Tag Archives: race

Event Cancelled Due to Good Weather

I GOT THE UNFORTUNATE NEWS THIS AFTERNOON. My event this weekend has been cancelled.

Due to good weather.

frozen-watters-cancelled

Here was the promo for the “Frozen Watters” event planned for Feb. 25:

In the spirit of our Muddy Watters Trail Series, this race will cover lots of trails, stairs, hills, two track and bushwhacking routes for between 3-4 miles’ish. There will be exercise stops. Pray for snow because sledding down a dirt hill sucks! … Mandatory Gear? A disc to sled on – seriously. Not some big ass sled. You’re going to have to carry it for the entire race!

So I bought a disc sled (BTW, $27.99 seems like a lot to pay for a curved piece of plastic) and hoped for the best. Which, in a sense, happened, and in another sense, did not.

If you’ve been following the weather here in southeastern Michigan, you know that both our big dumpings of snow this winter have vanished completely. While there was sufficient snow in Grand Rapids for the Yankee Springs Winter Challenge, and in Traverse City for the Bigfoot Snowshoe Race, there was no such luck here.

Not all that long ago. . .

Not all that long ago. . .

So why not just have a trail race on Saturday instead of a snow race? The problem, according to the race director, is that the trails are so wet, we would put ruts in them that would subsequently freeze over and cause trouble all summer. So it’s a scrub. But I’ll be able to apply the race fee to one of their other races, so we’ll see.

And it’s not like I haven’t appreciated the sunshine and warm temperatures. I’ve been able to run in shorts several times already, although I do that anyway if it’s above freezing. But yesterday’s 8-miler was the ultimate.

february-sunny-day-run

What is that big yellow ball up there?

As you can see, I’m in shorts and a single shortsleeve shirt. But I also felt the need to wear sunglasses and – sunscreen! That’s a February first. It was a great run. Saw lots of cyclists out there, too.

So Saturday will be my regular long run with PR Run Club. Just as well, since the race would have been only about 4 miles and I need to keep my volume up. While short races right now are a fun diversion, my main goal is to be ready for the big ones coming up – Boston and Trail Marathons in April, Dirty German in May, and Lighthouse in June. That’s 204.4 miles of race in eight weeks. Since I did much the same thing last year, I know it can be done. I’d just like to finish in better condition this time. I have plans for the second half of the year!

And speaking of “other plans” – I’ve just received word from my friend on the Wet Coast (pun intended) that the date of my “covert event” has been set for June 24. I’ll spill the beans later, but if you can’t wait for it, a little research should give you the answer.

Next event: the Pi Day Race – 3.14 miles – on (of course) March 14!

How to Survive an Ultramarathon: One Runner’s Strategy

Today was the kind I dream about all winter – where you can just slip on a few clothes and onto the bike for a quick 12-mile evening ride. My post-Voyageur recovery is going so well, it’s hard to keep from overdoing it. But my next event – the Crim 10 miler – is just two weeks away, followed by Run Woodstock and my biggest race of the year. Plenty of sweat ahead!

Speaking of copious sweating, my revised strategy for the Voyageur did the trick, as I finished it without any of the nausea or disorientation I felt at my last two 50+ mile attempts. Following are the main changes I made.

First, here’s an idea of what a trail ultrarunner “goes to battle with” as one of my friends puts it. Some goes into my drop bag, along with extra clothes, but most of this I wear or carry.

Gear for Voyageur Trail Ultra

Gear-wise, I used triathlon shorts to minimize chafing, and compression calf sleeves (left of shoes), which save my legs from thorny bushes. The long-overdue change was adding a cap, which kept the sun off my head and could secure a wet towel or ice while running. It also has some UPF (sunblock) built in. I got this one at REI; it’s pricey ($25), but I will never run a summer race without one again.

logo_scaps_300I also believe a salt-water imbalance contributed to my earlier problems. Salted potatoes at the aid stations help, but time and amount are irregular. Salt tablets at regular intervals were the answer. After some research I estimated that two S-Caps (642 mg of sodium) per hour of running would meet my needs. I did supplement with ice-cold Powerade later in the race; it just tasted too damn good.

Hydration was about 20 ounces of water (one full bottle) per hour. Much more than that and it just sits in my stomach. A “fluids check” about every 12 miles showed that while I was getting dehydrated, it was manageable. And needing to do it was another good sign.

Crossing the Jay Cooke Swinging Bridge.

Crossing the Jay Cooke Swinging Bridge.

For food, I avoided the aid station offerings except for cold grapes and pickles, and relied on the energy bars and Gu in my pack. I did this to keep my stomach settled with familiar foods and to make use of complex carbs rather than simple sugars (candy and soda). One Clif Builder bar is around 300 calories (about what my body can process per hour while running) and also provides some protein to help prevent muscle breakdown.

Voyageur - Aid Station

While the results were everything I’d hoped for, there are still a few issues to deal with before I run the 100K next month. Feet, for one – I changed socks and shoes at the 25-mile mark and retaped my toes, but still had some blistering and pain at the end. More taping should help, and perhaps some Body Glide, but I welcome any other suggestions.

Taping for an Ultra

Mentally, I expect some challenges too. Not only is the 100K my longest distance attempt yet, most of it will be in the dark. I don’t run with music or radio, so it will be a long time (I estimate around 14 hours) of me alone with my thoughts. Fortunately, the aid stations are lively and the other runners are great.

So there you have my recipe for a successful 50-mile trail run. That, plus lots and lots of training. Fortunately, most of that is enjoyable, especially on an evening like tonight!

How Not to Taper

“We have to go light today,” I told Mark, my Body Specs trainer, on Thursday afternoon. “I’ve been feeling sore all week, and I have a long trail run Saturday morning.”

Monday’s workout, while not like the previous two weeks (shall we say, “Bru-tall”), had still been fairly intense, and I was not up for another one like that. Besides, I’m in the taper period before my July 25 race.

“What did you do after Monday’s session?” he asked.

Well, the usual – Aikido Monday night, then a Tuesday evening run with PR Fitness that had somehow or other turned into a tempo run. On hills. On Wednesday I’d volunteered at the Pterodactyl Triathlon, which hadn’t involved anything strenuous, but I’d been on my feet for over five hours doing this and that.

Mark looked at me. “So what you’re telling me is that you didn’t take a day off on your own taper week.” He shook his head. “I’d be sore, too!”

Guilty as charged, sir.

In my relatively short marathon and ultramarathon career, I’ve found the taper period to be, at times, more difficult than the training. Not in exertion, but the lack thereof. It takes discipline to cut back, to not run as far or as hard, before a race.

Pace too fast 2

What makes taking it easy so hard?

I know the reasons for tapering. Rest and recovery are needed to be at peak form before a race. And gains from strength training, or long running, take about three weeks to be manifested. So hard training the two weeks before a race provides zero benefit and could easily mess me up. Overworked muscles and injury, for example.

And there’s the ol’ competitive nature to deal with. Like with Tuesday’s run. I’d planned to go easy, but the group started off fast and I didn’t feel like being left in the dust. Then we hit the uphill repeats, and what was I supposed to do? Let people pass me?

Never met a hill I didn't want to charge up. (Channeling T.R.?)

Never met a hill I didn’t want to charge up. (Channeling T.R.?)

Ah, the ego. Despite ten years of Aikido it remains stubbornly unconquered. Or, as we say in my profession, “always further opportunities for improvement.”

Fortunately, I have another week to get my act together. Saturday’s 16-miler will be a dress rehearsal for the Voyageur Trail Ultra, with a fully stocked drop bag and trail backpack. I will also be trying out a revised strategy for hydration (carry more water, drink more water), electrolytes (salt tablets), and heat protection (a cap with UV blocker). Then everything short and easy next week.

And I promised myself to take it easy until Saturday morning. (With the exception of a stretching clinic yesterday evening. It was brief. And Skip from Body Specs was teaching it. How could he be mad at me for going?)

Great Event, But Where’s All the Trash?

Last Sunday was another “first” in my adventures in running – an early morning two-hour drive to Grand Rapids and the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon & 5K.

Photo from Gazelle Girl website

So, one might wonder why a manly man like me would be part of a female-only race. Well, I was not there to take part in the race, but to pick up after it. Yes, I was on the waste collection and sorting team. A minor version of Mike Rowe doing a Dirty Job. (Being called the “Green Team” didn’t mean we got to keep our hands clean.)

What kind of stuff gets tossed out at a race? Some of just about everything. But the main categories are food waste, cups, water bottles, and Gu / energy bar wrappers. Any large event generates a lot of all of that, and the Gazelle Girl had over 3,500 runners, plus spectators.

What made the job intriguing was that last year, a grand total of one 6 lb. bag was sent to the landfill. Yep, one 6 lb. bag. Everything else was either recycled, sent to a composting service (Organicycle), or (as with the Gu wrappers) sent to Terracycle, a company that turns the scrap into other products like children’s furniture.

Gazelle Girl waste bins 2How did this happen? Good planning and lots of information. One way of limiting waste, for example, is to tell people not to bring something that’s going to end up as landfill trash. Another way is to mark very clearly what goes where, and to staff the stations, which I did briefly before moving to the lovely sorting brigade.

So how much waste actually went to the landfill this year? See below. Enough of describing what happened – I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story. Enjoy! And many thanks to Chelsea and the other Green Team members for helping me learn how sustainable a race can be!

No one's going to steal this waste on my watch!

No one’s going to steal this waste on my watch!

I was so good at manning the station that they moved me to sorting.

I was so good at manning the station that they moved me to sorting.

A sample compost bag. Most of the cups and lids were compostable, but we had to sort out the others for recycling.

A sample compost bag. Most of the cups and lids were compostable, but we had to sort out the others for recycling.

Even with bins all around, there was still food waste scattered everywhere. Sigh. Grow up, people.

Even with bins all around, there was still food waste scattered everywhere. Sigh. Grow up, people.

The final tally. The truck has the compost and Terracycle bags. The bins and bags are for recycling.

The final tally from the start/finish area. The truck has the compost and Terracycle bags. The bins and bags are for recycling. Aid station bags were left on-site and picked up on Monday.

And here's what went to the landfill. Yep, that's all.

And here’s what went to the landfill. Yep, that’s all.