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:


Craig Thornley said...


As you've probably figured out, I am not GG to PHS Runner. I think I know who it is but he hasn't publicly revealed himself. If I'm correct, this man just completed 60% of a recent ultra and seems to be proud of himself.

Whether he joins or not, I want to run a mile (or maybe just a 1600) with you on the Placer HS track on Monday after WS. Think we can break 8 minutes?

AJW said...


Thanks for playing. I think it'll be tough to break 8 min for the 1600 on the Monday after WS. Do you think it would be OK if we used pacers?


Meghan said...

I'll throw my hat in and beat both of ya.

AJW said...


Well, it looks like it's game on for the Monday after WS. 1600 meters on the Placer High School Track. Meghan, Craig and AJW. This might even be better than WS itself!

Craig Thornley said...

Meghan thinks she's going to beat me on the track? Bring it on.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the great info on protecting your feet. I've been using DryMax socks as well and love them. I haven't used Hydropel as Brave Soldier Friction Zone has worked well for me. I'm curious if you (or others) ever wear two pairs of socks during longer races? I regularly do that for added blister and bruise protection.

Love your blog!

Hank Dart said...

The "bring me a bucket" video from Leadville just never gets old.

Incisive racing/training tips, as always.

Speedgoat Karl said...

"First, if you are looking to run 24 hour pace I think you’ll lose about an hour without a pacer"

Maybe for you, c'mon guys do it yourself. How old were you when you got rid of the babysitter...18? :-)

All in good fun here. I guess I must be european. They don't use "pacers" or babysitters, they do it alone.

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