Race Director

Three years ago, before I became a race director, I used to look at different areas where I ran and think, “Oh it would be cool to put on a race here.”  I don’t think that much anymore. Just kidding I do, but being a race director is a lot of work.

Race directors (RD) are amazing people (and not just because I’m one). Putting together a race is a lot of work. There are a lot of moving parts that need to move together by race day.  My race is a 5k and 10k called Run for Home. It has become easier over the three years, not because there is less to do, but because I know what I need to do and who to contact to get things done.

A RD doesn’t get paid for the hours spent filling out permit applications, waste management plans, and Americans with Disabilities plans.

They don’t get paid for creating race maps, talking on the phone with parks and recreation, local police officers, barricade companies, t-shirt companies, medal companies, and event companies.

They don’t get paid for days they spend seeking donations to support the race and prizes they can raffle off at the race. They also don’t get paid for gathering and organizing all the volunteers for the event.

RD’s are volunteers who love the sport and love runners.

So where do all the race fees go?? Alright, so I will say that some of the big races have employees who get paid, but most, dedicate the sweat and blood out of love. Still where do the race fees go?

Race fees pay for t-shirts, medals, permits (city and county), liability insurance, local law enforcement, port-a-potties, recycling bins, hand washing stations, reflective vests for volunteers, food and water that doesn’t get donated, bibs, timing company, start/finish arch, posters for advertising, registration websites, advertising with any other media. There is a lot of places for money to go and nifty new things always show up.

If you’re thinking about putting on a race, here are some tips:

  1. Pick a weekend that doesn’t have a lot of other charity events.
  2. Submit an application to the city or county where the race is going to happen. If you expect a large number of people you may need an additional application/permit for a “mass gathering.”
    1. Start contacting anyone required for the permit. There is usually paperwork that has to be filled out and submitted.
  3. If you are using an event company for the timing or start/finish line make sure they can be there on the date you’ve chosen.
  4. Start planning early: get your race listed on race calendars, hang up flyers, and start getting everyone you know to register.
  5. Gather your volunteers and make sure you know what you need them to do and how many you need. You may need police to close roads or to get barricades to direct traffic/runners away from each other.
  6. If you’re doing food of some type, you need to have the department of health check it out.
  7. If you are doing a raffle or getting sponsor, you have to start months before the event.
  8. There are lots of websites that you can use for race registration. I use Registermyrace.com
  9. Figure out if you are doing race day registration and if you are how are you going to accept payment: Square readers are awesome.
  10. You’ll have to order shirts and medals three to four weeks in advance.

 

 

River Crossing

River water levels are pretty high right now with all the snow runoff. The news has covered multiple deaths or near enough over the past month of people who have ended up in the water one way or another and never made it back out.
As trail runners, we bound through rivers on a regular, if not frequent basis, without much of a thought. With the level of water in Utah’s rivers, I suspect most runners would stop and think about crossing the river. I would. There are definitely going to be times where the risk is too high to cross a river. You’ll have to make that call depending on your experience, the availability of security items, and what you have to loose.
Here are some tips for safely crossing a river:
First take a look around and decide if the section of the river that meets the trial is the best place to cross at the time. There are a lot of conditions which can effect the volume of water flowing including: weather, temperature, time of year, and debris. The safest route on one day can be different on another, so even if you’ve crossed at the same point the day before, make sure it is still safe to cross in the present.
Prepare to cross by releasing the clip on your hydration pack (chest and/or waist). If you go down in the water, you need to be able to get the pack off. The pack will weigh you down and is another object for the water to grab onto. If you have other things about your waist, take them off and stick them in your pack or clip them on. You can even try throwing them over to the other side.
Foot placement and shoes are key factors in getting across so make sure your shoes are secure and that you have the proper ones on. You’re not going to be able to see the bottom of the river. Slipping because of wet or rolling rocks is a definite possibility. You also have the force of the water pushing against you to content with. I know some runners put plastic bags over their feet, cross barefoot, and some hikers carry sandals for crossing. You are more likely to slip with sandals or with bags over your feet. Wet shoes is better than wet head to toe. As for the barefoot, you need to protect your feet from sharp rocks, sticks and other such stray objects beneath the surface of the water. Wet feet are better than bleeding feet.
Check down river as well as up river. You don’t want to cross where there is wood, trees, branches along or overhanging the banks. If you are swept downriver, you can get pushed against these and actually pulled under them. Not a good place to be. Rocks and curves in the river can create an eddy, which is a place where the water actually flows upstream. These can be a safe haven.
Look for rocks protruding from the river. Behind the rock the current is usually not as strong, but along either side it can have more force. Standing behind the rock can give you a break from the force of the river. Do not cross in the whitewater part of a wave
Crossing where the river is narrow may make sense at first glance, but the current is actually stronger at narrow points. An island in the middle of the river is a better point because it breaks up the current and force of the river.
Use trekking poles or a large stick to help you balance and to probe the river in front of you checking for large rocks or deeper parts. If you are out with a running partner or two, cross together. If you walk side by side, the person more upstream will break the force of the water for the person next to them.
If you do go down and are being swept down stream, put your feet down river. It’s better to have your feet hit something rather than your head.

Is your sunscreen working?

Everyone knows there is a risk of developing skin cancers by exposing unprotected skin to the sun and that risk increases depending on how long you’re in the sun and when. Where you live also increases or decreases your risk.
Factors such as time of day latitude, altitude, and time of year change the amount of UV’s you’re exposed too. The EPA’s sunwise app predicts UV levels based on these factors. Other personal risk factors include, facial cleansers, fair skin, blue eyes, red hair, and freckles.
Every year companies review the Effectiveness of and harm caused by sunscreens. Prior to 2014, there were no regulations on sunscreen effectiveness, ingredients, or claims of preventing skin cancers.
In 2011, after 4 years of multiple articles being published about the harmful ingredients and lack of actual protection, standards were created by the FDA. In 2014, testing standards were implemented. Although, the US standards are lower than Europe’s. Now in the US, companies can no longer use the claim that their sunscreen “prevents skin cancers.”
Ongoing air pollution has increased our risk of skin cancers. Cases have increased by 35% over the last 30 years. The FDA also, now, requires sunscreen to screen both  UVA and UVB rays. But about half of products do not screen them equally and they could not be sold in Europe.
Most sunscreen companies have stopped putting a harmful type of vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, in its product. This ingredient may increase the speed of developing melanoma. However, consumers should still check for it-14% contained it in 2017.
Higher SPF claims do not mean more screening. SPF over 50 is misleading and does not mean more protection. Most countries cap the SPF claim at 50. The FDA is drafting a regulation to address this issue.
Nor are the claims of sweatproof, waterproof, or sunblock entirely accurate and thus no longer allowed to be printed on the screens. A skin cancer warning is required.
Spray on sunscreen are not as effective as creams/lotions. They don’t go on evenly or thick enough. There is a danger of inhalation as well.
Sunscreens need to be reapplied every two hours and sunscreen is not enough. If you’re going to be in the sun for long periods of time or between 10 am and 4 pm wear UV protective clothing, a hat and sunglasses.
Indoor tanning is also a big no-no. It increases your risk of all types of skin cancer including melanoma, which is the most dangerous. It’s illegal for someone under the age of 18 to use indoor tanning beds in most countries, including the US. It’s like smoking when you know the risks for cancer and other health problems. You are actually more likely to get skin cancer from indoor tanning than you are lung cancer from smoking (although it may cause other serious health/lung issues).
Best sun screen list here.

Time to Heal…

Being patient with your body and allowing time to heal is difficult, but absolutely necessary if your goal is to run for a long time. I struggle with taking time off just to rest and recover; an injury is just as difficult for me. Usually, I continue running on it-telling myself I can run through it. And many times running through minor injuries is fine. It’s the not so minor ones that you can’t run through. Even some minor ones, get worse if you try to run through them. Knowing the difference, is the difference between an experienced and novice runner.

Injury and time off is unfortunately part of the running experience. Alternatives to running are just not the same. You don’t get that runners high. You don’t get that peace and sense of freedom. The longer it takes to heal the more agitated you become. It’s easy to fall into a pessimistic and defeatist attitude. You become an expert at positive self talk or you fall into a depression. The longer you are in the recovery mode, the farther off running feels.

You definitely go through the seven stages of grief: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance.

Shock and denial are lumped together most of the time, “It’s not that bad,” “I can’t believe this has happened.” “It’s nothing to worry about,” “I can still run, it’s fine.” “It’s the shoes, I’ll just get a new pair.”

Anger is directed at pretty much everyone including other runners and yourself. You beat yourself up about not taking time off right when it happened. You decide you could have prevented it and were just stupid.

Bargaining-” Dear God, I’ll take time off right away next time, if I can just have my running back now.” “I’ll volunteer more and donate money, if I can just get back out there.” “I’ll do anything to get back out there!!” Anything, but take the time to heal that is. You  begin doing research about the fastest way to heal. You spend hours looking at new training programs, super foods, stretches, miracle vitamins, and strength training.

Depression comes in the form of the defeatist. “I’ll never run again.” “this is going to take years to heal.” “It will always hurt to run.” “I can’t be happy without my running.” “I can’t live without my running (you think this is going to far until you’ve been there).”

Testing-“I’ve taken a few days off, I can go back.” “I know it still hurts a little, but a little run won’t hurt it.” “Just an easy three miles.”

Acceptance- “this sucks, but my goal is to run until I die, so I guess I’ll spend six months doing physical therapy and then I’ll take the time to get back to running in the right way because if I don’t, I’ll be back where I was when this started.”

When you’re ready to start your epic return to running make sure it’s slow. Review my return from injury training program found above under the 5k and 10k training program link.

It’s a shame that we can’t start with acceptance. Maybe that should be our goal for our next injury because if we’re honest with ourselves, the next injury will come.

Returning from an Injury

ready-set-go

At some point we all end up injured and have to lay off the miles or stop running altogether. It sucks but it’s true. We push our bodies to their limit and then a little more. We don’t like to take rest days and many of us over train. We want to build our miles too quickly; we convince ourselves more is better even when we know it’s not (in theory).

Coming back from an injury can be an arduous process. Especially if your heart and lungs are still at top fitness making you feel like you’re going slow and could be going much faster or further. These modifications are not only good for coming back from an injury, but also for runners who tend to be more injury prone.

When you come back, make sure you have good shoes without a lot of wear and tear. If they are close to retirement, it’s best just to get a new pair. Start with low miles and a slower than normal long run pace. You may have to begin with a walk/run if you are coming back from a serious tear or a fracture. Try to keep the big picture in mind—you want to run for the rest of your life, not just for the next race. That’s always my line for dropping out of a race or for pushing through an injury.

Implement the up and down strategy by having a week of building miles and then have a week of lower steady miles. This is critical if it is a reoccurring or chronic injury. Slowly take out the down weeks as you progress without increased pain. A little pain when recovering from soft tissue injury is okay just make sure it doesn’t go over a 4 on a scale of 1-10. Only increase your miles by ten percent each week. If you’re coming back from a fracture, there shouldn’t be any pain.

Once you have removed the down weeks and are starting to build as you were before the injury, make sure your 4th week, the rest week, is really a rest week. Reduce your miles by 25% or even better take a week of gym time using a low impact machine or even running in the pool. Pool running is a perfect way to come back from a fracture because you can use all your running muscles and remove the impact.

As you increase your miles pay close attention to your form and your gait. You should be able to maintain good form. Also watch for an uneven distribution of your weight toward one side or the other. Either of those will cause a secondary injury.

Remember the goal is to come back stronger than before. You’ll get there; be patient.

Appreciation

appreciation

Sometimes we get so caught up in our busy lives that we forget to stop and really appreciate what we have right in front of us. It really hits us hard when we lose something we under appreciated.

Our health is one of the things most people take for granted. If we look around our immediate environment we’ll see others who are struggling with their health. We all have family members and friends who are dealing with some health condition that limits their ability to do some things.

I’m guilty of this same thing. There are a few circumstances where it always hits me though: race day and long runs, which in many ways are the same thing. Maybe it’s just the endorfins that make me stop, literally, and look around me realizing how lucky I am to be out in the mountains running.

I’m very conscious  of what I put into my  body and try to make good decisions about 90% of the time, but even this level of awareness hasn’t saved me from taking my health for granted.

It’s more than just our health that gives us the ability to run. Our friends and families give us the freedom and space to do our running thing. Our socioeconomic status gives us the ability to take the time off to run or not have to work two jobs. Running also takes a certain amount of financial means, not as much as other sports (cycling or triathlon), but shoes can get expensive even if you are not running in the top brands.

The condition of our country plays a role too. Can you imagine trying to be a runner in a country riddled with war? I thank my guardian angels I am able to run safely in the mountains, the city, and the neighborhoods near my home.

Another one is the availability of food and clean water. Running burns through a lot of calories and without enough food to eat on a daily basis would be difficult as would running without enough clean water.

Appreciate the gifts you have been given and don’t waste them. Work hard when you are out there and show your gratitude do those who support you in your efforts.

Winter Hydration

winter-water

Just because it’s cooler outside doesn’t mean your body doesn’t need to be hydrated. The body’s thirst response is reduced by up to 40% in the winter. When you get cold your blood vessels constrict slowing the blood flow to your extremities which is why your hands and feet typically get cold first.

In the winter we don’t always feel sweaty, but that doesn’t mean you’re not sweating. It means your clothing is doing its job. Winters in Utah are very dry, more try than the summers actually, because the water in the air is frozen. I have to put lotion on a few times throughout the day and my hair frizzes nearly every day. This dry frozen air can increase your chances of becoming dehydrated, so don’t neglect this critical aspect of your winter training.

Another contributing factor for winter dehydration is losing water through your lungs. The colder the air the more water vapor is present in your breath. You can see it when you exhale. It freezes and you can’t breath it back in.

The first step in maintaining your hydration is developing the habit of taking sips throughout your runs. Frequent small sips of water is easier on your body and reduces the risk of becoming dehydrated. If you wait until you want to guzzle the water, you have waited too long and are now trying to play catch-up, which is never a good place to be in.

Next is your clothing. Maintaining a comfortable body temperature allows you to have more stable water and electrolyte loss. Wear layers you can take off and put back on as needed.

Be aware of how much you are drinking. This is huge because many of us get in our zone and we don’t really pay attention to how much we are sweating or when the last time was we sipped on our water or how frequently we are doing so.

Winter hydrating can be a challenge if you run outside in temperatures below freezing. There are insulated handhelds and hydration packs (snowboarders and skiers use them). You may need to break up your run to keep your water from freezing or get a really nice friend who is willing to bring you water every so often.

If you are using a hydration pack and it’s not insulated make sure and blow the water out of the tube and mouth piece every time you take a sip. If you leave it in the tube, it will freeze leaving you with nothing to drink.

 

 

Dangers of Yoga?

yoga-dangers

As many of you know, I recently took up Bikram Yoga. I have absolutely loved the practice and plan to continue even after the HURT 100 in January. One of the things I do when I begin any new training regimen is research.

I’ve been researching yoga including the spiritual side of it, the different types of it, and it’s long and taboo and controversial history. I am certainly not an expert or even close to knowledgeable person when it comes to the different types of yoga. I know there are a bunch including, but not limited to Hatha, Iyengar, Vinyasa (flow yoga), Bikram, Ashtanga, Jivamukti, Tantra, power yoga, and others.

The different schools of yoga use the same asanas (postures) for the most part. The duration they hold them, what they call them, and the alignment can be a little different. The other difference is the ethical values and how secular they are.  I’m not going to get into the spiritual side of things or the taboo issues either, but I feel obligated to get into the possible dangers of yoga. The reason I feel obligated to do this is because, I’ve encouraged others to get into the practice and the dangers are not obvious and are really kinda hidden by the yoga community for the most part.

There are approximately 300,000 people in the US who practice yoga, probably more. Yoga started to Explode in the 60’s and 70’s and it took the medical community a while to catch up and start looking at the benefits and the dangers. Currently, Yoga is self-regulated, which means yoga teachers are not required to undergo any type of official training or certification. Some disciplines do require their teachers to complete 4-8 weeks of training.

The biggest concern with some postures is your neck. Many yoga postures require practitioners to bend their neck further than it would normally do. Yes, you say, but that’s what yoga does makes you more flexible. I know, but there are some joints that do this better and carry less risk of injury. Because of the intricate weaving of nerves, arteries, and veins going through your neck/spinal column the potential for injury increases and the damage can be severe.

The postures that place you most at risk are the shoulder stand, head stand, plow, knee to ear pose, half wheel, and cobra. Some of these postures can be modified, so they are safer to practitioners, but if you haven’t had instruction on how to make them safe, you could be setting yourself up for life long injuries. The most serious risk in these postures is a stroke. Yep, you can cut off the blood supply to your brain long enough to cause a stroke. You can cause serious injury anywhere along your spinal column such as herniated disks.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t practice and I still love yoga and will continue to practice, but the information I’ve learned will definitely change how I practice and which postures I use. Injury risks come with all sports and recreational hobbies, it’s about knowing what you’re up against and being able to take action to prevent it.

What’s the take away?

  1. Do your own research
  2. Research and ask your teacher questions
  3. Listen to your body; yoga shouldn’t hurt, it stretches but doesn’t hurt. Make sure you know the difference.
  4. Know your limits, which can change from day to day
  5. Go slow and don’t show off.

Run Safe

safe-running

I think it’s important to address runner safety periodically, just to remind us all to consider it, at least on occasion. Runners should be mindful of their surroundings day or night, road or trail. Bad and unexpected things can happen to anyone, anywhere. The number one threat, in my book, to runners is other people.

I know out on the trail there is the possibility of getting lost, falling and having a serious injury, or animal attacks, however, these are less frequent than attacks by other people.

It’s also my opinion that road runners are at higher risk, just because there are more people around them. The approaching winter always makes me think about these things because I’ll be on the roads almost exclusively since the mountains are covered with snow and ice to the point where both running and driving in the canyons become an issue, unless you snowshoe or ski/snow board, which I don’t.

Here are my tips for staying safe out there:

  1. Run with a friend
  2. Make sure people know where you’re going and when you expect to be back
  3. Carry your phone
  4. Run against traffic
  5. Wear lights (red flashing rear/front and a headlamp) and reflective gear
  6. Wear bright colors
  7. Carry runners mace: buy here
  8. SING: solar plexis, instep, nose, and groin. These are the places to hit in order to disable your attacker quickly and effectively.
  9. Change your routes and/or time of day that you run.
  10. Keep at least one earbud out at all times
  11. Have identification on your person. Road ID is great for this, you can find it here.
  12. Pretend you’re invisible, in other words assume drivers and others don’t see you and act accordingly. If a driver doesn’t make eye contact and waive you through, stop and wait for them to go.
  13. Be cautions around blind turns and hills.
  14. Use extra caution during the early morning at dusk. Lighting is strange and the sun can be directly in the face of drivers.
  15. Make eye contact with other people as you pass them.
  16. Call out when you approach others from behind (you don’t want to scare the shit out of them).

There are safety apps out there for both the iphone and android. Not only can you use them for running but put them on your kids phones and tell other people about them.

  1. Bsafe has an alarm you can sound with a touch on your phone. It activates your camera and starts recording a video, and broadcasting your location to your friends. The video, voice, location and time are stored on bsafe servers. You can set up a timer that will alert friends/family if you don’t check in by that time (you can update this as you move). Best of all this app is free! Android and apple.
  2. Glympse allows others to track you while you run. They don’t have to have the app on their phone to do it. Android and apple.
  3. RunSafe allows you to track your activites like any running app. It has a panic button feature which alerts your contacts and sounds an alarm, activates your flashlight and records sounds. This is free and has upgrade options for a $4.99 monthly subscription. Android and Apple
  4. RoadID has an app as well. It lets your friends and family actively follow your digital trail, sends an SOS message with your location if you stop moving for five minutes and don’t respond to the app’s alert within 60 seconds. This is free. Only for apple.
  5. Reactmobile alerts 911 or sends your GPS coordinates to your emergency contacts with a touch of a button. It’s similar to bsafe. Friends and family can also track you real time. Free. Android and apple.
  6. Kitestring is an app you activate when you enter a potentially unsafe situation. It checks up on you after a period of time and if you don’t respond or post pone the check in, it sends a customized emergency message to your pre-selected contacts. It’s free.

Be Safe out there and if you have other ideas please share them, we have to stick together.

Does running have to hurt?

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It’s nearly the anniversary of when I fractured my foot and I’m thanking my lucky stars that I took the time and had the discipline to rehab my foot properly so I could run this past season.

Non-runners feel entitled to comment on whether or not running is healthy. Some of the frequent comments/questions I get when people find out I’m a distance runner are, “Isn’t that bad for your knees?” “Running that far can’t be good for you.” “Running long distance is bad for your heart. People have had heart attacks at the end of races.” “If you keep running you’re going to get hurt.”

I’m guessing they get this idea that runners get injured all the time from the research which says 45% of runners get injured each year. Part of the problem with that number is it doesn’t define injured. Whenever we participate in a sport on an ongoing basis, even high school and college level athletes, we have aches and pains, which are a result of our participation in physical activities.

But what does injury actually mean? I think this is subjective to a certain extent. Runners, ultrarunners in particular, tend to push themselves beyond aches and pains. It’s what we do to get to a finish line of a 100 mile race. If we stopped when it hurt, most of us would never finish. Even when we do have more than a simple ache or pain we continue our training and continue to increase our miles.

Is this the wrong thing to do? Now I’m no doctor, so you should really talk with them over me, but I don’t think running through an injury is always a bad thing. There are some injuries where it is better to stay active and by that I mean reduce you miles and take it easy for a few weeks. There are other injuries where it is best for you to take time off running and find some type of cross training to do. I’ve always drawn the line as a fracture or more than mild soft tissue injuries.

Sometimes it can feel like we are always dealing with some type of injury or pain, which doesn’t go away when we stop running or take a day of rest. Running is not easy and runners are a tough bunch, aches and pains and even actual injuries are going to happen to all of us at some point in our running career. We need to know before hand, where our line is in the sand and how to tell the difference between an actual injury and just an ache that can be worked through.

Acute stabbing pain is not good. You should take a day off and if it continues for more than 2-3 days see a doctor. Centralized, one particular spot, pain is also a bad sign, if it continues for more than 2-3 days, have it checked out.

Swelling, redness, bruising means ice, rest, compression, and elevation for a few days. Strained muscles and tendons, means you should warm up before running hard and watch your form. Also, look into some type of strength routine for your hips. Weak hips cause a whole host of issues.

As we head into the colder months here in the western US, our race season is coming to a close and many runners reduce their miles for the winter to rebuild their muscles and give their body much deserved rest from the hard work it has put in for the winter.

Winter or off season months are the best time to add in preventative routines to your training, such as strength and stretching.

Listen to your body, think about what it’s telling you, and do what it says most of the time.