Rest Days

Some people and coaches swear by regularly scheduled rest days to keep a runner going without injury. Others say listen to your body and rest when it says rest. Most runners are loathed to take a rest day, or if they do, they want to “make up” for it the next day. What does it mean to take a rest day, reduced running, no running, no activity? Runners, especially ultrarunners, are good at pushing through being tired or a minor injury which is good and it is not good. So what’s a runner to do?

Rest days can be harder to take or convince yourself to take and complete, than a hard workout. Runners don’t want to miss out on a run and they don’t want to fall behind in training. Rest is for the weak, right? wrong. Rest is when the body repairs itself and becomes stronger. It is not only a rest for your body but a rest for your mind.

When we push our body everyday or through multiple challenging workouts during a week, we are breaking down the tissues in our legs and other places. We are causing micro tears and strains. This is good because it forces the body to heal and come back stronger. It pushes are mental limits so we can draw upon that during long events.

Having a regularly scheduled rest day each week or once every ten days, is usually the best approach because then there is no question whether or not you should rest. If the strategy is to rest when your body says to rest, then you are more likely to keep pushing possibly into an injury aka forced rest, which is the last thing a runner wants.

Another time to rest is whenever you feel an injury coming on, or if you are facing major stressors in other areas of your life that are out of the ordinary. Taking 1-3 days when you get that feeling somewhere that something isn’t right and you may have the start of an injury, is better than running through it and running into an injury that could take you out for a week or more. When you have major stress in your life, that is out of the ordinary, that stress reduces your bodies ability to recover between workouts and thus puts you at a high risk of injury.

In addition to the one day a week as a rest day, taking a “rest week” is another good way to keep running and remain injury free. This is especially true if you are building miles or increasing the stress on your body through challenging workouts. A rest week does not mean taking a full week off of running, although it could. Reducing your workout load by about 20 to 25% for a week is a rest week. This means volume and intensity. If you are especially injury prone, it could mean using an alternative workout for the week such as pool running or the elliptical trainer. Even riding a bike would be fine. Rest weeks are ideally taken every three to four weeks.

Taking a rest day once a week and a rest week every 3-4 weeks is not going to put you behind on your training. It may push you to the next level. It won’t impact your speed or endurance in a negative way. Neither will taking three days off when you feel that something is wonky. It can be a mental challenge to take a rest day, and you may feel antsy if this is the case, go for a easy walk (not ten miles) for twenty to thirty minutes.

Think of rest days as recovery and rebuild days.

Happy and healthy running!

So you’ve made it to mile 75…

There are a few milestones during a 100 mile event. I would say every 25 or “marathon” is a significant point in the race. Personally, I like to take a picture of myself at each 25 mile mark in the race and often my watch so I know what time it was when I arrived. These milestones can be very challenging and they can be very motivating. It’s all about your mindset and your fueling. Let’s talk about fueling first. It’s technically the easier one.

Every endurance runner has hit the wall. For anyone who hasn’t, let me explain. The wall is when you get to a point in the race where your body just slows down and you feel like you can’t go no matter how hard you try. Usually, your mind also begins to tell you “this is too hard,” and “you’ve gone far enough,” and “I can’t go anymore.” We want you to run up the wall rather than into it.

What’s going on is that your glycogen stores are depleted. In other words, you need fuel and fast. What makes fueling at these points (yes you can hit the blasted wall more than once in a race) difficult, is your stomach may not want to accept any fuel, especially if you haven’t watched your water and electrolyte intake and you’ve got a weird balance going on.

Typically the first time you hit the wall is about 2- 2.5 hours into an event. That’s about how long it takes to run out of glycogen. For a Marathon, this is usually about 16-20 miles for most people. Depending on your pace, it may not be that far in or it may be farther. It may take longer because of your pace as well. Your body weight also will contribute to how long this takes. Regardless, if you don’t watch your fuel intake you will hit the wall.

The best way to avoid the wall, is to practice hitting it. Yep, run straight into a wall, over and over again. No it’s not very fun, but it will teach you at what point your body hits the wall and when to fuel to avoid it. You can hit the wall at any point in a race and you can hit it repeatedly. If you find yourself sinking into a mental or energy low, the first thing you should try, and fast, is to put some quick acting fuel into your body, along with some water. Easy to digest and heavy on the sugar.

Now we are diving into the mindset portion.

Usually the first 25 mile point is very exciting. You’re a quarter of the way through. You frequently train to this distance making your mind and body prepared and confident in reaching this point. If you get here and this is not you, see below on fueling. For the rest, let’s just blow past 25 miles.

Fifty miles in, this is a big one, especially for runners new to the distance. Again it can be very exciting to reach this point. You probably don’t train to this distance, although, we all hope you have done a fifty mile event and know a little bit about getting to this point. There is not always an aid station right at 50 miles but there is one close to it. This point can be difficult because you are staring down the same amount of distance to go. If you’ve had a challenging time getting to 50, your mind begins to spiral with “I’m only half way,” and “It will take even longer to finish this next half” and “My body already feels terrible,” and “My stomach is just not in this race.”

Well my friends, this can be a do or die moment. Your crew is vital at this point. Any RD should put a strong aid station at this point with volunteers (preferably other ultrarunners) with loads of experience at this aid station. You need to prepare your crew for this one. Make sure they know, there are no excuses and to get you in and out as quickly as possible. You’re best strategy is don’t linger, move. Don’t give yourself time to think about it. As you’re running into this check point start making a list in your head about what you need (No a nap or a break does not go on the list). Anticipate what your needs will be in your pre race planning and give the list to your crew. Have one of your crew members prepared to deal with your negative thoughts. You should know them pretty well through your training.

If you are on your own, and thinking about stopping. First, don’t just get to the next aid station and think about it again (unless you have a severe injury). Ask if anyone there is an ultrarunner and see what they think about you stopping. In your prerace planning, make sure you have a quick ziplock bag you can just grab and go. Prepare your drop bag at the aid station before this one to take care of other needs you may have by 50 miles such as a headlamp, warm cloths, new socks or shoes. If you can anticipate and address these slower needs at the aid station before, you will get out of the one closest to 50 miles faster. Put a little note for yourself in your drop bag with your mantra or other motivating saying on it. Perhaps it specifically addresses your negative thinking. You can also have a family member write you a short letter to read.

Bottom line, get your A$$ out of the aid station.

Mile 75 usually is not as bad as mile 50. Why? because you can see the finish line. You know how far you have to go. You know what it feels like and how long it will likely take. If you feel like you want to quit at this point, see above all the strategies for dealing with mile 50 (you can use these at any aid station where you think you may struggle). The big difference between mile 50 and mile 75, is it is dark by 75. You have been going for a long time. You are tired. Night time lows are worse than day time lows because it’s easier to come up with excuses to stop. “I’m tired,” and “I can’t see very well,” and “it’s cold,” and “I’m tired,” (yes I know that one is on there twice).

Here is the thing to remember when working through any low moment in the race. It does not last. Things come back up. It’s the way this distance works. It is the wonderful thing about this race distance. It is the big life metaphor of this race distance. You go up, you come down, you go up, you come down, just like the mountains you are likely climbing over.

Something amazing happens between 5 and 7 am (depending on where you are on the planet and the time of year). The sun rises. Yep, it happens every day. It will happen on the day of your event. I can promise you that it will happen. I can’t guarantee anything else during a race, besides this one thing. Everything changes when the sun comes up. If you are struggling through the night as a middle of the pack runner or a back of the pack runner, remember this… The sun always rises and with the sun, hope, belief, and renewed determination.

Run happy!

Covid’s Impact

I want to take some time to acknowledge the struggle so many people are experiencing right now. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on everyone and runners have not been spared. So many individuals and families are struggling to meet their basic needs. Those who suffer from mental health issues have seen an increase in their symptoms and those who don’t are finding themselves struggling with anxiety and depression, some for the first time in their lives.

The lock downs have made it difficult, if not impossible for runners to train on a consistent basis. My advices to runners is be forgiving towards yourself for any missed runs/workouts. Think of the down time as recovery time. Try not to stress too much over the loss of fitness because it comes back with consistency and time.

Come back at a pace that is comfortable for you and won’t result in injury. Start slow and then increase mileage based on how your body is adjusting. Don’t try to make up for the lost training. Keep taking rest days as you normally would.

Where I live they are starting to hold races. I’m not participating in these early races as I haven’t been vaccinated and I have a young child who cannot be vaccinated until probably next year some time. Many runners are comfortable starting to re-engage in races and I think race directors are trying to balance keeping their races/businesses afloat and health for the participants.

It is my hope that by the end of summer or early fall we will be able to get back to racing in a way that resembles pre-covid-19 races. I think that many race directors will continue with some of the precautions that have been put in place particularly the hand sanitizer. Thinking back on the dirty sweaty hand dunked into the bowls of chips and candy on the aid station table, kinda makes me a little nauseous.

It is hard to see that Covid-19 has brought anything good to our lives, but I encourage you to do so as we move forward. The implementation of video conferencing in some many areas has allowed “face to face” contact with family members and co-workers that would not otherwise have had contact. I have participated in weddings virtually and families have been present for adoption hearings in court.

We have had to get creative to maintain our running. Runners who have always had partners, have had to set out on their own. Runners who run outdoors on trails and roads have had to rely on treadmills or laps around their homes/garages.

Running virtual races is not as fun without the community of runners motivating and supporting you through those lows and celebrate with you through the highs. They have provided us with some purpose and some motivation to keep us lacing up through this. I appreciate all the race directors who scrambled to put things together and got really creative with encouraging and motivating runners.

Covid has been extremely difficult on many people and will likely take others years to recover from. The ultrarunning/trail running community is so supportive of one another that I know we will get back to running in the woods with one another soon.

Gloves

I want to talk gloves before the winter is completely over, at least where I live. I realize that it is always winter somewhere. My hands get cold when I run. Not just a little cold but painful red, you should really go inside and make a serious effort to warm up those babies, cold.

I have tried many gloves. I have tried multiple gloves. I have tried combining gloves and mittens. I’ve tried multiple mittens. I’ve tried different materials and thicknesses. I have used handwarmers. I have used multiple handwarmers. My hands just continue to get cold. In fact, my right hand gets much colder than my left. Now, my hands tend to get cold a lot anyway but it has become pretty ridiculous. They are typically okay on a two hour run, but on my long runs they get cold.

Taking pity on me and probably sick of watching me buy more and more gloves, my husband bought a pair of SHAALEK heated gloves with rechargeable batteries for Christmas. I had looked at these types of gloves before and had decided they were probably too heavy and that I didn’t really want to run with 5lbs on my hands.

I love these things!

Are they heavy? yeah and a bit bulky and a bit weighty but once I’m moving along the trail with toasty warm fingers, I don’t notice at all. They have five heat settings (I’ve gone up to three). They are warmer than my other gloves and combinations (not including handwarmers) without being turned on at all. I’ve warn them for up to eight hours (back to back long runs) and haven’t had they die on me.

They say they are touchscreen capable but I haven’t found that to be true for me. If I had larger hands and there wasn’t space at the end of the fingers then I think they would be. They have the texture for the touchscreen which has worked in other gloves I have tried with touchscreen capabilities.

This company has socks and vests if anyone is interested. It’s all available on the website we all have a serious love/hate relationship with, Amazon.

anyone know why one of my hands gets colder than the other?

Have you found any super warm gloves?

Run Safe and Run Happy

Return to 100s

As promised, here is my report on the DIY 100 I ran in September 2020. I actually ran two virtual 100s, one in September and one in October. Both virtual races through Destination Trail which is run by Candace Burt an amazing ultrarunner herself. I will talk about the October one in a later post. Setting up your own 100 mile distance is quiet the challenge. In addition to the normal stuff you have to organize for a 100, you also need to come up with a route and where the aid stations will be situated. Aid stations mean considering where your crew can access you, what time you expect to be there, they need to bring everything for you not just the extras beyond what the aid stations have available.

The route that I chose for my first attempt was a 50 mile loop and about 25 miles of it followed the old Wasatch 100 route that goes over Chin Scrapper. I hate going over Chin Scrapper by the way. It is about a 150-200 foot scramble up very steep loose rock to a ridgeline. Now I have never run the Wasatch 100 but because I live in the area and have paced at the race, I felt pretty confident about the route even though I had not run the entire loop before. I had run about 75% of it. I knew there were fresh springs at at least two points along the 17ish mile section where I would not have crew support. I didn’t think I would need the springs with the cooler temperatures but they were there and I knew how to find them. This route would be about 20700 feet of ascent total over the whole 100 miles

I started out at 5am the morning of the race. The start consisted of me saying good by to my husband and heading up my driveway. The hope was to finish under 30 hours. My crew consisted of my husband and two friends. Due to the pandemic, I had no pacer. My aid stations were set at mile 11.5, 27.5, 40, 45 and then 50. I made it over Chin Scrapper and found my way over to Francis Peak just fine. From there, I followed Skyline drive to it’s end. It got hot near the end of the first loop and the dirt road is packed HARD and was bruttal on my feet during the 13ish mile decent. After that there was what I would call mostly flat 12ish miles. Yes that means that 90% of the 10k+ feet of climbing was contained in about 25miles of the loop. I didn’t want it to be an easy return to 100s after all.

I finished the first loop about an hour and a half ahead of schedule and felt good. My feet were still killing me and it was getting dark. I loaded my pack up and headed out for the second loop. As the darkness deepened and temperatures dropped, I got stuck in my own head and started rerouting myself so I didn’t have to go over Chin Scrapper, alone, in the dark, when I was usually at my most tired during a 100. I began texting my husband telling him I was concerned about going over Chin Scrapper and was thinking of doubling back after meeting him and going up another canyon where I would meet back up with the original route (where my crew was meeting me). He agreed that if I wasn’t comfortable going over it that I should change the route. From there my mind spiraled down and I started focusing on how my feet were hurting and how I was only half way and how long it would take to finish, how I missed my two year old daughter, would she be okay going to night night without mom for the first time. I fell into the Pain Cave and lost the way out.

When I arrived at mile 62 to meet my husband, he had our daughter with him. I told him I wasn’t sure I was going back out. He wasn’t sure what to do with that. We started dating when I was well established in my 100 miles and finishing was never questioned in a race. He had never seen me stuck in the Pain Cave. I sat there thinking about my options and decided I would stop for the night and go back out and finish 38 miles in a couple of days (when it fit in our schedule for me to do it). I knew I would regret this decision.

The next morning I felt fine. My feet didn’t hurt or anything. As promised, I was very disappointed in my decision to stop and determined to finish the 100 miles in one go. I registered for another 100 miler and planned to run it the next month. I did go out and finish the 38 miles. I had my husband drop me off where he had picked me up and I climbed my way back up to Chin Scrapper and made my way over.

The midway aid station is the most dangerous for many ultrarunners. It is the hardest one to get out of. I had forgotten this fact. I had dealt with this situation during my first few 100s. It is the thought of how far and how long you have come and knowing you have just as far and probably longer, time wise, to go. On a loop route, you know exactly what you are in for so that adds to the pit you fall into. I’m glad I had to relearn this and many other things about myself on this race. It was good to be sent back to the starting line although frustrating too.

The takeaways from this are that even experienced ultrarunners DNF (did not finish or did nothing fatal) and they have challenging times during a race. Second is you will regret not finishing the 100 so make sure you are stopping because you need to rather than stopping because you want too. Third, prepare your crew to deal with you in your dark moments no matter how many races you have completed without getting to the darkest places.

Power Words

Ultrarunners learn, almost as a first lesson, that their ability to finish has a lot to do with the mental side of running. There are many strategies to overcoming the mental challenges of completing an ultramarathon. In this post I want to talk about power words and imagery.

Power words are individual to each runner. They are words with deep meaning and when repeated to oneself during a race can bring back your focus and pull you out of a Pain Cave.

What makes them powerful is your pre-race work with these words. Before you even take your power words out on the trail or road with you, you’ll need to sit with them. What I mean by sit with them is you need to create mental images and physical sensations to fuse with these words.

For example, if you choose the word STRONG as one of your power words, you’re going to repeat this word to yourself during a quiet time, such as the five minute before you climb out of bed or the five minutes before you go to sleep. As you say this word to yourself, conjure or create mental images of you looking strong as you run. Delve into this image until you can feel it in every other sensory avenue you have, not just a mental image, but smell it, feel it, and hear it.

Perhaps STRONG smells like your deodorant or your sweat as you charge up a hill or hit a particular speed. Perhaps its the dust on the trail, the pine trees, or the river flowing near by.

Work on each one of your words. Identify three words that have deep meaning to you as a runner. That way you have a couple  back up options if you are in a mental space where one word is more of a trigger than a motivator. Really grounding yourself in the words prior to using it during a race is critical. Practice is your best friend here. Establish your imagery before using it in a training run, but then try to use it during easier parts of your runs and then incorporate it in hard efforts. 

What are your words of power?

Vibrating Foam Roller

I received a vibrating foam roller for Christmas, at my request, because I love and swear by foam rolling. Every evening I spend twenty to thirty minutes foam rolling. I know that the research doesn’t support it as a preventative technique, but my body says something entirely different. I know that if I don’t roll daily, shin splits, calf knots and ITband issues are headed my way within about two weeks and if I’m doing a lot of road running (because it’s winter and the mountain lions come closer to the city at the same time I am running alone) I will have issue within a few days.

I first heard about the vibrating foam roller last Christmas but couldn’t bring myself to put the money down when my trusty regular roller was working just fine (and still is). Anyway this year it was under the tree. So what do I think about it? Well, I have to say it is fun to roll on and my two and a half year old daughter loves to roll on it too. The one featured above is about $70.00 on Amazon and very similar to what I have been using. I don’t think I am sold on this as being better than my trusty regular roller. The foam on it is very very hard and has left bruises on the outside of my legs every time I use it. That’s my biggest complaint about it. It works fine for what it is but it doesn’t work any better than the one I have. It won’t wear out as quickly as a foam roller that is actually made of foam (mine is not it’s plastic wrapped with a contoured foam).

I do put my full body weight on the roller, other than having a hand to balance on. Perhaps if you used less pressure, then you would avoid the bruising. Really my other roller has left bruising in the past too when I have a very large knot but it hasn’t been a consistent thing. I feel like I get the best results with a high pressure slow roll. If you are considering one, perhaps get one with a 30 day return option or borrow one from a friend for a few weeks.

Roll on! Run Happy!

Return to Running and Racing

Weekly posts? Hahaha. All we can do is our best. As long it is our best in that moment, it is enough.

Life for us all is so interesting right now. I know I told you I would tell you about my DIY 100 mile run and I will, but the journey getting there is important so I would like to start from there. I decided to put my writing (blog and books) on hold in August 2018. I didn’t believe it would take years to get back to the blog. I knew the books would likely take years before I would have the time to dedicate to finishing them.

I had many changes occur in my life over the last two and a half years. My daughter was born, I left my 9 to 5 career (been there ten years) to start my own business, I got married, I moved and then there is this Covid-19 pandemic we are all more familiar with then we’d like to be.

My running has always been my freedom, my therapy, my meditation, my foundation as I have navigated changes and challenges in my life. During the last trimester of my pregnancy and for about 5 months following it, I wasn’t able to run. In August of 2018, I barely had my running.

I relied on hiking, elliptical, stair master, and strength training to keep my sanity through these months and just held on to my belief that I would be able to run again in time. The whole time I was pregnant and then right after, everyone told me you will bounce right back don’t worry about it. Your endurance and strength will return very quickly.

I know they were trying to be encouraging and they probably believed what they were saying, but it didn’t make me feel any better. In fact, it made things worse because when I was able to start coming back to running, it was hard, and I had to start from the very beginning. I had to start back with run walking which meant that I had regressed to a point past where I began my running life.

I was determined. I love running and I was not going to let it go.

I began with run/walking. I was walking more than I was running. I could only do 15 minutes at a time. The problems I was having were the same as every beginning runner. I had pain in my knees. I had pain in the tendons of my ankles.  I also had a new problem. I would pee every time I ran, even a short distance (if this is TMI for male readers skip the next paragraph).

I did many pelvic floor exercises I found online for months and it wasn’t getting better. I went to a physical therapist who specialized in pelvic floor muscles. I did those exercises for months. Nothing.  I had to see a urogynecologist about it, who said it may take a long time for my body to recover and I may need surgery to correct the problem or to wear a pessary every time I ran. I felt betrayed by my body. I was afraid that running would never be the same for me again.

It was October 2018, when I was finally able to get back to a run/walk program. It was slow going and little things like the knee and the posterior tibialis tendon issue would pop up when I increased my miles. It was hard to get out on the trails with a baby at home who was still breastfeeding.

I kept telling myself I was rebuilding my base. I had no idea when or if I would race again. All winter I worked at rebuilding my miles. In June of 2019, I was able to return to racing. I finished the Squaw Peak 50 mile in 13:05:29. I finished Speedgoat 50k in 10:25:45 in July 2019 and Antelope Island 50 in 5:50:59.

I had registered for Bear 100 but ended up withdrawing from the race because I didn’t feel my daughter was ready for me to be gone for 24 to 36 hours.

I was feeling good about my progression and excited for 2020’s race season to open up… and then Covid hit and all the races were cancelled.

Coming back

So it’s been a long time since I posted anything. Two years actually. That’s what happens when you have a baby, I suppose. They take over your life for a while. I would like to be able to commit to posting regularly but I cant at this point. I will say that I will post when I can and will make an effort to do so.

My return to running after the birth of my daughter has been a long slow process. I had to start from square one with a run walk and slowly build my miles back up. I’m now happy to say that I’m back to running 50 to 60 miles a week. I will talk about this more in depth in future posts.

I am planning a virtual 100 next weekend which will be a challenge to say the least. The route I’ve chosen is three loops of just over 33 miles each. Each loop will be about 7600 feet of climbing. I couldn’t choose a simple course could I? No that’s never been my style.

Due to the pandemic I will probably not have a pacer and my crew will be minimal. I will let you all know how it turns out

Running While Breastfeeding

Many women believe breastfeeding their child will help them lose the weight they gained while pregnant. While it’s true that breastfeeding burns about 500 calories a day. If you’re not running a deficit you’re not going to lose weight. But how much of a deficit is okay when your breastfeeding?

This is an important question for any endurance running mother who is breastfeeding her child, even when not trying to lose weight. Having enough milk to feed your child is obviously very important if you want to continue breastfeeding. The best way to maintain your milk supply is to drink lots of water and eat enough calories.

Many ultrarunners survive on calorie deficit pretty much everyday. Even marathon runners are going to have days where they don’t replace all of the calories they’ve burned. If you’re trying to lose weight, you’re going to have to fiddle with your calorie intake, but start with a 200 calorie deficit. Wait a couple of weeks before creating a bigger deficit. You shouldn’t be doing any dieting until your milk supply is well established at about eight weeks post partum. You shouldn’t be losing more than a pound a week.

Runners who are not trying to lose weight will need to monitor their calorie intake and milk supply.

The available research shows that exercise does not impact the composition of your milk. Breast milk contains protein, carbohydrates, and fats to help your baby grow. The other important thing your milk gives your baby are the antibodies you already have in your system.  This is a major reason breastfeeding is recommended. Your baby can’t get those antibodies from formula.

Spend some money on a good sports bra. You’re going to need some solid support. And when your baby is under a year, you probably need a bra you can nurse in too. The Brooks Juno has been perfect for me.

Newborns eat every two hours or more frequently. Feeding on demand is the best way to make sure you have enough milk and your baby is getting what he/she needs. Infants feed every 3 hours. This means it’s going to impact your running. Once your baby has a schedule, you should be able to get away for shorter runs. Long runs over two or three hours will require some planning and help. You’ll either have to have someone bottle feed your baby expressed milk or bring the baby to you to feed her. If you bottle feed, the issue you’ll run into is full breasts. You’ll have to stop to pump milk. There is a new breast pump called the Willow. It fits into your bra and doesn’t have any wires or tubes. Find it here.

Running ultras and breast feeding are definitely compatible.  Here are some tips to make the partnership work out:

  1. Feed baby or pump before you go out for a run
  2. Make sure you are consuming enough water and calories to maintain your milk supply.
  3. Find a way to pump on the run or feed baby during long runs.
  4. Get a really supportive sports bra.
  5. Be flexible with your running schedule to meet your baby’s needs especially before some predictability is established.
  6. Consider splitting long runs up.
  7. Take baby with you on runs and stop to feed if needed.
  8. Pay attention to caffeine in your sports gels, chews, and hydration.
  9. Throw a hand pump in drop bags where you can’t feed your baby. You’ll just have to dump it, but it will make you more comfortable. You don’t have to empty your breast just skim some off the top.
  10. Practice the plan during training, before you register for a race.

Happy running!