Recovering from a Very Long Run

off season

How long does it take to recover from a one hundred mile run? As with many things running, it depends. This post applies to not only 100 mile runs but any endurance challenge.

There are a lot of factors that go into recovery time from any endurance event. Recovery can be as short as 3 days or as long as 3 weeks. That being said, there are things which make it go in one direction or  the other.

In my opinion experience is the biggest factor in the length of recovery. The more 100’s you’ve done the more familiar your body is with recovering from them. You teach your body how to rebuild after being strained in that way.

Injury is also going to play a big role in your recovery. If you were injured before the race and went into it without being fully healed, you should allow more time for recovery. Same on the other end, if you were injured during the race, it is obviously going to take you longer to recover.

The type of terrain can impact our ability to recover from a run. Running up and down a mountain takes some people longer to recover from, for others it is running flat for 100 miles that takes longer. If you run up and down, you are able to use different muscle groups throughout the run. This allows some recovery during the run. I’ve heard many times running a flat 100 is harder than a mountain 100 because a flat run uses the same muscle group the entire time.

Extreme heat or cold make it more difficult to recover from a run. You have to work twice as hard to maintain your internal body temperature in high or low temperatures under normal circumstances. Adding in running for twenty-four hours or more and you can easily triple or quadruple the energy output required.  The more you have depleted your body, the longer it takes to recover.

Food lifestyle (I don’t like the word diet) plays a role as well. Your body needs the right nutrients to get back to homeostasis. If you don’t fuel your body well before and after your run, it can’t repair the muscles and tendons you have relied on during your event. Surviving on Oreo’s and potato chips during the run is fine, but before and after are another matter entirely. There are foods that have anti-inflammatory properties which can speed recovery up.

Preparation, as in training, is key in running a 100 and not just to give you the best possible chance of finishing. It also gives you the ability to recover well. It goes back to teaching your body how to recover and rebuild the muscles. If you have completed all of your back to back long runs and run the type of terrain for your race, your body knows what to do.

It doesn’t matter if it takes you three days or three weeks. Take the time you need to recover or you’ll be back on bedrest healing an overuse injury. Sleep in, eat well, and be active at a comfortable level.

Buffalo 100 2016

DSC01490

About 66 runners stood bouncing on their twos waiting for the race director, RD, to yell go! The sun was high in the sky, although, you couldn’t see it with the cloud cover. Volunteers and support crews stood along the sidelines with cameras, smiles and encouraging words.

Fifteen minutes before the runners lined up at the starting line the RD gave a brief pre-race meeting inside the large white tent located at the start and finish of the race. He gave a description of the course and where the aid stations were located.

“You 100 mile runners are going to do two loops around the course,” he said.

“Do you have any maps?” asked a first time runner.

“No, but I can count on one hand how many runners have been lost on the course over the past 11 years.”

The RD continued by telling the returning runners about the changes made from the year before. And then everyone shuffled outside to the starting line.

A mix of excitement and anxiety passed over the faces of runners standing in the chilled air waiting for the countdown to begin. They didn’t have to wait long.

At the count of five, Garmins began to beep as they were turned on and locating the satellites.

Go!

And so it began, runners of every age and size began putting one foot in front of another. They had 30.5 hours to finish the 100 mile trek over and around Antelope Island. They encountered buffalo all along the trails and dedicated volunteers who were out there all night long cheering and encouraging everyone who came through their aid stations.

All the climbing is from miles 1-20 and again from miles 50-70 since the race is a double loop, so the walking starts pretty quickly.

My left hip began to ache a little within the first five miles. I knew it would be a problem and hoped it wouldn’t slow me down during the race. Then there were blisters on both arches of my feet by mile 13. Blisters early in a race were never good. I stopped to take some tape off my feet that was causing some of the blisters. And I left my gloves sitting on the rock. I didn’t realize it until a few miles later and I wasn’t going back. All I could do was hope they were still there when I made my return trip.

Two weeks before I had run the first 20 miles of the race in 3 hours 18 minutes, which is way too fast for a 100 or so I thought. I came in to the aid station at 20 miles in 3 hours 30 minutes. My support crew was waiting for me even though I was earlier than expected.

“I need my blister kit, water refilled, and more apples,” I called out as I came in. They scrambled to tend to everything. I was out within about seven minutes.

I continued down the trail which was little rolling hills for 30 miles and then would climb into the mountain section I had just finished. I felt good. The blisters were taped up and stopped hurting after a few minutes. My hip was feeling better and only ached in various spots every once in a while.

I stopped to take pictures here and there. The obstinate buffalo were right along the trail and forced me and other runners to take small detours into the sage brush to remain a safe distance from them. They run 35 miles an hour after all. I even saw my first coyote on the trial.

My amazing crew was at every aid station refilling my water, rolling out my legs, restocking my food, and telling me how great I was doing. My goal was to get in and out of aid stations within five minutes especially for the first 50 miles. Swiss Miss even showed up with a new pair of gloves. The sunset was absolutely amazing and I tried to run faster to see it without the mountains being in the way. I missed it by just a few minutes.

I came into mile fifty still feeling great and ready to pick up my first pacer, Troy. I pulled on long pants a beanie, and packed a long sleeve shirt just in case. Troy and I set out at a steady pace and hiked all the climbs. We made good time and found the lost gloves.

At mile 70, I picked up my second pacer, Cody. It was early morning and about 30 degrees Fahrenheit. We talked and maintained a nice steady pace. He was running with me during my most difficult hours 3-6 am. In all my past races this was where I lost the most time because I was tired and pretty out of it.

But I had changed my strategy to prevent this from happening. I stopped using caffeine three months before the race. During the race, I started popping caffeine pills about 130 am. This section of the race was still my slowest time, but it was much faster than any prior races.

At mile 83, I picked up my third and final pacer, Jake. It was still dark and I was still running. I felt good and my mood was in a good place. During the last 17 miles of the race there were times when I was coming up small hills and thought, “I should walk,” but I didn’t. I told myself I was strong and the hills were too small to walk.

Mile 89 was the last time I met up with my crew before the finish line. They provided me with more Oreos (my primary fuel for this run) and refilled my pack and off I went with Jake at my back. I watched the sun come up and it filled me with more vigor. I ran the whole way back to the start/finish tent.

My dad and youngest son were there waiting for me a little ways before the finish line. They ran with me toward the finish. I ran next to another runner. He pulled ahead by a few steps, but about three feet before the finish line he said, “Come on let’s finish it together.”

It was 9:30 am and I was surrounded by my best friends, my dad, and my son. I couldn’t have asked for more. It was a perfect race.

Finish time: 21 hours 30 minuets.

Second place for women.

First place in age group.

Ninth place overall

The Ultra Marathon Crew

don't panic

Since I am heading into another hundred, I thought I would dedicate this week to helping your crew and pacers be prepared for the one hundred mile experience. I believe crews are essential and a gift to their runner. This is my guide fro my ultra crew and pacers.

THE ULTRA MARATHON CREW

By Nicole Lowe, Dark Voodoo Princess

Goal of the Ultra marathon Crew:

  1. Safety for myself and my runner
  2. Keep my runner moving toward the finish as quickly as possible
  3. Make decisions for my runner during later stages of the race
  4. Allow runner to DNF ONLY if serious injury is highly likely or death may result

Understand the Crew Experience

  1. You will be deprived of sleep
  2. You will be stuck in a car
  3. You will be tending to a possibly grumpy runner
  4. You will be bored
  5. You could be hot, cold, hungry
  6. Rushing from aid station to aid station
  7. You could be suddenly asked to pace: do you have running shoes and shorts?
  8. You get to see a new place
  9. You get to hang out in the outdoors and enjoy nature
  10. You get to meet new people
  11. Be prepared to help your runner: buckle, tie, zip, apply glide, and dress and undress.
  12. Handling dirty sweaty smelly clothing
  13. Cheer on other runners
  14. Support other runners who are in need of help
  15. Watch the amazing determination of human endurance

Things to discuss pre-race:

  1. Start and finish time
  2. Course/terrain/elevation/weather
  3. Time cut offs for the race
  4. Where meeting
  5. What will runner likely need at each meeting
  6. How things are packed and labeled
  7. What is packed (if need it early or later in race)
  8. Expected pace of my runner
  9. Injuries likely to flare up and how to deal with them
  10. How much electrolyte stuff to put in water
  11. What do we do if we miss each other at a meeting
    1. Check with aid station crew to see if runner came in
    2. Meet at next spot
  12. Is there cell phone service

Things to Know about Ultra marathon runners and races:

  1. Runners mood will to go up and down
  2. Runner may not be thinking totally clear
  3. Runner will be in pain eventually
  4. Stomach issues and mild dehydration are inevitable
  5. It hurts more to stop and start than to keep moving (ten minutes is goal in aid station unless we are changing or taking care of something like blisters)
  6. Where to get extra supplies if needed close to the course

Questions to ask yourself to help your runner:

  1. Have I planned for myself?
    1. Clothing
    2. Gloves/hat
    3. Food
    4. Water
    5. Entertainment
    6. Light
    7. Reflective gear
  2. How far until I meet up with my runner again?
  3. What is the temp outside, how is that going to impact my runner?
  4. What is the weather, how is that going to impact my runner?
  5. When is it going to get dark?
  6. When is it going to get light?
  7. What is in my runners gear?
  8. Did my runner go to the bathroom?

Visual Assessment of Runner:

  1. Limping
  2. Swollen hands
  3. Wet anywhere
  4. Shoes? Dry, muddy
  5. Light at night
  6. Reflective gear if on the road
  7. Sun burnt
  8. Walking or running

Mental Status check

  1. Confused or Disoriented
    1. Just tired
    2. Sugar low
    3. Electrolytes low: swollen hands, sloshing stomach,
    4. hypothermia: shivering uncontrollably, blue lips or fingers, mumbling, coordination issues
    5. dehydrated: pinch back of hand spring back slow or tents

 

Possible Questions for runner:

  1. Blisters or hot spots
  2. Too hot?
  3. Too cold?
  4. Stomach issues
    1. Pepto-Bismol for diarrhea
    2. Tums for stomach acid
    3. Ginger or pepto-bismol for nausea
  5. What do you want at the next aid station?

Cold/shivering:

  1. Was the runner warm when running?
  2. Keep runner moving
  3. Multiple layers
  4. Change clothing
  5. Wind proof outer layer
  6. Hand warmers
  7. Before you DNF: Out of elements for twenty-thirty minutes and all new clothing

Rain/snow:

  1. Sunglasses and hat
  2. Poncho
  3. Change clothes
  4. Rain proof /resistant outer layer
  5. base layer

 

Hot/swelling joints

  1. Some people just swell up but . . .
  2. S-Caps
  3. Visor
  4. Ice under hat
  5. Dunk shirt in cool water
  6. Slow down
  7. Frozen drink
  8. Before you DNF: Shade for 20-30 minutes

Before my runner comes in:

  1. Check with aid station crew about any updates or changes in race.
  2. Have gear ready my runner decided they will need at this stop
  3. Set out any gear my runner may need so I can get them quickly

 

What to do when my runner comes in:

  1. Let my runner know when I will see them next (see you in five miles)
  2. Send them out, ASAP
  3. Ask what runner will want at next aid

What to do when my runner leaves:

  1. Get to the next meeting point
  2. Stay warm
  3. Eat
  4. Sleep
  5. Have fun, enjoy the scenery
  6. Laugh at my runner
  7. Meet other crews, watch movies, read books, and take pictures.

What do I do if my Runner has/is….

  1. Vomiting/nausea
    1. Keep hydrating
    2. Suggest walking
    3. Give anti-nausea meds
    4. How hot is my runner?
  2. Diarrhea
    1. Keep hydrating
    2. Baby wipes
    3. Glide
    4. New shorts
    5. Anti-diarrhea meds
    6. Suggest walking
  3. Blisters
    1. Pop blisters with a clean pin
    2. Clean area with alcohol wipe
    3. Place second skin over blister if roofless
    4. Tape with elastiskin or KT tape
    5. May need mole skin around blister to top off that
    6. Double socks
    7. Dry socks
  4. Cramps
    1. Muscle
      1. Electrolytes
      2. Stretch slow
    2. Stomach
      1. Walk
      2. Stretch body (arms up)
  • No protein
  1. Water and electrolytes

Notes for Pacers specifically

  1. Do Nothing Fatal
  2. take care of your own needs
  3. If you fall behind, I’ll have to leave you
  4. Don’t carry anything for the runner, you can share water if needed
  5. Talk and tell stories to runner although runner may not respond with more than a grunt
  6. Keep an eye on food and water intake
  7. If the runner is going slow put them in front and prod them along
  8. Don’t let the runner crawl into a cave to sleep
  9. Be positive and don’t complain
  10. Don’t agree with complaining runner
  11. I don’t know what happened to Number 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  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

 

The Ready of Ready, set, go!

run 100

Other than training, how do you get ready for a 100-mile run?

I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ll tell you how I prepare for a 100. First, you need to read all the rules on the website. Also on the website, the race director will tell you when or if you can have a pacer. A pacer is usually allowed after the first 50 miles. You want to find out what they will have at the aid stations as well. You will need to train with that stuff if you plan to use it during the race.

I start looking for pacers and crew shortly after I register for a 100. You will need to find people who are pretty tough because they may need to watch you continue even when you look like you could fall over. Not only that, they have to send you back out there when you want to quit. I take my training partners, friends, and my dad. I took my son once and he asked to never be asked again because he had such a hard time watching me continue when I was hurting.

The other thing I try to do is predict when I will be coming into each aid station. This does a few things. It helps me keep on track to hit all the cut offs and finish. It also lets my crew know when I will be coming into each aid station.

To do this, I create a table in Microsoft word. It has a column with each aid station’s name, the mile the aid station is at, whether or not I can have a drop bag at that aid station, whether or not I have access to my crew at that aid station, whether or not I can pick up a pacer at that aid station, the cut off time, and what time I expect to arrive at that point. I’ve included my most recent chart at the end.

I estimate my time to the aid station by experience, distance between aid stations, and the elevation profile of the race. I know that I slowdown in the last 40 miles both in my ascents and descents. So in those estimates, I try to be generous on my time frame.

Once I have times, I can plan my drop bags. I usually put a drop bag in every twenty miles. There are things I put in every drop bag such as stomach medication, blister first aid, food options that the race doesn’t provide, a long sleeve and short shirt, and two pairs of socks. In my night bags, I put in a head light and extra batteries, long pants, gloves, and an extra long sleeve shirt. In my day bags, I have sunscreen and my long sleeve shirts are lighter in color usually white. There are things I leave with my crew too. My trekking poles, extra shoes, extra food, clothing for rain, extreme cold and snow, and pedialyte.

I have my crew at every aid station possible, unless they can’t get to the race until after I start. I really need them there after mile 50. Sure I could do the race without a crew, but it’s so nice to have a someone you know there to help you do whatever you need them to do. The aid station crew will help, but if they are not experienced ultrarunners, they can’t help you much when you are really struggling.

A pacer is helpful because they can keep your pace up when you are tired and hurting. They work as a distraction and encouragement. They can help find your drop bag and dig through it searching for what you need. They can massage aching muscles and help you change clothes and shoes when are off balance. They help you stay on the right trail. They CANNOT carry any of your gear.

My pacers do anywhere between 20-30 miles depending on their experience as a runner. I don’t want my pacer to slow down. Nor do I want them to have stomach issues, blisters, or anything else that will impact my race, so choose pacers wisely and don’t use them beyond their experience.

The final thing I do is have a crew/pacer meeting. At the meeting, I cover the possible weather, all the above information, and any strange behave I predictably have during a race such as I get really tired during the hours of 4-6 am but come back once the sun comes up. I also cover how they need to prepare. They need their own food, running gear especially for the weather conditions we expect to see. They need to be able to entertain themselves for hours while waiting for me to come in. How they can address problems that I am having and encourage me to keep going.

The bottom line is you really need to be prepared for every possibility because these races tend to be in remote areas where you cannot easily get something you forgot to pack or suddenly NEED to have. You do need to figure out where you can go to get stuff if really really really needed.

In my elation, I neglected to tell you I was accepted in to the Bear 100! At the beginning of this year the Bear was my goal race. In March, I found out it was full so I put my name on the wait list. Low and Behold, I got in and just found out a few weeks ago.

Bear 100

Where mile Crew allowed Drop bag allowed Cut off Pacer allowed Expected time in Ascent

From last aid

Start

Hyrum Gibbons

1400 E 350 S

0

10. 5 to next aid

Yes Yes   No 6:00 a.m.  
Logan Peak 10.52

9 to next aid

No No   No 11: 00 a.m. 4600
Leatham Hollow 19.66

3 to next aid

Yes Yes   No 1:30 p.m. 300
Richards Hollow 22.50

7.5 to next aid

Yes No   No 230 pm 200
Cowley Canyon 29.98

7 to next aid

Yes Yes   No 5 pm 2100
Right Hand Fork 36.92

9 to next aid

Yes Yes   Yes

Robert

7 pm 800
Temple Fork 45.15

6.5 to next aid

Yes Yes   Yes

Robert

830 pm 1100
Tony Grove

5$ fee

51.84

8.5 to next aid

Yes Yes 7:00 a.m Saturday Yes

Robert

10 30 p.m. 2700
Franklin Trailhead 61.48

7 to next aid

Yes Yes 9:00 a.m.

Saturday

Yes

Robert

1 30 a.m. 900
Logan River/Steep 68.6

7.5 to next aid

Yes No 11:00 a.m.

Saturday

Yes

Change to Steve

3 a.m. 1350
Beaver Lodge 75.82

5.5 to next aid

Yes Yes 12:30 p.m.

Saturday

Yes

Change to Erin

6 a.m. 1500
Gibson Basin 81.18

4 to next aid

No No 2:00 p.m.

Saturday

Yes

Erin

730 a.m. 200
Beaver Creek CG 85.25

7 to next aid

Yes Yes 3:00 p.m.

Saturday

Yes

Erin

9:30 a.m. 1200
Ranger Dip 92.2

8 miles to finish

Yes Yes 4:30 p.m.

Saturday

Yes 11:30 a.m. 600
Finish 99.7 Yes Yes 6:00 p.m. Yes 3:30 pm. All down hill

 

Trail Technique

trail running 2

Trail running can be intimidating for new runners and even experienced runners who have never run trails. My advice is just get out there and try. I can guarantee you will love it. It is different and harder in some respects. Go out with minimal expectation of your performance when you first start, just like you did when you began running roads.

Trail running takes practice. The more you jump rocks and descend crazy slopes the better you are going to get. That being said, there are some tricks you can start with. When you are running uphill don’t tip your hips forward or back too much. Try to keep your torso straight up and down, keeping your chest up and open. Shorten your stride and pump your arms. Stay up on your toes as much as you can. Sometimes the mountain is so steep it is faster to walk up than try to run. If that is the case, don’t waste all the energy trying to run it, you look silly anyway as hikers pass you trying to power up the hill.

Going down can be more difficult than going up. You want to lean into the forward momentum. Your feet will slip out less if you keep your weight on your toes on steep descents. Landing on your heel is like putting the brakes on and your feet will slide right out from under you.  Keep your stride short and fast. If there are a lot of rocks, keep them really short and fast. If the rock looks loose, it probably is.

Put your arms or elbows out for balance, and be ready to change your footing quickly. I try to keep my hands empty on crazy descents. That way if I fall I don’t have to search for whatever I chucked or replace what I break.

When you’re trail running watch the ground in front of you about two feet and then farther down about 10-15 feet, so you know what is coming. Plan your foot strikes as much as possible and be ready to correct it if you touch down and find it precarious.

Make sure and give yourself enough time to finish your run. Trail running takes longer because of the climbs and more technical terrain, especially when you are first starting out.

I’ve watched some of the top ultrarunners (Anton Krupicka and Killan Jornet) come down steep descents and it is terrifying and mind blowing all at the same time. It takes practice, like everything else in running. Don’t go out there thinking that your speed and skill on the road will translate onto the trail because it doesn’t.

trail running

 

 

DVP is back

My relay team calls me the Dark Voodoo Princess. I earned the name the first relay we completed together because one of my runners was injured and I picked up the rest of her miles. I ended with 31 miles, and my first ultra. My straight forward, no whining attitude also contributed greatly to the name. I’m not very princess like. I’m more anti-princess. In fact, I believe that at least one of my team members is terrified of complaining at all because I would roll my eyes and tell him to “nut up.”

I headed to the gym for the first time since the 100 this morning for a short general strength training session. It felt good to be back. I have been fighting the urge to get out and do something, anything for days. I can tell it is time to get back to it when my leg starts bouncing while I’m at rest, too much pent up energy. And when I start waking up without the alarm at my normal run time.

Today I’ve spent some time constructing my training program for my next 100, which is approximately six months away, Pony Express 100. I’ll attach it to the end. I really want to build more strength overall and in my running muscles. Lean muscle not bulk, of course. Strength training increases your running efficiency by about 4%, reduces injury risk, and increases your speed. Research also shows that strengthening your hips virtually eliminates the onset of IT band syndrome and Runner’s Knee.

Most marathon training programs include speed work, easy days, and a long run each week. Some will throw in hills or alternate speed with hills each week. Ultra running is a little different. There are runners who don’t do any speed work at all because your focus is distance rather than being especially fast. Ultra runners also have to balance out the injury risk of doing the back to back long runs and adding speed on top of that. If you are a more injury prone runner, I recommend cutting out the speed or doing it every other week.

Where to put each type of workout, is determined by how long it takes to recover/benefit from a particular type of workout and your specific goals. Each type of workout focuses on strengthening a different physiological system that contributes to your running ability.

Speed workouts like explosive hills, 200 m repeats with full recovery, and the like train your nervous system, the communication between your brain and your body.  The average runner benefits from these workouts within two days.  VO2max training (anaerobic capacity) such as hill runs and mile repeats, take about ten to fourteen days to benefit the average runner. Tempo runs or marathon pace runs train your body to convert lactate back into energy. They don’t take quiet as long as VO2max, but are still at the seven to ten day mark. Long runs build your aerobic capacity and the benefits from them take the longest to develop, four to six weeks for the average runner.

These numbers can give you a good idea about how to taper for a race. If you know you won’t see the benefits before race day, why tax yourself with a VO2 max run a week before your race and risk being sore or tired.

My training plan includes four running days, but I actually run five because I have running group on Wednesday afternoons. We typically only run three or four miles, so I don’t count it. I don’t really have a rest day, but Mondays and Fridays are my easiest days which is why they bookend my long runs. I also make a couple of big jumps in my miles, which is not something you should do if you are a beginning runner or tackling a distance for the first time. You want to build 10% each week. My miles drop significantly every fourth week to allow for a rest/recovery week. My strength training/hips/ab workouts are posted on other pages of my blog, so check them out if you’d like. Continue reading