Sunday, September 29, 2013

Race Report: Squash Blossom (Kent Hodges Memorial) Half Marathon 2013


The morning started off badly, my dog decided to eat our breakfast bagels and I woke to find my back had gotten worse. I was in a lot of pain and worried I wouldn't be able to run. We left the house at about 6:15 and it was 30 degrees out. It was still dark when we pulled into the staging area at the High Desert Trail. My back was killing me and we were both really tired, so we took a 20 minute pre-race power nap in the truck. After registering and getting our race bibs, we did a small warm-up jog. It was still only like 33 Degrees out. I ended up wearing a beanie hat and gloves to start the race, which started at 8:00 am. The course began with a 1.3 mile leg on a dirt road before it jogged south onto a short trail leading to the north side of the second mesa. This stretch was mostly flat ending with a steep climb to the turn around point (about 4 miles in). Bri and I were running together until this point where I started to fall back. My back was in a lot of pain. Bri started to pace with a couple of older guys and stayed with them until the end of the race, when she passed them with a quarter mile left. They were some locals who knew a lot about the course. They regularly run the High Desert Trail. The trail continued to climb for another mile or so. At mile 5, my back seized up on me and I was forced to slow to a crawl. I continued in excruciating pain until about mile 7 where I fell back into a grove, albeit a slow one.  At around mile eight the trail heads south, out of the second mesa and towards the first mesa loop. Both Bri and I had run this loop before, but in the other direction. In the west to east direction, the trail starts by a gradual climb that slowly becomes steeper. This lasts for about a mile before the trail flattens out and starts to head back down to the intersection at "6 Flags." the trail then heads east for a pretty easy two miles to the finish line. I was able to keep a pretty good pace to the finish, even with my back pain and a cramp in my right calf muscle. I was able to eat 2 GUs and keep pretty hydrated throughout the race. Bri was almost ten minutes quicker than me and finished in 2:05:57 which was a pace of   9:37 min/mile pace. I finished in 2:15:25, a 10:20 min/mile pace. The fasted time on the course was a ridiculous 1:15:05, which is a 5:44 min/mile pace! Even though I felt like shit almost the whole race, I was pleased with my time. Bri finished 10 minutes faster than her expected time and felt like she had a lot left at the finish. Next up, the Pass Mountain 50K in November.  -Matt

Training Report: Race Week

Pyramid Rock - Gallup, NM

This week was a taper week leading up to the Squash Blossom 1/2 Marathon trail run. We ran a 6 mile mountain run that took us to 8077 feet on the Hilso Trail system in McGaffey, NM. I felt really good and we had an average pace of 9:50. Bri was feeling some weakness in her legs, but finished strong. We also did a few shorter runs and a hill run on Wednesday. Running to the top of Pyramid Rock was tough. The uphill was killer. To make things even tougher, we got a little lost on the way back down and had to plow through scrub brush where there was no trail. Not the most enjoyable thing, but Matt thought it was an adventure. The short runs were just to keep us moving and to help us be ready for the Squash Blossom. We didn't want to over do it before the race.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Book Review: Born to Run by Christpher McDougall

Born to Run is my favorite  running book to date. Christopher McDougall does a magnificent job explaining the "new science" of running through an almost unbelievable story. McDougall explains how he came to hear of the Tarahumara runners in Mexico, a tribe of runners who can endure extremely long runs, and a fantastic journey that culminates in a race between some the most elite ultra-runners in the US and members of the "running tribe." Sprinkled throughout the book are educational asides that explain the evolution of man as a running animal and some of the evidence backing the barefoot running movement.  If Born to Run doesn't motivate yout o go out and log some long runs, nothing will.  -Matt

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Book Review: Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek with Steve Friedman

Scott Jurek is one of the most renowned ultramarathoners in the business. He has been featured in Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss. His debut novel, Eat & Run, is a New York Times bestseller and explores the sources of motivation for ultra-distances as well as the plant-based diet that fuels him to victory.

Jurek goes into great detail as he describes the determination and satisfaction that he achieves through pushing his body to its athletic and mental limits. Jurek began his career as a cross country skier in rural Minnesota and used running as training device for his skiing career. Eventually he competed in his first 50k and was hooked. A major source of inspiration for Jurek is his mother. She suffered from multiple sclerosis dating from his early childhood and was unable to walk to the family pew in church let alone run. Jurek runs for her because she was unable to. He also runs for the inner peace he experiences during the grueling workouts and races he completes. Running is an escape from the suffering of his mother, his failed marriage, and his friendships that have been lost and weakened. For Jurek, a sufferer of childhood high blood pressure, the peace he finds in running has been his salvation both mentally and physically.

Eat & Run is a strong promoter of a plant-based, vegan, diet. Jurek first began experimenting with a plant-based diet while in college. He quickly realized that he felt better and recovered faster when he eliminated meat and animal byproducts from his diet. At the end of each chapter, Jurek has included one of his personal recipes to help others on the path to a vegan lifestyle. While Jurek mills some of his own flour and makes his own rice and almond milk, this is not necessary for the average reader to make use of his recipes. Most of the ingredients can be found at a local health food store, and I am looking forward to trying out some of his meals and snacks.

Scott Jurek is the first to admit that he is not the fastest or most naturally talented runner, but he trains hard, and he trains smart. He also has incredible focus and determination. He gives credit to his friends, biological family, and his racing family. He makes the claim that his plant-based diet has allowed him to reach his running potential and that his rugged determination keeps him competing when most people would call it quits. The combination has led him to become one of the most successful modern ulramarathoners.

While not all of Jurek's advice is applicable to my own life, I am interested in trying out some of his recipes. I also found his training regimen to be something to aspire to. I would love to get to the point where I could complete 10 mile runs multiple times per week. Jurek also discusses proper running form, and I am hoping to use some of his advice to improve my own form and thus endurance.  -Brianna

For the Love of Running

I run because I'm a glutton for punishment. Because if I'm comfortable in life, I have to make myself uncomfortable. I have to be digging out of something or digging deep for something else. I like running trails for all the other reasons runners like to run: solitude, freedom from cell phones and computers and stop lights and coffee shops, and cars, and politics and so on, exploring, adventure, camaraderie. I run to push my body to the breaking point and beyond, just to get up and do it again. I love trail/ultra running because in the woods or desert, I can hear my body, my heart beating, my chest rising. I can feel my blood pumping and taste mud and trees and clean air. I can see a sunrise or sunset, that no one else sees. You can't get that on a three mile run in the park. I'm not the most eloquent or entertaining writer so I will steel a quote from Theodore Roosevelt. I believe this says it all: 

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Every time I run a race or get off the couch to do a long run I feel as though I might actually be living up to Mr. Roosevelt's "man in the Arena." Running allows me to be a participant in life not a spectator.

Oh and by the way, a big thank you to and Ultimate Direction for the inspiration and motivation to reflect on why I love running and the people who support all of us running fools.

After running on the Hilso Trail System in McGaffey, NM

6 am run on the High Desert Trail in Gallup, NM

On a long run- High Desert Trail

Finishing a long run on the High Desert Trail

Friday, September 20, 2013

Training Report Week of 9/15/2013

We did a twelve mile trail run on Sunday with some friends. Bri felt good and finished with a 10 minute mile average. I on the other hand had to stop and walk at mile 11. I felt like shit. Worst run in a long time.
Knees hurt, back was killing me (I have a herniated disc that I'm trying to rehab). I ended on a slow run but I finished with a 10:50 average pace. We are training for the Squash Blossom Half Marathon Trail Run on the 29th, so I took the whole week off from running. I went to the gym every day and just worked legs and lower back. Today was the first day in a while I woke without back/knee pain. Probably go for a short slow run tomorrow to finish off the week.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Book Review: Never Wipe Your Ass with a Squirrel by Jason Robillard

I just finished reading this really entertaining and educational book by Jason Robillard, author of The Barefoot Running Book (Plume 2012). It's a no-bullshit approach to introducing ultra-trail running to the trail running novice. It contains a lot of good information, mostly from Jason's own experiences and experimentation. The book covers everything from trail running nutrition to how to shave your balls (seriously). There are sections of the book dedicated to the nuances of selecting pacers and some of the problems that might arise while running a 100 miler.  One of the major take-home points for me was covered in a section about a 34 mile training run that Jason and his friend Jesse went on. Essentially, he explains a method of training called "speed-up when tired." In these sessions, when he was tired and felt like walking, he didn't. Instead he sped-up to a sprint for a short distance, then resumed his normal pace. He claims that your body actually adjusts better to this than if you start walking for a period, then resume running.  I'm gonna try it on my next long run. In all, I would recommend this book to anyone who is thinking about running their first ultra, there is a lot of information in the book that only an experienced runner would be able to explain. Additionally, I have to recommend this book simply based on the fact that he is a fellow Michigander. You can find the book on Amazon for around 13 bucks (new). Buy it here!


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Brooks Cascadia 7 Review

Over the next few weeks I will be reviewing the Brooks Cascadia 7. I've only logged 4 miles so far, so it's a little too early to tell, but I found them to be light and comfortable. I normally run in Salomon XR Mission trail shoes which are great, but they are wearing out so, I'm looking for a new shoe.  The Cascadias weigh in right around 12 oz (I'm a size 9.5 US) and the Missions weigh about 11.5 oz, so there isn't much difference in weight. The Missions have a 10mm  drop (20mm heal and 10mm toe) and the Cascadias have a 12mm drop (22mm heal and 10 mm toe). The 2mm difference was not noticeable on the first run and I don't think I will notice it.  The first run in the Cascadias was on a rocky dirt road, so they haven't made the trail yet. I'll be running the trail later this week so I should have some more to say after that.  -Matt

Update: I have put another 25 miles on the shoes now and love them so far. Just ran a half marathon trail run and didn't have any problems. No blisters or hot spots. I did have some problems with the laces coming untied during some training runs, but a good double knot has fixed the problem.  I do have to say that I like the Salomon lace systems better and may "upgrade" the laces at a later date.