Wednesday, January 30, 2013

So You Want To Run An Ultramarathon

You have running in your blood. You enjoy spending hours and hours on the trail. You cringe whenever a Gloria Estefan song comes on the radio (not necessarily required for ultramarathons, but essential to be a decent human being). You want to see what sort of craziness exists beyond 26.2 miles. Maybe you want to go for the whole enchilada = a 100 miler. Bring. On. An. Ultramarathon!

Compared to marathons, there is definitely less information about preparing for your first ultra, let alone a 100 miler. I’m far from being an expert on the topic and I still have lots to learn. My experience comes from completing two 100 milers - the Javelina Jundred (race report HERE) and Zion 100 (race report HERE) along with some shorter ultras. Here is a list of resources I have found to be very helpful in my ultrarunning with plenty of links where you can find the info:

Ultra Runner Podcast - I have listened to each of these hour-ish interviews and they have kept me occupied for many long runs. Guests include elite runners, doctors, nutritionists, and Average Joe ultrarunners. Some of my favorites are Errol Jones, Lee McKinley, and Sunny Blende. I highly recommend downloading all their podcasts. – I have read everything on this website countless times. It has suggestions and answers for anything you could ever want to know about ultramarathons, including training, hydration, heat acclimatization, race strategy, and injury prevention.

UltraRunning Magazine – This is the ultra version of Runner’s World. The magazine is full of informative articles, cool pictures, and race reports from people who show how fun ultramarathons can be. I was honored to have one of my pictures from the Javelina Jundred in this month’s issue: – The website is chock full of interviews, gear reviews, and articles. It’s a community gathering place for fellow runners.

Books – There are a bunch of great books about ultrarunning. Some of my favorites are Eat and Run by Scott Jurek, And Then The Vulture Eats You by John L. Parker, Running Through The Wall by Neil Jamison, and of course the old standby Born To Run by Christopher McDougall.

Training Plans – There are training resources in the book Relentless Forward Progress by Bryon Powell. There are also training plans HERE and HERE. To see a graph of my four months of training leading up to my first 100 click HERE.

And a few other tips I’d suggest based on my experience:

1) Run some longer races to build up to 100. I know it’s easy to get excited about ultras and want to go right to 100 miles, but I would definitely recommend running a 50 miler first. Although it’s not critical, I think having the experience of running 50 miles is a huge advantage before trying to tackle 100.

2) Practice nutrition and hydration during training. These issues really need to be nailed down because it’s near impossible to finish 100 miles if things go wrong here. (Yep, learned this one the hard way.)

3) No matter what, change the station if you hear a song by Gloria Estefan, Pat Benetar, or Celine Dion. Listening to this garbage will invite bad trail karma. (No, I have not learned this the hard way.)

 4) Make your training runs race-specific – run on trails that are similar to your upcoming race. If you’re doing a mountain race with lots of climbing, you better make sure you tackle plenty of hills in training.

5) Just my personal soap box, but ultra training shouldn’t come at the expense of family. Do as much of your training at a time that won’t interrupt with family time. Yep. This will mean some early morning or late night miles. But oh well. A belt buckle or medal isn’t more valuable than a relationship with my wife and kids.

So in conclusion: just click the “Register” button. Making that commitment is definitely the scariest part of the race. But once you register, you can get down to the business of figuring out how you’re going to achieve your goal. Can't wait to welcome you to the > 26.2 club!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Stunning Sunrise and Cassette Tape on Trail

I managed to get in a good week of training (partly because I got more miles in, and partly because none of those miles were on the dreadmill).

Monday, January 21st 2013: 5 miles in Red Cliffs Desert Reserve
Tuesday, January 22nd 2013: Nothing
Wednesday, January 23rd 2013: 30 miles on Gould's Rim Trail & Molly's Nipple
Thursday, January 24th 2013: 1 mile run with the kids
Friday, January 25th 2013: 5 mile road run before work
Saturday, January 26th 2013: 20 miles around Gould's Rim & Kokopelli

Thankfully no soreness or tightness after 61 miles. (I'm sure my lack of speed helps in that department.)

The 30 miler was one of the most beautiful runs I've had in quite a while. I've seen more than my share of amazing sunrises on the trail, but Wednesday was one of the best. I just stood there for 15 minutes watching the sun come up.

The scene was surreal. I was happy when I got home and my daughter Kylee said "Dad! Did you see the awesome sunrise this morning?" She knows how to spot them. It didn't seem appropriate to witness something so spectacular without a jump.

Later Mel and Jack came up to run 5 miles on Gould's Rim with me. I can't think of another six legs I'd rather run with. Jack LOVES trail running. It makes him smile.

Gould's Rim is a fun trail for beginners, with only a few spots that are moderately technical. You can get directions to the trail HERE.

Sometimes Jack likes to stay behind and sniff around a little bit before galloping to catch up with us.

Most of the time though he stays about 1/2 inch behind Mel.

I had so, so much fun running with them. I am so lucky to have these two trail lovers in the family.

After Mel and Jack left I ran to the top of Molly's Nipple. It's got a good little climb at the end, and once on top there is an incredible view of the Hurricane Valley. I zoomed in on this airplane flying below:

On the side of the trail I even saw one of these collector's items. Kids: this is called a CASSETTE TAPE. I had plenty of them with labels like Bon Jovi, Richard Marx, Phil Collins, Aerosmith, Bryan Adams, and Chicago.

I finished the 30 miles with another jaunt around Gould's. Just like the morning, the sky and clouds turned another shade of awesome. I got goose bumps thinking how incredibly fortunate I am to be surrounded by stuff like this. I am a lucky, lucky man.

And now for the most important question: What were YOUR favorite cassette tapes?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Altra Lone Peak and Running Form

I recently got a pair of Altra Lone Peak trail shoes. I have quite a few friends who really love this shoe so I'm looking forward to getting these out on the trail.

I got this article from Matthew Kyle at Altra about how zero drop shoes can help with running form and injury prevention: 

Many people who would like to take up running are nervous about doing so, because of what they perceive to be the high rate of injury: two out of three runners suffer injury every year. However, injury is not inevitable. Injury is actually the result of poor running technique. You can avoid the majority of injuries by learning to run in the correct way.

There is a lot of misapprehension about running technique, because it is often assumed that there is no need to learn how to run, but it is something we do naturally. However, running is a sport, and nobody would take up any other sport, such as golf or tennis, without learning the proper technique. The consequence of this assumption is that large numbers of people start off doing their running the wrong way and develop bad habits, and then they wonder why they suffer frequent injuries.

The main secret of avoiding injuries while running is to cooperate with nature. That means, working with gravity, not against it, thus avoiding causing excessive tension in the tendons and muscles. For example, heel strike, or landing on your heels instead of the midfoot, stops the body moving forward as it is meant to do, whereas landing on the midfoot, or ball of the foot, allows the body to continue the movement. Heel strike is the main cause of a wide range of injuries, including Achilles tendonitis, knee patella injury and shin splints. Working against gravity means there is repeated overloading of all body tissues, including tendons, muscles, ligaments and bones, seriously increasing the risk of injury.

This means that the principle to be followed in running technique is that of using gravity, not working against it, in propelling your body forward. This takes all the stress and strain off the body, and reduces overload on the body systems and tissues. If you keep this principle in mind in every aspect of your running, all the advice about technique will make sense.

For example, you must keep your head up when running, and avoid looking at your feet. Keep your arms by your sides, and swing them backward for better propulsion; do not pump them forwards, and do not swing them across your body. Ensure there is a straight line down through your hips and legs from your torso, and avoid leaning forward, which fights gravity, and also puts strain on the hips.

One of the most gravity-defying actions done by runners is bouncing up and down. Not only do you waste energy when pushing upwards against gravity, but you also inflict considerable shock on your system when landing. To minimize your bounce, run lightly, keep your feet low on the ground, and make your strides short. Midfoot landing also reduces bounce—see information here about shoes that can help you do this.

You will know when you are getting your technique right. You will find yourself running without mechanical stress or any feeling of tension in the muscles and tendons, or strain in the joints. Make sure you run only the distance you can manage with this correct technique, even if it is only a short distance at first. This way, you will perfect your technique for the longer term, and eventually find you can run long distances with freedom and enjoyment.

I will let you know how these shoes work out after I have some time to get them dirty. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Eagle Crags Overlooking Zion National Park

Monday, January 14th 2013: 8 miles on the dreadmill right after eating a large dinner. I have heard Celine Dion songs that were more enjoyable than those eight miles.

Tuesday, January 15th 2013: I joined a new Runner Fit program through Intermountain Health Care on Tuesday mornings. That one hour seriously kicked my butt. I resisted the urge to start crying and sucking my thumb.

Wednesday, January 16th 2013: 20 miles on Eagle Crags trail and Grafton Mesa. This was my first time running Eagle Crags. I loved being out there as the sun came up.

It was chilly as the sun started to rise on Zion National Park. The tube in my hydration pack kept trying to freeze.

The higher I climbed, the more snow I got to run in. It's not very often that I get to hear the sound of snow crunching under my feet with each step.

Getting closer to the crags:

This Eagle Crags section is a new addition to the Zion 100 course. I was loving this new addition.

Sometimes when I'm trail running (especially a new trail), I'll see views that take my breath away. That happened quite a few times when I was running here.

My trip back down was comical. I wore my Hoka shoes which have absolutely no tread left on them. I may as well have been wearing roller skates on the way down.

I wandered around some side trails and then ran over to Grafton Mesa to get in 20 miles. The combination of distance, lots of climbing, and sore legs from the Runner Fit program made this one of the harder 20 milers I've run lately. But it was 100% awesome.

Thursday, January 17th 2013: Nothing.

Friday, January 18th 2013: 4 miles early before work.

Saturday, January 19th 2013: Almost 6 miles back at Eagle Crags. I took an adventurous group of runner to check out this sweet trail. I was joined by Susette (who ran a half marathon earlier in the day!), Angel, Nate, and Melani.

There was a little less snow than three days before, although we still got our share of powder.

Despite the appearance of being freezing cold, it was actually warmer than Wednesday and perfect running weather.

I had about one ton of fun running with Angel, Melani, Susette, and Nate.

In the next little while I'll give you a bunch more pictures with tips for Eagle Crags related to the Zion 100 race. Check out THIS LINK if you want to go check out Eagle Crags for yourself.

"If you can't fly, then run.
If you can't run, then walk. 
If you can't walk, then crawl.
But whatever you do, keep moving."
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Castle Creek Inn

Would you forgive me for doing a post that has nothing to do with running?

Oh, good. I'm glad we can still be friends. Last week we got to spend a night at the Castle Creek Inn in Sandy, Utah. They didn't pay me for this review.

Staying here was particularly awesome to me because I grew up two houses away from the castle.

When I lived there, the castle wasn't a cool bed and breakfast place. Someone actually lived there. I think. We never saw an actual human there. The closest we saw to a life form was a car that would sometimes be parked out front. I was interested to see the back of the castle without fearing that I would be shot.

Now each room of the castle has a slightly different theme but they all looked nice. We had fun staying up late, watching movies, and eating unhealthy amounts of Cadbury Eggs.

It was freezing cold outside when I was taking pictures. This was my view from the sidewalk as a car drove by:

The back of the castle is surrounded by a patio and trees.

If you're looking for a relaxing evening with some movies, unhealthy amounts of Cadbury Eggs, and an awesome breakfast in the morning, the Castle Creek Inn is worth checking out. You can check out their website HERE.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Upcoming Races Including BRYCE 100!

I have no cool pictures from the trail to show you as a recap to last week's running. There are a few primary reasons for this:

1) Every mile I ran last week was in the dark.
2) Not a single mile was on a trail.
3) A few of those miles were even done on the dreadmill. They were boring as all get out.
Monday, January 7th 2012: 6.5 miles really early in the morning.
Tuesday, January 8th 2012: 8.5 miles really early in the morning.
Wednesday, January 9th 2012: 10 miles really, really early in the morning. My cheeks nearly froze to death.
Thursday, January 10th 2012: 3 miles on the dreadmill really late at night.

I thought I'd tell you about some races I have coming up in the next few months:

Buffalo Run 50 Miler on March 23rd - I ran this one last year and had a blast. (Race report HERE.) I think a 50 miler is the perfect race distance. I'm going to approach it as a training run for the next race a month later.

Zion 100 on April 19-20th - Finishing this 100 miler last year was undoubtedly the hardest thing I've ever done. (Race report HERE.) I am spoiled to live within minutes of the course and do all my training here. I couldn't pass up doing a 100 miler on my home turf.

Bryce 100 on May 31-June 1st - Bryce Canyon is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Matt Gunn, the race director of the Zion 100 is also putting on the first ever Bryce 100 six weeks after Zion. This sounded too fun to pass up.

I am nervous to attempt a 50 miler and two 100 milers within this relatively short amount of time. But I read an article in Running Times called "Resolutions For Serious Runners". One of the resolutions was "Enter Something Scary". It says:

"Whether it's a mountain marathon or a mile on the track, try an event that frightens you - and where you might be awful. 'Most people set goals they are 100 percent sure they can hit,' says sport psychologist Dr. Stan Beecham. 'It's better to set a goal you are only 60 percent sure you will make. The more challenging the goal, the more engaged you will be.'"

So there you go. I truly want to get better at 100 milers. And no matter what you do in training, there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY to replicate what that second half of the race feels like. I think the only way you can get better at 100 milers is to run them. So that's my goal. It meets all the Running Times qualifications. My goal frightens me, I might be awful, and I'm only 60% sure I will achieve it. I can't wait to try!

So now I challenge you: take a risk and enter something scary! Go that Register button!

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Invincible Summer

It has been bitter cold in my neck of the woods lately. And today we're heading for Salt Lake City which is right in the middle of getting dumped with snow. It's chilly days like today when I try to remember the invincible summer.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Two Hours On Satan's Sidewalk

On last week's New Years Eve run I was being chased by the Grim Reaper. Although I didn't know it at the time. I thought my slug-like pace was because it was early - and it felt like the Arctic tundra outside.

My goal was to get to the top of Molly's Nipple - 14 miles round trip. You can see the tip on the horizon.

Eventually I made it to the final stretch. Unfortunately I just couldn't get myself past the feeling of being a rhinoceros after being shot by a tranquilizer gun.

It was bitter cold on top with the wind stinging my cheeks. As cool as the views are from the top, I only spent a minute up there before heading back. It was so cold that I didn't dare touch my nose for fear that it would snap off.

Before the sun came up on New Years Day I realized why I had felt like a tranquilized rhino the day before. The realization came as I kneeled on the bathroom floor barfing my guts out. My sweet wife ended up in the ER with this flu, and she decided to share it with me. For the next few days I wasn't afraid of dying. I was afraid I wouldn't die.

Dear Grim Reaper: Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but here's my number, so call me maybe.

Thankfully my prayers to die only lasted three days. By Friday I was feeling good enough to run again. Mel worked so I couldn't leave the kids home alone long enough for a kind-of-long-run so I ran for two hours on Satan's Sidewalk after they went to bed.

I'm not sure I've ever run ten miles on the dreadmill. I watched a Jazz game the whole time, and the experience was, well, not completely horrible. I think the basketball game saved the day.
On Saturday I met up with Tom and Liz Dansie and Curtis and Treasa Anderson who were interested in doing a trail run. I took them to an area near the Jem Trail where I never get sick of running.

Liz was the only one who had been out here before. It made me so happy to hear how much fun these guys were having. I love showing new trails to people.

It was 43 degrees outside which felt like a heat wave compared to the weather from the last few weeks. I loved wearing shorts and a single shirt instead of layers upon layers of clothing.

Tom commented how hard it would be to go back to road running after running miles in a place like this. I couldn't agree more. This is the exact reason why I try to run as few road miles as possible.

Tom is a very, very accomplished runner. I think his fastest marathon is around 3:01. I felt a tad sheepish sweating so much that it looked like I just got a spit bath from the dog while he didn't have so much as a bead of sweat on him. Runs like this where I push myself are good for me.

It's hard to beat views like this with Zion National Park as your backdrop.

Right before we finished, I took them to the edge of a mesa - 360 degrees of awesome while standing at the edge of a cliff. I have a hunch this won't be the last time these runners find their way back to this trail.

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. The winds will blow their freshness into you, and the storms, their energy. Your cares and tensions will drop away like the leaves of autumn." ~ John Muir

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Possibly the Happiest Post Ever

One thing I positively loved during the Baker's Dozen Half Marathon was all the jumping that occurred during the race. I didn't say one thing to the runners about jumping - and yet there were some massive hops happening all over the course. These pictures make me happy. I think they'll give you a smile.

I got in one myself.

I must say, this one is one of my favorites because, well, that jumper on the left is my wife. And that awesome mid-jumper next to her is her sister Rachel who was in the midst of running her first half marathon!

And this jumper? This jumper? This is the amazing Cherie Santiago who designed the amazing race shirt.

Race winner Tom Dansie even managed to get a mid-race jump:

And finally......I present to you.........A JUMPING TWINKIE!

I suspect it was all the sugar being consumed which led to such awesome jumps.