LOHTSE 24 Hour Endurance Race Review

Bunny and I participated in the LOHTSE 24 Hour Endurance race over the weekend of March 16th. This was our first 24 hour and longest race since our debut 50 mile race at Rocky Raccoon a month prior.

Things were still looking up at this point…

In between Rocky and LOHTSE we also did the Post Oak Triple challenge for a distance of 44(ish) miles for me and 28 miles for her.

The point of that information is to set up the fact that we probably weren’t in a great place recovery wise going into this 24 hour race but didn’t want to wait another year to try it so off we went.

The race is done on the 400.0x meter track at the Owasso high school. This year the weather was nice, a few degrees warmer than I’d like during the heat of the day but certainly tolerable. The track appears to have been redone recently and is now a textured concrete surface. In other words it’s hard, very hard and very unforgiving. I don’t even want to imagine the damage a person would take if they tripped and fell at speed on this thing as that surface would destroy the skin of any part of the the body that touches it. No one fell during the race but that hard ass surface does do a number on the legs.

There is no view to speak of so it didn’t take too many laps before things got seriously monotonous. One more mental challenge to contend with in these types of events.

Facilities was great as there were not only two port-a-potties set up actually on the course in the outer lanes but there was a track facility also open for our use with real bathrooms and showers and even a couple of couches if you needed to take a load off for awhile.

As this was a certified and sanctioned race that qualifies for records and potential entry into the national 24 hour team slower runners were asked to avoid the inner lane and use lanes further out. I have an slight issue with that as this has an impact on the distance one has to travel to get a lap in. And laps are the only thing counted as distance with each lap counted the same. So each lap I did in lane 2 was 407+ meters, lane 3, 415+ meters and so on. But each counted as 400 meters. Over the course of 24 hours those extra 7 and 15 meters start to add up.

My distance was measured with my Stryd footpod that I have calibrated pretty closely. It measured the 50.1 mile Rocky Racoon race at 50.2 miles for example. And we did get slightly lost in the dark near the end because someone took down some direction tape that added a little extra. It regularly measures 13.1 mile half marathons as 13.1 miles. Point is, after 2 years of running on many many certified race courses I trust my Stryd to nail the distances and it doesn’t get confused when you stop moving for a little bit unlike a GPS based tracking.

Because each lap done only nets you the official 400 meters my official distance was 77+ miles but I actually traveled 4+ miles over that. Bunny who also wears a Stryd which is also pretty well calibrated to her had the same results, around 4 extra miles traveled than official.

Off hand we both think assigning lanes to runners would be more logical, at 12 hours in there were only 12 of us left moving and at almost any given time I counted less than 10 actually on the track at the same time. Then each runner’s laps are multiplied by that lap’s actual distance to give them an accurate total distance. But then you have to contend with the honor system of people staying in their lanes and not drifting accidentally or intentionally down a lane. So for a certified course I guess it makes sense. But it doesn’t feel great to have to do extra miles ‘for free’ because you’re slower when you all paid the same entry fee.

Because this was a timed race there was no way to DNF. Everyone got credit for the laps they did even those who just left before the race end. For some reason I’d made the assumption, in error, that you had to be there at the end of the race to get credit for it.

I believe if memory serves there were about 30 runners who started the race in its entirety. The majority of these were in the shorter distances, there was a half marathon, full marathon, 6 hour, 50 mile, 100K, 12 hour races all going on at the same time as the 24 hour race. For a few there was only one entrant in that distance. I think most of the non-24’s were in the 6 and 12 hour races.

We didn’t really know anyone else at the race going on other than as friend of a friend in a couple of cases. What I found interesting is the start of the race was much more street race like, no one talking to each other, everyone focused on the race. After it was down to just the 24 hour people we found the race was more ultra trail like with people becoming more chatty and outgoing.

Since we didn’t know any by name we assigned nicknames to several runners as they were note worthy for some reason and we by human nature needed a label as a way to refer to them. Thus during our race we had Chatterbox (real name Mark), a long time runner who was super friendly the whole race with everyone, he was full of trivia and history on the runners, racing in general and had a steady persistent pace that ate away at the distance.

One of my favorites, Landrun (real name Becky), who we had fun talking to and joking with. She’s out of OKC and part of the OKC Landrunners group, hence the nickname as she had on one of their T’s at race start. Probably won’t get to run with her again unless we both happen to be in the same ultra and that’s a shame as I enjoyed the laps we did together. This lady is a certified bad ass, after getting blisters bad enough to force her into sandals she still came back on the track and chewed through the miles at a walk that was as fast as my slow jog. Walking with her at her pace was a effort. I believe she ended up 2nd female and it was only her injuries that took her out or I think she’d of taken top spot easily.

Mighty Mouse (real name Brian), another certifiable ultra runner with some strong credits in his history was also really nice to chat at in passing. He was going too fast and steady to actually run with. His nickname came from a tattoo of mighty mouse on his shoulder. He’s doing and done some crazy hard race sequences, on races and at paces/times I can only wish I could do.

The Machine (Bob) and Beast Mode (John) were the two strongest male runners there that day. The Machine was just that, gliding through lap after lap without a change in pace or a stop. Beast Mode was right there with him but ultimately made the decision to drop out to save his legs for another race per a chat with another remaining runner later after we noticed him gone.

Another runner who got his nickname late, Six, because he hit that point where he only needed 6 miles to break 100 sub 24. He’s another bad ass that ground out the miles early, possibly at too fast a pace but he hit his numbers and in an ultra that’s an important piece of any race, hitting your personal goals.

There were others, Ginger (real name Betsy) who was a friend of a friend and a super nice lady who was only (only he says) in it for the 12 hour race. Her and Landrun were two peas from the same pod in my experience with them and a great person to hang with even if it was only for a little time.

Kansas (real name Jackie (sp?)) who was the eventual lead female, another steady state runner who made the miles look easy. She eventually stopped at 80+ miles before the 24 hours were up but I have no doubt could have knocked out 100+ in 24 hours.

The Marine who was another 12 hour runner who looked to hit a wall pretty badly around hour 10-11 but rallied hard and finished in hour 12 super strong was inspirational.

The Dave’s, the group of people who were in the Dave’s challenge which was do 1 mile every hour for 24 hour in honor of Dave who continued running with stage IV cancer who’s only goal was 1 mile an hour.

Basically when you see the same people for hours on end without any other distractions assigning them nicknames seems inevitable. I’m sure others did the same for us but probably were just as unlikely to get them right for us as we didn’t for them.

Back to the actual running part of the race, we were on a conservative pace from the start although still a sub 12 hour 50. But as time went on and that pavement started causing problems that pace slowed down. We were primarily self supporting as we had specific things we wanted to use for hydration and nutrition but the usual things were there at the one official aid station set up along one of the straightaways. They also had pizza and sushi delivered during the first evening. One benefit of having a race in the middle of town is delivery is a thing.

We each tried and mostly succeeded at consuming at least 16 oz of fluids an hour and intaking between 200 and 400 calories of a variety of foods as well as electrolyte supplements.

Toward the end of the race I was having to step up my game for the last 4 hours or so to insure I hit my goals and I started intaking too many calories. I knew it at the time but I also knew any advantage I could get to be able to keep going was going to be key to hitting my target mileage of 80. I did hit my target with a little bit of cushion but I also ended up pretty nauseous right after the race. Some of that nausea was also in part from pain I’m sure.

Original flavor Pringles, Spring Energy Gels, Saltines, Ramen, Reeses PB cups, a broth from Bunny with all kinds of anti-inflammatory ingredients, crystallized ginger were among the things we brought. We also had supplemented these with a few things from the AS over the course of the race such as half a banana, a Little Debbie’s Oatmeal Cookie, half a garlic bread stick and a krispy kreme doughnut.

For Hydration I used EFS, eFuel and Skratch labs. I found I preferred the EFS at the recommended concentrations. I also had the occasional plain water to supplement at least one bottle of mix an hour.

My left ankle and shin started acting up a few hours in and by the end of the race I’d had to break through a few walls of pain to keep moving at a decent pace in order to hit my target. I’m paying for that now, 4 days later and my left ankle and foot are still swollen, painful to the touch, painful to walk on. I knew I’d be paying for it at the time as well so none of this is a surprise.

My Altra Paradigm 4.0’s served me okay for the first 50k or so but after having done that distance now a couple or three times in them it’s obvious that they are 50k at best shoes for me. For a marathon they work great. Once I reach 30 miles or so the outside of my pinkie toes and that general area of the side of my foot become painful.

Knowing this was a risk going in I’d bought some Hoka One One Bondi 6’s the week before the race. So at mile 30 of a 24 hour race I put on shoes that I’d worn for about 5 minutes. In the end it wasn’t a bad decision. The shoes held up fine, some of the pain of my battered outer foot went away and no new pains showed up for the next 52 miles.

At this time I’m going to have to give the nod to the Bondi 6’s for any distance over a full marathon. They’re not zero drop which I strongly prefer but they’re not horribly high heeled either. And they got me through 50 miles.

Clothing wise my Altra shorts proved again their ability to take me long distances without chafing. Tshirt wise we were in custom race shirts we had made for the race. Specifically so we can mark laps on them. I keep finding it surprising how much other runners comment on the little things we do, like ticking off laps on a our shirts, or wearing matching shirts or hats. It’s just something minor we do for fun but they never fail to draw some amounts of comment and in some case a lot of comments.

Because I still had that new skin from some large blisters from Rocky I taped up both heels and sides of heels with Leuko tape prior to race start. I’m happy to say that no further blistering happened in that area even with baby new skin in place although it was all pretty tender by race end. I did get one small blister on the top of my left pointer toe. This was through two pair of socks, a mid weight Injinji and a light weight Features over those.

That blister could have been from the Hoka’s, hard to say at this point.

I didn’t have any critical low points during the race, there were a couple of times I ‘got quiet’ especially those last few hours where I was heavily focused on hitting my goal mileage but nothing so bad that going on was in doubt.

Our takeaways from this race are that yes there may be low points but you can get through them. That pacing is critical to being able to sustain the distance. So many people go out way too fast from what I’ve seen and read and end up struggling to just finish a race. With our pacing plan, the last 4 hours of my 24 hour race were my fastest average times. Not that they were fast, let’s be honest, just faster than the previous far too many hours.

Bunny had some issues that the format of this race helped bring about. She worked through them and was out on the track at the end for lap after lap making me super proud of her while other more experienced runners had called it a day hours earlier.

We seem to have our hydration and nutrition dialed in fairly well but still learned some things such as stick to the plan, don’t overload on calories at the end.

That a race where you have access to your own aid station with everything you thought you might need available every 3 to 4 minutes leads to a greater amount of non-moving time. Not because we spent more time per stop, the longest stop I made was about 15 minutes to make and eat raman and change my shoes at the same time. But because you stop more frequently. One extra minute per stop adds up over time.

That was one of the obvious things about Beast Mode. He didn’t stop for aid. He had a crew that handed him exactly what he needed/requested in the quantities specified when he needed/requested it as he went by his setup. He didn’t even slow down. No wasted time at all.

At the end of the day, literally I guess since it was 24 hours, having done 82 miles in 24 hours I feel we’re currently capable of doing a 100 in 30 so that is one critical key thing learned. I believe with some dedicated training to efficiency of form and increasing VO2 max that we can do a 100 mile in better shape this fall than we did with this 24 hour.

With any luck we may see you at the Kansas Rails To Trails 100 Mile in October. This is also the Prairie Spirit 100 that happens in March of the year. Why the name change I’m not sure since it’s the same race down to the location of the aid stations. But regardless, it’s looking like it’s a good candidate for our first 100 buckle.

Rocky Raccoon 50 2019 Race Report

It’s been a week since Bunny and I did the Rocky 50. We’re both feeling for the most part surprisingly well. After the race neither of us suffered the bone breaking muscle cramps, me in particular, after the Dead Horse 50 we did November 2018. My muscles, specifically my quads were pretty sore for a couple of days afterwards but by T/F they were good and today, S, they feel pretty normal.

Jazz hands!

For us this race started with a 8 hour road trip including stops for gas some breakfast. As is turning out to be the norm our rooms were not ready/available when we got there so we went and had lunch and did some shopping to kill the time.

After checking in we went to the main lodge at the park to do bag drop / packet pickup. The folks were really nice and encouraging when they heard this was our first 50 mile.

Back in our rooms it was time to sort out our gear for the umpteenth time and then some TV which reinforced once again why I cancelled cable tv years ago. I think I may have been asleep by 8:30 and for once pre-race slept surprisingly well.

There we are

To keep stress down my alarm went off at 3:30 and I went over my gear once again. By 4:30 I picked up Bunny and her gear and off we went to the Hunstville State Park where the race was held. Race start was at 6:00 a.m. and it started on time.

Off we went into the darkness at our normal post-start walk and then started our 1K run / .25k walk cycle. At each aid station we refilled a bottle, we both carried two full ones and one empty spare and snacked on whatever looked good. Our main nutrition was comprised of Spring Energy gels with some alternates like eGel by CrankSports, Skratch Labs bars, Justin’s Nut Butters, candied ginger.

Hydration was a mix of PediaLyte, ElectroRide by Spring Energy, eFuel by CrankSports, Skratch Labs drink mix.

Electrolytes were supplemented by Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes. One of the critical things we wanted to make sure of was not getting low on electrolytes to avoid major cramping during and post race. And our plan seems to have worked fairly well. So we had electrolytes in our water and additional capsules.

More Jazz Hands!!

Overall I find I don’t care for the flavor long term of the ElectroRide. Bunny likes it but for me it becomes unappealing and I can’t afford to have my fluid less than appealing so I consume it at a sufficient rate.

Starting with Damnation aid station we started grabbing cups of Raman with broth although we had to consume it at the aid station because we weren’t allowed to leave with the cups.

For future use to avoid that time sink I’ve picked up a couple of Sea To Summit collapsible mugs so we can fill and go for these kinds of foods.

We held our schedule like clockwork for the first 25 miles getting back to the S/F in 5 hours 50 minutes. A little slow for us but we did have another 25 miles to go.

I will say the course was mostly okay running wise but there were a number of pretty large mud sinks on the trails that just kept getting wider over time as runners kept going further and further out to get around them.

In general if you were careful you could though get through the course without getting your feet soaked.

The scenery was, no offense Texas and I’m a born Texan, but it was boring. Your basic Texas scrub land with some tall pines scattered here and there. After the first mile you’ve seen all the variety the course has to offer. It was no Moab desert for views.

Like everyone pretty much says, the long out and back to Farside from Damnation seems like it takes forever and when you get there there’s just fluids and some friendly people to cheer you back out.

The aid stations were well stocked with the usual things including hot foods at most.

I was starting to get worried about lack of urination by the end of lap 1 so I wasted some time trying to pee during the layover between lap 1 and 2 and we also got our trekking poles and changed shoes.

Overall I cost us quite a lot of time with fruitless attempts at urination starting now and through the next couple of ASs that had bathrooms. But I’ve suffered Rhabdo before from runs so seeing the color of my urine can be critical for me as I don’t care to hit the emergency room with kidney failure.

Eventually I started drinking more and more water even though I wasn’t super thirsty, going through about 750ml (24oz) every hour and this did the trick.

During lap 2 we switched to walking the uphills mostly and running the downhills but because the whole course was up and down with very little flat this cost us time. Add in the pee checks, raman stops, gear malfunctions and the second lap took us 7 hours and change.

We ran into a couple of ladies, one a teacher and the other a sub on the second lap and ran with them for awhile, they were ironwomen but this was their first 50 mile and really first trail. They were quicker than us except on the more technical trail pieces but eventually left us behind overall.

I bring them up because we picked them up about 6K from the finish line again where they were trying to make their way back in the pitch black as they’d not brought any light options. We moseyed back to the finish line at a moderate walk with one detour because someone had removed the ‘do not go this way tape’ and the sign to turn off was facing away from us on the side of the trail so we missed it.

Eventually we figured it out and made it to the finish line in 13 hours and 25 minutes.

Take-aways –

We both ended up measuring about 3500-3600 feet of vertical gain over the 50 miles. Not a stupid amount but more than we were expecting for sure. It was also mostly a rollercoaster route.

It should be obvious but for a long race you have to bring lights, plural and spare batteries. I’ve owned and own lights of all kinds, mostly hard duty mil-spec types but a few running lights as well.

Of all the lights I’ve owned and used I highly recommend a ‘non-runner’ light, I heard comments “is a car coming up behind us” early in the morning, and that is this ZebraLight in the warm white ‘Floody’ version.

It lights up a huge area in front of you without any hot spots, just a solid hemisphere of light. The 18650 batteries on high-high lasts about 2 and a half hours and is beyond bright. The medium power will last you all night, 13 hours and is as bright enough to keep you moving. It can also be programmed with a second high power that can last up to 6 hours and puts out as much light as any good ‘runner’ light. It’s light weight, super durable and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Once you’ve seen it turn night into day you’ll be happy to have it.

Stay on top of your hydration and electrolytes. It can mean the difference between an enjoyable race and a DNF. At no time were we really low energy, my biggest limiting factor was general muscle pain, specifically from my Morton’s Neuroma in my feet and just the constant stress of going up and down hills in my quads.

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.

Running in Cars

This is a new bit I thought might be interesting.  We’re calling it “Running in Cars” and its supposed to be the exhaustion fueled conversation that happens right after a ultra marathon.

It’s may not always be the most pollitically correct conversation and may not have anything to do with running and it may not be funny for you but again our videos are for us, me really, so that years down the road I’ll be able to enjoy our really important runs and not so important runs all over again.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpxspTtIvwU

Dead Horse Ultra Race Report

So… our first 50K has been achieved and we made the cut offs and weren’t DFL (although it was a close thing)…

This is my Dead Horse Race Report from November 17th 2018:

For the TLDR; visitors:

Everything I liked –

  • Course was well laid out and marked.  If you’re paying attention at all it’s impossible to get off course.  Follow the blue strips and the painted on markers and you’re golden.
  • Course was gorgeous and ‘postcard’ worthy 95% of the trail.  Everywhere you looked, unless you didn’t like rocks, was a great view of Mother Nature in all her rocky glory.
  • Support was good, aid stations were well staffed and stocked with all the things that non-restricted diet ultra runners might need.  If you’re LCHF / Keto / Vegan then you should probably plan for that head of time although there was fresh cooked bacon at two of the aid stations.
  • Moab was a fun little town with some good restaurants and hotels.
  • If you have the time and the extra cash then there are a ton of adventure type places where you can rent bikes, motorcycles, quads, jeeps and hummers to go out and about in the desert either pre or post race.
  • While we didn’t get to do it, there’s a ton of local natural points of interest in the area that could add a lot of value for a lot of folks.
  • They had a medal!  #jewelrycollector

Things were not all gumdrops and puppies –

  • I hate to be even slightly critical of the wonderful folks that volunteer at aid stations, giving up hours of their days for typically nothing in return but smiles and thanks.   But don’t be afraid to jump out there and grab bottles from folks, especially the front packers, that minute or two saved while they get food or hit the bathroom.
  • More portapotties at the aid stations.  I know it seems silly when you’re in a massive desert and you could just go pee anywhere but in this particular instance when they request you do not leave the trail for any reason to avoid damaging the environment more than 1 porta-potty for a set of ultras with 900 runners even with staggered start times causes a backlog on the outbound trip.
  • This isn’t a negative about the race or the support or anything but just be aware that mile upon mile of slick rock is very hard on the body.  If you haven’t trained on road much you’re going to be hurting when you’re done because that rock was….some hard stuff.
  • Paying for race photos.  This is just a pet peeve of mine, I appreciate the cost for the race organizers of hiring a photographer to camp out in the desert for the day taking photos of strangers stumbling by and making this part of the swag.   I get it.  I also though won’t pay $15 for a jpg file or $20 for printed photo.  That’s my personal thing and others I’m sure feel differently.

For those visitors who like long rambling first person reports:

We arrived on Friday morning and the scenery was both gorgeous and a little intimidating.  We passed the staging area on the way from the tiny little airport that services Moab and the area and they had a lot of it already set up, the starting lane, overhead, some tents and etc and there were a fair number of folks working on the rest.   That was a good omen for us.

We spent the day in Moab, shopping for groceries (beets, honey nut cheerios, bananas, chocolate milk, regular milk, sugar Coke etc) and meandering around the place while we waited for our rooms to be ready.

We got into our rooms and unpacked and just had a short wait before we walked over to the arts center where they were doing packet pickup.   We picked up our bibs, timing chips (new thing for us), t-shirts and hat without much fuss.

Ready for anything

Bunny foo foo

Dinner was at Eddie McStiff’s restaurant, a cobb salad for me and a feta salad with grilled salmon for her.  The salads were good, service was great, prices were in line with a tourist town restaurant on the main drag.

Back to the hotel we split up to re-organize our gear, we had to undo our careful packing to comply with certain TSA regulations which in the end they completely ignored and just waved us through on our outbound trip.  Don’t get me started.

We went to sleep early, with limited success on both our parts and were up at 4 the next morning but it was only 5 our body time so it wasn’t as bad as it could be.   This might be a reason to always look West for ultra’s since we get to take advantage of the time zone difference in a good way.

Upon arrival at the race we were happy to see a long line of porta-potty’s, the day before there were only 4 which left us a little concerned about lines.

Here we are.

Our ‘pirate’ outfits immediately drew comments of “I found Waldo…” from folks.  So much for being pirates.

Our gear bags were dropped off in the truck and we waited for the race start.  The race briefing before the race was about the same as every trail race we’ve done, what to do, what not to do, what markings to look for etc.   It was competently done.

Waiting for the start

Right at 7:00 a.m. the race started and we eased out behind most people.  Our plan called for a half K walk to warm up.  I’ve found this helps me mentally and physically on LSD run days to get into the spirit of a really long run.   I’m not sure it’s needed for a race though.

Uphill

The course from the start had a bit of an hill trek to it…

On our first part of the trip we got to talk with a few people briefly and everyone seemed to enjoy our Waldo pirate outfits.  The first mile+ was uphill at a fair clip and then we traveled through a canyon on a dirt/sand road for another mile maybe and then we hooked right off the road and onto the desert rock proper.  We almost missed the turn, not through bad markings but just not paying attention.  A lady behind us who ended up passing us right at the end and finishing ahead of us (bright salmon colored shirt/jacket) kept us from heading off into the distance.

Until the first aid station we were trending uphill and running on a mix of hard packed dirt (like concrete) and desert slick rock (which felt harder than any road I’ve ever run on).    The whole way was nothing but one postcard moment after another.   At any given time there was a gorgeous view in at least 180 degrees around you.  Sometimes there was a hill to your left or right that kept you from seeing what was over there.

Leaving the first aid station we moseyed on to the second.  It was a much larger set up complete with one porta-potty.  Unfortunately the line for said porta-potty was 15 minutes long.  A fair number of folks hadn’t been able to move things along before the race and were having to do it now after 7.5 miles of jostling their insides around.

After finally being able to make room for more water we headed out to the turn around.   This terrain was just more uphill with photo-ops everywhere.  How the lead runners were able to average a 6 minute pace for 50K is beyond me, they had to be literally flying on the back half.  But then I can’t average a 6 minute pace for more than a few hundred yards so maybe it’s just not a big deal for them.

We were getting to the 15 mile turn around right as the first 50 milers were coming through.  They had a 10 mile out and back (20 total) from our turn around, other than that they ran the same course.   So yes, the front pack ran 35 miles with an hours head start in the time it took use to run 15.

We swapped out some gear from our drop bags here.  I dropped my stocking cap and long sleeve shirt as I was getting warm.  I filled up on bacon, cheese quesadillas, coke and cider while waiting for the RW to get ready.   It was about this time that my left knee started having a hissy fit.  We also spent another 15 minutes+ here.

Getting into and out of aid stations is something we’re going to have to work on, we probably spent a good 45-55 minutes total scattered over 5 aid stations.

Long way down…

Because of my foot injuries I was favoring my right leg which pushed my left leg harder and my knee took the brunt of it.  Over the course of the next 15 miles to the finish I would start having more and more difficulty in running and any incline but especially uphill inclines would cause me significant jolts of pain.

On the way back the trail takes you next to the edge of several great drop offs, like a if you fall you not only die but you make a Rorschach pattern when you hit kind of drop off.  The vertigo was real a couple of times edging up to look over.

The back trail while it trended downhill obviously, it had a fair bit more up and down baby inclines which did my knee no good at all.    The distance between aid stations back was also different, I got hit with some bad quad cramps so I was focused on getting by but from what I do remember it was a great section.

Back at aid station 2/4 I was getting worried about my lack of a need to urinate given how much water I was taking in and luckily the one porta-potty was free so I fruitlessly wasted some time in it without any satisfaction so more time added to the clock.

The distance back to aid station 1/5 was deceptively long and I made the assumption it was the same distance as going out so I only had one water bottle.  Bad choice.  Lesson learned, note the distances between AS’s both ways and carry water accordingly.  Things are really starting to fall apart now.  Cramps, swollen feet leading to toe jam forcing me to take my socks off to make some room and knee screaming at me and I was at my limit for pain killer.

RW was a champ though, she got my shoes and socks off and my shoes back on when there was literally no way I’d of been able to do it.  Another 7-8 minutes wasted on this maneuver.

We finally hit a dirt albeit sand road and were off the oh so hard slick rock which lead us to the last aid station.  There a very nice set of volunteers had our bottles filled and us on our way in no time at all leaving us with about 3.5 miles of all uphill followed by all downhill back to the finish line.

This part I won’t lie was torture.   Since it was almost all up or down inclines my knee was being the loudest of the dwarfs Screamy.  I’d “run” a bit till it wouldn’t go any further and then walk.  And by bit I mean maybe 100 yards.

We got through the beautiful canyon section and up on the face of the cliff on the left (on the way back) and the finish line was about 2 miles (best guess) in the distance about equally split between downhill (#ouchmferouch) and a gravel road.

In the videos of this section there will be a fair bit of bleeping to make the video kid friendly.   I sack up and run the last half mile, trying to smile at the folks out watching the 50 miler mid pack start to come through, oh and us and hopefully succeeding although my running form was more a Frankensteinian lurch at this point.  Which some would say it always is.

Achievement Get: 50K

Crossing the finish line without much fanfare we got de-chipped and our medals, picked up our drop bags which were waiting for us and to the car where we enjoyed a bottle of Promised Land full fat chocolate milk and a full sugar Coke that I had to open with the key of the rental car because it was in the old style bottles with a pry off lid.

On the way back to our hotel rooms we started a new segment quite by accident that we’ll calling Runners in Cars After Races or something like that.    I think in a few years when we watch it again we’ll think it’s either hilarious or the most stupid thing in the world to bother video taping.

Afterwards, albeit after a significant PTSD event that was a first for me, we went down to the Moab Diner and split an order of pancakes, eggs, ham, bacon cheeseburger and fries with a side of onion rings.   It was delish.

Our 50K Plan

We’re in our taper weeks (thank goodness) for our first 50K (2 weeks out!).  It’s been a interesting journey to get here from that first 5K I agreed to 2+ years ago when I was a 100 yard runner and 100+lbs heavier.  A journey filled with learning about shoes and socks, shirts, shorts, tights, watches, training, hydration,fueling and the list goes on and on.  There have been injuries and forced layoffs as well as high points of PR’s set and re-set for shorter distances.

And now here I am about to travel 31.5 (ish) miles in one stretch.  To get here I’ve picked up a few things that work for me and by necessity have worked for Bunny.   One of those is what I feel is a winning strategy for me to finish this thing in a time I won’t be too unhappy with and doing it injury free so we can jump into the training for Rocky.

To wit: for me a run/walk is faster than trying to run until I can’t run another step and being forced to walk and less stressful both physically and mentally.

We’re going to be running the following workout on our Garmin’s for Dead Horse –

  1. Warmup (walking pace) for 0.5k
  2. Run 1K at a pace between 11:00 and 13:00
  3. Walk 0.25K with no pace target but typically my walking pace is between 18 and 20
  4. Every 6th walk will be a double walk of 0.5k
  5. Repeat 2-4 until we cross the finish line.

We will also walk every incline of significant excessive slope.  Because literally 80% (an out of my ass guess) of the first 25K is uphill we can’t walk every uphill since we’d be walking the front half of this course but any excessive inclines we’ll walk it out.

We’ll take time to enjoy the folks at the aid stations, the scenery and the entire process and experience of our first ultra.

I doubt we’ll finish DFL but I know we also won’t finish above the 50% mark.  It’s been my experience and observation the longer the race the farther back I place.  And I’m fine with that.

For Rocky 50 Mile race , pending the results of the Dead Horse 50K run, we’re considering splitting the difference.  The first 25 miles we’ll do a distance based run/walk.   The remaining distance we’ll do a time based run walk of 7 minutes / 3 minutes.   At our cruising paces these are fairly equivalent but it would be interesting to do the 50 mile and see how it changes the ‘feel’ of the race.

For that one it works out like this –

  1. Warmup (walking pace) for 0.5k
  2. Run 1K at a pace between 11:00 and 13:00
  3. Walk 0.25K with no pace target but typically my walking pace is between 18 and 20
  4. Every 6th walk will be a double walk of 0.5k
  5. Repeat 2-4 30 times (a hair under 25 miles in total).
  6. Run 7:00 min at 11:00 to 13:00
  7. Walk 3:00 min
  8. Every 6th walk will be a 6:00 minute
  9. Repeat 6-8 until we cross the finish line.

Ultra Marathons for Mere Mortals

The sport of ultra marathoning, i.e. by technical and literal definition any race that is longer than the established 26.2(ish) miles of a marathon, has grown quite rapidly.   In no small part it’s my firm belief because let’s face it these it’s a little cooler to say “I’m going to be running my first [50K, 50Mile, 100K, 100Mile] that there are a greater number of people who are attempting these distances.

But after purchasing and reading multiple books on the subject of ultra marathoning I find there is lack of information for folks like myself.  The published training plans are aimed at doing well in ultra marathons.   At finishing in the front pack, not the mid or back pack.

And a 100 mile ultra is yet another step toward my goal to see how far I can go before I break in the trying.

Websites with how to run your first 100 mile have anecdotes like “marathon time of sub 4” which frankly for a lot of us isn’t even a dream.  You can train for endurance, anyone barring physical disabilities can train to ‘go long’.  But to go fast requires a certain amount of physical ability.   To endure a 100 mile race that does not include a high level of vertical and technical terrain and do it in under the typical 30 hour cut off only requires an average of 18 minute miles.  A fair number of people, not me, can sustain somewhat easily a sub 18 minute walk.  Me, my walk pace is closer to 19 minutes.  So for me to do a 100 mile in the 30 hour cut off I have to run some portion of it.

For us mere mortals let’s ‘do the math’ and see what we have to accomplish in order to finish a 100 mile race purely from a moving pace perspective.  I think it’s not as bad as you might be assuming if you’re just looking into the crazy notion of moving 100 miles without stopping.

For me, let’s choose a moderate pace assuming some levels of moderate vertical and technical terrain.  A 6 minute run at 12:00m miles and a 4 minute walk at 20:00m miles is an average of 14:17 minute miles.  That’s a sub 24h 100 mile.   Granted that’s not possible for anyone to actually be able to finish at as there’s no AS breaks, potty breaks, food breaks, scenery appreciation breaks etc.  But still that leaves 6 hours for all the breaks.  (Again assuming a 30 hour cut off)

Drop the run pace a small touch so you average 15:00m pacing and you still have yourself a 25hour 100 mile.  Based on a 6/4 run/walk schedule that’s a 12:52 run pace and a 20:00 walk pace.

Which oddly enough a 12:52 is exactly my average pace for the very first 5K I did 2 years ago this month.

So for those of us who merely desire to do the distance these numbers should be of some at least small inspiration in that yes we too can aspire to completing an ultra marathon of even the bigger distances.

Many of the books and online guidance do have it right I believe, an Ultra, especially once you get past the 50k distance is going to be a combination of two factors.  Time on feet because our bodies, especially our feet, have to be prepared to be upright and mobile for these increased time frames.   And mental endurance to sustain the discomfort, boredom, fatigue that our minds will suffer from being upright and mobile. These are both very much trainable.

My ability to do boring things for extended lengths of time has greatly increased thanks to our long runs.  I can sit through 2 hours of kids choir concerts a lot easier now than I could 3 years ago.   You learn/gain the ability to speed the passage of time, an analog mode organic based time machine if you will.  While it passes at the same inexorable rate it always does, you no longer are part of ever tick.   Think of it like using an Acceleration Wand in Minecraft, except in reverse.  You’re decreasing your own ‘tick rate’ so that the world speeds up in relation to you rather than speeding you up in relation to the world.

Time on feet becomes more and more important in my opinion the larger a runner you are. Yes I speak from personal and painful experience.

It’s quite simple, more weight equals more impact because gravity is a bitch.  More impact is more stress.   So the larger you are the harder on your feet and every impact absorbing component of your body it is.  This physical stress is a lot more difficult to remediate. You can ‘will’ it away to some extent and medicate it away to a larger degree but the human machine that you are does have a point of failure.   I recently hit that this last weekend in fact where I started cramping bad from pushing things too hard over the course of a long day in my calves and shins.

Mental stress has more available remediation.  Simply finding someone else on the trail and hanging with them if they’re amenable can be a major boost for most runners although it’s my observation that ultra running tends to be a solitary sport to a larger degree than street running. Listening to audio of some kind, music, podcasts, books on tape can also help.  Or simply zoning out of everything but your focus on where you’re going to place your next 10 steps.   Just don’t zone out in general as that’s the fastest way to take a dirt nap.

In terms of training most, even perhaps all, of the plans available on the internet are created by and aimed at front packers.   Front packers are just literally the folks who will finish at the front of the pack.  They’re the ones who have the physical and mental resources to travel 100 miles in under 20 hours, in most cases well under 20 hours.

These leaves a gap for those without their level of abilities, i.e. the mere mortals.  When we try to do their training plans we end up injured, burned out or find out we can’t hit those 70-80 mile weeks and those 30+25 back to back weekends that we simply cannot do an ultra marathon.   And I believe that couldn’t be further from reality.

It makes for an easy rationalization to pull back to the safe distances we’ve done and if we need that rationalization / opt-out then there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.  You do you as the saying goes.  But you’ll never know how far you could have gone if you don’t push yourself.

If you’re still with me then I think as long as you can achieve the following with an average pace of under 17 minute miles including all breaks and recoveries then you can be an Ultra Marathoner.  Granted for the typical cut off times you just need to average 18 minutes but realistically you need to allow for a little slack for unexpected events, terrain etc that might cost you some time so I feel an average pace of 17 is a good value to shoot for as your upper edge-

  • 50K – 3-4 weeks prior to the race having done 20-26 mile long run.
  • 50Mile – 3-4 weeks prior to the race having done 30 mile long run.
  • 100K – 3-4 weeks prior to the race having done 30 mile long run.
  • 100M – 4-6 weeks prior to the race having done 50 mile long run.

Is this a very simplistic rule of thumb?  Yes of course it is.  It’s yet another one size fits all kind of blanket statement.

Now to get to the above long run goals then you need to build your training plan based on your own abilities.  The “I’m an elite and this training plan is how I train” plans are unlikely to work for most of us, at least in the early years, especially the first year.

You can obviously pay to play and hire a trainer and there’s certainly value in having an experienced open minded trainer helping chart your path to your first or 100th ultra marathon.  Unless you live in a small town it’s likely there are plenty of runners out there in your area who can offer thoughts and recommendations on trainers.

If you’re going to roll your own plan then take any online plan with a big dose of salt and skepticism.  Unless the author goes at length to indicate it’s aimed at someone of your current ability then assume it’s going to be a good plan for the upper 25% of ultra runners.  If you fall into that category then no issue but if you might not be there yet then I’ll offer the following recommendations based on my own experiences.  Much like every other plan and guidance out there come at it with salty skepticism that it will work for you (this assumes you have at least the ability to do a 20 mile long day).  If you can’t do that much yet then jump on any of the 3 to 4 day week, 4 month marathon training plans out there.  You don’t have to race the marathon, just have the ability to do the distance –

  1. dial back the weekly mileage to something manageable (you’ll have to judge this for yourself but a reasonable guidance might be start with 20 miles a week and peak at 50 not withstanding the race week in #10 below)
  2. have at least half the weeks with 3 or 4 runs instead of 5 or 6 and potentially average 4 workouts a week.
  3. weekday runs should in general be speed runs (400’s/800’s, thresholds, intervals etc) to improve your VO2 max and running efficiency.
  4. restrict your double long run / back to back weekends to 2 per month
  5. do not increase your total mileage per week by more than 10%
  6. do not have a long run more than 30 miles in general, exception one 50 mile long run a few weeks out if you’re doing a 100 mile race.
  7. do not have a back to back weekend of more than 50 miles
  8. do not have a same day back to back runs of more than 30 miles
  9. one recovery/light week a month at the start of the plan with one recovery week every 3 weeks as you hit your peak mileage.
  10. Add in a race if you can manage it in that 3-6 week time frame of a lower distance before your target race.   So a marathon before a 50k, a 50k before a 50 mile/100k, a 50 mile before a 100 mile.

After the last year of training to move from a half marathon to something bigger these are my personal truths based on my own abilities right now.  I’m a 27m 5k, 60m 10k, 2:15 half, 5:30 full runner.   I’m 6-3 and currently 238 lbs as of this morning.

And a 100 mile Ultra is yet another step toward my goal to see how far I can go before I break in the trying.

Low Carb Fueling for Long Runs

Big ol’ grain of salt….

Found a mention of a low carb option called Spike-Free (not currently avaiable as they’re researching new recipes) that included a document that has some interesting information in it.  As always take anything you read on the Internet (including this site) with a very large grain of salt.

The purpose of the document is to obviously support their theories and coincidentally their products on the best option for fueling.  It’s the same thing that eFuel and [insert your favorite fuel company] does.  Note that pre-low carb my favorite fuel was the eFuel gels and drink mixes.   They worked very well for me, better than anything I’ve tried and I’ve tried a lot (most commercial and DIY options).

But now that we’re doing low-carb, me primarily as it’s the easiest way for me to lose weight which I’m trying to drop lbs for our 50’s, sugar based options are off the table.

But the interesting thing in their proposed science for me was that after 2-3 hours of training/racing your body will have consumed all free glycogen in the system which makes sense even for people who are carb loaders.   There’s only so much storage room in the human body and 3 hours of running burns through that for the average person.  This is the source of the 20 mile wall/bonk (for the average elite).   For me I burn through glycogen stores a fair bit earlier, it takes a lot more energy to push a Semi Tractor up a hill than a Porsche.

But your body needs carbs/glycogen.  This is why if you were to cut out every carb down to 0 intake your body has a mechanism to start turning protein into a carb substitute, even consuming itself if it has to.   So you do need to intake ‘some’ carbs when you burn them all out because during extreme exertion your body has a hard time doing everything at once.  There’s only so many resources to allocate to keeping you moving, your organs functioning properly, your brain working right, processing nutrition and water, cleaning your blood of toxins.

Long story not very short, the folks at Spike Free allege that once you’ve run the tank dry then you can consume carbs to some degree, need to in fact.  And most importantly they allege that at this point certain carbs are processed directly into energy and bypass the insulin reaction with all the bad things that brings to a low carb running on fats and ketones type runner.

And this is what I find interesting as we’ve discussed how we’re going to fuel low carb on our long runs/races.   The Spike Free’s folks thoughts that we should be able to add some basic carbs like potatoes or a banana an hour, need to in fact, could prove pretty important in our abilities to do these ultra runs with some measure of enjoyment.

We’re already at the the 3-5 hour long run point in our training and those are just going to keep getting longer so we have plenty of opportunity to test it out.

If it works we’ll let you know.  And if it doesn’t work we’ll let you know that as well.

Tearing down the Wall

I have written a bit before about what it’s like to face my personal walls while running, but I encountered an interesting experience during our back-to-back 30K/15K and I feel it is worth a few lines to describe it as it seemed rather significant and useful for future use.  At least to me, myself, and I anyway.

As T-Rex mentioned in his report, I have had a bit of knee pains the past week or so. I don’t think it is my shoes as I am alternating between 4 pairs of shoes and don’t quite have enough miles on them to be the cause. As such that pretty much leaves strain due to weakness & overuse, sooo I am going to have to up my PT game a bit. I have done band exercises (mostly) on the two days a week, that are our only non-run days, but I guess I will have to do them more fervently and frequently.  I would rather not have to do all this work only to bench myself as a result of injury.

Anyways I have had a bit of extra pain while running. Who doesn’t really? So after we started our second long run for the day my knees complained loudly. My right knee especially using rather colorful profanity from the beginning threatening to force me to turn around. The right had griped a lot after our earlier 30k, so during the day I iced it and applied liberal amounts of Biofreeze gel. I don’t know that any of this helped but it made me think I was doing good anyhow.  So not one to listen to “a bunch of b*tchy little [knees],”  I willed them into submission by running long enough for everything to warm up and loosen up. Thankfully this only took about 15 minutes. Bunny 1, knees 0.

So as the pain subsided I found the 7-min/2-min run/walk cadence helped me get into a decent zone faster for the first half of the run. I agree with T-Rex, our runs have improved with the return of the run/walk repeats.  But one problem I have with this pattern is that towards the end of our longest runs I hit a point when the stop/restart of running and walking becomes extremely painful and it feels better to just simply trot than to change gears. So painful in fact that at the restart of the last run of the night, after an extra-long walking bit, both T-Rex and I, in unison, belted out four letter expletives at our discomfort. The pain was real my friends.

It was during the last 3-4 miles or so of our run/walk that I felt my wall beginning to form. Brick by brick. And not the Yellows kind either.  Perhaps it was the hypnotic atmosphere created by the dark, mingled with the strong light of the high full moon, (or the delirium brought on by the pain and late hour), but somehow I was able to consciously observe the construction process in an almost disembodied state which gave me the opportunity to deconstruct the wall before it could form a solid obstacle.  This disconnected deconstruction process struck me as rather remarkable, and as it repeated itself over the last half run cycles, it allowed me the opportunity to meditatively experiment with my thoughts over my state of being. It went something like this….

Muscles: “Everything hurts, we are sooo done with this sh*t.”
Brain: “I concur, this sucks. F@#k it I’m out.”
Conscience Observer: “Wait a minute, we’ve totally been through this before guys, remember? Let me remind you that we have twice this distance to cover in a few months so cut this moaning crap out and let’s finish strong!” (Rocky theme begins to play)
Muscles & Brain: “But it hurts! And it’s hot. And we are tired. And this sucks. And it HURTS!”
Conscience Observer:  “Ya ya heard it all before, shut the hell up, we are just fine and we are damn sure not quitting. Here think of this…. We are half way from finishing our first 50k and the end is nowhere in sight, we are in the middle of the high desert with no aid nearby and, did I mention, we sure as hell aren’t quitting now? So what would we do then?” (Duh duh duuuun)
Muscles  & Brain: “Sh*t.”
Conscience Observer: “That’s what I thought. Now shut it, we’ve got a long way to go.” (Whip crack sound effect)

I know what you’re thinking… but as Sheldon would say “I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested.”

The not-crazy-like-at-all thought cycle continued to roll through my brain, and each time I would conjure up the idea that “we” simply were in the middle of a much longer run and, in fact, had no choice but to carry on. I basically tricked myself into thinking the end wasn’t near and it worked!   Well that is until the next time my muscles and brain tried to unionize and strike, forcing me to remind them of their ‘At Will’ contracts as I cracked my proverbial whip. (cue Devo song).  In those moments I somehow, not through the use of hallucinogens, stepped outside of myself and talked some sense into my brain and body. It was a rather surreal experience. But I am curious to know if other runners have a similar trialogue with themselves, or if perhaps insanity is creeping in with stress and age. Probably the latter. Hoping it’s the former, for Trex’s sake.

While I can’t say that I didn’t struggle with the wall, I can say I learned how to not allow it to form solidly, gaining me the clarity and abatement of the pain needed to reset mid-run. It also gave me hope that I have what it takes mentally to finish Ultra distances.  Or I am mental. Either way as long as I can keep my machine from giving out on me I intend to give it a try.