Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Steady Diet of Drop Bag Food

It's been 2 weeks since CR, and my drop bags are still feeding me. Thankfully, everything was spoil-proof.

I'd prepared 5 drop bags with power bars, cokes, pringles and other assorted goodies. I had a lot of 'em left over. Well, since then, I've been feeding nightly on a steady diet of these items. $ drop bags later, unfortunately, I am on my last one.

A couple years ago, I gave away GUs, power bars and stinger waffles (that I'd had leftover) for Halloween. That was my plan this year since the race was the weekend before. Unfortunately, I had no trick or treaters. None. I was disappointed at the time, but now I'm kinda glad. More food for me.

I guess in a way, you could say I've been prepping for my next ultra....seeing what food works and what doesn't.

So far, it's all working.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Forgetting Where I Stashed my Battery...

I was going to do a write up about my recent Cactus Rose 100 DNF but decided to write about something that happened to me during the race…something much more enjoyable (now that I look back because, at the time, it was horrifying).
Prior to the race, I had set up my extra battery to my headlamp in 1 of my 5 drop bags. A few hours before it got dark, I started thinking “…now, where is my battery?” because I knew my headlamp wouldn’t last throughout the night. I don’t know how it could happen, but I couldn’t remember which drop bag I had put it in.
My friend, Orlando, let me borrow his headlamp when he finished. As he gave it to me, he said something like “Make sure it is working before you go back out.” To make a long story short, I didn’t. I figured – how hard could it be? I think deep down inside I was probably thinking “I’ll worry about that when my light goes out?” Not a good idea.
Well, it got dark soon after that, and my headlamp light started flickering (warning me to replace the battery soon. Very soon).
This happened in the middle of 2 aid stations around 10pm. I took out my back up headlamp, but…I couldn’t turn it on. I kept pressing everywhere (because there appeared to be no buttons) but nothing would happen. I wasn’t sure how much time I had until my headlamp totally gave out, but I knew it wasn’t much. The last time this happened was during a race in the summer. After the flickering warning, it went out, but I was with another runner and was able to use her light to switch out the battery pack. This time, I didn’t have this luxury.
Immediately, dread and panic set it. I covered my headlamp with my hand to see just how dark it actually was, and to gauge whether I could see anything in the dark. I was in the middle of the trail, so it was pitch black. I was about 2 miles from the next aid station, and the previous aid station was 2 miles behind me. At that moment, a runner was coming the opposite direction (and towards the aid station I’d just left several miles earlier). She too tried to start my headlamp but had no luck.
My choices were to either run back behind her, and utilize her light when/if my went out before the aid station or take my chances going forward. I really didn’t want to run back when I’d been telling myself it was all about the forward progress, so I decided to run quickly (as quickly as I could considering that I was already at mile 52…so I’m sure it was just a shuffle).
Throughout the race, I’d been encountering runners going past me, with me or the opposite direction. At this point, it was pitch black, and there was no headlamp in sight in the distance indicating a runner was up ahead in either direction.
I shuffled my way as fast as I could muster hoping my light wouldn’t go out. Every couple of minutes my light would flicker, again, reminding me to switch out the battery. This only added to my terror. Yes, I think I panicked and was kinda terrified. 
My light went dark about 20 feet from the aid station. Yes, 20 feet!!! I was very lucky. Very lucky, and, most importantly, lesson learned.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Eat. Eat well and often.

I’ve learned not to underestimate the value of a good meal anymore.
Since upping my mileage (initially, at least), I found myself lagging in energy. So much so, that it concerned me quite a bit. Had I signed up for my current hunnerd too soon? Was I pushing so hard that my body couldn’t keep up? Was I too old to try to run what I want to run?
I think the problem was something so simple that I overlooked.
I’ve never been much of an eater, but my routine used to be:
·         No breakfast

·         Lunch

·         Workout

·         Dinner
...and work, of course.
The funny thing is that I didn’t change it because I thought it would help with my lack of energy/running. Instead, I changed it because it started getting too late to eat by the time I'd get home after my workouts. 
My routine now is very simple…if I’m hungry, I eat, and it has made all the difference in the world. After changing my eating habits by eating when hungry, I've had a lot more energy. I've even been able to do back to back 2-a-day workouts while going at it hard, and even doing crazy mileage on back to back days. This was unheard of for me.
I thought about this yesterday that I had 6 meals. Yes, 6. This might be an exceptionally high amount because I'd run 25 miles the day before. Normally, I've noticed that I'll just eat about 4...or so. That's not including snacking, of course, 'cause there's gotta be snacks.
So, my advice to those running/working out: Eat. Eat well and often. You just might notice a big change.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Introducing Tire Drags To My Training...

Things suddenly got real for me when I signed up for the Mogollon Monster 100 race. How was I going to run in that type of terrain when I live in terrain that’s like this______________________.  It's still 3 months away, but I knew I’d have to get creative with my training.
I’ve made several trips to the hill country to get some running in rugged elevated trails, but I can’t afford to make those trips weekly (as much as I may want to).

There are options: Running back and forth over an overpass gets old very quickly. The dreadmill, you ask? Don't even get me started with it. As boring as it may be, it's helped me too, but I felt like there had to be more options out there.

At a friend’s encouragement, I decided a month ago to add tire dragging to my workouts. I was a little intimidated because I’m not the strongest person and wondered if I would even be able to drag this tire. I had no choice but to do it.
The 1st thing I did was tell my dad to be on the lookout for any tire on the side of the road. Being from the RGV, unfortunately, people dump tires on the side of the road almost everywhere. Within a day, my dad called me that he found 2 tractor tires. “Ummm. I was thinking something smaller.” Was my response. “Maybe, like a small car’s tire.”
By the end of the day, he called that he’d found 2. By the way, I was making 1 for myself and 1 for my friend, David, so this was perfect.
Surprisingly, it was very inexpensive to make:
-          8 feet of ¼ nylon rope:          $2.75

-          Screw with a loop head:        $2.50     (full disclosure: don’t know the actual name)

-          Weight belt:                             $19.99
-       Tire:                                           Free
I've seen others wrap the rope around their waist, so I guess the belt could be optional, but this looks too painful/uncomfortable. I even read somewhere somebody posted on FB that a belt for this could be made from duct tape. Nevertheless, I suggest a belt.
I have done 4 workouts (1 x week) the last month using my tire drag. The 1st drag was 1 mile (to test it out) on the street in front of my apartment. The last 3 weeks I’ve increased the workout by 2  miles. I've done runs of 4, 6 and 8 miles.  
In my opinion, the street / paved is a little bit easier than gravel / dirt. 3 out of 4 of my workouts have been in the dirt next to a canal.
The Verdict:
I feel like my quads are getting stronger, and  I think my running is getting stronger too. I’ve made 2 trips to the Hill of Life in Austin in 3 weeks and have done the similar workout (repeats) but with different results. The 1st time we did repeats, I really struggled. They’ve difficult and I earned every single step. This last time, it was still difficult, but I felt more comfortable out there. I think I was even hiking “with a purpose” as I like to call it…and let’s be honest: I hike the uphills on most ultras.
At the 5+ mile point of dragging my tire, my quads feel like that indescribable feeling towards the end of a long trail run when you are drudging up a huge incline. That’s the only other time I’ve felt that way. Simulating that feeling's gotta be a good thing.
It feels as if my core is getting an intense workout...almost like I'm dragging it and doing crunches at the same time. I've been ending my tire drag with a couple miles to cool down (without the tire). At the onset, I'm flying without the added resistance, but suddenly, within several hundred meters, it kicks in...the fatigue. It's running on tired legs, I keep telling myself.
The plan is to increase my weekly tire drag run by 2 miles each week. Tonight, I'm due for 10 miles. I remember that 1st time when I barely could muster 1 mile. It's been 5 weeks since that evening. No joke.
I won’t discount that fact that it might be all in my mind, but even if that’s the case, I’ll take it.
I definitely recommend tire dragging – especially for those of us (as we are fondly known) flatlanders.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A (slow) Freight Train Coming At'cha: PETZL TIKKA RXP review)

I don’t know about you guys, but I have a difficult time running in the dark – even with a headlamp and glasses. I prefer not to run with my glasses, but the reality is I need them. Glasses along with a good headlamp is a must.
A while back, the Valley Running Co.. guru, German Madrazo, told me of a new Petzl headlamp he'd received in his store. He spoke about it with a passion (but then again, German, speaks of anything running with a passion) and that I just had to try it.
Having several Captain Karl's night races coming up within the next couple of months, I was in the market for better lighting.
After being intrigued with the specs of the TIKKA RXP, I gave in and purchased it. My 60 lumen Petzl headlamp was still good enough, but it probably was time to upgrade after several years with it. Besides, you can't really compare 60 to 215 lumen. It's no competition. 
So I gave in and purchased it.  
I used it a couple of time during several miles in the dark and was instantly convinced it was a great deal.
It features REACTIVE LIGHTING technology. Reactive what, you ask? It has a light sensor that allows the light output to adjust automatically. When I first saw this in an ad for the headlamp, I was skeptical. Who better than myself to determine how much light output I need? I was wrong. Sometimes when I’m  running, I just don’t want to turn this knob/button to adjust this, adust that or the other. If this is you, this headlamp is for you. Or should I say, it does it for you. Really. It does.  
It comes with a USB Rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery, but if you are out running for hours and hours like myself and a couple of my friends, you may want to invest in extra battery packs (my plan is to have a couple charged battery packs in my vest to switch out). This would allow to for having it on max all the time. I'm not a big on having it on a lower setting to extend battery life -  I need the max light and that’s all there is to it.  
 The highest setting offers 215 lumen lasting 2.5 hours. The medium setting offers 160 lumens at 5 hours, and the lowest setting offers 70 lumens for 10 hours. Even at the lowest setting, it is an improvement over my previous headlamp.
Last night, I truly saw it at work. I had a somewhat long workout to complete. Although I started early in the afternoon, I knew the possibility of ending up running in the dark was high, so I took my headlamp with me. Just in case. I’m glad I did because I ended up running along a darkened canal and street for about an hour.
Part of my run went through a shopping center, by the way.
As I started running through the canal, I had a huge spotlight lighting the way. As I turned towards the trees, my spotlight followed.
As soon as I hit the shopping center parking lot, the light dimmed. Just as advertised…it sensed that I didn’t need the huge spotlight. Nice.
Less than ½ mile later, I was going down a tiny darkened road. There was no side walk, and as I crossed the street, I noticed that incoming cars were slowing down before they even came close to me. I guess I looked like an incoming vehicle to them. A slow incoming vehicle, of course.
I'd strongly recommend getting a good headlamp with adequate lighting. In the summer time, we all tend to start running later because of the heat and inevitably end up running in the dark. Plus, we all know that it's just us runners against the vehicles out there. Always assume a driver doesn't see you. With the TIKKA RXP, they won't be able to miss the freight train that is you coming.
To my running friends considering running the local night racing series such as the Red White & Glow 10k, Rock the Night 10k or Firefly 10k, I suggest you seriously run to VRC and consider your choice of lighting. When you're running a darkened trail alone and think you heard a noise behind'll thank me. Trust me.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Running makes everything alright...even if for a little while.

Yesterday, I visited my grandfather who is pretty ill at the hospital. After seeing him, I was not in any mood to do anything but sulk. I even skipped my p/t job of coaching...and I love coaching. Besides, by the time I returned it was pretty late, so I just sat on my couch for a bit. I didn't do anything...just sat there.  

I decided to go for a little run just to feel a little better and/or distract myself for a little while at least. I ran into a couple of my friends that I hadn't seen in quite a while. I've known them for about 4 years, and, as a matter of fact, we ran our 1st ultra together back in 2010 I think. 

We started talking about everything and anything...including my grandfather and my grandmother who passed away like 8 years ago. It turns out that 1 of those friends (who is a RN) was the hospice nurse on call when my grandmother passed away. All of a sudden, it hit her: she remembered my grandmother, her house, all of us being there, etc. She told me the story of how she remembers praying with my grandmother and family just prior to her passing. "See!!! we were meant to be friends!!!", she told me as she punched me in the arm. 

The rest of the run two thoughts came and stuck with me:

     * It's funny how things happen sometimes when you least expect them. 
     * Running makes everything alright...even if for a little while.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ultra Marathoning: The Ultimate Junk Food Buffet

I tell my friends that have never run an ultra (or are even thinking about it) that it’s an experience like no other. Other than the crazy distance, not only is the vibe totally different than any road race, but the aid station food is pretty incredible. Especially, if like me, you love junk food.

You use so much energy and effort that it’s all about taking in calories. It took me a while to learn this, but I finally recently did. You could even describe an ultra as a race with buffet tables every 3-4 miles.

This past weekend I ran the Brazos Bend 50k, and I wanted to tell you about what my caloric intake was like, and proof that it was a junk food extravaganza...and I mean that as a good thing. A really good thing. This is what I ate during my 31 mile run:

Mile 4:  pretzels and jelly beans

Mile 8: cookies and a peach cobbler V Fuel gel

Mile 12: pringles and jelly beans

Mile 20: gummie bears and M&Ms

Mile 24: half of a pb & j sandwich and another peach cobbler V Fuel gel

Mile 28: pretzels & pringles

So if you’re considering an ultra, I say do it, because who doesn’t love junk food? I do.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Escape From The Track

Locally, most of the "nice" high school tracks are closed because the school does not want anybody running on their expensive artificial turf. This is a bummer because, I can't climb rows upon rows of bleachers or run on a bouncy and rubbery surface.

Don't get me wrong: there are some tracks that are open...but I'm a bit "picky."  It'll have 6 rows of bleachers, the track has more holes than your local street has potholes, the surface is made of gravel, etc. More often than not, I have to settle for it. I can do it, but do I prefer to do it there...No.

A couple of times, I've managed to "sneak" into my biggest/favorite high school stadium (the track is nice, but I like the countless rows bleachers best) while they were having football practice, but I was asked to leave...something about practice being closed to the public. Whatever.

Yesterday, we found a track at 1 of our local high schools that was open. It was a Sunday night and somebody, I'm guessing from the school, had opened the school's complex gates. I vaguely recall somebody using the batting cages or soccer netting...or something. We simply ran in zigzagging our way through the baseball field and soccer field until we made it to the track.

After a 30 minute-ish butt-kicking of a workout, it was time to leave. At that point, we realized whomever had been there that opened the gates, had already left. The worst part was that we were locked in.

The workout happened to be the 2nd of the day, and it was a pretty tough one, so I told my workout partner: "I don't feel like climbing the fence to get out." Plus, I think the fencing had several rows of barbed wire at the top..ouch.

Luckily, we were able to roam around the complex 'til we found a gate that led us to...FREEDOM!!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

When Making A Point Goes Bad...

I was going to do a race report about Hells Hills 50k but decided to not. Instead, I'd rather tell about a funny thing that happened.

I had just finished bragging to my partner-in-crime, Sami, that I didn't need any fancy backpack such as her brand new Ogio 8.0 to pack my stuff. I just carry my stuff in my pockets if I have to (I thought to myself). To make my point even more clear, I got all of my pre-race items (S caps, wipees, nutrition, hydration bladder, etc.) and just placed them in a grocery bag while tying a knot at 1 end..."cause that's how I roll.

I continued quickly packing my clothes in my lunch bag (yes, lunch bag - I pack light) and placed my toiletries in yet another grocery bag, and Austin-bound we were.

Fast forward to later that night right before crashing: It's time to brush my teeth and start prepping my hydration vest, bladder & goodies for the morning's race.

It turns out I forgot my 2 grocery bags with my toiletries and racing goodies. After my initial panic and convincing myself that I didn't need a toothbrush, S caps, hydration bladder, etc., I just kind of shrugged my shoulders and prepared myself for the "...that wouldn't've happened if you'd listened to me about my Ogio 8.0 bag" speech.

Luckily, that speech never came, but none of this would've happened if I'd listened and considered taking any of the countless backpacks I have lying around.

Oh, and by the way, I was able to borrow a handheld and assorted goodies I'd forgotten...and I had a decent 50k race too.
My funky toes photobombing Sami.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Upping The (Running) Ante...

Officially, my training for Jemez 50 miler began last week. 1 of my good frunners helped me with a training plan. Upon 1st glance, all the mileage/uber hillwork (uber because there are no real hills to do hill work on) made it looked pretty intimidating, but I knew I had to up my training from the horror stories I’d heard about Jemez. My main worry was that some of the weeks the total mileage is in the 60s and a couple even in the 70s, and the only other time I approached that kind of mileage, the aches & pains began.

After successfully completing my 1st week,  I feel pretty well ~ considering I did 65.25 miles this past week. The best part of it is that I am totally pain free. Yes, totally.

Full Disclosure: I was also off the entire week (Spring Break). It’s what I did during Spring Break: Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I mean, if up to 4 naps a day & sleeping in each day counts as nothing. I’m sure all of this helped me reach that total.

I’m also on my umpteenth attempt at eating (somewhat) better. Throw in there my new regiment of stretching and massages. If I plan to continue upping my mileage, I’m going to have to continue doing things differently…aka – the correct way.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

V Fuel - No More GI Issues...

I've been on an elusive journey to find the right gel that doesn't give me stomach issues for over a year. I'm glad to report that I have finally found said gel.

My stomach has the uncanny ability to reject anything it doesn't agree with within a minute. Yes, I am not kidding: I'll start cramping immediately and looking for the nearest restroom. 

After reading a FB post from a trusted ultra runner where she raved about this certain gel, I decided to give it a try. It was called V-Fuel. I think I was, pretty much sold on it after 1 long run, but I knew I had to test it out on several long runs.

I've tried this gel on 4 long runs of 22, 20, 17 & 10 miles.

After taking it at hour 1 of my first long run, I was a bit nervous. You know that moment that you know it's going to be good or bad...really bad. I took it and anxiously awaited for the cramping to begin. Nothing. I finished my run (and took 1 more), and still nothing happened.

I've never been a big fan of gels, so I wasn't sure what I'd feel. I'm not too sure if this is how it's supposed to occur, but I felt a little burst of energy each time about 15 minutes after taking it.

The results were the same on all my runs.

The only problem is that I only enjoy the peach cobbler flavor. Yes, peach cobbler. It's really an awesome flavor although some of you might think peach cobbler is not the flavor you'd crave or enjoy during a run. I'm not a fan of vanilla or chocolate but those are the other flavors.

It's a very subtle taste - not overwhelming at all.

Take it from me, you'll enjoy it.

Just wanted to let y'all in on a (not so little, it seems) secret.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Bandera 100K Through My Lenses

A week prior to Bandera, I ran a 17 miler in Lake Georgetown. It was a terrible run. I felt tired and sluggish. Based on this run, I decided to make this my last run before the race. I always taper poorly but decided to take the entire week off. I ended up running 1 other time 4.5 miles, but that was it. I figured a week off would pay dividends.

We arrived in Bandera about 4pm on Friday, picked our packet up and headed out for dinner. I had been eating fairly well the days prior to it. I wanted to be well fed (and rested) before starting because, if I know myself, I was gonna be out there for a while. 

The race began at 7:30am and off we were.

Immediately from the go, I felt sluggish and tired. This was disappointing since I'd agreed to kinda keep up with several of my friends and try to finish in around 15-16 hours. Realizing this was not going to happen, I just kinda fell back and decided I'd see them later...or maybe not.

To keep it short, the 1st 15 miles were a death march. They were slow and ugly. I ended up doing a lot of walking. My good buddy, Brandon, passed me at about mile 13, and said he was probably going to not go any further than the next aid station. I briefly considered doing the same. I even considered it again once I saw him at the crossroads aid station. I knew I could go all the way, but the most important question was: did I want to go on 46 more miles feeling the way I did?

Fortunately, I ran into my sole sistahs (Laura, Mary Ann, Bengi and Judy - coincidentaly, 2 of my former pacers) at Crossroads. After eating some baked potato halves (dipped in salt), I decided to continue. We ran together for the next 16 miles, and I (suddenly) felt great. I made it a point of eating at each aid station. I was eating quesadillas and grilled cheese 'wiches left and right. 

That seemed to have done the trick because I finished the 1st 50k loop feeling well. I finished it in 8:45. A little slower than I wanted, but I was content with it.

I began the 2nd loop :15 minutes later. I still felt really well but knew these next 5 miles would be tough. I started with 2 of my sole sistahs. We took a couple pics at Sky Island along the way. At this point it was them, myself and Bruce Evans (little did I know that I'd end up running with him for the next 25+ miles). 

Each aid station was another opportunity to eat, and I ate...well. It seems I was on a steady diet of mashed potatoes, ramen soup, quesadillas and grilled cheese. It turns out this was a big reason why I ended up running everything after the 15 mile mark feeling so well. 

Looking back, I think I prepared for almost everything - mud, rain, cold - except the heat. I think I may've struggled in the beginning because it was hot. To make matters worse, I didn't even have a cap. Luckily, another friend, Rene, saw me at the 3rd aid station and offered me his visor (No, I didn't take the cap of another runner. He was a spectator). Judging from alot of frunners I ran into, I wasn't the only 1 that was heat struggling.

In the end, I finished in 19:30. An entire hour slower than last year, but I felt better physically than last year. As a matter of fact, I felt great for the last 46ish miles.

The biggest lesson from this weekend's 100k???

I need Sami. For many reasons. 1 of them being that she's always my crew, and a really good crew mistress. I told her not to worry about my drop bags since she had her own race to prepare for. Being in charge of my own gear, I forgot my hydration vest, handheld, spi belt and S caps. Need any more proof that I cannot ultra fend for myself? 

PS - A big shout out to her for finishing her 1st 50k.