Monthly Archives: April 2015

Volunteering: Team Nut Up or Shut Up, Gives Back

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My running team volunteered at the Salt Flats 100 endurance race this past Friday to Saturday. I ran the Salt Flats 100 last year during the epic wind and rain storm. Thankfully, the weather this year was much better. We did have some rain and wind, but it was nothing compared to last year’s run.

My team was assigned to man aid station 13 located at mile 89.3. We wanted our aid station to be the best out there and we wanted to provide the runners with everything they needed at that point in the race. This took a little thought on my part recalling what I wanted and needed during my 100 mile races at mile 89. At mile 89, many runners just want to be done. They are tired, hungry, and hurt.

We set up two canopies with sides to hold in the heat from our propane heaters. We had a full kitchen in one canopy to provide the runners with quesadillas, romen noodles, coffee, and hot chocolate. We had Christmas lights strung up around the canopies and other lights illuminating the entire aid station. The runners drop bags were kept dry under tarps.

Inside the other canopy were chairs, the heaters, a table with fruit, chips, water, power aid, coke, mountain dew, ginger ale, cookies, candy, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, gu, salt tablets, salted potatoes and various over the counter medications. We were ready for any blister or foot issue the runners presented with. We had massage tools for tight muscles and blankets to wrap cold runners.

There were fourteen of us out on the top of the last climb in the race waiting for runners. From my team I had Swiss Miss, Spongebunny, EZ, J$, Gear Gnome, Cousin Jon, and myself. There were four people from the ham radio team and three other volunteers.

We massaged them, filled their water bottles, brought their drop backs to them, and packed them full of snacks for their last ten miles.

The greatest thing we had at our aid stations was the portable propane pizza oven. We were able to bake fresh pizza (take and bake pizzas) right there for the runners and volunteers.

We didn’t expect any runners before 10:00 pm, but we arrived at 430 pm to set up before dark and before any rain began to fall. Forty-three runners started running Friday morning at 7:00 am. Just under thirty runners came through aid station 13. No one dropped out at our aid station. We tried not to let them linger for too long because body temperature drops quickly when you stop running.

The first runner arrived just before midnight. We went a little way down the road to meet him as he came in, telling him about the options available and asking what he needed. The look we got when we told them there was fresh baked pizza was so worth the cost of getting the oven and pizzas.

“You have pizza?”

“Yes, fresh baked right here.”

“Oh my god! I love pizza.”

“Let’s get you into a chair and you can have all you want.”

We’d usher them into the warm space, sit them down, and set a piece of warm pizza in their waiting hands.

Through a mouth full of pizza they each said, “This is the best pizza I have ever had!”

Cost of the pizza and oven $300.00; The appreciation and joy on runners faces at mile 89, priceless.

 

Organizing a Race

Race for Home

Have you ever thought about being a race director?

I have always been grateful appreciative of race directors, after all, without them we wouldn’t be running in such amazing places and maybe some of us wouldn’t be running at all. Putting together a race is a daunting task. It is more than just getting a couple of permits and throwing together a route for your race.

I’ve been setting up a race to raise money for the Volunteers of America (VOA), Utah’s Homeless Youth Shelter being built in Salt Lake City, Utah. When I agreed to set the race up, the only things I knew about being a race director were I needed an event permit and the things I had learned from being on the other side as a runner.

I decided for the first year of the VOA run I would put together a 5k and 10k. Honestly, I wanted to go for the big enchilada, the marathon, but once I learned a little more about the process and obstacles, I decided the 5k and 10k would be good enough for the inaugural event.

I googled organizing a 5k. There is useful information on Road Runners of America, they even have a race directors certification, from Road Runners, I learned I would need a few more things alongside the permit.

Before I could fill out and file the event permit application I had to have a route, liability insurance, and an idea of how much this would cost and what it would look like.

I wanted the race to bring the neighborhood, where the shelter is being built, together as a community to support the youth who will access services at the shelter. So my friends and I decided to do a breakfast block party after the race in the park where the race starts.

The VOA added the race to their insurance so that problem was solved. After much exploring, I opted for running the race along the Jordan River Parkway. The River Parkway was chosen for a few reasons, first, it’s close to where the shelter will be built, second it is more scenic than the city streets around where the shelter will be, and third it reduces costs by lowering the amount of police officer support the race needs.

Armed with the insurance and race route, I submitted our application for the permit and the fee of $108. My friends and I had planning meetings and raised some money. After a couple months, I received a conditional permit from Salt Lake City with a list of everyone I needed to contact to get the official permit by race day.

The list requires me to contact local law enforcement for assistance with traffic, road crossings, and barricade placement. The police look at your route and tell you where you will need police officers, barricades and if you need to shut down a roadway. Then they tell you how much all of that will cost you. For my 5k and 10k the police price tag is $1800.00. Luckily, our race is an out and back, which reduces the number of officers we have to have, and we don’t have to shut down roads or use barricades, which would increase costs. I also had to go through the laws related to raffles because gamboling in Utah is illegal. Raffles must be conducted to allow anyone to participate without cost.

Next on the list, I needed to contact the Parks and Recreation Department to get permission to use the park including the restrooms and garbage cans located at the park. Then I had to contact the person in charge of the Jordan River Parkway to obtain permission to use the parkway and provide them with a plan of keeping the parkway and waterway free of garbage.

Next, I contacted Utah Transit Authority to make sure that my route would not interfere with any bus routes or cross any of the train tracks. My original route actually did cross railroad tracks and I had to reconfigure the route due to the risk of runners running through the railroad barricades or hoping through a stopped train.

Next I had to contact, the Traffic Control Division to make sure I didn’t need a permit from them to shut down a road for parking cars, runners crossing, or the breakfast block party.

After Traffic Control, I had to contact the Waste Management Division with a plan for collecting the waste produced by the event along with a plan for recycling. They gave me an estimate on how many garbage cans and recycling bins I would need based on my estimated number of participants. Now I just have to order and pay for the drop off and pick up of those garbage cans.

Once I submitted my garbage plan and paid for the garbage cans, I filled out and submitted my plan to comply with the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA requires that my event accommodate people with disabilities so they are able to attend and participate in the event as much as anyone else.

The last box I need to check off is getting a lease through Salt Lake City Leasing Office to use the public space of the park and parkway. I know this is going to cost more money, but I don’t know how much yet.

Of course this is all the behind the scenes stuff that happens for a race. I still have to organize volunteers, order port-o-potties, gather raffle prizes, order bib numbers and t-shirts, get finisher medals, set up race registration, find sponsors, set up the breakfast, get a timing clock and a starting/finishing line arch. We also have course marking and set up, packet pick-up, and course take down and clean up.

I really could not put all this together without my friends and the support at Volunteers of America.

The final piece of being a race director is Promotion, so if you live in Utah or will be there in June come out and run to support the Homeless Youth Shelter. You can donate to the cause or register to run at www.voaut.org/funrun

 

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Thirty Seven

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A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

Recap: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all, but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.

Sam sat at Melanie’s feet coloring in a princess coloring book and telling Melanie the story of Beauty and the Beast.

“At first, Belle thought the beast was mean and ugly. Then she learned that he was only ugly on the outside. And he was mean because other people were mean to him. And then she loved him. And then they were happy.”

Melanie was only half listening to her sister as she worked on her ipad trying to find the best route to the safe zone in Oregon. She wanted to go through as few major cities as possible.

Sam tapped Melanie’s knee.

Melanie pulled her eyes away from the screen. “What? Sorry Sammy.”

“I was telling you the most important part.” Sam stuck out her lower lip and hung her head. Her long honey hair fell forward, and Melanie had to smile.

“And what is the most important part?”

Sam smiled shyly and tilted her blue eyes up to Melanie, her smile growing with each moment.

Melanie arched her eyebrow and waited.

“Oh all right I’ll tell you.” Sam looked around the room and climbed up on the couch next to Melanie.

Melanie slid the ipad off her lap and onto the couch.

Sam cupped her hand around her mouth and Melanie’s ear. “Sometimes beautiful things are hidden inside of something ugly and mean.”

Melanie grabbed ahold of Sam and tickled her. Sam threw herself back on the couch and tried to squirm away laughing wildly.

“It’s good to have you back and hear her laugh like that,” Seth said as he came in from the kitchen. He sat in the blue and green armchair in front of the boarded up floor to ceiling windows.

“Help me Seth!” howled Sam.

“No way,” he said taking a sip from his coffee.

Mitchel came in carrying two cups of coffee and the newspaper under one arm. He set one cup on the table by Melanie and then took the other armchair.

“Mitchel,” Sam whaled, “help!”

Mitchel laughed, “You’re on your own with that one kiddo.”

Melanie stopped tickling. “All right Sammy, there’s coffee on the table and I don’t want you burned. Why don’t you go get some cereal or make some oatmeal for you and mom? I bet she’d like to have breakfast with you.”

Sam’s eyes got wide. “I almost forgot she was here. I’m going to get flowers from outside.” She dashed toward the front door.

“No.” Melanie lunged for her sister barely catching her arm.

Melanie heard her sister’s arm pop and Sam dropped to the floor screaming.

Karalynn came running into the room eyes wide. “What happened?”

Melanie knelt next to Sam trying to scoop her up in her arms. “I’m so sorry Sammy. I didn’t mean too. You can’t go out front.”

Sam curled into Melanie’s arms sobbing. Melanie rocked her. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Sam began to quiet to a whimper. Her injured arm tucked in between her and Melanie.

“Sam ran for the door and Melanie grabbed her arm. It’s probably broken,” Seth said sipping his coffee.

“It’s broken!” Sam screeched. “You broke my arm.”

Melanie wanted to wrap barbed wire around Seth’s mouth, but a glare would have to suffice. Mitchel hit his twin in the shoulder. Seth looked up at Mitchel. “What? I heard it pop from here.”

Three security guards garbed in black from head to toe burst into the house from the kitchen door and the front door. Karalynn held up her hand and they stopped.

Sam began to cry in earnest again.

“What’s going on?” Jennifer called from upstairs.

Melanie shot Mitchel a wide-eyed look. “Don’t let her get up. She could rip something. Tell her I’ll bring Sam in just a second.”

Mitchel trotted up the stairs.

Melanie tried to get up and then had to adjust Sam in her arms. Sam cried out as her arm was moved. Melanie pushed to her feet. She carried Sam up the stairs to her mother.

Jennifer pushed herself to a sitting position on the bed as Mitchel moved the pillows behind her. Melanie laid Sam down next to Jennifer. Sam held her arm to her chest.

Jennifer reached for the arm.

“No, no, no,” Sam said, tears sliding down her cheeks.

“Melanie didn’t mean to Sammy,” Jennifer said.

“I know she didn’t,” Sam said between breaths. Her nose was running and she rubbed it on her mother’s blankets. “I just wanted to get you flowers for breakfast.”

Jennifer smiled and brushed Sam’s hair back around her ear. “I don’t eat flowers.”

Mitchel put his arm around Melanie and lead her out of the room. Once in the hallway, he wrapped his arms around her, and she buried her face in his chest. They’d have to go back to the hospital. She sighed. God! Would they ever get out of this city?

Mitchel rubbed her back. “Come get some coffee.”

They went back down stairs. The guards had gone and Karalynn was in the kitchen making oatmeal.

Seth sat in the same spot reading the newspaper.

“Did you find a route?” he asked looking over the top of the paper.

“I think so. It will take us through Ogden, Utah, but that’s the only big city,” Melanie said as she sank onto the couch and picked up her cold coffee.

She took a sip and scrunched up her face. Mitchel took the coffee from her. “I’ll get hot coffee.”

“Thanks, babe.” She turned back to Seth. “Anything interesting?”

“There was another murder. Homeland security think it was the same guy. How long will the trip take?”

Good question. Melanie thought. This portion of the trip wasn’t supposed to be a month, but that’s basically how long they had been in this boarded up house Denver. It was about 1800 miles to the safe zone from here. It might as well be on the other side of the world.

Thankfully, Holly’s family had waited rather than pushed on without them. It would be safer in a caravan. She was surprised they hadn’t come in when Sam was screaming now that she thought about it. Maybe they didn’t hear her, out there in the fifth-wheel. It was possible.

“It’s hard to say. My mom will need to take more breaks. We should combine cars. You could drive Mitchel’s truck and we could take mom’s van.”

“I’m not leaving my car,” Seth said.

“Why not? We don’t need it and it is wasting money to take it.”

“I need my space and it’s my money.”

Melanie clenched her teeth. Seth was frustrating sometimes.

Mitchel came back in with her coffee. He looked back and forth between them. “Everything all right?”

Don’t cheat yourself on Miles

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Does it matter if I run 3 miles instead of 3.1 miles? Only if you’re running a 5k. All right, so if one tenth of a mile doesn’t make a difference does a quarter mile? How about a half? I suppose it depends upon how far you are running and why you have stopped.

If you are supposed to run a mile and a half, then yes a quarter mile matters. If you are supposed to run twenty miles, stopping at 19.75 probably isn’t a big deal. If you are cutting a half mile off a run, you ought to have a good reason. The “I didn’t map the distance properly,” or “I don’t have a Garmin,” are not going to work.

Some runners will run back and forth in parking lots or up and down their street to get that last little bit to hit their mile goal. If it’s under a quarter mile, I don’t worry about it. I will do at least another mile during the day walking the dogs, and I’m sure I will walk at least a quarter mile around my house. You don’t need to be a mile Nazi.

If you are cutting quarters or halves off of every run, that’s a problem. If you are calling home for a ride at mile five of a ten mile run, you may need to re-evaluate your goals or get a running partner who won’t let you quit. “I just wasn’t feeling it,” doesn’t work with me because if you don’t get out there you’re never going to “feel it.”

Injury is totally different. If you develop a sharp pain at mile five of a ten mile run, that doesn’t recede quickly, you should probably phone a friend to pick you up or limp back along the shortest route possible. If you fall and it’s more than a scrape, I understand cutting it short. If you’re vomiting, sure go home and go to bed, but if you feel better after emptying your stomach, keep going.

If you are training for a marathon and consistently cut your runs short, you are cheating only yourself, unless you are convincing your training partner to do the same. Then you are both screwed.

There is value in struggling through hard miles. There is value in pushing yourself past the farthest distance you have ever run. Those achievements will lend you their strength during your future hard runs. And there will be hard runs to come especially if you want to improve.

Here’s the thing with running, No one can run your miles for you. No one can do the hard work but you. Running keeps us honest, because if you don’t run the miles, it shows.

Running doesn’t tolerate cheaters or liars. If you don’t run the miles, your day of reckoning will come. And you will beg for mercy.

 

Are road runners different from trail runners?

Mueller canyon 10.24.14

There is definitely a different culture between the two types of runners out in the world. As always there is cross over and the rouge runners who can move among both cultures without drawing much attention.

Road runners tend to run for miles rather than time. They are very concerned about running the exact miles listed on their training plan. Trail runners run from A to B with a shrug and a “seems about right to me.”

Road runners tend to match their clothing. Their socks match their shirt and the snazzy stripe on their shorts. Trail runners grab whatever feels right in the black of night and passes the sniff test.

Road runners avoid puddles. Trail runners splash through them with glee hoping both feet get equally wet.

Road races have limited options at aid stations: water, Gatorade, and a gel. Trail races have a buffet: cookies, candy, PB&J, trail mix, water, coke, mountain dew, and Gatorade.

Road runners carry no water or just tiny handheld water bottle. Their aid stations are typically two miles apart. Trail runners pack their hydration pack with water, a rain jacket, and blister kits. Their aid stations may be ten miles apart.

Road runners will wait for miles to find a port a potty. Trail runners have no shame when it comes to taking care of bodily functions in the presence of other runners.

Road runners look for flat fast courses. Trail runners look for the most elevation gain and least amount of pavement.

Some of this is in jest, of course, but some of it is very true. I spend a lot of time training on the road, but I run mostly trail races. Both types of runners have their pros and cons. Trail runners tend to be more laid back and willing to sacrifice their place in the race to help another runner. Road runners have an abundance of excitement and dedication to the sport.

All runners are healthier than your average American sitting on their couch all weekend. All runners are happier than the average American sitting on their couch all weekend.

 

The marathon is 26.2 miles right, then why does my training only take me to 20 miles?

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There is a method behind the madness. Six miles is a big difference, as you will find out while you increase your miles during your training program. I understand why runners want to run the full 26.2 prior to race day. They want to know how their body will react, what type of mental challenges will come during that last 10k, and they want to know they can do the distance before race day. How embarrassing would it be to drop out or have to walk right when the crowd begins to gather around you cheering and encouraging you to keep pushing, your almost there, and how amazing you are. Right? Yeah, I get it.

But, Nicole, you run twenty-five and thirty miles and then go and do it again the next weekend one little marathon won’t be a problem for me. Here’s the thing, I have spent years training my body to be able to run those distances and then recover from them quickly to do it again the next day or the next weekend. So in less you are planning to add three months to your training program, I suggest you don’t go over the twenty miles.

The primary reason that it is not a good idea to run the full marathon distance prior to your race is that it takes too long for you to recover from the run. For first time marathon runners it can take anywhere from 10-14 days to recover. That’s two weeks where your one long run is having a major impact on your training level and quality. One run is not worth that.

Running the full marathon distance during training will not give you the best idea of what your time will be during the actual marathon because you wouldn’t taper for the training run. By not tapering down your miles and intensity during the 10-14 days prior to running the marathon distance, you are running on a depleted body. In many cases, it will be more difficult than actually running the race.

You can get a firm understanding of the mental challenges you will be facing during a marathon when you run your 20 mile long run because you will be running that without a taper as well. Twenty miles in long enough to give you the feel of running the full marathon without the cost of actually doing it. It gives you the chance to implement the fueling plan you will be using on race day, to understand your hydration needs, and to get an idea of pushing past the point where your mind is telling you to stop.

If you can run twenty miles with a depleted body, running 26.2 miles with a fully recovered (from the taper) and trained body will not be a problem. It won’t make it easy. There will be challenges, but you will make it to the finish line.

Release the Beast and Tear up the Hills

running hills

I hear it all the time, “I hate running uphill. It’s so hard. I feel like I’m going to diel, so how do I get better at running hills?”

Simple, run more hills.

Run all types of hills. Short and steep, rolling hills, and long gradual climbs. They each have their benefits.

Short steep hills build explosive power and strength as well as cardiovascular fitness. Find a hill that you can run up in 10-15 seconds with a grade of 7-10%. Between each repeat take a full 2-3 minute recovery before you go again. Repeat them 10-12 times.

Rolling hills teaches you to maintain your pace and form when going up and over a hill. You want to maintain the same effort on the up and on the down. This means your pace on the up will be slower than on the down, but it evens out over the entire hill. This strategy also reduces the possibility that you will bonk before the end of the run/race.

Long gradual climbs of a mile to a mile and a half builds endurance and mental strength. All runners know staring down a giant hill at mile 20 or 22 can be a huge mental challenge. Training to get up and over these giants will build your endurance and confidence.

You can also increase your ability to run uphill by making sure that you hold the proper form. Running uphill requires you to fight against gravity. The slope also causes you to land on your mid-foot and forefoot more. Your calves and ankles are under more pressure to propel you up the hill. The mistake many runners make when going uphill is too much forward lean from the waist this limits the power you will get out of your hips and knees. You can see this if you stand up and raise your leg standing straight and bent forward at the waist. Focus on standing tall and driving up the hill with your hips.

What about strength training and plyometrics, will those help? They will help, but nothing beats the actual running of hills for training benefits. Squats, jump squats, hamstring curls, and lunges both with and without jumping are all good ways to increase the strength of your legs for climbing hills.

How often should I be running the F***ing hills? It depends on your experience, if you have never run hills add in a hill training once every ten days. Monitor how you feel afterward and your recovery time. If you are recovering quickly and not sore more than a day or two, add a hill work out into each week. Experienced runners who have completed many marathons and have been training for more than two years and are not injury prone, can add in two hill training sessions a week. Elite athletes are running three or four hill training sessions a week, but they also train twice a day, morning and afternoon.