Do You Shy Away from Bad Weather?

run in the rain

Last Saturday evening I looked up the weather conditions for the next day. I needed to know what to wear for my thirty-mile run. I never questioned whether or not I would actually run, just what to wear while I did it. I laughed when I saw it. Rain, rain, and more rain. There was a 90% likelihood of rain from six in the morning until nine in the evening.

I went to my running clothes dresser (yes, I have so much running gear it has it’s own dresser). I pulled out my long pants, extra gloves, and rain jacket. Of course I was going out, even if it rained the entire time. And wind, I was sure there would be wind on the island. I don’t think the rain comes to the island without the wind.

I’d run in wind and rain before. Salt Flats 100 consisted of approximately 20 plus hours of wind and rain and lots of it. Thirty miles in the rain wouldn’t be a problem. Anyway, I am staring down a one hundred miler in just under two weeks. Conditions could be just as bad or worse on race day. It’s always good to have some difficult runs under your belt going into a one hundred, so when you have to dig deep to get through a tough section of the race, there is something to hold on to.

Runners run in all types of conditions, unless they don’t. Some runners choose not to run if weather conditions are not at their standard. If you run ultramarathons this is a bad strategy. It’s bad strategy for a race of any distance.

One hundred miles is a long way to go and a lot can happen during that time, including rapidly changing weather conditions. This is true for running relays which last for twenty-four to thirty-six hours. We’ve all heard the saying, “There is no bad weather, only bad gear.” I think this is true for the most part. You do need to have the right gear to run in severe weather conditions and if it’s really bad it only makes it bearable. But bearable is better than not being prepared.

Running in different weather conditions should be a part of your training plan. It’s just as important as mimicking the elevation change and terrain of your race. Ideally, race day will not throw out any situation, which you have not already had to deal with at least once, and hopefully more than once.

When one of my runners tells me it’s raining or cold or whatever outside, I tell them, “suck it up, butter cup.” If the complaining continues or is echoed by another runner, they get the classic, “nut up or shut up.”

rain running quote

Epic Relay: Only to episodes of vomiting and one major GI explosion

tetonsTeton Mountains

The Epic relay was a ton of fun. My team consisted of ten runners. Eight “normal” runners and two ultrarunners. The race began at 5:00 am Friday morning in Logan, Utah. We went through Idaho, and finished in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Epic is small compared to other relay organizations. Ragnar hosts 1200 teams and Red Rock Relay has around 300 teams. There were only 84 teams spread out over the 205 miles.

This was the longest relay my team has completed. Both Wasatch Back and Red Rock are about 195 miles. What’s ten miles more, you ask? It’s another hour and a half on the racecourse, which is eternity when you’ve been in a van for 36 hours already!

Epic was a tough race. The course was beautiful farmland, small towns, and the Tetons.  My team, Nut up or Shut up, (from Zombie Land the movie) struggled specifically in the dehydration department in our second van (the van I was in). Van one was able to knock out their miles in the early morning hours and early night time hours. Van two ran during the heat of the afternoons and the cold during the night.Epic Exchange six My team (minus J$ who is running) at exchange six. Van Two’s starting point.

My first run was 20 miles long. I began it at 2:16 pm. I knew going out that it was not going to be the most fun run ever because I don’t do well in the heat. There was no shade on this portion of the course. There were a quiet a few hills. I was fine through the first 4.6 mile leg. During the second leg, 9.3 miles, I became dehydrated, overheated, and nauseous.  My team was stopping every two miles trying to keep my body temperature down by dumping ice water over my head. The third leg of my run was 6.5 miles long. By the time I hit 17 miles I was walking the hills to keep myself from vomiting on the side of the road (I really hate vomiting). When I met with my team, I had Spongebunny finish the rest of the leg so that my team could hit the time cut offs imposed by the race.

Lesson to take away from this: Zombie Land Rule #17 “Don’t Be a Hero.”  Ask for help when you need help. I needed help. I had twenty-two more miles to complete and was in a bad way. Spongebunny finished the last 3.5 miles and kept us on track. I’ve been trying to work this rule into relay running since 2010. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn it and for a team who believes it.

My second run was twelve miles and began at 3 in the morning. It was cold about 36 degrees Fahrenheit.  My stomach had not recovered from the morning jaunt, but I was feeling better.

After our second leg of the race, we slept about two hours and then went back out for our final run. More heat! We began our run at 11:20 and it was getting toasty. I began my last ten miles at 130 pm. When I finished, I was glad to be done.

We did have two runners vomit during the race and one major GI(diarrhea) explosion, but we persevered. We are, after all, team Nut up or Shut up!

After finishing twelve relays, I’ve decided being in Van two is more difficult than being in Van one. It’s more about the structure of the relay than the terrain, but the terrain in Van two for mountain relays typically has more elevation and Van one has longer distances.

Epic Finish Start To finish 35 hours

Pick your van wisely.

Van one Benefits and drawbacks:

Benefits:

Runs during cooler temperatures.

Maintains a more normal eating routine.

Maintains a more normal sleeping routine.

Finish first.

Drawbacks:

You have to leave a day early.

Typically has longer miles.

Van Two benefits and drawbacks:

Benefits:

Don’t have to leave until Friday

Shorter miles

Drawbacks:

Eating pattern is compromised

Sleeping pattern is compromised

Generally more elevation gain than van one

Finish last.

More severe temperatures

 

Relay on the Brain

What does it take to run an ultrarelay? Five of your closest friends, liquid awesome, and determination.

Most relays are about 200 miles total or thirty-tree miles a piece for six runners. Well, that would be the case if the legs were evenly divided between each runner, but they’re not. The total distance is broken up into 36 legs anywhere from 2 miles to 11 miles. Some positions may have a total mileage as low as ten miles, and others may be as high as twenty miles. While this is excellent for a twelve-person team (because you can have runners of all levels on your team), it could pose a problem for an ultrateam.

Running a relay is hard. In ways, it is more challenging than running a marathon. A marathon requires continuous effort for three to four hours for most people. A relay requires sporadic effort for 24-36 hours.

There are no rules on how you split the legs between your six runners. Option A: The easiest and most obvious would be that each runner would take two back-to-back positions. This maintains the three legs for each runner typical of a relay event. This makes each of the legs longer.

As an example, let’s look at how this would look for Ragnar Wasatch Back total distance 193 miles:

Runner one on an ultrateam would run both position one and two totaling 36.6 miles

Runner two on an ultrateam would run both position three and four totaling 33.9 miles

Runner three on an ultrateam would run both position five and six totaling 32.6 miles

Runner four on an ultrateam would run both position seven and eight totaling 26.4 miles

Runner five would run both nine and ten totaling 33.4 miles

Runner six would run both eleven and twelve totaling 33.5 miles

Option B: You could also split it up, so each runner runs shorter distances, but runs six times:

Runner one would run both position one and seven 33.2 miles

Runner two would run both position two and eight 29.5 miles

Runner three would run position three and nine 38.2 miles

Runner four would run position four and ten 29.2 miles

Runner five would run position five and eleven 38.1 miles

Runner six would run position six and twelve 28.2 miles

Option WTF: Things get more complicated if you have both ultrarunners and non-ultrarunners on the team. There are an infinite number of ways you can split it. This is just an example from the Red Rock Relay total 186 miles

Run one runs legs 1, 13, and total miles 10.8

Runner two: first run legs 2 and 3, second run legs 19-24, third run legs 31-32 total miles 54.5

Runner three first run leg 4, second run legs 14-17, third run leg 35  total miles 33.6

Runner Four first run leg 5, second run legs 10-12, third run legs 33-34 total miles 33.5

Runner Five first run legs 7-9, second run legs 26-29, third run leg 36 total miles 39.6

Runner six runs legs 6, 18, and 30 total miles 13.4

 

Option A is the most rational choice. Runners have the longest time to recover, sleep, and eat. It maintains the classic three legs per runner. Frankly, I think it is easier to run longer three times in a twenty-four hour period than running shorter six times during a twenty-four hour period.

For an ultrateam, there are increased risks of dehydration and heat stroke.

  Dehydration Heat stroke Heat exhaustion Hypoatremia
Symptoms Thirst

Dry mouth

No sweat (clammy)

Lightheaded

Weakness

Less urine

Temp 105

Throbbing head

No sweat

Red hot dry skin

Muscle weakness

Cramps

Nausea/vomiting

Rapid/shallow breathing

Rapid heartbeat

Confusion

Disorientation staggering

Seizures

unconsciousness

Confusion

Apple juice urine

Dizziness

Fainting

Fatigue

Headache

Muscle cramps

Nausea

Pale skin

Profuse sweating

Rapid heartbeat

Craving salt

Confusion

Convulsions

Fatigue

Headache

Irritability

Loss of appetite

Muscle spasms or cramps

Muscle weakness

Nausea

Restlessness

vomiting

treatment Get out of the sun

Walk or stop

Drink water

Get out of the sun

Place ice on neck and groin

Get in cold water

Take to hospital if no improvement

Get out of the sun

Place ice on neck and groin

Get in cold water

Walk or stop

Electrolytes

Salty food or S-caps

No water

Take to hospital if no improvement

 

Good advice whenever you are running an ultra is be prepared for anything and take care of problems as early as possible. If your stomach starts to act up or you have a hot spot, it’s probably not going to get better in 20 more miles. It’s going to get worse, so you need to do something about it as early as you can.

My team keeps a cooler in the van full of ice and giant sponges. We use them to cool off runners during the heat. Other teams use spray bottles, squirt guns, and fertilizer spray jugs. I have found that the sponge seems to work the best and keeps the runner cool the longest. They do end up soaking wet by the end of their run. For runners who get blisters with wet feet this can be an issue so a lubricant like hydropel, which is waterproof, would be a good idea as well as lots of extra socks. The ice-cold water squeezed above the runner’s head can be shockingly refreshing, as noted by the sharp inhale of breath and the “oh my god!” reactions.

 

Training for a relay race requires you to run three times in one 24-hour period. Your body responds differently under these conditions. It is just smart to know how exactly your body responds so you can be ready for it, and you know if what you are experiencing is due to the multiple runs or some other issue or injury. Many people think, “Oh, I can run three miles,” the length of one leg.  Rather than “Oh I can run 10 miles,” the total of all three legs.  The final leg for each runner is more like the last six miles of a marathon than just another three miler because you haven’t eaten well, you haven’t slept well, you may be dehydrated, and you are probably sore and tight. Keep in mind that your first run affects your second run and runs one and two will affect run three. They are too close together to not affect each other.   There is not quite enough time in between each leg to recover. Recovery takes eight hours or more of good down time. Think in total miles, not single legs. If you do, you will be prepared for this run.

 

Locating your runner in the dark is a bit of a challenge because everyone is required to wear a headlamp, reflective vest, and tail light. I add glow sticks to my runners, usually through their shoelaces

Stomach issues are common among ultrarunners. Keeping various options on hand to address stomach problems is essential for any ultra. Pepto-Bismol, ginger chews, tums, and ginger ale are all good options.

A relay is great for first time ultra because you have your crew right there to provide aid, encouragement, and anything else you may need along the way.

It rubs the lotion on it’s skin

Utah is dry in the winter and the summer. Swimming amplifies my dryness of both my hair and skin. Daily lotion smearing is necessary if you don’t want flaky white skin. I bought some Dove lotion at the grocery store and have been religiously applying for the last week. It was a little difficult to rub in all the way, which I assumed was a good thing. It took a few days to get used to the smell, but it has grown on me, and I enjoy the pistachio flower scent now. This morning, as I was diligently applying the lotion I glanced at the bottle. I stopped rubbing and picked the bottle up bringing it closer to my face as if this was going to help me understand the words that were now completely baffling me. Continue reading

Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay!

001

Back row left to right: Zoila, Robert, Melissa, Bebe, Jillian, and Mark

Front row left to right: Justin, me, Mike, Jeff, and Erin.

Rain? Who doesn’t love a little rain? I love the rain from the light sprinkles kissing my cheeks to the torrential downpour rinsing away all of my negativities. Thursday evening my van met and packed all of our gear into the trailblazer. It was a little snug with five runners, but we like one another. We went to Chili’s restaurant (team favorite) for dinner to avoid traffic and then drove the one and a half hours to Logan, Utah to camp for the night. One of our friends, Sherpa-Ben, set up a large tent for us at the campground where we were staying. As we pulled in and began unloading sleeping bags, the sprinkling ran began to fall.

Ben busted out his guitar and began strumming the songs Dust in the Wind by Kansas and Take Me Home Country Roads by Billy Vaughn . Justin had printed off the lyrics for everyone, so we all sang along. Just like our running skills vary so did the singing. Some who were better at running not so good in the vocal department and those who are not so great in the athletic neighborhood were amazing in their ability to serenade. The rain continued to pitter-pat on the outside of the tent as we quieted down knowing we would be getting up at 3:30 in the morning.

The alarm went off. Continue reading