I wasn’t sure what kind of shape I was in going into the World Championships in Italy. My training wasn’t what I had planned leading up to race day. I had raced a lot in the fall and winter (Tunnel Hill 100 11/14, Desert Solstice 12/13, and Bandera 1/9…3 races in 2 months). I realized after Bandera I needed a break, but how much? After all, the World Championships, one of my two “A” races for the year, was only 3 months away. I decided to take 9 days off and then build back up easy—40 miles, 56 miles, 67 miles, 76 miles. Then, I had a down week planned (54 miles), followed by 3 big weeks (84, 90, 92). Most days I just ran as I felt, with no agenda. On occasion, I would have a bad run and wonder if I needed more rest. I typically run 5 days/week and lift on the other 2 days. Starting into the first of my big three mileage weeks, I had another crappy run. I started to doubt myself (am I overtrained? unrecovered? do I suck? am I losing it?). I was stressed with a lot of life stuff going on (work, kids, lots of extra meetings, conference calls, etc.) and not getting as much sleep as I needed/wanted. Plus, my husband had a week off and wanted to go the the Bahamas (I know poor me . But, as I am self-employed, I couldn’t afford to take the week off, nor did I want my therapy kiddos to miss treatments for another week when I knew I would be gone for 2 weeks in April with no one to cover my schedule.
So, during my 84-mile week preceding the Bahamas (I worked Monday-Thursday), I ran 50 of my miles on Friday/Saturday. I spent the rest of the Friday/Saturday getting caught up on work paperwork, packing to get out of town, and the usual family stuff. Then, I saw all of my 20 home health kiddos (LONG DAYS) in 2.25 days (Sunday/Monday/Tuesday), so we could leave and have the rest of the week in the Bahamas. By the time we left Tuesday at 12 noon, I felt run down and on the verge of illness. I decided to be brave and break from my planned runs of 90 miles that week. I was worried not to do it (I would only have 4 weeks above 75 miles in a 3 month period, which was less than my 2013 training), but knew I needed rest more than running. We enjoyed the trip, snorkeling, diving, and relaxing. I only ended up running 56 miles that week (34.2 of which was a 50k (I got lost for 3.2 miles) I did for fun in Florida on the way back). That adjustment of running lower mileage, was just what I needed. I got sleep, ran less, and recovered. I came back and ran 88 miles the next week, followed by weeks of 75, 54, 30, and 16 the week of the race. Most of the race week were touring runs where I averaged 10-12 min/mile due to stopping and taking pictures while we were in different European cities. On Wednesday, my husband Mike and I decided to run ALL THE WAY across the country of Monaco and back just to say we did.We ran a total of 6 miles from our hotel to France,then across Monaco and back to the hotel. We averaged 12:30’s and took about 15-20 pictures. It was leisurely and fun.
I got to Torino on Wednesday night to gather with the team. Only 3 of us were returning members from the last championship in 2013, so it was good to hang out and get to know everyone better. We ate out at a Chinese/Italian place…weird I know, but cheap and good. Many people were discussing their goals and plans for the race, which made me reflect on my goals. I had many goals as usual:
- Break the American Record of 152.030 miles
- Break 150 miles
- PR (more than 147.676 miles)
- Podium Individually (I was 4th in 2013 and really wanted to be up there)
- Be one of the top 3 scorers for the women so that my mileage mattered and aided our medal placement.
- Run Happy and Be Nice
On Thursday, 5 of us ladies ran the course (Connie was still en route). The course had a great surface (much better than the Netherlands-no cobblestone), a U-turn and an 18’ curved ramp that we would have to go up and down every 2,000 meters. I know that may not sound much to people who haven’t done a 24-hour race, but it adds up and feels like a mountain by the end of 24 hours.
Following our course preview, we had a team meeting with crewing information. I got just as choked up this year as in 2013, listening to Howard Nippert, our team leader, talk about the importance and privilege of wearing USA on our jersey. He talked about military serving their country, and although we weren’t protecting others freedoms, we, as athletes had the duty to do what we were chosen to do by making our country proud! It was quite stirring! He handed out bandanas which he had made each of us with a compartment that can be filled with ice and tied around our necks (he is selling these to help make money for the 24 Hour Team…). We discussed the rules for running, being aided, crewing, and the schedule for the weekend, etc.
After the meeting, Greg Hon, an Osteopathic Doctor working with Doc Lovey worked to stretch out a couple of tight areas that I had. I am soo impressed that Greg not only paid his way, but had to use vacation to come and help us. USATF doesn’t fully fund its MUT (Mountain Ultra Trail) athletes and helps partially fund 3 team members (Howard, Mike Spinnler, and Doc Lovey). Everyone else (Greg, Leah, Katie-all medical; Zane-organizing the aid station; Rich-helping Asst. Leader Spinnler, all pay their own way). This is a tremendous gift to us as runner that people are spending likely $1,000 or more to come to the World Championships, working hard, and taking time out of their lives to do it. I am truly grateful, as our success is only achieved with help from everyone!!
Thursday night, many of us returned to the Chinese/Italian restaurant and enjoyed some Pino Penguino gelato
On Friday, I slept in, got my bag/ultra stuff ready and kept off my feet as much as possible. Friday night, we got to participate in a parade at the stadium. The parade is one of the coolest things about the World Championship. All the athletes are present and dressed in matching uniforms with their countries flags. It was super cool to see everyone and visit with friends I had met in 2013. It was amazing to see so many familiar faces. I made arrangements with a few people to trade uniform pieces after the race, a tradition that I was too sick to participate in after the 2013 World Championships. Each country walked out on the track in front of a large crowd in the stadium. We gave small U.S. flags out to people in the stands. After all of the countries were presented, announcements were made, as well as entertainment (belly dancers and couple dancers).
After the parade, our team reconvened at the hotel for a group dinner. I got to bed at a fairly decent time and slept as usual. I slept ok, but with my usual weird dreams of not making it to the race on time, getting the race start time wrong, etc. We left the hotel at 8:30 a.m. to be there by 9 a.m. (10 a.m. start). I was talking in the van on the way to the race and found it funny and comforting that the dreams I had were a common dream topic for many. After I arrived at the stadium, I found my husband Mike who had already left at 7:00 a.m to help Zane set up the aid station. I gave him my bag of gear, phone, and got a zip tie for my chip. I checked in and went to the bathroom….normal race day stuff.
A little before 10 a.m. we all gathered at the start line and posed for pictures. I urged Aly and Katy ahead of me, knowing they would start more quickly. The gun went off and away we went. Sky, Aly, and Katy were up front, followed by Connie, Maggie, and I. I wanted to go out between 9:00 and 9:15 pace. We were out at about 8:55. I knew we should slow down, but it was an easy pace and of course if never seems bad in the beginning. Since, I was ahead of pace, I decided to walk the ramp from the very first lap. Maggie and I ran together for about 1-2 hours. Initially, the big screen monitor wasn’t working which was supposed to display our laps. I asked Howard to check and see if both Maggie and my chips were working. He assured us they were, but I was nervous and counting laps, not wanting there to be a mistake. Finally, around lap 7, the display was working and was correct. I don’t remember at what point Maggie and I separated, but I knew I should be with her and not speeding up.
I ended up at an 8:50 average according to my Garmin for way too long. I talked to people, enjoyed the course, and kept telling myself to slow down. I didn’t listen to myself. There were at least 20 women ahead of me in my estimation, but I didn’t care. Most of the USA men were behind the women at this point. I knew placement didn’t matter, and wasn’t affected by it, but just felt in a rhythm so I went with it. By 12 noon, just 2 hours into the race, it was hot. I wanted to stay ahead of the heat, so I asked for an ice bandana, which I wore for the next 5 hours or so. We were the only team that had ice. Howard had thought ahead and had the hotel stockpile ice for us for 2 days! HUGE Kudos to Howard. Ice is NOT a thing in Italy. They don’t sell ice, put it in drinks or use it in virtually anyway. They put fish on ice in the grocery store and use it in a hotel bar, but it is virtually nonexistent. I was thankful. It wasn’t that hot…maybe 70-ish?, but no one except Katy (from Florida) had run in much hot weather lately.
I remember Harvey coming by me, giving me tangent strategies for a point on the course where most runners, myself included, were not running the shortest way. It was helpful information which I greatly appreciated. Then, he asked me about my mileage on my Garmin, which was 48.86. He had 48.6 on his Garmin. He was concerned the board was wrong. At that point, we were on the same lap. When I came by my husband on the track, I told him that I needed to “slow the frick down.” Yet, I didn’t. I kept walking the ramp, and was listening to my iPod. I felt good, was taking my Hammer gels every 30 minutes like a champ, and drinking to my thirst. I started to get hungry earlier, maybe because of the heat, so I supplemented with some bananas here and there. At some point, I don’t remember when, my right calf was killing me. I stopped at the table and had Greg, the doctor work on it. Unfortunately, it didn’t help much. He tried to stretch it with active release techniques, but I had wished he had just elbowed it hard. I don’t know if that would have been better or not. I started to get stressed that I was wasting time, so I said I just needed to go. I figured it would quit hurting at some point, but it never really did.
Beep, my mile lap split went off on my Garmin. I hadn’t paid much attention to it except to check my pace so far. I wonder where I am at? I looked at it and was around 70 miles. Geez, why do I do this? This is miserable. Just get to 100 miles I thought. It took forever! I remember thinking that 81 laps was about 100 miles and I had a bunch of laps to go to get there. I wanted to get in a rhythm and not think about it, but just couldn’t. Usually, I don’t have problems until after 100 miles, but I was already pondering the logic of running 24 hours again. I kept thinking about the importance of running for Team USA, my goals, etc, but nothing was helping or motivating me. I was in a mental low and getting whiney about running. Yet, round I went.
I have no recollection of when I hit a 100 miles, how long the low lasted or when I finally got out of it. It was many hours of slogging and crap. I remember seeing Sky walking early on, as well as Isaiah. I also remember telling Maggie early on that despite the fact she was running 5th now, that her miles would likely count, as there is always more carnage up front. As time went on in the night, I knew that Aly was having issues and Connie was starting to as well. It ended up coming down to Katy, me, and Maggie. As for the guys, I later found out John Cash had a fever the night before and couldn’t breathe. He had been running well, but was starting to slow due to an illness that most wouldn’t even attempt to run with. Rich Riopel and Harvey were cruising well. Rich smiled the ENTIRE time! How can one be so happy I wondered in my low? I saw Oliver and Greg who were running well, but not always happy either. It all blends together in a sorted mess. The lights went out on the track for about an hour. I about did a face plant coming down the tunnel and back up onto the track in the dark. The stupid tunnel. God, I hated the tunnel. This would be a PR course if not for the stupid tunnel. I hated that tunnel. I’d run to the second #2 block, then walk and eat/drink up the ramp. As time went on, I ran until the #1, and then walked. Now there was a fire…pew…inhaling smoke…yuck. People were ALWAYS on Greg’s table…every time I would pass our tent it seemed like someone was on the table. Who was it and why I wondered…random thoughts. Get out of your funk I thought. I was intermittantly walking for 10 second breaks 2x/loop. Then, I started talking to Emily from Great Britain. I was struggling, but she was running well. I knew she had taken Bronze in Poland. I needed something to get me going. So I started talking to her. She was super nice and very interesting. And then, somehow it went…the low was gone. I was tired, my calf was still hurting, but boom…the low was gone. Back to happier running and singing along with my iPod.
OK. Focus. Still a blur of how things went. Maybe 6-8 hours to go. I asked Mike Spinnler where I was. He told me I was 4th female. I told him I didn’t want to be 4th and asked who was in front of me. He told me to look for bib 221. I became a hunter. It took my mind off of things to analyze race bibs. I knew the bibs were chronological in order of mileage bests. I discovered that it was a team in all blue…Croatia? I found 222…then after an hour, saw 221. She was ahead of me on the out and back and around the track, but I would track her down. Success! OK. Now who, Mike? Mike told me to hunt down 301. I knew from studying bibs that it was likely the top runner from Russia. So, again I hunted. It took me sometime, but I gained and gained on her until I was within ~100 meters on the track. I passed the Russian Federation tent, looking to see if she had stopped for aid. She had just sat down. I knew Katy was the only one left in front of me. She was running strong and staying 2 laps ahead…23-ish minutes ahead. I recall having about 3-4 hours to go. I was starting to list to the right from fatigue (probably from walking the freaking ramp). It pissed me off…the fact I was listing. I have only done that once in the past at the Dome. Why was I doing it now? My calf was painful to say the least, but did it cause me to lean? That crappy ramp? Was my back tired of leaning into it every 12 minutes or so? I need to work on strengthening my back when I get home so it doesn’t happen anymore. It is slowing me down. I want to go after Katy, but my back and calf are hurting. Where is everyone else? I decided to stop and see if Dr. Greg could help my back issue. I gave him 5 minutes. He wanted me to lay on my belly, but I didn’t want to lay down. He did the best he could…it helped A LOT for an hour or two. But with an hour and a half to go…my stupid back was getting worse again. The sun had now come up and I could see how bad I was listing to the right in my shadow. At this point, my focus became maintaining my 2nd place. In the Netherlands, I had gotten to bronze at one point, but couldn’t hold off Suzanna Bonn who had gotten an amazing second wind, overtaking me. I wanted to be on the podium! I started to make deals with myself. I knew if I kept a decent pace, I could hold everyone off. Listen to one song, then you can walk for 10 seconds or run to “x” point on the course and then you can walk for 10 seconds. Somehow, I managed to hold off the 3rd place girl from Sweden.
About 30 minutes to go, we had to start carrying a cone for partial laps. It was annoying to run carrying a cone as I was listing, but I knew we were almost done….just suck it up! Finally, the minute warning. I was back on the track. Horn again! Done! Dr. Greg was there for me, as was my husband Mike. I was tired and laid down. They put my feet up on my duffle bag. Don’t touch my calf. I was freaking out. My calf hurt INSANELY. Just to brush it sent me through the roof. I was afraid I had torn it. It was bruised in 2 places already, as was a spot on my left quad. We stayed there until my partial distance was measured. I tried to get up, but was getting nauseous. Greg and Mike carried me to the pole vault mat, where I laid down and waited to hear if I was needed for drug testing. I thought I would be ok, but ended up puking once. Not great, but not the worst I have been. I felt crappy and great all at the same time. I knew we woman had secured GOLD as a team for the 3rd World Championship in a row and I would be on the podium with an individual SILVER!
The course was tough, but I managed to PR (148.9675 miles) by a little over a mile and accomplish a couple of goals (Goals 3, 4, 5, and partially #6). Overall I am happy with my performance, but think I should have stuck to my plan a little more…when will I learn? I am not sure. I am still learning things. I am still fairly new to ultrarunning. Every race teaches us something new. Learn from it and make adjustments for the future.
I want to thank all of the USA Team staff: Howard Nippert, Team Leader extraordinaire, Mike Spinnler for the information of who to hunt, Greg, Doc Lovey, Leah, and Katie for helping me at various times including all those yummy pinches of magic-bhelh! I want to thank my teammates who all spurred me on at one time or another. Mostly, I want to thank my husband for putting up with me during the race, carrying my bags before the race so that I wouldn’t injure myself and after the race because I had injured myself . Also, thank you Mike for the crewing that continued after the race as you physically helped me get around on our vacation with my dorked up calf. Thanks for helping me put my socks on for several days. It’s funny how you can run almost a 150 miles one day, but then can’t walk a 30 min/mile or get dressed by yourself the next day Good times!
Thanks to Altra for sending me some freaking awesome Torin 2.0’s. It was the first time that I have worn a single pair of shoes for one 24-Hour. Thanks to Hammer for the great nutrition. I never had belly issues until I started adding in Coke for caffeine and started getting liquid diarrhea with about 4 hours to go. I know sugar bothers me, but didn’t put 2+2 together. I will do diet mountain dew in the future for caffeine and not sugar. Thanks to Running Skirts whose skirt I chopped up and wore under my Nike skirt to ensure no chafing. My Running Skirt was a lifesaver and enabled me to carry wipes and personal things. Thanks Simple Hydration for the great bottles! Thanks Drymax for the socks. This was also the first time that I only wore one pair of socks for the entire 24!
By Altra Co-Founder Jeremy Howlett
Originally posted on jeremyhowlett.com
I have now run a few ultra marathon events myself and they are not easy work. An ultra marathon is a race that is anything longer than a traditional 26.2 mile marathon. The most popular race distances for an ultra are 50k, 50m, 100k and 100 miles. There is a lot of planning, preparation and effort that goes into racing a successful ultra marathon. To accomplish this in a timely fashion you have aid stations every 5-8 miles, carry fuel in between and often have a crew and/or pacer to assist you with your gear and race.
Me with Les at the Bryce 100
Crewing an ultra is a challenge in and of itself. Yes, it is not running 31, 50, 62 or even 100 miles, but it is staying sane, schlepping gear and driving around for anywhere from 4 – 26 hours or even longer possibly depending on distance, athletic fitness level and mental fortitude. I do not compare my effort to that of the runner that is out sweating it for hours. There is a certain amount of effort that goes into crewing though. Often the crew is stuck in traffic or bouncing between one aid station and another without all the amazing scenic views of the trail along the way.
The race sidelines often look like this as dad is in charge of keeping an eye on the cheering crew
One of the great challenges of crewing an ultra is the lack of sleep. Staying up to be at every possible crew point can be a challenge. Often you are up early to help your runner get to the starting line then you are waiting at each aid station/crew access point to be sure that your runner has what they need. I have now crewed my wife through two separate 100 mile races. I did not really sleep through either one. There is a constant fear of missing her in a crew point or more critically the finish line. I must stay up to be there for her wherever she may come through.
It is my job to be sure that every piece of equipment is ready as my runner comes through the aid station. This is going through her drop bag to get out new socks, gels, fuel pack, filling up water and prepping food for her to eat in the aid station. When I run an ultra I am fine to take time in an aid station. That is my time to take a minute to rest, get fueled, enjoy the junk food off of the table and take a moment before I get going again. However, when crewing an elite runner they do not want to stay in an aid station. It is mostly a through stop, so I must have everything ready for her to grab and go. A quick aid station is key to keep moving and keeping momentum and position.
I must be thick skinned. Its a good thing that we have a strong marriage! I understand that when she is racing I am going to get yelled at. At times this can be hard, but I am able to be patient and understanding knowing that she is enduring great challenges and can be very emotional. It is important that I am emotionally tough enough to deal with her yelling at me right after I offer encouragement and good vibes. It takes a certain ability to deal with emotional ups and downs.
I love my wife and grateful that I get to crew and support her. He we are at the finish line of the Tri States Marathon.
The last and probably the biggest challenge of crewing an ultra is wanting and wishing success as hard as she does. Sitting in an aid station and waiting for my wife to come through can be one of the hardest things to deal with in crewing an ultra. Ever since she was doing triathlons and we would wait at transitions we have dealt with this. When will she be coming through? She works to give us estimated times, but too often we hold her strictly to those times. If she is a little off the time there is a bit of panic that goes off inside me. As I watch her fall out of place where I expect that she should be then I really get worked up. I just want to wish her through at a given time. I want her to win every time. I want her to hit her goals. It is hard emotionally to deal with it when she falls short, especially when her goals would’ve gotten her into the place or goal that she needed to reach. It can be a challenge emotionally and physically to crew an athlete, especially when it is my wife.
I will never give up on supporting her and hope to crew her to many more successes and goal achievements. I am glad that she chooses me as her crew chief. As you can see in the lead image, we even get to spend special occasions together at races. Last year at the Run Rabbit Run 100 she had a bottle of Martinellis at one of the aid stations to celebrate our 12th anniversary together amidst her run. I love my wife and am grateful to be a part of her crazy passion. I love the ultra community and being around it. It is a blast to bask in the success of these very qualified endurance athletes.
By Altra Athlete Jen Puzey
February 14. To most couples the events of this day are a given. Guy has flowers delivered to his sweetheart at work and picks up gourmet chocolates on his way home. Girl presents a thoughtful card to guy and dresses up for a romantic dinner out. The couple spends the evening basking in each other’s love and adoration.
My husband and I aren’t “most couples”.
We have two kids, four jobs, and spend the majority of our discretionary time running, thinking about running, or planning for the next run.
February 14 marks the night before his Ultramarathon racing season begins. The only flowers that will be part of the occasion are those we may view from the window of our car as we drive four hours after a full day of work to the start of his race. Though chocolate and romantic dinners sound appetizing, he and the kids will likely select a Grocery Outlet bargain we can eat that night on the drive down. The romantic evening talk will consist of a few hours of race course explanation—he’ll study the maps and locate the crew access points as I take notes regarding what liquids and gels to give him at each particular spot. And this isn’t just a one-time occurrence. This is our family’s routine for most weekends throughout the year.
That’s because when my husband isn’t racing, I am. In subsequent weekends the roles will reverse. We’ll pack up the kids, drive to my course, and feast on my meals of choice—most likely cold soup from a can because it’s easier to down that than to unload two sleepy children from the car. The morning of the race he’ll feed the baby, yell my splits, and manage to cover the entire course on foot as I compete. He’ll spend the weeks prior designing my training, discussing my diet, and minimizing his mileage to compensate for mine. And almost every late night conversation will center on my goals and how he can help me achieve them.
Exhausting? Yes. Obsessive? Some may say so. Worth it? Absolutely.
We have often been asked how we make it work when both of us are training at a high level, traveling and competing in opposite events, coaching teams and clients on the side, and raising two young children. Doesn’t someone have to give up the dream to support the other? Don’t the children suffer?
No. Not at all. Absolutely not.
Because our running is so important to us individually, it becomes important to us collectively as a couple and as a family. My husband coaches me because he knows me as a runner better than anyone else could. The kids and I crew for him because he can tell us exactly what he needs at each checkpoint and we’ll make it through rain, mud, and baby feeding times to be there. Our children get to grow up seeing two parents extremely devoted to doing what they love and rather than feeling neglected, they get to be a huge part of it.
We’ve made the commitment to shuffle our training and racing schedules so that our kids are almost always with at least one of us. When we aren’t the parent training or competing, we get to be the parent teaching, playing, and nurturing. And while often this is more exhausting than a workout, we cherish this time with our kids and love that in supporting both them and each other, they witness and learn what it means to be a part of a giving family. We believe this teaches more than any discipline, child rearing practice, or guilt-induced decision to forgo our dreams for the sake of the kids ever could.
I imagine Adam and Kara Goucher, Ben and Stephanie Bruce, Ryan and Sara Hall,Lauren Fleshman and Jesse Thomas, and countless other running couples have been asked the same question—how does it work when both are so intensely committed to the sport? Though nowhere near the ranks of these elites, my husband and I often consider the opposite question–how on earth could we make this work if we WEREN’T both so committed to the sport? I consider the dedication (and borderline obsession) we have to running to be one of the biggest contributors to our marital success. I don’t think we could make it in running (or romance!) if we DIDN’T share the same level of commitment to our athletic aspirations. I don’t think it an irony that many successful runners are married to equally successful runners. Though not a criteria for a successful marriage, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a partner who understands the need to get in ten more miles this week, head to bed early on the weekends, or spend this year’s bonus on a road trip to one last qualifying race.
Photo: Paul Nelson
It helps to live with someone who wants to eat as healthfully as you do, tells you its ok to hang out in running clothes all day, and expects you to be irritable after a disappointing workout. It’s reassuring being with someone who lets you moan over a nagging injury, sends you love letters in the form of race reports, and talks splits and strategy like most people talk about TV shows. And in my experience it’s crucial to have someone who understands the devastation of second place, whose first question of the day is “How did your run go?”, and who can legitimately convince you that you are race ready because he knows you and the competition better than you do.
So on February 14 and throughout the year it’s a given that my husband won’t say I love you with flowers. He’ll suggest new running shoes because he knows when mine are worn out before I do. He won’t say it with fancy dinners. He’ll bring home my favorite Clif Bars just because I might want one after tomorrow’s run. The most romantic words he ever says are before my Saturday morning long runs—“Don’t hurry back. This is your most important run of the week. Take as long as you need.”
Sure, balancing our training and racing schedules is hard–REALLY hard. Some races have to be forgone and on rare days one of us just doesn’t get to run. Some workouts seem wasted because we’re pushing a jogging stroller or fitting it in on a lunch break or before our son’s soccer game. Some nights we have had enough of running for the day that we have to consciously decide to talk about anything other than tomorrow’s workout. But tomorrow always comes and it’s a return to what we know and love.
It’s February 15 and he thanks me and the kids for being out on the race course for five hours in the freezing rain. Our baby sleeps soundly in the backseat and our seven-year-old still proudly clings to his dad’s latest trophy. Four hours of driving back home ahead of us and my husband’s first question isn’t what I thought about his latest course record. It’s about what he can do to help me get ready for my race.
And that is worth more than a box of chocolates.
By Damian Stoy
I use to suffer from many chronic running injuries and had several doctors and physical therapists tell me:
“Give up running.” “Running is bad for you.” “You aren’t designed to run.”
I sure am glad I didn’t listen to them. Since then, I have run over 30 ultra marathons and even won 8 of them.
But a much greater accomplishment is the fact that I have been injury-free for the past 10 years. Yep, not a single major running injury in over 10 years even as a competitive ultra runner. Sure, I have minor tweaks and pain after running 100 miles in the mountains. But I do specific things that prevent serious injury which would cause me to go back to the days when I was injured and couldn’t run. I never want to go back to those dark days.
Shin splints, runner’s knee, IT band pain, muscle strains and foot pain were just some of the injuries I use to suffer from. Worst of all, I had patellar tendonitis in both knees for two years when I was in college. I was in pain all the time and some days I could barely walk. I went to some of the best doctors and physical therapists in New England and nothing seemed to help so I gave up running completely.
Two years of not running led to depression and a decline in health. I decided there had to be a solution, a better way. I did some research, read lots of books and found out that if I modified and practiced my running technique, I could maybe run again. It sounded unbelievable and I was very skeptical. But I went out and modified my running technique, running for the first time in over 2 years. To my surprise I was able to run with minimal pain. As the days went past, I was able to run more and more with less and less pain. I was hooked.
That was over 10 years ago and since then I have learned extensively about how to run injury-free as well as increase performance. I have experimented with many concepts and lots of trial and error. Now being a competitive ultra runner and injury-free for over 10 years, I have found what what works really well for me and my passion is sharing it with others.
My top tips for injury-free running and greater performance:
1. Listen to your body
Yes, I have minor tweaks and pains when I train and after 50 or 100 mile races. The important thing is to not let these become injuries that stop you from running. The key is listening to your body. Do NOT ignore these pains. They are a signal from your body that you need to back off, rest or correct something such as your running technique. Do not be afraid to take a couple days or more completely off.
2. Improve your running technique
The major factor that allowed me to overcome chronic injuries was modifying my running technique. In the past I was inefficient and ran with a high impact technique that beat up my body, though at the time I did not know. For you to correctly modify your technique, do lots of your own research and try different concepts. I highly recommend seeking out a technique specialist to help you with your technique. At a minimum, video yourself running so you can see exactly how you run. Too many runners tell me they don’t heel strike, don’t have imbalances or misalignment issues but most often they do.
I highly recommend seeking out a running technique specialist such as myself (not just a shoe store employee or even a physical therapist). Altra’s Run Better page can get you started on technique tips. But remember, a specialist is the best way to truly improve your technique.
3. Improve your nutrition
What I eat greatly enhances my overall health, keeps my energy levels very high and helps me to recover incredibly fast. Again, the key is listening to your body and finding out what works best for you. I have tried just about everything out there and the ‘diet’ that works best for ME for performance, recovery and increased energy is a whole foods, plant-based diet (WFPB).
A great place to get started for those interested in a WFPB is Forks Over Knives. I also recommend seeking out a nutritional coach like Lindsey at Wholicious Living who can get you great results and is an elite runner (she’s also my girlfriend, in the picture above).
4. Train smarter, not harder
I am a firm believer in quality over quantity. Training with this philosophy can prevent burn out, decrease injuries and running will be more enjoyable. You will also be more likely to reach your long term goals. Every run you do should have a purpose. Get rid of the junk miles that do not serve a purpose. Cyclic and periodization training are very valuable for reaching long term goals.
There are many good training programs out there. However, most do not focus on injury prevention. I highly recommend looking for a running coach (like myself of course) that specifically focuses on injury prevention as well as performance.
5. Other important factors
Cross training and runner specific strength training are beneficial but in my opinion NOT as important as the factors I discuss above. Your foundation should be overall health, an efficient technique and proper training. Strength and cross training will build upon your foundation but too many runners rely on them exclusively for injury prevention. Watch this video for 8 exercises that can be beneficial for runners.
I am also an advocate of sports massage, yoga, physical therapy and other techniques to help enhance recovery and overall health. But again, do NOT rely exclusively on these for injury-prevention.
I hope these tips help you run happier, healthier and injury-free. Please feel free to ask me any questions by emailing me here . Also, if this blog was helpful, please share it and ‘like’ my Wholistic Running Facebook page for more tips.
Damian Stoy is a running coach, biomechanics specialist, nutritional consultant and founder of Wholistic Running. He offers online coaching, workshops, private lessons and nutritional consultations for runners all around the world.
The holidays have arrived, and chances are you may still be looking for creative gifts for the runner in your life. We’ve gathered a list and checked it twice, we even asked our Ambassadors what gifts would be nice! Here are our favorite gift picks for runners:
1. The Homemade Gift: This idea comes from Ambassador Ras Vaughan: Get a thumb drive (or create a podcast playlist) and upload lots of running/trail/ultra/hiking/adventure podcasts, they’re especially great for long runs. We like these: UltraRunner Podcast, Another Mother Runner Radio, Runner Academy
2. Happy Feet: The gift that keeps on giving? New shoes! May we suggest the One² for your road runner, and the Superior 2.0 for the trail junkies.
3: Warm Clothing: Anything wool, socks, compression gear and running tights are all in high demand for the cold weather. Here are our picks:
Altra Compression Socks
Gore Running Tights
Anything from Smartwool
4. Tech Gear: One Word: Headlamp. It gets dark earlier in the winter, so for those long outdoor runs a good headlamp is an invaluable piece of equipment! Go for Petzl’s TIKKA® RXP
5. Massages: Foam Rollers and Massage Certificates are the perfect feel-good gift. Check out Trigger Point’s GRID Roller
6. The Stocking Stuffer: Nutrition Goodies. For marathoners and trail runners alike, there are a lot of nutrition options out there! Get sample sizes of a few different options of gels, bars, gummies, drinks, etc. Your runner can mix and match to their hearts content! Our favorite picks include: Vfuel Tailwind Gu Justin’s Nut Butter
7. The Fan Favorite: The most requested gift on our Ambassador’s lists? Coaching!
What’s on your holiday wish list? Comment below and tell us!
The Superior 2.0 is built for a rocky relationship. Start clawing your way to the top November 26th.
Tough trails call for a tough tread. The new Superior 2.0 features an impressive TrailClaw™ outsole and StoneGuard™ rock protection system designed to help you tackle the toughest terrain. The FootShape™ toe box lets your relax and spread out naturally in uphill and downhill conditions.
- GAITER TRAP™
- ZERO DROP™
Available online November 26th.
Take your everyday adventures to new heights and comfort with the Instinct Everyday.
Using the original Instinct midsole and outsole, the Instinct Everyday™ dresses up the fit and feel you love. Enjoy the comfort, stability and injury-reducing benefits of a cushioned-Zero Drop™ platform and FootShape™ toe box whether you’re at the office or exploring on vacation.
By Altra Athlete Jacob Puzey
When it comes to race day nutrition just keep it simple.
If your race is less than 90 minutes, you probably don’t need to eat on the run. If it is hot and/or humid you can drink some water or electrolyte drink along the course, but proper training, a balanced breakfast a few hours before the start, and regular hydration leading up to the event should get you through a 15 to 90 minute run or race without the need for additional aid.
After 90 minutes of continuous aerobic activity, your body runs out of glycogen stores (carbohydrates – sugars & starches) and starts relying on available fat and protein to fuel itself. The reason people hit the wall or bonk between 90 and 120 minutes into an aerobic effort is because they have run out of glycogen (sugars & starches) and/or electrolytes (salt, potassium, etc.). The body is trying, but not as efficient at using fats and proteins as its primary fuel source. Essentially, the body is feeding off itself which is why it doesn’t feel good and why your ability to perform diminishes.
Carbohydrates consist of simple sugars and complex starches which basically means that one digests faster than the other. Common sources of sugar while on the run are non-diet electrolyte drinks (sugar-free options defeat the purpose and will inevitably lead to an epic bonk), fruit (bananas, oranges, watermelon), gels, honey, chews, blocks, chomps, gummy bears, hard candy, etc. Sugar sources vary from fructose, to sucrose, glucose/dextrose, and maltodextrin, but many pre-packaged products and mixes include a combination of a variety of sugars.
Common sources of starches while on the run are potatoes, potato chips, breads, bananas (both starches and sugars), and granola bars, etc. Some people pre-make rice balls and other light, starchy items like oatmeal cookies or homemade energy bars to fuel their runs, but such items are not always found at aid stations.
In addition to carbohydrates, electrolytes play an essential role in your body’s performance. The combination and concentration of electrolytes vary from product to product, but one essential electrolyte that works as the spark plug to keep your muscles firing is sodium (i.e. salt). Some companies claim that we already have enough salt in our diets and that we don’t need to add extra salt while exercising, but if you’ve ever found yourself cramping up in your calf or hamstring and seen how almost instantaneously the consumption of salt eliminated the cramp, it’s pretty hard to argue with its efficacy. Common electrolyte sources while on the run can be found in electrolyte drinks, gels, salt caps, and broth. Some races may have potatoes with salt and salty potato chips on course as well.
I have found that the longer the race, the more I need to focus on nutrition early on. When the race is less than 2:00 I typically stick to water and possibly the electrolyte drink on course. If the race is between 2:00 and 3:00 I might add a salt cap or a gel or two. When the race is longer than 3:00, it typically means I will be carrying at least some of my fuel with me, so I focus on sipping an electrolyte drink every 15 minutes, and consuming 200 calories every 30 minutes, and taking a salt cap every hour.
The races in which I have been meticulous about nutrition are the ones in which I have raced the best, particularly in the second half. On the other hand, when I have allowed myself to get caught up in a race too early and neglected regular nutrition, I haven’t had anything left toward the end of the race.
(Photo Credit: Deborah Booker Honololulu Advertiser) (Photo Credit: Animal Athletics)
The pictures above show the difference in performance between fueling poorly and fueling adequately. In the one on the left, as a newbie marathoner, I felt strong through the first two hours, but I didn’t start fueling until my body started telling me it needed it (about mile 22). My hamstring locked up going over the final climb and the last few miles were a death march. Conversely, the picture on the right shows the finish of a 40 mile trail race. After over four hours and 40 miles of regular fueling, I felt good enough to sprint the last 400m around the track and leap over a hurdle that obstructed my way to the finish.
When I run a marathon or shorter, I like to eat something light like oatmeal, toast or granola bars with nut butter, with a banana and orange juice three to four hours before I race. When the race is early enough that I won’t naturally be up hours before the race, I usually bypass a fibrous breakfast, opt for more sleep, and down a tube of Trail Butter on my way to the start.
In races beyond 3:00, I aim to sip an electrolyte drink at least every 15 minutes. If it’s hot outside I will do it naturally, but sometimes when it’s cool I need a reminder so I am that annoying guy with a timer on his watch that sounds every 15 minutes. Lately, I’ve been using a First Endurance prototype cucumber flavored EFS drink which has more electrolytes than any other drink on the market and isn’t overly sweet. I also try to down a flask (400 calories) of First Endurance EFS Liquid Shot every 60 to 90 minutes. I use the timer on my watch to remind me when to nurse the flask. I also take one Salt Stick cap per hour to assure I’m getting what I need. If I feel my muscles cramping up or buckling, I increase my salt intake. If I enter an aid station and something looks good I eat it. While I wouldn’t recommend most race foods as part of a regular diet, the reason they work so well during long races is that the nutrients are so refined that they get right into your blood stream, notifying your liver, brain, and muscles that you can keep going at a fast clip because you have enough fuel to get you to the next aid station.
Post-Race nutrition is equally important to long-term success. Post-race refreshments vary, but soup is rather common and it helps me warm up while settling my stomach. Many longer races serve some sort of post-race protein in the form of burritos, quesadillas, burgers, or sandwiches. Regardless of your diet, get some protein in within 30 minutes after your race. This will aid in muscle repair and will decrease the amount of time off post-race. I typically mix up a quart of Ultragen that I sip on after the race to begin repairing muscles as a decide what else to eat.
In addition to protein, be sure to hydrate. Water is always good, but if your stomach is struggling to digest the water, I suggest carbonated water or ginger ale until your stomach settles down.
Practice fueling before the race
Like most things in life, race day nutrition is a very individual thing. It requires practice in training and racing and the willingness to experiment to find what works best for you. My advice – keep it simple. Find the combination of sugars, starches, and salts that works best for you.
Jacob Puzey is a professional runner & USATF certified coach for McMillan Running Company residing in Flagstaff, Arizona. To learn more about training and racing, check out the other articles Jacob has written on his personal blog www.jacobpuzey.com. To begin working with Jacob as a coach visit McMillan Running Company and sign up for personal coaching.
By Athlete Nick Clark
Less Could be More: How Much to Eat During an Ultramarathon?
Figuring out the nutritional side of ultramarathoning has been an ongoing enigma for me over the years, as it is and has been for many others in the sport. When I first started competing in long distance running events, the conventional wisdom that was passed down to me was that one should attempt to consume at least 200-300 calories per hour in order to maintain a decent level of performance.
“Eat early, eat often,” was always the mantra.
Personally, I’ve always struggled to get that much in and have run through many races over the years on much less, usually after trying to cram calories early when my stomach feels fine and then suffering later in the race with nausea.
But my gut’s ability to digest calories while running hard in the latter stages of, say, a 100-mile race has really headed south over the last couple of years. Prior to my most recent 100-miler in September, in beautiful Steamboat Springs, CO, I had emptied the contents of my stomach at least once in the last four attempts at the distance. At Leadville and Wasatch in 2013 I still managed to pull off a podium finish and a win, but at Mount Fuji and then Western States this year the nausea cost me hours and I was thoroughly disappointed with both results.
So much so in fact that I was seriously considering giving up on the 100-mile distance, where I typically perform the most competitively, in favor of much less racing and much more exploring. I still maintain that desire to use my fitness and talents to explore more on foot and focus less on racing, but my joy in the 100-mile distance was rekindled enough at Steamboat that I’m now looking forward to competing in future events, even if more selectively.
The turnaround came as a result of a serious rethinking of my nutrition strategy. The first rule of the new fueling plan was to teach and convince myself that nausea late in races didn’t have to be inevitable. Working closely with local dietician and accomplished ultrarunner Abby McQueeney Penamonte I was able to develop an in-race fueling strategy based on metabolic testing.
After a half hour treadmill test conducted at 100-mile effort, we were able to ascertain a caloric range for what my in-race fueling needs were likely to be. Considerably less than the 200 – 300 calories per hour I’d been trying to cram down my throat in previous races, as it turns out. The results suggested that I burn fat efficiently and as such don’t need much more than 100 calories an hour to maintain respectable energy levels while performing at 100-mile effort.
That’s the equivalent of one gel an hour. Conventional ultrarunning wisdom says to get one of those puppies in every 20 to 30 minutes. For my fueling needs at Steamboat, I used a starch-based carbohydrate product diluted in water, rather than of gels. The taste of the product I was using was fairly benign – far from the sickly sweetness of most gels – with one bottle being equal to about 80 calories.
The other part of the puzzle of the nutrition strategy was to keep effort levels firmly under control. There is a direct correlation between effort level and the amount of blood that is getting to your gut to aid in processing fuel. My gut apparently is more sensitive to effort levels than might be the case for runners less likely to lose their lunch over the course of a long race, so I definitely feel like I have to err on the side of ‘less is more.’
After a fat- and protein-based breakfast of bacon and eggs two hours before the race, I held off on consuming until I was two hours into the race. From there, I pretty much kept things at one bottle – or 80 calories – an hour on the liquid fuel I was using, supplemented by additional water in a second bottle and occasional shots of coke or small bowls of ramen.
The seven hour mark, give or take an hour or two, has traditionally been the tipping point for my stomach in long races (making the 50-mile distance so appealing); the point where nausea typically starts kicking in. Seven hours and 40 miles into Steamboat and my gut was still in great shape, although it must be said that my energy levels were just respectable and not through the roof.
I did end up suffering through a one-hour bout of nausea in the middle of the night after eating too much ramen at an aid station, but was able to turn it around after dropping the effort and staying focused. At the toasty Summit Lake aid station, some 85 miles into the race I was back to consuming and able to maintain a decent clip into the finish, good for fifth overall against a tough field.
By no means was this a perfect race for me, but it was something of a revelation to buck the puking trend of my previous four races. There is tweaking to be done for sure, but I now feel good about the baseline nutrition plan, and look forward to refining it further, perhaps pushing the target to 120 calories per hour to offer the furnace that little extra bit of fuel to burn without overdoing it and losing my gut.
If you’ve suffered through repeated nausea issues during endurance events, give some thought to the amount of calories you are trying to get in and perhaps look to cut it back. Figuring out the balance between caloric intake and your stomach’s ability to process those calories is likely a multi-race proposition but hopefully one that leads to a future of nausea-free racing.
To see Nick’s full Steamboat 100 report and other nuggets related to training and competing in long-distance running events, check out his blog: www.irunmountains.blogspot.com
What a year it was. In 2010 I set out to raise funds and awareness for a local non profit called in Our Own Quiet way. Along the way I ended up breaking the world record for the most 70.3 (half Ironman) triathlons completed in one year. I completed 22 events in 30 weeks landing me in the Guinness book of world records for the first time. The year was a success and we ended up building a few Dam in Africa which will affect the lives of the people there for generations.
My journey continued in 2012 with a new World record attempt but this time in the Full Triathlon distance more commonly known as The Ironman – a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 marathon run. I knew 30 official events in 2012 through 11 countries would be a huge task to complete. I had so many high and lows on the year but the highs way over shadowed the lows. My journey started in January with a win in Naples Florida and concluded with a celebration race at the HITS Championships in Palm Springs California. My journey took me around the world where I got to experience many new people and cultures. I went through Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, Germany, Austria, France, Switzerland, Canada, Mexico and the United States.
A few of my highlights had to be biking and running in the Pyrenees in France and also having the opportunity to pull a boy named Dayton with Cerebral Palsy through an Ironman in Lake Havasu Arizona on my 27th Ironman event of the year. I will cherish this experience for as long a I live. Thank you Dayton for letting me be apart of your day.
Altra shoes saw and supported my vision from day one and all 30 Ironman races were raced in Altra shoes. Although the goal was to just cross 30 finish lines, I managed two Iron Distance victories and 5 second place finishes. When I started this journey I was told “No way you can do this” and “You will get injured”. Well I am happy to announce that I did do it and that I never got injured. One of my biggest fears at the start was a small foot injury or stress fracture which would have halted my journey and ultimately would have ended the quest for my second world record. No foot foot injuries… no foot pain…. no blisters. Pure genius – Thank you Altra!
James Lawrence – aka the IronCowboy
Jan 8, 2012 – HITS Naples (1st overall)
Feb 19, 2012 – HITS Corpus Christi (2nd overall)
Mar 3, 2012 – Ironman New Zealand (changed to 70.3)
Mar 25, 2012 – Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship
Apr 15, 2012 – HITS Napa Valley (2nd overall)
Mar 25, 2012 – Ironman South Africa
Apr 29, 2012 – HITS Marble Falls
May 5, 2012 – Ironman St. George
May 19, 2012 – Ironman Texas
May 27, 2012 – Ironman Brazil
Jun 10, 2012 – HITS Hunter Mtn (2nd overall)
Jun 17, 2012 – Ironman Regensburg
Jun 24, 2012 – Ironman Coeur d’Alene
Jul 1, 2012 – Ironman Austria
Jul 7, 2012 – Altriman France
Jul 15, 2012 – Ironman Switzerland
Jul 22, 2012 – Ironman Lake Placid
Jul 29, 2012 – HITS Sterling (2nd overall)
Aug 11, 2012 – Ironman U.S. Championship
Aug 19, 2012 – Ironman Mont-Tremblant
Aug 26, 2012 – Ironman Louisville
Sep 1, 2012 – The Canadian
Sep 9, 2012 – Rev3 Cedar Point
Sep 15, 2012 – The Grand Columbian (first place)
Sep 23, 2012 – HITS Hunter Mtn (top 10)
Oct 20, 2012 – The Great Floridian (top 10)
Nov 3, 2012 – Ironman Florida
Nov 11, 2012 – HITS Lake Havasu – pull cerabal palsy (Dayton)
Nov 18, 2012 – Ironman Arizona
Nov 25, 2012 – Iornman Cozumel
Dec 2, 2012 – HITS National Championships Palm Springs
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