Eager Beaver

Not everyone is an eager beaver. Pulling yourself out of the winter hibernation can be quiet the process. “But it’s running!” the beavers say. I know I totally get it beav. I’m right there with you rearing to go, chomping at the bit, barely containing the animal within.

But for some, it takes time for the snow to melt, the limbs to thaw, and the warm blood to reach the toes. It can be especially challenging if you have dropped your miles very low over the winter months or if you had a disappointing race season before the cold hit your neck of the woods.

When your miles drop to the point that you are having to work up to the fitness level where you were at the close of the race season, overcoming that mental hurdle of knowing how hard it can be to come back is your most formidable enemy, but you’ve slain this foe before. Write yourself a good gradual training program, set some goals along the way, sign up for races with increasing distances, and help your running partners thaw themselves out as well. Remember how great it feels when you’re at peak fitness. And at the end of next season, rethink the idea of maintaining a higher milage base.

A disappointing race season can leave you depressed and questioning why you work so hard only to miss the goal you set for yourself. If you find yourself in this space, you really need to get out into the sunshine, even if it is just to sit on a park bench. Soak in some of the suns rays. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. Wiggle your toes in the grass and earth. Brush your fingers gently on the blossoms covering the trees. Breathe the mountain air. There is nothing like getting outside away from the business of the city to reignite the fire that fuels your engine.

Once your brain is in a better place, it’s time to rethink your race season. Failures are only failures if you learn nothing from them and continue to repeat them. There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “Failure is not falling down; it’s not getting up.” Find the places where you think you were less than your best and pull them apart until you know why. That “Why” is your starting place.

Turn your why around and look at it from every angle. Get intimate with it. Pull it apart and turn it inside out. Now, come up with a plan to kill the why. This will likely be trial and error during your training.

Trial and error can be fun. It makes you think outside the box. It makes you dig deep and find something new about yourself. You may make new friends through collaboration as you work through this little issue of yours.

We’re runners, we stare into the face of challenge and smile.

 

 

Opposition

 

Not all runners have a wonderful support system who understands when they take off for hours at a time to get long runs in on the weekends or spend hundreds of dollars on one race. Those of us who do, count our lucky stars.

Having supportive friends and or family is important. Why? Because running can be hard. There will be times when you lose your motivation. There will be times when you want to celebrate and you should be celebrating.

Supportive family and friends offer you the chance to improve even when they don’t really know anything about running because they give you a sounding board. They may be able to give you new ideas because they see it from outside the running box. If they do know about running or are runners themselves, they probably like to talk about running stuff: new gear, new shoes, upcoming races, training strategies and so on.

You can build and adjust what you are doing based on their experiences about training, particular/similar races, injuries, fueling, and preparing (other than running) for a race.

How do you handle the lack of support? If you’re support system is just indifferent to you, it’s much easier than if they actively oppose your running hobby.

If they’re indifferent and don’t show up to your races, don’t take any interest in your accomplishments, or just project an attitude of we don’t care, find people who do care and who are supportive. Get involved with the running community more. You don’t have to abandon your family or friends who just don’t get it, but you do need to find a support system that does for all the reasons stated above.

If they actively oppose you, seek understanding first. Friends are unlikely to actively oppose your running. They may give you a hard time about it once in a while. Active opposition comes from family and significant others.

Find out what it is about your running that they don’t like: the time commitment, concerns for your health, the cost, or feeling like an outsider.

Provide information to address their concerns.

I can’t count how many times people have told me running as much as I do is not healthy. I send them the research that says it is and I explain what it does for me personally regarding physical and mental health.

Running can be expensive, especially, if you are running multiple 100 mile races at about $300 a pop just for registration. Then there is gear, food, travel costs, and shoes, just to name a few things. This one is obviously going to be a potential issue with significant others who share financial resources. You’re going to have to compromise and explain why running is so important to you. Encourage your other half to engage in a hobby. Make sure you are not using all the extra spending money for your running. Help them feel like they are a part of your running experience and team.

If they are “jealous” because they feel like an outsider around your running friends or when you talk about running (because you do and you use running metaphors to teach life lessons), get them involved. Include them with planning races and choosing races. Pick places they want to see. Try not to use inside jokes around them, unless you’re ready to explain.  Help them learn the terminology.

The big one is the time commitment. This one can become a sore spot for the runner too when they have conflicting desires. It’s always a balance. Try to choose times when your family is engaged in another activity where you can’t really be such as working, school, or asleep. This works well when you have young children. Help the other person understand the benefit running has on you and how that impacts your relationships. Everyone needs time for themselves to recharge and breathe. If you don’t take care of your own needs, then you cannot be fully present for others. Be willing to adjust things for important events the other person has. Get them involved with your running. They could meet you along your run for refueling or lunch. They could run a portion of the route with you. Both of these work even on training runs. Make sure you are contributing to family chores and other “unpleasant but necessary” activities as much as the others. Try scheduling a down season and commit to spending more time with the family. Make sure you are taking your rest week every fourth week and make an effort to spend quality time with those you love.

Does Carb Loading Work?

carb-loading

We have all heard about carb loading before a race. Many races serve a pasta dinner the night before a race, but does it really have that big of an impact on race day? It can if it is done properly.

Why do we carb load? You want to fill your muscles with as much glycogen as you can before a race because that’s what your body uses to fuel itself while you run.

There are two main ways to carb load. There is the traditional method, which is spread over three to six days before the race, and then the 24 hours binge. The traditional method goes something like this: from Sunday to Tuesday before the race you should consume fifty percent of your calories from healthy carbs. From Wednesday to Friday 70 percent of your calories should come from carbs.

The 24 hour binge is not recommended and can make you feel sluggish rather than energized. It can give you GI issues as well and no one wants GI issues while they are running. The 24 hour binge is where you consume 4.5 grams of carbs per pound of your body weight the day before the race. If you do this, avoid eating foods high in fiber, add healthy fats and some protein to the mix to slow the release of the carbs and reduce blood sugar spikes.

Carb loading is not necessary and comes with its own risks. There are so many products out there that make fueling during a run easy, carb loading may not be worth it. If you’re running less than 90 minutes carb loading won’t help you at all because it takes that long for most people to burn through their glycogen stores.

Lastly, women don’t reap the same benefits from carb loading as men. The reason for this is believed to be the difference in hormones, estrogen in particular. All is not lost though, women can increase their calorie intake by thirty to thirty-five percent during the loading period and get the same or similar benefits.

HURT 100 Finisher

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The HURT 100 was an incredible event. The entire HURT ohana (family) was welcoming, supportive, and showered every runner with the aloha spirit. I would absolutely go and run this race again. It was a mentally and physically challenging course but in the most beautiful 100 mile way. hurt-100-5

The HURT 100 is run in on the island of O’ahu near Honolulu. It’s a 20 mile loop through the rain forests including the tangled surface root systems of the Banyan trees, the clacking of bamboo, and multiple river crossings. Runners complete the loop five times. The total cumulative elevation gain is 24,500 ft and the same amount of loss for a grand total of 49,000 feet of cumulative elevation change. There are three aid stations on each loop with 5-7 miles between each aid station.

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Less than 50% of runners who start the HURT finish the HURT. This year 125 runners started and 54 finished. You have 36 hours to finish the race. There are a lot of things that contribute to a DNF (did not finish). It would be interesting if races started tracking reasons for dropping from a race. HURT is a extremely technical race and I would guess many runners drop because they have twisted, sprained, torn, and broken various body parts. The heat and humidity is also a big factor in the DNF rate because it contributes to dehydration, stomach problems, and blisters/chafing.

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I finished HURT in 35 hours and 12 minutes. Not my fastest finish by any means, but a finish. I had two amazing men jump in and pace for me last minute. They live on O’ahu and run the HURT loop about once a week. It was great to get to know them as we made our way through the jungle.

So what did I learn from HURT? 1. train for the race you are going to run. I added hot yoga to my training to prepare for the heat and humidity. It helped immensely. I ran up and down a lot of stairs (the mountains are snowed in here). This helped keep my climbing and descending muscles strong and made sure I focused on foot placement. I also included agility training (thanks Dennis). If you are going to spend a day and a half running through roots and rocks while going up and down mountains, you  best be able to move your feet quickly.

2. Don’t chew gum while you are running because it keeps your mouth wet and you drink less.

3. if it hurts to walk and it hurts to run, run.

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There is a documentary being produced about the HURT 100. Here is a link to the trailer (which I’m in :0) That’s me in the white hat purple shirt kissing Cody at the finish line). HURT does have an amazing story and a beautiful soul. Every ultra course has it’s own personality and soul. I’t’s comprised of the passion and love of the sport through the race director, staff, volunteers and runners, but then there is this piece that you cannot know unless you run the race. It’s the soul of the course itself. Every race I’ve run has a different personality and soul and they draw different types of runners.

 

Mahalo to my HURT ohana and all my readers.

Puddles?

sweaty-runner

I think I sweat more than any person I know when I exercise. It runs rivers down my body. During yoga, there is a puddle underneath me, my fingers are wrinkled, and I can literally wring my clothes out afterward (I’m not kidding even a little). It’s not just yoga, it happens when I run too, but the wind and outside air keep things a little more try. If I’m on the treadmill, you don’t want to run next to me or you could get splashed.

Your body produces sweat when your core body temperature rises, which triggers your body into releasing fluid to the surface of the skin where it is supposed to evaporate and cool the skin.

There are a few factors that go into how much you sweat. People are born with 2-4 million sweat glands. Women have more than men, but men’s are more active (on average) than women’s. The temperature and humidity play a role, as does your activity level and genetics.

If you are exercising intensely, you’re going to sweat more, and if you exercise frequently you are going to sweat more. That’s right, your body becomes a very efficient sweat machine the more you exercise on a regular basis and at higher intensities.  Every time you train you are teaching your body how to cool itself. Your body learns to start cooling itself earlier before your heart rate is high and you’re really working hard.

There are some other things that can contribute to an increase in the amount you sweat as well: caffeine, alcohol, smoking, your clothing, and your weight.

Sweat and salt lines can be a little embarrassing particularly for those new to the gym or those who are overweight. Try not to worry about it too much, most people are too concerned with what they are doing or what they look like to be looking at your sweat. You should wear your sweaty clothing with pride (but please wash it after one use). It means you have worked hard and earned every droplet of fluid.

The more important thing you want to think about when you are sweating a lot is getting the fluid and lost electrolytes back into your body when you are finished and even during your workout. If you start to feel nauseous, light headed, dizzy, confused or have a sloshing stomach, you need to get some electrolytes as soon as you can and definitely reduce your intensity until your body can absorb some of those electrolytes.

That Can’t be Good for You

jogger - vascular system

Have you heard this one from your family and friends? I have, but the research doesn’t support their concerns.

Many of my friends/family worry that ultrarunning is bad for my heart because it has to work for extended periods of time, like 36 hours, at an elevated rate. The research shows that there is short term stress (duh) but there are no long term negative effects on the heart. Overall, ultrarunner’s hearts are normal and often more healthy than the general population.

The most chronic ailments ultrarunners suffer from are allergies and exercise-induced asthma. On average, ultrarunners miss 2.2 days of work a year for illness. It’s 3.7 for the national average.  All those people concerned about your knees, tell them to rest easy the research doesn’t support that or damage to other joints or cartilage.  Yes, runners get injured. They pull muscles and tendons and sometimes they get a stress fracture. What athlete doesn’t get hurt at some point, even recreational athletes (aka not extreme)?

So ultrarunning is not bad for you. Perfect, that’s exactly what all ultrarunners wanted to hear, so we can look at our friends and family and roll our eyes. Then we walk into another room to sit down with our crew for the next 100 mile race. “Alright guys, you know how this goes. There is no quitting. I don’t care if I’m puking, peeing blood, have diarrhea, twisted an ankle, bloody from falling down. It doesn’t matter. I go until I cross the finish line.”

Sounds like optimal health status to me.

I’ve heard ultrarunners say they want to be healthy and they may have started running to be more healthy. Many of them eat well and take care of their bodies, but I believe it’s more of a taking care of the body to run 100 miles and not running 100 miles to take care of the body.

If it can get so tough out there, why do we do it over and over again? Because crossing the finish line of a 50 or 100 mile run is remarkable. The more difficult the race the more we love it. We earn ever belt buckle we have. We run into hell with a smile knowing it’s going to get hot, we’re going to get burned, and we’re going to want to die.

We do it because we refuse to believe we won’t come out on the other side. We stare down our demons, pull on the boxing gloves and go round after round after round. We’re fighters. When we get knocked down we get back up and keep going toward our goal.

The true benefits of running Ultras: mental fortitude and the belief that you can.

Never Surrender, Never Retreat.

Peeing Red

potty-dance

One of the more concerning problems I had during my most recent 100 mile event, was blood in my urine. I had never heard of anyone experiencing this particular issue. When I saw the blood at mile 50, I knew I had to make a decision and had four options: drop out of the race, walk and drink a lot of water, continue running and risk making it worse, or take a break and see if it clears up.

I chose to walk and drink a lot of water. It did clear up and I was able to finish the race, but struggled with nausea through the rest of the race. I had hydrated well before the race and I paid special attention to hydrating during the race, since I’ve had issues with hydrating before. I concluded it was the combination of dehydration and taking Aleve, for my hamstring. After the race, I decided to do some research to determine if I needed to go to the doctor.

Blood in your urine (hematuria) is not a common issue runner’s deal with, but it does happen in some runners. The typical causes of hematuria are infection, trauma, kidney stones, cancer, blood cell disorders, medications and strenuous exercise.

Doctors don’t know exactly what happens for there to be blood in a runner’s urine. They think it could have to do with dehydration, blood cell breakdown, or bladder trauma. There is a theory that if someone voids their bladder right before a strenuous run, the walls of the bladder slap together (disturbing thought) during the run and cause traumatic blood loss.

Blood can be present in the urine if the blood vessels surrounding a specialized membrane that helps filter blood and produce urine, if they become more permeable which can be caused during exercise.

Another potential cause is related to hemoglobin, which is red. The theory here is the impact of our feet on the ground while running damages blood cells and releases the hemoglobin which then gets filtered out through the urine.

In my search of potential causes, I found that this uncommon issue is not all that uncommon among ultrarunners and is typically related to hydration problems.

So if you have blood in your urine during or after a run, hydrate and don’t freak out. If it continues for more than 24-48 hours you should go to the doctor and get checked out.