Tag Archives: ultramarathons

Recovery, and Recovery from Recovery

It’s been eight weeks since I finished the Burning River 100, and overall, my recovery is mixed. The first four weeks went well – deceptively well, I told my coach.

What do I mean by “deceptively,” I hear you ask? I mean that physically, my body was telling me I was ready to get back at it – full speed training. It was trying to tell me that just one week after I finished. But I learned better – the hard way, naturally.

In both my first two 100-milers I felt physically ready to resume training one week after finishing. I went easy on the running, but I was back in the gym on my regular schedule. And in both cases, I paid for it. One year I was doing some weight work – presses or such – in the third week, and suddenly asking myself why I was feeling so goddamn weak? The wave of fatigue lasted a week.

Rest? Hah! I got stuff to TRAIN for!!

So I know it takes me six to eight weeks to recover entirely from a 100-miler. But for a couple of reasons, this time is different. The second four weeks, far from ramping my training up for my next ultra (a 55K in mid-October) have been more like stagnation.

One reason is my lower abs, which continue to be frustratingly mildly sore. Not like a few months ago, where it really hurt to run even a short distance. But it has never healed completely. Even a full week off of running didn’t help. So, after consultation with my trainer, we’re shifting the focus of my gym work to “rehab” which basically means we’re working to keep everything loose and manage the pain rather than try to get rid of it.

And for the past month, I’ve had unpredictable swings in energy levels. There are days I feel like there’s very little in the tank. Sometimes a run will recharge me, and sometimes not. Sometimes naps help, and sometimes not. Frustrating. I seem to have good energy for the races I’m working, at least. Good thing, given this month was Dances with Dirt – a 15-hour day – and Run Woodstock, three days of nonstop Zero Waste. It’s rewarding, and I get lots of appreciation, but it does suck me pretty dry.

Did you know I have groupies? I do now!

Finally, there’s a family medical situation that is not going well. We’re releasing the news slowly, and probably won’t be doing much social media. I’ll share more about it soon in this blog, however.

But I don’t want to make it sound like things are rotten all over. There are things to look forward to, and I’ve got races to run. And I’ll be telling you all about it here. Thanks again, readers! I love you all.

New Year, and Lots More News

As the old advice goes, always have something to look forward to. Or maybe I just made that up. Either way, I try to follow it. Which means doing new stuff or reaching new milestones.

So what’s new with RBT as the old year comes thankfully to an end? Many things. Here’s the latest and greatest from your (somewhat) humble ultrarunner!

New Mileage PR

Of all the years I’ve run, most of which have included several ultras, who would’ve believed I’d set a new personal record for miles run this year, with curtailed group runs and only one ultra? And yet it happened. This month I passed 1,200 miles for the year, averaging 100 miles per month and blowing away my old record.

This was accomplished in part by a 34-day run streak in May, as part of an events company challenge, but most was just getting my butt out the door. Speaking of, if you’re a runner needing some motivation, or know a runner, I have just the book for you, written by RF Events owner Randy Step. Go get it on Amazon.

New Running Coach

With races hopefully starting up again next year, and goals yet to be met, I knew I needed to restore some discipline to my running training. Which meant a professional coach. I aimed high and emailed one of the best-known trail running coaches out there. His reply went something like this:

Hi Jeff! Thank you so much for reaching out, you are amazing. We appreciate you so much! We are full right now, so sorry…

However, he went on to recommend a coach he really liked, who did have a spot for me. And so my latest regime of torture has officially begun under coach Ryan Miller, a two-time U.S. Olympic qualifier. His Instagram page is full of stuff like the below. Yeah, we’re like-minded all right.

New Watch

So my faithful Garmin 310XT watch, which has served me from roughly the Stone Age, has begun to show signs of battery failure. Problem, because I bought this watch precisely for its long battery life, allowing me to run 50-milers and more without recharging. So, naturally, I went out and bought the best thing I could find out there:

Meet the new watch…the same as the old watch…

That’s right! The newer watches still can’t match the simplicity, ease of use, and battery life of these ancient babies. So far, so good. I’ll take both to my next ultra.

And speaking of. . .

2021: New Races

The pandemic may be far from over, but signs of life are creeping back into the world of trail running. And two upcoming events are confirmed live!

The first is the Bigfoot Snowshoe 5K, which I’ve run every year since 2014. Yes, it is actually running in snowshoes, and yes, it’s as lung-busting as it sounds. It’s also a blast. You can read my adventures here in previous blog posts on the subject. Just type “Bigfoot” into my site’s Search box. Or see this one from the 2016 race.

The second is the Grandmaster Ultra, taking place the following week in the Arizona desert. I ran the 50 miler in 2020, and you can read my report here. Been there, done that, but loved the venue, so in 2021 I’ll be doing the 100K.

I’ll provide more details, like social distancing precautions, in upcoming posts. In the meantime, rest assured I will looking out for myself, and others, very carefully.

And finally,

New Site!

I began this site as Fitness At 50 back in 2011, so this means my ten-year anniversary is coming up. Time to join the 2020s in terms of site layout and refresh the content. Maybe even a new blog name! Changes will be coming soon. Don’t worry, I’ll provide plenty of warning. Or not.

Thanks for reading, and have a great New Year!

Only a Thousand

THE FIRST TIME I RAN a thousand miles in a year was in 2011, also the year of my first marathon. I’d had to step up my game that December to get the final miles in, and broke the tape, as it were, on the 29th. On New Year’s Eve I had one more run to get a total of 1,010.10 miles for the year.

My coach was proud of me. My wife was proud. And above all, I was proud. After all, it was nearly double the 567 miles I’d run the year before. I was a four-figure runner; I’d arrived!

From 2011: 1,000 miles! Woohoo!

The first Saturday in January 2012, I went out for the regular weekend club run. I really wanted to share my accomplishment with someone, but wasn’t sure how. Then I caught up with a couple of guys chatting.

“How’d your running go last year, Sam?” one of them asked the other.

“It sucked,” Sam replied. “I only ran a thousand miles.”

That didn’t really deflate me much, just bring me back to earth. And I’ve run at least a thousand miles just about every year since, including this year, where I also hit the mark on December 29. Yay me!

2019 – 1,000 miles! Woohoo!

To be fair, a thousand miles a year is not that exceptional for regular runners. Many of them run 2,000 or more. And at least one runner I know has reached the 100,000 mile lifetime mark. Does this diminish anyone who runs fewer miles? Not at all. If you run, you’re a runner in my book, and in the books of all the other runners I know. Mega-marathon runner? Good work. Only run a couple of miles at a time? Good work.

Now it’s true that my mileage total is unusually low for an ultrarunner. People are surprised to find out that I run 100-mile races averaging only 20-30 miles per week. But I also strength train at the gym, and supplement running with long bike rides. Meanwhile, a couple of people I know whose exercise is mostly distance running get injured or struggle to finish ultras.

What do I take away from all this? That everyone’s body is different, and there is no single “magic formula” for accomplishing your goals. And I like mixing up my training. Running 50 miles per week is not something I enjoy, so I find other ways to build the base I need. This allows me to enjoy the training as much as the events I train for.

All that said. . .it may be time to step up my running, enjoyable or not. I’ve decided to try for one of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) races. More about this later, but the nickel summary is: it requires at least two tough qualifying races, plus a lottery. This makes it at least a two-year process, running the qualifiers in 2020 in order to apply for the UTMB race in 2021. And, of course, there are other ultras I want to try out, possibly including a 200-miler, or even the ten-day, 314-mile Last Annual Vol State Race.

To get through all that I’ll need to be in really good shape. Additional strength training will be part of that, but there’s no getting round more running too. So I’ll have to decide if the extra effort is worth it. For now, at least, I’m assuming yes. So you all can look forward to some (hopefully) interesting stories in 2020 as I share my adventures in getting to UTMB, and beyond.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Yes, I’m Aware that I’m Not Aware

Years ago, I was out on a Saturday morning club run. Among the runners that day was my instructor from the Running 101 class I’d taken the previous year. That class got me into running regularly, and resulted in my first half marathon. She looked at me as I passed.

“You’re doing great!” she said. “Drop those shoulders.”

Sure enough, they were riding up. I knew I was prone to this under stress, such as while running or in a tough Aikido class, but it’s not something I readily recognize. Since then I’ve worked on being more self-aware during long runs, and to consciously remind myself to relax.

Learning and applying self-awareness has several benefits. For one, it forces me into the moment – “how am I really feeling right now” – and takes my mind away from how much time or distance I have remaining. And once in the moment, it’s easier to remain there, to appreciate that I’m doing something I love, and how beautiful a day it is, or how beautiful the trail is. For me, at least, an ultra is a great thing to have finished, but the memories are more important. I have distinct memories from every one of my 22 (so far) ultras, and replaying them, good or bad, is very much like being there all over again.

Feeling good at the 2014 Dances with Dirt – Hell 50K.

It’s also good to be honest with yourself when others are not. Race staff, volunteers, and spectators don’t want to discourage runners. So what comes out of their mouths are things like, “You’re looking strong!” whether I’m bounding along or shuffling like a zombie and they’re texting the county coroner to stand by. So the times when they’ve been honest with me really stand out, like the guy who told me my nose was bleeding halfway through a 50K, or the aid station captain who gently hinted that maybe I should turn in my chip because I looked pale and wasn’t sweating. All this means I have to be conscious enough of my condition to make good decisions – or to specifically ask for an honest assessment from someone else..

Here are a few things I do at times during a long run or race:

  • Check my breathing. If I’ve picked up the pace, or run hard for a while, my breaths can get shallow and less productive. No matter how fast I’m going, I switch to several deliberate deep breaths. Not so much to get extra oxygen into my lungs, but to get the excess carbon dioxide out. So breathe out to empty the lungs, then breathe in normally.

Relax! Breathe deep!

  • Check posture. Am I upright, back straight, leaning from the ankles, or starting to hunch over?
  • General body check. How is everything feeling? Is there pain anywhere I’m not paying attention to? Am I favoring one side over the other? Do I need water or salt? You may wonder that I have to consciously do this, but when you’re focused on a particular goal or milestone, such as getting over this last ridge to the aid station, you can lose touch with how your body is doing.

Then, of course, there are times it’s obvious how my body is doing.

Having run ultras for years now, it’s mostly second nature. Or so I’d like to think. And yet, this very morning I was out on a club run, cruising through Nichols Arboretum, and we passed a couple of people on the trail. I was the last one in the pack, and shortly after I passed them I heard the older man’s voice behind me: “Relax the shoulders!”

One of these days, I’ll learn. Maybe.