  An Ironman is hard, but running a 100 miler is harder so this take can be changed in terms of the physical tolls.  All that being said the following line from the article is what makes me think that the mental gains far outweigh the physical toll that takes place during these endurance events, including ultra running: Fortunately, though, those years are restored to you within a few weeks. Then it’s time to start thinking about tickling the reaper again. I would sacrifice a few weeks of non-activity to recover in order to reap the benefits that the sense of accomplishment brings.

Do You Think Ultra Running, Or Endurance Events, Are Good For You?

  For reference here is an article from The New York Time that is also interesting reading. New York Times Blog: What Ultra Marathons Do To Our Body.

Published in Train
Thursday, 20 March 2014 09:09

Running 100 Miles Fears And Thoughts

[caption id="attachment_9530" align="alignright" width="151"]running 100 miles - fear - thoughts Source: Lake Martin Website[/caption] Running 100 miles in a couple of weeks or even one week is daunting.  Running 100 miles in one day can be downright frightening.  When I registered for Lake Martin 100 I was excited to be taking on a challenge that I never saw coming.  It was one of those moments where you think to yourself:  F' It Let's Do This.  After hitting register you think to yourself......what did I just get myself into. I applied all the training mantras and thoughts from going through Ironman cycles to this training yet it always seemed different.  I tried to incorporate swimming and biking when I could but it just seemed to get in the way.  As a matter of fact I have not been in a pool in about 4 weeks and my bike has not seen my a$$ in more than 6 weeks.  The training, especially the overload weeks, did not allow time nor the motivation to do either of the other sports.  There were days were I wanted to go swimming to aid in the recovery process but then thought to myself:  pack bag, get in car, drive, change, swim, change, get in car, drive, unpack bag.  No thanks I'll just sit on this couch and exercise my thumb as I go from channel to channel. Throughout the heavy training I would think about scenarios in which I needed a response for that just in case moment on the course.  Yesterday, I was speaking with co-workers about running 100 miles and they asked me was I worried if I would finish.  My response came quick and with authority:  NO.  I have trained myself to combat the physical fatigue that is going to occur but I wonder where the mind will go when the time ticks closer to 14-15 hours.  I then started to think about other things that give me pause and this brief list is what I came up with.
  1. Temperatures when the sun goes down.  As many of you know I am a cold-weather wuss even though I ran the A-OK in sub-20* temps I am not a fan of cold weather.  I would rather run in heat and humidity like I did at Ironman Texas than to run in anything below 40*.  When the sun goes down we will have been on the course for over 12 hours and thus the mindset then needed to battle the physical fatigue is going to increase because the sun has gone to sleep and the temperatures will get colder.  Making sure that the gloves I start the race with are in my hydration vest so that they are on my person when the time comes.
  2. Weight Loss.  There is not much I can do about this but it is in the back of my head.  When Jeff and I ran Rocky Raccoon 50 back in February I managed to lose nearly 10 pounds despite drinking close to 120 oz of liquid while consuming a Oreo, M&Ms, Potatoes and liquid calories.  My fear is more about the strength needed at the end of the race to carry on.  Dropping that kind of weight may hamper my ability to move on.  The good news is the chance to eat like Michael Phelps the next morning.  Think of all the pancakes, waffles, eggs, toast, hash browns, fruit, oatmeal and coffee one can eat after a running 100 miles. OK, not a fear anymore.
  3. Blisters On My Feet. This is another scenario in which preparation may not be enough.  I will be cutting my toe nails this weekend so that they can grow a bit but not be too long for the race.  I bring this up because I forgot to do just that for RR50 and while diving downhill I felt my toe grab my sock and sure enough a huge blood blister formed.  Regardless of blisters forming I will finish the race but being in discomfort for very long will take a toll on the mind.
  4. Caroline Our Crew Leader. She scares me.  I am not kidding.  She is a 3:05 marathoner and having to deal with three idiots in the middle of the Alabama woods may be more than she can handle and thus turn into the person that just yells at us and crushes our souls.....I am just kidding.  In our exchanges for the past couple of weeks Caroline is the one thing in this race that is going to be constant....other than PAIN!!!!
Ironically, the pain is not something that I fear.  We all know it is coming and we all know we are going to get through it.  It is the unknown that causes the most pause when it comes to running 100 miles.  That being said there is a start line and a finish line that we all will see.  What happens between those lines is going to be an experience and one that I am thrilled to be sharing with Jeff, Dave, Caroline and the GoPro. OK, maybe there should be another fear...... [caption id="attachment_9531" align="aligncenter" width="300"]running 100 miles - fear - thoughts Source: Lake Martin Website[/caption]
Published in Race

Rocky Raccoon 50 Mile Trail run has been 11 weeks in the making and over the course of the run nothing, and I mean nothing, fell short of expectations.  I am going to go over the events of the race in this report but over the course of the next few days I will layout the stories that took place on the course as our interactions with other athletes and volunteers unfolded.  In addition to that report, I am going to provide some insight into what Jeff and I have to look forward to when we race the Lake Martin 100 at the end of March.  Lastly, there will be a nutrition blog post coming up on No Meat Athlete in regards to what I ate before, during and after the race. Friday, February 8th With nothing to do on Friday but to pick up our packets and get a 4 mile run in Jeff and I woke up late and went and had a rather large breakfast, as is my normal routine.  After breakfast we went back to Jeff's house and got ready to run 4 miles.  As we headed out we ran into my wife (Karen) who was out there running 15 miles as she prepares for the Cowtown Marathon in a couple of weeks. After the run we met up with Jeff's wife (Annie) for lunch and then headed to the course for packet pick-up and athlete meeting.  At this meeting we ran into Lee and John who were participating along with Byron who is the sherpa-friend extraordinaire.  It was during the athlete briefing  that I believe I fell in love with Ultra Trail runs.  Liza (helping the RD's) gave us the rules and regulations of the race.  Typical stuff of do not litter and stay on course, but the best part:

DO NOT POOP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TRAIL

Right then and there I knew I would love the race and the ultra trail run community. Once the meeting was over we headed back to Jeff's for pizza and bed time.  Bed time was right around 8:30p as we had to wake up at 2:30a to get packed and head to the race.

Saturday, January 8th. Rocky Raccoon 50 Ultra Trail Race Day.

2:30am comes early.  Too Early.  Luckily we had prepared the majority of our needs the night before and it was just a matter of getting our gear into the car and then making breakfast to take with us and coffee to go.  There was not much talk about the race on the way up but lots of jokes and laughter going on, which would be a foreshadow of the day to come. We got to the park around 4:15am figuring we would see a line of cars entering but there were none.  We drove right up to the booth and asked the woman allowing us access if there were a ton of cars earlier and she said "No.  Maybe 6 0r 7."  Immediately we thought we could have gotten another hour's worth of sleep but we were here and were able to get a great parking spot right near the bathroom.  After eating our breakfast it was time for me to take a nap.  I set my alarm for 5:30am and closed my eyes.  5:30am comes faster than 2:30am but I was ready. We grabbed our drop bags and walked to the start line.  Found our bag spots and then went into the tent to try to get warm.  It was mid-30s and it felt colder.  I had on 4 layers of tops, a pair of compression shorts, compression socks, Hoka Stinson, two pairs of gloves and a wool hat.  When Liza told us to get headed toward the start line that is what we did.  Our strategy was:  run steady.  We knew we would have to walk eventually but staying as steady as possible was our goal. Loop #1: The clock struck 6:00am and we were off.  Headlamps and flashlights everywhere.  Foot steps abound and the start of my first 50 miler was upon me. Jeff and I were running in single file with all the others and we were telling jokes and laughing and getting people into the spirt.  This was going to be a long day so may as well make the best of it.  When you are running in the dark you cannot tell if you are going uphill, downhill or flat.  You are just running.  About an hour into the run the light starts to break through the trees and you can now tell where you are at and begin to put your strategy in place. Our strategy was rather simple:

  • Walk the uphills, run the flat, cascade downhill and watch your footing.
  • Stop at every aid station to get whatever looked good.  Drink water at the very least.
  • Drink from our hydration packs at every mile.
  • Laugh, tell jokes and engage other runners in conversation as much as possible.

We hooked up with Marc around daylight and he instantly joined in the joking.  We were laughing so hard and just making fun of life while clicking off the miles.  Marc, in hindsight was smart, would walk more than us then run and catch up.  He held a steady pace with us and allowed us to forget where we were in terms of miles as we kept moving and joking and laughing.  After a bit more we latched onto Fabrizio who is South American (from Brazil and living in Houston) who was also doing his first 50 miler. This group of 4 was great to run with as we all had different backgrounds and stories.   After a while Fabrizio dropped off and we picked up Gayle who was the true definition of steady.  We 'allowed' Gayle to pull our little train for quite a bit until we entered the aid station and after that I took over pulling.  After 2:40 we were done with Loop #1.  Quick change of baseball hat on and wool cap off then  go.  Time for Loop #2 Loop #2: When you start the second loop you realize the areas where you should have slowed down or walked a bit more.  You also realize how many roots are on the trail.  I was amazed that we got through this section without falling down on our faces.  Jeff and I talked and decided that once the uphills caused strain on either of us we would walk and then reach the flat and go.  During loop #2 you pass the marathon distance and we decided to GoPro us going past this 'magical' distance marker.  I looked at my watch and saw 4:17…..not bad for a road marathon let alone a trail marathon.  Maybe a bit too hard. Gayle was with us and trudging along and when we hit Mile 28 Jeff and Gayle congratulated me for passing my longest distance run.  A PR set in the middle of a race doesn't happen often but it did at RR50.  A few more miles later and we passed the 6 hour mark and I thought to myself:  This is way harder than an Ironman but I kept it to myself as I did not want any bad mojo being released into the air. It was toward the end of this loop that we came across an aid station and they had KING CAKE.  Are you kidding me?  I did a double take and stared hard but chose to keep to my one oreo and two cups of water routing going at this point as I did not want to add anything to my stomach that I wasn't sure I could handle.  I was doing body checks and made note that my feet were feeling good, legs were tired and beat up but not impossible to keep moving and my HR was staying in the high Z1 or low Z2 range.  If my HR crept up too much going uphill I would tell Jeff and we would start to walk. Coming back into loop 2 finish was a tremendous feeling.  We did loop #1 in 2:40 and loop #2 in 2:52 with more walking.  We were feeling good about our progress but it was time to lock down and move.  In the drop bag area we added our liquid nutrition to our vests and grabbed a few bites to eat then it was back out for the next and final loop. Loop #3 Immediately I knew this was going to be hard as my feet entered shuffle mode.  I am not sure if you could have slid paper under my feet at this point but I was happy that they kept moving forward.  We stuck to our strategy and while we kept moving you could tell that our paces had slowed going up the hills and going down the hills was a much more gingerly activity. Marc caught up with us again and it was awesome to have him with us laughing.  Approximately 1/2 way through Marc took off and told us we would see him again further up but the next time we saw him he was waiting for us at the finish line.  Such a great and classy move.  Once Marc took off we came up on the one area that we knew had a huge puddle and there was not an easy way around it.  The first two loops I stepped easy so as not to get my socks and feet wet.  This time around with legs not responding as quickly as they were earlier I stomped, like a person killing a roach in a dark apartment, into the mud and got my feet wet and mud up my socks.  I did not care and just wanted to get out of this. Further through the trail, which was in terrific shape, considering hundreds of athletes did 4 loops on the course the week before for the Rocky Raccoon 100 and a few more hundred were going through the course again for the 50,  Jeff and I knew that the mud hill would slow us down and potentially keep us from going under 9 hours.  What we did not expect was me smashing my foot onto one of the rocks and sending a jolt up my IT Band that never loosened up.  Now, it was Jeff's turn to pull and at this point a couple of things happened that I will never forget:

  • Jeff telling me that we had come this far together and that I had done so much to get him to this point that he wasn't leaving my side.
  • Jeff saying that going through this shit was what made friends for life.

Hearing those two statements was a real pick me up and allowed me to block out the pain I was feeling in my leg.  We were calculating times to reach the finish line in 9 hours and we would both say that we did not care because of the lessons we were learning for LM100 but inside I wanted under 9 hours and I know Jeff did too.  My original thought was that we would finish between 8:30 and 8:45 and I wanted to be as close to that as possible.  With about 1.5 miles to go Jeff said that if we run up that hill and bust ass all the way in we would get in under 9 hours and with that we took off.  I did not give it a second thought.  I did not care how much pain I was in.  I wanted under 9 hours.  .25 miles into this all out run we saw Byron who took our pictures and gave us the push we needed and our paces picked up to the point of 7:00/mi.  We were hauling ass. Coming down the final stretch and hearing our wives, the spectators and volunteers cheering and there wasn't a single sore muscle other than my face from smiling so much.  I looked at Jeff and said:  We did this shit man.  It was the best feeling ever.  Greater than crossing the finish line of my first Ironman because it was that much harder.  As we crossed I saw 8:53:xx and then thought: THAT LIAR!  Either way crossing when we did was a testament to our plan for clothing, nutrition, run/walk, hydration and the hours and miles of work we put in leading up to that point.

Rocky Raccoon 50 Ultra Trail Run Conclusion

There is no way around the fact that you have to do work, both in the months leading up to the race and during the race.  While the runs prior will help build the physical aspect it is the mental part that is tough to mimic.  Most people will not have gone past a 50k (31 miles) during training and it is at that point where it becomes the great unknown.  How will my body react?  How about my mind?  How much should I continue to eat and drink?  How do I feel?  There are so many questions that you may not be prepared for if you did not put together a strategy leading into the race or execute during the race. Doing a 50 mile ultra trail run is so challenging but the accomplishment is even greater.  The Rocky Raccoon 50 is a great way to get into this sport.  I found everybody to be extremely helpful.  I witnessed a tremendous amount of support for myself and Jeff but for other athletes out on the course as well.  It was tremendous to see people lift each other up and help when needed. Thank you to the race directors, volunteers and spectators for allowing me to share this spacial day with you.  This was my first but will not be my last ultra trail run. [flagallery gid=26]

Published in Race Reports
As you may know I am racing Rocky Raccoon 50 this coming weekend and that race along with the Rocky Raccoon 100 last weekend made me think about qualifying times for these races.  Really it was about cut-off times which lead to the thoughts about qualifying times.  Anybody who is involved in endurance sports knows that there is a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon and the Ironman World Championships in Kona, but what about having qualifying times for other races.  Would you run in a race that required you to qualify somewhere else?

Bear with me as I explain this and then give me your opinion about qualifying times.

The cut-off time for a 100 mile ultra is typically 30 hours while the time for a 50 is 15 hours.  When you think about these times in a per mile pace they are quite generous as is the 17 hour time limit for an Ironman, which I have written about here.  For example, the per mile pace for a 100 or a 50 with those cut-offs is 18:00.  That does not seem daunting does it?  Seems quite feasible to make it across the finish line at that pace.  Of course, this does not take into effect the terrain, weather or other factors but all things being equal this seems quite doable yet people are not finishing these races in these times and are getting pulled off of courses.  This past weekend the DNF rate for the RR100 was ~57% so I have  been told.  That is high and there are going to be a myriad of reasons why.  Weather certainly played a role but what about the person that is just not ready for this type of event? Would a qualifying times system of races prevent the 57% DNF rate?  I do not know but it couldn't hurt.  It also couldn't hurt to protect people from themselves.  I understand that there is no fail safe built into this idea and not every variable can be addressed but there could be a system that works for people. Let's say a race organization decides it wants to only conduct half-marathon or greater distance events.  In order to register for the half-marathon distance you must have completed a 15k in XX:XX.  I do not know what that is so let's just assume it is 2 hours which is a 12:54 per mile pace.  Now on the course the cut-off for the 13.1 miles is 3 hours which is a pace of 13:44 per mile.  Not impossible by any means but would you do it?  Would you register for this race if you knew that you would be close? Let's take another example.  In order to register for a 50 mile or 100 mile race you had to have done a 50k with a time of 8 hours and 30 minutes or a pace of 16:27 per mile.  If the cut-off for the 50 mile race is 15 hours and you could run the 50k in 8:30 then you should have no problem getting to that finish line in time.  The same can be said for the 100 mile race.  Would this make these races a sort of elite racing organization? [caption id="attachment_9409" align="alignright" width="276"]qualifying times - marathon - triathlon - endurance sports Ironman World Championships - Kona[/caption] The organization would not be built to eliminate anybody from doing it but it would certainly create a system in which the bucket list person, who has no desire to train thoroughly enough, was forced to think twice before registering.  It may also save them from themselves.  If you are on a 100 mile race course for 30 hours that means that you are most likely awake for nearly 32-34 hours straight which just cannot be good for your system.  You are stressing the body in an unsustainable way by not completing the 100 mile race in 30 hours and a system like this may just save that person from long-term harm. I know people are going to say that everybody should have a chance to race and I do agree with that which is why I am saying that it would be one race organization and not every single race.  This would allow anybody who wanted to cross half-marathon off of their list of things to do to be able to do just that, but it would also give those who wanted to race a race that did not have tens of thousands of people who had no desire to push themselves to the limit be standing at the starting line as well.  And before you say that people are pushing themselves remember that a recent article in the Wall Street Journal of half-marathon and marathon times shows that runners are getting slower. I know for me that this would be enticing.  An opportunity to qualify for a race that only allowed a certain few in and those few were the fastest on the day they raced.  I have been at the starting line of the Las Vegas marathon in what seemed like a race only to come across people who had no business to be at the front of the start of the half-marathon be in the way when we merged. By in the way I mean walking before Mile 1 and be in the marathon lane.  It was frustrating and maddening for me when I wanted to run as fast and as hard as I could to have people who seemed more intent on looking at the fountains of the Bellagio than to be racing be in my way.  I worked my ass off for that race and the people sauntering along did not seem to care about their finish time or the race in general and were just happy to be in Las Vegas. Let's also talk about the sense of accomplishment.  If you wanted to race that marathon from XYZ Race Company but knew that you had to finish a half-marathon in 3 hours but kept falling just short wouldn't that sense of accomplishment be amazing when you did cross in 2:59?  The person that is finishing the half-marathon in 3 hours is going to have a hard time qualifying for the Boston Marathon but having qualifying times for a race series may give them that sense of accomplishment.  From the marathon finish they may decide to work just a little bit more to compete in the 50k and then the 50 and 100 mile races. For triathon a similar series of events could take place with athletes having to qualify at the sprint distance in order to race the Olymic distance and then 'graduate' to the Half-Ironman and eventually Ironman.  If they are 'crazy' enough (I use that term lightly) to go for a double or triple Iron distance event then the race director will want to know that they finished an Ironman in 15 hours (making it up!)  The opportunity to continue to grow in the sport just makes too much sense to me.  Maybe because it is my idea…..who knows.

What are your thoughts on qualifying times?

 
Published in Race
Tuesday, 04 February 2014 09:29

Ultra Trail Run Training - The Survival Post

Ultra trail run or ultra trail runner was not a part of my vocabulary as of 11 weeks ago.  The idea and notion of running that far made any sense.  I would laugh at Jeff when he brought it up.  I called it crazy and just a dumb idea.  I would look at the training and think to myself:  70+ mile weeks is just ridiculous.  Why would anybody do that?  Then I started to think more about it and slowly my mindset began to change.  Why not do it?  Why not push myself further than I had in the past?  Why not go out on the limb and should it break it would only be because I tried. Along the course of these 11 weeks I learned a lot about training for an ultra trail run that I can use for the remainder of my training leading up to the Lake Martin 100.  I look at the overload weeks and think 85-95 miles in a week.....that sounds crazy enough to be awesome.  Mindset is one thing that you need to have going into long distance endurance sports training especially if the sport is specific like cycling or running.  When there is a combination of sports the mindset is a bit easier to get to because the monotony is broken up.  One way to think about this is your job.  When you are tasked with pulling the same report on a weekly or daily basis you find that report to be a pain in the ass but when asked to work on a project rather than pulling that report you get excited.  Ultra trail run training is that report.  Triathlon, for me, is that project. Here are a few tips I learned along the way to this point.  This is not a comprehensive list but I believe that following these tips will allow you to not only survive but to thrive on your way to your first ultra trail run whether that is 50k, 100k, 50 miles or 100 miles.

Ultra Trail Run Training Tips

  1.  Eat The Elephant One Bite At A Time. As a vegetarian I could have put something more plant friendly but the point is that the entire training plan is so big that it seems overwhelming.  Focus on that day's training and not the next day's or the upcoming weekends.  Live in the moment and focus on what you are setting out to accomplish.  This means that if it is a 4 mile run that you focus on those 4 miles and not think about the 25 mile run you have coming up in 4 days.  Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will your ability to cover these distances.  Instead it is all bricks in the wall to getting you to the starting line.
  2. [caption id="attachment_9402" align="alignright" width="300"]ultra trail run - tips - training Source: Outside Online[/caption] Recover Properly. Recovery is not just the time you spend doing nothing sitting on the couch.  That is important but so is the amount of sleep you get.  In addition to that it is the right food that you put into your system.  Let us also not forget about stretching.  Now, I can tell you that I do not stretch.  I stop running and head right for the kitchen but never once do I stop to lay on my back and stretch out my hamstrings.  Instead I go to my chiropractor on a weekly basis (2x per week during overload weeks) and allow him to stretch me out as well as adjusting me.  I also get a massage at least every other week.  This allows my body and, just as importantly, my mind to relax and get away.
  3. Take Taper Seriously. In the past I would have found ways to sneak in a few extra minutes of swimming or cycling or running during taper week thinking that it could not hurt.  For this training cycle I am taking taper so seriously that I am not doing anything not on my training plan.  If it isn't there I am not doing it.  I am focusing on my nutrition and getting as much sleep as possible.  I am running these last few miles at a Z1 HR and not going above that one bit.  I am truly paying attention to taper and when I go out on these short runs I feel a spring in my step, a faster pace and the confidence is building.  In taper weeks prior to this one I would go for a short run and feel either fatigued or playing mind-games with myself that my legs were not sore.  That is not the case this time.  I have not felt stronger the week before a race as I do today.
  4. Figure Out Your Nutrition During Long Runs. I have run the equivalent of 12 half-marathons plus over the course of these 11 weeks.  On those runs I have run with the nutrition I plan on using on the course with what would be the equivalent of 225 calories per hour.  By testing and testing and testing the taste, cal/hr, electrolytes, carbs and protein mix I am confident in what I need to bring with me to the course on Saturday morning.  In addition to figuring out exactly what you are going to use you must use these long runs to figure out exactly how you are going to carry these calories.  I have done the runs with my running vest and a flask, even during 'short' runs of less than 10 miles.  Why?  To get comfortable with the extra weight.  To get comfortable with drinking while running.  To get comfortable with the vest and how to fix/adjust in case of anything happening.
  5. [caption id="attachment_9403" align="alignright" width="300"]ultra trail run - tips - training Source: (a href="/chrisultra.blogspot.com/">Chris Ultra Blogl[/caption] Run At All Different Times Of The Day And On Different Surfaces In Different Weather. An ultra trail run is going to take a long time.  This means that you are going to start before the sun comes up and in some cases finish after the sun goes down.  That is a lot of hours to cover while on your feet and different things are going to happen.  Running in the dark is different from running during the day.  Running on trails is different from running on the road.  Running in the rain is different from running in the heat and humidity. As you can see all of these items are different and you need to be prepared for these changes as much as possible.  The only way to do that is to train in those elements.
I will repeat that these tips are not exhaustive.  There is much more that goes into training for an ultra trail run but these will get you started.  I will be 100% honest and tell you, the reader, that this training is harder than Ironman training.  From a physical perspective there isn't much difference but rather in the mental fortitude that it takes.  Running 26 miles on Saturday is hard.  Running 13 miles the following day is harder and I think that is why ultra trail run training is harder than Ironman training.  I can ride my bike for 6 hours on Saturday and then run for 2 hours on Sunday because they are completely different.  I had a hard time psyching myself up to go out for a long run on Sunday after having done a long(er) run on Sunday.

What Are Your Tips For Surviving An Ultra Trail Run Training Program?

Published in Train
Ultra Trail runner were not words I would have ever used to  describe me when I started down the endurance athlete path.  Like anybody else I started with a half-marathon and that was ok but I wanted more.  I ran a marathon, and probably should have quit then because I couldn't walk afterwards, yet something kept pulling me back in.  I got into triathlon and raced sprint and Olympic distance races at first but again needed more.  When I raced my first Half-Ironman I was already of the belief that an Ironman would not be far behind.  Once that third Ironman was over and the fourth (Ironman Chattanooga) was registered for there seemed to be a void. There was a vacuum where the endorphins, training, food logging and elated exhaustion was missing.  Enter the world of Rocky Racoon 50.  The words ultra trail runner would now become part of the adjective list used to define me.  Somewhere along the way I had the following conversation with myself, and also a little help from my friends:
  • Me: When RR50 is over will you have time to properly train for 70.3 Galveston?
  • Me: Can you race Galveston by winging it?  Do you want to wing it?  Do you want to be great that day or just say you did it?
  • Me: Jeff is running Lake Martin in late March.  Can the 50 miler be a 'training' run for that? You'll have the base.
  • Jeff:  Yeah dude, c'mon and race Lake Martin with me. I have over 24 hours worth of stories for you to listen to.
  • Me: Yes, running a 100 miler makes much more sense than racing a 70.3 triathlon.
[caption id="attachment_9345" align="alignleft" width="300"]ultra trail run - triathlon - observations This Pic Of Denali National Park Looks Awesome
Source: Rob Hammer Photography[/caption] While I have not registered for Lake Martin 100 I have looked at condos.  I have set up a budget to pay for the race and the accommodations.  I have added to the Rocky Raccoon 50 training plan to carry me through March 29.  So it seems like a forgone conclusion that Lake Martin 100 will be my first, and not likely last. attempt at a belt buckle a la my friend Emily - RUN EMZ. And while the idea that running 100 miles seems more sane than that of a 70.3 mile triathlon there is more reason to this decision than meets the eye.  The ultra trail run training has proven to be a great way to train for an Ironman without specifically training for an Ironman.  How?  Here is why:

Ultra Trail Run Training Observations

  1. Embrace The Pain.  I thought I was a badass for getting through 18 months of Ironman training for 3 Ironman races.  Pfft!!!! That sh*t was nothing compared to this.  I am running upwards of 60 miles per week and capping off each week with a 12-13 mile run through Cedar Ridge Preserve.  For those not in the Dallas area, that MF'er is HARD.  This past week I asked the following questions of myself while 'running' 12 miles with over 1500 feet of elevation gain:
    • Are you sure you want to do this 50 and then 100 mile race?  This seems insane.
    • Are you kidding me?  Aren't you man enough to climb this nearly vertical wall of dirt? Get your ass up there.
    • Really dude?  Really?  You are doing this by choice? You do not have the ability to do this.
  2. My aerobic ability is a good as it has ever been.  I ran a 12 mile warm-up on Saturday followed by a 15k where I managed 7:30-7:40 per mile and finished in 11th place in my Age Group while averaging a Heart Rate that was at the Top End Of Zone 2 Without Going Into Zone 3.
  3. I have swum nearly 50% less in the first two of January 2014 compared to January 2013 (8,900y v 17,150y) and yet I posted a 14:20 800 TT last week (PR is 13:36) and yesterday posted sub 1:40/100y without feeling taxed.  The mindset of hard has changed.  The bar for what is difficult has moved and I am now able to push my body further because the mind is not quitting as early as it used to.
  4. I am becoming more efficient at using fat for fuel.  I am running very early in the morning Monday through Friday (430-5a start times) and thus am not eating breakfast prior to those runs.  These runs are typically 5 - 10 miles in length so there is truly no need to eat anything prior to starting.  By being able to use fat for fuel I am getting leaner but more importantly I do not have the need to carry loads of fuel.  Right now my plan for the 50 miler is to wear a Nathan Pak with ~800 calories along with two flasks of EFS Liquid Shot totaling another 800 calories.  As I run if I feel the need for a banana at an aid station here or there I will take one in.  The plan will put me at approximately 200-250 calories per hour.  Yes, I have been training on that and it has worked and my recovery has been sound as well.
[caption id="attachment_9346" align="alignleft" width="300"]ultra trail run - triathlon - observations Source: Competitor Magazine[/caption] When I put these 4 factors into my head and converse with myself I can see that the ultra trail run training is going to be enormously beneficial to my training and performance at Ironman Chattanooga.  Learning where I can push myself, understanding the use of fat as fuel instead of extra carbs on the bike or run and having an advantage aerobically plays well into Ironman racing. While 2014 is only two weeks old I am already contemplating what happens after Ironman Chattanooga in September.  Take a month off and start training for an earlier in the year 50 miler so I can  race Galveston?  Sounds like a pretty solid plan, but not until I add Ultra Trail Runner to the list of adjectives.

Have You Seen A Benefit To Your Triathlon Performance From Ultra Trail Run Training?

Here is an article from Competitor Magazine on Trail Running Tips For Triathletes.  
Published in Train