Thursday, February 25, 2010

Howl at the moon!

In about 10 days, I will be in Ojai, CA running a 100 mile race called the Coyote Two Moons. This will be the second of my 12 this year. This race has a staggered start format, so that everyone can finish within a four hour window. The slowest runners start first. I got put into the third wave, which starts 11:00 pm Friday night. Yes, it will be a full moon. Howl away...

Following my last race, the Rocky Raccoon 100, just about two weeks ago; I came away with tendonitis on my left shin and top of left foot. I had no idea how I got it, I've never had anything like that. I'm thinking it was due to the timing strap being too tight on my ankle, so that the tendons had restricted motion to flex and move. I should of just tied the chip to my shoes, or put on the strap kinda loose.

I took a week off after Rocky Raccoon, and then resumed training. I would have started training much sooner, but I wanted to let the tendonitis subside first. Now, I'm back to full-strength and training hard.

Coyote Two Moons has a lot of climbing and descending, there are about 28,000 feet of elevation gain and loss on the course. Looking at the elevation profile, it seems you are going up or down and never have any flats. Given the course, I have been running 6-8 percent grades, daily, for 5 miles and then 5 miles back down. This really builds the gluts and the quads for more specific adaptation.

My only worry is that I will out-run my start group. Meaning that I will run ahead and catch the previous two start waves, and then begin to arrive at Aid Stations before they open. Especially, the AS on the second half of the race. I will have to arrange my own aid as an alternative plan.

I've also dropped a few pounds. Overall, things look good for the race.

Until the next Ultraholic adventure, happy trails.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Rocky Raccoon 100 Miles Recap

... I was slowly approaching the 92 mile Aid Station. Physically cold and tired, but my mind was still strong. I knew I was outside of the 24 hours finish time. I kept telling myself that it didn't make any sense to stop, but finishing the last 8 miles was the quickest way to end the struggle and savor the victory. However, when I got to the Aid Station, my mental resolve just fell apart. I got next to the campfire and then into a blanket and remained there for the next 4 hours. Such is the ordeal of an ultra-distance runner... The mind is strong, but the body is weak.

I was fully under-trained coming into this race. Due to taking some time off and getting a terrible cold, I had two weeks to peak and taper. Needless to say, it was horribly inadequate. However, my main goal this season is to finish twelve 100 milers; so the only thing that really mattered to me was to just finish.

However, there is always the hope that I can pull a rabbit out of the hat; as I optimistically looked for a sub 20 hr finish. I knew I could do it if I was properly trained, but I was hoping... Well, maybe next year.

At the starting line I saw all my peeps, Gundy, Levi, Jeanette, Eric, Jose, Jimmy, Dom, Katie, etc... Fun times! The course was relatively flat. It was a 5 lap race, with each lap covering 20 miles and about 1,000 feet elevation gain/loss. I was also surprised at how soft the ground was; pine needle covered and recently rain soaked dirt made for a plush ride. I tripped on exposed roots three times and fell, and each time I just got up and kept running without even a scar. This was a very beginner friendly and non-technical course.

The first two laps went pretty well, I was on 20 hours pace; and felt very good. I slowed down for laps three and four; and was still holding onto a sub 24 hours finish. However, I was fast approaching my physical limits and was beginning to tire. I would have done pretty good if the race ended at four laps. Sorry, Kristen, I had nothing left to accompany you to push for the sub 24 hours.

I walked the last lap to save my strength. I have developed enough mental discipline to stay focused on the big picture. Sure, I could have pushed, but at what recovery cost? My next 100 miler would be in 4 more weeks. My mind was surely stronger than my body; at this point in my ultra running career, I could seriously injure myself because my mind can push beyond the limits of my body.

The last lap was cold, dark, and slow. I slogged through it; "just keep moving", I told myself. I was so cold at one point, even running could not increase my core temperature. Next time, I'm wearing a wet-suit top to stay warm. I don't care how dorky I will look, I just need to stay warm.

Oh yeah, some "don't do what I did" tips...
1. Don't leave your trail shoes at home so you have to run trails with your road shoes.
2. Don't use a brand new pair of shorts, even if they are the same model, make, and size. I got the worst ever chaffing.
3. Don't take a four hour nap at mile 92. Stay strong and finish the dang thing.

I did finish after my nap.

Until the next Ultraholic adventrue...


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Here We Go...

In about 10 days, I will be in Texas doing the first of my 12 100 milers for this year. Due to taking some time to rest over the holidays and catching a bad cold, my training is not where it should be. But, that's okay because I'm looking at the whole season rather than just this one race. This season is going to be about keeping healthy and injury-free; and staying consistent.

This upcoming race is called the Rocky Raccoon. It is in Huntsville, TX, and pancake flat. It consists of five 20 mile loops. It is a PR course for sure, but I don't think I will be pushing that hard. My goal is just to go under 24 hours. I will be leaving on Thursday morning and doing a long road trip in my car. You can check the race website for updates.

I hope to repeat the good race I had at Javelina. My goals are to practice good pacing, hydration, and mental focus.

The race website is here,

Send good thoughts or prayers my way. Thanks!

Until the next Ultraholics adventure!



Friday, November 13, 2009

What's A Chimera?

According to wikipedia, the Chimera was a beast from Greek mythology (Greek: Χίμαιρα), and was a monstrous fire-breathing creature with genetic fusion. It had the body of a lioness with a tail that terminated in a snake's head, and a head of a goat came up out of the center of its spine. Little do people know, Steve Harvey (the Old Goat: see the association?) and the RD of the Chimera 100K/M is a distant and direct descendant of the Chimera.

Steve would have you believe that the Chimera race is one of the toughest in the country; but what really is happening is this: "the term chimera has also come to mean more generally, an impossible or foolish fantasy." If you think you are going to finish this race, you are gravely mistaken, it is just wishful thinking. What really happens is that you will be feed to the Chimera or forced into pushing Steve's dying Ford F250 up those dang hills, or volunteer for one of his Old Goat races.

For those you who are fast (or think you are), here is a word of advise if you think you can out-run the Chimera, don't even try. The Chimera is "a creature fearful, great, SWIFT-footed and strong." She will chase you down, no matter if you are DFL or Jorge Pacheco.

If you happen to see the Chimera while out on the course; then, you will definitely be in trouble. For Chimera sightings were considered "an omen of storms, shipwrecks, and natural disasters (particularly volcanoes)." Santiago Peak will erupt and will engulf you with burning flames.

Until the next Ultraholic adventure, happy Chimera training.



Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chimera 100 Planning - How to Adapt Your Training for a Specific Course

Some people, especially ultra newbies, have asked me, "how do you develop a training program for a specific race?" Well, here's how I do it. Of course, pre-running the course is always best. However, lacking the opportunity to pre-run the course, I use the race website plus a few other mapping tools to get the information I need to design a program that will simulate the course effectively. Please note that the elevation profile doesn't always tell the full story; other factors to consider are heat, cold, mud, rocks, roots, ground cover, darkness, and etc...

I start at the race website, it would usually have a course map or elevation profile. If this is sufficient, then you don't need to use any more mapping tools. However, I usually find that these "generalized" maps and profiles don't show enough details. I like to see profiles with tick lines spaced at 1 mile horizontally, and 100 feet vertically. Look at this example profile I generated for the Chimera main loop (click on profile to see it in full size).

From this profile, I look for parts of the course that are steep. For the steep parts, I determine the gradient. For the Chimera 100 main loop, I determined that the climb up to Santiago Peak is about 14%, and the climb out of Silverado Canyon is about 7.5%.

For Chimera, I know the first 9 mile loop does not have significant climbing as compared to the main loop. Also, 100 mile runners will ascend Santiago twice.

How did I determine the gradient? The formula is:

gradient = (change in elevation/change in distance)x100

This will give you the percentage of the grade.

Here's how I did it. Looking at the profile, I picked two points on the ascent to Santiago, say, at mile 11 and 11.8, that are representative of an average grade for that portion of the climb. Then, I count how many feet between the two points; each line is 100 feet and I counted 6 lines. So, that's 600 feet of elevation in .8 miles. 1 mile equals 5280 feet. Dividing 600 into 5280x.8, we get .1402. Then multiply by 100, and we get 14.02 percent. Similarly, the climb out of Silverado is 400 feet in about every mile; and so we get about 7.5% grade.

Knowing this, I need to prepare my legs for sustained climbing at around 14 percent for 2 miles. However, 14 percent is hardly runnable, a power walk is probably the best choice. Also, the 7.5% climb goes on for 8 miles; this, however, is runnable.

Consequently, on my daily treadmill workout, I will work up to 2 miles of power walking at 14%, and then run 8 miles at 7.5 percent or more. I will probably start at 1 mile of power waling and then run/walk for 5 miles; and then gradually build up. For the downhill portions, I do spinning to prepare the quads for the pounding.

As I prepare, these workouts will tell me what my expected pace will be on the uphills. I already know that I can usually run 9 to 10 minute miles on the downhills. Knowing my uphill pace and the downhill pace, I can estimate my goal time for this course. I can make a time-split chart as I arrive at each aid station; this way, I would know if I'm on pace or behind.

Until the next Ultraholic adventure, happy training!

P.S.: If there's enough interest, I will write more on how to get the detailed elevation profile that I made for Chimera. Suffice it to say, it was not a simple process.


Thursday, November 05, 2009

Javelina Jundred 2009 - A 100 Dreams Come True, One Mile At A Time

It was about lap 5 that I finally realized that I was going to actually run the whole race. In the past, my 100 mile races have been running in the beginning and then a lot of walking at the end. I can hardly believe it, it was so magical. I though about how that was such a miracle and believed that somehow God was helping me. I knew that my friends were praying for me.

Rewind to 2006; in my previous try at Javelina, I DNF'd at mile 67 due to dehydration. It was my first 100 and I promised to redeem myself. To those of you that didn't finish this race; don't despair, your time will come and it will be glorious.

In the time since that first 100 mile race, I've DNF'd a few more 100 milers; but also completed a few. But none of them have been like this one. This is that ONE special race I will remember for as long as I live. As those of you that run 100 milers know, so many things can go wrong during a race. This was one race where EVERYTHING came together. It was so magical.

I didn't feel that my fitness was top-notch going into the race, but I knew I was mentally ready for the challenge. My weekly mileage was on the low side, and I hadn't really put in mega long runs. I was also about 8 pounds heavier than in the past. On top of that, I was without pacer and crew.

I had a plan going in. I was looking for 3 hour laps for the first three, then 3 and a half hour loops for 4, 5, and 6. And about two hours and change for the seventh and shorter loop. That adds up to about 21 hours and 30 minutes; and my goal was 22 hours.

The race started with me and my buddy LT (Lambert Timmermans) running together along with a pack of three others. The five of us made good time until about 7 miles in when Lambert took off. I kept to my pace and the four of us ran together for a while longer. I completed lap one in about 2 hours and 30 minutes. I thought, "whoa, that was too fast;" but was glad that I banked some cushion time. I felt good. I was counting the people in front of me as they reversed directions on the second "washing machine" lap. I was in about 30th place.

On the second lap, I didn't change anything other than taking a 1 minute walking break every mile.

I used to be really scientific with electrolyte and water balance, but now I just taste my sweat to see if I needed salt. If it tastes slightly salty, I take 1 caplet; if it tastes not salty at all, I take two or three caplets. I've also learned to gauge water intake; specifically the frequency and amount. I sipped often, but never gulped. From experience, I drink just enough to coat my stomach lining and not let it slosh around. It helps to reduce bloating. It works for me, for you, it may be different; experiment until you find your sweet spot. My second lap was about 3 hours, right on.

It was now mid-day and the desert was heating up. I had some slight discomfort in my stomach. My friend Janet told me to slow down so my stomach can digest and recover in the heat. I listened to her. I had just completed a 50k in 5 hours and 30 minutes, not too bad in itself. As I started the third loop, I thought, "I can use up the banked time on this lap and then just keep the same 3 hour 30 minute per lap pace until the end. That strategy turned out well.

I would continue to take regular walking breaks. I would count my paces and looked forward to the completion of every mile when I can get a break. Towards the end I was talking a walking break every half mile on the uphills. All the walking was planned and occurred like clock work. Never once did I have to walk because I was too tired to run. Or, put it another way, I felt like I could have kept running the whole time.

I was catching up to the people in front of me at the end of lap three. I knew I didn't speed up, they had slowed down more than I.

As I started lap four, my stomach was feeling good again. Also, my leg felt better too. I resisted the urge to speed up, as I knew I was on pace. I just kept my mental discipline to run my race.

Also, I had been practicing quick-in-quick-out at the aid stations. I thought about what I needed before I got to the aid stations. When I got there, I got what I needed and then got out. I knew I passed quite a few people like this.

Lap four went by just like lap three, in almost the same lap time. It was now dark and I had complete a 100k. I saw and passed some early leaders who dropped back. Some of them were my friends and I felt bad for them. They were having a bad day and I knew exactly how they felt, as I have had my share of those bad days.

Lap five went by just like lap four, a little slower but not that much slower. I just kept going, one mile at a time. Run a mile, walk a minute; repeat. My friends said I seemed so focused that I appeared to ignore them out on the trail as we passed. I apologize to all, as I was just so into my mental zone.

On this lap I made a special mental note as I passed the point at which I stopped in my last attempt at Javelina. I knew I was having a good race. Up to this point, I had no issues at all. No low points, just consistent rock solid pace. I felt like I should be walking, but I had no reasons to walk. I felt so not-myself, but in a good way. I asked myself, "how can I still be running?" I didn't really believe that I could still be running. Does that sound weird, or what?

I didn't see even more of the early leaders, I knew they had dropped out as well. The 50% attrition rate applies at the front too.

Lap six came and went just like lap five, but a little slower yet. I was still running. However, I was glad to not have to see some of those trails again, save for the last 5 mile of climbing on lap seven. On this lap, I was actually playing cat and mouse with a fellow competitor, which provided some welcomed distraction from the mental monotony. I had passed him on the climb and he caught back up. Then I would run and pass him, but he would catch me as I took my walking breaks. Once, just as he caught up to me, I begun to run and it seemed like I was purposely trying to counter attack his attack. However, it just happened that my walking break ended as he caught me. He was vocal as I can hear him behind me saying stuff that could of got to me. I didn't let it; but it was annoying. I just kept running my race. He finally passed me on the downhill part of lap six. He was a faster downhill runner.

I stopped to take a potty break. I can feel my legs stiffen up as I stopped and tried to get going again. But, it was not too bad.

I was really excited to start lap seven. Wearing that glowing ring around my neck felt like a badge of honor. They gave lap seven runners a special marking so that aid station personnel could properly direct the runners onto lap seven's special trail.

I never got cold because I was running the whole way. However, I still carried a long sleeved shirt with me.

At this point, I had completed 90 miles. However, I knew that a lot can still happen in 10 miles. My wheels can still fall off. After all, it was still another two whole hours until my anticipated finish.

I had no issues on the final climb; I slowed a little, but still running. When I got to the final aid station, I knew I had made it. It was now 5 miles and all downhill. I spent almost zero time at the aid station, because I had reserved extra water and food on my previous stop.

I started looking at my watch and gauged my pace to see if I would make it under 22 hours. I pushed my pace for three miles and it appeared that I would not make it.

Then, just as I had decided to pull back, the trail steepened and I was flying down with the aid of gravity. I was making up major time. I hit the final left turn towards the finish with about a mile to go and 10 minutes remaining. I stepped on the gas and floored it. Now, it was speed with all abandon. No more pacing. No more saving my energy. I ran like there was no tomorrow. I got to the road crossing and knew I had another 0.3 miles. I didn't dare to look at the watch, I just put my head down and started sprinting. It was like doing a 400m speed workout. I crossed the line at 21 hours, 59 minutes, and 17 seconds, over-joyed and in an euphoric state.

What a way to run a 100 miler! That's the way to finish.

I wish for all to experience what I experienced. It was magical, and supremely confidence boosting. 100 mile ultras are always hard; but when it all comes together, there is nothing I would trade for it in this world. I made my goal of 22 hours, and got 15th place out of 250. Not too bad for a comeback from DNF.

Until the next Ultraholic adventure, happy trails.


Using Recovery to Gauge you Next Race Effort

It was three and a half days after the conclusion of the Javelina Jundred 100 mile endurance footrace when I decided to try to run again. By this time, my feet had shrunken back to normal size, and my legs feel pretty fresh. I picked a run and pace which I normally do in my routine training. And surprise, I felt great. I felt almost like I could go and do another 100 mile race.

I don't remember being able to recover this quickly from my other 100 milers. So this was a rather pleasant surprise. I'm in such high-spirits right now that my euphoria from the past weekend continues.

However, my quick recovery can suggest two things. One is that I could have pushed harder, and the other is that my body and training has reached a higher fitness level. This race almost felt like a very hard training run. I think I'm still peaking in my current state of fitness (the build phase). I guess my next race, the Chimera 100 Miler (in 37 days) will really challenge my mind and body to push it to 100%. After Chimera, there are no races until Feb. So, that would allow more than ample time for a full recover and build cycle.

Until the next Ultraholic adventure, happy trails.


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Mental Discipline and Ultra Success - Post Javelina Reflections

I just had the best racing experience I've ever had this past weekend. I will write a full race report soon. But, here I just wanted to reflect on what I realized. Needless to say, I did very well and PR'ed my 100 mile time at 21 hours and 59 minutes and came in at 15th place out of 250 starters.

First, let me back up a little bit. Due to job changes and scheduling challenges, I was relegated to treadmill training the past few months. I think this has help me toughen my mental focus to stay the course at the 100 mile ultra distance.

Thinking back to the race, there was so many times when I could have unraveled and lost focus. First, there was that obnoxious guy. I could of got upset and made errors. Then, in the last few miles I could of ignored my needs, thinking that I'm so close. Yes, I still took salt pills and drank and ate even in the last 5 miles. A lot can happen in 5 miles. Lastly, I fought the urge to speed up since I was feeling so great.

I focused on pacing and kept to a steady speed the whole way. I didn't have any low spots. My lap times told the whole story - there were no bad laps and the times stayed very consistent. I kept drinking and maintained my electrolyte balance diligently.

Was my treadmill training what made the difference? I think so. It was the only thing I did differently leading up to this race. The boredom trained my mind to focus on the task at hand. I'm not saying that everyone should train on a treadmill, but just that this is what I did and it worked for me.

Until the next Ultraholic adventure, happy trails.