Saturday, November 30, 2019

Recovery time,

Running Sunday only a few hours after running a 100 miles was indeed pretty rough. I got on the tread mill and set it for 15 minute miles. I tried to not think about how much my legs hated me for doing it. However, my streak must live on. My run on Monday morning was still pretty rough. Tuesday, I ran 4 miles. I did not do much other than a short run as my ankles and feet were slightly swollen. The next couple of days went pretty much the same way. By Friday, the swelling has subsided in both feet. The following Saturday, I ran 10 miles on the trail albeit; I was still pretty slow.
The following week, my legs still felt sluggish but I pretty much returned to my normal running routine. For the last 2 weeks, I ran 70 miles each week. When I could, I headed for the soft dirt of the trails. This seems to help more than anything else.

To eat up my extra energy, I am back in the Y now. After missing my weight workouts for nearly 2 weeks, the aches and pains seemed to come out everywhere. This took several more days to subside.

Instead of falling back to my old routine for lifting, I am changing it up yet again. I brought more free weights in to my routine. I like to think that it requires more fine motor control and gives me a better workout. However, I will settle for just doing something different.

As my racing season winds down for ’19, I love to go and experiment with different workouts and different machines in the weight room.

Staying with the status quo means likely I am losing rather than gaining. Improvement only comes through indulging in constant change, and only through this change is there any possibility to improve.

Kickin’ up trail dust

The Cool Down Runner

Monday, November 25, 2019

My Nutritional Plan for running a 100 miles

Leading up to race day, I lost count of the number of articles that I read and videos that I watched on YouTube. They all provided a lot of nutritional info but nothing that really help me feel confident about my own race day nutritional plan.

I guess this is what happens when one decides to run twice their longest distance ever.

Thinking back on it now, I can see why most people don’t give an exact plan or even an approximate plan. Running an Ultra is much different than running a marathon or shorter distance race. Typically in shorter races, runners have an aid station every two to three miles. Distances between aid stations can vary widely from Ultra to Ultra. Add in the fact, what runner's can eat varies just as widely. By and large, Ultra races seem to put more onus on the runner to take care of their own nutritional needs. If this means carrying those items, then so be it.

Furthermore, whether a runner is “crewed” or not impacts their nutritional plan. “Crewed” runners can have more of their “comfort” foods on hand at each aid station. While non-“crewed” runners can carry what they need, use drop bags for extra food, or just munch off the race buffet offered at each aid station. Still, while there is plenty of food to eat, the options are still limited. I was lucky in this regard because my daughter “crewed” for me. Knowing what I had coming at the next aid station was a huge benefit. I felt like that this made a huge difference in my race.

Another factor is race day weather conditions. In an Ultra race, the temperature swing can be any number of degrees, and hotter races challenge runners in my opinion more than colder races. That’s where having “comfort” foods really help. On a hot day a finicky stomach can send a runner’s race downhill quickly. I caught a huge break for my race. The weather conditions could not have been more prefect for me.

Let’s get to my plan. So for my race I wanted eat at least 100 more calories per hour. I would eat more when I could. I wanted to err on the side of caution because I have “bonked” a few times during training runs. “Bonking” is no fun, and it took me several hours to recover during the race.

I also want to add that I tried all of my foods during my training runs except for the “chocolate chip cookie”. At no point during the race did I have any stomach issues. My daughter told me several stories of other runners struggling with their stomach woes. I had actually plan for this if it happened by having ginger chews on hand to eat. And, yes, I even tried these during my training runs. I do my best to leave nothing to chance on race day.

The Tunnel Hill course is laid in two directions. The first out and back section is roughly 26 miles and includes 3 aid stations. The second out and back section is roughly 24 miles and includes 4 aid station.

In the first section I had my daughter meet me at the Karnack aid station which was about 10 miles in to the race. Since this was an out and back course, I would see her at 10 miles, and then 16, and then again at 26 as she leap frogged from Vienna to Karnak back to Vienna (over the second half of the course) to Tunnel Hill and back over last 24 miles making 1 x 50 loop.

Throughout the race, I used only Orange-Mango TailWind in my Camel Baks. Because the temperature was not a major factor for me, I carried roughly 1 liter of TailWind during the 10 mile segments and ½ liter during the 6 and 4 mile segments. The only exception to this was during the last 10 miles of the race when I asked my daughter to only put in ½ liter of Tailwind. There were two aid stations in the last 10 miles, and I felt carrying less weight was better. If I got in to trouble, I had two locations where I could get more fluids.

Through the first 50 miles, I ate 1 Sportsbeans and 1 Chocolate GU during each of the 4 x 10 mile, 6 mile, 4 mile segments. After 50 miles, I had my daughter drop the Sportsbeans in favor of Goldfish Crackers and GU. Like I said, I wanted my “comfort” foods.

During the first 50 miles starting at the Tunnel Hill which is 40 miles in to the race, I was drinking about 8 oz. of Sprite at each of the aid stations, and I ate one of my tortilla and mash potato wraps at each of the aid stations. I have found that as the race wears on, my brain needs sugar energy. Taking on some Sprite gives me that mental surge that I need to carry on. I used this during all of my 50 milers. I don't know why but neither the Sportsbeans or the GUs have this same affect on me. 

Oh, I did eat the “Chocolate Chip” cookie at the 29 miles. It was store bought, and it didn’t taste all that great but I suffered no ill effects from it.

At 60 miles, I switched to the hard soda – lots of caffeine and sugar at each aid station and continued with the tortilla and mash potato wraps at the aid stations. I drank TailWind and ate Chocolate Gu and Gold fish during segments.

Calories wise, I was probably eating more than 100 calories hour, but I was able to tolerate it and keep running.

That’s it during the race.

After the race, my daughter handed me a bottle of water. Funny how great a little water can taste.

Postrace thoughts here, if another runner were to ask me for advice, my recommendation is above all else stay on top of your food and water intake. Better to use a few extra seconds in an aid station refueling than leaving too fast. “Bonking” can cost minutes even hours of race time to recover. As for what to eat, if “comfort” food are available, use them. If not, then try to stick to foods that are at least a “known”.

I would also recommend going with roughly 100 calories or so per hour. How this breaks down in to what a runner has to carry depends on the distance between the aid stations and the time required to run between aid stations. Utilizing Tailwind supplemented some sports beans and GUs I easily pushed over 100 calories per hour. This plus my aid station snacks kept me moving all day and in to the evening even after my legs were so tired that I had to "will" them to run.  

Kickin’ up trail dust

The Cool Down Runner


Tuesday, November 19, 2019

100 Mile Race Splits

The race site posted our race splits which I wanted to post here. I found this interesting as it shows how I was moving through out the race.

I wonder if by taking it easy through the miles 50-76, I was better able to run the miles 76 through 100. It is easy to theorize these type of ideas while setting here rested. It was not a thought that I had when my sole focus was to keep putting one foot in front of another after another and after another.

Just a heads up, I am working on a post which breaks down my nutrition through out the race. This is something that I wanted to do because this is one of the struggles that I had with this race. Being a newbie 100 miler, I had little to no idea how much to eat and and when over the course of a 100 miles. Stay tune and look for this post later this week. 

Result Details

Split# Mile Split Time Race Time

1 5.2 00:50:02 00:50:02
2 10.2 00:49:28 01:39:31
3 13.2 00:23:23 02:02:55
4 16.2 00:23:46 02:26:41
5 21.2 00:50:11 03:16:53
6 26.5 00:45:58 04:02:51
7 29.3 00:24:36 04:27:28
8 36.0 01:04:20 05:31:48
9 38.3 00:20:04 05:51:53
10 40.6 00:20:11 06:12:04
11 47.3 01:09:52 07:21:57
12 50.0 00:25:34 07:47:32

13 55.2 00:54:50 08:42:22
14 60.2 01:00:02 09:42:25
15 63.2 00:29:38 10:12:03
16 66.2 00:30:27 10:42:30
17 71.2 01:01:12 11:43:43
18 76.5 01:01:08 12:44:51
19 79.3 00:32:26 13:17:17
20 86.0 01:19:23 14:36:41
21 88.3 00:24:41 15:01:22
22 90.6 00:24:33 15:25:55
23 97.3 01:14:29 16:40:25
24 100.0 00:25:09 17:05:34

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Crewing a Runner for an Ultra

Having had a few days to digest my most recent experience, I wanted to share a few of my thoughts about crewing for a runner at an Ultra race.

These are thoughts come from the runner’s perspective rather than from the crew person’s perspective. Someday, I would like to be on the other side of the fence to see more of what that perspective is like.

For now, I will break down my own experiences in hopes that this will provide others with some ideas to use in their upcoming races.

First, and foremost, create a notebook for the person or persons crewing for you. Make sure to include things like: a map of the course, directions to the aid stations, and a breakdown of your needs at each aid station. Let me know the time frame for when they should expect you at an aid station. Tell them when you are going to be dropping off the extra cloths if the race has a cold morning start or when you are likely to want to add clothing as the day turns to night. Explain to them what foods that you are going to want and when you might want them. I know my taste changed over the course of the race.

Provide them with something that helps you easily identify them at an aid station. Honestly, when everyone is bundled up at an aid station, everyone looks pretty much the same. I gave my daughter some Christmas lights which helped me spot her in a crowd.

Let them know that you are there to race and not to have a long conversation. Their job is to get you in and out of the aid in the minimal time possible. I saw numerous runners who seemed to be just hanging out in the aid station. Over 20 or so aid stations, “hanging out” can burn through time where you are not moving toward your goal.

If possible, your crew should setup near the entry point to the aid station. Then, they can unload and reload you as you are moving through the aid station. This also give you a few minutes to update them if you need to call an audible during the race. Maybe you want something different to eat at the next aid station or perhaps, you need to add or remove clothes or change shoes. Again, they will be able to send you off having lost only a minimal amount of time.

A pro tip here, where the crew can park their car and where the aid station may be may not exactly be in the same spot so I suggest getting one of those fold up wagons. Several places, my daughter had to walk a fair distance to the aid station. Lugging my stuff back and forth would have made for a long day for her – aside from it already being a long day.  With the wagon, she could nearly take everything that I might ever think about needing to the aid station. Then, if I needed to call an instance audible, likely what I needed was already in the wagon.

A second pro tip, let them know what do if they fail to make an aid station before you. I covered this several times the night before and on race morning with my daughter. This is one of things that worried her the most. If we found ourselves in this situation, she was to move on to the next aid station and prepare the refueling based on my notes from the book. My daughter and I actually found ourselves in this situation. She did exactly as we discussed, and we connected at the next aid station. The aid stations are well stocked so it not like you cannot find fluids and food to carry you to next aid station.

A third pro tip, if the race offers live runner tracking, take advantage of it. I setup my daughter’s phone so she could follow me throughout the race. This helped her tremendously. After a certain point, she pretty much knew the window of time that I would be coming through the next aid station. This made her life a lot easier.  

Lastly, thank them over and over. While I had a long and tiring day of running, my daughter had an equally tough day. Driving from aid station to aid station is not easy. One never knows what might happen along the way. She lugged my stuff to the aid station from the car, refuel me, and then lugged it back to the car, and drove to the next aid station. Then, did it all over again. They are there to help you do your best. Make sure to let them know how much their help meant to you and to you having a successful race.

Kickin’ up the trail dust

The Cool Down Runner


Friday, November 15, 2019

Tunnel Hill 100 Race Recap – Part # 2

Picking up from part #1 here.

My daughter told me that she would see me in Karnak and sent me off for my second 50 mile loop. At this point in my race, I no longer think big picture. I break the course in to small chucks, and I focus on completing just those chucks. If I didn’t do this, likely I would have turnaround and walked back in to the Vienna aid station and called it day.

Coming out of the Vienna aid station, we cross a major road again. Earlier when I crossed this road, they had a guy managing the traffic for the runners. Now, I could see that he was doing something in the back of his car leaving the runners to fend for themselves while crossing the road. Another time, I probably would not have given it much thought, but at this time, I was tired and while I was moving, I was still no match for a speeding car. Fortunately, I guess for me, the drivers were on the lookout and let me cross. Still, I was none too happy that he wasn’t paying close attention. Tired, slow runners mixing with speeding traffic is a problem waiting to happen.

I look off in the distance, and I see the sun moving toward the horizon. Gauging by the angle of the sun, I figured that I had 2ish hours to get to Karnak before the sun totally set. Another runner pulled up beside me and asked if I wanted some company. We settled in to a nice pace which I guess we both felt was good for each of us. He tells me that his sciatica is flaring up and radiating down in to his hamstring. I also noticed how awkward this stride is becoming. He met his wife at the 5 mile aid station but catches back up to me on the far side. We go maybe two more miles, and he tells me that he needs to alter his strategy and take some walk breaks.

I wished him well and pushed on. The sun was getting close to setting, and I finally come in to view of the Karnak aid station. They have huge flood light so I see it a good distance away.

My daughter has my shoes, tights, and Camel Bak ready. I switched to a long sleeve pull over my shirt sleeve shirt, my tights, and Clayton. She offered my head lamp which I was now going to need but my hands were full of food. I then gestured toward my Camel Bak, and she instantly understood. She pushed the head lamp down into an extra compartment on my Camel Bak.

My daughter is a quick study. I had realized over the course of the day that she was meeting me early in the aid station zones, switching out my gear, loading me up with food, listening to what I needed, and sending me on way. I never had to stop moving.

I finished eating on my way out of the aid station toward the Wetlands turnaround. Entering the Wetlands section, the course opens in to what looks like a huge tall, brown, grassy area. Off in to the distance, the sun is setting to produce one of the prettiest orange glowing sunsets that I have ever seen along the horizon. Luck must have been on myside to experience it.

No one appeared to be manning the Wetlands aid station, I circled the cone and headed back to Karnak. I met this woman not too far behind me. I later learned that she was one of the lead woman in the race. She passed me on the way back to Karnak. Then, I passed the guy that been running with out of the Vienna aid station. I guess that he passed me back while I was changing clothes.

All the way back to Karnak, I ran without putting on my head lamp. The moon was pretty full, and the grayness of the trail in the moon light showed the way. My only issue was when meeting other runners wearing a head lamp. They were so bright, and when we met, their lights shined right in to my eyes temporarily blinding me.

I met my daughter again at Karnak, and she immediately started asking about my head lamp. I told nothing was wrong, I was just enjoying a moon light run.

Pushing out of Karnak was hard. My legs struggled to return to running after walking through the aid station. I felt that it took a mile before they felt good again.

I put on my head lamp, and I took stock of my condition. I was 66 miles in to my 100 miler which left 34 miles to go. That’s just a little more than 50k of running, and I have done a bunch of 50ks this year – 4 in fact. Of course, in none of them did I run 66 miles beforehand.

I crossed through the midway point. I was now at 71 miles. I had another five miles to go, and I would have basically run 3 back to back to back marathon. I passed through the tunnel on this section of the course, and I had only had a few more miles to the Vienna aid station.

This time when I came up the road crossing no one was monitoring the road crossing. However, I was so tired that I didn’t really care. I pushed across it and in to the aid station.

My daughter was in full pit crew support now. I never stopped moving which at this point was a very good thing. I crossed under the banner to mark 76 miles in 12 hours and 44 minutes.

My confidence was growing at this point. I was mentally running the numbers in head. If I ran these last 24 miles in 5 hours, 6 hours, 7 hours, or 8 hours short of a totally collapse over this final stretch of the race, I was going to finish. Still, I had a long climb to the Tunnel Hill aid station. This time, I would be climbing the dark. Running in the dark can be a both a blessing and curse. One hand, the darkness makes me focus on the area right in front. Plus, I cannot really see the hill that I am climbing. On the other hand, time and distance seem to take longer to cover.

I passed through the aid station at 79 miles. Mentally, I noted I was starting the major portion of the climb now. On the bright side, I only had 21 miles to run. Funny, how one’s thinking changes when the mind finally comprehends what 79 mile of running is like.

During the day, I had noted the numerous bridge crossings so this helped orientate me to my progress. 

Then, there was the night critters. Several deer suddenly sprang up and ran across the trail. A few other times, I had dogs in the distance. Both unsettled my stomach more than anything that I had eaten all day.

I crossed this one long bridge which I remember to be only a few miles from the Tunnel Hill aid station. Then, I crossed the road by these homes, and I knew that I was roughly with in a ½ mile of the tunnel.

Unlike during the day, there was no bright light at the far end of the tunnel this time. Only the light produced by head lamp. I only realized that I was passed the exit when I noticed the still dripping icicles hanging from the rocks.

Unlike the other aid stations, the Tunnel Hill aid station is bathed in darkness. I spotted my daughter by the Christmas light draped around our wagon. Yes, I tried to think of everything so we could find each other at each aid station.

As we walked through the aid station, I told her that I only wanted a ½ liter of Tailwind for the return trip back to Vienna and one gui. I wanted my pack to weigh as little as possible.

Leaving the aid station for the little 4 mile out and back, it was all that I could do to resume running. My legs were beyond tired.

I met several runners on the way out to the turnaround and lots of runners on the way back. However, I didn’t know where they were in relationship to the overall distance to me. Everyone was blended together. For all I knew they could be 50 milers mixed in to them. We all wore the same still of bibs.

Entering the Tunnel Hill aid station for the final time, I was now 90 miles away from goal. I knew that the majority of this race was downhill. Nothing was going to stop me now.

My daughter handed me a Camel Bak. Gauging by the weight, I would say that she had it just about right. She swapped out my head lamp and sent me off one final time. I looked back and told her that I would see her in a couple of hours in Vienna.

This time, when I pushed my legs to return to running, I promised myself that I would not stop until I cross the finish the finish line. If stopped again, there was a very good chance that I would never get started again.

Passing through the tunnel for the final time, I pushed forward in to the downhill section. By now, the full moon was directly overhead. The moonlight illuminated the trail so well that I actually turned off my head lamp. The quietness of the night was only interrupted by the occasional passing runner or the runner that I was catching. I did switch my head lamp on while crossing the bridges. Some of the bridges were smooth concrete while others had wood planks. The wood planks were not always the smoothest.

I crossed the longest bridge so I knew was about 93 miles. I had just 7 miles to run. With this section being downhill, I was a little worried that one of my hamstrings might balk at the extra strain. After all, I was running a bit faster than I probably should have been. There is an old saying about “smelling the barn”. I was clearly starting to smell the barn.

With about 4 miles left, I was coming up on this runner. When I got within about 10 yards of him, he started running again. I was still closing on him, and I moved over to the other lane to pass. When I did, he immediately cross lanes and got right on my heels. Oh, did this irritate me. If he wanted to follow me or even run beside me, I am fine with it. I have already run nearly 96 miles, and I was not having any of this. Rather than say anything, I did something even worse. I ask my tired legs to pick up the pace. To my surprise, they responded. Maybe it was the “smell of the barn” or maybe it was just the combination of the “fatigue and the frustration of having some on my heels” they moved faster. I kept wondering if this might come back to bite me. 

I flew through the aid station at 97 miles. I could still hear his footsteps. At 98 miles, I could barely hear his footsteps. By 99 miles, his head lamp had faded back.

However, I was now committed to this pace, and I wasn’t going to let up unless my hamstrings forced me to let up.

I rounded the last curve, and the lights of the Vienna aid station came in to view. Never have I been so happy to see a finish line.

I crossed the finish in 17 hours 5 minutes and 33 seconds. I had run the first 50 miles in 7 hours and 48 minutes. I had run the last 50 miles in 9 hours and 17 minutes. I didn’t even realize that I was 11 overall until after the race when my daughter told me. She told me that I had been hovering in the mid 20 overall all day but after the darkness settled over the race that I had been steadily moving up.

When I crossed the finish line, I stopped and put my hand on the trailer next it. Suddenly, the strong, fluid running legs that I had shown over those last miles were suddenly weak and shaky. The race director congratulates me, hands me my race finisher coat and my sub 20 hours belt buckle. I gave it the kiss that I had been thinking about for months. It was one of hardest earned awards that I have ever received. It is going to have a special place on my wall.

My daughter wrapped me in a blanket and handed me a water bottle. The cold water tasted awesome. We went over and set down for a few minutes. When I tried to stand again, my legs was still shaky. I felt really lightheaded. Eventually, we agreed that it was a good idea for her to get the car, drive around, and pick me up. When she pulled up, I literally pushed off what I was leaning against and toward the passenger side door. To someone watching, I must have appeared to be pouring myself in to the car.

The walk from car to the hotel room was pretty painful. Not to mention the fact that my legs hurt throughout the rest of the night and in to the next day. I finally took a couple of ibuprofen to soften the pain and let me at least rest.

To those that are curious about my running streak, yes, it continues. Because I did not run a full mile on Sunday during the race (the race started at 7 AM and I finished 5 minutes after mid night), some 8 hours later, I took my battered and broken body out for a mere two miles. They hurt but Ibuprofen does wonders. The rest of the day, however, I did not do much of anything else.

Running a 100 miles is incredibly hard, and when I signed up for this race, I was not even certain that I could complete it. I just hoped that I could but I had no way to know for sure. I simply had no yard stick to measure myself by. I read what others said and learned from their suggestions. Somehow, I merged what I learned from others with what I knew, and this was result.

I count myself super lucky here. I had a fantastic crew, great weather, good nutrition, and my body held up for the duration of the race. If the stars could have aligned, they did on this day for me.

Major kudos to my daughter for her help. Having her support made a huge difference, and I repeatedly told her so.

Thinking back now, my best decision during the race was changing shoes and wearing my tights over the last 40 miles. They kept the chill of the air away from my legs which really helped. Otherwise, I think my legs would have really tightened up, and I would have really slowed down.

Resting my legs is the only thing on my agenda for a while.   

Kickin’ up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Tunnel Hill 100 Miler Race Recap – Part #1

For months, I agonized over running this race. One hundred miles was fifty miles further than I have ever run, and the thought of the suffering that this might entail gave me much to ponder. Would I totally shut down? Would I be a like an engine down a cylinder walking more than running to the finish? Would I be strong enough to run the distance? The thoughts weighed so much on my mind that I developed a few ulcers.

On Thursday, I drove up to Lexington, KY. My daughter was crewing me for race, and we were driving over to Vienna, IL on Friday. It is roughly about 4ish hours from Lexington to Vienna.

We arrived a couple of hours early in Vienna, so we recon the course. My daughter would be driving between aid stations solo so I wanted to her to have some idea of what to expect. She dropped “pins” on our iPhone at each location to help her with the race day navigation. Note to other, this is a huge help for those crewing. Tunnel Hill is a two loop course so she would be driving it once in the day light and once at night. The race provides good directions, and the course is pretty easy to navigate for a driver. Still, having GPS makes like even simpler. 

We finish our little recon trip just in time to arrive at the local school for packet pickup. I do not know why, but the 100 mile line was much longer than the 50 mile line. They gave away some nice swag: race hat, race belt, a nice race shirt, a branded race towel, and two branded race bags. Before leaving we looked through the race branded gear and bought a few other pieces of clothing.

Then, we were off to the hotel and a pasta dinner. I crawled in to bed around 9 PM CST. Surprisingly, I slept better than I expected.

Race morning, I rose at 4 AM. I packed my nutrition and made up the two Camel Baks. I then reviewed all of the logistic with daughter. From how to mix up the Tailwind so I liked it to what shold be packed at each aid station.

Then, I picked out what I was going to wear. Race morning, the temperature was around 23 degrees. The temperature would then rise in to the mid to upper 40s by midday. I needed to think about what would keep me warm during the early miles, but also would be easy to strip off later in the day.    

We arrived around 5:45 at the start finish just ahead of the rush of runners. I delayed heading to the start until 6:45. I wanted to stay as warm as possible as long as possible. Easing the cold conditions, there was no wind.

My race plan was to go out slow and then slow down. I did not want my first 100 mile experience to be a struggle. I wanted to enjoy the experience.

They played our National Anthem, and we got a few race instructions. I placed myself well back in the pack. I took my “newbie” status seriously, and I did not to screw up someone else race. I certainly did not want to be pulled out too fast.  

I never heard the gun sound. I just saw the group of runners in front of me begin to move.

We rounded the parking lot, and we headed south west (I guess) on the Tunnel Hill State Trail. The runners streamed out in front of me. I chatted with a few of the runners around me. The first 5 miles seem to fly by as we passed the first aid station. At Karnak which is at 10 miles, I saw my daughter for the first time.

She was there (iPhone pin mapping worked), and she was waving at me. I exchanged Camel Baks and headed out 3 miles to the wetlands turn around.

I started counting the runners on their return, and there were 68 runners in front of me. At this point, I did not know if this was a good thing or a bad thing. I felt like I was running well within myself. Still, this was 100 miles. I had no idea what within myself really meant at this distance.

At 16 miles, my daughter had my Camel Bak ready, and I grabbed a bagel for some extra calories. I also dropped my running tights, gloves, and heavy shirt in favor of a short sleeve running shirt.

Loaded up with fuel and having dropped my extra clothes, I was now headed back to Vienna where I would cross the marathon point.

The 6 miles to the wetlands turnaround is pretty much flat. However, the 10 miles between Karnak and Vienna has some long gradual climbs and descent. Exactly the type of thing, I expected for a rails to trails course.

I passed the 5 mile aid station. I was down 21 miles with 79 miles to go. I kept reminding myself to run slow. Keep the pace easy.

Coming in to Vienna, we crossed the only major road. We do cross several roads over the 50 mile course, but only this one had any amount of traffic. Fortunately, there was a gentlemen controlling the traffic, and making sure we crossed safely.  

Here is the only snafu that my daughter and I had. She had setup just off the course, and I didn’t see her, and she didn’t see me. At the time, I hoped nothing was wrong. We had talked about if this happened, and she would just move on to the next aid station. She knew when I passed through because the race was running live race tracking so she could monitor my progress along the course.

Since I missed her at the Vienna, and I also missed seeing my marathon time looking for her, I was running in the unknown at this point. At the 29 mile aid station, I snagged a chocolate chip cookie from their food spread. I thought that I was good on the Tailwind since the temperature was barely in the mid 40s until my daughter and I met up again at the Tunnel Hill aid station.

I passed the 31 miles point where they had a full stock of water for runners that needed it.

When I looked at the race map, I realized that there was about 400 ft of climb over 10 miles to Tunnel Hill. The first couple of miles are relatively flat. However, then it starts a steady climb all the way to the Tunnel. While I was climbing it, I thought it would never end. Plus as I rose in elevation, the wind picked up and temperature seemed to drop.

I was super happy to finally see the Tunnel. The Tunnel itself is pretty long, and I found it a bit disorientating to look at the end of the tunnel and see just the light of the sun. I was better off staring at what I could see of the ground around me. It was dark inside the tunnel.

On the far side of the tunnel, I noticed the icicles hanging from the rocks. Then, I was in to the Tunnel Hill aid station. I was happy to see my daughter with a full load of fuel for me. She walked with me for a bit while I ate something.

Then, I was off to do the 2 miles out and 2 miles back on the far side of Tunnel Hill. This section is basically 2 miles of a slight down grade followed by a 2 mile climb back to the Tunnel Hill aid station.

I grabbed my Camel Bak, and I updated my daughter on what I wanted in my pack at the Vienna Aid station. My daughter offered me my head lamp but I waved it off. The sun was still overhead so I would not need it for several more hours.

Going back to Vienna was a combination of letting it roll downhill and not pounding my legs in to the point that they would not carry me.

I passed through the 2nd of two tunnels on this section of the course, and I went through the aid station at 47 miles

I still felt like I was running with something in reserve but I was also starting to feel the miles. I wore my Hoka Carbon X, and I was realizing that I needed to switch shoes. I was already making plans for what I wanted at Karnak aid station so I could update my daughter at the Vienna Aid Station. At Karnak, I would switch over to my Hoka Clayton, and I would put my tights back on it. The Clayton’s have a wider toe box, and my feet were starting to feel pretty snug in my Carbons. I went back to my running tight because the temperature was starting to drop. Not enough to warrant wearing tights but somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew putting on the tights would keep my legs warm as they continue to fatigue.

I came in Vienna, and I crossed under the 50 mile banner in 7 hours and 48 minutes. This was 4 hours and 12 minutes ahead of where I thought that I would be. It was also nearly 2 hours ahead of my two WWC 50 milers. I tried to push aside the anxiety that I gone out too fast after all. I also focused on the fact that if I totally melted down and had to walk most of the last 50 miles; I had over 22 hours to do it.

More to follow in Part 2.

The Cool Down Runner

Friday, November 8, 2019

Nearly that time

I finished up my last run this morning. Now, I have nothing to do but rest and think about doing my longest trek ever. If I said that I was just a little nervous about it, this would not be the full truth. I am a lot nervous.

I just hope all the training, the long miles, the sweat, the blood, the sore muscles give me the strength that I will need.

7 AM CST, I will be off on an running.

Wish me luck,

Kickin'  up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Nagging feeling

This morning I packed up my car and set off on my trip to Vienna, IL. For the better part of the trip, I had this nagging feeling that I had forgotten something. When I reached the hotel, I walked around back and popped open the trunk.

As if I had been struck by lightning, I realized what had been nagging at me all day. My Camel Bak was missing.

I have no idea how I forgot it. I am running a 100 miler. A Camel Bak is a crucial piece of equipment for a 100 miler, and I simple walked out the door and left it. I do not know what I was thinking.  

At least I arrived a day early so I can do some hunting tomorrow. Hopefully, I will find another one. If not, I can always go with some hand held bottles. Those are pretty easy to track down.

Kickin’ up trail dust while looking for a CamelBak,

The Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

33 years of running

This past October, I marked another milestone in my running career. I completed my 33rd straight year of running without missing day.

Most of the year, I do not think much about my running streak. My thoughts are in the present. What is my next training run, or what is my next race, but each October, somewhere in the back of my mind, the reminder that I have completed yet another year without missing day slowly rises to the surface.

These days, my running streak is often the first question that most people ask me. Am I still running every day? This is often followed by how do I do it?

Honestly, I do not have any special secret to running every day. I simply accept the fact that I need to run every day so I plan my schedule to get it done. Some days, it means waking up early while the rest of the world slumbers ways. I push out the door before most people get their first cup of coffee. By the time that they throw back the covers, I have finished 10 miles, had a shower, and am ready to charge in to my day. If there is any secret here, it is that one needs to be committed and be willing to do whatever it takes to get things done. Then it becomes not “if” I will run, but “when” will I run. Anyone can do this. They just need to be committed and willing. Like I said, there is special secret here.

Kickin’ up trail dust

The Cool Down Runner

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Hoka Evo Carbon Rocket

What will be my shoe of choice for my 100 miler on Saturday? Well, my shoe will be the Hoka Evo Carbon Rocket. I bought my first pair back in the summer for a couple of races. Since my Hoka Tracers were on their way out the door for racing, I needed a replacement. In comes the Carbon Rockets. They broke in rather easily.

I bought my 2nd pair this fall and wore them during my New River 50k. I wore them again during the WWC 50 miler. Between the 50k and 50 miler, I replaced the laces with Yanks. I like the stretchy strings, and as a plus, I don’t have to worry about tying them. The one drawback to using Yanks, I did not get my heel settled securely so my ankles rolled a bit more during the 50 miler than I would have otherwise liked.

I will not have that issue at Tunnel Hill with the entire course being on a rails to trails greenway. Once I get them on, I will not take them off until I have crossed the finish line.

One other thought that crossed my mind earlier today, I will have worn these shoes for only 3 races and will have over 180 miles on them. I do not know about anyone else but this is definitely a record for me.

Wish my luck on my latest adventure. I am going to need all the luck that I can get this weekend.

Kickin’ up trail dust

The Cool Down Runner

Monday, November 4, 2019

Using races as training

Throughout my years of running, I never found using races as training workouts to be an ideal way to improve. Races put extra stress on the body that overloads the body’s recovery systems. Doing this too often tends to leave me at a plateaued level, and I have struggled to improve until I broke out of this mode of training.  On the other hand, controlled workouts at a certain percentage of my physical conditioning have usually led me down the right path to running faster. Mixing shorter interval with longer interval along with some tempo runs and some fartlek workouts make for a better way to improve while giving my body adequate time to recovery.

Like I said, this training technique has worked well for me until I started running ultra-marathons. Ultra-marathons are an entirely different beast in my mind. Preparing for ultra means long hours running on sometimes isolated backwoods trails. I am not talking about a couple of hours but what I mean by hours is 5, 6, 8, 10, 12 hours longer. Running for these extended periods of time leaves me tired, very tried, and this increases my risk of simply falling from not getting my foot of the next rock or root. Once hurt, I would have to drag my body out to get help. Honestly, I don’t really want to put myself in to this type of situation.

Which explains why I shifted my training this fall to running more ultra-races. I could still get in my long runs but at least now, I was not entirely alone on the trail. Plus, I had support along the way.  In all honesty, it is a cheap way to get paid help for my long runs and often plenty of company as well.

Let’s be honest here. Finding a buddy to run 10 miles with me is very doable. Finding a buddy that wants to run 40 miles with me is a lot harder. And, I don’t like asking someone to run with me for the first 10 or last 10 miles since they will want to run much faster than I can go for the first 10 or faster than I can go for the last 10. But during a race, there is a better than fair chance that I will find someone running close to my pace. We all know that a little chit-chat makes the miles go by much faster.

So keep this mind with your upcoming training cycles. For most ultra-training plans, they have at least one and perhaps two long runs over the course of four weeks. Mixing in a couple of 50k race is pretty easy to check these boxes while meeting some new people and seeing some different training trough.

Kickin’ up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Fore Runner 35

A couple of weeks ago, my Garmin 310 XT band broke for a second time. This time, the housing which holds the pin for the band broke. I was so disappointed. My 310 XT and I have covered lots of miles together, and I greatly depended on it.

However, this Garmin is going on nearly 4 years old so getting it repaired is likely going to cost more than it is worth. Therefore, I went in search of a new Garmin.

The Garmin ForeRunner 35 is where I landed.

It has it pluses and minus. The battery life is about 13 hours which is about 3 hours less than what my 310 XT had. The interface face is not super intuitive so I roamed around until I figured out most of it. It has a built in heart rate monitor but so far, it doesn't seem to be accurate at all. Setting on couch, my heart rate runs at about 145, and if I am running, it is ranges between 170 and 190. I questioned the accuracy because I have another watch which also monitors my heart rate, and it shows my heart to be a more realistic number. Maybe there is some setting that I need to track down but definitely something is out of kilter with the way it works today.

The one feature that I do like over the 310 XT is recharging while on the run. With my 310, when I am charging it, it takes over the entire interface. It stays this way until I remove the charging clip. It still records time, distance, and laps, but it just runs in the background in silent mode. The ForeRunner 35 charges but continues to show the time, distance, and alerts which is a really nice feature.

From what I can tell so far, the 310 continues to be superior in GPS accuracy. Running the same course, the ForeRunner comes up about 1/2 mile shorter in distance.

But it will do for my needs. 

Kickin' up the trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, November 2, 2019

The "Offer Me" List

Next weekend, I will running the Tunnel Hill 100 miler. As with most runners at the 50 or 100 mile distance,they often has someone crewing them doing the race. My daughter has agreed to fill this role from my first 100.

I am extremely grateful that she signed on to do this. This gives me something to not only look forward to at each aid station, but someone watching and pushing me along that I don't want to disappoint. 

On the bonus side, I don't have to worry about any logistics, and I can focus totally on running.

To help her, I created a notebook with all the information that I think and more likely hope that she will need. I included everything from directions to aid station to what foods and drinks that I want at each aid station.

I also created what I am calling the "Offer Me" list. First, she is not a runner so she doesn't necessarily have a runner's mind and might not think of what a runner might need. On the other side, I am going to be pretty tired, and I probably not going to be thinking of everything that I am going to need.

This way, I have planned ahead for what I might potentially need. All she has to do is run down the list and off me those things at each aid station. I am sure that there will some give and take here. After the first couple of aid stations, she get a pretty good sense of what I will be needing. From then, we should be good.

I don't know if other runners do this for their crews. Likely some do. But having a list to guide the crew to what the runner needs can only help all involved.

Something to keep in mind.

Kickin' up trail dust.

The Cool Down Runner

Friday, November 1, 2019

Yearly Health Screening

A while back I had my yearly health screening. I like writing about this because we age a little bit every day, and running puts a lot of miles on our bodies. Making this yearly visit to see my doctor allows me to confidently go out the door without to much worry. None of us like the thought that we might keel over while running.

As usual, having an active life does wonders for my health numbers. All of them were within the expected tolerances for someone my age. I was especially happy with my cholesterol number. While well under 200, it had been pushing up over the last couple of years. This year, it was down nearly 10 points. Makes me wonder if running more ultras has anything to do with it.

I will probably never know but anything that keeps the heart beating is a good thing. Right?

Kickin' up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner