Monthly archives: January, 2015

Podcasts – updated list

I love podcasts and that’s primarily what I listen to on my runs these days (music for races, nothing for non-race solo outside runs at this time). I also listen to some on my commute via my iPhone, and some around the house just doing stuff (like my Sunday veggie cookups) or stretching. I’ve tweeted recs in the past, but thought I’d give you the current list in one place. Within the categories, there’s no particular order. If I run with it, I’ve pulled it through iTunes. If I listen around the house, I may just use the podcast’s web site. On my iPhone, I use the Downcast app. I’ve gotten so far behind with my regulars and found new podcasts too – obviously I need to run a lot more miles!

Favorite guests (will listen pretty much no matter what podcast they show up on)

Greg McMillan – used his book YOU (Only Faster) to train for my BQ and plan to use it again. His site also hosts the amazing McMillan Calculator.

Matt Fitzgerald – author of many books and articles. I’ve found the books RUN, The New Rules of Marathon and Half Marathon Nutrition, and Racing Weight (newest edition) helpful.

Tim Noakes – author of the massive tome Lore of Running and more recently, Waterlogged. Interesting guy, researcher, learn a lot from him.

Dean Karnazes – huge fan, loved his books, impressed by his athletic efforts and activism. Always interested in what he’s doing next.

Chrissie Wellington – again, huge fan… her autobiography was so full of exuberance and enthusiasm. I love what she’s done for others in her public/service life before, during and after triathlon. She is competing in different types of events (Leadville bike race) and works to bring attention to worthwhile causes – like equality for women’s cycling

Mike Wardian – terrific athlete but also all-around good guy, undaunted enthusiasm and positive attitude. He is open about managing his time and how much the support of his family and employer and sponsors mean to him. He’s clear on how important his family is and keeps a great perspective. He manages to be a fantastic ambassador for our sport and do good things for others while competing in (and often winning) jaw-dropping events like the North Pole Marathon, the Costa Rica Challenge…then he will come back home and the next day run a local 5k to support a good cause. He’s also local to me, and I hope to meet him someday. I have run with him – even momentarily ahead of him and Rosie, his pup! – at the Marine Corps Marathon shakeout run, but I didn’t actually get to meet him.

Bart Yasso – do I even have to explain why I’ll listen to the Mayor of Running anytime, anywhere? I finally was lucky enough to meet him and run with him at a shakeout run at Shamrock, and hang out at a coffee place after. I also got to see him at a shakeout run prior to the Marine Corps Marathon and at the finish line at Richmond (where I even got a hug). He’s just as nice and great as he seems or you’d possibly imagine.

Dave McGillivray – RD of the Boston Marathon, marathoner, Ironman, author and all-around impressive athlete/person in his own right.

I’ll listen to most of my favorite marathoners or ultrarunners no matter the podcast. I’m also fascinated by stories of “ordinary” people doing extraordinary things – ultras, cross-country runs for charity, challenges like 52 marathons in a year.

Always (will give these a listen almost no matter the guest or topic)

Cloud 259 – I found this podcast, hosted by Brenn Jones & Gregg Lemos-Stein, because they were going to England to compete with the Marathon Talk hosts in the Manchester (UK) marathon on April 6th. Focused on distance running (and mostly marathon distance as the hosts started with their goals to break 3:00) they have good guests including Sally Bergesen of Oiselle, Jason Hartman, Alan Culpepper, Ryan Vail…they also discuss their training, running/racing news, a couple of book reviews and miscellaneous topics. I’ve only listened to a few, but am planning to work my way through their archive as I continue to listen to new eps. (They beat the Marathon Talk hosts in Manchester – I’m  hoping for a rematch in a US race!)

Endurance Planet – There are multiple podcasts under one umbrella here, with host Tawnee Prazak. My favorites are the ones with Lucho aka Tim Waggoner (Ask the Coach, Ask the Ultrarunner). It’s fantastic to be able to submit questions and hear them answered – I’ve done so many times. The Ask the Doc episodes are usually quite useful. I enjoy most of the Sports Nutrition episodes with Ben Greenfield and other guests as well, though I don’t necessarily agree with or follow all the concepts Ben has talked about. I usually listen to the triathlon and personality/athlete episodes if I have time and the guest is vaguely interesting.

Everyday Runners – This is a podcast from Matt Johnson of RunnerAcademy in which he talks to regular (non-elite) runners and hears their stories. We can all learn from and be inspired by each other, and this is a nice addition to my collection.

Marathon Talk – Tom Williams and Martin Yelling, “relentlessly positive” hosts of interesting and useful episodes on – wait for it – all things marathon and some beyond (a bit on Comrades, occasionally some triathlon talk, a little on track/running competitions). They are terrific hosts and have very interesting (sometimes really elite or even icon-level) guests as well as segments on training, and a couple of regularly appearing personalities (Tony/Tony’s Trials, Duncan/Boy on the Run). They have built an international community of listeners who can interact on the web site by rating runs, submitting race times to make the listener podium, chatting during televised races and just having general discussion. They are usually my first listen on my long run.

RunnerAcademy – The description on the web site says “actionable information” and it’s true. The guest is usually a coach, elite athlete or expert, but in addition, the host, Coach Matt Johnson, provides tips and answers questions. Useful, interesting, encouraging.

RunnersConnect – Originally hosted by Coach Jeff Gaudette (who owns the business I believe), whose articles you may see on the Competitor running or Active.com web sites. (He also was great at responding to questions via twitter.) Jeff stepped away from hosting, and I stopped listening as I found the new host annoying. They appear to have had more people than just me dropping subscriptions, and they’re making some changes. They got another new host, and I gave it another try (Greg McMillan interview). Jeff came back for a few more episodes, but now they’ve brought in elite runner Tina Muir to host. I’m looking forward to listening again. Note, on the web site you can see some of these have associated videos, but the audio portion is available as a podcast through iTunes. For most of them the visual doesn’t matter and some may not have visuals at all. The guests are usually coaches or elite athletes. There are good resources on the site, including my go-to calorie calculator.

Trail Runner Nation – Don Freeman and Scott Warr host a variety of guests (some faves of mine are Coach Jimmy Dean Freeman, Ashley Walsh and Sunny Blende) on topics related to trail running and ultra running. The hosts and guests like to have fun, but manage to get information out while being entertaining. The web site has some ability for users to interact with each other, and you can get a “performance enhancing Kokopelli” (temporary tattoo). They also have started to bring in some guest co-hosts, like Coach Sally McRae (she’s fun).

Ultrarunnerpodcast.com – Eric Schranz (formerly – and again soon – with Scotty Sandow, also with some other folks co-hosting, like Sarah Lavender Smith) interviews name and “regular” ultrarunners and people involved in ultrarunning. They’ve had some fantastic guests and the podcast is a really enjoyable listen. Eric also sends out a daily newsletter (see the site). Way back, you’ll hear hosts including Don Freeman and Scott Warr, who now host Trail Runner Nation. (Disclosure: I guest-edited a couple of the URP Daily News posts.)

Often (depends a little more on guest, what I’m interested in at the time, how much time I have)

AnotherMotherRunner – This is women (and mom) focused, don’t think most guys will be interested. I’m not a mom, but I’m a fan of Sarah & Dimity and they’ve done a great job creating a community for women runners of all levels. They’re like friends you’d want to chat and laugh with, who you could ask embarrassing questions and confess doubts or odd thoughts/behaviors. Their podcast has primarily female guests, which is nice as some of the others I listen to tend to have more male guests, possibly because the hosts are male or because there are still more men than women in some areas of our sport. One of my favorite eps is their recent interview with Kathrine Switzer, another is with Deena Kastor.

Athlete on Fire –  I’m not interested in all the athletes, but most of them. The host is pretty good, the format is consistent (can be a bit formulaic), and they’re ambitious, putting out multiple podcasts a week. Scott Jones, the host, is enthusiastic and interested in his guests. They’ve had big names Hal Higdon and Dean Karnazes (I’m a fan) on already. A recent good ep was with Rebecca Rusch – got me to buy her book and I loved it, I’m now a fan of hers (had heard of her through Fat Cyclist, who may be starting a podcast).

Babbittville Radio – Bob Babbitt, formerly host of Competitor Radio, has a new podcast, very similar in format but he’s solo hosting. I listen depending on the guest. Bob’s always positive and enthusiastic, and even if I have heard the guest elsewhere, there’s something new I learn, like from a recent interview with Dean Karnazes.

Competitor Radio – (no more new eps) A show with (usually) famous names in endurance sports as guests, hosted by former triathletes Bob Babbitt (who writes the back page of Competitor Group’s Triathlete magazine and co-founded Competitor Publishing) and Paul Huddle.

Diz Runs – this is pretty new, started in 2014, but Denny (host) has gotten some great guests (Bart Yasso, Dean Karnazes, etc.) and seems to be on a roll with frequency and quality. I’ve subscribed.

Mostly when I’m not running (due to length, use some for commutes, bike/strength workouts, stretching)

TalkUltra – The classic. Hosted by Ian Corless (super photographer) with additional ultrarunning names like Karl Meltzer (aka Speedgoat and the “100 miles is not that far” man) sharing some duties, this podcast is kind of a one stop show for ultrarunning news and info. Races, athletes, coaches – you want it, they probably have it. Their web site is hosted off a page on the Marathon Talk site but the podcast is available in iTunes. Note these are ultra length (some are 3+ hours)

DFL Ultrarunning – Hosted by Eric Sherman and Mike Saporito of New England’s Trail Animals Running Club. Yes, DFL means what you think. These are also long and really cater to regular (non-elite) and new ultrarunners though they’ve had guests who are elites or names in ultra like Joe Fejes, the Jester, and Joe Uhan. Eric and Mike talk races (this is where I first heard of Across the Years), training, gear, etc. They’re very candid and it’s helpful to me to hear about ultrarunning from people who aren’t at the front of the pack. The associated blog site is new, has some interviews with runners.

Zen and the Art of Triathlon – Hosted by Brett, an impressive athlete in his own right and coach (and husband, dad, guy with day job), this long podcast includes triathletes, coaches and other interesting folks as guests, as well as including a news segment and (my favorite) the Training Log, which is basically a sequence of stream of consciousness snippets of Brett before, during, after training sessions and talking about training for the weeks between podcasts. He also talks about Zen and triathlon, Zen and life (not so much Zen lately, sadly). Pretty upbeat, and he takes questions and is active on twitter. Check out his blog and look at his (annual) IronBaby event – a self-supported triathlon near his house in Texas to raise funds for good causes that help children with medical needs. Brett’s also a hoot to follow on twitter.

Ginger Runner (live or recorded) – I’m on the east coast, so the timing doesn’t work for me to listen/watch this youtube show live, but I’ll listen to the podcast version or play the youtube version on my computer without watching the video portion. Ethan Newbury is a California ultrarunner (among other things) who brings humility, honesty, humor (sometimes raunchy) to discussions of races, interviews with some pretty “name” guests, gear reviews, etc. He’s also filming many races, just gorgeous footage. He was part of Sally McRae‘s crew at Western States this last year, and you can see a little bit about that in the beautiful Billy Yang short film Western Time.

One new to me that I’m trying out is Endurance Junkie – this depends on guest – interesting variety, somewhat triathlon-focused but some ultrarunners and industry folks as well. Have enjoyed the episodes I’ve listened to.

Occasionally

Coach Jay Johnson – This is interesting depending on the guest, can be focused on talking to coaches instead of to athletes, but has been useful, and his site is a good resource. From emails, it seems like this will be re-started with some new guests and focus – I look forward to it.

Sadly Running Times radio and podcasts (link is iTunes) with Scott Douglas doesn’t appear to be live anymore but you can still get the old episodes. Interesting guests – runners and coaches. I think I have listened to most of them by now, many of them are quite short.

In the past I’ve also listened to The Long Run ultrarunning podcast (host Emily in UK and Israel, now in US, can be long and isn’t updated much anymore) and IMTalk (NZ, long).

—–

I’m pleased to see an increase in women co-hosting podcasts, love hearing from Sally McRae (Trail Runner Nation) and Sarah Lavender Smith (Ultrarunnerpodcast). One note, just my opinion: there is still a dearth of women podcast hosts, especially compared to the percentage of women running races and the growing interest of women around the world in taking part in our sport. Tawnee, Sarah/Dimity, Emily, are the only ones I’ve run across where women are the primary hosts. While I do appreciate the podcasts that are adding women as guest hosts or co-hosts, I think the running/endurance sports podcast universe could use some more female solo hosts. There are opportunities to be seized!

That’s the end of the list, for now anyway. Have questions about the above or care to share one you’ve found that I might like? Leave me a comment below, tweet me or use the contact me form. Thanks for reading!



Across the Years, my first ultra

Across The Years

Across The Years

Short version: I am an ultrarunner! First 50k in the books. Also got my Maniac. Tougher race than I was expecting, for a variety of reasons (makes perfect sense in retrospect), but I’d do another road 50k or timed event and might go back to this one someday. Met all goals (except the shouldn’t-have-had-one time goal).

Thank you to readers & tweeps for your encouragement and support leading up to the race, and your cheers and congratulations after. It makes a difference and is much appreciated. Want to know more? Read on…..but this is going to be an ultra-length somewhat stream-of-consciousness recap, so get your beverage and snack of choice ready.

ultrarunner shirt

ultrarunner shirt

Of note – there was a brief moment (DH tells me) where I was first female! I’m going to enjoy the fact that the moment existed, however fleeting. Apparently there was also a slightly longer period of time (a few minutes, max) where I was second female, long enough for DH to yell “second female!” at me as I passed him – I savored that for the whole lap. (Correction – DH has told me I was second female until I stopped, and 6th place overall until I stopped. That’s even better!)

I’d show you my heavy glass finisher’s mug/stein, but it’s being shipped to me (thought it safer than carrying on the plane) and I forgot to take a picture before I sent it! Perhaps after it gets here next week.

It’s worth taking a minute to revisit my goals:

1) do nothing to affect my ability to train for Boston (don’t do anything stupid, stop if something hurts too badly, etc.)
2) finish
3) put in an effort I can be proud of, regardless of the outcome (do the best I can “on the day”, whatever that turns out to be)

And of course, despite cautions from smart and experienced ultra folks like Lucho and the ultra-peeps at IRunFar, I had a secret goal time. I didn’t hit my time goal, but I hit all the other goals, so we’re considering this a success….not that the time thing doesn’t bug me, because, well, it’s me, but I gotta stick to the positive and realize it was just not realistic to have a goal time. (that’s why it was a secret, dream goal)

Weather/Pre-race

The weather for my race worked out to be close to perfect in the end (and far better than the day I crewed) but it was COLD at the start. The night before, it went down to 29, and we left the hotel just as the sun was rising. The cold affected my gear choice, at least in the first loops. Once the sun came out, I was able to start peeling off layers and be quite comfortable. It clouded up right after I stopped and the temp immediately dropped. Cold temps in the desert, unless you’re in the sun, seems to be a different animal – colder than the temp would indicate – even folks who live here agree. I didn’t get my full 15 minute walking warmup, but I did walk a bit back and forth and I did do my leg drills – no one looked at me funny, just walked around me. Love these folks.

Race kit

My usual 2014 race outfit of Champion yellow bra, The North Face Better Than Naked yellow singlet, The North Face Better Than Naked gray/yellow split shorts (by the way, the folks at iRun, a local store, agree with me that TNF makes awesome running clothes), my yellow Feetures socks, women’s Adrenaline 13s. PLUS: yellow RUSeen running cap, gray Nathan arm warmers under yellow Frank Shorter arm warmers (like at Richmond), blue toss gloves (which the runner I crewed wound up using and are came home with me again…got those over a decade ago at a running store in Indy called the Athletic Annex) AND my purple The North Face winter running jacket. Yes, it was THAT cold. I peeled off the jacket after the first 3 loops and swapped the hat for my usual The North Face visor. Within another few laps, I dropped off the gloves and arm warmers.

Kit without jacket

race kit w/o jacket

race kit w/o jacket

I listened to podcasts instead of music, and I think that worked out really well. It gave my brain something to focus on and made me laugh a few times. Nice distraction. I have gone back to a couple of the episodes to pull info I wanted – didn’t quite retain it after the race.

Marathon Talk 12/24 episode, guest Simon Freeman
Endurance Planet Ask The Coach ep with my treadmill Boston Q
Trail Runner Nation grab bag with Ian Torrence
Ultrarunnerpod 2014 recap with Tropical John Medinger and Sarah Lavender Smith (I liked the Q of who would you want to run with)
Diz Runs with Bart Yasso (planned this for what I expected to be tough miles, Bart helped me keep going!)
Trail Runner Nation lost and found drop bag call-in with Sally McRae & Coach Jimmy Dean Freeman – only got partway into this, listened to the rest of it on the bike the day after the race.

The physical stuff

The race was fairly difficult from the start in terms of pace. I wanted to go out at a conservative, reasonable pace that I’ve held in “easier” long runs, figuring that if I could hold it, I’d reach my time goal. Not only did I not hit that pace in the first miles (15 sec slower), I didn’t hold it. My average pace for the race looks to be about a minute per mile slower than my intended pace but that’s somewhat skewed by a 3-4 minute portajohn stop late in the race. My per lap pace (and pace per mile) slowed quite a bit after mile 18. I figured I’d hit a “normal” slowdown toward the end of marathon distance, post 20 miles or so, but I didn’t expect the early miles to be as much work as they were. Somehow I thought a slower pace would be more help than it turned out to be.

I wish I’d been able to wear the men’s Adrenalines that had a bit more shoe between my foot and the road….I noticed all the lumps, bumps, grooves and ruts in the road and many of the stones. The Adrenaline is a cushy shoe, but has a high road feel. (Also, I really don’t know how many miles I have on these shoes, probably too many but that’s a challenge when you’re trying to find your next shoe – you wind up putting more miles than you’d like on whatever is still working for you.)

I didn’t have gaiters, though the race organization said runners might like to wear them. I’ve never worn them running, so it would have been a change from my training (and I would have been buying them last minute). I’d checked with one runner who’s done the race and said she didn’t need them. I didn’t need them, but they might have kept some small rocks out of my shoes or at least kept me from being nervous about them. I’m pretty sure I got at least a couple in my shoe as I felt them under my foot. I’d try to shake my shoe a little in an effort to get the rock to move off to the side, i.e., not directly under my heel or arch, and sometimes it worked, sometimes I just dealt with it. I will admit I did wind up thinking “how many more miles with a rock in that place in my shoe?” (we did get gaiters for the runner I crewed, and they really helped) Not sure gaiters would have kept my shoes/socks from picking up dust though! My shoes seem to be shaking it off, but my socks may be permanently tinted, a souvenir. (to go w/ great swag)

 

dusty shoe/sock

dusty shoe/sock

There was a 90 degree turn relatively close to the timing mat (maybe 200 yards away) – it was harder on the loops the way we started than the (reverse) way we ran after 4 hours. It was some mats and a board (I think) to create a slant instead of the curb that was underneath, but there were some metal barriers along one direction to keep non-runners off the course, and that caused the hard turn in a short space (<10 feet).

How did I feel during the race? Slow. Weak-ish. Possibly under fueled (though looking at my in-race fueling says that’s not the problem). I didn’t feel as strong as I have on at least some, if not many, of my long runs. I didn’t perceive high HR or a level of exertion that concerned me about my ability to continue safely, it just felt harder than I’d expected or hoped. My RHR had seemed high the couple of days prior to the race, and we’d been up for 20+ hours on Thursday (race was Sunday) with travel, trying to get our room, food, etc. Could have been dehydrated due to the desert air and the cold not making me feel thirsty the few days beforehand. Didn’t get enough sleep Wed, Th nights and had a bad stomach night either Fri or Sat, cat recall. There was some trip stress going on (which includes food stress) and I was out of my normal routine. But I’d hoped to feel fresher, not as “blah” and heavy-legged as I did. It felt like I was working harder for a slower pace.

Notes from shakeout run day before:

Hams tight,esp L. Calves very tight, also feel in shins. outer hips. Feet feel impact. Bunion a bit sore. (toe on R foot sore from slamming it into the metal leg of the bench in the hotel room during the night a couple days before race….the nail is horribly purple now, but the soreness went away)

During & after race:

Hams didn’t hurt too much during run, not bad after. They were actually more aggravated by the seats in the rental car! (Hyundai Sonata, good to know not to buy one – affected DH & I both the same way.)
Hips hurt some, tight, especially hip flexors. Glutes hurt.
Neck and shoulders hurt A LOT as the race went on. Really painful, especially when I looked up. I was whimpering about it at the finish. DH says maybe from so much time spent looking down at the running surface because of stones, unnevenness. I’m not used to having to look down when I’m on the treadmill, and in road races, I look down but perhaps I scan further out. I was probably looking more just in front of my feet. I had to remind myself to look up at the trees or the little lake in the interior part of the course.
Feet hurt, of course, but more the soles of the feet from the impact of the stones, not much problem with bunion or tendon (yay!). Though I did discover this less-than-happy spot when I took my socks off….it quickly improved. This is the L foot, the emerging bunion, not the already-problematic and deformed R foot/bunion.

L foot hot spot

L foot hot spot

Lower back sore – this has been happening on longer/faster runs, suspect there’s some hip/glute issue in play.
Calves were ok, felt my shins/extensors but it wasn’t horrible.
My biceps and triceps hurt, surprised by that since I wasn’t carrying anything except the water bottle for a few steps to drink it (then I’d toss it and DH retrieved it).

Nutrition

BeetElite (40cal) with water and 3 FRS chews (60 cal, 60mg caffeine) before leaving hotel along with my usual MAP, Wobenzym, etc.
1 serving EFS Liquid Shot Vanilla w/ water at start
The plan was to take gel/water after every 3 laps. I wound up doing that and also taking water the loop after that, then nothing on the next loop. There was an aid station about halfway where you could get some water from a sports cooler and put it in a paper cup or your own water bottle. The table was staffed but they were there to help, not hand out water. You could also leave your own marked water bottle at that aid station so it would be there at any time. I’d written out a fuel plan for DH, who crewed me, and what I actually did turned out to be very close.

I alternated EFS/Gu:
After 3 laps – EFS (no caffeine)
6 – Vanilla Bean GU (20mg caffeine)
9 – EFS
12 – Salted Caramel GU (20mg caffeine)
13/14 – EFS
16 – Strawberry Kiwi Roctane (no caffeine)
19 – EFS
22 – Blueberry Pomegranate Roctane (35mg caffeine)
25 – EFS
29 – Blueberry Pomegranate Roctane (35mg caffeine) I’d planned to take Jet Blackberry but changed my mind, can’t recall if it was taste or worrying about too much caffeine as JB has 40-45mg or if I wanted the extra amino acids and electrolytes of the Roctane.

I didn’t have any problems stomach-wise, though I didn’t feel like I was getting as much boost from the gels as I normally do, or maybe they were wearing off sooner. It was great being crewed though with the loop format I could have crewed myself with just a table and some preparation of water bottles and gel. I did decide at one point to carry an extra gel (Vanilla Bean) in my shorts pocket in case I felt I needed to take one while out on course, near the halfway aid station, but I didn’t use it. I did feel it in my pocket for a while, on my left glute min.

Immediately after stopping, DH handed me my Ultragen recovery drink with ice water (320 calories). I also had a small cup of flat cola (80 cal) from the aid station, as I’d craved it during the run, which has never happened before (DH went to look for it then but they didn’t have it out yet).

So, from waking through the Ultragen, I took in roughly 1600 calories. During the race, 227 total g of carbs, or about 41.27 g/hr. I think that’s about what I have taken in my other races this year.

I also took in roughly 200mg of caffeine, or a little less than a strong real-size coffee. Maybe a little more than my usual daily tea which I didn’t have race day. I tracked caffeine to see how my stomach handled it but I also wanted to know why I was so wired the night of the race, couldn’t get to sleep until the wee hours which is not my normal post-race pattern….I know runners who have this problem, apparently it’s quite normal, but it was new to me so of course I wanted to figure it out.

The mental stuff

During the race, I thought, “I am stronger than I think (mentally) but obviously I need to get even stronger physically!”

Watching people pass me and people who were just clicking along was so interesting. Many of them don’t look “like a (stereotypical) runner”. I was intrigued and super impressed especially by the large number of runners older than me – some by decades – out there chugging along. I’d love to know more about each of them, all these folks have to have such interesting stories. I knew many of these people would do the full 24 hours, some would be out there for 48 or 72 hours, and some were doing the full 6 days. (I started day 1) By the time I was done with my short race, I had even more appreciation and admiration for those going longer. (and after crewing, even more! the concept of doing a 6 day race, with as few breaks/sleep as the top runners take, is mind-boggling)

The loop course was both helpful and hard – it presented its own benefits and challenges, as any course does. If there was a part of the course you didn’t like (the stumbling rutted minor “uphill” comes to mind) you’d best just deal with it, because you were going to be seeing it a lot. But if you were a runner competing for place, you could do a few loops to get a feel for the course and plan your strategy. I found my brain moving from “I have to do this loop how many more times?” to “I have to do this loop HOW many more times?!” to “I only have to do this loop X more times”.

It was very helpful to me to have DH crew (in a loud shirt I liked and a bright hat, made him easy to see – also, we got a table right next to the track). I knew every loop I’d see him, whether for gel/water, just water, or just to wave hi. He’d give me updates and cheer me on. The way we did fueling also let me think “next lap is gel/water” (whatever) and think whether I wanted a different flavor of gel or to try the GU chomps we’d bought in case I wanted something different (never used before, but thought they’d likely be okay if I needed variety).

During the race I thought, “maybe the marathon is my distance”.

I kept thinking of stopping, finishing and saying “I’m DONE”. I was tired.

While I was doing a race I thought HOW do people do 24 hours? Or even 12? Such mental toughness on top of the physical. (after crewing I think this even more, but have to wonder if I could do it)

I did look at my Garmin to notice when I ran further than ever before, new territory!

As I passed DH on the second to the last loop, I asked him to go check my mileage/k (they had live tracking with computer screens set up near the timing mat) and make sure I only had one loop left the next time. I didn’t want to stop and then find out I had to do another lap to make 50k.

The above sounds like I was in a negative headspace the whole time, which I wasn’t (thank goodness for podcasts). Whereas in Baystate, the drumbeat of “I want to stop” was constant, in this race the thoughts I’m sharing sort of came and went, and if they didn’t seem to be leaving on their own, I was able to push them out with various reassurances, bribes, distractions, etc.

The after

At the end, my legs were wobbly. The Ultragen helped and walking helped. I stopped to talk to people at the merchandise area and aid station (when I got my flat cola) and to one of the race organizers, and started to feel better. By the time I was in the shower at the hotel (maybe 90 minutes post-race), I was thinking of a podcast I’d listened to (Marathon Talk) with the founder of the UK running magazine Like the Wind and thinking about ultras and the great people you see there. I started thinking I might do more, but maybe just 50ks or shorter timed races (like 6 hour) and wondered if I could have completed 6 hours at this race. (There’s a 6/12/24 in June in San Francisco that I’m eyeing, but it’s a lot of money and travel and then I might be too tired to tour SF on my first visit there.) By a few days later, I was considering if I could sign up for the 48 hour to get to 50 miles, so I could take walk breaks, perhaps go to the hotel and sleep at night. The nice thing about a timed race is you can do that if you want to.

The race was tough, mentally and physically. Not exactly in the same way as Baystate, I wasn’t actively fighting the desire to stop the whole time, but I thought about it multiple times, and about walking – I only needed to finish. It also may have been tough differently because I had different intentions going into the race, and when, early in ATY I realized my time goal wasn’t going to happen, I reminded myself that my goal was to finish healthy with my best effort on the day. So I just held the best pace I could as long as I could. But it was still tough to keep going. It would have been easy to stop or to walk (especially with so many of the 24h or longer runners walking). BUT I DIDN’T! And I’m proud of that. I think one thing that “got” me was thinking that it WASN’T going to be as hard because I’d planned a slower pace. I expected hard late, not early – underestimated the fact it was my 3rd marathon in 71 days, the cumulative fatigue, the effects of my 2 weeks of hard training prior to taper, travel stress and poor sleep. Calibrating expectations is important, though sometimes not pleasant. You alway wants to do something great, right? (at least I fall into that)

I understand better now why those more experienced/coaches say you shouldn’t have a time goal for the first time you race a new distance. Perhaps I’ll shoot for a time goal next time if I do another 50k. Toward the end of the race, I was listening to a Trail Runner Nation podcast in which a 50k was referred to by Coach Jimmy Dean Freeman as “the gateway meat” of ultras, like bacon is a “gateway meat” for vegetarians to return to eating meat – as a former vegetarian who loves bacon and was at that moment running a 50k, I laughed out loud. Someone had called in and asked about doing a 50k and Jimmy’s first advice was “don’t do it!” – everyone laughed.

I was STILL wired at 11:30 at night on race day. Took stuff to help me sleep but it didn’t seem to have any effect. Maybe my body was confused by having the caffeine so late in the day? (maybe my body was still on ET, and the race didn’t start until 11am ET) Or possibly the amount of sugar from the gels, cola, Ultragen and then the Coke Zero with dinner (which was soooo good). Or maybe the chocolate chips in the skillet GF chocolate chip cookie I had for dessert after my Five Guys fries dinner. (ok, I had a bite of burger) I didn’t feel excited, energetic or anything “up” like that – just utterly AWAKE. I got maybe 3-4h sleep and was still wired when I woke up, but a little tired.

Interesting that I was up at least as long on race day as I was on our 12/25 travel day (19 hours) and put forth more physical effort but I was much less tired at the 19 hours up mark on race day. (I think the physical effort on 12/25 was less – though lugging suitcases, being in airplane seats and then wandering the hotel property for hours till our room was ready was quite an effort.)

How I felt the next day:

knees hurt a little – top inner, esp L, started race night
Achilles tight
feet sore
neck and shoulders, lower back still sore but better
Better than I’d expect overall

Biked 40 minutes the next day (Monday), pretty decent. My right knee bothered me a little on the bike. Tuesday, I biked for 20 minutes and got a Swedish (light) massage. Made me miss my regular massage therapist and her therapeutic sports massage, but I didn’t think I should have one so close to the race; I also prefer my regular person who knows my body and how it behaves. (Didn’t stop me from having a second Swedish massage with a different therapist who I liked better on Friday. I’ll be glad to get back to my regular person this Sunday! She’s been IM’ing me asking how the race went.)

Ultra People

Met Maria Shields, prior and now current women’s 60-64 (?) 100 mile record holder, who did 106.55 miles in 24 hours. She lives near Annapolis! So very nice, encouraged me – as she passed me. When I gave up my moment as first female, she was the one I was second to.

Met Israel (of The Long Run podcast) – only in passing, as he was running the 48h starting same day

Met Jester Ed at the start, and he gave me a hand slap at one point during race, he also carried a cowbell a lap or two. Such an encouraging guy, ambassador for ultrarunning. And what amazing results!

Everyone was so supportive and enthusiastic for me doing my first 50k. Utterly welcoming. I kept saying “I’m just doing 50k” but they treated me like everyone else, respect, kindness, community.

Notes on the race itself

Highly recommend Across the Years – the organizers and volunteers are BEYOND AMAZING! I can’t think of a better race for my first ultra. I’d consider any race put on by the organizers, Aravaipa Running.

Course info (more on this page – you can even watch a video of the course)

Across The Years is the original fixed-time multiday running event celebrating the New Year.  Runners have 24, 48, 72 hours or 6 days to cover as much distance as possible.  Each runner is free to walk, stop, eat, and sleep whenever they wish, but the clock is always running! 

The course at Camelback Ranch is a USATF certified 1689.5 meter (1.0498 mile) loop, certification number AZ11005GAN.  It consists of primarily gravel paths (0.90 mile) with short sections of asphalt (0.12 mile) and concrete (0.03 mile).  The path averages 10-20 feet wide, with a short section that narrows to about 8 feet wide. Features include desert landscaping, lush greenery, and a lake with waterfall. 

Hard Packed Gravel Road – 1.14 km (68%) This is a very hard packed gravel topped road that is used to drive vehicles on around the outside of the ball park complex. 
Asphalt – 0.19 km (12%)
Concrete – 0.05 km (3%)
Packed Gravel Trail – 0.29 km (18%)

The surface is not completely smooth as much of the route is gravel and/or dirt. There are natural waves and bumps along the way.

The course is on the ‘flatter’ end of looped courses, but don’t come expecting a quarter mile track.  The outer road section slopes only a few feet over a half mile, while the inner paths contain more variation.  The most significant hill is on the north side of the lake and rises approximately 5 feet over the course of a few hundred feet.  Early on, the course will seem flat and fast.  However, the 6 day and 72 hour runners will readily recall their many battles with “Camelback Mountain” late in the race.

Why am I giving you the detailed course info? Because I think the hard packed gravel played into my race experience and time. As a treadmill/road runner, I’m not used to other surfaces. From my one personal experience (and a bit of talking to others), gravel does slow you down a bit as your foot plant is a bit off and requires more stabilization, and the gravel doesn’t provide the same energy return as a hard surface. On the other hand, I think that the primarily gravel surface reduced a bit of the impact and helped with recovery. The closest simulation of the course in my area would be the gravel paths on the National Mall, but I think the majority of the course is harder packed than the Mall – I think the “packed gravel trail” (versus “hard packed gravel road”) is more like the Mall.

A couple of things new to me in this race – direction change during the race and ankle transponder.

Because of the timed nature and the loop course, every 4 hours, they’d turn the runners around as we came through the start/finish. You realized they’d done it as you would see (faster) runners coming the other way toward you on the path. Kind of weird, and at first I didn’t like the direction change, but then in the part of the course with a tiny hill, it felt more like downhill than the clumsy uphill it had been for the first 4 hours, so I liked it. It does provide a bit of mental variation and helps those who will be out there longer with the physical aspects. Running in one direction, even on a decent size loop like this, will affect one side of your body more than the other. I think the shorter the distance, the greater the effect. Think of running a school track for extended periods of time…and by the way, there are ultras, timed, on really short tracks, just imagine!

Instead of a bib with chip, you are given transponder/chip to be worn on a velcro ankle strap. I was worried about this but it really wasn’t too bad. I have a little mark on my right ankle that could be from the transponder but could just as easily be from a rock or me hitting my ankle with the edge of my shoe. The chip was tracked every lap (you must run over the mat every loop, and it’s only about 2-3 people wide, but people spread out) and at the halfway aid station (same caveat). We also got bibs which had different color backgrounds for each of the 24/48/72/6 day races so you could know if you were in competition with another runner, and our names printed plenty big on them along with a little flag for state or country you were from, nice touch. Part of the swag was a race organization logo’d bib belt holder which I didn’t wear since I don’t like things on my stomach but most runners did, made it easier to change clothes during the race. Also, most folks wore their belts with the bib facing backward so you could read their name and know who they were, chat with them if you wanted. Mine was on my front since I pinned it (didn’t think of pinning it to the back, might in future) which caused one runner to turn around to try to see my name as she was passing me and saying hi.

If you’ve read this far, you’re a dedicated ultra-reader! (or probably family or a close friend) Thanks for caring enough to read about my race. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions. I’m working on a “Thoughts and Musings” post as well as posts related to my gluten-free eating and tourism during my time in Arizona, and probably one on crewing at the 24h race.