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Once a padawan, now a freaking Jedi. I run really far, I write a bunch, and have super powers that allow me to grow amazing facial hair.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Finer Points: Tuning Your Nutrition

For most things in life, you learn your lessons the hard way through "Oh shit!" moments. The first time you toe the line for an ultramarathon, it's my recommendation that you reduce the chance for these epiphanies by careful planning.

                                                       As "The Sixth Sense" Taught Us, You Can
                                                                     Only Have Your Mind Blown So Much.

Top 5 Nutrition Mistakes and How To Avoid Them:

1. You don't take nutrition into account at all.

Solution: What you eat and how much is MORE important than the miles you actually run, whether in training or during the race. Energy levels, injury prevention, recovery, cramping, stomach problems... you dial all of these in by proper nutrition.

2. You know about carbo-loading, but not how to actually do it.

Solution: Carbo-load a few days in advance, leaving the eve of your event open to small meals that are easy to digest. Packing in pasta drenched with sauce the night before seems logical, after all, you need those calories right? Hell no. A lot of races enable this behavior by having pre-race pasta buffets, but it simply doesn't work that way. Your body amplifies everything during strenuous activity. If you eat 20 lbs of pasta the night before a race, then you'd better pack some toilet paper into your waistband.

At Least He Wasn't Wearing White?

3. You don't eat in training the way you eat during a race.

Solution: Sure it's a pain in the ass to carry gels, chia seeds, or mix electrolyte powder into your water bottle when your on training without the benefit of an aid station, but if you are going to utilize those things at a stop during a race, you damn sure better have them when you train. You train your stomach just like you train the rest of your body... surprise your digestive system during an event and you can be sure it will return the favor. Some people even claim not using the same flavor of a gel or electrolyte drink they train with can (and has) ruined a race.

4. You eat what you crave instead of what you need.

Solution: You've been running for hours, drinking water, eating along the way. Despite this, you feel incredibly hungry and unbelievably thirsty. You come to an aid station and clear out the Oreos and drink a gallon of water. Felt good at the time didn't it? Until you run about 10 feet away and puke it all up. Your entire body is going to freak out the first time you try to push it to its limits, don't give in, give it only what it needs to keep going.
At Least She Is Wearing Brooks!
5. You just finished your race! Now you go out and eat 20,000 calories of bullshit.

Solution: It's tempting, I know. You just burnt more calories in a single day than most people do in a month. Why not have a gluttonous feast to reward your accomplishment? Because it will destroy your stomach, stunt your recovery, and likely won't set the tone you want to set to get back into training mode.

While you're getting styled and dialed with your nutrition, I highly recommend these books:

Eat and Run by Scott Jurek

Thrive by Brandon Brazier

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Losing Your Virginity

Sure, you have run some marathons, you've read "Born to Run" and started running trails... so maybe you're rounding the bases but despite what you've told your pals in the locker room, you aren't an ultrarunner just yet. Don't worry, I was there. People heard that I had plans to run a 70-miles when I was in high school and gave me credit that I didn't earn till a whole 5-years later.

This Is My Wife and I. She Has A Pillow Stuffed
Under Her Shirt.

But if you talk about something long enough and keep making jokes...

Not A Pillow.
Now your ultrarunning aspirations should work the same way, but instead of a baby boy, you will pop your cherry and complete your very first ultramarathon!

Picking your first race can be overwhelming but if you play your cards right, you will set yourself up for success. Here are 5 tips:

1. Pick a local race.
  • Familiar terrain. Family and friend support. Easy logistics.
2. Pick a shorter race.
  •  Some people go straight to the 50-miler, but why? A 50k counts and builds confidence.
3.  Pick an established race with a good reputation.
  • Poor course design and ill-placed aid stations on an inaugural event could turn you off.
4. Pick something that is low in difficulty but still challenging.
  • No ultra is the same. Some races might be short, but just as hard as a longer one. Research. 
5. Scout it out.
  • Run part of the course. Hike it. Bike it. Know what you're getting into.
"Okay, I think this is crux. AKA where I shit my
pants and begin hallucinating."
 The first ultra you run is something you are going to remember for the rest of your life. It's a turning point of sorts. If you've done enough to make it to the finish line, you will likely swear that you will never run again. A few hours later you will beam with pride at what you just did. A few days later you will be signing yourself up for the next one as you foam roll the hell out of your quads so you can start training next week.

The first one may not be the prettiest, the longest, or even your favorite, but it paves the way to what's next... and yes I am still talking about running.

There are two GREAT sites to start researching races and I highly recommend that before you jump out of your chair and start doing hill workouts, you take a few minutes to look at them.
  • This site has a HUGE database of races that can be filtered by everything from location and distance, to difficulty and terrain.
  • Not as good in my opinion, but sometimes one site will have a race that the other doesn't. Cool thing about this one? If the race is registered here then it creates a profile based on races you've run and ranks you.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

First Pick: How to Train For Your First Ultramarathon

Congratulations on reaching puberty! Much like those awkward years in middle school, training for and completing your first ultra is going to bring a lot of changes in your body that you might not expect, you will also do and say inexplicable things. Those that have preceded you will sit back and chuckle every time your voice cracks or you get caught watching Cinemax in the middle of the night. But it's okay, we've been there too!

Sorry Billy, No One Believes That You Got Up
At 2am To Watch Law and Order Reruns.
Training for an ultra isn't as much of a pain in the ass as it might look, and depending on where you are at, you may be closer than you think to making an easy transition. Here are just a few tips for training:

1. Experiment!
  • Redial your nutrition and find what works. Some runners use gels, others use chia seeds and goji berries, some use Gatorade, others use Nuun. You'll find that even the flavors of certain products work better for you than others.
  • Try out different gear. Do you really want to wear a Camelbak for 50 miles? Or would you prefer running with a hand-held bottle or waist pack? There isn't a "right way, and you'll see variations even among the elite runners.
  • Shoes matter but not in the way you think. Certain generations of a trail shoe might be better than others, some people run barefoot, while others where minimalist shoes. If one way makes you more comfortable and gets you further and faster without getting hurt, then do it.
  • Compression shorts, singlets, t-shirts, no shirt at all. It's all about comfort. That annoying tightness under your arms in a shirt you think looks cool is going to be unbearable if you are putting up with it for 12-hours of running. Pick the right clothing for YOU!
He Chose... poorly.

2. Build Slowly
  • All runners hate this. They want to go bust out 50+ mile weeks right off the bat. In reality, all you are asking for is injury. Know where you are and build slowly from there. One long run a week, gradually increasing distance or time out should be the bulk of your mileage. Use smaller races (even marathons) to train, they help with short term training goals.
3. Train Like You Race
  • If your goal race has hills, train on hills. If it's in a hot climate, train in the heat. If you are going to eat a gel every 45 minutes, do it when you're training too. It's common sense, but it's the kind of simplicity that we overlook. Best case? Train on the exact course.

4. Read, Research, and Investigate
  • There are tons of blogs, websites, books, and everything else you can imagine on ultramarathons, endurance training, endurance nutrition, and everything in between. Do your homework!
Read These For More Help:     Running Through The Wall by Neal Jamison

                                                  Relentless Forward Progress by Bryon Powell

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Ultrarunning: Endurance of the Mind and Body

An ultramarathon is any distance greater than the 26.2 miles of a standard marathon. Their are popular distances though: 50 kilometers, which is roughly 32 miles. 50 milers, 100 kilometers, and 100 milers. There are also quite a few time based endurance events like 12 and 24 hour runs that measure how far you can run in the allotted time.

Whatever poison you pick, the purpose is still the same... how far can you go?

When the fact that I run ultramarathons comes up in a conversation, the reaction isn't varied much:

  • "You're crazy."
  • "I don't even like to drive that far!"
  • "I can't even run a mile."
  • "Wow, you're like Forrest Gump or something." 
Despite what you might perceive, running 50 miles isn't that crazy... all you need is to want to see if you can. I don't like driving that far either... especially if it's from San Antonio to Austin during rush hour. Everyone can run a mile, you just don't want to. Forrest Gump? I'm not sure how I'm supposed to take that, but if I had a box of chocolates for every... well you get the point.

Okay, okay, maybe I see some similarities.

Running endurance events is all about pushing your body and pushing your mind to its limits and then seeing if you can squeeze out some more. It takes resolve, some degree of passion, and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone.

My love of the outdoors led me to ultrarunning in high school. I wanted to experience the things I loved in a new way, but I also wanted to know myself better. How far could I push myself? What could I learn?

To read the whole story, go here.

Today, ultrarunning is just part of who I am. It always will be, even if I can't run. I love the people, the events, the places, I love it all.

I even love the intense cramping, dehydration, bloody nipples,
and inability to walk up steps for several days following.

To learn more about the sport of ultrarunning, keep following this blog, but in the meantime check out these:



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