Adventures In Running

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Dugway Isolation Run - 20K

I heard about the Dugway Isolation Run this week on Facebook on the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers Facebook page. It was a first year run out on Dugway Proving Grounds and I always like the opportunity to run on trails that are not normally open to the public. They offered 20K, 30K and 50K options. With St. George in one week, I decided to go for the 20K option. $30 for a trail race - very good price. $40 in gas to get there and back - not so good a price. Next time - it would be worth it to carpool. This race is out in the middle of nowhere. Really. Reminds me a lot like getting to the Pony Express Trail - but less bumpy roads. The race started shortly after 8 this morning. There were about 25 runners total in all 3 races - most of us from Wasatch Mountain Wranglers and a good portion running in Altras (they were very well represented). Once the race started - I was on my own for most of the race. The 20K consisted of 2 loops of the 10K course. There were other trails for the 30K and 50K runners to take as part of the back portion of the race.
Just in case I was not fully awake or warmed up, shortly after the start of the race we started the uphill (see above picture). Slightly more than a mile in length, it wound up the hillside until we were at the buildings. No sense pushing (and I am lousy at uphills) so I settled into a good walk. There were a couple of walkers behind me and I passed one other 20K runner halfway up the hill. I stayed about .25 miles ahead of her the first loop and never saw her on the second loop. After the fun uphill - we were rewarded with some downhill. Luckily, this week I was not paranoid about running downhills. I still kept the breaks on - but except for the most gnarly sections, I was able to run most of the downhills and flats. They did a good job marking the course. Turn signs and small flags made it easy to tell where you needed to go. The Race Directors had a sense of humor and had marked different sections of the course with names like Widowmaker. About 3 miles in the other distance racers peeled off for some small loop sections. I filled up on water and headed further on the course. The race had several people checking off numbers to make sure you were following the correct loops (and paranoia that we might want to hang around out there for good). They had water at 2 remote locations and food and water at the end of the loop. Also a portapotty with lots of cobwebs. The remote aid stations were my only areas that I think need improvement. The first one was running low on water fairly quickly, and neither of them had sport drink. Also - I think everyone brought along some kind of hydration method - but it would have been nice to know that we needed to carry our own bottles and there would not be cups. I'm really fine with cupless races - but they need to make sure everyone is aware of it. Lots of ups and downs on this race. It was a beautiful course with several different terrains. Some sections reminded me of Pony Express, some of Antelope Island (the Elephant Head section). This was a tough course - because there was so much up and down along the way. Two hard climbs on each loop, plus several not so hard climbs. Finish loop 1 - repeat all over again. Not as much energy the second time. My glutes were definitely not used to trail running and my neck and upper back were stiff from the pounding. I was pleased to find out at the end that I was first in my age group in the 20K. I got my first official race bling (other than medals for that).
At the race finish with my medal and award.
My age group award
Quite the impressive race for a first year effort. Kudos to the group that put it all together. Also - probably the best race bag I've ever received - a nice reusable bag filled with the race shirt, two water bottles, a stress ball, a Frisbee, a set of chums (for sunglasses), pen, sample body glides, nutrition bars, sample shot blocks, etc. I really hope they do this race a week or two earlier next year so that I can do one of the longer distances.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Night Running

I haven't done much running at night on trails.

Back when I lived in Layton, Utah – I ran a couple of Christmas Eve runs on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail with my neighbor, Vic Mason. And I did a few night hikes with no lights or anything when I was furious at someone and needed to get away.

Two years ago I ran a part of the Buffalo Run 50K after dark when I was running the race a day early in order to be able to volunteer the next day.

Tuesday night I got together with a new Facebook friend, Adriana Vars, and ran the Pipeline Trail after dark. I have to admit that we ran together for over 2.5 hours and I don't know what she looks like – it was that dark.

Beautiful night to run. Good company and good weather. We had a lot of wind at times – turns out it was bringing in snow that night.

I really enjoyed the views of the lights in the valley as we ran out on the trail. So pretty and sparkling. Made it worth the late night run.

I'm going to try to join in on some more night runs and get more comfortable with trails in the dark. Not sure I will totally get over being concerned about running alone after dark – but it should be better with people I know around.

Wasatch Crest 2013

I was determined to get up on the Wasatch Crest (or part of it) this summer and since my running buddy is hanging out in Tonga, I decided to head up last Saturday and take it on myself.

I drove up Millcreek Canyon early in the morning. I was surprised at how much traffic there was already and I ended up down in the very bottom overflow parking lot for Big Water.

I took along my DSLR camera hoping to find some good locations for pictures and hoping to find some autumn color. It wasn't looking too good on the drive up – I think we have had too dry of a summer.

From the lower Big Water parking lot, I headed up the trail to Dog Lake. So was everyone and their dog. Really. I must have passed more than 50 dogs going one way or another. And way too many people. The ones that never stopped talking for a single minute were kind of annoying, so I would break free of some of the conga lines to move ahead of all the people and pets. At the trail where you could go two different directions to Dog Lake, a hiker warned me there was a mother and baby moose on the left hand trail. I decided to go on the right hand trail.

Stopped to take pictures at Dog Lake. Is it named Dog Lake because of all the dogs? There were tons of them running around and swimming in the lake.

I headed down from Dog Lake to Desolation Lake. I wish that trail was more runnable, but I seemed to spend a lot of time hopping from side to side to avoid the big rut down the middle.

Back up again at the fork towards Desolation Lake. It was nice to be away from all the people and dogs on the latter two trail sections. They built a new side path for mountain bikers near the fork and that was a bit of a surprise.

I found some more great places to take pictures on this trail. I was loving the blue sky – you forget how pretty it is with the pollution down in the valley.

Finally when I got to Desolation Lake, there was a patch of trees with yellow leaves – I think they were aspens. I traded off with a couple of groups of hikers and bikers to get in some pictures and take pictures of them. Desolation Lake was not as pretty as usual – the water level was really low. I enjoyed getting some shots of the sun glinting on the lake and the wind moving waves across the water.

More pictures of the leaves as I hiked up to the ridge. At the top of the ridge I stopped to take some more pictures of a lake over on the Park City side and then checked in with my daughter.

I headed down towards Millcreek again. Normally I can run this section with no problems. Not this time. I had some weird paranoia going on about falling and could only run on the smoother sections of trail. If there were any rocks or roots I had to slow down. I tried to get over the mental block – but not much success. In addition, I had no energy in my legs and couldn't maintain a running pace for long. Finally – after about 3 miles of trying to increase my food intake, I was able to run the last 2 miles and enjoy the run. I ended up taking the Red Pine Trail for the first time and came out on the other side of the parking lot (never saw the red pine it was named for).

Down the road to my car and the home. Twelve great miles on the trails.

Next day – my legs were toast. I can tell I did not do enough trails this summer. Good feeling though to know I activated lots of muscles.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Maffetone Method Week 1

After reading a post on Facebook about the Maffetone Method a couple of weeks ago, it reminded me about the first time I read of this method of training in the book Finding Ultra. Rich Roll in that book described how he had already been a good athlete, but when he started training seriously for the Ultraman race, his trainer put him on a training program where he couldn't let his heart rate get over a certain number of bpm and in the beginning he even had to walk hills and some flats in order to keep his heart rate down. However, over time, his body adjusted to the training and he reached speeds and endurance that he had never been able to accomplish before.

I can't claim to have ever had speed, but I thought I had good endurance. However, after researching the "slow" training method, there were several aspects that intrigued me:

  • This is supposed to be a good training method for athletes that are injured (looking at my foot – I checked this off)
  • The first few weeks speeds might be as slow as 17 minutes per mile (or slower) – (check – good method to improve my running while I am really slow)
  • This method is an effective way of determining aerobic capacity and increasing it (need that)
  • The method is supposed to teach your body to burn fat instead of carbs (Ok – I have an excess of fat – I can use that).

After thinking about it for a couple of weeks and talking it over with my daughter, I decided to give it a try. I wouldn't be following the initial training plan totally because that calls for never letting your heart rate going above the plan max and I have both the St. George Marathon and Detroit International Marathon ahead of me – but I figure those two exceptions are better than multiple excuses for putting it off.

Step 1: Calculate the heart rate range. Under the Maffetone Method, this is 180 – your age (+/- exceptions). 180-52 equals 128! Yowza! I needed to keep my heart rate between 118-128 bpm in all exercising.

Step 2: Find my heart rate monitors. Dug through drawers and found three of them.

  • Garmin Heart Rate strap to go with my Garmin Forerunner 305. After much experimentation the light bulb went off and I figured out I had to sync it to my Garmin.
  • Polar Heart Rate strap and monitor. Using the strap at my gym will allow me to train on treadmills.
  • Pear Bluetooth strap – allows me to train using my Pear app if all else fails.

Step 3: Run

Tuesday night I went out for my first run. Set my minimum and maximum heart rate alarms on the Garmin and did a 6 mile run. Or walk. Or really slow trot. I fairly quickly realized that this was going to be fairly hard at the start on the roads. My speed was between 4.2 mph down to 3.2 mph. Very frustrating – but a good indication that I do not have the aerobic fitness I thought I had.

Thursday night I went to the gym to use the treadmill. 5 miles on the treadmill with my initial pace at 4.3 mph and down to a lowly 3.2 mph by the end. I just gradually slow down as my heart rate starts exceeding the maximum.

Friday night back to the gym. Initial speed was 4.6 mph and down to 3.8 mph in the three miles I ran.

Saturday I started seeing a little benefit to the training – but also still frustrating. I planned on doing 10 miles, but by 8 miles my speed was down to 3.5 mph, so I called it quits and went walking.

Sunday afternoon – 3 miles on the treadmill – speed between 4.5 mph and 3.9 mph.

Expectations were that the first few weeks would be pretty slow – so I am meeting those expectations. The good thing is – on the treadmill I am running constantly and improving my running capacity.

Tomorrow is a rest day and I'll just walk the dog. Tuesday will start week 2. I am interested to see what kind of progress (or lack thereof) will occur in week 2.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Wasatch 100 adventures

I swear I have a curse on me for pacing the Wasatch 100. Three times I have been signed up to pace and twice my runners have DNF'd (Did Not Finish) earlier in the race and this year my runner DNS'd (Did Not Start).

Since I had a few days' notice this week that I would not be pacing from Lamb's Canyon to Brighton, but had already taken the day off work, I sent a message to the Wasatch 100 Race Committee to see if they needed any volunteers. Claude Grant got hold of me last Saturday and provided me with a couple of volunteer jobs. I was to be at the bus loading at 3:20 a.m. this morning to check runners on to the buses and then I would be driving a van the rest of the day until 7 p.m. tonight when the next van driver's shift started.

I actually started volunteering earlier than planned and had a blast. I just love all the energy around distance races and it was so impressive yesterday to be at the Race Briefing at Sugarhouse Park with all the ambitious men and women set to run 100 miles across the top of the mountains. I stayed afterwards and helped load vehicles with drop bags. 300+ runners with several aid stations with drop bags equals a whole lot of loading.

This morning came way too early, but I made it to the bus loading in time and helped check runners onto the three buses. We then escorted the buses up to Kaysville with one van in the lead and my van at the tail to make sure everyone got to the starting line in time. We had to park down at the bottom of the hill and hike up to the Kaysville Wilderness Park for the start. I turned in the check-in pages and then went about ¼ mile down the trail to cheer the runners on as they went past. Wish I could have taken some pictures of them running in the dark – but that far surpasses my photography skills.

Once the race started, we loaded more drop bags in the other van and that van headed to Soldier Hollow and my van headed back to Salt Lake where I dropped the other van driver off at his apartment. He needed to rest because he was pacing most of the day with another racer.

Hold on for the exiting part here…… Picked up food at Dunkin Donuts. Drove up to Woods Cross to the Kmart parking lot. Crawled in the back of the van and slept for two hours. Read and talked on the phone for another hour or so. Drove up to Farmington and parked at a church. Ran 3 miles. Read for a couple of hours. Basically – I had to be available if I was needed for anything – but wasn't for a while.

Finally, I got the call that the Francis Peak Aid Station vehicle was coming down. They met me and we transferred all the drop bags from their vehicle to mine and I headed off to Soldier Hollow. I stopped by Lambs Canyon Aid Station on the way up to say hi and see if they needed any help later. Right when I got to Soldier Hollow, Big Mountain Aid Station called in needing 200 pounds of ice, so I quickly off loaded 300+ drop bags (that was an adventure!) and headed back to Jeremy Ranch to pick up ice. After buying 25 bags of ice, the gas station employees were kind enough to help me load the back of the van with ice and I headed back down to Big Mountain (or should I say up?).

Big Mountain was bustling when I got there. We off loaded all the ice and it was really needed. One of the hotter race days and the heat was really hurting the runners. I checked in with the ham radio team and wasn't needed yet at another location, so told them where I was and ended up helping with food and drink for the next 3.5 hours. The first few hours they were short on volunteers so it was really good to feel needed and I got pretty good at loading up water bottles with ice.

Near the end of my shift we got some ferocious winds up at Big Mountain. We literally were holding down the tents so they would not blow away. Just what the runners needed on top of all the heat.

At 6:30 I headed down from Big Mountain and met the next couple that was taking the van from 7 7 a.m. I was sad to see my volunteer time come to an end, but my foot was sore. It was interesting, because the time I ended was right about when I would have started pacing.

I'm looking forward to going over to the finish line tomorrow and cheering on all these awesome runners one more time.

Race Volunteering – everyone should do it

After my blog post last week on what makes a good Race Director, my daughter suggested I write another post on volunteering at races. So – without further ado – here it is.

Race volunteers are critical. There are very few races that could actually be run without race volunteers and most of those are fat a$$ races or informal races. Race volunteers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are paid volunteers, some are paid volunteers (ie police blocking roads, police escorts, medical personnel), and some just get roped in along the way.

I started racing in 2004 and started volunteering in 2005. Some of the volunteer work is fun, some of it is inspiring, some of it is exhausting and some of it is disgusting – but it is all worthwhile. In fact, I wish it was a requirement that for every x number of races you participate in, you have to do y hours of volunteer work with races. I really applaud some of the trail races like Wasatch 100 where the participants have to do volunteer work on trails. Not only do they give back to the community, they have a better appreciation of the hard work that goes into creating and maintaining trails.

Some of the different volunteering duties I have done over the years include:

  • Stuffing race bags
  • Packet pickup
  • Manning a turn or turnaround to provide directions
  • Marking a course
  • Pickup up after a race
  • Handing out water and other drinks at an aid station
  • Cutting up and preparing food at an aid station
  • Cheering on runners along a course
  • Checking runners in/out of an aid station
  • Loading vehicles with drop bags
  • Laying out drop bags at an aid station
  • Running an aid station
  • Training volunteers
  • Sweeping a race (i.e. – being the last runner)
  • Pacing a race (i.e. –keeping runners on a set time limit for finishing)
  • Bus check-in
  • Racer check-in
  • Driving supplies around a course
  • Driving runners from the finish on a course to the start
  • Garbage detail (nothing better than a jeep full of overflowing bags with oozing chocolate milk and other suspicious liquids)
  • Manning an all night aid station (ok – being surrounded by lots of big scary buffalo in the middle of nowhere was pretty terrifying)
  • Portable toilet detail (must admit this was worse than garbage detail – a memory I will never forget)
  • Starting a race/pre-race instructions
  • Racer motivation
  • Anything else asked of me

As you can see – there are lots of opportunities. Still more for me to try and that is part of the fun.

Bonus points: Some Race Directors are kind enough to provide race entries and/or discounts for volunteering at their races.

Pacer bonus points: Free race entry into a race that you can do as a long run.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and volunteer!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

How to be a Good Race Director

Since 2004 I have participated in a lot of races as a runner, pacer and volunteer. Through that time, I have met a lot of good Race Directors, some not so good ones, and some that just don't think things through.

I've seen novice Race Directors like Jim Skaggs and Davy Crockett learn from experience from first races on. Usually, the good Race Directors find out quickly what doesn't work or what they forget and don't make those mistakes again. It is the Race Directors that don't learn from their mistakes that frustrate me.

Here are some suggestions on how to be a good Race Director (note: these are my opinions only):

  1. Be Consistent – you have no idea how frustrating it is when your website, pre-race emails, and Facebook page have different information on things like packet pickups, bus times, start times, cutoff times. People need to be able to trust that information and finding out it is changed or wrong just demoralizes participants.
  2. Be Clear – think ahead of all the information people want to know and provide an easy way for them to find this information. If you aren't sure what they might want to know – just google a few larger races and you can see what they have.
  3. Start On Time – no one wants to stand around for extra time because the buses didn't leave when planned or you don't have your timing people available or some other reason. People (and elites – from what I have heard) are geared up to start when you said you would start. So get it going on time!
  4. Mark the course clearly – put a few extra dollars in to put trail markers or road markers out to indicate turns or lack of turns. Even flour on the road or trail work well. No one likes being lost and confused.
  5. Prepare for all contingencies – maybe run or ride your course during the time of day when the runners will be out there. You can learn a lot about where you might be lacking in preparation.
  6. Train aid station volunteers – most of them are really wonderful – but they could also learn that when not visiting, they should be out past the aid station cleaning up the course. A simple laminated instruction sheet could cover this.
  7. Invest in correct measurement tools. It really frustrates runners when the mile markers are not consistent, some too long, some too short.

I am a back of the packer. I am naturally slow. I also tend to pace slower running groups. Here are some suggestions that are of particular concern to back of the packer's:

  1. IF the runners are not past the cutoff times, do not close down the aid stations! My first marathon I came upon aid stations that were shutting down and mentioned there were runners/walkers behind me.
  2. IF you have cutoff times, then you need to have a way to pull people off the course and transport them to the finish line. If you don't provide this method, then you need to keep supporting those runners out there.
  3. Spend enough money so that all participants can get the same aid station supplies. I can't count on both hands the number of races when they have been out of sports drink, food, gels, etc. for back of the packers. Hey! We are the ones who need this even more. We shouldn't be treated like second class citizens.
  4. See #3 and apply this to finish line food.
  5. Do not remove course markings until all participants have passed by them. If the course is shut down and you have officially pulled those runners, that is a different matter.
  6. Give a free entry to a sweeper (half marathons and beyond). Aid station volunteers can be very frustrated not knowing if anyone else will come through. A sweeper can come through and let them know all runners are safely past. Oh – it would be a good idea to give that sweeper a walkie talkie in case of injuries or illness of runners on the course.

I am truly grateful to those who make an effort to be a good Race Director. I'm not sure I have it in me to be one myself, but love volunteering and assisting with races in one way or another, so feel that I have some knowledge of how things can be improved.

To all the good Race Directors out there – thank you for all you do! Without you, we wouldn't have nearly the races that we currently have available.

Pacing the 2013 Layton Syracuse Marathon

Yesterday I paced the 2013 Layton Syracuse Marathon. I originally got an entry into this race by saving the Race Directors bacon at the Provo Moonlight Midnight Half Marathon. He gave me another free race entry after I also helped back of the pack runners survive snafus in the Legacy Moonlight Midnight Half Marathon. This latest race was two weeks after the Park City Marathon and Walter offered me a chance to pace the 6:30 cutoff, so figured it was a good reason to run slower than usual. I was concerned that I would overdo things and needed to have the legs to pace 22.5 miles of the Wasatch 100 the next Friday. (Found out later in the day yesterday that my racer chose to drop the race, so I didn't need to be concerned).

I had positive hopes for the race until the night before when I found out I was the only one of the pacers with correct race information since I was the only one officially entered in the race. This caused some consternation among the pacers and quick changes of plans.

Race morning had me up in Layton at 4 a.m. to pick up my race packet. Gosh – turns out they didn't even give me my actual race packet, just a t-shirt and bib. I would have liked one of the nice bags that other runners got.

Got my pacing band from Andy and Walter zoomed up right before we had to catch the last bus out with the pacing signs. There were only four of us pacing the marathon, so a smaller group than normal.

It was warm out on the island when the bus dropped us, so I took off my extra shirt and threw it in the drop truck and just hung out with my singlet on top. Spoke with Joe Coles the Race Director and e confirmed he wanted me to stay at 6:30 pace.

After the race started, I was alone at the back of the pack within a mile. Stayed on track with my pace band and just enjoyed the silence on the island. It was three or four miles until the sun came up enough to see much around me. The aid stations were well stocked and the volunteers were enthusiastic. Just past Frary Peak I saw about 100 or more buffalo on the left side of the road ranging all over the hill. Earl the buffalo nodded in passing.

Moved onto the causeway around mile 9. At mile 10 the sweep vehicles caught up to me. I asked them to call Joe and ask him if I should stay on pace or move up to the last racer – who was more than a mile ahead. They called in and told me to move up. It took about 8.5 miles, but I gradually closed the distance and caught up to Albert. At the point I caught up to him, he was pretty well walking his way in. It was a hot day and no shade, so we made sure to pour lots of water over us. I spent most of the day leap frogging the sweep vehicles and we started joking with each other.

Spent a couple of hours encouraging Albert. He had never run over 12 miles and was struggling. His back and hip were spasming and he had to quit trying to run at all. When I caught him we were 12 minutes ahead of 6:30 pace and the time kept slowing down. At the mile 23 aid station, I told him I had to move ahead to stay on pace and we said goodbye. Turned out not to be as long as I thought until I saw him again.

We passed an intersection about a half mile past that and I wondered if I should turn left there, but the race course had been well marked and there was no turn sign, so I kept running up Gentile Street. No 24 mile marker. I began to get concerned. About ¼ mile past before the next intersection I started questioning the course and turned back. Once I met up with Albert we started talking and turned around and tried to find someone to tell us which turn to take. No one knew. We finally brought up the Ellison Park on my phone and decided to turn around again and just make our way to the park. It was a hot day and we were really starting to get dehydrated. Even as we hit Ellison Park we saw no signs for the course, but saw the finish line and worked our way up to it. We ended up coming in backwards. My Garmin said 26.3 – so I was satisfied. The Race Director asked me what happened and we told him the course markers had been pulled. He apologized, we got our medals and I left.

At that point, there was water, oranges and some peanut butter sandwiches at the finish line. No sports drink? No other food?

I was relatively impressed with the organization prior to the 23 mile point, but my experience after that soured me on participating in On Hill Events again.

Oh – and I took 3rd in my age group, but because they were taking everything down, I didn't get know to get my age group reward and the web site says that you have to get them at the race or you are out of luck.

One day later and I am not really sore. I am still battling dehydration from those last miles in the sun without anything to drink.

Time to move on. Another finish on my list and more long runs down. Next up – Big Cottonwood Half Marathon and then St. George Marathon.