Sunday, April 1, 2012

Vitargo Gel, Chuckanut 50K, and the Boulder Spring Half

Since two weekends ago, I’ve raced two races so here are a couple quick write ups. The Chuckanut 50k is probably distant in everyone’s memory, but for the locals here in Boulder, this morning's Boulder Spring Half was finished only a few hours ago.
Chuckanut.. Michael Lebowitz photo

Chuckanut had been on my radar for years, knowing many racers who’d gone up over that time raving about it. My pal Bryan Dayton was the first of many to recommend it, but it hadn’t quite been in my wheelhouse of 50 milers and 100ks, so it got backburnered until now. This year the competition was hot with a bunch of road marathoners going up against ultra, so I couldn’t resist, even though I knew I would likely get torched. Turns out it rained hard and snowed, putting a mild cooling effect on the competition. I woke up Saturday morning to rain and snow, and was psyched to the technical footing games at hand. Fellow Bay Area hotel mates Gary Gellin, Jean Pommier, and a fine gang of folks kindly gave me a ride to the start, checked in, and we were off in the rain.

The first 10k of somewhat flat crushed gravel path must have taken it out of me, as by the time we hit the singletrack I started dogging it up the rolling climbing singletrack. The first third of the race was kind of a blur as couldn’t quite accelerate the climbs. I knew the lack of recent speedwork was the cause, and settled in to try to find a groove. . Apparently I wasn’t the only one having an off day, as I surprisingly passed Mike Wolfe in about 15th place. Fortunately for me, the rest of the race I rebounded as I once again kept fueling with Vitargo and felt stronger as the race progressed (oh no.. now 50k is "short" for me), passing soon to be daddy Tim Olsen (will he now race faster? I think so) and other guys all the way to the finish. The snow was wet and sloppy, making for fun sliding and splashing the rest of the race. This is the stuff I run for, and the nastier the better, and I tried to use it to my advantage. The Chuckanut Ridge trail was super fun rolly singletrack roots and rock, and my choice of the Bondi B was a good one. Even though the tread on the Bondi is minimal, I had no problem on the snow and mud.

Coming up the last of the steep snowy climb of Chinscraper trail in 6th place, I looked back and saw two guys close behind and gunned it to the top. This was the steepest grade of the course, actually hand over hand in the snow; I was glad I’d thrown a one pair of Injinji on feet and one on hands for warmth.

The 1600’ descent was all on dirt and snow road back to the 10k fast section to finish, and one guy was right behind, pushing hard the whole way. I couldn’t go any faster, but knew my energy was high and he or anyone behind would have work to do to pass me. Hitting the last aid and the feared 10k, I didn’t look back and just tried to focus on turnover. Just then, the sound we all fear of footsteps slapping came up from behind. Jim Rebenack, who had run solid at the Golden Gate 50K, put on a spurt and passed me and put a quick 10 seconds on me. I then made the dreaded mistake of looking back and seeing Tim Olsen and three others only 20 seconds back. I decided that moment was do or die, and I was not going to finish any lower than 7th, and maybe even higher even though no one was in sight far ahead. I put a surge on to pass Jim, hoping this would slightly demoralize him temporarily, and pushed best I could. Just then a runner I hadn't seen before came out of nowhere with a pacer, and I guessed he was not in the race given the race rules. He then proceeded to get a drink from a crew a half mile ahead and drop his pacer off. I was more than ticked off at this as I realized he was in the race, and tried my best to catch him, but he pulled ahead. I felt this was very poor form, as he was the only one running without a hand bottle in this 6th through 13th position of guys, had obviously been running with crew help, and didn’t even respect the efforts the five or so other guys in his immediate viscinity in such a tight race, but just cruised on by.

Into the final mile, I recognized Jason Louttit up ahead, who’d gone out fast. I really respect his spirit and aggressive race style though (which he used at AR 50 last year) , and congratulated him on his effort as I passed. Into the park under overcast and cool skies, was an awesome finish area with about all the ultra friends I have in North America. Thanks to Krissy Moehl RD, who did a fantastic job of organizing this new classic to add to my perennial attendance list.

Turns out leader and monster Max King had made a wrong turn on a mis-marked last descent (not anyone's fault; these things happen), and roadie Sage Canaday took second to Adam Campbell. Welcome to ultras, Sage, and the other fast roadies who came out; happy to have the sport elevated like this! Fellow Boulderite and Hoka team mate and travel mate Jason Schlarb ran hard for third. For the ladies, it was no surprise that Ellie won... again.

Feeling the need for some speedwork, I jumped into the Boulder Spring Half Marathon this morning. The top times at this packed dirt race were pretty stout (sub 1:10) in the past few years, so I'd had hopes of top 10 maybe at best in the middle of my race cycle. Turns out the really fast guys were sunbathing today, and I somehow took 3rd place men and 1st master and 1st ultrarunner who-should-know-better. A fine morning of training in the thin air and heat.. 80 degrees F here in the Front Range CO today.. (but sub 32 here and much faster.

Lastly, one of the other Iron Mikes, Mike Wardian, was in town this weekend, so I gave him a tour of the moonlit local peaks on a Friday night run. In talking with this guy, his motivation is truly astounding. I know he is talented, but he is further proof that it motivation is more important than talent when it comes to success.

Finally, what many have been waiting for...How to make Vitargo gel!


  1. The Vitargo vids are excellent/helpful, thanks for posting...curious if you could detail your intake throughout a race? Taking a gulp at timed intervals? Also carrying water?

  2. Thanks for the report. Poor form from the guy breaking the rules. Least we can depict from the results who it was. I guess this is the uglier side of Ultras being more popular and offering prize money

  3. Mr. Mackey,
    I apologize for any anger, or more so confusion you have regarding the Chuckanut. I did not mean to offend you. A couple things to clear up, 1. I did have a handheld 12 oz amphipod water bottle, which I filled at every aid station like everyone else, it is in all my race photos except the finish, as I tossed it in the grass at Fairhaven Park with about 200 meters to go. 2. I did not have a crew. My wife offered me 1 packet of GU at mile 27, which I didn't take, as I still had one from the Chinscraper aid station, she provided NO other crew type support or aid any where else. 3. The guy running with me when I passed you, was not a pacer. He is a former WWU xc team mate who still lives in Bham, and he was out for a long run, taking in the race, when he popped out of Cleator road as I passed, and he tagged along until about half a mile before California street, at which point you yelled a few things, and I realized how this looked, and told him he needed to find another way back to Fairhaven, which he promptly did.
    It was never my intention to offend anyone, break any rules, and especially not be seen as someone with a crew or pacers. It was an unfortunate mishap. But it does not change how I ran my race, how I was able to run about 6 minute pace to close, or that I ran 5 of the last 7 miles alone. I apologize if I offended you. I did have a large contingent of people cheering for me all along the course, as I used to be a Bham local, and was the only guy near the front with local ties. I don't run very many ultras, but I respect what you ultra fellas do, I primarily use Cnut for a hard long effort in my winter training. I wanted to speak with you at the finish, but I bashed my knee and was receiving attention for it for about 30 minutes after the race, and unfortunately, I did not know who you were, or what you looked like, so I couldn't find you. And I did acknowledge you guys as I passed, I said "hello, good work" but don't know if you heard, or if you acknowledged. Again, sorry for any confusion, or hard feelings. Good luck with your summer racing. Maybe we will cross paths at another race.

  4. Pete,
    Per usual, my writing was direct and to the point in my post, somewhat brusque I should.. I too have bent the rules in an ultra (ie WS 100) so live and learn I guess.. Happy to see you racing and hope to race with you soon.. Dave

  5. Understood Dave, no hard feelings on my end, just felt bad for the misconceptions and wanted to let you know where I stood. Out of curiosity...when do crews become acceptable in ultra races? What distances? Not having any ultra experience, and having recently read the article regarding Paula Radcliff's world record being stripped for using male pacers a few years back in a marathon it just got me thinking. Don't most folks use crew support for races such as WS 100 and the like?

  6. if the race allows them they will put post info about pacers in the race site. in 50's it can be as early as the last 25 miles and for 100's it is again around the 50 mile mark. IT kinda depends where an aid station is at that point - along with crew access.

    good job to the both of you for a good race!

  7. Will, regarding caloric intake I try for at leats 500 calories per hour, which is easily attainable with Vitargo. I average about 700-800 per hour though, depending on the stage of the race. I fuel aggressively the first half of races from the start of the gun and taper off from there the last 1/4 of a race. I try not to mix other gels or drink brands as they most all maltodextrin based and sit much longer in the stomach. In hindsight this explains GI issues I have had in the past in 100s.
    One more thing about making the gel; you must make it the night before a race. It sets up after 24 hours. Takes some planning but that's the price to pay for better performance. The regular Vitargo drink (240 cal/11-22 oz H2O) does not set up; just the gel.
    Also, a critical point is you must add your own electrolyte caps: Vitargo doesnt have any.
    Each ultra or trail race is different as far as race rules, but the race websites explain it clearly, as unknown says above. For 100 milers things may be a bit looser though depending on if you ask the racer or the race director. Brian Robinson was dq'd at WS 100 for getting a hand on the final 200 m of the race; if that had happened at mile 70 in the woods no one would have blinked. So I guess the point being is enforcement can be selective, but safe to say one shouldn't bend rules to create a direct advantage over another racer. D

  8. Thanks Dave, appreciate the further info.

    Per your original Vitargo post (2/25), I increased my calorie intake 2X+ at WTC, ran conservative over the first half of the race (more advice I think I read here), and finished with what I feel was my best ultra distance effort to date.

    Looking forward to trying out the GENR8 products sometime soon.

  9. Hi Dave,

    I see that you don't seem to consume any carbs other than Vitargo. I was rereading Sunny Blende's article about "Demystifying the Bonk" and it got me thinking that maybe a Vitargo-only approach could set you up for "Central Fatigue" in longer races because the Vitargo seems to bypass the liver as it goes to working muscles. Here is the quote that got me thinking:

    "The problem for ultrarunners eating mostly glucose (maltodextrin products), which can go directly to the muscles for energy, is that the liver stores remain low, and therefore the brain is still starved for glucose. A starved brain senses trouble and begins to shut bodily functions down…as in central fatigue."

    I have no science background and I'm about to attempt my first ultra, so I don't pretend to know what I'm talking about. I'm just trying to figure out if it may be a good idea to alternate or combine Vitargo with simple sugars at certain points to ensure that the liver would get sufficient glycogen so that it can fuel the brain.

    I appreciate any input!


  10. In your gel video, you claim vitargo is cheaper than gels. A tub cost $33 on Amazon, has 10 servings at 280 cal each. So that 2800 calories for $33 or $1.17 per 100 cals, or a few cents more than most gels.

    Do you have any special product code or any ways for your fans to use your promotion to actually make it cheaper than gels?

  11. Dave, the funniest thing happened to me this weekend while attempting to run Bishop High Sierra 100k. The genius that I am, I tried to put in 1680 calories worth of Vitargo in a 20oz bottle (so far, Vitargo is the only thing that doesn't hurt my stomach on runs longer than 4hrs). I knew I was asking for trouble but I'm too curious and always go a little farther that what is recommended. As I was mixing it (made 3 bottle worth and 2 more 10oz flasks, as I had leftover), my blender started smoking a little but I kept it going. I drove up, made camp, hung out, and hit the sack. Race morning came and again, I was running late to the starting line. About 2 miles into it, I tried taking a swig and nothing. Opened my bottle and the gel became a hard like wax. As I stood there in disbelief, I look up and a female runner with Genr8/Vitargo shorts runs! I tried pulling it out with my finger at intervals but it was like eating a Now and Later and that only got me so far. Once I reached the other aid station bottles, they were the same. Damn! I was relegated to liquid satan (Coke) and PB&Js. The small 10oz flasks melted some at mile 40 but by that time, my fueling was shot and I was spent. Dropped down to the 50mile option as my body could not recover on what I'm guessing was about 800 calories worth of Coke and PB&Js, definitely not enough calories. Comical. Lesson: no more than 6 to 8 scoops per 20oz bottle and just utilize drop bags for the other bottles. Just thought I'd share my experience.

    Robert H.

  12. I think that it is a great experience and the only way it is to take courage and do it. Even though you know that you will get torched.

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