Getting Faster

Over the years my use of and encouragement to other runners about speedwork has evolved. This happens with any runner and coach. If it doesn’t, you don’t get better. You stagnate. I’m sure a lot of my original strategies to up my game and that of others has evolved, perhaps I’ll write a post about it.

Early in my training, way back when I first began, speed work was something I did every week. I went to the track and busted out some 800s, or a ladder, or a pyramid, or 400s. I had a whole list of the sessions I loved to do and the ones I loved to hate. As my distance increased from marathon to 50 to 100 miles, the speed work dropped off and only appeared every once in a while for a few months and then I was done with it.

My justification for not doing speed work was that as an ultradistance runner I didn’t need to be super fast. I needed to be able to maintain a steady pace for a really long ways and to manage any discomfort and other issues that came along the way to maintain that pace. I’ve also used other types of things to increase my leg turn over rather than speed work, such as cycling.

Why? Speedwork is hard. It is easier when you have a running partner or a coach to crack the whip and hold you accountable for your training. It is rather difficult to find a training partner who wants to go out at 5 am, especially in the winter.

If you have hit a plateau in your training or you want to get faster, you need to do speedwork. You don’t need to do it every day. You don’t need to throw up by the end of the session. You do need to work harder than you would during an easy run, a lot harder.

For speed work to really have the desired impact you also have to make your easy runs easy. This can be more challenging than it sounds. Run easy? no problem. Running easy is hard because it really means easy. It means go at the pace your body needs in order for it to be easy on that day. It means being able to hold a conversation, mostly, with someone running next to you. On a perceived effort scale, it should not go over a 3 or 4, 1 being a walking pace. If your fast is a 9 minute mile, your easy may be a 12 or 13 minute mile. If your fast is a 6 minute mile, your easy may be a 8 or 9 minute mile. It will likely change throughout the week and training cycle. As your fast increases, your easy will likely increase as well. All of this is why the perceived effort scale is needed. I’ll probably write a post about that too.

Having the speed work without the easy runs, is going to decrease your chances of increasing your speed. If you are always pushing your body to it’s max, it doesn’t have a chance to recover, rebuild and get stronger (faster).

How often speed work is done, depends on the runner and their goals. If you don’t care if you get faster, just throw in some speed play or fartleks on a couple of your runs during the week. It gives you some variation and also decreases the chance of you getting slower. For those who would like to increase their speed, you will do speed work one time a week and for a few you can get away with twice a week (if you are running six days a week).

If you’re newer to running or are increasing distance at the same time as getting faster, once a week is enough and may be too much. If you are feeling extra tired, reduce it to once every 10 days. If you are an older runner (over 50) and haven’t consistently done speedwork, you may want to start with once every 10 days and then see how it feels. If you are an injury prone runner or have hamstring issues, you will want to start cautious and also at 10 days.

For new runners, please don’t go out and do an hour of speed work. Just like with distance, you need to start small and work your way up. Start with 30 minutes, do a warm up of ten minutes, run 4 or 5 800s with a quarter mile recovery between and then cool down for 10 minutes. Alternate this with a ladder. Warm up for 10 minutes, run a fast quarter mile, recover for a quarter mile, run a fast 800, recover for a quarter mile, run a fast one mile, recover for a quarter mile up to a mile and a half and then cool down for 10 minutes. If you can’t get through the whole ladder, do what you can.

For older runners just starting speed work, the warm up is more critical than for the new runner. You may need longer than the ten minutes to warm up. You likely know your body well enough to feel the switch flip and you can run easier. If you are both older and new to running, get some base miles under your belt before adding in speed work. Just run consistently for two months. Consistently means 3 plus days a week.

For injury prone runners and some older runners, hill work is better than speed work and has basically the same effect. This also means that other runners can use hills to add variation to their speed work repertoire. Running fast is harder on your body and increases the chances of an injury especially a hamstring injury. Hamstrings are fickle and when they get injured, they take their sweet sweet time healing. Hill work means running up a hill and then recovering on the way back down. It doesn’t have to be a super steep grade. It needs to be a challenge for you to get to the top while still running. You can change things up by using different grades, lengths, and number of repeats. Frequency is the same with other speed work, once a week or every ten days. If you feel the tingle of an injury coming on, don’t do the speed/hill work and think about taking 1-3 days off of running.

This was a long one. Please ask questions, if you have any and Happy Running!

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.

Coming to Terms with a DNF

At some point in an ultrarunner’s career there will be a DNF, Did Not Finish. They happen for many reasons. Regardless of the reason, in the moment, it feels like an absolutely legitimate reason. Then there is the next morning, where you’ve slept and eaten a real meal, at that time, your reason for pulling out of the race may feel like the wrong decision.

It’s hard not to beat yourself up over, what you see as, a less than adequate reason for the DNF. And maybe some self criticism is warranted, doubtful but maybe. The problem is it gets you no where. It doesn’t help you improve. It doesn’t make the DNF go away. It doesn’t make you feel like getting back out there.

I have three DNFs. All three of them were in the same year! The first was at the Speedgoat 50k. My dropping from the race wasn’t voluntary. I missed the cut off by five minutes. The second was at my first 100 miler, Pony Express 100. I went into the race injured. I had rolled my ankle 5 weeks before and then proceeded to run on it for a relay run for 50 miles. I couldn’t let my team down and knew when I chose to do the relay, I was putting my 100 at risk. At mile 75 of the 100, my knee was so painful I could barely walk. I decided it wasn’t worth risking a long time injury. My last DNF was at Buffalo Run 50 miler. I pulled out 12 miles from the finish with mild hypothermia. I had stayed in an aid station waiting for warm broth. During the time I was there my body temperature dropped, since I wasn’t moving. The next morning I went out and finished the last 12 miles.

It sucks to get a DNF. I remember each of these very vividly. I did beat myself up after each and everyone, especially the Buffalo Run 100. After sulking for a week, I decided I was done and I was going to learn from each of these experiences. I went back and asked myself several questions about each.

What when wrong?

What could have prevented the DNF?

What can I do to include these prevention strategies in my training in the future?

Ultimately, I decided two of the three could have been prevented. I realized my training for Speedgoat was not what it should have been to make the cut off times. For Buffalo, I learned to never stay in an aid station for more than what is absolutely necessary. I talk to my crew about this every time. I also learned how to better educate my crew and how to pick crew who will throw me back out into the cold, even if it’s a blizzard.

You can look at a DNF in two different ways and you’ll likely see both in each DNF you have beginning with the Did Not Finish and concluding Did Nothing Fatal.

 

 

 

Back Pain?

Back pain is no joke. Many adults and even children suffer from back pain, specifically lower in their backs. There are a whole host of things that contribute to back pain, some are life style choices and some are genetics. Back pain can remove you from daily life activities that are both fun and necessary. Runners are not immune. Running involves repetitive stress and impact for long periods of time, which obviously has the potential to cause some back pain or tightness at some point. Maintaining good running form, following some basic training rules and keeping the back muscles loose will save you from missed work, and more importantly missed running.
Maintaining proper running form and a strength training routine (see mine here)  focusing on the core muscles (including the lower back) is going to go a long way in preventing lower back pain. Running form can make you a more or less efficient runner and it can make you a more or less injury prone runner. What is proper form? First, you don’t want to make big changes to your running form at a time, pick one of these and do it until it becomes automatic and then move to another. If you notice any pain, which you shouldn’t, make sure you are doing it correctly. If any pain continues, reduce it to every other run until it’s comfortable and then increase to every run.
  1. Head up and shoulders back, not uncomfortably but might feel a little weird if you sit at a computer for a long time each day.
  2. Chest up. Imagine a string attached to your sternum about nipple height pulling up to the sun or moon. This is probably the most helpful with aligning your body.
  3. Be aware of your legs. they should be under your body when you land not way out in front, especially downhill otherwise every step is like putting on the breaks and causes major impact to go through your body improperly.
  4. Foot plan should be mid-foot or forefoot. If you are doing one or the other, don’t switch. Basically, you don’t want to heel plant see number 3 above.
  5. Arm swing. Hold a ninety degree angle at the elbow, hands loose, like you’re holding a potato chip. Don’t cross your arms past your mid-line, center of your torso. Your elbows should come up to your hip and swing back until your wrists are at your hip. They should go straight back and then straight forward, a little pull toward the center is okay, just don’t cross over.
Another important factor, is increasing your miles by the 10% rule and taking rest weeks every 4th week (reduce your miles by 20-25% for the week). Increasing your miles too quickly doesn’t give your body enough time to build the muscle to handle the next level of training. Training with big mile jumps leads to over use injuries. Rest weeks are equally as important because they give your body time to heal and get stronger. As we run we create micro tears in our muscles. This is good because they heal stronger and build more muscle. But if you don’t give it time do do that effectively, it will just do the best it can with what it has, which doesn’t work well long term for you.
Self massage on the back. Sure being able to afford regular massages by a professional would be awesome, but not all of us runners have sponsors, which means all our money goes to our shoes and socks… That leaves massaging to our significant others or more often ourselves. The least expensive and surprisingly very helpful are La Crosse balls. Buy two of them from Amazon or a local athletic store and tape them together. Keep the tape smooth and make sure they are secure. Place the taped balls between your back and the wall with the indentation in the middle over your spine. The balls will be on either side. Now slowly raise and lower yourself against the wall. Keep your hips neutral (great squat workout too). Stop on knots for a few 20-30 seconds to see if you can get them to release. Keep going for 2 minutes or longer if you’d like.
A wonderful tool for total body massage (no they don’t pay me) is the Body Wrench, find it here. It’s a bit pricey, but remember it’s an investment in your body and it’s 100% money back guaranteed. You can use it for strength training as well (a 2-fer). It comes with a storage bag and an instruction manual. There are instructional videos online, found here.
Running forever, means we are going to do what we need to do to prevent and fix injuries and pain.

Hips and Running

    Running is a whole body exercise and because of this, you need to strengthen your entire body.  If you don’t do any other strength training, do hip strengthening. Your hips drive you forward. There is a bunch of research out there that supports the importance of hip strength in preventing injuries in runners. Additionally, the fastest and surest way to improve your efficiency and speed is by doing hip strengthening. Why is hip strength so important? Your hips are a part of your core muscle group which is where all of your movements, upstream and downstream, originate from.
Weak hips are actually fairly common among runners of all distances. And of course the farther you run the more likely you are to end up with an injury related to your weak hips. Your hips help stabilize your pelvis as you run. When I say hips, the muscles I’m including are: hip flexors, the outside and inside of your upper leg, your glutes, and your hamstrings. Hip flexors and hamstrings work together to move your leg back and forth. The inner and outer upper leg muscles make sure those leg swings are aligned properly with the rest of your body.  Runners hip flexors and hamstrings tend to be tight exacerbating the problem of the weak hips.
So what does weak hips cause? ITBand syndrome, runners knee, shin splints, bursitis, plantar fasciitis, and low back pain. As it turns out, hip strength alone is only one part of this equation. Don’t throw up your hands thinking, “this is too much!” just yet because this part is easy and doesn’t require work outside of your running. It’s a matter of being aware, aka proprioception; it’s knowing where your body is in space in relation to the other parts of your body. Sounds complicated. It’s not. It’s a matter of knowing what it feels like for your hips to be in the right position and then making sure they are while you are running. Your spine and hips should be in a neutral balanced position. To keep your hips in a neutral balanced position, think of your pelvis as a bowl. As you run, don’t let your bowl spill out the front, tipping too far forward, or the back, tipping too far back. During your training runs check in with your hips and spine asking yourself, are they were they are supposed to be. You can even do this throughout the day as you move around. Obviously, if they are not, correct them. Pretty soon this will become your form and you won’t have to think about it.
Alright so back to strengthening those hips. Whenever you are doing strength exercises you should focus on the body part you are using and use slow controlled movements. Using proper form during the exercise is more important than pushing your body to exhaustion. Perform these exercises three to four times a week. You want to do three sets of 10-20 repetitions.
  1. Bridges
  2. Jane Fonda’s
  3. inner thigh lift
  4. lunges
  5. piston squats
How to:
  1. Bridges: lay on your back with your arms down at your sides. Raise your hips as high as you can and hold for 2-3 seconds. You can progress to doing them with one leg, then two legs on a swiss ball, then single leg on the swiss ball.
  2. Jane Fonda’s: Lay on your side and lift the leg on top as high as you can. Hold your leg at the top for 2-3 seconds. Remember this should be a slow controlled movement. Don’t throw your leg up there because you could pull a groin.
  3. Inner thigh lift: stay on your side. Bend your upper leg and place your foot on the floor at your hips or knee. Lift your lower leg. Hold at the top for 2-3 second.
  4. Lunges: From a standing position, step forward and lower down until your front knee is bent at a 90 degree angle. Your knee should not be in front of your toes. Hold for 2-3 seconds and then do the other leg. You should be moving forward.
  5. Piston Squats. From a standing position, hold your arms out in front of you 90 degrees with your torso. Hold one leg up keeping it straight. Your foot should be 6-8 inches off the floor to start with. Bend your other leg, keeping your knee behind your toes. This one is difficult, so don’t be surprised if you can’t lower your self very far. Keep working at it.
Your hips are the key to injury prevention and improving your running in both speed and efficiency and what runner doesn’t want those three things?

Making the Leap to the Ultra-World: Training

making the leap 6

The same two golden rules of training for marathons and shorter races apply to training for an ultra. First, never increase your miles by more than ten percent. Second, reduce your miles by 20-25% (or however much you need to make an active recovery) every fourth week.

The training programs you find on the internet for ultras usually have you running five days a week. I haven’t found this to be necessary. And I believe the extra day is “junk miles.” What I mean by junk miles is, they don’t help you improve. It’s typically on Wednesday and fairly short compared to the other distances.

Your energy is better spent doing functional strength training than throwing in miles you don’t need. Functional strength training uses body weight and light weights, such as kettle bells and dumbbells. It’s focus is on balance and your core (knees to nipple line).

Balance and core strength are critical when running trails. Rocks, roots, and the shape/angle of the trail can put you off balance. You need to train your body to adjust on the go—quickly. Core strength also helps with balancing. However, the more important reason for core strength is maintaining your form for the entire event.

Form failure causes injuries due to compensation. Injuries cause more damage/strain due to compensation. The longer you can maintain your proper running form, upright, slight lean forward, shoulders back, head up, 90 degree angle-loose hand arm swing, and landing on a bent knee, the less likely you are to cause an injury during the event. The other piece of this equation is, poor forms decreases energy efficiency. Your body has to work harder to put one foot in front of another if you are hunched over, heel striking, landing on a straight leg, or have tense shoulders/arms you’re burning through energy you should be using to run.

Speed work is controversial among ultrarunners. I have mixed feelings about it as well. I know it can be helpful, but you have to balance the increased risk of injury when doing speed work, such as pulled hamstrings or shin splints. The benefit is increased leg turn over, which translates into more speed and less impact per step. These are good things, but I wouldn’t have a beginning ultrarunner do speed work. I would have more experienced ultrarunners include some speed in their Tuesday or Thursday runs, either as fartleks or 800 meter intervals.

The back to back long runs are the keystone to ultrarunning. Your back to backs should be long enough to keep you running on tired legs on the second day, but short enough to allow you to recover for the training week to come. This comes with time. When you first start back to backs, you’re going to be tired. Your legs will feel heavy until your body adjusts. Remember the two golden rules and you’ll be fine.

My athletes train six days a week. They run Tuesdays (10-12 miles), Thursdays (10-12 miles), Saturdays (long run), and Sundays (long run). On Monday and Friday they do functional strength training. Wednesday is a total rest day.

Environmental condition training includes the terrain, weather, and time of day. To be prepared for a mountain race, you have to run mountains. To be prepared for a flat race, you have to run flats. It’s that simple. Try, as best you can, to mimic the terrain of your hundred. During an ultra you can get snow and heat in the same race. There may be torrential rains and hurricane force winds. Because of this, don’t save your training for a sunny day. Get out there and deal with the crappy weather.

One hundred mile races take most people 24 hours or more to complete. This means you will be running during the night. You need to be comfortable with a headlight and negotiating trails with the limited light. If you’re not, they will significantly slow your pace throughout the night. That’s a long time to be slow. The night time hours can be the perfect time to increase your pace and make up some time because of the lower temperatures at night (most of the time). Don’t lose this chance. Train in the dark.

Mental exhaustion is another thing you can mimic in your training. You’re going to have it during a 100 and maybe even a 50. How are you going to deal with it? Caffeine is a possibility or energy drinks of some sort. Just be careful because these increase your heart rate and your core temperature. You obviously don’t want your heart rate or temperature up any higher than running 100 miles causes.

Finally, be consistent. You’re going to be tired. Don’t let it be an excuse to not get your training done.