“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt” – John Muir
“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt” – John Muir
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 Rachael Bazzett
Is It Your Off-Season?
It’s cold outside. The sunlight hours are slowly increasing, but it is still dark far too early. You’re dreaming of springtime runnin’. Maybe there’s not anything on the race calendar for a while. Your inner voice and your New Year’s resolutions may be telling you that you need to get out, but the urge to hibernate and wait for easier days can be hard to overcome. For some of us, there are winter races to keep the motivation going, but what do the rest of us do if overcome by off-season blues?
My racing calendar, as it does for a lot of people, ramps up in the spring, summer, and fall months and tapers down quite a bit in the later months of the year. Over the last four years, October has marked the end of my big races for the year. By that point in the season, I find myself covering the same distances with the same effort a bit more slowly, my legs a bit weary after hundreds and hundreds of hard trail miles. I’m grateful by the time I reach the end of my season for a bit of a break.
I frequently hear amongst athletes a similar sentiment about taking time off- we don’t do it. If we do, we feel guilty. I myself can easily fall victim to the fear that I will instantly lose all my conditioning if I take a week off. And you know, a few days off from time to time is not the worst thing in the world. While there is something to be said for pushing through those mornings when we’re being a babies and don’t want to be out in the cold, is there also a risk in beating ourselves up so bad about some down time? What happens if we push ourselves to the point where this activity that we love becomes a chore?
The first year that I started running ultras, I went ALL IN. I ran my first 50k in October of 2011, and then from January to October of the next year, I ran twelve ultras, including two hundred milers. At the end of season party for my local running series, I was approached by my friend Ulli Kamm, a veteran of the sport for many decades and ten time Hardrock finisher (Ever hear of the Kamm Traverse? Yeah, that guy.). We had run some races together and had gotten to know each other a bit over the season, and after watching me develop, he gave me some of the best advice that I can think to give in anyone in the sport of long-distance trail running.
“If you don’t want to run for a while,” he said, “then don’t.” Go walking, go hiking, go enjoy the trail and the time outside, he told me. He mentioned that over the course of his ultrarunning career, he has seen lots of people come into the sport and a lot of people go out after only a couple years. He’s seen guys come in and push and push and come to resent the long miles that were once their lifeblood. If you want to be a lifer, and I do, then it is important to give yourself permission to take a break so that you can fall back in love when your legs and your spirit have rested some.
Ever talk to somebody who says that they “used to be a runner”? I don’t want to be that person if I can help it. That means taking care of my body- eating my veggies and getting enough sleep and stretching my muscles. That also means taking care of my enthusiasm. I have never taken more than a week or two off from running, but giving myself permission to change it up allows me to greet each year with new excitement and energy. I haven’t raced since October, but I am coming up on my first 50k of the year in January, and I can’t wait to get out there again. I’m refreshed, ready, and will be on the course with smiles.
Feeling like you need a break? Go for a hike in the hills. Go for a jog with a new runner. Volunteer at a race. Keep getting out there, but don’t beat yourself up if you’re not feelin’ it for a while. The trail (or the road) will be there when you are ready to come back to it. Don’t wait too long. Know the difference between taking a hiatus and making excuses. But, and the end of the day, remember that this is our sport because we LOVE it. The love is what will keep us together for many years to come.
Rachael Bazzett is an Altra Ambassador and Ultra Runner, she currently resides in Boise, Idaho.
By Heather Jenson
Race day is almost here! You’ve put in the hours, trained your heart out, made countless sacrifices and are hopefully feeling fit, strong and confident. If this is your first Ironman 70.3 and you are like me you are feeling a bit excited and slightly nervous. Ok, very nervous.
While proper training and preparation is key to getting you to the starting line, your ability to stay calm and focused on race day will ultimately define your outcome. Here are my 5 best tips to help you finish your first Ironman 70.3 strong and confident.
Visualize Your Success
Just as logging the miles and putting in the training efforts is key to competing in any Ironman 70.3 race, you also need to train your brain for the ride. Find some time to go to your quiet place and “meditate” about the event. Visualize the entire race from start to finish walking yourself through the swim, bike, run and each transition in between. Focus on each discipline in your mind and picture what it will feel like on race morning.
When I was part of a talented swim team in high school, our highly decorated coach taught me the importance of visualization practice. We had a meditative “relaxation” practice with the workout before every big swim meet. We would lie down in a quiet dark room and visualize our next race. It may sound strange to some, but it really helped to picture myself strong and successful as I was racing.
It is important to also mentally prepare for what could go wrong. Preparing for potential pitfalls (like loosing your goggles or getting a flat tire) and how to deal with them before they happen, will be key to keeping your cool if an error occurs. Quickly managing challenges throughout your race can play a key role in your success. Developing a strategy to overcome obstacles can be a very important tool in your bag of tricks.
Doubt Your Doubts
Everyone’s going to have highs and lows when they race. If you start feeling a little fatigued during your race, try and reduce your speed until you feel good again. In those moments, tell yourself to just keep going. You’ve trained hard, you’ve put the effort in and it will pay off. Do not get down on yourself if you need to slow your effort for a moment to see the big picture—finishing the race. Practice a positive state of mind and don’t let the doubts affect you physically.
Roll With The Punches
You could be perfectly prepared and trained and something could go wrong the week of the race, the day before, or even right before the start. What if the weather is extreme? What if there is a delay at the start? What if you get sick or injured?
In the case of my first Ironman 70.3, I came down with strep throat and a sinus infection two days before the race. I was devastated. I had never trained harder for anything in my life and as fate would have it, I was sick and frustrated with little recovery time until race day. I made a doctors appointment and got an antibiotic shot to help ward off the infection that was taking over my body. I discussed the situation with my doctor and she told me to rest, drink plenty of liquids and if I felt good enough to compete on race morning that it was up to me to go for it. Although I was still pretty sick the morning of the race I knew I would be kicking myself if I didn’t at least try to go accomplish the goal I had worked so hard for.
The weather was also fairly extreme on race day with a cold swim and a hot run with temperatures close to 90°F at the finish line. It was tricky to keep calm while timing my nutrition with the medicine prescribed by my doctor. I needed to remember that I didn’t feel well enough to push my limits as I normally would when I race, but I knew I could deal with how I felt each moment and take it one hour at a time, one mile at a time, or even one minute at a time. My preparation and positive attitude helped me finish with a respectable time despite the challenges at hand. My family and I were grateful that my body held up with all it had to deal with.
Remember To Smile! (And It’s Ok To Cry)
As I was approaching the last 6 miles of the run that day, I was really feeling it. The fatigue was setting in, the sun was blazing hot, and the course was brutal and hilly. I was sick and as much as I love running, I was ready to stop. Then I saw my family standing by the next aid station. My husband, my 3 little kids (7, 3 and 9 months) and my mom all there cheering me on. A huge smile came across my face. Then the tears set in. I was so fatigued and sick I just wanted to stop. I ran to them and stopped for a brief moment to hug my 3-year-old son who repeatedly cheered, “Go mommy!” I told them how sick and tired I was. They kept cheering and smiling and reassured me that I could finish and that I was almost done.
I cried a few more tears, and then told myself to “SMILE”, “buck it up” and “keep moving forward”, three of my mantras. From that point on I continued to smile as much as I could. The last 6 miles were very hard but also some of the most rewarding and most memorable miles of the entire race for me. My mood lightened, I remembered why I was out there and the smile from my children stayed on my face as I crossed the finish line.
That brings me to my last tip, find a reason to be happy and use it to your advantage. For me, during those last 6 miles, it was my children. Find your own “happy place”. Make no mistake, any Ironman 70.3 race is tough and not every moment will leave you with a smile. But remember why you’re doing it and stick with it! This especially applies to race day. However hard you push it, remember it will be all over soon and to savor the experience.
Heather Jenson is a wife to her high school sweetheart, mother of three beautiful children, certified fitness instructor, marathoner, triathlete, and an Ironman 70.3. Catch her on Instagram: @Triandrungirl
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.
By Ambassador Jennifer Fisher
After a long run in cold weather, nothing warms up my body and nourishes my soul more than a big bowl of soup. Who wants to think about making a complicated meal when road weary and starving? Not me! Instead, having a batch of homemade soup waiting in the slow cooker or ready to simmer on the stovetop is the way to go – plus, soup is the perfect way to create a one-dish recovery meal that features the right mix of carbohydrates, protein, and healing vitamins and minerals. Eating soup after a workout doesn’t just fill up your tank with healthy food, the extra liquid helps restore hydration! I’m sharing six soup and stew recipes from TheFitFork.com that are in constant rotation at my house during the fall and winter running seasons — each is easy to make and tastes just as good (if not better) as leftovers.
Chipotle Squash & Chickpea Soup – This vegetarian-friendly soup is silky smooth and creamy, it gets a boost of protein from pureed chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans). Make it festive by adding southwestern-inspired toppings such as queso fresco, pumpkin seeds, jalapeno slices or crumbled tortilla chips.
Wilted Greens, Beans & Beef Meatball Stew – So much healthy goodness in one pot of stew and it’s easy to make, too! You get loads of vitamins, minerals and fiber in every bowl – especially notable, iron. Along with beef, winter greens such as kale, chard and collards are rich in iron. Runners can easily become iron depleted and this soup recipe is a tasty way to keep a pesky problem at bay!
Southwestern Sweet Potato Soup Most runners love sweet potatoes – the superfood is loaded in vitamins A and C plus is a great source of potassium and magnesium. This healthy carbohydrate ranks low on the Glycemic Index, meaning it is slowly released as glucose into your blood stream to provide long-lasting energy. If you love sweet potatoes and spice, this is THE soup recipe for you!
Lightened Yet Still “Loaded” Baked Potato Soup – Potato soup is always popular at my house and this healthier version is tweaked to have less fat and still all of the flavor – you don’t have to feel guilty about adding your favorite toppings (even bacon)!
Hatch Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Soup This may be my favorite soup of all time – it’s similar to a chicken tortilla soup, but creamy and less brothy thanks to the addition of light sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt). Hatch green chile season is in August, so if you haven’t proactively stocked your freezer with this beloved pepper, you can substitute the canned variety.
Black Bean & Pumpkin Soup – This may sound like a strange combination, but this vegetarian soup is so delicious and satisfying. Healthy carbs and plant-based protein are just two benefits this soup offers – plus, did you know that black beans are the highest in fiber of any bean? It’s true!
Jennifer Fisher is an enthusiastic Altra Running Ambassador. In addition to living life with #ZeroLimits, she’s a #FitFluential Ambassador, #IDEAfit Inspired Blogger and contributor at the Cooking Light Blogger Connection. Jennifer is also a fit food & healthy living guest speaker, competitive master’s runner, CrossFit dabbler and mother of three pre-teen through teen boys! For more on Jennifer, visit her blog TheFitFork.com and follow her on twitter, Instagram,Facebook and Pinterest.
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.
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 wrap up our focus on the learning to run, let’s discuss high cadence.
What does it mean to have a high cadence? Here’s what you should shoot for-
A high cadence—or quick steps—is proven to reduce impact and improve foot strike and running efficiency. Studies have shown that recreational runners and chronically injured runners run with a slow cadence, whereas elite and efficient runners have a cadence of above 170 steps per minute. Running Barefoot can greatly aid in instantly improving cadence as well as helping you to understand & master proper running technique. Start by increasing your cadence by 10-15 steps per minute—two to three steps per leg in a 20 second period. Once you’ve adapted to that, increase again by 10-15 steps per minute until you settle on a comfortable and efficient cadence for you between 170 and 180 steps per minute. Cadence changes very little with speed, so you can practice cadence on all types of workouts, even while running in place! Quick Tip: Count the steps one foot takes in a twenty second time period—29 to 30 steps will give you an ideal cadence of 174-180 steps per minute.
What does it mean to run with nice, compact arms?
Most runners use far too much arm movement. In contrast, elite runners and efficient runners move their arms as little as is necessary. They pop their elbow back actively and then let them passively recover forward while the other elbow is popping back. They also keep their arm motion moving front to back and don’t allow their arms to sway side to side very much. Keep your arms compact by always holding them near your chest and at less than a 90 degree angle. Don’t allow your elbows to come forward past your hips and don’t allow your fists to cross the midline of your chest. Quick Tip: Use Heavy Hands or 1-2 pound hand weights on easy runs to easily find your most efficient arm movement and angle.