Monthly Archives: June 2016

Spider Web Duty

itsy bitsy spider

The first runner on the trail has the duty of clearing all the spider webs that stretch across the trial. I am that person. I am generally on the trail by 5:00 am (sometimes earlier). I’ve only had one experience running into a full spider web and it was a little traumatic.  I was running down a slight incline and jumping through rocks and then I glanced up to check the trail…

I couldn’t stop and ran right through the web. The spider was in the center of the web and I proceeded to have a full freakout. It included arm flapping and screaming.

Usually there are only a few strands strung across the single-track trail hedged in by plants. The spiders are long gone, so I just hold up my arm to remove the web and continue bounding down the trail.

There are few runner’s who are out that early, at least where I live. I found some other runner’s blogs on this very subject who do have to deal with the full web across the trail with spidy attached. They find a branch about three feet in length with branches out like a fan. They hold this up in front of them as they run.

Over this last weekend, as I was attending to my spider web duty, I was thinking about why and how the spiders string their webs across the trail or build their entire web out there for someone (animal or human) to rip apart.

The spiders who just string a few strands are, obviously, wanting to get to the other side of the trail (insert spider crossing the trail joke here). The ones who are actually building their webs across are intent on catching eatables. I imagine this would be quiet effective, since bugs would be cruzing down the trail to get to where they needed to go or crossing back and forth from bush to bush.

Next would be how do they string it across the two sometimes three foot expanse? They can’t jump far, not even the jumping spider, who only leaps about 3-4 inches. Some throw out some web like s

Spiderman and let the wind attach it to something on the other side. Others swing like a pendulum. Still others attach the web to the side they are on, crawl across the ground, climb back up and then pull in the slack. This third way is for them to build a web. I’m sure there are other ways they do this.

I don’t know anyone who is not grossed out by spider web across the face, so if you have any other ideas about preventing this from happening please share.

Happy Trails.

 

 

Heavy Legs

heavy legs

The back to back long run is a stable of ultra-runners. The idea behind it is twofold. First, to teach your body to recover faster, and second, to learn to run tired and/or sore.

If your body can recover more quickly, it’s stronger and can run for longer periods of time. You know your body is getting stronger because you no longer gets sore from running a twenty- five or thirty mile run. It’s actually pretty interesting to experience. The human body is amazing at adapting to the stress we place on it.

For those of you who have been running a while, do you remember being sore after a three mile run? I do. I began running inside in the winter. My legs ached after my first run. I had to take two days rest before running again.

For all the beginning runners, be encouraged it gets easier as your body adapts. You can help it along by eating healthy, taking a multi vitamin, getting enough sleep, and resting between run days. Everyone is different on how quickly their body adapts, so don’t get discouraged if your running partner is ready to go after a day and you have to take two days.

Learning to run on tired and/or sore legs is an essential skill for ultra-runners. During an ultra, especially the 100 mile, your legs are going to get tired and probably sore. You will ache and you will need to push through it. The only way to get through this mental challenge (aka wall) is to practice it. By running a 30 mile run one day and then a 20 mile the very next day, you will get this opportunity. It’s hard and it’s a balance.

Running on tired legs can lead to falling and potential injury. You have to build your miles slowly, ten percent a week increases, just like you did when you first started running.

Overcoming the mental piece of it is the key to pushing through the wall. You need to make sure you are doing everything you can to keep your electrolytes balanced, stay hydrated, and fuel your body. These things keep your cognitive abilities from declining during a 100. They also keep your mood up. Pushing through a difficult section of the race while in a terrible mood makes the ordeal three times more difficult.

The other piece is having a game plan. Knowing you have run on tired legs in the past is a huge boost to your confidence in doing it during a race. Positive mental encouragement and affirmation of your ability is also very helpful. Counter every negative thought before it can take root and slow you down.

The physical component is to running tired is to run with your arms. Pump your arms and your legs will follow—it’s just what they do.

And remember: If it hurts to run and it hurts to walk, run.

Eat To Run

run and eat

How much does what we eat impact how we perform? There is a group of runners who subscribe to the belief, “I run, therefore I eat what I want,” which is a pretty unhealthy diet.

There is a mistaken belief that the higher mileage you run, the unhealthier you can eat since you’ll just run it off on the weekend with your twenty mile or longer run. There is lots of research out there about what is the healthiest diet for runners and athletes in general.

If you look, you can find support for many diets including low-carbohydrate, paleo, fruititarian, vegetarian, and vegan. There is not support for the eat whatever I want diet and still perform well as an athlete.

Food supplies the body with energy and nutrients. It provides you with immediate energy and long lasting energy. High sugar foods lead to crashes and cravings for more high sugar foods. Food with high calories can lead to weight gain and an increase in fat mass because you get more calories than you are burning off.

Running requires a large supply of oxygen to be transported through your blood to your working muscles. Foods rich in trans or hydrogenated fats cause buildup in veins and slow the blood flow, which means your heart, lungs, and muscles don’t get the oxygen they need and you slow down.

The insulin gait connection is something new research has uncovered. Consumption of a high carbohydrate diet causes your body to increase production of insulin. Too  much insulin in our bodies means we are not able to maintain a healthy balance of blood sugar levels. Imbalances in blood sugar can cause irritability, cravings for sugar, excessive appetite, afternoon drowsiness or headaches, getting the shakes, and trouble sleeping.

People with blood sugar imbalances have irregular gait patterns and thus some chronic ache, pain or injury. How does this happen? High levels of insulin affect the brain directly and not just mental functioning but physical functioning too. The more the brain is lacking proper nutrition the more impaired the more physical movement will suffer. An impaired gait leads to other muscles compensating and then to injury.

Foods that are going to benefit your running are nutrient dense whole foods. Fruits, vegetables, brown rice and protein from lean meats or plant based. Healthy fats are also important to decreased inflammation and build strong cell membranes that are resistant to damage during exercise. Good sources of fat are avocados, olive oil, nuts, and coconut.

Finally, getting enough calories to fuel your body is just as important (perhaps more) as what you are eating. Without enough calories, your body begins to consume your own muscles when you are underweight. Muscle loss is not the goal of any athlete. The recommendation currently is 2800 calories a day for middle aged active men and 2200 calories a day for middle aged active women. Here is a chart to find your age group.

Eating healthy gives your body the building blocks it needs to recover quickly and repair damage done through training.

Too much of a good thing?

Is there a point where the number of miles you run begins to hurt your performance? Some say yes. The goal is to reach race day healthy and uninjured. There is a point for every runner where you have reached your potential and adding miles only places you at risk for injury.

How many miles you run depends on a lot of things (This should be the standard answer to any running question) and everyone is different (ditto). Amount of sleep, life schedule, how long you’ve been training, and injury disposition are just a few.

Here are some basic rules to keep in mind as you increase your miles:

  1. You need to run higher miles for longer races. This seems to make sense since your body needs to be accustomed to running the distance you are going to be racing.
  2. If you want to finish strong and hit higher performance goals, you need to run more miles. If you just want to finish a race, then your miles can stay lower.
  3. Quality over quantity. If you are doing quality runs (speed work, long runs, hill climbs, and the like), you should reduce your miles because of the added stress the more quality runs put on it.
  4. Another point on quality. If you want to hit a particular pace during a race, you need to train at that pace.
  5. 10% golden rule. Increase your miles slowly to allow your body to adapt to the stress of the added miles. Experts agree that increasing by 10% a week is safe and effective.
  6. Re-read the bold sentence in paragraph one (I’ll put it here just in case you don’t want to scroll up. The goal is to reach race day healthy and uninjured).

Here are some general guidelines:

5K: Beginner 10-20 miles a week; mortal 20-25 miles per week; Elite 70-80 miles per week.

10k: Beginner 15-25 miles a week; mortal 25-30 miles per week; Elite 80-100 miles per week.

Half Marathon: Beginner 20-30 miles per week; mortal 30-40 miles per week; Elite 100-110 miles per week.

Marathon: Beginner 30-40 miles per week; mortal 30-50 miles per week; Elite 100-140 miles per week.

Ultramarathon: Beginner 55-65 miles per week; mortal 60-75 miles per week; Elite 120-150 miles per week.

Now that we have an idea about how many miles, we need to know how frequently. Most coaches and trainers recommend running four days a week and taking one complete rest day every week or one every two weeks. Elite runners are running twice a day on run days to get their miles in. They run a high quality run in the morning and then easier miles in the evening.

Most marathon and under plans schedule a run three days during the week and then a long run on the weekend. This format lets you do a quality run in the middle of two easy runs during the week. Then it gives you a day off before your long weekend run and a day off after your long run to recover. You can choose to add in strength training or some type of cross training on one or two of your non run days which can help you become a more balanced runner.too much of a good thing

Bored?

thoughts

When people find out how much time I spend running and that I enjoy running alone, their first question is usually, don’t you get bored? I understand why people ask this question, especially, when we live in a world that wants and can provide instant gratification for so many things. People are seekers of constant entertainment from outside sources. In that type of world it is hard to understand how, you can be in the woods for 6-7 hours by yourself on a consistent basis.

Sure, the first time is fun and the second is not too bad, but by the time the third one rolls around what is there left to think about? My answer everything and nothing. I don’t know what other solo runners think about when they are out on the trail, but my guess is their heads are full of things similar to my own.

My first objective when I get out there is to let go of the stressors of everyday life. Depending on what is going on, this can take awhile. I may have to think through some issues I’m having, or come up with options in a difficult circumstance. Or just process other people’s behavior toward me or those I care about. Other days, I can step on the trail and it all just melts away.

Once I’ve cleaned up the landscape of my mind, the real fun begins. For a time, it is very quiet inside my head as I roll my foot over the dirt and breathe in the fresh air. Random ideas can spring to my mind and I explore them to find out where they will lead me. It can be as simple as finding names for the various shades of green along the trail (last weekend). This one entertained me for more time than you would think as I associated the shade with naturally green objects/places in the world.

Other times my mind becomes pensive and philosophical. I see the world in a way I’ve never seen it before. If you think about that for a second, you haven’t ever seen the world the same because not only is the world different from moment to moment, but so are you. Think about how many times your opinion about a topic has changed because you have matured or gained additional information.

Maybe you were completely sure your life was headed in a particular direction and you had it all planned out, but then the wind blows and uncovers a new possibility. That possibility can significantly alter your course. When this happens, I think of all the new doors and windows that have opened and where each might lead. I think about how each of those would change the stream of my life and how I feel about it.

I challenge my thinking on different beliefs I have and try to come up with as many other perspectives as I can. I think about how the world would be different if one small thing were absent from it. I wonder how discoveries were made and what caused the initial question to start the ball rolling.

I wonder about how things will be in the future and what policies and discoveries could be made along with the changes those would cause. I consider how my life and thoughts would be different if particular things had or had not occurred.

Sometimes I build a world different from this one, including characters, creatures, and every other facet of life. I create lives and stories for them.

There are so many things to think about when you are running. Sometimes there is nothing and that is just as wonderful as all the thinking.

 

Music?

music

What do you listen to when you run? It could be as simple as our favorite band or it could be the hum of the city, the symphony of the woods, or the voices in our heads. We all listen to something as we move through the world.

Music can be beneficial to your running by helping you maintain a consistent cadence. It can help keep your speed up by distracting you from the fire in your lungs and limbs as you push yourself beyond what you thought was your limit.

There are runners who never pull on their shoes without their ear buds first being placed snuggly in their ears. They scroll through their playlists and find one that fits their run and mood. The right song can motivate, empower, and infuse us with confidence. If you are a runner who runs music, you know how important it is to have the right songs on the list and when you come across one that doesn’t work… You know.

What about other runners who don’t run with earbuds? I’m one of these runners. Well, not entirely. I use music very selectively. I use music when I run on the road or treadmill. The other time I use music is when it is a very difficult run such as uphill in 100 degrees Fahrenheit on the road. When I’m on the trail, I listen to the wind and the birds. For me, music gets annoying when I’m on the trail.

When I’m on the trail I want to let my mind wander and find whatever is wandering the mental paths in my head. Music interferes with my exploration and discovery.

I have nothing against people who run with music. I have many friends who run with music and as I’ve said I use it in very particular situations. I’ve also listened to audiobooks during runs when it’s a slog through the rain and mud through the night and no one else is around.

For many music adds to the experience of running, but for me and others like me, it takes something away. I love the simplicity of running and for whatever reason, music other than that played by the mountains themselves, dilutes the experience of putting one foot in front of another.

 

Experienced?

discouraged

Even experienced runners make mistakes and have difficult races. You don’t even have to make a mistake to have a difficult race. Endurance running requires you to be out there for long periods of time, and the longer you’re out there, the more potential problems that can crop up.

This past weekend I ran the Squaw Peak 50 miler. It’s a difficult race with 14,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. In addition to the course being difficult, the weather was hot, 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The reason I mention the temperature is because, in Utah, the temperatures have been in the high sixties to low seventies a few days leading up to the race.

Few of the runners had the chance to train in the heat.

I’ve run in the heat before. I’ve run when it is higher than 95. It’s unpleasant, but doable, if you have the training. Without the training, your body isn’t used to cooling itself at that temperature.  I know this. I know heat training is very important. I knew going into this race that I would have to make some adjustments such as taking more electrolytes, staying up on my hydration, wearing sun block, staying in the shade as much as possible, and making sure I was eating. And the most difficult adjustment for me, slowing down.

I did great with staying in the shade and wearing sun block during the race, but…

Even after running for ten years+ I fell behind on my electrolytes and continued to run at a pace my body was not used to running in the heat. The electrolyte depletion caused a domino effect impacting my hydration and eating. Maintaining balanced electrolytes allows your body to absorb the water you are taking in. If you can’t absorb it you become dehydrated, have a sloshy stomach, become nauseous and dizzy, and you can’t eat because your stomach is full of water.

When I began the race, I knew these things and attempted to get ahead on my electrolytes and food. Despite my efforts I fell behind, which slowed me down and caused me to get dizzy and nauseous when climbing.

There are a few things I want you to take away from my experience and hopefully you won’t end up in the same circumstances.

First, electrolytes are so important. Know how much your body needs at different temperatures and make sure you are getting them in before anything else you put into your body.

Second, electrolytes are important.

Third, no one is beyond mistakes and difficult races regardless of how many times you have run that distance, that same race, or under the same circumstances.

Finally, when you do have a difficult race be gentle on yourself and get back out there.