Archive 2019

Spring Fueling

Although it’s kind of late in the game we’re trying out Spring energy fuel/food as one source of fueling for our first 50 mile race. It was highly recommended by Ginger Runner and overall he and I tend to like the same things. We have the same opinion on the shoes we have in common, the hydration vests etc.

I know the age old wisdom don’t change anything pre-race but we’re 6 weeks out and we have time to test this option out and make sure it agrees with us physically and mentally.

Spring energy gels are ‘real food’ and not just an assortment of sugars. Now I, so far with 2500 miles under my belt and in my belly, get along with pretty much anything. I’ve not done extremes like cake icing and Coke but I’ve tried a vast assortment of fuels out there from Gu’s pure sugar to cheese Quesadillas real food and none of them had disagreed with me in terms of digestion. There are a number that I don’t care for in terms of flavor or texture but I’ve eaten them all without a problem. I’ve also consumed loads of ‘real’ food on long runs and races without any problems.

Spring gels fall into the “let’s take real food and turn it into baby food” in a lot of ways. The primary ingredients are basmati rice, bananas and then some variety of add ons such as coconut oil, coconut water, fruits, peanut butter, honey, chia seeds, citrus and so on.

They have a system for fueling. Pretty much all other fuels I’m aware of in gel format and frankly most of the bar types like Picky and RX are the same basic blends but different flavors. And for some, the ones based on date puree the flavors are so close together for me because they’re all very ‘datey’ that they might as well be the same.

Spring has 5 types of fuel each in one flavor and one drink mix to supplement those. Each type is aimed at one type of output. Pre-race or when you need a boost, long slow burn, caffeine laced for a bit of pep up, recovery etc.

It’s certainly an interesting approach. Flavor wise they’re okay to me. The most popular one, Canaberry so named after Sage Canaday and Strawberries isn’t super fruity to me. It tastes like what it is, pureed rice and banana with some natural sweeteners and a hint of strawberry.

I think because they’re kind of bland they may agree with most but I doubt few will actively look forward to them? There’s not going to be a “Yay! It’s been 30 minutes time for another of those delicious yummy gels.” for me at least.

One thing with the Spring fuels though is IMO you really have to make sure you’re consuming enough electrolytes. Their system is balanced and includes their drink mix (which is a peculiar blend of flavors, I’m not yet sure if I like it or I can tolerate it). If you just use the fuels and you’re not ingesting electrolytes some other way then you’re risking getting out of whack on basics.

I plan on using their hydration but I’ll be rotating it with Ultima (Lemondate and Pomegranate) and PediaLyte (Orange) as I like those flavors and feel the mixing things up will help over 50 miles.


What does it take to try a 50 mile race?

Running 50 miles or rather traveling 50 miles on foot in one stretch with a fixed time limit is rather daunting to some, most, all but a few? Take your pick on that answer.

My wife tells me I’m crazy each time I set a new distance goal. And I’m doing it to myself every time I come home showing my true age from some long run or back to back long runs.

And maybe you do have to be a bit crazy to keep setting these kinds of goals for yourself. Everyone has to make their own determination as to what at any given point is a major goal in their lives. Because I don’t believe 99% of us can pick ultra marathon distances as a minor goal. The sheer amount of time on feet if nothing else to train the body to be able to sustain the abuse of a 50 miler, 100k, 100 miler and beyond for most of us makes it a major investment of our available time.

And you can’t even say it’s a cheap sport. Running can be a cheap sport if you’re doing shorter more ‘normal’ distances. A few miles a few times a week to try and stay in shape. You can do that in any pair of shoes, in cotton shirts and socks without any other gear than maybe a bottle of water in the summer time.

But once you reach the point where you’re running for hours on end multiple times a week then the gear costs creep up. Shoes wear out every couple of months and the wrong shoes lead to injury.

So cheap it isn’t.

Reaching this point where I’m going to attempt my first and hopefully not last 50 mile race over the last 2 years I’ll have put in a little over 3000 miles. I’ll have logged a little over 700 hours of on my feet time. 700 hours… That’s the equivalent of running 29 days 24 hours a day. Plus a little extra. It breaks down to about an hour a day unless you count travel time and then it’s more like 1.5 hours a day. So of the past 24 months I’ve given up one full months worth.

I’ve gone through 15 pairs of shoes, granted some didn’t last long because in the end we weren’t compatible for each other for the long haul and they were delegated to every day wear or boxed up in case of a zombie apocalypse. Or just being too broke to buy new ones.

I’ll have burned roughly 500,000 calories. Half a million calories or roughly 1800 standard sized Snicker’s bars. Half a million calories sounds like a lot more than 1800 candy bars but the math is what it is.

So to sum up, for me, what does it take to try your first 50 mile race?

  • 4+ runs a week
  • 15 pairs of shoes
  • 53 races of everything from 5k’s to 50k’s
  • 700+ hours of running
  • 3000+ miles of running
  • 500,000+ calories

Seems like a lot to ‘just’ do 50 miles.

50 Mile 6 weeks out

We’re coming up on 5 weeks out now. Over the next 3 weeks we have a 40K and a 50K LSD training run and then we start tapering 3 weeks out for our Rocky Raccoon 50M.

My knees, specifically the tendons on the back of my knees are being a bit of a bother and have been off and on since our inaugural entry into Ultra territory 6 weeks ago. I’ve been using voodoo witchdoctor stuff, i.e. CBD oil as both an ingestion and a targeted lotion. Does it help? No way to know without a time machine to go back and not use it.

Will I be able to go 50 Miles in Huntsville Texas on February 9th? No way to know without a time machine to go forward to February 10th and ask myself.

Some days 50 miles doesn’t seem out of the question, other days it seems and feels pretty daunting. I know people that have done 100 miles, multiples, I even know by second runner (same thing as a second cousin which I just made up) people that have gone 200+ miles in one session.

But take for example our 30K run this last Sunday. We started off well and had some really good negative splits on the back half, hitting 9 and 10 minute miles for the latter half. To put that in perspective my best 5K time is 8:50 (ish) minute miles. (Remember I weigh around 60lbs more than the next heaviest ultra runner I’m aware of). So hitting 9’s after already having run 15 miles is for me an accomplishment.

Last night at midnight I did a 5K, Race into the New Year by Runners World in Tulsa, with an average of 9:14. I didn’t feel like I had much more to give at the time. A race at the end of the day is not the same as a race first thing in the morning.

After the 30K run did I have another 32 miles in me? Sheesh consider that statement. I ran 18 miles as a training run but will be running 32 MORE miles after that point in 6 weeks. That’s when it becomes rather daunting. At the end of the 30K I was feeling okay but not really a ‘let’s do another 32 miles’ kind of way.

The results of our training runs are focusing my pace plans for Rocky and as they should. I’m using the data to dial in what I think is a sustainable run / walk pattern for 50 miles.

A problem I have is the first time I go for a new distance I make the same mistakes. Set a goal time that’s only really obtainable under optimal conditions – nutrition and hyrdation perfectly on point, well rested, well motivated and in the right mental place. Go out too fast and literally, almost, crash and burn around the 2/3rd mark as a result with blown quads or calves suffering from major over-stress cramping.

I’ve mentioned it before but this time my primary goal time is 14:59:59, my secondary goal time is under 14:00:00. As long as I finish the race by coming in under the 15 hour cutoff that’s my goal.

To give us some slack I’ve calculated our personal cut off times for every aid station based on flat distance with a 14 hour finish time. This gives us an hour’s leeway. It doesn’t take into account terrain or darkness because I have no way of really knowing any of that. The best I can do is say, on average, we need to leave aid station X at X:XX o’clock in order to maintain our goal time. I know we’ll get some extra time on some splits because the terrain will be easier and I know we’ll lose some time on some because it’ll be harder or in the dark. Overall though I have a chart of times for all 14 aid stations including the start and finish.

Which is another thing, we’re not going to count miles, we’re going to count aid stations. We’re going to count up for AS’s reached on the first lap and then count down for AS’s left on the second lap. I think mentally that might be some minor boost “We’ve knocked out X of these things, go us!” early on and “We only have X more to go.” on the back half.

Another thing to look at is no matter what we finish, as long as we finish it’s a 50 mile PR for us. As long as we run more than 31.5 (ish) miles it’s a PR for distance. And as long as we run longer than 8 hours it’s a PR for time. And it’ll be the first race in Texas, not really a PR but it is a first. So that’s 3 PR’s we are likely to walk away from Rocky with.