Monday, March 29, 2010

WS Synchroblog -- Ask an Ultrarunner #2

Here is the second installment of the Western States Synchroblog Project -- 2010.

In this segment the merry blogsters will address three questions:

BK asks: "How do you take care of your feet in a 100 mile race? Tape, powder, lube, socks, blister care or not, water crossings (sock/shoe changes or not). Toe paint?"

For the first time in 2009 I had significant foot problems at WS. So significant, in fact, that I was slowed considerably on all of the downhill’s from Deadwood to the Finish. I still have no idea why I had such a bad day foot-wise but I knew, as a result of my experience, that I needed to make some changes.
So, after meeting with John Vonhof, author of “Fixing Your Feet” at the Placer High School Track following the race I did the following based on his recommendations:

1. Purchased and began to run in DryMax Maximum Protection Trail Running socks.
2. Changed from Inov-8 to La Sportiva shoes (I have nothing against Inov-8 shoes. They were just bad for my feet. So, I changed shoes and haven't had problems since. I am sure there are people out there who have switched to Inov-8 because La Sportiva gave them problems. So it goes...)
3. Bought a tube of Hydropel to slather the stuff on my feet before a race. It's basically like Gore-Tex in a tube (and costs about as much, as well!)
4. Purchased and began using Kinesio Tex Gold Tape and Hypafix Tape to pre-tape my feet prior to running a 100 mile race.
5. Began to file my callouses to keep my feet from becoming too tough as my biggest blister problems occurred as a result of maceration on the balls of my feet where blisters developed beneath the callouses.

I then integrated all of the items above into the plan outlined by Vonhof in “Fixing Your Feet” and two weeks after Western States ran Hardrock without a single foot problem. Six weeks later I implemented the same plan for Leadville and had no foot problems. I did have a bit of a stomach issue but that is for another post☺

Joe Lee asks: "I’m currently training for WS100 2010. I’m kind of weird about the whole pacers and crew thing because I prefer to run alone and I don’t have much use for a crew. I kind of want WS to be virgin territory for my first attempt at it so I’m not planning on training there. I guess my question is: How much time am I going to sacrifice by taking this meathead approach? Is it easy to get lost on this course?"

Good questions! The pacer and crew debate is as old as the sport itself. Some folks say, of course, “Gordy didn’t use no stinkin’ pacer so why should I?” While others will say, “The rules allow for a pacer so why not use one?” I am actually on the fence between these two camps. Having run 100 milers both with and without pacers I can say that the races I have run without a pacer have been more enjoyable experiences while the races I have run with a pacer I have run faster. I guess, for me at least, it is about joy vs. speed. There is no way I would run all the uphill’s between Cal 1 and Cal 2 if I didn’t have a pacer. However, getting your ass kicked for 8 hours in the middle of the night is no picnic, either. Jasper, Geoff and Matt have all proven that you can be highly successful at the 100-mile distance without a pacer. Of course, countless others have had great success with pacers. The choice really is a personal one.

Now, on to your questions; First, if you are looking to run 24 hour pace I think you’ll lose about an hour without a pacer. You’ll lose a bit more if you’re slower than that and a bit less if you’re faster. Second, it is really, really hard to get lost at WS but every year people do it. My good buddy Tommy Nielsen missed the turn for Cavanaugh Ridge a few years back and lost his shot at the Masters’ CR and just this past year Anita Ortiz took a wrong turn and ran all the way back down to the River after going through Green Gate. Of course, in Anita’s case she had a pacer and still made the mistake. And, it should also be noted, even after getting lost for 25 minutes she still won the race.

GG to PHS Runner asks: "Do you think that riding a bicycle, in addition to downhill/heat training would be beneficial? I was thinking about doing a 100mi mountain bike race a few weeks after WS, and that the dual training might be beneficial. Of course, I don't want to break my ribs or a pinky or something like that, where it might hinder my running. But again, I can ride a bike without falling down repeatedly- I mean, who can't ride a bike without falling, know what I mean? Any suggestions you have, would be appreciated."

I think intensive heat training and pounding downhill running are far more important in training for WS than biking is. However, several very successful WS runners have used biking as training for the race. Graham Cooper, Erik Skaden, Kevin Sawchuk and Troy Howard all ride quite a bit in their build-up to WS and their results speak for themselves. So, like with pacers, it’s a personal choice.

As for me, I train for the race by running. That’s it.

Now, for anyone considering riding a 100-mile mountain bike race two weeks after WS I would say that that is about the craziest idea I have ever heard and I would like to challenge that same guy to a one-mile race on the Placer High School Track at high noon on Monday, June 28th, 2010. So, whoever you are let me know and bring it on!!!!

To read more from the field check out:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mesquite Canyon 50K

Spring Break 2010 brought my family and I to the desert southwest for 10 days of camping, hiking and running under the sun. The highlight of the first few days was five days spent camping in the White Tanks Regional Park west of Phoenix. This regional park, the largest in Maricopa County, boasts over 30 miles of technical hilly trails through some outstanding desert scenery. And, it was the venue for the inaugural running of the Mesquite Canyon 50K. This low-key event, put on by Jamil Coury and his brother Nick, is excellent and should find its way onto many utrarunner's calendars in the years ahead. Timed perfectly in mid-March and boasting about 7500 feet of climbing and warm temperatures (it got up to 83 on race day), this new event is an excellent run for anyone beginning a build-up to Western States.

My good friend and longtime ultrarunner Ian Torrence made the trip down from Flagstaff for the race and several other fast 50k'ers were in the field as well. It was a great day on the trail and I was pleased with my 5th place, 4:43 finish. After logging about 50 miles through the White Tanks in the four days preceding the race it was good for me to have a very solid, hard week of training in the heat with three months to go before the Big Dance.

While it is clear from the way my training is progressing that I am not getting any younger it is nice, at this time of year, to feel the body slowly working into fitness and a good hard effort like the Mesquite Canyon 50K provides a great reminder of why we do what we do.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Way Too Cool -- 2010

I had to miss it this year due to family stuff but the perennial season-opener looks like it was great.

Leor repeated as champ and in the process he beat the newest Olympian to become an ultrarunner as well as the male UROY from 2009. Rod Bien and Jeff Browning helped Oregon maintain their bragging rights and Idaho's own Joelle Vaught beat a strong women's field. Victor and Erik began their quests toward another couple of top-10's at WS and Graham Cooper, 2006 WS winner, showed he's still in the game. And, lest we forget, 54 year old Mark Richtman nailed this one! I'm not sure if that's the fastest a 54 year-old has ever run at WTC but it sure is moving (especially on the new, longer course.)

Oh yeah, Twiet's back as well. Does this mean he'll be lacing them up for the Dance????

Full results here:


PS -- I am racing next Saturday in the desert outside Phoenix. Can't wait.

Been a while since Ian and I ran together in the Desert.

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: