Jason Bahamundi

Jason Bahamundi

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

[caption id="attachment_9454" align="alignright" width="225"]numbers - endurance sports - meaning Is this a number that has meaning?[/caption] Numbers are a large part of endurance sports as well as my professional life.  I spend day in and day out dealing with numbers.  In the morning I am running and maintaining a heart rate within a specific numbers range.  When I enter the office I become a professor of marketing and calculate spending, return on investment, share of voice and a whole host of numbers that convey a meaning to my clients and myself.  This past week all of these numbers, specifically endurance sports numbers, were thrown at me and made me tilt my head to think the way that my pug, Ginga, does. The numbers that were thrown my way were 9 and 10.  In two separate conversations the following took place:
  • You broke 9 hours at your first 50 mile race.  Do you feel like a badass?
  • Hey man, congrats on breaking 10 hours on your first 50.  Impressive.
The two statements gave me pause.  Maybe for the first time in my life I didn't puff out my chest and say:  Why yes, I am a badass!!!  I thought to myself and then asked why is 9 hours a holy grail?  I do not consider myself a badass because the guys that went past me at miles 45 through 48 and finished 20 minutes ahead of me are badass.  The guy that was cascading down the hills like a jungle cat…..he is badass!  Me, I'm just a dude running his first ultra trying to figure out how this all fits into my life. When the second statement came I was truly thrown for a loop.  The person giving me the congratulations on the pre-10 hour finish is somebody I look up to in endurance sports.  A person who has qualified for both Kona and Boston.  Has run with donkey's in Mexico.  Crewed for friends and Leadville 100.  The kind of endurance athlete I want to be when I grow up, yet his numbers made me think why 10 hours?  Why did he not say 11 or 12?  Why was this his mystical number? [caption id="attachment_9455" align="alignright" width="300"]numbers - endurance sports - meaning Source: RunTri Even the median is nowhere near 12 hours.[/caption] I am going to go back to Ironman for a moment to talk about numbers in that sport as well.  I finished my first Ironman race in just under 12 hours and the pats on the back were accompanied by the words:  great job getting in under 12 hours.  I thanked them and thought that it was a great accomplishment.  I then did it again at Ironman Arizona and fell short of that line in the sand at Ironman Texas 2013 yet that is the race I am most proud of.  At IMTX in 2013 I battled panic attacks in the water and finished that portion is 1:48 which is extremely slow in comparison to the 1:30 I did previously.  The heat took over and with temps in the 100+ range I managed to run the 15th fastest marathon of the M40-44 Age Group yet my overall time was 12:03:58.  Running as fast a marathon as I did held more importance than the overall time of 12:04 but I ask why?  Is it because I did not break 12 hours and then again, why is 12 hours the fictional hour mark that sets people apart? I started to research average times for 50 mile ultra trail marathons and stopped almost as quick as I started because the numbers I see in another race mean nothing in comparison to the race held on February 8, 2014.  Only that day can be compared to itself.  On that day I ran 8:53:52 and finished tied for 44th with Jeff out of a total of 322 that started and 288 that finished (89% finish rate) but there were well over 400 that registered so nearly 100 did not start the race.  Where do you define the numbers?  44 out of 322 or 44 out of 288?  Besides that what makes the 9 hours the line of demarcation? Being recognized for achievements, big or small, matters to me especially when the two quotes above are from your wife and a good friend.  That being said I want those numbers to mean something.  Can they mean something to more than just me?  Is there a way to universally define what is a defining time for endurance events?  Can we grade the courses on the days that they are races so that we level the playing field and allow the numbers to mean something?  Or is it because they cannot be compared and conversation and debate can ensue allow those numbers to continue to be applied at the presenters discretion?

Why Do You Think The Numbers 9/10 or 12 Mean Anything?

Monday, 17 February 2014 08:48

Ironman Training Recap - Week 15

Ironman training is a beat down.  All the mornings of waking up before the sun and chickens and sometimes getting done with a workout after the sun has settled in for the night.  It is repetitive.  It is exhausting.  It is soul crushing.  It is awesome.  When you realize that these things are not going to kill you then you begin to embrace them.  You look forward to the wake-up call.  You look forward to meeting your tri-buddies at the crack of dawn to ride your bike for 3-4 hours or run 1-2 hours.  You relish that trip to the diner or cafe for the post-workout meal and to laugh despite the pain and smell that emanates from your body.  This is Ironman training.  This is a recap of Week 15 for IMTN training for KC and I.

KC's Week 15 - Ironman Training Recap

ironman training - IMTN - triathlonTime is of the essence lately it seems. Prioritizing is the key to weeks like this and that's exactly what I did. Lots of work but despite that minor inconvenience, I was able to fit in the training. This week I opted to end my biking a century streak. So it ended at 6 centuries in a row to start the year off right. I thought I'd be a little bummed about it but I'm not. While my foot healed, I got a good boost on the bike, so all was not lost. Speaking of my foot, the left one to be exact, the one that had given me issues recently, acted up again earlier in the week. Upon inspection, I realized there was something dark lodged deep in the skin right near my big toe ...and it HURT! I waited until I got home from work to mess with it. As you know, I am a WebMD doctor, so I pull out all of my surgical tools, sterilize them and get to performing surgery right away. It hurt but I ended up digging something dark out of the abyss I had just created. Not sure I got it all but that's all I could handle without making myself pass out. I bandaged it all up and left it alone for a few days. It does feel better but I don't think surgery was complete, so I may need to go back in. I was able to run the last 3 days in a row and not to shabby a pace either, so I'm hopeful that I got most of whatever it was that was causing the foot pain.
These last few weeks have felt like limbo. I'm dying to get back to the pool already. I may disobey the piercer's orders and hit the pool in week 5. I love my running, biking and Xfit but I need my swim back. There is something calming and peaceful about it and I think that's what I miss the most. I need it back now more than ever. Bring on week 16 ...
Upward and Onward!
ironman training - priorities - triathlon

Jason's Ironman Training - Week 15 Recap

ironman training - IMTN - triathlon - training peaks While I did not perform any surgery on myself my body is in pure recovery stage and I have contemplated replacing my IT band with one of those bands that they use on the Bowflex machine.  If you read my Rocky Raccoon 50 Ultra race recap you will remember that I slammed my leg on a root or rock and it sent a jolt up my leg and specifically through my IT Band. While I took Monday and Tuesday off completely I went out Wednesday with the hopes that my legs would feel refreshed, as much as possible, having been off of them for a total of 3 days.  The run started out well but half-way through the 5 miler I felt like I just could not move another inch.  My heart rate was extremely high for a run that as at a 9:30/mi pace.  This told me I was not recovered and when I finished the run I thought about bagging the rest of the week.  Of course that did not happen and I went back out Thursday and while the run felt better and I was able to put in 6 miles at a faster pace I was not fully recovered and took Friday off. Saturday rolled around and a 'heat' wave had hit the area.  I started my 14 mile run and it was slow and again with a high HR.  I was getting frustrated and when the run was over that frustration was now unbearable as walking became a chore.  Aches and pains everywhere.  I woke up Sunday ready to get a run in but also knew that if the pain was there the 12 miler would become a 6 miler or a 3 miler or less.  I am not going to take many chances with this especially with the Lake Martin 100 coming up.  As it turns out the first 3-4 miles of the run were horrible and I considered bagging it when my legs responded.  I was able to run and after 6 miles I opened it up a bit while still maintaining a Z1-Z2 HR and managed to knock off 6 miles with ease.  The rest of the day Sunday was great because I had no pain or issues in my legs.  Success.  Chiropractor visits and stretching are on the agenda and I plan to follow-thru on the stretching this time.
Friday, 21 February 2014 09:26

Lake Martin 100 Race Strategy Is Formulating

Lake Martin 100 is 6 Saturday's away but the race strategy is beginning to be formulated.  Jeff and I have exchanging text messages and calls about what we think we need to look for and do as we traverse through the woods of Alabama.  There were conversations during our run at Rocky Raccoon 50 about how the 100 would unfold.  What we would do differently at the start, during the race and at the drop bag locations.  There is so much unknown about racing 100 miles that if we chose to ignore putting together a plan of attack then the race itself would be that much harder.  All of this being said we also recognize that the plan we formulate and finalize for the Lake Martin 100 may not be the one that actually gets executed on race day.  Why? First off neither of us has been passed 50 miles in terms of running.  That first step out of the drop bag area to start Loop 3 will begin the start of something completely unknown.  Secondly, the race is going to be uncomfortable and dealing with that will take our minds in direction we probably didn't see coming.  We were very clear-minded when we ran Rocky Raccoon but that was 9 hours and this will be much longer than that.  Lastly, we will be starting in the dark and racing throughout the entire day and finishing after the calendar turns to a new day.  How do you even begin to cope with that?  I am not sure we know and even if we did it wouldn't be the same because each race presents a different set of challenges. Right now I have a strategy for nutrition, pacing and drop bag area but if you are veteran of 100 mile races let me hear your thoughts.

Lake Martin 100 Nutrition Strategy

lake martin 100 - strategy - nutritionKnowing that I need to take in approximately 250 calories per hour for this race I am going with a tried and true method of liquid calories but also adding in a little bit of my learnings from Rocky Raccoon.  I will be wearing a running vest holding 1000 calories of Herbalife24 Prolong as well as Powerade Perform mixed with Emergen-C Super Orange.  I will have 4 water bottles filled with 500 calories of the same mixture in my drop bags to fill up my vest bladder at the end/beginning of each loop. In addition to the liquid I will also be carrying 2 flasks totaling 800 calories of EFS Liquid Shot (Kona and Vanilla flavor.)  I will also have refills at the drop bag to make sure that I always have at least 800 calories per loop at the ready.  In addition to the liquids I am going to have two boiled sweet potatoes (cut in bite size chunks) and a hard-boiled egg with olive oil, salt and pepper wrapped in foil.  There will be 4 packets of this concoction and will take 1 packet on each loop. Lastly, and probably most important is going to be grabbing whatever looks good at the aid stations.  It is definitely going to involve Oreos and M&Ms but who knows what else. Based on my calculations that will total:
  • 3000 calories of liquid nutrition
  • 1600 calories of EFS Liquid Shot
  • 200 calories of sweet potatoes
  • 280 calories of hard-boiled eggs
  • 5,080 total calories without the snacks at each aid station......

Lake Martin 100 Pacing Strategy

This is fairly simple to calculate but it is going to be very difficult to execute and not necessarily the last loop but most importantly the first loop.  At Rocky Raccoon Jeff and I ran the first loop in 2h40m which equated to a 9:35/mi pace.  As evidenced by the 2nd and 3rd loop paces of 2h52m and 3h21m.  Knowing that this is going to be twice as long the paces have to be adjusted so that we are not walking more than running toward the end. 24 hours seems to be a number (read my thoughts about endurance numbers here) that people point to when it comes to running 100 miles.  I think we can do it faster based on the training that we are putting in and the knowledge gained from the 50.  If we run the 4 loops at 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00 per mile paces we will finish in 22:30.  Again, the hardest part will not be keeping a 15:00/mi pace on the last loop but rather pacing ourselves and being disciplined enough to not go gang-busters out of the gate.  The 12:00/mi pace is going to be the number we have to focus on to ensure that our strategy is executed properly.

Lake Martin 100 Drop Bag Strategy

I have heard and read tons of stories about what people do at these drop bag stations.  From sitting down in what I refer to as 'crying chairs' thanks to my IMAZ partner Troy to taking naps.  Going in blind my thoughts are as follows:
  • 1 bag to contain the additional water bottles, EFS refills, sweet potato and egg packets only.
  • 1 bag to contain a second pair of Hoka running shoes, a couple of shirts to change into, extra pair of compression socks and a fresh hat only.
The more I am able to limit these bags to the necessities the quicker I will be in and out of the drop zone.  I do not want to spend too much time in there because it will then become a comfortable place to stay and I want to keep moving.  Not having to sort through stuff, pick stuff out, swap stuff will make the 'transition' areas much faster and get us going to stay on our pacing strategy. These are the preliminary thoughts regarding the Lake Martin 100 strategies but I am more than happy to hear your input.  What have you done during your 100 mile races?  
I could write a script that Hollywood would not believe based solely on the run that was Rocky Raccoon 50 the 2014 version.  I recapped the race here, but wanted to write a separate post for those that were at the race that helped make this event the most memorable endurance event I ever participated in. Jeff Irvin - As you know I blame (credit) Jeff for encouraging me to hit the register button on the Rocky Raccoon 50 as well as the Lake Martin 100 and I could not be happier that he did this.  My friendship with Jeff got stronger over the weekend and I am looking forward to continuing to make life long memories as we traverse through the woods of Alabama for more than 20 hours using nothing but our own legs. [caption id="attachment_9420" align="aligncenter" width="225"]ultra trail run - rocky raccoon - running Just before the clock struck 6:00am and we headed out on the adventure of a lifetime.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_9422" align="aligncenter" width="225"]ultra trail run - rocky raccoon - running After the finish and getting some food in our system.....like Oreos[/caption] Mark - Jeff and I met Mark during the first loop and the laughter started immediately.  Mark jumped on our line and was the perfect addition to help pass the miles.  We laughed and joked about CrossFit, Paleo, pooping, farting and all sorts of other stuff.  We somehow created a new sport that combined both CrossFit and Paleo called Hog Hunting.  I wish I could remember the details but every time Mark joined us (he truly followed his run/walk strategy) it was with a yell of  something along the lines of "I am chasing pigs" or "Hey GoPro"  After we informed Mark that we were filming the race to potentially be a part of a documentary he told us he would get everybody he knew to like the video which meant getting us from the 3 likes we had in our group to 5.  Awesome stuff. Fabrizio - Fabrizio is from Bolivia, attended Texas A&M and currently resides in Houston.  He raced Ironman Texas with me last year, although we never met, and told us he was tired of the IM scene and wanted a new challenge.  After a while he dropped off from our line but every time we saw him on the course he gave us a huge hello and an even bigger YOU GUYS LOOK GREAT.  Seriously, I do not know what it would take to wipe the smile from his face.  Here was this guy enduring hours and hours on his feet running a 50 mile race and he could not stop smiling.  Amazing. Gayle - The steady rock in our conga line.  Gayle pulled Mark, Jeff and I for a while at the beginning to middle of loop #1 and was as steady as the day is long.  Her never broke, her pace never wavered and when I say she was the Mayor of Hunstville I am not kidding.  It seemed like every time we passed runners in the other direction they would yell: Gayle you look great.  She would respond in kind and then turn her attention back to the work that needed to be done to either scale up the hill or cascade down it.  We engaged Gayle in gluten-free food talk, vegetarian/vegan conversation and meat-eating.  It was at this point on Loop #2 when we were talking about plant-based eating that a spectator in a cow outfit appeared out of nowhere. It lightened to mood as we managed to climb our way to the top of a hill.  Tremendous fun, tremendous heart and a stead-fast bead on conquering the course. Cat In The Hat Guy and Wounded Knee Lady - Jeff and I were 3.8 miles from the finish when we happened on two people walking down the line and one of them was wearing a huge hat that was green and looked as big as the one that the cat wears in the Dr Seuss book Cat In The Hat.  We asked if everything was alright and CITH dude said: Yes, I am just walking with her so she doesn't quit.  Mind you this guy was a volunteer all day long (close to 9 hours at this point) and was making the statement that he would walk with this lady whom he did not know for the rest of the race. Are you kidding me?  How awesome is that?  The lady, for her part of the story, was sporting dried blood that started at her knees and ended at her socks.  She obviously fell and was not in the best spirits to keep this race going.  The CITH dude was giving her long-term support and Jeff and I offered her the following:  You are a badass.  You are continuing this race when nearly everybody else would have quit. Keep going. Bonk 8 Times Get Up 9 Dude - This guy was a machine and I haven't the foggiest clue as to how he did it.  Through the first two loops he looked strong and was up front with the leaders.  Steady pace, good balance and an example of strength.  On loop 3 we caught up to him but only because he was sitting down on the ground. We passed him then a few moments later he passed us and this went on for a bit.  It was amazing to see this guy pick himself up off the deck.  If this were a boxing match he would have been given a 3 knockdown TKO loss and the Huntsville State Park would have won.  Unfortunately for the course, he had something else each time.  The last time he got up he latched onto us and ran hard and when we chose to walk up one hill he powered up it. Jeff and I thought for sure that he would pay for that but the next time we saw him was in a chair at the finisher's tent.  Purely Amazing. The 'Older' Couple - This 'older' couple was along the same line on the course.  They did not seem to have anybody in particular that they were rooting for but were just out there to support the athletes.  Every time we came upon them they were so encouraging and seemed to be inspired by us as we passed.  Little could they have known that I would look forward to seeing them when we left the aid station that was prior to their point on the course. Aid Station Volunteers - Every athlete at every race can thank the volunteers until they were blue in the face but the aid station volunteers at Rocky Raccoon are hands down the best.  They remembered who you were when you showed up.  They joked with you.  They made you laugh when all you wanted to do was cry.  There was Pittsburg Pirate Hat guy, there was the wool hat ladies at the boiled potato and bacon aid station.  Let us include the Heed peddlers at the start/finish line aid tents as well as the folks that sat in chairs in the middle of the road to stop traffic so we could pass.  These folks may be nameless to me right now, but their faces and their actions will forever be seared into my brain. Liza / Henry - The dynamic duo.  At the athlete briefing the day before the race Henry gave us the most detailed description of the signs on the course that there was no way you could go off course (at least I do not think so) and then Liza was the stand-up act to Henry's follow the signs instructions.  In my race recap I mentioned Liza's quote of Do Not Poop In The Middle Of The Trail statement but it was her comment to me after hugging me at the finish line that had me laughing for hours.  I told her I had not seen any poop in the middle of the trail and in a deadpan serious voice she said to me: It is still early.  I was in tears from laughter at that. John / Lee / Wade / Nikki / Marcus  - these are some of the names of the folks I knew going into the race.  Each time I would see John I would see nothing but a steady run.  No grimacing in pain, but a rather light-hearted smile that assured me that it was all going to be alright.  Lee was fast and quick to offer inspiration despite having tripped many times on the course.  Wade gave us the little pat on the back as he passed us during Loop #3 to let us know that all was going to be ok.  Nikki and Marcus crafted a strategy and stuck to it and each time we saw them there were smiles.  I mean who continues to smile during an event that is going to take longer than a work day without the coffee breaks and Facebook time? Our Wives - Despite the idiocy that goes into the decision to race 50 miles in one day our wives were there to support us through the training.  They were there at the end taking pictures and video and providing us with a huge pick me up despite the fact that our legs were hurting.  Throughout the weekend they gave us the encouragement and provided the light-hearted laughter that is required to get through such an event.  It all starts and ends with them because without them none of this ever happens. I will speak on behalf of Jeff and say Thank You. Thank you to each and every one of you that made our first 50 mile race one to remember and build on.  I know that without a shadow of a doubt that I will be back out on a 50 mile course next year because this one was so special.  You will always remember your first and I am glad that Rocky Raccoon 50 in 2014 was my first because it was that special.

Now to edit the GoPro footage so Rocky Raccoon 50 The Movie can become real…...

Tuesday, 11 February 2014 08:32

IMTN Blog Challenge Week #14 Training Recap

So here we are at the start of Week 15 of this IMTN Blog Challenge and over the past 14 weeks you have seen how KC and I have managed to meander around the training world with our eyes on different prizes.  This week brought the realization of a race for KC on March 22nd and the end of the 11 week training cycle for Rocky Raccoon 50 for me.  Here are our Week 14 stories:

KC's Week 14 - IMTN Blog Challenge Recap

I like to call these last 14 weeks foundation building kind of weeks. My next race is a 70.3 on March 22, and although it is not what I would label an A race and I have not been following a specific training plan this time around, I do feel that my base is super strong and that when race day arrives, I will be more than ready to go and do very well. I had a good week overall. The only thing I would have liked to have done was 1 more day of Xfit but I will try to fit that extra day in this week for sure. I’m super stoked I got my 6th century of the year done today. The hub’s asked me how long I planned on keeping up this century a week streak. My answer, “I don’t know.” I’m enjoying it a lot. Today’s century was 60/40. 60 miles outside and 40 inside. Still can’t ever imagine doing a century all indoors. I would probably die. There’s only so much netflix and iheart radio I can listen to, then I begin to shut down. That’s the beauty of Florida living. There’s no need to ride a long ride indoors. For the most part, year round, we can ride outside. For the record, I will NEVER, EVER move to a state where it snows. I like my sunshine and warmth way too much. One last thing, big props to my Texas friends, Jason and Jeff who did the Rocky Raccoon 50 mile trail run. It was Jason’s first and I think it was Jeff’s 2nd time. Way to go guys! On to week 15! Upward and Onward! [caption id="attachment_9437" align="aligncenter" width="300"]IMTN Blog Challenge KC's Week 14 Training[/caption]

Jason's Week 14 - IMTN Blog Challenge

There is not a lot for me to recap as this week was a super taper week with a total of 14 miles run until race day when Jeff and I went for 50.  There was a lot of lying around and doing everything I could to avoid eating.  Luckily for me there was a lot going on with work as my team continues to grow and develop long-lasting relationships with clients that will allow us to market them in a much more efficient manner. Rather than bore you with all the details of the race in this blog section I will refer you to the race recap for Rocky Raccoon and alert you to the fact that there will be two more pieces to go in this race recap along with an eating/nutrition blog post I have been asked to write for No Meat Athlete. [caption id="attachment_9418" align="aligncenter" width="300"]IMTN Blog Challenge At the drop bag station before heading out on loop 3.[/caption]

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:


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]

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?

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?

IMTN or Ironman Chattanooga challenge has entered week 14 which means that lucky week 13 has passed.  The week brought about separate challenges for KC and I and that proves that no one training cycle is ever going to be perfect.  It also goes to show you that you cannot compare yourself to anybody else while training for an Ironman because while the paths may meet on race day they certainly take their own turns and twists on the way there.  Week 13 In Review.

KC's Lucky Week 13 Challenges And Solutions

[caption id="attachment_9395" align="alignright" width="300"]ironman - training - endurance sports - triathlon Tackle The Challenge Head On.....Then end the week with a 100 mile bike ride![/caption] This week was interesting in that I had to play a smart time management game. Work is notoriously crazy the first 3-4 months of the year, then it stays busy but settles down with a few ebbs and flows throughout the rest of the year. Anyway ...what I'm trying to say is that there are no excuses. If you  want something bad enough, you will make the time to get it done, no matter what. Needless to say, I worked 6 days this week and about 11 hours of overtime, yet, I still managed to get all of my training in and then some. I snuck an extra day of Xfit in (yay me!). It's pretty simple, I make sure I have several sets of workout clothing with me, toiletries, extra food, and I'm good to go. Thankfully, we have an AWESOME gym set up at work, so I can go down whenever and get an awesome workout in, shower, then get back to work.
I'm still going strong on the century streak. I did my 5th century today, so that is 5 for 5 ...hell yeah!
Other than that, still tame on the training front. Next week looks much the same. I can't believe I'm saying this but I sure do miss swimming! BUT, I have to stay clear of any infection causing bodies of water for another 3 weeks ...meh! I'm ready to hit the pool that's for sure.
That's all I got for ya ...
Upward and Onward!

Jason's Week 13 Challenge And Solutions

Many of you know that I am racing the Rocky Raccoon 50 Ultra trail run this coming Saturday and that means that I have been in taper mode since last Sunday.  While there are runs on the schedule they are not long, at least not long in comparison to the overload weeks where 70+ mile weeks were the norm. Taper usually brings with it the crazy feeling that I have not done enough.  I call it crazy because if you have been following a well-thought out plan and did the work then you have done enough.  Period.  This time I decided to take taper very seriously and not do anything but taper.  I had 5 runs schedule for the week and I did 5 runs.  I did not go to the pool.  I did not get on the bike.  I ate wisely and did what I needed to do to bring a spring back to my legs and it was there when I went and did a 10 mile race. [caption id="attachment_9393" align="alignright" width="300"]ironman - training - endurance sports - triathlon Fort Worth Running Company Chocolate Chip 10 Miler Data Points[/caption] This 10 miler was not going to be a race where I take off and hope to hang on.  As a matter of fact it was a race to get the 10 miles in without being bored by myself.  As the gun went off and we were cruising at a very manageable pace I decided that my legs felt good enough that I should negative split the entire race.  Add in the fact that it was cold out and finishing as quickly as possible certainly enough of a reason.  At the turn around point I dropped a gear and ran faster with each passing mile and my legs felt springy.  They had life in them and I knew right then and there that the taper, as hard as it was to not swim and bike, was working.  I finished 11th overall.  Part of me says:  Had I run hard out of the gate I could have finished Top 5, but this was not an important race as much as it was an important brick in the ultra trail run wall. This upcoming week is more of the same.  Lots of do nothing.  Lots of pay attention to sleep.  Lots of pay attention to food intake.  Lots of mental prep.  The taper challenge will continue but the light at the end of the tunnel is right there and come Saturday when the gun goes off all of it will have been well worth it.  Oh, and check out the forecast for Saturday.  Running in the woods in the mud.....just like being a kid.   [caption id="attachment_9391" align="aligncenter" width="200"]ironman - training - endurance sports - triathlon Rain = Mud. Mud = Fun. Let's Do This![/caption]
Friday, 31 January 2014 08:47

Endurance Sports And Life Lessons Learned

Endurance sports has been a recent find for me, but sports in general has always played a part in my life.  Whether I was playing football, baseball, basketball or hockey I always found sports to be a tremendous teacher of life lessons.  You are able to learn about camaraderie, leadership, team work and many other things.  For example, I always loved the details about the sport as much as the physical portion.  Learning how to decipher a football play with 22 people moving around in various directions.  Knowing where to go with the ball if it is hit to you during a baseball game.  The angle to which you have to play the puck off the walls in a hockey rink.  There is so much to know, learn and understand and yet I have found that endurance sports is teaching me more. [caption id="attachment_9388" align="alignright" width="295"]endurance sports - life lessons - training These chairs do not project fear the way a training cycle for a 50 mile race does.[/caption] Endurance sports for me are defined as running, swimming and cycling.  Triathlon is a sport that combines three different sports and ultra running is defined as stupidity on drugs......I kid.  I love ultra running but it brings about a whole different set of rules, thoughts and executions.  This past week I had to deliver a presentation to the leadership team at DMN Media which is my employer.  This presentation was about my plan to succeed in 2014 and I was asked if I were nervous about presenting.  I thought for a second and my quick response was:  Why be nervous? I went through a list of items that happened in my life and then touched on the effects of endurance sports. Here are the quick items that happened to me in my lifetime and then the list and effects of endurance sports on these life lessons:
  • Losing my Dad to cancer in my early 20s.  Losing Karen's Dad this past year.
  • Getting divorced after 7 years of marriage and 20+ years of knowing my ex-wife.
  • Moving away from the only place I knew and leaving family and friends to start a new life in a country so far away.  Texas.
All of these items and more have been able to help shape my life and set me on a path that I enjoy on a daily basis.  Those along with my experiences in endurance sports have made me look at life with an outlook that is nothing but positive. Training for an Ironman is incredibly hard.  You are waking up on a daily basis with the explicit intent of putting your body through the ringer so that come race day it feels 'easy' which we all know is not true.  No Ironman is ever easy despite what forums will spout about a certain course.  You go out and ride your bike for 1oo+ miles over the course of 6 hours and then get off and run for 30 minutes.  You eat, relax and sleep and then wake up the next day and go out and run for 3 hours.  If you were to just look at that with blinders on you would say to yourself:  that is nuts.  Yet, you still go out and do it and you feel excitement and joy over the accomplishment.  When your supervisor assigns you a project that needs to be done in 3 days and you feel that pressure think about that long brick and how hard that was.  This project will be easy. In the past 10 weeks I have been training for the Rocky Raccoon 50 and inevitably the Lake Martin 100.  Ultra training has been harder than Ironman training in that there is no break in the sport.  Running 6 days a week is monotonous then throw in the fact that you are running in Z1/Z2 so that 5 mile run that would take me 40 minutes at 8:00/mi is now taking me 45 minutes plus.  That takes a toll on the mind.  That beats you up.  Those weeks of 67, 72 and 71 miles with long runs of near marathon length covering over 1500 feet of climbing on your own in the woods and your mind goes delirious then blank then delirious again.  It is hard and not for the weak yet the lessons you learn about yourself cannot be compared to anything else. How about swimming 1 to 2 miles in training in the open water on a weekly basis?  Talk about being all on your own and inside your own head.  During those training sessions and swimming with buddies you do not have the opportunity to talk.  You have your head in the water and swimming so every thought that passes through your mind is yours and yours alone.  You battle your demons and fears.  You smile at the pleasant thoughts but the whole time you are thinking:  when is this going to end.  When it does you feel like a champion.  Think about that the next time you have to go to the dry cleaner, get gas, drop the kids off to school and get to a meeting that you were up all night preparing for.  That is nothing in comparison to swimming for 1.5 hours and doing nothing but listening to your own mind question your ability and asking you why you are there.  You are there because you are determined. I absolutely love triathlon and endurance sports and the life lessons that it has taught me.  I know that during the 8-10 hours of running next weekend in the woods of Texas and then 20+ hours in the woods of Alabama at the end of March I will be asking lots of questions about myself.  I will be running on guts at some points of the race but in the end when I cross that finish line I will have another set of lessons to take with me the next time I walk into a meeting with CEOs and other decision makers.  Those questions will in no way be harder than running for that long in the dark, on trails, in the woods with nothing buy my mind to entertain me.

How Has Endurance Sports Taught You Life Lessons?

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