There are #ZeroLimits to hard work.
“The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win.”
– Roger Bannister
There are #ZeroLimits to hard work.
“The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win.”
– Roger Bannister
The World of Mountain Running
This Saturday, September 19th, 2015 the best mountain runners from over 30 countries will compete at the annual World Mountain Running Championships in Snowdonia, North Wales. This is the 31st running of the race, which is hosted in a different country each year. While the sport is very well established and popular in Europe, the knowledge and opportunities to compete are still increasing throughout North America. Here is what you need to know about the niche sport of mountain running and the upcoming championships with some insight from Altra Endurance Team Athlete, Calum Neff.
Mountain running, just as the name implies, are races hosted on mountain trails around the world with significant climbing and descending, which is where the sport can differentiate from traditional trail races. Distances can be as short as a few kilometers, typically called Vertical Kilometers (VK’s) or as long as 100 miles or more.
The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), the governing body of athletics from track and field, to race walking, and cross country also governs the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA). Each year, the WMRA oversees the World Mountain Running Championships (WMRC), the Long Distance World Mountain Running Championships, and the Mountain Running World Cup which includes regulating course requirements, athlete qualification standards, and anti-doping.
Mountain Running Course Format & Regulations
The WMRA organizes an annual world championship race hosted by different countries each year selected through a bidding process. The race format alternates between “mainly uphill” during even numbered years and an “up & down” race format during odd number years. There are a number of requirements each course must meet, for instance a maximum of 20% of the course can occur on roads.
The approximate distance, ascent, and descent requirements for each championship race are as follows:
Athlete Selection & Team Competition
Each countries governing body of athletics and their division (America is governed by USATF’s Mountain, Ultra, Trail team) is responsible for hosting an annual selection race and setting standards for athletes to make their national team. Typically a national meet will match the format of the upcoming world championships and the top finishers will be selected with room for additions based on previous experience and recent race results. While running is an individual sport and to be a world champion is top honors, at World’s the nations compete for points in a team competition. The top four placing’s for men and three for women from each country are tallied together for each race, the lowest score wins. As example, if a country were to go 1st thru 4th (as Uganda did in 2013) they would obtain the lowest possible team score of 10 points.
WMRC Snowdonia, Wales 2015
The race format this year in Wales is up and down and will consist of three laps for the senior men and two laps for the women of a 4.2 kilometer (2.61 mile) loop with 239 meters (784 feet) of ascending and descending per lap. The race starts in the town of Betws-Y-Coed taking the athletes out of the streets and onto steep ascending single track over the rocky terrain of Snowdonia National Park. During the climb, even the top athletes will struggle to maintain running form with most resorting to more of a power-hiking style averaging 12 minutes per mile or slower due to the grade. Once reaching the top of the climb, competitors are rewarded with a beautiful lakeshore trail run before starting what most consider the hardest part, the descent. Here the paces will drop below four minutes per mile as the athletes concentrate on trying to stay in control down the wide muddy track before starting another loop to do it all again. Leading times for the men will be well under an hour for the 13 kilometer / 8 mile course with 750 meters / 2,460 feet of ascent and descent.
Altra Athlete Calum Neff at World’s
This will be Neff’s second time competing at the World Championships as part of Team Canada. Here are his thoughts heading into the race next weekend:
More information on this year’s championship can be found at the WMRC Wales website and be sure to follow Neff’s journey via Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or his Website. Also see the websites of Team Canada and Team USA for more information about getting involved with mountain running in North America.
#MountainRunning #Running #TrailRunning #Altra #ZeroLimits #WorldMountainRunningChampionships #WMRCWales @WMRCWales @usmrt @WMRAmountainrun @CTMRA @AltraRunning
To run without tiring, that is the goal to push for.
– Zero Limits
Altra co-founder Brian Beckstead is a man of many talents and a man with many buckles on his belt. After countless races, one still remained unchallenged until this year: the Ultra Trail du Mt Blanc. Read from Brian’s personal account of his amazing trip to Charmonix and tackling of the UTMB trail.
And if running one 100-mile race wasn’t enough for anyone, Brian is currently running the Wasatch 100. Two 100 mile races in two weeks. To say Brian takes the #ZeroLimits lifestyle literally is an understatement.
Good work Brian! And good luck this weekend!
– Zero Limits
[From Brian’s personal blog “Ultra Experience.”]
2015 marks the 10th anniversary for my ultra running career. I ran my first ultra as a 23 year old clueless young inexperienced runner. Since that time I’ve completed over 50 ultra trail races, managed 2 running/outdoor shops, graduated college, started a shoe company (Altra), had 3 kids, and moved 8 times. It’s been a wild ride! I’ve also closely followed the expansion of the ultra community that I have grown to love. Over that time, it became clear to me that despite my experiences there was one race that had established itself as the premier ultra event in the world, the Ultra Trail du Mt Blanc.
UTMB is a 105 mile race boasting nearly 34,000 ft of vertical climbing and an equal amount of descent starting and ending in Chamonix France. During its circumnavigation of Mt Blanc it traverses through glacially carved valleys, up and over mountains, traverses exposed ridgelines, and generally takes you through a mountain running paradise. The aid stations are made up of remote outposts, ski lodges, and small cobblestoned Alp villages in France, Italy, and Switzerland. In its 13th year, the three country journey now has over 2,600 starters from an astounding 87 countries!
Despite running several difficult 100 milers over the years including Wasatch 100, Ultra Trail Mt Fuji, Bear 100, and Cascade Crest 100, I was still rightfully intimidated. My summer was filled with running more of a growing business than mountain running but I found a healthy balance. I made sure I had plenty of time for my highest priority- family. My wife and youngest daughter even got to tag along to France! I was ready and excited to tackle this monumental challenge!
Race week came quickly and was filled with press conferences, expo working, and athlete meetings. Altra is picking up steam in Europe and we were well represented during the expo. We worked with Polartec to launch our “Better than Waterproof” Lone PeakNeoshell at the event to much acclaim! I rested when I could but business called. Soon it was time to take care of business from the running end and by 5:30 pm August 27th I was in the town square with 2,600 other runners ready to tackle this epic event. I made a tactical decision to start in the back. I wanted to start slow and feel good through the race. The race festivities were unparalleled with an estimated 70,000 people cheering us on, music blaring, and bells ringing.
At 6pm sharp, the gun went off. I waited…and waited…and finally I took my first step! It took me 5 minutes just to get to the starting line! With the throngs of people the race funneled quickly but the feeling was electric. Within a mile the race widened and I was able to start passing people. I was slow and methodical but the first 20 miles went quickly. I even ran a few miles with local friend Kendall Wimmer! Soon the headlamp was turned on and the first night began.
The string of headlamps extended as far as the eye could see both in front and behind me. It added such depth seeing where we had to go and how far you’d come. Having a full moon only added to the beauty! The mountains, and particularly the glaciers, where illuminated beyond belief. The miles quickly flew by and before I would have imagined the first glimmer of light shown in the east. I was so happy and it sparked what would become the greatest 10 hours of running I’d ever experienced!
The descent into Lac Combal will never be forgotten nor would the sunrise at Arete du Mont Favre. I stopped there for 5 minutes just soaking in the moment. In my wildest dreams I’m not sure I could have created a more beautiful place or perfectly timed moment.
The descent into Courmayeur was long but being on such a runners high I backed off trying not to get more of an adrenaline rush. I floated down and did a full analysis of my situation. The Courmayeuar aid station (Mile 48) was full of chaos, people, drop bags, and….my crew! Frank, Altra’s European Manager, and Colleen, ICON’s PR Director, were there to help me get through efficiently. I was about an hour slower getting there then I wanted but I wasn’t worried, as I felt great with no issues. Having started at the back of the pack cost me that hour but I was ready to push on. New clothes, food, and optimism followed me out the door!
Temperatures were beginning to rise into what would become the hottest UTMB on record. I climbed strongly out of Courmayeur knowing that I was only half way. I LOVED the section of trail from Refuge Bertone to Refuge Bonati. The views and trail were spectacular. I felt strong. I had a rag, which I dipped in every stream possible, soaking my body in cold water. This section was exposed and becoming hot but I moved well and soon was descending into Arnuva.
Once at Arnuva (Mile 59) I didn’t want to eat anything. After 10 hours of the best running I’d ever had, the heat and distance were catching up. I now had to tackle the biggest climb on the course in the heat without much to eat. I forced fed myself what I could and started the climb to Grand Col Ferret. I struggled. I was hoping the descent was better but it didn’t help much. I was still moving but I was so hot and couldn’t eat much.
It finally started to cool off and entering Champex-Lac I was relieved. My crew AND my wife were there. I had struggled for the last several hours and I needed help. They quickly began force feeding me…and my stomach didn’t rebel! I also got a massage for 20 minutes on my quads while letting the food settle. I switched into the new Olympus 2 shoe, put on a dry shirt and left feeling totally refreshed!
I was originally worried about the second night but I was feeling back like myself. I knew I had 3 stout climbs and descents of this last 30 miles. I found a grove and began pushing. I felt like I was picking up steam! I clicked through Trient quickly and flew down into Vallorcine! I couldn’t believe how good I was feeling! I got a little drowsy leaving Vallorcine but with 1 climb left I was determined!
I’d heard the last climb was the steepest but wow it didn’t disappoint! It was brutal but I was happy with my methodical approach. Just before the top I saw a glimmer of light to the east. I couldn’t believe my luck that upon arrival to Tete aux Vents the first ray of sunshine hit Mt Blanc!! I was on such a runner’s high and this time I didn’t hold back but pushed harder then ever feeling like a million bucks.
I flew down the mountain weaving through the last of the nearly 2000 people I’d passed in the race! At this point I was thoroughly enjoying the final miles of the race. With ½ mile remaining I throttled back and emotionally jogged through town listening to the cheers of the town and contemplating my accomplishment. I couldn’t believe the high I was experiencing as I saw the finish line and crossed in 38 hours, 29 minutes. 518th place out of 2,600 starters and 1,600 finishers.
Happy Happy Happy! This was such a great race for me and truly the pinnacle of ultra running. As I recover, I prepare for Wasatch 100 which begins less than two weeks from the time I finished UTMB. Living my dream, finding the balance, and trying to enjoy every second of it!
Now go run!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
3: Warm Clothing: Anything wool, socks, compression gear and running tights are all in high demand for the cold weather. Here are our picks:
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.
Available online November 26th.