Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Prepping for an Ultra Marathon

This post will be all about preparing the right gear to run a successful Ultra. Of course, the most important thing is to find what works for YOU. I have spent the last few years crewing & pacing my husband in Ultra Marathons.  We have changed strategies many different times. I am sharing with you what we have discovered works best for us!

STEP 1: Understand the course! You have to pack very differently for each course. Know the difference between:

·         Looping course These courses allow you to return to the finish line a number of times while you loop around the course. The advantage of looping is becoming familiar with the course; you know what is coming. I actually prefer loops in trail running, while others find it kind of boring to repeat the same loop. This type of course has been said to lead to more DNF’s  (Did Not Finish) because it allows the runner to come back to the start line and stop there. This tends to be the easiest course to support because your crew can hang out in a central area while the runner loops and comes back.  During the looping course we load up a big, plastic, storage bin thing with all the gear. Depending on the distance of the loop, this may be the only gear we have. If the loop is longer, we will pack a small bag to be dropped at a different aid station. The small bag must always have batteries, extra head lamp, maybe special fuel options, and some Body Glide. If you need a new pair of shoes, you can bust out a few extra miles to get back to the start line/headquarters…but if you run out of batteries, or it becomes dark sooner than you expected, then you don’t want to have to wait till you get to your crew box for support.  We learned this the hard way while pacing Emz at her 100 mile Cold Water Rumble last year. She had to run in the dark for 4 miles till she got back to the loop turnaround where the crew was all waiting.

·          Out and back  These races start at one point, run a certain distance to another point, then turn back to the original starting line. An out & back will require more drop bags. Your crew may still carry a box if they the course allows crew support at aid stations. My dad and I crewed Nate during Utah's Squaw Peak 50 Miler. There were lots of aid stations that didn’t allow crew support. There was no vehicle access to many of the stations because it was in the Rocky Mountains. Nate had to be sure to put things he might need in small drop bags to the stations crew was not allowed at. Most races have very well supplied aid stations! In fact you truly can get away with bringing nothing, and only using the stuff the race provides. But if you are at all picky about fuel, it really is best to be prepared! We have run races that have run out of water at aid stations! Crazy things can happen. It really isn’t hard to throw a small bag together of a few necessities. Many times our drop bags go untouched. But its so nice to know you have what you need just in case!

·         Point-to-point  This type of course starts at one place, and ends at another with a pre-determined distance. I personally like this type of course best while road running. Trail running is so much more technical, so I do like the loop so I know what is ahead. While road running, I can look up and take in the views. I like to see different scenery during the course.  Many runners like this course because if you get half-way and decide you want to be done, then what are you gonna do? Turn around? You may as well finish! Ultras don’t have vans driving along side of you giving you the option to throw in the towel and ride to the finish. To be prepared for a point-to-point Ultra. You must find out how much access your crew has to seeing you, and pack accordingly.

STEP 2: Do your research! Find out how many miles are between aid stations. Know what type of fuel the stations will have. You don’t want to try anything new on race day! My very first marathon (Saint George Marathon in 2005) I just used whatever gels they were handing out. I had never tried that brand before. I had no idea how my stomach would handle it. And I wasted too many minutes in the outhouse with GI troubles! I still managed to get under 4 hours, but what a waste. Lesson learned, I now only fuel with items that I have tested during training. Luckily, most Ultra races have lots of different options at their aid stations. The longer distances require more calories, so it is nice to have the variety! Now you can absolutely show up for a race empty handed, not knowing about the course or aid provided. We have all done it! However, if you have trained your ass off for months, and this race is an important one for you, then DO YOUR HOMEWORK and BE PREPARED! You will have a much better chance of being successful by doing those things.
It’s all about the storage tub!
          A 50K-50mile distance will not usually require as many things. Generally these distances don’t require a shoe or clothing change. As long as you are racing with shoes that you know work for you and clothing that you know won’t rub weird. The 100k-100+ mile races would require lots more times in your storage box. With all that being said, an Ultra in extreme temperature (really hot or cold) it would be smart to be prepared with more support in your box.  We used to only use duffel bags for our drop bags. We found it frustrating riffling through, digging for the item you are looking for. You want to get in and out of aid stations as quick as possible. These tubs are nice because even if you don’t need that huge space, it is very easy to see exactly what you are looking for. BONUS, if you can close the lid and sit on if for a bit if needed! It really is nice having something to sit on if you need to change out your socks or shoes. I don’t know about you, but I don’t love dirt sticking to my sweating butt or getting into places where you don’t really love dirt to be. Short shorts don’t always protect those areas!
·         Extra socks and shoes
·         First aid kit. Nate took a hard fall in his first 50k and had to wait 20 minutes in the aid station waiting to get patched up. Bring your own stuff, save lots of time!

·         Fuel of choice

·         Extra batteries, head lamp, and a hand held light

·         I like to pack change of clothes and flip flops for post run. Nate doesn’t usually mind riding home sweaty.  But we both like to get those shoes and socks off and slip into some sandals.

·         Extreme temps:
            *Poncho, rain gear, gloves
            *Various fueling recourse: fuel belt, hand held, and fuel vest. This isn’t always necessary. But in really hot races, you can’t always be sure your vest won’t chafe; Even if it usually doesn’t give you problems. Running 50 miles in Arizona’s 100 degree temps mean you need your options. Chaffing sucks! And sometimes you just get sick of your hand held and want to switch it up. My motto is, if you MIGHT want it, and then pack it! So there you have it! Never hurts to be prepared!

Does anyone else LOVE this Magic Stuff? It may just be a mental boost, but some times that is just what you need!

Couple pair of shoes for longer races

Draw string drop bags for the other locations

Portable cooler with wheels. Nice to have extra water just in case. We have seen Aid Stations run out before. Also nice to pour water on your head if you need to cool down, without worrying about wasting good drinking water.

Friday, August 22, 2014

July and August's Runnerbox

I absolutly LOVE being an ambassador for RunnerBox. First, I love getting just about anything in the mail with my name on it (other than bills!). By now most of you have heard of subscription boxes. I know the BirchBox is a big one some of my friends who are into beauty supplies subsribe too. In case you are unfamiliar with subscription boxes, here is a little discription from the RunnerBox website to explain what it is ... "RunnerBox is a subscription based box full of products and discounts which have been hand-picked to enhance your active lifestyle. Runnerbox has everything from gels, chews, protein shakes/supplements, nutrition bars, energy boosters, healthy snacks, personal care, and other running accessories! Many products will be brand new to the market while others will be tried and true favorites. With so many new products claiming to be the next best thing – leave the trials and testing to us – we’ll search out the finest and send them right to your doorstep!"
I love that it allows me to try new things that I otherwise would've never tried before. I get to test it out and decide if I like it before I buy more. Everything that has been in my boxes so far is top notch product. Cool thing about being an Ambassador, is I get 10% off everything form their site, and I get to share my code with you. MRRUNRB go check it out & sign-up for a subsribtion so that you too can recieve a RunnerBox at your door. Here is the Link  I promise to always give my honest opinion. I will tell about what I like most, and things that weren't so amazing.

June/July Box

So much love for the items in this box. I already knew I liked Honey Stinger Waffles, but I had never tried the Lemon flavor before. YUM! I loved the Veggie-Go's Chewy Veggie & Fruit Strip. In fact I never got a photo because it was the first thing I ate before I had a chance to snap a pic! It was Whole 30 approved, 100% clean, so a perfect post run quick snack. Gotta get get those calories in ASAP after a run. I have a code 'runfast' for 15% those strips from Nakededgesnacks. Not sure if I am supposed to share the extra discount codes, but whelp...there it is.

Of all the products I tried, I was most excited about Generation UCAN. I have been wanting to try this for a long time. A friend from one of my RAGNAR teams introduced it to me but I never took the plunge yet. It provieds a steay, slow realease energy. This helps avoid spikes, crashes, or GI distress. It's an all natural complex-carbohydrate that breaks down slowly. It prevents the highs and lows in blood sugar, and enhances fat burning. For reals this stuff is legit! The PureFit Protein Bar was amazing. I am a huge protein bar fan. I know, I know, it's all about real and whole foods. But I am always on the go (well, when I am not injured) and sometimes teach back to back fitness classes, so I do depend on a good protein bar. And then of course I loved my sweat towel that came with my box. Perfect to bring to the spin classes that I teach.


August/September RunnerBox

Lots of cool stuff in this month's box too! We especially liked the ACCEL Gel because it was all natural and delievers rapid energy. It's got the 4:1 ratio of carb to protein whcih most gels I have used before does not have.

We loved the Primal Sport Mud for sore muscles. Nate had to test this out for me after his race because of my injury. So it's not actually mud, but you apply it to the area you are sore, cover or wrap, and apply heat. It washes off easy with water or a wet wipe. Nate was still able to do speed work Monday after running a 40 mile race on Saturday who knows, maybe this really did help?!

So this was the real suprise in the box. My son Kade is THE pickest eater known to man. He actually spent a year in food therapy trying to help him get his weight up. He doesn't like to try new things and really likes a very limited amount of food. I about died when I saw him gobbeling down this bag of Choopko Peanut Puffs. I have already ordered from their website for more. Best part is it's made from non-GMO farm-grown corn and nuts. High protein snack for a picky eater? Sign me up for that. Beats his Cheetos any day of the week.

The box came with an issue of TrailRunner magazine. I gave it a good read, but won't be subscribing, even though it comes with a discount code upon ordering. It seemed like it was mostly adds and the articles weren't too captivating. I guess if you are new to the sport of trail running it would be good to see the gear they have to offer. But for us, it really didn't teach or show us anything new.

What I really do like about the RunnerBox, is that it comes with a little card that has a blurb on each item in the box. Most every single item gives out a code for either a percentage off or free shipping, and lots of times for both. Saving money is my jam. Sampeling cool stuff is also my jam. If it is yours too, don't froget to subsribe and use MRRUNRB for 10% all things RunnerBox.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Race Calendar

Coming Soon!

Paleo Sweet Potato Waffles

The easiest pezziest recipe ever! It's a sweet potato take on waffles or hash brows. This recipe is Whole 30 approved! Sweet potatoes are a killer source of carbohydrate. Read this great article if you want more info on why sweet potatoes are such a fabulous fuel source How sweet potatoes can help your running by Runner's World.

**Fair Warning: I don't usually measure when I cook. I'm a firm believer of dash here and a spoonful there. If you notice it needs a little more oil, just had it! This is for a more savory version 
Love my helping hands!
Step 1: Wash & then grate one large sweet potato into a bowl. You can use any type of grater. I have this nifty contraption that grates into all different sizes 
Step 2: Add: 
-2 whole eggs
-1 Tablespoon of coconut oil (ghee will work too) 
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (basically a couple shakes of my cinnamon shaker!)
-1/2 teaspoon or a few shakes of Salt, pepper, and garlic powder (optional), nutmeg (optional) 
Step 3: Spray olive oil onto a heated waffle iron. I like mine heated to medium/high. 
Step 4: Give it a good mix in a bowl. Be sure it's evenly coated! 
Step 5: scoop about a cup (just cover the iron) of the mixture, close the lid, & cook till it's crispy & brown. Usually takes 6-8 minutes! 
**Topping ideas: My absolute fav is Almond Butter on top. Or you can try unsweetened applesauce. If you don't mind the extra sugar (syrup is not Whole 30 approved) then a little maple syrup is always delicious on top! 
I like to balance my meals with a healthy carb/protein/and fat. So a great side to your sweet potato is Applegate Chicken Apple Sausage fried in some Ghee, then scramble it up with some eggs. Top it off with wholly salsa & wholly guacamole.

Eat up! Let me know if you like it!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Another crazy runner

It’s crazy how perspective can change just over a few weeks….

It is a very hard thing for people to understand why I love to run. Why I sacrifice sleep to maintain at least 40 miles of running each week, on top of being a mom and teaching fitness classes.  I don’t really try to explain myself because it really is hard to explain.  I have always been grateful that my husband just gets it. I know that we are seen as being ‘crazy’ or ‘stupid’ or ‘irrational’ by some people. We just have to not let that negativity in, and hang on tight to the people that give us positive support.  I don’t think I am better than anyone else because I love to run. I also don’t believe that everyone needs to run to be happy. But I do know that it works for me and my family, and that my husband and I both love it.

Oddly enough, running has strengthened my relationship with my husband in more ways than just the bonding during runs together. We have had to learn to make sacrifices within our own training plans to ensure the other gets the time they need. It has strengthened our communication skills. I used to get upset that my husband got longer time for his runs then I did. I seemed to be strapped to the running stroller, or the treadmill. But I was playing a martyr role. Once I sat down, and calmly communicated my needs/wishes to him, then we were able to make some changes. Many things he was unaware that I even felt. Ladies, men truly can NOT read our minds (I am STILL learning this).  Now, we sit down at the beginning of every week and work out a schedule that is as fair as possible. We both have had periods where we wish we could’ve had more training time, but we knew the other person had a big goal on the horizon so we sacrificed for a few months. It got to the point where it didn’t feel like a sacrifice because I was so happy to helping him reach his dreams. Open and consistent communication is KEY for me so that I don’t become jealous or  resentful.  I gave up a lot of my training time last summer in order for Nate to be ready for his first 100 mile trail run. It ended up being one of the most memorable experiences for us as a family. Nate gave the majority of the spring to me when I was working on PRing my marathon time and training to get under a 3:35. After years of us both trying to hit killer training weeks, raise our young boys, and balance work/school responsibilities; I feel we are finally working out the kinks in communication to find that balance.

Nate at the start of Aravaipa's Hypnosis 60K
…back to how my perspective has changed. Nate and I were both signed up to race a 60K last night. It was 40 miles, of crazy terrain, pitch dark, in freaking hot Arizona weather. I did not even consider all of that to be ‘crazy’ when we signed up together. It seemed like a perfectly sound, and acceptable thing to do on a Saturday night.  Even while knowing we would be racing until about 3am. Yesterday morning we had a Birthday Party for my oldest son, Kade, who just turned 5. Nate was up early getting things ready, feeding & dressing the kids. He did the majority of the work because I could barely take care of my drugged up, gimpy self. We were in the sun from 10:30am till about 1:30pm chasing kids, setting up decorations, shade tents, and lugging coolers full of cold drinks. My sunburned husband came home, unloaded all the party stuff, and let me lay down to ice my foot because I really overdid it (while in my mind, I hardly did anything). He tended to the kids’ needs, and started packing all the necessities to be ready for an Ultra Marathon. Now it takes a butt load of prep for Ultras. You never know what you are going to want or need. You also have to be prepared for all types of weather. We have learned the hard way many times. As Nate was loading up his gear, I had some pressing thoughts on my mind that really bothered me. I thought he was crazy. He was going to be running all night, to just come home and hope for a few precious hours of sleep before having to be at work Sunday afternoon! I wondered why he was doing this. I even suggested he drop down to the 20 miles instead of the 40. He would be going out there alone. No friends or family. What? Why couldn’t I understand? I tried to tell him he had nothing to prove! Duh!!! Of course he has nothing to prove! Is this why other people think we race, because we are trying to “prove something”. I am supposed to be the one that “gets it”! I haven’t been running for 3 weeks since the injury. Am I already that withdrawn from what running long distance does for you that I didn’t understand why he would want to do this? I truly hope that I can get to the point again where I WANT to run 40 miles, all night, with no sleep, with no crowd cheering, and with only maybe 30 other runners. I want that to sound fun instead of “crazy”. I finally understood the pull that trail running is. I was a road runner for 10 years. I liked the hype, the big expos, & crowds. I never EVER wondered why someone would want to go longer than 26.2. It was all about running pace, getting PR’s, and my split mile times. The past few years I learned to really understand and LOVE trail running. I can’t even compare the two different venues.  I still really do enjoy road running. And hope that once I am healed that I will continue to do both. But what I really hope for the most is that I come to understand, again, why ultra marathons really are not crazy.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Game Changer

I was very pleased where the direction my running was heading. I had some exciting new goals for the second half of my race season. We had been selected for our 8th Saint George marathon. And I decided to slow down my pace and increase my distance. I signed up for lots of Aravaipa Trails runs and some other local races. All of these races where going to help prepare me to run the furthest distance I have ever set out to run before. I had finally gotten the nerve to sign up for Javelina Jundred 100k (62 miles)! I spent the last few months hitting the trails. I truly loved every minute out there. Such a challenge. I was happy to not have to stress as much about pace or heart rate. I truly felt free! On July 20th I was just over 10 miles into my run with my friend Kim. We were on a non technical section in the San Tan Mountains. Out of nowhere I just rolled my ankle. I knew instantly it was bad and heard a horrible pop. I wasn't able to bear any weight on my ankle. That part really scared me because this wasn't my first rodeo. I have a pretty high pain tolerance and usually can "walk it off". It was most likely going to take us hours for me to hobble out of there. We were literally saved my this sweet Cowboy and his horse named Thunder. He came across us and graciously offered to allow me to ride his horse 3 miles to the nearest parking lot so Nate could pick us up. While on the horse I didn't know if I should laugh or cry! It was right out of the movies. I was the damsel in distress laying on the side of the trail, and my trusty cowboy came and swept me off my feet. Well, maybe not so fancy. I was stinky sweaty in spandex, not a lovely dress. First, I am so so thankful I was with a good friend that morning who stayed with me. And second, I will forever be grateful to people who go out of their way to help others.

I am usually to stubborn to go to the doctor with an injury. However, I knew in my gut that I had to go with this one. I also wanted to make a smart decision because I had a race coming up in 6 days, and I was scheduled to teach a spin class the next morning. X-rays didn't show any new breaks, so next was to just wait for the MRI results to come in. I iced that ankle like there was know tomorrow. My goal was to get the swelling down, stay of it as much as possible, and then grit through the race Saturday night. At this run last year I placed 3rd overall female. I felt I was in better condition this year, and was more comfortable with trails this year. I really wanted to race to see what I could do. I got the phone call from my Doctor Friday, late afternoon, that was the total game changer. ATFL (anterior talofibular ligament) was nonexistent in the scan. The CFL (calcaneal fibular ligament) was hanging on by a thread. Nonexistent meant 100% torn. I hung up the phone and literally couldn't breathe. I am unsure how long I cried for. I had been whining all week about the idea of missing one race, and now this news meant much more than one race. It meant I couldn't run and play with my children, it meant I couldn't continue to work in a job I love, in meant I couldn't get that release that I get each day when I train. It meant I couldn't run side by side with my husband or dad in our upcoming events. I truly was completely devastated.

The week leading up to surgery was a lot of chaos and confusion. I actually am not going to blog the details of that because it still puts me in a bad mood thinking of it. The surgery had been scheduled, canceled, and re-scheduled multiple times and on various dates. However, the most important thing is the surgery went well. The Doctor was confident with the work. And we were fortunate to have it on a Friday so that Nate could be home all weekend. All the nurses and doctors were fun and helped lighten the mood. We were joking with them and having a good time prepping for surgery. They seem to treat us better when they find out that Nate is also a Nurse at their sister Hospital. It is hard to know exactly what you are getting into until the Dr. opens you up to see the true condition of the ligaments. Unfortunately, my ankle was in worse condition than he originally thought. The name of  the surgery the Dr. preformed is Brostrom ankle surgery. This is a fairly common surgery for athletes. He had to drill holes into my fibula to attach an anchor. The anchor is to told in place the newly repaired ligaments. Dr. Marshall described to Nate that my ATFL was completely mangled and frayed. He believes that this ligament has been damaged for years without ever healing correctly. He is confident in saying that all the tendinitis and instability I have had with that foot has been because of these ligaments never being repaired correctly. So after years of abouse, it seems my ankle just couldn't take it anymore.

Why my perspective has been changed from complete devastation, to gratitude and appreciation? First and foremost, my family has been looked after better than I would've EVER hoped for. I was so anxious on how it would be possible for me to take 10 days in bed, and another 3 weeks no weight bearing on my foot. To then be transferred to a boot for 12-14 weeks. What?! I have very active, young boys...I can't be on crutches?! But my family, friends, and church members have gone above and beyond to make sure we are doing okay. My room is full of balloons, & flowers from my awesome running group and mom. My kids have rides to preschool, endless play dates. We have had people bring in dinners, helping with my grocery shopping, and even with chores around the house! These things all seriously have fixed my broken heart. We have been so blessed in so many ways. Another thing I have to mention is that I am actually glad to finally know why this foot has been so troublesome. It has set me back one too many times. It basically was just dangling there. Yes, the timing was sad. But to be honest, when is it ever good timing? Yes, surgery is the last thing you want to hear. But I am glad to move forward and heal. I am going to follow doctors orders completely. I know I will get anxious and want to push it faster/sooner. But there is no sense in going through this in vein. I want to do what it takes to heal properly. I am currently on day 5 & trying to count my blessings daily on this road to recovery.