Friday, July 25, 2008

Support and Encouragement...You Never Know Where It Might Come From

There are times when the little things in running become the biggest. People supporting your running and giving you encouragement is one of those things. Sometimes they don't realize it, but their words of encouragement and show of support will probably send you on your way to a great run or race that day. Such was the case for me yesterday.

My running schedule is such that I always run about the same time each day. Those times change during different times of the year, but I am very predictable (Those who know me are getting a kick out of that statement.) as far as a training routine goes. I have a set time to run and usually it doesn't vary much from day to day. Yesterday was no exception. You see, on Thursday's we have our residential trash collection and about the time I leave to run, the city truck comes by our house to pick up the trash for the week. A few months ago, the guys on the truck started asking me questions about running and how far I ran and how often and things like that. They were really interested in what I was doing but I could tell they were also thinking that there was a little bit of crazy in the guy they met each Thursday that took off running. But each Thursday that has passed this summer, we have always ended up meeting about the same time and our running discussions have grown from just a few questions to really talking about what's up next on the race schedule and how far was I going that particular day. Always later in my run I see them and they all wave and honk the horn on the truck just to say hi. Names? No we haven't gotten that far yet. We are just curbside friends.

Yesterday, I left a little early and thinking that I had missed them I was a little down. I actually looked forward to seeing them and talking to them each Thursday. As I walked down the street to start my run, there was no Thursday "HI!", no words of encouragement on this hot morning, no questions about why was I running so many miles that day. An empty start to my run.

Then there it was. From about a block and a half away. I could hear the truck. One of the guys yelled at the top of his lungs, "Hey buddy, have a good run today!", and with that the horn on the truck blasted louder than I had ever heard it. Probably woke up half of the neighborhood. It absolutely gave me chills. I waved to them, yelled back to them, and began my run feeling on top of the world and off for a great training run that day. I wondered if they really knew how much it meant to me. Next Thursday, I will wait and make sure that we meet and tell them thanks for the words of encouragement and support. I hope I can do something for them soon.

Support and encouragement. The little things are really big things.

Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ultra Race-Lunar Trek Run in Scandia, KS

It's 10:00pm on July 18th. For most runners awaiting their next race it would be time to start thinking about going to bed to get ready for the race the next day. Wrong! I was about to leave the motel with my son Andy to GO to the start of the race and start the Lunar Trek Ultra Run in Scandia, KS. The race was designed to benefit the Pike Valley High School Cross Country Team. There were several race distances that you could enter: 10K, 10 miles, 20 miles, 31 miles, or 40.4 miles.

The race starting time was 11:00pm and Andy and I were running a 50K (31 miles). There was a full moon that night after a day before that produced 1-2 inches of rain on the course. The full moon was intentional. The rain and mud the day before were not. But on this race night, the skies were partly cloudy, wind was calm, insects were ready, and the temperature was great. Berta had the support vehicle packed to the roof with all of the essentials that we would need for the night of running. All systems go! It was interesting convincing the body that it was about to embark on an adventure in the middle of the night that would take it down country roads for 31 miles. Andy and I did our best to prepare. We were all packed with the reflective supplies that were had to have. A vest and blinking red light along with our headlamps. We carried our hand-held bottles with our Hammer Nutrition products that included Perpetuem and Heed. I even sported new headgear for the first time. Thought it would help the headlamp rub. It did. Maybe a new look for me now.

We checked in with the race directors. What a tremendous job they did getting the race organized and supported with some of the best aid stations I have ever been to at a race. Many people gave up their entire night to staff the aid stations and make sure we had everything that we needed. They were always very supportive and willing to help us in any way. They did an awesome job. A very big thank you to them for all of the work that they put into the evening. We also met up with a great group of runners from Kansas City, The Kansas City Trail Nerds. What a fantastic group of runners! Below you will see a group picture of us before the start of the race.

It was great to be able to run with many of them and others from around the state during parts of the race. Having never run a race during the night, it was always fun and comforting to see a headlamp or red blinking light coming or going along the way on the out and back course. One of the biggest adjustments that I had to make was that it was just plain dark the whole way. I know, what did I expect in the middle of the night. But it was REAL dark out there on the roads. The full moon helped but it was still just about as dark as dark can get. It made for interesting running. The majority of the course was fantastic as far as the surface was concerned. Soft roads with small gravel. There were, however, challenging sections of mud and ruts in the roads that would suck the shoes right off your feet. I must say though that Andy and I did very well. I was really happy with the way we worked as a team to help each other out and to have great conversations along the way.

An extremely important part of running an ultra event is to be well-fueled and hydrated. Below, you will see the support vehicle that Berta used to keep us going throughout the race. She worked hard to have things ready as we approached and to also make instant changes in case we wanted to get off our plans that we had made and have something different.

I was very happy with the Hammer Nutrition products that I used. They again provided the essential nutrition that I needed to run a good endurance race. I still am impressed with Hammer's support for us as runners. My nutritional preparation included a bowl of granola with raisins, 2 scoops of soy protein, and soy milk three hours before the race. One and a half hours before the race I also took Race Caps Supreme, Mito Caps, and Anti-Fatigue Caps. Right before the race I had a partial bottle of Heed. Along the way about every hour or so I also added in Anti-Fatigue caps and Endurolytes. Prior to a race I organize all of the things that I will need, bag them up and label them to make sure I keep on schedule with what I need to have.
Somewhere along the road, Andy and I stopped long enough to get a picture. It was still dark. It was so great to be able to do this ultra with Andy. It was his first and it was great to be a part of it with him. He and I have run many races together at many distances, but this one was one of the best ever. He did a fantastic job we were able to give each other support along the way that was very important! The conversations never really came to any earth shattering conclusions but it was just good to be able to talk and discuss race strategies and other things. It seemed as though we ran at a faster pace the closer we got to the finish of the race. We felt really good except for a few ankle rolls that I did in some of the ruts, but I bounced back and kept the pace.

We finished strong and we were glad to have accomplished the completion of a great ultra.

After the race it's always good to find a place to stretch. This one happened to be reserved for me. I had just finished my Recoverite drink and needed some stretching time as the sun was starting to come up. What a night! It was just incredible. Again, a special thanks to all of those in Scandia, KS that helped make this race a fantastic experience. I am already looking forward to it for next year and might even stretch my goal to the 40 mile race.

Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Great Summer Reads

Just finished a couple of books that I think many people would be interested in for their summer reading time or just to add to a gift list for the future. The first book, which was a Father's Day gift from my son Andy is titled, We Might As Well Win, by Johan Bruyneel. Bruyneel, the winningest team leader in cycling history, was the mastermind behind the success of Lance Armstrong's Tour de France victories. He knows what it takes to win and throughout the book there are examples that can be applied to all sports, business in general, and life on a day-to-day basis. The whole book gives stirring examples of life on the Tour and what it took to win and how strategies, planning, studying the opponent, out thinking others, and giving maximum effort can be a tremendous factor in success at the highest level. It is a recipe for life. His innovative leadership style is catching and motivating. I found many times that I could just not put the book down because so much was happening that applied to many things that I do. It is fantastic!

The other book, Running Through The Wall, Personal Encounters With the Ultramarathon by Neal Jamison is a collection of absolutely amazing stories from ultrarunners about their experiences in ultra running. To quote the back cover, " This book is a great inspiration not only to current ultrarunners, and to marathoners looking for the next challenge- but also to runners of all abilities, who will see that there is nothing you can't do if you have the desire.". The book gives an inside look at what makes ultrarunners tick, training required, their desire to explore their own personal limits and beyond. It lets you see what it's like to run ultras from beginners to experienced runners . The stories are informational, entertaining, and just flat out amazing. Their personal accounts of the races they ran can serve as a learning point for all interested in testing the ultra distances. Stories that deal with fatigue, blisters, nausea, and despair are countered with stories of hope, love, healing, self-discovery, friendship, selflessness, and triumph. As a new ultrarunner myself, the book gives me a foundation for building on my future races and training. Also, the advice from the experiences that these runners have had is priceless. Another "can't put it down book"!

Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Recovery and Rehab- Naturally

In the July issue of Runner's World, there is an informative article in the Mind and Body section titled Natural Cures. The question is raised, "Can alternative remedies offer runners a better route to pain relief?". I have often looked for the best way to treat a variety of aches and pains amid all of the recommendations of the experts in the field in a variety of online and print publications. So many opinions and so many treatments. Some contradict each other. Others just don't have common sense as a part of the solution. With that said, I read this article with great interest since I would rather go the "natural" route for treatment of aches and pains. Ultra-marathon champion Scott Jurek offered some good comments on an injury that he had and I thought it would be good to share his viewpoint and on a philosophy that I am increasingly buying into.

Jurek states that "Homeopathic therapies allow me to access my body's healing potential," Jurek says. " Alternative medicine aims to resolve imbalances and solve the problem rather than just relieve the symptoms." That's where I buy in. Too many times we take the approach of treating the symptoms and don't consider the bigger picture of trying to solve the problem. Jurek goes on to say, " Alternative therapies tend to place a greater focus on the biomechanics, nutrition, and alignment, details that can solve runners' problems". I like that. (It is mentioned also, that "for pain that is severe or chronic, see a medical doctor".)

The article suggests five therapies that we as runners should try. The article gives you information on what the promise of the treatment is, the science, and who should try it. The five areas are : acupuncture, sports massage, imagery, herbal remedies, and chiropractic treatment. After just having gone to the chiropractor today for an alignment check after a trail race, I have a strong belief that we should establish a team of support. I am lucky enough to have found some great people to help me out. I couldn't get along without them. I have a great chiropractor, massage therapist, personal trainer, and nutrition specialist. They keep me going. I appreciate their understanding of the running goals that I have and also the ability to keep my training plans in focus with future races. Sometimes it's not possible for everyone to put together a team like that. I am always open to readers submitting questions that they might have through the comment section of this blog and I'll reply back to you. If I can't answer your question, I will find someone on my team that can.

The next time and ache or pain strikes, please consider solving the problem instead of just relieving the symptoms.

Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Psycho Psummer Trail Run: KC Trail Nerds

Andy and I ran the Psycho Psummer Trail Run on July 5th. It was a great 15 mile trail run. The Kansas City Trail Nerds, lead by trail master Ben, organized and marked trails with outstanding expertise. Andy and I chose the 15 mile version although there was the option for the 50K and 5K. What an absolutely incredible experience! From the start, the organization was superb, all phases of the race were handled so well. It was just fun to be a part of it. Many thanks to Ben and his crew of volunteers for being on the trail, at the aid stations, before and after the race help, encouraging all of us throughout the race. You all are awesome!

Many of you know that most of my racing experiences have been on the firm ground of the "road". This was my second trail race, the first being a short 2.79 race a couple of weeks ago. This one was for real! The trail was very challenging for me as a rookie and I am sure for those that had run it before. The area had received 3-4 inches of rain a few days before so many parts of the trail were ankle deep in mud. I was introduced to the suction of mud and the swallowing of shoes. Yes, I was introduced to getting dirty during a race for the first time. Mud was everywhere. As if that wasn't enough, I crawled over, under, and sometimes through logs across the trail. Hopped roots and rocks, slid down steep drops and back up the inclines. Oh yeah, and that low hanging tree that my head didn't see. The closest that I had come to such in route challenges on the road was a banana peel or an old hot dog from a Kwik shop and a few hills here and there. So this was new for me. But I loved it. At first, my concentration and brain power was on overload trying to figure out how to survive this new adventure. Then I loosened up a bit figuring you just can't outwit a trail. Then the fun began. You know, that was one of the major lessons I learned from this race. Lighten up! Wow! What an adventure!

I can't thank Andy enough for showing me the ropes (or the mud baths), as he said, "Dad just watch my feet". Turned out to be a good coaching strategy as I watched his every step, well not all the time, to learn this new form of runner craziness. He is a great trail runner! Trail running is so different than road racing. I am having to really rethink strategies, pacing, equipment, and not going into the "zone" that so many times I have done in road races. Reaction time is crucial, one mistake and it's face plant city.

And so it is, the day after the trail race and I ran 15 miles on the road and felt like it was a walk in the park compared to the day before. I have so much respect for trail running, even more now than before. The people are fantastic and are very willing to help each other and even help a rookie trail runner. I look forward to future trail races of even greater distances and other courses. Speaking of that, Andy and I next run the Lunar Trek 31 mile Ultra in two weeks. Looking forward to that!

Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Peak Running Performance Publication Online- Outstanding!

Just got the latest issue of Peak Running Performance's online publication. It is packed with great information as usual and should be a bookmark for all interested runners at all levels. This issue is devoted mainly to the upcoming Olympics and has some excellent sections by some great authors that will challenge your thinking and your opinions about several issues at hand right now. You can access the July/August 2008 Peak Running Performance Issue by clicking on this link. Articles this month are: How Do You Perceive the Olympic Games, The 2008 Pollution Games?, The Making of a Champion, The Quest for Bronze, You Ask...Steve Answers, and 26 and Change.

I really liked the Training Strategy section titled The Making of a Champion, by Alberto Salazar, 1982 Boston Marathon Winner. I made a mental note of the many things that I need to work on to get better each day and also Salazar brings up important things to use to build your foundation for training. Salazar includes a list of "defining characteristics of the physiological and psychological makings of a champion". Now before you say that this article doesn't apply to you. Stop! Each day you go out and put one foot in front of the other and cover whatever distance you do, YOU ARE A CHAMPION! This stuff is for you! The characteristics that Salazar writes about are as follows: strength, power, flexibility, speed, endurance, economy, resilience, toughness, tenacity, dedication, competitiveness, courageousness, and spiritual.

Please take the time to sit down and read Salazar's article. It will inspire you and also challenge you as I said. The rest of the publication has incredible amounts of great information that can have an impact what you are doing too. Remember, YOU ARE A CHAMPION! Enjoy the reading!

Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!