Dead Horse Ultra Race Report

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.

T Minus 6 and…

It’s 4:53 p.m. on Sunday and in 6 days, Saturday the 17th, we’ll be finished with our first 50K (if we’re not by this time on Saturday then something went horribly wrong).

I did a 10K run this morning and frankly I’m not thrilled about how I’m going to do in the race. My HR was too high for what should have been an easy effort in 40 degree temperatures. The forced break has cost me more than I like in endurance and conditioning.

But it is what it is and there’s no take backsies. So we’re going to knock this out so we can join the ranks of the Ultra Marathoners. Now some ultra runners have an opinion that ultra marathons really only start at 50 miles. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But my opinion is I’m putting the Ultra charm I’ve had for over an year on my RoadID at race end when I add my 50K charm.

We’ve both got our stuffs packed up, check lists checked and double checked and we’re going to give it our all. Not much more we can do.

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.

To the pain…

One of the things running through significant levels of pain in training can cause is over doing it.  For whatever reason it’s possible to have important pain points silenced or muted that under other circumstances would tell a runner to slow it down or come to a dead stop.

It might be pain killers or just one pain point that shouts down all the other pain points due to volume.

So to say I shambled the last 5k of our 40K day would be generous.

There have been a couple of times in the last 18 months give or take where I’ve hit that point.  Where one pain source was so loud everything else go lost in the background or even worse, one was so loud that I had to artificially lower the volume to keep moving forward which drops all the other pains to a dull whisper.

This last weekend we did the Tulsa Run, both the 5K and the 15K and immediately after we added another 20K of trail running.  The Tulsa Run is a street race.

Due to the damage I’ve inflicted on my feet about 4 weeks ago I required a ‘little’ help to keep moving for this run.   I felt and still do feel, the risk was worth the return as I really do not care to go into my first 50K being forced to take the 7 weeks preceding it off.

The payment to the Piper though is that the pain killers enabled me to really over do it.  I ran the 5k+15K at my half marathon race pace.  The follow up trail run, at least the first 3/4 of it was also at trail race pace.

Around the 35K mark for the day was when things shut down and shut down hard.  Literally every muscle below the knees started hard cramping at the same time.  Calves knotted into Hulk fists about to punch Thor in the face, shin muscles like steel bands.  Trying to lean into either one to stretch it out just made the other side madder and also triggered the hamstrings to knot up like an old gnarled tree that’s suffered a hundred years of ocean storms.

So to say I shambled the last 5k of our 40K day would be generous.

The pain medication on top of the pain of my feet made it impossible to really hear the rest of my body’s complaints.  As a result I pushed to and through that point of physical failure of the nerves that manage and maintain muscle contractions.  They start misfiring causing contractions when they shouldn’t and there’s literally not much one can do about it except haul back the reins sharply and grind things to a walk and give them a chance to recover.

It’s not a hydration thing or an electrolyte thing, it’s fatigue of the ‘wiring of the engine’ that isn’t used to it.  Too fast, too hard, too long for the current level of ability.

Part of that was also in no small part due to the forced break in training from my foot injuries, specifically a combination of metatarsalgia and Morton’s Neuroma that I’m currently suffering; both from over-training combined with using the wrong shoes for an ultra long run day.

So while I am obviously going to do a “giving advice that I don’t use myself” here, I would like to just reiterate that every bill does come due so if you spend foolish during a run and order the caviar and champagne then don’t be shocked if the next day you can only waddle around like a dad penguin trying to carry an egg on his feet.  If you happen to forget your long distance shoes, go back and get them.  The hour it might take to go home, change and come back isn’t worth the 3 weeks off you might have to suffer from running a marathon distance in 5K race shoes.

If you can’t hear all the parts of your body then maybe you need to stop and listen harder to the kids at the back of the room and ignore that loudmouth at the front.

Or… if you have your first 50K and 50M races coming up, maybe you do what you have to do, you put gag orders on the pain points and you can recover afterwards.

Ultimately the choice is yours.

Je suis prête

On the heals of our first ultra we ran our last long race/runs this weekend, a combo 5K/15K street race followed by nearly 19k on our usual trail loops on Turkey mountain to complete the distance. As mentioned in recent posts Trex has been bouting with injury and this was our last chance at a solid long run before we start the taper.  In total we logged 24+ miles, just shy of our goal, but a strong comeback in my opinion, in spite of the significant amount of pain we both experienced during and now after the runs.

Speaking of heels, it seems that mine took a bit of a beating during our 5/15K combo which was made worse on the trail, and now I have a nasty swollen red lump at the back of my heel that hurts quite a bit when I walk. So I am elevating it and icing it in hopes that there is no real injury, because being injured this close to our race would “sucks major donkey balls,” to quote my RH.

having a plan B–an alternative exercise routine to stick to during downtime, is extremely crucial for your mental game.

I took time off running and have been cross training with Trex since I frankly didn’t want to suffer injury as a result of over training, and had had a few early signs of things growing a bit unhappy with me right about the same time his foot started giving him fits. So in a show of solidarity and to grow my cross training muscles I joined him in his downtime in efforts to minimize the impacts of our grueling running schedule on my own body. Frankly I feel it did us some good to take some time to do more alternative exercises. I think we both needed to find some greater balance in our approach to running and sometimes being forced to is how it has to happen.

In an effort to maintain my cardio and core strength I have reacquainted myself with the love of the water, and have been swimming in addition to doing stationary bikes and weight exercises along side Trex. We also tried aqua jogging which I find to be quite awkward, although a good cardio workout, when done without the jogger belt. It will take more time to get used to this exercise and in the end it is rather boring which makes it more of a challenge to maintain focus while doing, that and frankly I feel ridiculous doing it!

But the key take away from this experience, for me, has been that having a b plan–an alternative exercise routine to stick to during downtime, is extremely crucial for your mental game. I for one found it very beneficial to be productive physically, even if it wasn’t gaining me ground in my running, because it has been a chance to practice fighting off those pesky mental demons that like to taunt and try to scare me into thinking I’m not ready.

I fully understand the impact to my bodily training by not running. It is extremely difficult to face a race feeling that you may be under prepared physically, but it is crucial to remember your training, and be prepared to face down those mental demons that try to tell you that: a few weeks of not running has undone nearly 2 years of base training. A BOLD FACED LIE!  I am using this time to hone my positive self talk skills, practice how to be supportive to my partner–who is facing those demons daily, and just as importantly to slay my own demons.  And after yesterday’s battle on the streets and trails I know that my plan B has been working. Je suis prête. 

Looking to the horizon

While we’re signed up for our first 50K, the Dead Horse Ultra and our first 50Mile, Rocky 50 we, you know, haven’t actually done those but still I’m looking forward at the future.

The next run for us would be a 100K.  There aren’t as many 100K’s out there as I might like due to our particular qualifications such as monster vertical is a problem since we can’t train for it easily or well.

Although to be fair I’ve found reclined indoor bikes to at least seem to be pretty good at strength training the old quads for vertical.  That’s based on the soreness after doing an hour of bike at the 50% to 75% maximum resistance settings followed by an hour of elliptical in the same resistance.

a lot of my height is waist up, not waist down.

SO… maybe that’s our vertical option?  We did 2000′ of Carls over the weekend which works out to right around 10k but it’s such technical terrain that it took almost 3 hours to do.   Interestingly one side of the hill is easier going up but some scary stuff coming back down.  We were out and backing it instead of looping it to get the the most elevation in the shortest time frame.

My feet are still a concern unfortunately.  After Saturday’s power hiking we did the Snake route on Turkey Mountain, the 5k loop version, not the 3.5mile version (basically cut out that short narrow loop out near the end).   Including a loop down to the restroom at the main site we did 22KM with an average of 13 minute miles.  We were on pace to break into 12’s as we were consistently getting more negative with our splits.   It was an attempt at our current thoughts on our Ultra pacing which is a half K walk to start with to get things warmed up, then run 1K and walk .25k and every 6k extend the walk to half K.  Lather rinse repeat.

Bottom line is the hike went okay but the run every step was painful, not in the walking on ground glass pain but in the deep bruise that someone is thudding with a medium weight hammer way.

#injuriessuckballs

What it works out to for us once we get warmed up is a 6 minute run and a 90 to 120 second walk.  My walk pace is slow, a lot of my height is waist up, not waist down and I am not built like a Kenyan but more like a line backer.

*ramble alert*

So back on topic, for the future I’m looking at 100K’s.   Of interest is the Zion 100K as the terrain looks gorgeous and the vertical isn’t too bad at under 4k although a big chunk of it is front loaded in a short section that if we don’t do it smart will burn us for the rest of the run.

I also found Antelope Canyon which doesn’t have a 100K but it’s an even more spectacular terrain and scenery.   So it’s either a 50 mile or a 100 mile at that one, anything less isn’t worth the expense of getting there to me.

Things like that make it very hard to try and determine where I can go.  It’s a time issue, a training issue, a money issue.

Rehab and PT

I’m still dealing with the fallout of the my injuries unfortunately.  It’s been 3 weeks since I’ve really run any distance.  This is more than mildy depressing due to the our upcoming 50K and 50M races we’ve already planned out, paid for and been training for.

I went to my GP who bascially said, “Beats me what’s wrong.” and prescribed Naprosyn aka Naproxim aka Alleve as an anti-inflammatory.  He did get me a referring to a sports injury specialist who was also “Beats me what’s wrong”.   I have so little faith in our medical industry and based on personal experience justifiably so.   WebMD has proven to be as valid if not more so in my findings.  I won’t go into my medical history but trust me, my opinion is justified based on my interactions with the doctors I’ve had over the last 20 years.   Anyway bottom line is X-Rays didn’t show any stress fractures of the bones which barring a more detailed analysis using MRI or something called a bone scan (might be the same thing) indicates the problem is stressed and inflamed nerves and tendons/ligaments and irritated end caps on the bones.  This translates to metatarsalgia and Morton’s Neuroma.  The cure?  Stop doing whatever it was that caused it.

But my ability to go long is taking the hit I’m sure.

In the last 2 weeks I’ve been doing various low impact sports, indoor bike, two types of elliptical both with inclines, water jogging and various weight machines for upper and lower body strength training.  One thing I’m finding is training for an ultra gives you the ability to ignore the passage of time to some degree.  You can do something incredibly boring like pedaling a ‘bike’ indoors for an hour without much mental effort.

One of the oddities is I’m having a very hard time cranking my HR up due to lack of musculature development for these particular exercises.  My muscles give out before my cardio system starts to get taxed.  An hour of bike at level 12?  100 BPM but quads are tore up.   Followed by an hour of inclined elliptical at level 15?  105 BPM with quads, hams, calves hurting.  Not remotely close to breathing hard.   An hour+ of aqua jogging?  98bpm but calves cramping up.

It’s getting better in terms of I’m seeing fairly rapid capacity in my ability to bike and elliptical for longer times, it’s just different muscles than I use for running or rather they’re used in different ways, just enough to be pretty interesting from a science/technical perspective.

I feel I am improving my ability to go vertical, my quads especially are feeling the heat with that background burn that indicates you’re tearing down and building muscle fibers.   But my ability to go long is taking the hit I’m sure.

Another interesting factoid is how quickly my resting heart rate started climbing up.  It’s 3 beats higher now than it was pre-injury.   How quickly we start to lose our capacity is just interesting to me in a morbid kind of way.

This weekend I’m going to do some Carls, at least 2 or 3 hours if I can.  On Sunday I’m going to run some easy trails and try out my new shoes, Sketchers GoRun MaxTrail 5.  Sketchers?!  WTF?!  Well a fair number of runners say these are sleeper shoes and are far better than one might think considering the brand.   Sketchers apparently has upped their game in the last couple of years and their shoes are getting pretty good.  Allegedly.

As I’m desperate to find shoes that I like with the demise of my Lone Peak 3.5’s I’m willing to take a chance on them.  And if they don’t work out then back they go.

I tried the Hoka Bondi 5’s given their ridoculous stack height which I hoped would equate to more protection for the damaged feet and frankly there wasn’t anything about them that I liked.  Nothing I disliked but nothing I liked.  And they left pain points on my arches toward the heel side just walking around on them.  They weren’t very ‘cushy’ feeling either given their stack height.  Almost like a brick in comparison to the Hoka’s I tried on back in early 2016.

I have a pair of Hoka Napali’s waiting for a shot as well as so many people seem to think they’re a throwback to the Clifton 3’s.  Frankly just standing in them I don’t feel it but I’ll withhold judgement till I can get them out on the street.

With less than a month till our first 50K I’m not really feeling that great about it.   🙁

Pre-Race Packing….

42 days and counting till we’re on a plane to Moab Utah.  Technically a couple of planes to get there.   All our travel races so far have been in cars where we have the luxury of bringing pretty much the kitchen sink with us.

Trying to keep things to carry-on luggage means we have to be a little more select in what we bring.  Trying to bring two pairs of shoes (Altra Olympus 4.0 and Altra Lone Peak 3.5’s) along with Oofo recovery flip flops is an imposing start to the pile I started today.  Since I can’t run trying to recovery my feet I’m taking the time to work on seeing how well things pack.

So take those three footwears and add 2 long sleeve shirts (temps will range from 30 at the start to 50 at the height of the day), two shorts (Altra 2.0’s), 2 pairs of socks (Injini), 2 Halos, compression tights (Recovery UX), a pair of uber soft sweat pants, an after race shirt, coming home shirt, socks.  The doubles are because well while I’ve never had a problem, I don’t want to end up running naked because of an GI issue from some unknown foods.

Now let’s talk gear – VaporKrar vest, bladder, soft bottles, FAK, meds, wet wipes, go pro, gimbal, batteries.

Then there’s the fuel bags – Single serve nut butters, Ultima, SaltStik Chewables.   We’ll also pick up some Carb Balance low carb tortillas and PB to make real food for the run when we’re there.  Then whatever non-carb loaded food at the AS’s that looks good will provide additional calories.

My RW and I need to settle on attire, for our race firsts we’ve always ran as twinsies. We’re probably going to go with REI brand quarter zips.  They’re super soft and comfy, they’re lightweight so you can layer if you need to or pull the sleeves up and cool off.   They’re great shirts for cool weather running.

So 42 days out is probably a little early to be test packing but I feel like I have to be doing something since I can’t run.

Bad timing

So…. I haven’t run since this last weekend.  That really long weekend three weeks ago tomorrow where I ran a 5K, 10K races followed by a 20K followed by a 15K (ish), a total of 28 miles I think for the day and did it in my race shoes (Escalante V1) kind of messed up my feet.  To the point where each foot strike is like landing on a bottle cap, with bare feet, with the jagged open side face up.  I ‘should’ have taken some time off but I decided to push through it and ran another 40 or 50k the following weekend.

sucks major donkey balls

So what ended up happening is to try to take some of the pressure off my forefoot I would claw my toes to take some of the impact.  This had the obvious in hindsight problem of stressing the tendons and muscles that control the toes.   Then to soften some of that I would shift to landing on my midfoot and side foot which stressed my arches.

To say it’s a giant flustercuck is a mild understatement.

Now I’m in the position of having to take time off.  In the last three weeks that we should be hitting our peak for our first 50K.   Obviously this is going to impact my abilities.  Hopefully not too badly.  Worst case I walk my first 50k.

I have the resources to medicate the pain to a dull roar, enough to let me run it.  But then that risks longer term damage and we have our first 50 mile in Feb.

Bottom line and I know you’re heard this before but until you go through it it doesn’t really ‘mean’ anything, regardless of the impetus to keep up with the training, the drive to not break your schedule, it will usually be in your best interests to take a short time off and recoup than push through serious pain and be forced to take a longer time off.

The trick is knowing which is which and when is when.

I’ve been running (moving faster than a walk) for the last 2.25 years.  Per SmashRun my average runs per week during this time is 4.2 days with an average of 4.5 miles.   Just shy of 2500 miles in 28 months.  With a total of about 8 missed run days, 6 of those during a 2 week injury from major ITBS problems.

That I’ve missed 3 runs over the last 2 weeks and will miss another 4 runs at least before I feel it’ll be safe to try again sucks major donkey balls.

My RW’s are helping, we’re doing strength training now and stationary biking this last week.  It’s all pretty much strength training for me, I’m having major issues getting my HR up above zone 1 before the difference in how you pedal a bike versus run a mile causes too much strain.   It was funny I set a cardio program on the bike with a target of 140 BPM.   My HR was around 80 5 minutes in and it really started cranking the resistance up as a result to the point where I was literally standing on the pedals to try an get them to go down and around.   I had to kill the program and do a manual one with a resistance of around level 4-5 out of 10 to find a setting I could sustain for half an hour.  Even there I hit a whopping 120 bpms before I hit that point where it felt like I was doing more harm than good to my quads.

If you taken nothing else away from this post, then just take the fact that sometimes a little break as much as it sucks, sucks far less than a long break.   So take the little break.