Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Black Canyon Training Run - Part 1

This is the first of three training runs on the Black Canyon Ultras 100K course.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Friday, September 29, 2017

2017 QM Connect Conference

I recently traveled to Fort Worth, TX for the QM Connect Conference. I was on the Program Planning Committee, presenter, and had a role during the conference as well. I led a workshop on DIY Multimedia and decided to document the conference through video...


Monday, September 4, 2017

2017 Jackrabbit Jubilee

This past weekend I ran the Jackrabbit Jubilee, a 12-hour timed race by Aravaipa Running at the historic Nardini Manor in Buckeye, AZ. The timed race is a different kind of ultramarathon since the finish line is not a set distance away as it is with a marathon or 50k distance race. Instead it is looped course and you run as many laps as you can within the time limit. You can step off the course for breaks, but just like other races the clock will not stop until the race is over.

Nardini Manor is a historic house that now serves as a venue for special events and weddings. The owner is an ultrarunner who installed a 500 meter dirt track around the property and this has been the site for a number of times races over the years; however, this was my first time here. The setup is pretty simple, there is a timing mat that serves as the start/finish for every lap. On one side of the mat is a fully stocked aid station and the other side has a monitor showing how many laps you have completed. There is a grassy field where many people had setup tents, chairs, and tables with their various personal supplies. I had chosen to set my chair up under a light on the outside of the track and used that location to store my gear.

We had been experiencing extreme heat the previous week and we knew it would continue to be hot and a little humid as we ran through the night. The good news is that some clouds moved in and brought a breeze with it for the beginning of the race, but that did not last long and between the heat and dust conditions became difficult at times as we ran through the night.

Despite this being my first time running this type of event, I had set a goal to run at least 50 miles; therefore my race plan was to run 12-minute miles (5 MPH) for as long as I could. This plan worked well for the first 3.5 hours, but I started to have what I thought might be stomach issues. I was hoping a bathroom break would help (it did not) so I changed up my nutrition plan.

In a regular ultramarathon the aid stations can be one to two hours apart (maybe more); therefore you have to carry and use gel packs between them to ensure that you have enough calories to get from one station to the next. To ensure I do not forget to eat, I set my watch to alert me every 45 minutes as I go between stations. In this case, I was passing the aid station every few minutes and my watch became critical in reminding me when to eat. Normally, when I get to an aid station I will eat salted potatoes, salted pickles, a few pretzels, some M&M’s, a couple of cookies, and a piece of ginger candy (ginger helps keep my stomach settled). I may not eat all of those items every time, but those are the things I look to eat based on how I am feeling. Later in a race I will also eat sandwiches such as a grilled cheese or a peanut butter and jelly. Since I had access to the aid station every time I was scheduled to eat, I avoided my gels and had the solid food. I think that is what led to my stomach issue as I was overeating in the heat. Once I realized that problem, I started using my gel packs instead of the aid station and quit eating the cookies, pretzels, and candy (except the ginger candy, that was needed). I also switched to drinking only ice water and avoided Gatorade. This seemed to do the trick.

However, I had more problems to solve. My breathing felt a bit labored and it might have been due to the amount of dust in the air, but it was not bad enough that I felt like I needed something over my face to filter out the dust - it also might have been mental. I was having various aches and pains in my hip, knees, ankles, feet, back, and even my arms. These problems were resolved by slowing my pace and taking opportunities to stretch things out (especially when I stopped at the aid station). I also had a little chafing on the inside of my arm as my shirt seam was irritating the skin, so I applied Squirrel’s Nut Butter to stop that problem. I was also fighting fatigue as I was getting tired.

Miles 31 through 38 were the toughest. It not until about this point that I was able to see my lap times on the monitor and found out that my watch was a mile off from the official stats. For a number of reasons, I was not able to see my laps on the monitor for the first eight hours of the race. My GPS watch had a different reading since I sometimes had to take a turn a bit wide to navigate through other runners or to step off the track to go to the bathroom. The timing mat counts laps only, not my meandering along the track. Now that I had this feedback, I was able to focus on what I needed to do to reach my goal.

There were two things I had planned to get me over the hump, one was another change in my nutrition and the other was to change what was happening in my ears. This is the first race in years that I had an iPod with me and when I was not talking to friends on the course, I was listening to podcasts that included interviews of scientists, actors, and ultrarunners. So now it was time to switch to music, except that the battery in my iPod Nano had died. So I stopped at my chair long enough to plug both the iPod and the wireless earbuds into a battery pack so they could hopefully recharge. I also started eating different foods, such a grilled cheese sandwiches, turkey and cheese wraps, and peanut butter and jelly on a saltine cracker. Also, for the second time this year I had caffeinated soda. During the Black Canyon 100K I found this to be a great boost during the final 20 miles that; therefore I added it to my nutrition plan for the final three hours of this race.

As daybreak approached, I was feeling better and then I grabbed my iPod for the final hour of running. The music helped me find that last bit of energy and I ended up running the fastest laps of the night. When I finally saw that I had passed the 50 mile mark, I wanted to see how many more laps I could I run before reaching the 12-hour limit. It felt great to finish on a high note as the last two laps were also some of my fastest.

As I prepare for Across The Years, the 48-hour time race that I will be doing at the end of the year, I think I have learned the following:
  • Running at a 12-minute pace (5 MPH) as my starting pace is reasonable for me and it should help me get to 100 miles within the first 24 hours. It will be much cooler and we will be starting in the morning; therefore, I expect that I will be able to hold the pace for a much longer period of time.
  • I must consume more gels in the beginning and alternate between them and solid food, especially in the first 24 hours. This should help me avoid stomach issues.
  • While we will be at a different location, I will need to keep an eye on the dirt and dust that is accumulating on my shoes and socks. Changing socks might have been useful this time, but may be essential next time.
  • Listening to podcasts is a great way to pass the time, but they need to be entertaining. I will need to switch to music more often to keep things going.
  • While I like running with my Trekz Titanium headset. I might need to rely on regular wired ear buds to avoid draining the battery of my iPod too quickly.
  • Finally, I need to take a true rest break during the run. I will be prepared to take a nap in the middle of the race so that I will be able to do more than shuffle along the course in the final 24 hours or so.