BHS 100K

Here is some video and pictures from the 2013 Bishop Ultramarathon. I completed the 100K in 14 hours 22 minutes.

Monday, January 28, 2013

60 miles in a week

Las Vegas Sunset
My graph

I did reach my training goal for the end of January of 60 miles in a week, sort of.   I originally intended to measure the 60 miles from Monday to Sunday, but I had only reached 40 miles by the end of Saturday.  I had planned to put in a 20 mile run on Saturday, but I was really dogging it by the end of 13 miles so I decided to cut it short and make it up Sunday.  However, I still felt flat on Sunday and that didn't work out.  By the end of Sunday I had only reached 50 miles towards my goal of 60.  Then I remembered that I hadn't run the previous Monday, so if I did put in 10 more miles on this Monday, which I did, I would of actually completed 60 miles in a 7 day period - Yea!

The week's training runs went OK, but not fantastic.  I felt fine for my first run on Tuesday and I ran that at a comfortable 9:00/mi pace feeling I could have gone much harder.  Then after taking a day off on Wednesday, I felt totally flat on Thursday.  I had to push really hard the whole 10 miles just to run at a 10:00/mi pace.  Friday evening found me with more bounce in my legs and I clipped off 6 miles at a good pace and felt physiologically ready for my 20 miles long run on Saturday.  However, as I described above it didn't workout that way.  Much of my training right now is at a relatively slow pace for me.  By comparison, if I was training to for a PR in a marathon, my slow runs would be done at an 8:00/mi pace and I would be doing at least one tempo run per week at a sub 7:00/mi pace.  Ultra training is a different beast though.  Now, I am mostly running on tired legs in an attempted to build up my stamina for those latter portions of the ultra where I know that I will be running on tired legs.  Not only are my legs tired during much of my runs but also sore and part of the training is learning about pain management.  Really I am learning how I can become use to certain pain while running and keep moving forward and yet not be completely miserable.  Thank God for the beauty of music, because without that refreshing my mind as I run, I am not sure how I would handle it.  There are times when I will be struggling during a run, and a certain song will play and inspire me to move on to a different level and suddenly the run becomes easier.

As I am running and listening to songs at times I will be hit by certain inspirations as did happen this past week.  It was while listening to the these lyrics sung by Tracy Chapman:
"Hunger only for a taste of justice
Hunger only for a world of truth
'Cause all that you have is your soul"
Here is the part that struck me:  I am so thankful that I have turned 50 and I still am so idealistic.  I always assumed that as one grows older that one inherently would become more judgmental and rigid in ones ways.  Yet thankfully I am finding that does not have to be the case.  I don't think that lives blows which come to all of us is making me jaded.  In fact, I believe that opposite is happening.  As I get older I find myself having more faith in the goodness of humanity than I ever did.  I feel that I am still idealistic in the sense of how I felt idealism as an adolescent.  I still believe that there is truth and justice out there and not only I am looking for it but 99.9% of humanity is also seeking it and we are together on a journey towards it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Learning the importance of posture

My graph
3 weeks into 2013.  I ran that 50k the first week, rested up a bit week 2 and put in 55 miles on week 3.  The goal for now is 60 miles for week 4.  Then I will keep adding 5 miles per week till I am at 100 miles per week by the end of March or mid April.

Last week's training went well and I was able to get in 55 miles. As I increase my weekly mileage, I am also running more trails.  Right now I am running about 50% on roads and 50% on trails.  I am lucky to have a huge empty track of desert land only one mile from the house where I cam make a 4 mile loop that includes some small hills and canyons.  I am running more trails as they are a little softer than roads, although I am not sure how much as our trails are not soft cushy forest floors or anything like that.  Our desert  trails are a mixture of hard packed sand at best to hard scrabble rock that you have to really watch your footing on.  I always where fingerless cycling gloves out here to protect my hands in case I fall which luckily doesn't happen every day.

Unfortunately the hamstring started tightening up a bit again this week, but again I believe I discovered the cause or causes.  One is that I slacked of on stretching when the hamstring was getting better so I am paying for that a bit now.  I need to become religious with the stretching.  The second problem I notice is related to posture.  On the roads my running posture is fairly good.  A good running posture is an upright posture, hips directly over you knees and feet as they land under you.  U.S. marathoner Meb K. says that he imagines an imaginary wire from the clouds to the top of his head pulling him up as he runs.  On the roads this is not so hard to do because you don't have to be constantly scouting for rocks that you might trip over.  What I need to do is learn how to maintain good running posture while running trails.  On the trails I consistently find myself bending forward looking down at the trail.  This is an inefficient way to run as it puts extra stress on your leg and back muscles to maintain balance.  When I catch myself and straighten up, I also notice that my hamstring starts to get some relief.

What I decided to do is mix up the trail and road running more in the same run.  Instead of going out and running 10 miles on the trails until I am exhausted and running with bad form, I will alternate between road and trail in the same run.  I think a combination of 1 mile on the road followed by 1 mile on the trail should work.  Hopefully this way I can translate the good running posture habits I have on he road to the trail.  I can't wait to try it out tomorrow.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Running observations - what I learned from my last run

Two days have passed since I finished the Red Rock 50k, I am still definitely quite sore, have also developed a bit of a sniffle probably because my immune systems was weakened and yet I am feeling really good about the run.  I fell that I have turned a corner or two in my ultrarunning experience and I am looking forward to some more good runs this year.  The next big race I will be preparing for will be my second attempt at completing the Bishop High Sierra 100k on May 18..

The first most immediate thing that I learned and I am happy for is the progress I have made with my hamstring injury.  At no time during the run did my hamstring tighten up and slow me down.  At the end of the race after I got lost for a bit then got back on the road I was still doing sub 12 minute miles up a grade which is awesome for me after running more than 30 miles already.  I fell that I can just continue the conditioning and treatments that I have been doing and slowly build up my mileage to get ready for Bishop.  Right now I am running 50 miles per week.  My mileage goal is to be running 60 miles a week by the end of January, 80 miles a week my the end of February and 100 miles a week by the end of March or mid April.  Included in that will be one long -long run of 30 or more miles every 3 weeks.  One thing that I enjoy about ultrarunning is that you can loosely put together a program like this and not worry too much about what days you are going to run what miles and what pace you will run them.  If I am running 6 miles or less it will probably be around and 8 minute per mile pace.  Anything from 6 to 12 miles will average a 9 - 10 minute pace.  20 or more miles will be done at over a 10 minute per mile pace.

The second thing I learned was more mental.  I learned that I could get myself into a mindset where I am toughing out a run and pushing myself to my limits, which will include pain, and at the same time I am deriving satisfaction from my accomplishments and enjoying what I am doing despite the pain.  I guess that is what most people would more simply call being a "bad ass."  At the same time, I have come to realize that these low points in an ultrarun can pass and when they do you have a chance to feel that you are totally in the zone.  The zone I am talking about is a feeling of having pushed yourself for all that you are worth and feel that you can freely keep doing so for as long as you need to.

I am sure there are more lessons that I will learn as I travel down this road and I am looking forward to them.  Any comments anyone?  I have kind of been pouring myself out here for awhile and it would be nice to hear what someone else has to say for a change.  :-)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Red Rock "Fat Ass" 50K

Calico Hills at Red Rock National Recreation Area
I ran the Red Rock "Fat Ass" 50K yesterday and had a great experience.  It was a chilly 25 degrees F when my friend An and I arrived at the visitor center at 7:30am.  We were eager to get moving and warm up so as soon as people arrived we asked them for directions to the trail head and a general course description.  We took that information and made an early start.  There wasn't any problem with that as every was keeping there own time anyways.  I started off wearing long sleeves, arm warmers over them,  gloves, a headband for my ears and a running cap.  To carry food and water I had my Nathan hip belt with two 24oz water bottles and 18 gel packs, 3 per hour for what I anticipated to be a 6 hour day.  Each gel pack has 100 calories which gives me 300 calories per hour which worked out great.  It's nice to have that part of the ultrarunning worked out.  Gels also seem to digest better for me while running that any other food.

We started at 7:47am so we had about a 13 minute head start on everyone else.  We started on the Grand Circle loop at the trail head  just past the entrance gate to the left.  The first 4 miles of the trail passes between the roadway and the Calico Hills, and is quite rocky and rises steeply.  I was pleased that I was maintaining about a 12 minute/mile pace on this section without any overexertion or excessive stress on my recovering hamstring.  The trail was tricky and I did stumble and fall at the 2 mile mark but luckily I had gloves on so I was able to break my fall as I landed on a small bush (no thorns, thank God) and only sustained some small scraps on my leg.  Well I said to myself a little blood would only make me look a little more "bad ass" as I dusted my self off and continued.  This actually became my mantra throughout the day.  Whenever I would be going through a tough patch and start thinking of cutting it short and turning back, I would ask myself, "are you going to be a fat ass or a bad ass."

View from mile 4 looking back down into the canyon
At about the mile 3 mark the first runner passed me by than at mile 4 another group of 3 ran by.  For the next few miles runners continued to trickle by which was cool because it let me see the race unfolding and I was also able to follow them with my eye to see which way the course led.  At mile 6 we reached the White Rock loop and turned left to follow it clockwise.  By now it was warming up some and I had striped off my arm warmers and gloves.  (I still run with fingerless gloves to protect my hands in case of falls.)

White Rock loop

Three miles into the White Rock loop at mile 9, Britta was there waiting with water for us.  We would pass this spot 3 times in all giving us plenty of opportunities to refill our bottles.  I refilled just one bottle, enough for the 6 mile loop and continued on.  Up to this point the trail has been steadily rising and would continue to rise for another 2 miles to 5,500 feet.  We started at 3,400 feet and overall the 50k course had about 5000 feet of elevation gain, almost 1 mile, or approximately the depth of the Grand Canyon.  By this time I was really looking forward to going downhill although I was still maintaining a 13 to 14 min/mile pace alternating between a slow jog and a fast walk when the trail got too steep.  When I finllay started going down hill I was able to hit some 8 minute miles in open sections.  I couple more runners caugth up to me here as well and this gave me some inspiration to run as I attempted to keep up with them.  I did manage to keep pace with the second guy, Alex, and talked with him awhile which made those miles go by quick.  Alex is new to Las Vegas, having just moved from the East coast and is origanlly from Austria.

The back of White Rock loop
Alex and I arrived together at the water station after complementing theWhite Rock loop once.  I quickly refilled one bottle again and took off leaving Alex behind as he grabbed some food and snacks they had there.  We were exactly at the halfway point now and only needed to complete the loop one more time in the reverse direction and head back.  After climbing again for a couple of miles I realized I was going to be running short on water this time and should have filled both bottles.  I was reducing to only walking uphill now at about a 19 min/mi pace.  This was one of those low points were I needed to remind myself that I was there to be a "bad ass."  That seemed to help and as I passed a parking area, I asked some returning hikers if they had any water to spare.  Those nice people were happy to help and I scored two 12 oz bottles of water and wished them "Happy New Year" then started to feel the life coming back into my legs as I re-hydrated.  One more mile of climbing and then it would be primarily downhill all the way back to the start.  I was very please at how my legs were holding up as I was still able to running most of the time.  I did have a couple of sore spots on my feet though and suspected that I was geting some blisters but I wasn't going to let that slow me down.

With two miles to go I could see the visitor center.  At this point the trail joins and leaves the road a couple of times and I was on the road looking for the trail again.  I could have just stayed on the road all the way to the visitor center, but I wanted to do the full race legitimatley on the trail.  I looked down the canyon to my left and saw what I believed to be the trail.  I angled my way down the canyon to that trail and continued on.  One and a half miles later I began to doubt that I was on the corrrect trail as I should have only been 1/2 mile from the visitor center which was nowhere in sight.  Drat!  I stopped to check my GPS watch and yes I was off course and I was able to confirm this by the sight of  houses to my left.  I turned right and headed back up the canyon but when I got to the top  there was another canyon ahead and then yet another after that.  I could see the main highway now so I headed there and then made my way back to the entrance where we started.  In all I  had added about 2 miles to my trip.  My final time was 7 hours and 37 minutes for a total 33 miles, an average pace of 13:51 per mile, but that included a lot of walking and standing around at the end when I got lost.  I was getting exhausted and  discouraged now quipping to myself that I had gone from "fat ass" to "bad ass" to "dumb ass."  Oh well its all just part of the experience as occasionally all runners and hikers lose the trail at times.  At 50k my time was 6 hours and 21 minutes, just 21 minutes more than I predicted so not a  bad day at all especially for the first ultra of the year and coming of an injury.  I doesn't seem that I have strained my hamstring any worse and I look I am looking forward to running more miles in the coming weeks.  All in all,  I was very please with my run  as most of the  day went really smooth and I was even able to capture that feeling I am always looking for as I run - that feeling that you get when you have pushed yourself to your limit and you become totally focused on the activity you are in and feel a sense of connection between yourself and all that surrounds you.

The result, some minor blisters

Friday, January 4, 2013

Stretching, Strengthening and Massage Routine

Happy New Year everyone!

I will be kicking of the New Year with a 50K "Fat Ass" Ultra-trail run up in the Red Rock Conservation area tomorrow.  "Fat Ass" means there is no official entry, entry fees and only minimal support for the runners.  Really its just a bunch of people getting together to run and deciding to call in a race.  I am still recovering from that hamstring knot that I have in the lower part of the biceps femoris of my right leg.  I was finally able to pinpoint the problem area with the help of my massage thearapist, Scott, Proactive Health Therapeutic, and although I am not 100% yet (are we ever?), I am starting to run longer distance already and I am really looking forward to tomorrow.

I thought it would be a good time to also post some of the other conditioning routines that I use that help me run those longer distances.  I have broken them down into three areas: stretching, strengthening and massage, and created the following videos to describe and demonstrate them.

Self-massage Routines 

Strengthening Routines

Stretching Routines

Hamstring Stretch