At mile 20 I felt like running was the easiest thing ever and maybe the course record would go down. Five miles later I realized this wouldn’t happen since my legs were already sore, even though my heart rate and effort were low. And so it goes with 100 milers – big highs and crappy lows.
Rocky Raccoon is known for being a flat and fast trail 100 miler, but the normal course still has 5,500ft of vertical gain and lots of roots to trip up unwary or tired legs. This year there was construction work on the dam and that altered the course to include more jeep roads, more climbing (somewhere around 1,500ft per 20-mile loop or 7,500ft in total) and a little more distance (around 0.3 miles/loop or 1.5 miles in total). So there are definitely faster trail 100s out there, but none that have attracted the same level of talent as this Huntsville, Texas, race (Eric Clifton, Anton Krupicka, Hal Koerner, Karl Meltzer and Scott Jurek…just on the men’s side).
I’ve had good and bad years at RR100, which were predictable in hindsight. A DNF for my first ever 100 miler (right after an injury and almost zero running for two months), a course record (I was in great marathon shape), another DNF (too focused on going for the record even with really muddy, stormy conditions), then three more runs in the mid-to-high 13hr range with two of them as wins and a second place.
This one ranks on the predictably imperfect end of the scale. I entered it 12 days pre-race on a whim, after fully planning on focusing on a marathon instead. In the five months pre-race I had one long hike and a handful of long runs, all but one under three hours. However, I was in good shape and had some quality speed work in the past couple of months. So that resulted in 20 miles feeling very easy then the lack of endurance rearing its painful head soon after. After two loops I felt like I’d run four and was hanging on for dear life. Luckily I’ve leant a few things from previous 100s about how to manage things when the original plan is derailed, so I settled into grinding mode and acknowledged that every bad patch (of which there were many more than there should have been) would only last a few miles.
Photo by Jason Bryant/USATF
So lesson learnt, only enter short races at the last moment and respect the 100 mile distance. However, the upside of a tough run is it’s that much sweeter afterwards to know that there were many opportunities to quit and I didn’t take them. Some of the most satisfying races of my life have been the harder days where it didn’t go perfectly. In contrast, the course record year at RR100 in 2011 was anti-climactic since it felt ridiculously easy (hence why I don’t slow down). I’ll keep striving to have another perfect day like that but realize that so many factors have to come together that it’s more about managing inevitable problems mid-race than expecting none to occur.
In terms of results, I held on for the win in 13:45:03, followed by Paul Terranova who repeated his USATF 100 mile Championship title win after being first American at RR100 last year too. Even more impressively, Sabrina Little ran in third all day (or with Paul for 25 miles) and finished in 14:55, the second fastest time ever at RR100 on a day that the course added a little time to her run. Mind you, the weather was absolutely perfect for fast times, never hot or humid.
In addition, two legends of ultra running ground out great finishes – Gordy Ainsleigh qualified for Western States 100 at the last chance he had (he automatically has an entry due to being the founder, but still needs a qualifying race); plus 71-year old Gunhild Swanson of the famous 2015 ‘seconds to spare’ WS100 finish was strong and steady for a 28:22 finish.
Congrats to everyone who ran and the loops and out-and-back sections mean that I saw all of them many times through the day to mutually support each other. Full results are here.
Shoe Choice (first time without any blisters or foot chaffing – see photos):
A new 100-mile American record was set this weekend by Altra’s Zach Bitter with a total time of 11:40:55. He averaged a 7-minute mile on just over 400 laps around the track at the Desert Solstice Invitational in Phoenix, Arizona (Central High School). Zach broke his previous 2013 record by over 7 minutes! The 100-mile circular venture went well for Zach, only complaining of some hamstring and shoulder pain after the race.
We’re stoked for Zach and hope to see him continue to fight towards owning the world 100-mile record.
You can see more about the race from Aravaipa Running’s video of Zach’s accomplishment.
The Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run is proud to announce a 3-year partnership
with Altra Footwear.
Silverton, Colorado / Tuesday, December 1st, 2015
With the announcement, Altra Footwear becomes a Diamond Level Partner and the exclusive footwear partner of the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run.
“We are thrilled to welcome Altra Footwear to the Hardrock family,” said Dale Garland, Race
Director of the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run. “We are excited for the long term
commitment of Altra to Hardrock – we share similar values and ideals including the traditions that
the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run were built upon.”
The Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run is looking forward to working together with Altra to
create a mutually beneficial partnership that collectively will work towards providing value to
Altra and enhancing the overall experience of the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run for all
of the competitors.
“Altra Running is psyched to announce this partnership with the Hardrock 100 because it dovetails
perfectly with our ‘Zero Limits’ mantra,” said Brian Beckstead, Altra co-founder and VP of sales
and a 10-time 100-mile finisher, including completion of UTMB and Wasatch 100 in 2015. “Altra
shoes are designed by runners, for runners who seek deep challenges with zero limits. The
Hardrock 100 course has the difficulties to test the limits of elite athletes from around the world,
and that’s what Altra is all about.”
“A waterproof exterior and plenty of cushioning make this ultralight trail runner comfortable for 20-plus-mile winter runs and hikes.”
Most waterproof shoes feature a membrane bootie inside the foam and fabric of the upper. But the Lone Peak’s upper places Polartec’s waterproof/breathable NeoShell (used mostly in jackets) on the outside. The result: Water never gets the chance to penetrate the materials, so the shoes stay lighter, warmer, and dryer. Our feet felt immune during 12-hour days of trekking through bogs and snowfields in Sweden, and after 70 miles, the shoes remain waterproof.
The world’s oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail race announces partnership with Altra Footwear
AUBURN, Calif. – Altra Footwear has been named the exclusive footwear sponsor of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, Western States 100 President John Medinger announced today. Altra is also the sponsor of the Altra 6K Uphill Challenge, beginning at the Western States start line and ending at High Camp. The Challenge takes place at 10 am on Friday, June 24 and is free and open to all.
“Over the course of the past several months, we talked to several footwear companies about their vision for a partnership with our Run,” Medinger said. “It became increasingly apparent, in our discussions with Altra Footwear Co-Founders Jeremy Howlett and Brian Beckstead, that Altra has a compelling vision for a partnership that we feel will immensely benefit our Run, the runners who come from across the globe to run our race, and the Western States community of friends and volunteers who have an incredible personal investment in what we do.
“Altra is a company that is clearly on a rapid and exciting trajectory. They are a company of high ethical grounding that appeals to all ability levels. And, they have a keen eye for where the sport is headed. They really do ‘get’ what we stand for as an organization, and they’ve made it very clear that our partnership will not only benefit our Run, but the sport in general.
“We are incredibly pleased to announce this partnership.”
Altra, which is located in Utah, traces its roots back to the work of founder Golden Harper, Beckstead and Howlett, who began experimenting with a better performing shoe which they named “ZeroDrop™” – the name refers to the lack of differential between the shoe’s heel and forefoot area. The shoe is also known for its distinctive FootShape™ toebox instead of the constrictive V-shaped toe box of virtually every other brand of running shoes.
“Altra Running and Western States Endurance Run are a natural combination, because we are both true pioneers in our respective fields,” said Brian Beckstead, Altra co-founder and VP of sales. “Western States invented the ultra-running race with the first ever 100-mile race in 1974. Altra pioneered running shoe design with a roomy foot-shaped toe box and a zero drop platform.”
Altra’s first – and only – product in their first line of shoes won “Best Debut” by Runner’s World in March 2012 and “Editor’s Pick for Most Innovative” by Competitor magazine in September 2011
When the line expanded to trail running shoes, the Altra Lone Peak was named “Editor’s Choice” by Runner’s World. Most recently, in Spring 2015, the Altra Superior 2.0 trail shoe won Editor’s Choice from both Runner’s World and Trail Runner. In Fall 2015, Altra Lone Peak Neoshell won “Best Weatherproof” from Competitor magazine, “Best Trail Running Shoes of 2015” from Men’s Journal and was selected for the Summer Gear Guide by Outside magazine.
The shoe’s unique foot-shaped toe box was an immediate hit with the ultra-running community, who necessarily spend continuous hours on their feet.
At the 2015 Western States 100, Altra shot to third place in the official shoe count at 16% of all finishers and 16% of all sub-24 finishers. In just a little more than 4 years, Altra has catapulted to the third largest trail shoe brand in the Run Specialty channel and now has 3 of the top 10 selling shoes in the industry, according to research from NPD.
“Ultra runners really appreciate Altra’s FootShape Toebox. It allows your toes to spread out which provides a relaxing comfortable place for your feet to be and provides a stable base over rocky terrain. At Mile 87 it’s particularly effective!” said Beckstead, who completed UTMB, Ultra Trail Mount Blanc in August in Chamonix, then two weeks later ran the Wasatch 100 in less than 30 hours.
The Western States 100-Mile Endurance run, first held in 1974, is the world’s oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail run. Held on the last weekend in June in Squaw Valley, Calif., Western States brings together runners from around the globe and from all 50 states for what is considered the world’s most competitive 100-mile race.
May 2nd of this year, I found myself (once again) in the boot heel of New Mexico, a literal stone’s throw from the simple barbed wire fence that separates North America from Mexico. No tourists venture to the area. There is a monument. It’s not much to look at, and few people ever even see the thing. The dirt road leading to it is accessible only via 4×4 vehicle…but it’s a one-way trip for the folks who get dropped off there. This monument marks the southern terminus of the Continental Divide Trail, and most of the people visiting it hope to see its northern counterpart at the Canadian border by the end of the hiking season. I was one of those hopefuls this year, but unlike many, it wasn’t my first (or second) time standing alone in the desert sun, surrounded by endless vistas of sand and cacti. This would be my third experience on the CDT, which—if successful—would be the final journey of my “triple triple crown”.
There are currently a couple hundred folks who have completed a single triple crown—end to end (“thru”) hikes of the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Trails, each within a single hiking season. That feat entails over 7,500 cumulative miles of hiking. I completed my first triple crown in 2007, and in 2012 became one of a few to have thru hiked all of the “big three” twice.
I suppose it was inevitable that I would eventually hike the triple crown for a third time, and make for that awkward sounding title of “triple triple crowner.” Three thru hikes on the Appalachian Trail, three thru hikes of the Pacific Crest Trail, and three thru hikes on the Continental Divide Trail. Ironically enough, I would be the third person to complete a “triple triple,” which makes me not only obsessive in my desire to hike ridiculously long distances across the continent, but also strangely connected to the numeral 3. I’ll leave the deciphering of that numerical symbolism to the mystics.
On August 26th 2015, after nearly four months of traversing the backbone of our continent on foot, I reached my destination and touched the monument marking the Canadian border. My legs had carried me up and over mountains, across scorching desert basins, and through countless river crossings. I was able to watch spring unfold into summer, and by the time I finished my journey, the crisp evening air signaled an approaching autumn. My path took me from that dusty border monument across the enchanted state of New Mexico and into the blooming wildflower gardens of Colorado. After crossing the halfway point, I entered wild and wonderful Wyoming, briefly crisscrossed the border of Idaho, and then was immersed in the rugged state of Montana. 5 states, roughly 2800 miles, and nearly four months of mobile meditation as I hauled my pack across the geological divide of this country.
If, back in 2003—when I first sauntered off into the woods for a long distance hike—you’d have asked me what strange path my lifestyle would lead to, I never would have imagined I would have covered the miles that I have. After tallying the other shorter trails I’ve thru hiked, these feet have carried me somewhere in the vicinity of 28,000 miles. That may seem like a ludicrous number, but as I sit here reflecting on the experiences and lessons those miles have taught me about life, all I can think is…I can’t wait to get out there again.
Just over a month ago, the ultrarunning world gathered around Chamonix, France to partake in the glory that is known as Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB). This is heralded as the grandaddy of ultra events in the world, the biggest of the events being the run around Mont-Blanc that pins the greatest runners against each other to see who can tackle such a rigorous event.
Our very own Endurance Team member, Jeff Browning was out there among other runners from our team, runners like Sondre Amdahl, Nicole Studer, Michele Graglia, and Brian Beckstead (Altra Co-Founder). Nicole had a great race placing 13th female overall, but others had some rougher days. Unfortunately Jeff Browning had to experience his first ever DNF in an ultra race. Due to an ankle issue, he had to call it. However, it was not long before Jeff got back on the circuit and found himself in another amazing international ultra. He competed about 10 days ago at the Ultra Trail Mt. Fuji (UTMF). After reeling in some competition over the last 30k, he was able to put himself into a strong podium position and ended up finishing 3rd overall. Sondre also bounced back from a DNF at UTMB to finish right behind Jeff in 4th at UTMF.
Bronco Billy: It’s been a blast, but it’s good to be home. 34 days of international travel in the last 6 weeks is slightly tiring—especially juggling a family and a full-time design business AND training.
Overall, UTMB was an incredible experience, even with the rolled ankle and DNF at UTMB. My family and I were in Chamonix for 17 days, so I can’t complain. Plus, I got to train on 60% of the course before, and experience Alps mountain culture (lots of coffee and good food on trail runs at the refuges). So, all in all, it was not a bust, even with my first DNF thrown in there. I do have unfinished business there though.
UTMF was a blast. The Japanese are so humble, helpful, respectful, and gracious. We could take some hints from their culture. Coming off a DNF, I was focused and rested. It was nice to have fresh legs. I was just so focused and calm for the trip. Plus, 10 days is an easier time window to be gone.
Altra: That first DNF looked hard. How did you deal with it mentally?
Bronco Billy: Oh man, it was hard to pull the trigger on the DNF in Courmayeur. 15 years and almost 100 ultras before I had to do it. After getting checked over and taped in the med tent, I tried to hike and run without limping, but couldn’t. My achilles was inflamed and the ankle was swollen. I kept walking over to the the official table to drop, then saying “five more minutes!” Another few minutes of limping and trying walk on it. But, the fact was the ankle had confined me to a hike the last 10K into Courmayeur. It simply couldn’t take running anymore—especially downhill. And with UTMF four weeks out and already on the schedule, I set my sights on UTMF. I’m quick to move on once I decide on something. It was hard for a good week mentally though to get over the DNF. The UTMF podium finish helped me get over UTMB.
Altra: What was the best part about the trip to UTMB?
Bronco Billy: Well it was my first European trip, so experiencing the Alps’ long-time mountain culture with my family in tow was really cool. We enjoyed walking everywhere and the easy train transportation. With regard to the course, the trails at UTMB are stellar. The Alps are so big and beautiful. Mont Blanc towering over the town is pretty special. Plus, I loved that you can find a refuge on a long run and eat lunch and have a coffee and jump back on the trail. Pretty sweet.
Altra: How did you stay motivated to come back from UTMB to race strong at UTMF?
Bronco Billy: It was easy to be ready for UTMF. I had done all the work for UTMB and my UTMF performance definitely shows what my fitness level looked like at UTMB. But a rolled ankle at 18K into the race decided my fate in France. So I quickly turned my focus to UTMF, rehabbed the ankle aggressively, and took a week off running after UTMB’s DNF. We were sightseeing in Paris the week after—so it was pretty easy to rest and rehab. I rehabbed with a combo of ice, heat, and range of motion exercises, then a week of walking 5 or 6 miles a day in Paris was great for the ankle. When I hit the states a week after UTMB, I ran 11 miles on the ankle and didn’t feel any pain at all. So I immediately put in a solid 10-day training block with some solid vertical in the Cascades, plus four speed work sessions to get ready for UTMF’s runnable road stuff in the valleys.
Altra: Was there ever a point that you just wanted to pull out of the race and not go?
Bronco Billy: No. When I dropped at UTMB, I immediately was focused on UTMF and ankle recovery. I knew I had enough time to be able to throw in one solid block before I had to taper.
Altra: How did the ankle feel going into UTMF?
Bronco Billy: Completely solid. I pre-taped as a preventative measure on the outside of both ankles to make sure I couldn’t roll all the way over. However, with the typhoon weather during the race weekend, the tape was useless. Halfway into the race, it was so wet. I did switch back to a lower profile shoe for this race too.
Altra: What went through your mind as you toed the starting line of two major international races?
Bronco Billy: After the UTMB experience, I was more mentally prepared for the large, crowded, fast start at UTMF. The race pace off the front is really fast (sub 7min/mile pace). I was ready to go quick, but still let the front pack take off. It’s stupid to run the beginning of a 100 miler at that pace. Boggles my mind still that dudes don’t just cruise and enjoy the first 10K.
Altra: You closed strong at UTMF. What motivates you to push on?
Bronco Billy: Per my usual strategy, I run the first half easy, then start picking up the pace after 100K and run the last 50K hard. In hindsight, I think I should have started going 10K earlier. I still had some legs at the end and almost caught 2nd place. I didn’t know the course, except on paper, so I was probably a bit conservative in my approach overall.
Altra: How are aid stations in Europe and Japan different than in the US?
Bronco Billy: Europe has lots of bread, sausage, and cheese and UTMF has a lot of good soup. But they are very similar to the U.S. other than that.
Altra: Did you get to take advantage of them at all or were you going too fast?
Bronco Billy: Not really. I don’t really use aid stations, except for water refills. I go from crew spot to crew spot. I always have a single crew person that I rely on. This cuts time at aid stations. I carry my own gel mixes and solid food and we just swap at key checkpoints.
Altra: How well did your shoes handle the conditions at UTMF?
Bronco Billy: The course was very muddy and we had isolated storms coupled with light, misty rain on and off the whole race—plus two inches of rain on the course right before the race. Shoes were the perfect choice for this race course and the conditions. They performed flawlessly. It solidified it as my favorite shoe.
Altra: How were you able to cope with the amount of travel between the two races?
Bronco Billy: I slept a little extra. When I travel to the race, as soon as the long flight starts, I change my watch to the final destination’s time. Immediately I start eating on the new time schedule and stay up till about 9 or 10 at least when I hit the new place, then sleep on their schedule starting immediately. Usually the first day and half you’re pretty tired. I also eat my own food on flights, especially on the way to the race.
Altra: Whats next?
Bronco Billy: I’m going to take a little break and start planning my 2016 race schedule. The 2015 race schedule is done. I started early with races in Feb-Mar-April each month and 3 international trips this season. I need to build a treehouse for my kids and get it some local mountain biking with my oldest son. I’m looking forward to some downtime and powder turns when the snow flies.
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.
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!
Hi, my name is Gary Reinl. I am a long distance runner (50 plus years; logged more than 50,000 miles), and the author of ‘ICED!’. And, I am a passionate member of the ALTRA club.
In “real” life I work with many professional and other elite athletes and their trainers, therapists and doctors and represent a muscle recovery device called MARC PRO. I have been doing this type of work for more than 40 years. That said, this blog post isn’t about me. Instead, it’s about you and your relationship with ice and your ability to recover after a hard workout. If you don’t use ice, you will likely find the following, at the least, interesting. If you do use ice, read carefully and feel welcome to contact me with questions, comments, etc.
Have you heard that the godfather of the ice age (Gabe Mirkin, MD) has publicly, and repeatedly, recanted his recommendation to ice damaged tissue? Below is a direct quote from Dr. Mirkin in the second edition of my book, ‘ICED! The Illusionary Treatment Option’:
“Almost 40 years ago, I coined the term RICE (Rest. Ice. Compression and Elevation) as the treatment for acute sports injuries (The Sportsmedicine Book. 1978. P94). Subsequent research shows that Rest and Ice can actually delay recovery. Mild movement helps tissue to heal faster, and the application of cold suppresses the immune responses that start and hasten recovery. Icing does help suppress pain, but athletes are usually far more interested in returning as quickly as possible to the playing field. So today RICE is not the preferred treatment for an acute athletic injury”
-Gabe Mirkin, MD (the godfather of the ice age), August 2014
Why did Dr. Mirkin recant? Icing damaged tissue simply does not facilitate recovery. In fact, it does the opposite; it delays healing, it increases swelling, it causes additional damage and it shuts off the signals that alert you to harmful movement.
So if you shouldn’t ice, what should you do?
Active recovery is a recovery technique that relies on a specific type of rhythmic muscle activation to expedite the movement of nourishment and waste. Passive or inactive recovery is, well, passive. Both ways work. If you do nothing (e.g. sit back, relax, and wait), you will, if you are otherwise healthy, eventually recover. If you do something (e.g. the proper amount and type of muscle activation), you will, assuming all else is equal, also eventually recover. That said, the main differences between the two recovery techniques are not measured by the “end” result. Instead, the focus of the comparison is the difference in how you feel during the recovery process and how long it takes to fully recover.
Consider this. Have you ever finished a race or hard training session and immediately entered a crammed space such as a car, bus, train, or plane and remained there for several hours? Yes or no, the result is always the same: your muscles will feel more tired andor sore at the end of your trip than they did at the beginning.
Why? Simply put, remaining virtually motionless in a crammed space for several hours post-exertion (ultra-passive recovery) stifles the flow of nourishment and waste. Net result: you feel worse.
Want a better outcome? Before you get into that dreaded crammed space, spend about twenty minutes doing, with less intensity, whatever you did to get tired and or sore. Then, once per hour for at least 10 minutes or so, get up and move all of your tired and or sore muscles (active recovery).
Too Much or Too Little of a Good Thing
It is very important to avoid over activating your tired and or sore muscles. Doing so will actually prevent recovery and could easily lead to an overuse injury. Conversely, if you under-activate your tired or sore muscles, you will marginalize the potential related benefits. Either way, you lose.
So, what is the key to finding the sweet spot between too much and too little? Always remember that this is a recovery technique, not a training technique. Thus, if your quads are tired or sore from running, go for an easy jog. Likewise, if your glutes are tired or sore from cycling, go for an easy ride. And so on. Never do anything that hurts. Focus your effort on activating the muscles in need of recovery (e.g. if you activate the muscles in your left foot, it won’t help the muscles in your right hand). And always . . . always, expend the least possible amount of energy to achieve the desired result . . . don’t waste energy!
The goal is to appropriately activate your tired or sore muscles until the desired result is achieved. Sounds good, but . . . you just finished and you do not have the desire to jog or go for a light ride or perhaps even stand upright. Besides, your knee and hip are bothering you and you know from experience that “stressing” those joints under those conditions just noted is categorically a misguided and potentially injurious idea. Similarly, if your traps and lower back muscles need “activation,” jogging or going for a light ride are, once again, not a viable option. Why? Jogging and cycling do not provide the needed rhythmic muscle activation. In fact, those activities usually create more trap and lower back tiredness and/or soreness, not less.
So, what’s the best recovery technique? That’s easy. Use a high-end powered muscle stimulation device to activate your tired and/or sore muscles until the desired result is achieved. There are many of them out there, but I recommend the MARC PRO® to all of my clients . . . it’s easy to use, feels good, and works great.
If you still want more information, In my book “ICED!”, there is a whole chapter regarding proper recovery.
If you find all of this a little hard to believe . . . you are not alone. On the other hand, if you “get it” . . . you are also not alone (a soft estimate is that more than 1,000,000 people have joined the “anti-ice” movement).
Over the weekend, we saw two of our athletes podium at the Leadville Trail 100 in Leadville, Colorado. This grueling race sets runners on a 100-mile out-and-back course with elevations ranging from 9,200 feet at its lowest to 12,600 at its peak – lungs beware.
We send a huge congratulations to our two winners, Ian Sharman (1st overall, 16:33:50) and Kyle Pietari (2nd overall, 18:16:02). This year’s race marks Ian’s second win at the Leadville Trail 100 and third consecutive Leadville race completed under 17-hours. No small feat.
“I’m so happy with how my Altra Lone Peak 2.5s performed at my second win at the Leadville 100 – I can trust them to cushion any type of terrain and feel good so I can focus purely on the running.”
– Ian Sharman