Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ask an ultrarunner -- #1

Mr CPK asks: "I know a friend who is a very good marathon runner but ended up in the hospital after his first WS due to rhabdomyolysis. I'm running my first WS this year and wondering what I need to do to keep this from happening to me?"

I ended up with a nasty case of rhabdo after AC in 2004. I can tell you this much, it is not something to mess with.

After having my best WS to date in June of 2004 I was really looking forward to a great AC. I knew the course, had a read on the competition, and felt rested and ready to go. However, the rhabdo Gods had other plans that day.

As I made my way through the vortex that is the base of the Sam Merrill climb I began to feel very, very tired. At the same time, I found motivation in the bobbing flashlight of the runner in front of me, so I forged on. On the descent off of Sam Merrill my quads were screaming! Each step felt like a railroad spike was being driven into my leg and I could not for the life of me figure out why.

Well, six hours later when I went to pee and it was the color and consistency of coffee I knew what I had done. I had rhabdo and the Acute Renal Failure was soon to follow. Six days and 36 bags of sodium bicarbonate later I was released from the hospital.

In my follow-up conversations with my nephrologist he was very matter-of-fact. When I asked him what I could do to prevent this from happening in the future he said simply,

“Well, you can slow down when you feel acute pain in your quadriceps or you can train harder so that you don’t experience the muscle damage that you had in this race.”

That was a great answer that told me, “train harder!” I ended up having my best WS nine months later and have not had a post-100 mile CPK reading of higher than 25,000 since.

So, my advice to your friend is to train as hard as you can leading into the race and then run within the boundaries of your training. It’s a fine line but, in my experience, those who have the greatest longevity in the sport know how to walk it.

Chubster asks: "I run a bunch of ultras, 100 milers are my favorite. I am usually in the top five, top ten if it is super competitive. Even with all the training, I have elevated love handles. I don't mean a little elevated, I'm talking waaay higher. What can I do?"

Chubster, you are a lucky man! It’s a deeply held secret of ultrarunning that love handles are a key to success in running 100 milers. You see, all those emaciated little speedsters are great for 25 or 50 miles but when they get much past that they tend to wilt like rotten flowers.

Why is this? You ask.

Well, it’s simple, the key to 100-mile success is not the training or the adaptation to the conditions or the race day strategy or even mental preparation. Rather, the key to success is the ability to burn fat and, of course, the more fat you have to burn the more likely you are to keep pushing on hard until the end.

I know this guy with serious love handles. I mean, way off the charts. He can’t even wear pants without elastic waistbands and he never takes his shirt off at the beach. The guy drinks beer like it’s water and eats at In-and-Out Burger every time he comes to Auburn. Nonetheless, for some seemingly inexplicable reason, he has finished in the top-10 at Western States for five consecutive years. Nobody can understand how or why but somehow, he does. I think, it’s because of the love handles.

So, Chubster, bottoms up! And I’ll see you at Squaw!

To read more Ask an ultrarunner advice visit these blogs:


Jeff said...

Love handles = 100 mile success? There's hope for me!

Lee said...

Thanks for the info AJW

Anonymous said...

As a chubster, this is encouraging news. ..wait are you being sarcastic?

Seriously though, I knew there was something to this when I ran my first trail marathon and was passing some of the fast guys with skinny runner's legs in the last two miles.

Craig Thornley said...

What I think is amazing, AJW, is that when faced with rhabdo after AC, instead of fearing going hard again you trained harder and smarter and then ran 17 hours at WS. Seems like the natural reaction may be trepidation and to back off or stop next time it gets even close your AC experience.

I know it's rare that I compliment you, but you are one tough mofo and I'm gonna have to work hard to get some time back in the ten-year bet. Hope you have a great race at WS.

olga said...

You mean, the more fat, the better? Why am I so hung up on loosing mine then? :)

RunSophia said...

I had the same thought as Craig - real amazement that AJW was able to fearlessly push his body further after pushing it too far at AC. Key was not just "harder", but "smarter."
I also have admiration for the respect and friendship epitomized in Craig's comment to Andy.
Glad you guys are WS-synchroblogging again.

AJW said...

Thanks for all the comments and sorry it's taken a bit of time for me to reply:

Ring-of-fire, indeed, I am serious, I think the extra fat helps in runs over 100k.

Craig, the feeling is mutual and I admire your ability and your commitment. It's the real deal and I am really looking forward to both of us chasing our 7th silver buckle this June.

And Sophia, thanks for the kind words. You are, of course, about as good as it gets.


brett said...

Grate subject I have just share my views from top to bottom as I see them.
I feel this is a good simply because it’s consistent with how the user is used to seeing the comment form and filling out information in general. Filling out the name and email wont take me much time, and if you really wanted to go ahead and type the comment first, you can do so, not really that big of a work around. I’m
meditate home

Bryon Powell said...

I've got a question to ask an ultrarunner. When are you going to post your race schedule for 2010?!

AJW said...


It's over on the right under the picture of me singing Karaoke at the G'Town Hotel. Just need to update it.


AJW said...


It's over on the right under the picture of me singing Karaoke at the G'Town Hotel. Just need to update it.


Bryon Powell said...

I'll go back to my unobservant or possibly even illiterate corner now.

daniel said...

When The popular comment layout is common, so it is easily recognized scanning to post a comment. If the comment section is in a different format, then I am going to spend more time trying to decipher what everything means.

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