All Dieters, Please Skip This Post

I HAVE BEEN AN ACCESSORY TO AN ABOMINABLE CRIME.

Or, perhaps more appropriately, an abdominal crime.

It began with a call from my daughter in Richmond, asking for advice with a bread pudding recipe. She’s an excellent and innovative cook and I know my way around bread pudding, so I was happy to help. Well, this one is made with Krispy Kreme donuts. I’d never heard of this variant before, but there are several recipes online. Here’s the one my daughter found.

DD bread pudding

The problem? 18 of those god-awful donuts, plus heavy cream (one quart), milk, condensed milk, and a dozen eggs. And whipped cream topping. Just reading it makes me feel like I’ve gained a pound. It’s a recipe with absolutely no redeeming qualities. There is espresso in the topping, though. I suppose you could use decaf.

A more responsible father would have given her advice designed to thoroughly screw DD bread pudding 3up the result, causing her to trash it and never attempt it again. Unfortunately she has me, who can’t help trying to solve a problem. So I advised her to cut back on the heavy cream and to pre-bake the donuts to get them dry like stale bread. The result was by her account a smashing success. So good, that her friend and baking companion expressed her satisfaction on Facebook in obscene terms.

I felt so guilty that I made myself run 12 miles on Saturday morning without any breakfast. (Well, not on purpose. I just didn’t feel like eating before the run.)

In related news, there’s quite a debate out there on whether running on an empty stomach has any benefits – other than the normal benefits of running, that is. I’ve done long training runs both ways and not usually felt any difference. For races, on the other hand, I always make myself eat something beforehand. For short races, I want the energy to be there for running hard; for trail ultras, I need to stay ahead of the energy curve. It took some time to get used to eating on the run, but it’s essential for the 50K and beyond.

By way of penance, here’s a recipe for a low-fat banana bread pudding. I used lowfat milk instead of the fat-free half and half, and added chopped dates as well. It was a hit. (And caramel sauce with a nip of brandy didn’t hurt, either.)

Bread Pudding - small

Fast Sharks and Loose Shoes: Run Scream Run Recap

Y’all can call me Shoelace.

Run Scream Run - Me with GladiatorLast Saturday was Run Scream Run at Wiard’s Orchards in Ypsilanti. RSR is one of those fall races that attract a lot of casual runners and even non-runners, like turkey trots and chocolate runs do. Despite the chill (about 36 degrees before race start) the turnout was large and even the ghouls and witches were in good spirits.

Here are some things about RSR that make it memorable, at least to those who participate.

It’s at a cider mill. Hard to pick a better place for a fall fun race, and you can bring the family, too. Now, Wiard’s is not what you’d call your typical small-town, homey cider mill. No mistake, they are a big time operation. Which is fine – they have a lot of products to offer, and they easily accommodated the 1,700 runners and the other visitors. I have to say, though, that the cider in their refrigerators was pasteurized and had a preservative in it. I can get that kind of cider at Meijer, so I passed on it. The cinnamon donut was excellent, however.

Costumes. While many runners don’t bother to dress up, there are many who do, and some folks really go all out.

Run Scream Run - costumes

Run Scream Run - costumes 3

The guy in the shark pajamas (to the right of Captain America) won the 10K. Dem land sharks move fast!

The guy in the shark pajamas (to the right of Captain America) won the 10K. Land sharks can run 5:30 miles. You have been warned!

Hmmm...some things may actually be too scary for this blog.

Hmmm…some things may actually be too scary for this blog.

The course. Wiard’s has a whole set of haunted attractions, and some of it gets incorporated into the race. The first was a run through the “Fear Barn” – new this year, and a few people were nervous about it. As it turned out, it was very early in the race, and as I was actually running, I was in and out before anything really happened. Biggghh deal!

RSR-Monster 2More interesting is the Haunted Forest, which is a quarter mile or so of dirt path in the woods flanked by decrepit (by design) wooden buildings and inhabited by various nefarious creatures with chain saws and the like. They typically don’t bother the faster runners, but if you’re jogging or walking – watch out!

And they post people in gruesome costumes at various points on the path – part paved, part grass, with many hiding places available. And just as I re-entered the main orchard, a zombie leaped up from the brush and yelled – and I jumped. He got me, all right! But with just a quarter mile to go, the shot of adrenaline was actually welcome.

Oh, and the “shoelace” part? As I got into the starting queue, I noticed that my left shoe seemed loose, and I carefully retied it. So, naturally, it was my right shoe that came untied at the 2-mile mark. At a longer race, I would have stopped and fixed it, but this was a 10K and I was running well and didn’t want to get out of my groove. So I ran the remaining 4.2 miles with shoelaces flapping. Fortunately, the shoe stayed on, and I finished 14th with another age group win.

Me with another famous "Shoelace", Denard Robinson. Except that he's bigger, probably better looking, has lots more hair and runs about seven times faster than I do, the resemblance is remarkable, don't you think?.

Me with UM’s famous “Shoelace”, Denard Robinson. Except that he’s better looking, has lots more hair and runs about seven times faster than I do, the resemblance is uncanny, don’t you think?.

Kind of hard to believe, but I have no more “official” races until the Holiday Hustle on December 13. Just pacing the Kona races and fun stuff until then. The five races in six weeks sure went fast. I’ll let you know if I go stir crazy and sign up for something else!

Also memorable. Seen here: 2014 medal, 2012 age group award, 2014 award.

Also memorable. Seen here: 2014 medal, 2012 age group award (yep, it’s what you think it is), 2014 award.

Grumpy at the Scrumpy, But It Comes Out All Right

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: If you’re going to a place with a lot of people and things to drink, get there early.

Last Sunday was the Scrumpy Skedaddle, the final event in Running Fit’s “Thirsty 3″ series. Like the Hightail to Ale (at the Atwater Brewery in Detroit), and Running Between the Vines (at the Sandhill Crane Vineyards), it was themed on a drink – in this case, cider – and was held at the Almar Orchards near Flint. The entry included a post-race mug of cider (hard or soft) and pancake breakfast.

These guys flip pancakes right from the griddle onto your plate. Never saw them miss!

These guys flipped pancakes right from the griddle onto the plates. Never saw them miss!

The place was packed with 2,200 runners, their families, and other visitors out to enjoy the pancakes, fresh cider and donuts. It was a beautiful, cool fall morning, and the race course wound through part of the orchard. In all, a perfect day and setting for running and enjoying the after-party.

Not all was sunshine and apple blossoms, however. This being the first year of the series, a few hiccups were inevitable. With Hightail, it was an hour-long wait to get the free beer. At Vines, parking was a challenge. At Scrumpy it was long lines for something more personal.

This is from Hightail to Ale, but you get the idea.

This is from Hightail to Ale, but you get the idea.

With just about every race I run, certain bodily functions go into overdrive before the start. It doesn’t matter what I eat or drink, or whatever else I do prior to leaving the house; when I get to a race location, I need to use the facilities. Sometimes there are proper restrooms, but more often it means using the porta-potties, and close to race time the lines can be long. And this time they were very long. As in football field long.

My need was rather urgent, so there was no other option. Running a 5K with my legs squeezed tight would have been somewhat awkward. As I eased into line, someone on the race staff I know walked by.

“Hi, Jeff,” she said. “How’s it going?”

“Fine,” I said, “except that these lines are too damn long.”

Scrumpy - StartShe showed me a line that was actually moving pretty fast, and I managed to hold it together until a unit freed up. All was well after that, and I got to the starting line just before the gun. Despite almost no warmup, I managed a sixth-place finish and an age group win by several minutes. I got my finishers mug and filled it with Almar’s amazing hard cider. Life was good!

Until I wandered over to the staff tent to ask where the awards were. “I can walk you over there,” someone said, “but are you going to bitch at me?”

Oh, crap.

Back in that line, I hadn’t meant to be mean – I was just venting my frustration in the midst of a crise biologique. But it must have sounded different to the poor race staff. My temporary annoyance had probably been echoed by many other people, and the staff had likely taken a lot of sh** over it. I apologized; it had never been my intent to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Other than that little incident, the event was terrific. The house cider, J. K. Scrumpy’s Farmhouse, is made with organic apples, and has a light, sweet taste with just enough tang in it. I don’t drink much alcohol, and hard cider is usually too dry for me. But I really like this stuff. And it’s even better on tap. Can’t wait for next year!

Check out the swag! Clockwise from bottle: age group winner glass, finisher's mason jar mug, medal / bottle opener, metal hanger for the Thirsty 3 medals, shirt. (Okay, I bought the bottle.)

Check out the swag! Clockwise from bottle: age group winner glass, finisher’s mason jar mug, medal / bottle opener, metal hanger for the Thirsty 3 medals, shirt. (Okay, I bought the bottle.)

And Running Fit Events has already said they’ll run the Thirsty Three in 2015. I’ll be there, and anyone who’s into these kind of events should check them out. These guys do a first-class job, and the glitches will be fixed. (For my part, I’ll be sure to get there earlier.)

As for the race staff – I made up a little gift for them by way of apology. If you’d like to see it, they posted it on the Scrumpy Skedaddle Facebook page. Or you can see it here. Here’s a hint – if people give you sh**, grow roses, I always say. Actually, I just made that up.

=======================================

“Scrumpy,” by the way, is a type of cider originally made in England, but is now the general term for cider made in small quantities using traditional methods.

Fall Running, Timely Rain, and a Few Other Things I’m Thankful For

Thank goodness it’s raining in Empire, and that I volunteered.

More on what "Scrumpy" is after the race.

More on what “Scrumpy” is after the race.

I’m signed up to run the Scrumpy Skedaddle 5K this weekend, and I’d gotten it into my head that it was Saturday morning, likely because most of my races have been on Saturdays. Then I showed up to help with Friday registration and found out the race is Sunday, when I was going to be up north closing down our campsite. But with the rain in Empire, we put that off a week. So instead of a thoroughly messed-up weekend, I can do a final tuneup run on Saturday with the best running club in existence and then have a blast at the race on Sunday.

So that’s one of the things I’m thankful for this weekend. Here are a few more.

Run Vasa - finishThanks to Mother Nature for providing a perfect morning for running the Vasa Pathway 25K in Traverse City last week. It was a small race – about 200 overall, and only 48 doing the full 25K – and light on frills; cotton T-shirt, no finisher medals, and a single aid station. All fine with me. It was a low-key race on a cool, clear morning, on a wide groomed trail cutting through woods just starting to turn color. Really, really, enjoyed it.

Thanks to my body for taking on the crazy challenge I dreamed up this year to do every event on the Running Fit calendar, including a snowshoe race, three triathlons (for which I had to relearn how to swim), and six ultramarathons, when I’d run a total of two before this year. I did them all without serious injury and with just three short events left, I’m feeling stronger than ever. Amazing.

Me with all my Dances with Dirt medals after finishing DWD Hell. (Why does my neck hurt?)

Me with all my Dances with Dirt medals after finishing DWD Hell. (Why does my neck hurt?)

With most of my running group training for fall marathons, it feels odd (but good) that mine are already done, and I can just enjoy myself. Not for too long, though. Coach has promised to get me going on speedwork for those shorter races!

And thanks to the Lord for creating apples and cider, pumpkins, fall colors, and all the wonderful things about autumn that keeps me living in Michigan. And football, of course.

So many more things in my life to be thankful for, but I just had to get those out. Do you share my passionate love for all things fall? What else are you thankful for, running-wise or otherwise? I’d love to hear from you.

Oh, and last but not least, I’d like to thank the Kansas City Royals for that terrific come-from-behind win Tuesday night. Not that I want them to win the World Series (go Tigers!) but I was designing my new blog business card during the game, and the extra innings gave me the momentum to finish. I sent in the order just as they scored the winning run. Here’s what they look like. Hope to be handing them out soon!

RBT business card - front side

Front side.

RBT business card - back side

Back side.

Down and Dirty: Dances with Dirt Hell 50K Recap

NIGHT AND DAY. That’s the best way to describe the difference between my experience at Run Woodstock earlier this month and the Dances with Dirt – Hell 50K last Saturday.

He's not really a bad guy once you get to know him.

He’s really not a bad guy once you get to know him.

Cool and dry where Woodstock was hot and wet, it was a perfect day for a long trail run. With no danger of bonking, I ran strong from start to finish and felt great the whole time. But every one of the four Dances with Dirt races this year had its particular challenges, and the Hell race was no exception.

As this was the 20th anniversary of the run, they promised to “pull out all the stops” – and they delivered. Here’s a sample of what the 50K and 50 mile runners went through.

I avoided this by walking over some logs. But just as I was congratulating my cleverness - well, see below.

I avoided this by walking over some logs. But just as I was congratulating my cleverness – well, see below.

There wasn’t much mud, but what was there was spectacular. The reason you can’t see my legs in the photo below is that they’re completely submerged. Fortunately, the runner in the photo above helped pull me out.

DWD Hell - Deep in the Mud

There were only a couple of water crossings – but one was a downriver wade of a quarter mile.

DWD Hell - Wading Downriver 2

And there were some hills:

DWD Hell - Blurry Hill ClimbAs you can see from the runner’s shoe, we are climbing an almost vertical slope. I wish this photo had come out more clearly – but then again, it’s got kind of a neat impressionist look, don’t you think?

And there was some bushwhacking into parts unknown. The blue paint is the “trail” marking.

DWD Hell - Bushwhacking

But it all paid off with a finish in the top 20 overall. And I got a special belt buckle for completing all four DWD events this year!

DWD Belt Buckle Group

My strong finish was helped by some gear adjustments based on what I’d learned from my failed 100K attempt.

To tackle the chafing problem, I wore my triathlon shorts. I’d never run more than a 5K in them, so I was violating the rule of “don’t try new stuff in a race” – but since triathlon gear is designed for marathons (the Ironman running distance), I figured I was safe. And it worked! No chafing, and they dried out quickly after that long river wade.

I wore the same shoes as for Woodstock, but wore thinner socks and applied a bit more tape around the toes. I also rubbed Gold Bond Friction Defense over my feet. The result: no blistering, even though my trip through the mud meant running 10 more miles in soaked shoes.

With the usual well-stocked aid stations there was no shortage of food and water. All the same I sucked down a couple more Gu than usual, which I think helped keep my energy level up. Something to consider for future ultras.

Wow, Coke really is available everywhere.

Wow, Coke really is available everywhere.

Next up: 25K this Saturday on the Vasa trail in Traverse City.

Running On: Lessons from My Ultra DNF

Runners are funny people. They encourage the efforts of others, and when someone crashes and burns, they always know the right thing to say. Except when it comes to their own performance – then that stuff goes right out the window.

So it came as no surprise to me that everyone – 100% – of people who knew about my DNF at Run Woodstock supported my decision to stop. Some were even grateful. And everyone had something encouraging to say. So how did that make me feel? I think the meme below expresses how runners I know feel about such things.

Meme-FailingNotFailure

That out of the way, I feel better now. And besides, there’s another ultra this Saturday – the Dances with Dirt 50K in Hell, which, being its 20th anniversary, promises to be a lulu (check out the course description here). So instead of moping, I’ve been looking at what went wrong and what I can learn from it. And I’ll want to try the 100K again someday, too.

After some self-analysis, discussions with Coach Marie and a bit of WAGging (*) I’ve identified three main areas for improvement. If any ultrarunners are reading this, you’re welcome to chime in with your own stories and lessons learned. And if any readers are considering an ultra, I hope what’s written here won’t scare you away. An ultra is a blast. Really. I mean it.

So here we are:

The Physical – Aye, There’s the Rub

The biggest contributor to my early exit was the heat exhaustion. I’ve since read that even minor dehydration can play havoc with the body’s ability to regulate temperature. I was drinking a lot of fluids, but also sweating so much in that wet heat that it may not have been enough.

I bought two things for my next effort. First, a forehead thermometer. I can carry it in my pocket or running backpack so if I feel that way again, I can check to see if my core temperature is safe or too high. The other is some chemical cold packs to bring down my temperature if ice is not available, or I’m between aid stations.

Thermometer and Cold Packs

Chafing is another regular problem I have during ultras. Despite applying Body Glide and Vaseline, by my third loop my thighs were raw where my soaked, sweaty shorts rubbed on them. There were also a couple of “hot spots” in my underwear, and I don’t mean the good kind.

Gold Bond Friction DefenseMy coach told me about Gold Bond Friction Defense, a Body Glide-like product that also contains aloe for soothing the skin. I’m going to try it on Saturday.

Finally, there was blistering. From my other ultras I know where the trouble spots on my feet are, and I made sure to tape them carefully. That worked, but blisters are apparently more clever than I thought, and I got a couple where I didn’t tape. On the other hand, rubbing Body Glide all over my feet each loop helped keep them dry and comfortable. With mud and river crossings on the Saturday course, I will be continuing that practice.

Mental Lessons – Lord, Give me Patience – NOW

It’s fairly indisputable that any run of 30-plus miles qualifies as a long run. A 100K (62 miles) might even qualify as a very long run. Not surprisingly, long runs take a long time to complete. Any successful ultraunner, therefore, possesses at least a modicum of patience and mental discipline. But the longer the run, the more is needed, and at some point, most people hit a limit. I think I hit mine.

My plan for mentally managing the 100K was to break it up into manageable segments, like with last year’s 50-miler. Each loop had four, marked by the aid stations, all about four miles apart. But while similar in distance, they were very different in feel. The first leg and third segments were okay, but for some reason the second and fourth legs seemed to stretch on and on.

View from my headlamp during Run Woodstock 2012.

View from my headlamp during Run Woodstock 2012. The bright spot is the next trail marking flag. Or a ghost. I forget which.

On a trail in the dark, distances stretch and the inner clock I’ve relied on to estimate my pace and distance simply doesn’t work. Even known landmarks and milestones seem to take longer to reach. I began to get frustrated and began to tell myself how much worse it would be the next time around. That part of me was quite relieved when I quit.

The key to solving this, I think, is some formal mental training. My coach suggested restoration-style yoga, which includes a focus on meditation. I’m looking into this and will keep you posted.

Attitude – A Different Animal

Perhaps my biggest miscalculation was treating a 100K race like an extended 50K, instead of the very different type of race it is. Setting aside the maxim that for a long ultra, “if you think you’re starting too slowly, go slower still,” I ran at what seemed to be a comfortable pace – my 50K pace. No doubt that plus the heat caught up with me.

Pace too fast 2

Yum, yum!

Yum, yum!

I had the same “50K” attitude toward nutrition – being sure to drink and have salt at the aid stations, but otherwise winging it. For a 100K, I think I’ll have to approach it more systematically, to know more exactly what I need at what time. There are some general guidelines to apply on replenishing electrolytes and how many calories I should replace, what percentage should be simple sugars vs. complex carbs, how much protein, and how much water is needed to process it all. More to come there, too.

So for Saturday’s race, I can apply some lessons already. And I won’t have to worry about heat issues – it’s a morning race and will be much cooler. Should be a good time!

=================

(*) WAG = Wild-Ass Guess. Not to be confused with SWAG – Scientific Wild-Ass Guess – for which, as I understand, you need a Ph.D.

The Not-Quite-100K: Run Woodstock Recap

I ran an ultramarathon at Run Woodstock last week. It just wasn’t the one I signed up for.

Run Woodstock - start area

Yes, yours truly experienced his first DNF (Did Not Finish) in a race. After looking forward all summer to my first 100K trail race, I succumbed to the elements and called it off at 56K.

No wonder it's called the "Hallucination 100K" - we haven't even started and I'm already hallucinating.

No wonder it’s called the “Hallucination 100K” – we haven’t even started and I’m already hallucinating.

I’m a bit bummed out, naturally, but more surprised than anything. I’d signed up for 12 miles farther than I’ve ever done at one time, but I felt ready. Given my successes with multiple 50Ks this year (all strong finishes) and first triathlons (finished upright) I anticipated no trouble. It was just a case of banging out the miles, slow and steady. But it was not to be.

So what happened? I’d written in a previous post that I knew there would be limits on what I’d be able to accomplish, but that I hadn’t found them yet. Found one! And it wasn’t a bit fun, although I sure learned a lot from it. Here’s a recap.

The Start – Friday, 4:00 p.m.

Race day started out better than expected. Instead of the predicted rain at race start, it was sunny and 92 degrees. “Congratulations,” we heard as we stood in the starting queue. “Today is officially the hottest day of 2014 so far.” Standing around in shorts and tech shirt, it wasn’t so bad. Once we started running, however, the effects were felt quickly.

I don't think Randy's had that much hair since 1969.

I don’t think Randy’s had that much hair since 1969.

I knew what to do – don’t start too fast, take salt at the aid stations, and above all, stay hydrated. And I did, drinking more than I’ve ever done in an ultra. And yet I sweated so much it’s possible it wasn’t enough. I was grateful for the extra gear I’d packed. Even if it didn’t rain, ditching sweat-soaked clothes for dry ones would be welcome.

The Storm – Friday, 7:30 p.m.

The severe weather sirens sounded near the end of my first loop. The predicted storms had missed us so far, but now one was headed right for us. I’d been anxious to complete the loop before dark anyway, so here was some extra motivation to pick it up a bit. I made it back to base camp in the nick of time.

As I sat in the gear tent changing into dry socks, the surge hit us – intense wind gusts that lifted up the tent walls all around us, causing considerable oohs and aaahs.

That tent wall is supposed to be touching the ground, you see.

That tent wall is supposed to be touching the ground.

“Go on! You’re safe in the woods!” someone yelled to a runner hesitating on the start of his next loop. (Boy, was he wrong – see below.) But as another gust threatened to blow us to Hell – literally – I decided to sit it out. Ten minutes and a 20-degree temperature drop later, I headed out on my second loop.

I’d taken a rain jacket with me, and as a drizzle turned into a steady rain, I put it on. This kept me dry and warm at the time, but turned out to be a bad decision, as I kept sweating under it. Instead, I should have taken off my shirt to keep cool.

Yeah, me too!

Yeah, me too!

It was dark now, but the trail was well marked with fluorescent flags and I had no trouble staying on course. But in the dark, the distances seemed to stretch out even more than usual on a trail, the first half especially. Instead of working to stay calm and patient, I got annoyed and began to dread repeating the loop twice more. But I met up with a small group in the final segment and finished the second loop feeling good. Just another 50K to go!

The Bonk – Saturday, 12:30 a.m.

The trouble started as I took off my shoes to dry my feet and put on fresh socks. When I put my soaked, muddy shoes back on and stood up, they were too tight. Either they’d shrunk, or my feet had swelled, or both. That was okay – I had my Hokas in the gear bag, so I put them on – and they were tight, too. But as they were dry, I figured they would stretch enough, and out I went for the third loop.

I was feeling a little unwell and walked quite a bit of the first two miles. When we hit the gravel trail, I began jogging and felt better, passing and chatting with a few other runners. As we returned to the woods, I returned to walking. Something was going wrong with me in a hurry. It felt much like the second half of the Dexter-Ann Arbor half marathon – growing nausea and flushed in the head. I was overheated.

Just get to Gracie’s, (the aid station) I told myself. There you can get some ice and rest. A couple of runners passed me and asked how I was doing. “Hanging in there,” I told them. Then, out of nowhere, the thought came, persistent and insistent. Get to Gracie’s and tell them you’re done.

WTF? Where did that come from? Never before, in any race, had I ever even thought about dropping out. Nor was this a mental debate. I would be done. Period. Still, I resisted a bit.

Oh, that smarts.

I thought it was funny when I took it…

When I got to Gracie’s, I sat and applied ice to my neck for a while. But I did not improve. If anything, I felt worse. So I went over to the staff and told them I was done. They gave me a ride back to camp. “No worries,” the race director said when I told him what had happened. “You live to run another day.”

The Recovery – Saturday, 1:30 a.m.

I sat in the first aid station with ice, and after a half hour or so I felt better. Vital signs were okay, although I realize now they never took my temperature, so I don’t really know if I had heat exhaustion. Maybe if I’d just waited longer at Gracie’s I could have continued. On the other hand, passing out on the trail at night would have been a bad thing. So no real regrets.

And just in case I might have begun feeling sorry for myself…

Also in the first aid area was a young woman wrapped in a blanket and looking miserable. She’d been on the trail during the storm surge – and a tree had fallen on her. No serious harm, fortunately, but she was out – and she’d signed up for the 100-miler.

“I’ve had the worst luck with this race,” she told me. “Last year I was at mile 98, and I got clipped by a guy on a mountain bike.”

These are Super Slammers - five 100-mile races in one year. And people call *me* crazy.

These folks are Super Slammers – five 100-mile races in one year. And people call *me* crazy.

Next, I’ll be looking more at the mistakes I made and what I can do better in my next attempt at a race over 50 miles. Report following discussion with my coach.