Monthly Archives: December 2015

Fueling and Hydration

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Fuel for the 2016 Yankee Springs Winter Challenge

My race fuel for the Yankee Springs Winter Challenge arrived.  As I pack it away in my race vest, prepping for the coming race, I’m thinking about hydration and race day fuel.

I’ve spent much time trying to figure out the best way for me to hydrate / fuel for my training and races – either by trying different things or reading about what works for others.

I’m a runner w/Crohn’s disease, so that affects what I put in my body pre-race, and during the run.  I typically go for things that are low in fiber / carbonation the day before, and during, my race.  Those two items don’t sit well with my Crohn’s.

I love beer, but it’s not what I choose to carbo-load with.  The carbonation in it is very uncomfortable for my Crohn’s.  I’m also a big fan of Clif bars, but they don’t go near me before a race.  I’ve tried it; it wasn’t fun.  After a race, sure, they’re both usually the first thing I consume.

I’m sure things vary from person to person, but I thought it’d be worth sharing where I’ve landed.  Perhaps it helps.  Or perhaps it at least gives you some things to try – even if you’re not a runner with Crohn’s (and I’m guessing most of you aren’t).

A couple of my baseline rules are:

  1. No beer / chicken wings / Chinese / ghost pepper sauce the night before any race, or a training run longer than 6 miles.
  2. Drink water.  All the time, regardless of whether I am running the next day.  Staying hydrated makes me generally feel good.  If I’m not enjoying a Michigan beer, or a stout cup of coffee, I pretty much only drink water.

I wear a UD SJ 2.0 vest to accommodate my fuel / hydration (amongst other things – we’ll get into that in another post).  I love this vest (you can see it in the picture below).  At this point, it’s pretty much like wearing a seatbelt – I wear it on every run.

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recent grocery run, featuring the Ultimate Direction SJ 2.0 vest

Training run: If I’m running less than 10 miles, I fill both bottles with water only.  I don’t need both bottles full, but I like the balance it provides having them equal weight.  My watch alerts me to drink every 10 minutes and I rotate between the bottles to evenly distribute the weight through the run.

If I’m running 10 miles, or more, I fill one, or two, bottles with two scoops of Tailwind – one caffeinated and one non-caffeinated.  Each bottle provides me with 200 calories and 16oz of hydration.  Since the calories and electrolytes are in the liquid, I don’t have to mess w/carrying gels.  Or stuffing messy gel packets in my pockets.

If it’s a really long training run, I’ll utilize the 70oz hydration pack that slides into the UD vest, and mix it at the same ratio of 200 calories per 16oz – half caffeinated and half non-caffeinated.

The combo of raspberry buzz / lemon Tailwind go together very well.

Marathon: Two 16oz bottles can’t get me through a marathon and a 70oz hydration pack isn’t very conducive to running fast.  After doing some research I found that some folks mix their tailwind to a higher concentration.  I tried this during my last marathon and it worked fabulously.

In each 16oz bottle I mixed 4 scoops (4o0 calories – again half and half) so I was carrying 32oz with me and 800 calories.  At the end of each mile I took a small squirt of liquid – alternating between bottles, again to keep them balanced.  This made the bottles last through the marathon.

I tested this ratio prior to the race to ensure my body was good with it.

However, since I wanted to drink more than 32oz over the course of the 4 hours+, I supplemented the hydration side with water at each aid station.

The bottles in the vest took care of the calories / electrolytes and the extra water from the aid stations kept me hydrated.

I ran a PR at that marathon – 3:56:58.

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ultra setup – a stick of Tailwind in each

50k: I move slow enough during an ultra to carry the hydration pack, but I don’t – that’d be dumb with the aid that’s available.  Pre-race, I fill both of my 16oz bottles with 2 scoops of Tailwind (200 calories each bottle).  This time I mix one bottle caffeinated and one bottle non-caffeinated.  I start the race with these in my vest along with a number of Tailwind sticks.

Rather than alternate drinks in each bottle during the race, I typically down an entire bottle first.  This makes refilling one bottle, vs. two partial bottles, much easier at the aid stations.  That convenience is worth more to me than the minor imbalance the bottles create.  At aid stations, I fill the empty bottle and fill with one of the aforementioned Tailwind sticks, shake, and go.  It works out pretty quickly and stuffing the empty Tailwind packet in my pocket isn’t as gooey and sticky as an empty gel.

The Tailwind provides me the calories / electrolytes / hydration I need through the race.  So far, I haven’t had to eat anything else during an ultra.  But – I haven’t run anything farther than 34 miles yet either.

Pre-race: There are times in life I still feel like a big kid.  My pre-race dinner is one of these occasions.  I eat Kraft mac and cheese w/hotdogs.  Seriously.  It’s a bland meal, provides some extra carbs, and is comforting as it reminds me of childhood.  The salt in the hotdogs make me drink a little extra the night before the race.  It’s wondrous.

The morning of the race I get up and eat a peanut butter and jelly a couple of hours before I run.  Again, simple and bland – easy on the ole’ gut, but it helps me start the race without feeling hungry.

After that it’s me and Tailwind until the finish.  So far that’s worked out well.  We’ll get a chance to test it again in a few short days.

How do you fuel / hydrate for races?

Do you choose different methods for different distances?

What’s your pre-race meal of choice?

 

 

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Merry Christmas!!

  
Merry Christmas from my family to you!  

If this were a typical day off work, and I were out for a morning run, my kids would’ve been awake over an hour ago – jumping on their momma in bed, waiting for me to get home.  But I’m not running this morning, and somehow at 8:15 they are still asleep. 

So while I enjoy my coffee and wait for the kids – Merry Christmas and have a wonderful day!

Who needs luck? Just go out and enjoy the race.

A few minutes before I left the office yesterday one of my coworkers stopped by to wish me a Merry Christmas and chat about the family.  Since he’s a runner too, the conversation always eventually ends up with us chatting about recent or upcoming races.  He has a long training run this weekend as he then begins to taper for not one – but two marathons next month.  Whoa.

Have fun and enjoy them!

A lot of people do, but I don’t generally tell folks ‘good luck!’ for a race.  Most of us aren’t elite athletes that need a little extra luck to earn a place on the podium anyway.  And really – what is luck?  Per my friend Google, luck is …

  1. success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.

As runners, we’re involved in many actions for months leading up to a race – obviously the running, but there’s also the stretching, foam rolling, eating well, proper rest and mental preparation.

Thus, I personally don’t believe in ‘luck’ for a race.

I too have a race in early January – the 50k Yankee Springs Winter Challenge (though … I don’t know whether we will get any winter before the start).

I view it, as I do with all of my races, as the reward for all of my aforementioned actions that lead up to it.  It’s the reward for the early mornings, running through the rain, missed drinks with friends on Friday nights, good runs and bad.  I know I have put in the time training and preparing, I trust that training, and now it’s time to enjoy!

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For me especially, being that I’m a #darkskyrunner, races are even more special.  For one, they’re during the day (or at least most of the race is during the day).  Running through the daylight and seeing the scenery of ultras is awesome and one of the many reasons I run them.  I also run alone during almost all of my training, so being around other people during a race brings an exciting vibe that I don’t normally get.  It’s fun to meet new people and share stories (and a beer) with them.

Who needs luck?  Just go out and enjoy the race.  Have fun.  You earned it!

My Instagram account isn’t sexy

My wife doesn’t run.  My local buddies don’t run.  Thus, twitter and wordpress have been great for virtually connecting with others in the running community.  Often times I find myself scrolling through my twitter feed, over coffee, admiring all of your drop dead gorgeous Instragram photos of mountains … sunrises … sunsets … forests … snow … you name it, I’ve seen it.  It’s awesome, and has to be a hell of a motivation to your running.

My running photos look like this:IMG_3497.JPG

That’s honestly a real picture!!! – taken at 4:59am on 12/6.  I believe Venus and Jupiter were supposed to be in there.

Or they look like this:

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You see, as a #darkskyrunner – my instagram isn’t sexy.  Sure, every once in awhile, I’ll get something like the snowmen, or if I’m running during the afternoon, on a weekend, I’ll get some shots to share, but in general, Instagram isn’t for us darkskyrunners.

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That’s not to say my runs are void of awesomeness.  I’ve seen full moons, new moons, no moons, super moons and lunar eclipses.  I’ve seen meteors and beautiful starry skies – using my trusty iphone to learn new constellations along the way.

I’ve seen the first rays of light to kiss the Southwest Michigan horizon.

I’ve stashed my headlamp and experienced the serenity of running alone, in the dark, with no light at all – just the light of the moon and the stars.

I’ve seen countless sets of eyes glowing back at me and a bloody pile of entrails with a blood trail leading off into the woods … no – seriously, that was this morning and it somewhat freaked me out, especially with how rowdy the coyotes were this morning …

But it’s not just the visual experiences I enjoy during my early morning runs.  I love to hear the owls and the coyotes (when they’re sufficiently far away).  I absolutely love the stillness of a fresh snow, in the dark, on a calm morning.

Then there are the smells … this morning it was the scent of a wood burning furnace.  I love the smell of burning wood; it brings back memories of camping.

For some reason there are areas that I run through that smell like cucumber.  I don’t know why – it’s weird, but it just smells fresh, and not in a Fabreeze kinda way …

The best smell I’ve encountered while running occurred during my first trail run at night.  I can tell you exactly where it was, clockwise around the loop at Kellogg Forest, just at what I call the ‘top’ or the ‘back’ part of the loop, where the rows of different conifers are planted, about 300 yards from where I proposed to my wife …

It was dark.  I had a headlamp, and had a pretty good idea of where I was in the loop, but as soon as the scent of the conifers punched me straight in the nose, I knew exactly where I was.  It was awesome.  It instantly reminded me of my canoe trips to Quetico – where we’d drive for a day and get out of the car in the Canadian wilderness to be overwhelmed by the freshness of the trees.  I had a big fat grin on my face that morning.  To this date, it’s still one of my favorite runs.  Oddly, I don’t seem to notice the scent as much during the day – it’s like when the eyes aren’t stimulated, the rest of the senses kick into a higher gear.

Of course there are things that don’t smell so great too – the port o johns, the intersection downtown Kalamazoo that seemingly always smells like sewage, and burning leaves come to mind on the other end of the spectrum.  Yeah – I love the smell of burning wood, but I hate the smell of burning leaves …

I get to experience some cool shit as a #darkskyrunner.  Unfortunately I just can’t share it with y’all.  But try it sometime – go out there in the wee morning hours and see if you like it.  I started running then out of necessity with the wife / kids / job, but I now love it.  It’s just that my Instagram account isn’t sexy.

What’s the best/worst thing you’ve smelled on a run?

What’s the coolest thing you’ve heard on a run?

Ever tried running in the dark?

 

Week of 12/6/15 … so begins the taper

Miles this week: 31

2015 YTD: 1289


I’m three weeks to the day from my next race – the Yankee Springs Winter Challenge.  This should’ve been my peak week before rolling into taper mode next week, but due to some ankle discomfort on my Friday morning run, this week ended up kicking off the taper.

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I was going to take Saturday / Sunday off and rest up the ankle, but today was too nice.  I decided to go out for a short trail run to test the ankle.  It held up fabulously!  I forgot how much harder it is to run the trails though.  That’ll likely be my one negative going into this race.  I haven’t spent enough time on the trails.  Almost all (ok – all) of my training has been on the roads.  It’s tough to get on the trails this time of year with the darkness.  I’ll just take it a bit slower and call it good.

Looking at my training log, the last 3 weeks prior to my races this year I’m only averaging 50 miles over that time span so I’m not too concerned about missing some miles this weekend.  I don’t know why that number is so low, but it’s like I build up and burn out then relax into the race.  I guess it works for me.

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My early week runs were good.  10 milers on Tuesday and Thursday.  I think my heart rate training is finally starting to pay off.  I noticed a drop of about 30sec / mile on my Tuesday run over the previous Tuesday.  I’m excited to see where I end up after a couple of months of this.  Have you tried heart rate training before?  Have any luck?

Aside from my trail run today, I got to spend some time w/one of my daughters at the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy tike hike.  These are always fun.  She loved pointing out the moss and ferns, running down the hills and ‘stirring up the leaves to make soup!’12339338_10153946320253984_3580485032339577235_o copy.jpg

Next week is the start of the ‘real’ taper and I’m probably looking at something between 35-40 miles.

Oh, one other thing I remembered – it was over 60 degrees here in Michigan today.  Other than the running on the trails which will be hard for me during my upcoming race, I’m guessing Winter’s finally going to show her face.  So instead of running in this beautiful weather, I’m probably going to get smacked in the face with 12 degrees and blowing snow.  I won’t know what to wear since it’s been so long since I’ve had to run in that weather.  Oh well, it’ll be fun nonetheless!

How was your week of running?

Did you enjoy the nice weather?

What’s your next race?

 

I should be running …

I first felt it last night, while walking out to my car after work.  My ankle felt a little stiff and there was pain between the front / outside of my right ankle.  I also felt it bother me a bit during my sleep last night – or at least when I should have been sleeping.

Oh well, up at 2:20am to run this morning!

I needed 15 miles today and another 20 tomorrow to cap off my peak training week for the Yankee Springs Challenge 50k.  The sky was clear, the stars were out, and it was a beautiful morning.

Except … for my ankle.

I felt some discomfort pretty much immediately after I started running.  It was minor, but it was there.  Nothing to keep me from running though so I continued on.

The further I ran, I started noticing that I was changing my stride to compensate for it.  I don’t like to do this because it seems to eventually aggravate some other muscle / joint / leg eventually.

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5 miles into this 15 mile route, I was heading back past the house.  With the discomfort increasing, and the fear of injuring something else by over compensating for another 10 miles, I bailed on the remainder of the run.  So here I sit – at 5:30am blogging – while I should be out running.

I’m content with the decision. I feel I have the endurance to run my race in January, and I’m guessing I just need a couple of days off anyway.  It may very well jeopardize my mileage goal though – it was going to be close, even with the 15 miler today and 20 miler tomorrow (which I don’t plan on doing now).  That’s not the end of the world though.

This also isn’t an A list race for me, but more of a target to keep training and in shape through the end of the year.  I’m definitely looking forward to it, but it’s just a short 20 minute drive away.  If it were my 50miler next summer, in Marquette, and I was in this spot, perhaps I’d be freaking out just a bit.

 

So what’s up with the ankle?  I don’t know.  I’m not a doctor.  And I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.  My whole right leg has felt a bit tight for a few days.  I’m guessing something’s just finally gotten to the point where it’s out of whack and causing the discomfort.  I’ll work a little harder on the stretching / rolling / icing for a couple days and see where we’re at.

So instead of running this morning – I’ve been icing, watching a rerun of last night’s football game and blogging.

I hope you have a better weekend than me!

On the plus side, I did see a meteor this morning!

 

Embrace the rest days – I bet you’ll love it

I used to suck at rest days.

Dude – it’s the easiest day of the week!!!

I know, but I kept trying to turn rest days into running days and that never turned out well.  I always thought I could, or should, sneak in a few extra miles.  After all, I’m training to run ultras – I need miles.  But instead of successfully logging the extra miles, some combination of the following happened:

  1. I ran the extra miles, which lead to burnout, which lead to a crappy run on my actual training run.
  2. I ran the extra miles, which lead to burnout that made me skip my actual training run.
  3. I didn’t run, but felt like I should run, so I felt crappy about it.

Alas, I was not embracing my rest day.  Rather than looking at it as an opportunity to relax / recharge, I was looking at it as a missed opportunity.  The mindset can make all the difference.

I’ve since tried to embrace the rest day, and I love it!  I schedule it, just like a training run, and I’ve found it adds balance / structure to my week.  I no longer go to work thinking ‘I should’ve snuck in a few extra miles this morning.’  I go to work thinking ‘Hey, good job, you slept in today.’

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My rest days are now an opportunity to catch up on a few extra Z’s in the morning and grind / press a real cup of coffee.  I still try to stretch during my rest days, and read about running, and tweet about running, and blog about running … but I don’t run.  It also allows me to spend some extra time with my family because I’m up later the night before a rest day.  I know the morning won’t start before 4am.  Today I slept all the way till 6:15!!!

If you too struggle with your rest days, take it from me – embrace them.  I bet you’ll love it.