Aug 26

Review of Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning

“The feeling usually hits me hard a little past the halfway point of a race. You are so exposed at that point, physically and mentally. There is so much behind you, yet so much ahead. It is daunting. And thrilling. An ultra forces you to put yourself out there, and it is that all-or-nothing feeling that I love. When you finally cross the finish line, the feeling of having triumphed over not just the many physical hurdles, but also the even more formidable ones of uncertainty and doubt, is like none other. I still shake my head in wonder and think, Wow, I can’t believe I just did that. Now that’s a good day.”

― Hal Koerner, Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning

I was skeptical about this book because I wasn’t sure what it could offer that was not already covered in Byron Powell’s “Relentless Forward Progress,” which is often accepted as the must read guide to ultrarunning. As I read, it quickly became apparent that this book makes a great companion (or stand alone, even) guide to ultrarunning.

Hal Koerner’s ultrarunning credentials are hard to beat. He has notable wins at the Western States Endurance Run (2), Hardrock Hundred, Angeles Crest (2), just to name a few.

The writing style of the book is very straight forward and engaging. It’s an easy read. He also tells information in way of sharing what works for him. It may not work for everyone and he doesn’t claim that his way is the only way. I really love the expert tips and firsthand experience he offers. He also shares some of his mistakes, making you realize he’s human, rather than some perfect ultrarunning elite.

It’s a great guide to help your prepare for an ultra, including detailed training plans. There are plans for 50k, 50m-100k, and 100m distances. In addition to training, there is information on nutrition/hydration, gear, do’s and do nots on race day, and much more.

In addition to ultras, there’s great information for running in general (especially trail running).

I recommend this book if you are interested in running an ultra or you are already an ultrarunner. This book brought some things to my attention that I can work on and also some tips to implement in future training sessions and race days.

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Aug 18

Tips for Running on Vacation

On a recent vacation, I was trying to remain on a running program. Here are a few tips I used (or ignored to my own peril):

Google about running in the area you are visiting

You can search for good routes to run and places to stay away from. You may even find some local running groups to meet up with.В This can be a great opportunity to explore the area and do some sightseeing on foot while you are visiting. This can also be an opportunity to train on new terrain and/or in a new climate.

Another good source of information is local running shops.

On my recent trip, a search led me to someone advising not to run on the local beach. Nonetheless, I had visions in my head of gloriously running barefoot on the beach like in the movies. In reality, the sand was so loose that it was difficult to decently run on it. Furthermore, I ended up with blisters on four of my toes! It went something like this:

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Run on the treadmill

I loathe the treadmill. However, sometimes this is your only option. No matter how sparse the fitness center is at a hotel or on a cruise ship, they usually at least have a treadmill. There may also be a gym nearby. This should help to at least jump on and maintain a base level of running fitness.

Adjust your running plan

If you are concerned about having time to run on your trip, you can always plan long runs before and after your trip to get those miles in.

Adjust your training for your location

Anticipate the running conditions. Don’t stress if you are from cooler climate and you are having a hard time running in heat. Your pace will be slower. Make sure you pack gear according to conditions. The same goes if you are visiting somewhere much colder and/or more/less humid.

I am from a dry climate and felt like I was choking on the humidity on a vacation run.

If you are from sea level, running at altitude could affect you. Turn it an opportunity to experience training at altitude to see how your body responds. Be safe and prepare for the possibility of negative effects.

If you are a flatlander, running at a location with lots of climbing can be a great opportunity to get some hill work in.

Cross-Train

You may have some great physical activities planned on your trip like swimming, hiking, cycling, etc. These can help assuage the regret of missing a training run.

Have Fun!

Don’t think about your training too much. Enjoy your vacation! I have read taking a week off may only cause you to lose about 10% of your fitness level, but your body could benefit greatly from additional rest and healing.

 

Also, good luck staying on a healthy running diet while on vacation 😉

Any additional tips you have about running on vacation?

Aug 08

Running as Therapy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Some seek the comfort of their therapist’s office, other head to the corner pub and dive into a pint, but I chose running as my therapy.”

― Dean Karnazes, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner

Sometimes I get upset, frustrated, or stressed. Sometimes it’s worse and can be called depression. There are times in life when I get an anxiety attack or maybe I feel a full blown breakdown coming on (eye twitches and all).

I don’t think there’s any shame in acknowledging this. We all have our troubles. Some people manage better and for some people they are far more severe.

As we search for balance, we all choose different methods. Some people overeat when they are down. I run.

Running is one of the many tools I use to clear my head. If I have had a particularly stressful day at work, I enjoy going for a nice run and letting it all go. Sometimes I think through things during this time. Sometimes I don’t think about it at all. Either way, it helps.

If you have issues and start running, people might say, “What are you running from?” People who would say this have to be non-runners. It isn’t about getting away from anything. It’s about arriving somewhere. Not a physical destination but an emotional, mental, or even spiritual transformation.

If your runner friend is having a hard time, one way to help is to simply run with her/him.

“I’m the kind of person who likes to be by himself. To put a finer point on it, I’m the type of person who doesn’t find it painful to be alone…

When I’m running I don’t have to talk to anybody and don’t have to listen to anybody. All I need to do is gaze at the scenery passing by. This is a part of my day I can’t do without…

I just run. I run in a void. Or maybe I should put it the other way: I run in order to acquire a void…

All I do is keep on running in my own cozy, homemade void, my own nostalgic silence. And this is a pretty wonderful thing. No matter what anybody else says.”

― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

For some people, their issues can be severe enough to necessitate the help of a trained medical professional. Of course, running may not work for everyone. I merely say that running is tool that works for me.

Aug 01

What do you listen to when you run?

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Music, audiobooks, nothing… or something else?

When I first began running, I would almost always listen to music. At first I used my smartphone, and then I began using the lighter iPod shuffle. Music is great for running. It can help pump me up and keep me going. I love music but as my training runs became longer and more frequent, I began to tire of listening to music.

When I started listening to audiobooks, it was a game changer. I could listen for hours and hours as long as the book was interesting. I also felt like I was accomplishing more things while I ran. I had a list of books I wanted to get through and I was completing them quickly. I remember at one ultra, I completed an entire book (7 hours long, which is short for a book). The only problem is if the book is boring because of the story or narrator. I was worried about spacing out while listening to books on a run but I slip into auto-pilot mode and enjoy the book. The first audiobook I listened to was “Born to Run” 😉

With group runs, I usually won’t listen to anything. I’ll just bring something with me in case I get separated. I prefer to interact with the other runners in the group. Yes, I can be chatty.

If I’m on a trail run (especially trying a new trail), I often won’t listen to anything. I will enjoy being out in nature and its sounds (or lack thereof).

That is generally what I do for training. Racing is different though. I usually listen to music to keep me motivated during the race. The exception would be trail ultras. For those, I’ll usually listen to nothing to enjoy the trails or an audiobook since I know I’ll be out there for a while.

What about you? What do you listen to when you run?

I have friends that will listen to podcasts or talks. I remember meeting another runner at an ultra that was listening to instructional audio on how to speak Spanish. I found it fascinating that he was learning to speak another language during his run!

Note: I had a hard time finding headphones that would stay in my ears when I ran. I started using Yurbuds and they work great!

Jul 24

Tahoe Rim Trail 50-Miler Recap by Steve

Don’t stop believin’.

Yeah, that’s a corny way to start this race report but you’ll see why (and it will still be corny).

Outside Magazine listed the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs as one of their 10 races on the “Trail Runner’s Bucket List.” After seeing the beautiful races photos, I really wanted to do it. I chose it to be (hopefully) my third ultramarathon and second 50 miler. Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) has a lottery entry system and I was fortunate enough to be chosen.

My goal for this race was simply to finish. Of course, you always want to do well, but my first 50 miler was on relatively flat terrain. This race would involve higher elevation and much more significant climbs.

The logistics for the race were smooth. We lined up at Spooner Lake to start at 6am. The national anthem was played first. It made me really appreciate being able to run this race on such a beautiful piece of this country.

We started the climb to Marlette Lake. The views did not disappoint. The first aid station, Hobart, was entertaining with a vaudeville style performer on a unicycle with a whip. В I pushed through this station quickly, just grabbing PB&J and small cup of coke. We climbed past Marlette Peak and Harlan Peak heading into the Tunnel Creek aid station. I was feeling good so I stuck with the PB&J and small cup of coke.

From there, I headed down towards the Red House aid station. There was some tough downhill on the quads, which in turn was a tough sandy climb back up. Still, I didn’t think it was that bad. The course labels this part as the “glimpse of hell” part of the course. I just pushed through. I would find my own “glimpse of hell” later on the course.

Back to Tunnel Creek, I kept the same eating routine. I was moving through the aid stations quickly and feeling good. I was wearing the Ultimate Direction SJ vest with two 20oz bottles but was advised to take extra water on the next part. I picked up my handheld and brought it with me for the next section.

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We climbed up past the Bull Wheel aid station and descended down to Diamond Peak Lodge. At this point, I felt good. I didn’t have highs or lows. I was just grinding along. At Diamond Peak, fueled up quite a bit, dipped my bandana in cold water, re-applied sunscreen and anti-chafe stuff, and  I was ready to go rather quickly.

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Next up was the brutal climb up to Diamond Peak. I turned on my music (I hadn’t listened to anything all race because I was enjoying the environment so much) and started hiking up the ski hill. It was the hottest part of the day and lots of sun exposure with only a tree for shade every once in a while. The hill was sandy too. It was a tough climb. I should have drunk more while walking because by the time I got to the top, I was cooked. I felt tired and dehydrated. I was so frustrated it felt like the wheels were falling off when I had been moving so steady.

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Then, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” started playing in my headphones. The corniness of the moment made me smile. I told myself I would just push through and finish no matter what. I gathered myself, grabbed some aid from the Bull Wheel aid station and headed out slowly.

I was trying to balance getting more fluid into a sloshy and upset stomach. After a little while, I was able to pick up the pace. Ouch. Cramps. I had taken some S-Caps early and made a mental note to take more at the next aid station.

I caught up to a couple of guys doing the 100 miler.

They said, “Hey, it’s him!”

Me: “It’s me?”

“Yeah! You! You did NOT look good at that last aid station. You’re looking better now.”

“So, I looked as bad as I felt?”

(Pretty much).

I moved along with a sensitive stomach, cramps, pain the feet, pain in the legs, pain in the hips…

Then, it started to rain.

At first it was the nice gentle cooling rain. Then, it started pouring.

I rolled into the Tunnel Creek aid station in the pouring rain. I took the time to regroup. I grabbed a whole can of coke and ate a gingersnap honey stinger waffle (hoping the ginger would help my stomach). I grabbed some S-Caps too. I repacked my bag, putting all the electronics in ziplock bags. I was worn out but I felt bad feeling down on myself as I saw another runner in the medical tent receiving an IV. The volunteers were amazing. They kept asking me things like, “What do you need?” “Are you eating enough?” “Feeling okay?” I really appreciated it and couldn’t thank them enough. A gentleman took my bandana dipped it in water, filled it with ice, and put it around my neck. AH! Shocking and refreshing. I refilled my bottles and was ready to head out into the rain. I touched my forehead then asked the volunteer filling my bottles, “Where’s my bandana?!”

“It’s around your neck.”

“Oh.”

We both laughed and he said, “It’s that point of the race, huh?”

(Pretty much).

I was feeling more recovered as I headed out into the rain and climbed back towards Hobart. On the way, I saw an older looking trail runner with a “pacer” bib pass by heading the opposite direction. He said, “Hey there!” as he passed and I did a double take. Gordy Ainsleigh, the first to run the course of the Western States 100 just ran by.

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From Hobart, I started heading up toward Snow Valley Peak. The course continues to be so beautiful. The storm clouds rolled in and it started sprinkling. I saw a small herd of deer seeking shelter (this should have been a good warning). The rain became worse and I started hearing more lightning strikes. I was near the top, completely exposed when suddenly I felt something hit me in the head. Ouch!

Ouch again!

It started hailing.

There were no trees to prevent the pea-sized hail from pelting me. I ran with my head down until I reach the Snow Valley aid station. What now? Do I wait out the hail?

More lightning strikes.

I looked at the supports to the aid station structure and they are all metal poles. Here I am, on Snow Valley Peak, in a thunderstorm surrounded by metal poles and it’s hailing outside. What to do?

В The super-volunteer at the aid station let some of us shelter in his truck (at least that would be grounded). After sitting in the truck a while, the hail stopped and we headed out in the rain. It had gotten colder but adrenaline pushed me down towards the tree line.

I ran down the long single track towards Spooner Lake. I ran past the last aid station without stopping into the aspen grove and ultimately to the finish line. Some of the folks near the finish line cheered and said things like, “You went through a lot out there,” and “You survived the wrath of God!”

I received my finisher’s plaque and cup. I was glad to finish. Of course, I wish I had done better. Some things were within my control and some things were completely out of my control. As always, I learned a lot. It was an amazing experience in such a beautiful place.

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Gear: Ultimate Direction SJ Vest, Hoka One One Trail Stinson shoes, Pearl Izumi Infinity shorts, and Injinji 2.0 trail socks