Sunday, June 26, 2011

WS Brief

Overall, even though what I experienced Saturday was truly inspiring and phenomenal in many ways, I felt had a mediocre race at Western this year. Got 8th in the race, but won the Montrail Cup series. I felt rather blase for most of the day with no real low-points, but nI ever felt like I could accelerate at any given time either. I continue to underestimate the recovery that needs to occur on a deep level from these things called ultras..I guess being 41 will do that to you!

Some highlights though..

(I can't believe I didn't mention my crew when I wrote this post last night; my good college pal Devin, SFSU coach Tom Lyons and son Dean, old Boulder pal Galen Burrell (also paced me in 04), and pacers Mark Richtman (paced me in 09) and Atlas snowshoe race teammate Peter Fain. Thanks fellas! Ellen and Ava came to the finish past bedtime to cheer, a pleasure to see through tired eyes.

The other highlights:

*Seeing a BIG black bear book across the trail and dive down steep hill near Dusty Corners.

*This article about RD Greg Soderlund in the Sacramento Bee newspaper. Greg is such a grounded guy, humble, detailed, and he used to be a PA but would never tell you so.

*Witnessing the sprint finish of Kami Semick vs. Nikki Kimball for 2nd and 3rd on the track. Apparently they had their own run-in on the trail with a different bear than mine (seriously).

*Running 15 miles of the race on top of the Sierra snowpack, picking out yellow flags to follow and wishing the whole race was like that.

*Being passed by AJW at Hwy 49, then retaking him in the last few miles. My crew guy Tom Lyons told me I'd better beat him or I’d have no ride home.

*Volunteering few a few hours for the race. Seeing loads of people I only see once a year and meeting tons of others.

*Not a highlight; taking my daughter to the ER the day before the race, wondering if I would make the start the next day! (Just a hard fall off the bunkbed. She is fine but got a little egg behind her ear; kids’ resiliency amazes me.)

I will try to write something up by next weekend if I can fit it in.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Help me solve my GI issues at WS

Friend or Foe?

I almost never reach out to the masses for running advice. I basically go it alone in my training strategy and this has worked quite well for the most part in all racing and training. In this case though, I am trying to solve a thorny problem that oddly solely occurs on the Squaw to Auburn course.

My problem is located in the lower left of the above diagram, where the stomach joins the duodenum and small intestine. I am trying to find ways to not have my pyloric sphincter bind into a knot and shut down all subsequent digestion by the time I hit Michigan Bluff. All digestive absorption happens distal to the stomach in the small intestine, with very little real events in the stomach (except mixing) and in the large intestine (except some water absortion and mucus production). My nutrient absorption during races has normally been excellent, with a "cast iron stomach" I rarely to never have nausea, vomiting, and lack of fueling. But once I touch that dirt in the Sierra summer all bets are off. Even last year when pacing Geoff, after 25 miles I found the same thing happening, peeling off at Brown's Bar and then picking him up later at Robie Point. And it was "only"90 degrees last year. This has only occurred on the WS course, and never in any other, or even longer, adventure or running event.

So help me if you will with any and all tips. I am looking for the silver bullet the slay the GI vampire that lurks within. Do you know what this bullet consists of? I have asked advice of a few WS legends such as Craig Thornley and AJW, and they offered some excellent tips, historical perspective, and references to prior posts. But these guys for the most part get through WS on chicken broth, stew, turkey and avocado and cheese sandwiches for the first half, then switch to gels and conventional fueling later in the race. This wouldn't work for me, as I tried this kind of stuff (but much less of it) in 2004, leaving my stomach turned sideways on Cal Street while Jurek put an hour on me. I have a ton of respect for these guys and their ways, especially as they actually spend time on the course fine tuning and becoming intimate with it, but their fueling strategies are more traditional than mine.

Here are my options as I see them;

Metoclopramide: My ultrarunning science friend Charles told me her tried this pharmacological GI motility agent once, which left him asleep by the side of the trail. Not sure I want to go there.

Ginger: I tried capsules in 2009, but I may have tried them too late in the game as they didn't seem to work. But I was kind of sick that year anyway. I may supplement these early and see what happens. I know nothing about ginger extract though, except it is mostly alcohol mixing with liquid ginger.

Simplicity: Gels, Clif Bloks bananas, PBJ, water. I have only had success here in shorter races. I lean towards this simple tried but true way and not gumming the works.

Eating less: Risky. If there is less in the tank I may bonk and not catch up in fueling later.

Pacing smarter: Getting to Michigan Bluff doesn't win the race; getting to the track first does.

Feel free to post ideas. I need them! For such an experienced runner as I am, in this realm I feel as green as Karl Meltzer running a road 5K. Solving this GI thang is no reinvention of the wheel for many ultrarunners, but I am a neophyte at this distance and have the utmost respect for the years that are out there.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Novato life before Western States

The Novato skyline looking West

I think my lack of a mileage log has caught up with me. Since running Miwok 100k 3+ weeks ago I just have felt like the gas hasn’t been in the tank to run very much or very hard since then. I am not supposed to run much anyway as Miwok and AR 50 were so close to each other, but I should get better at tracking my training, just to know why the heck I feel so crappy. This hasn’t been for naught though as I can focus more on life's other callings, but I am tired of being tired all the time.

What I do know I need to change immediately is my diet. Ellen and the kids and I eat extremely well overall, but cookies and 1-2 beers at the end of the day is not just working (for me, not the kids). I think the special treats in the evening are negatively affecting my sleep patterns and not enabling recovery. Basically every morning I wake up and don’t feel in the least bit rested, wanting three more hours in the sack to catch up. My basic fueling is vegetarian with omnivore tendency, and with a bit more discipline will yield better recovery and energy.

I ran well in the spring because I was focused on studies, family, and no alcoholic beverages, which was fine and I didn’t even notice for weeks at a time that I hadn’t ingested any alcohol, which is mostly a waste of money that I don’t have anyway. This was a good formula and I seemed to race well on moderate running mileage. I will go back to these basics, but will not give up all of the cookies.. just half of them. I am fine with fewer miles the next few weeks before States, as I am not going to get any fitter and can more or less only recover anyway. I find when I put more energy into school and family I race best, so I am trying to get back to these basics.

Otherwise we now live in Novato, CA, on the northern side of Marin, about 200 meters from Hwy 101 and close to Hwy 37, which takes me to Vallejo over to top of the Bay. I have a 25 minute reverse commute from door to door, and stellar trails just out the back door on a long 1500 foot elevation ridge that creates a kind of quasi-cirque that surrounds Novato. Look at the Novato skyline and you can pick out some cell phone towers at the top of the Skyline, which his the middle of the “cirque”; these towers are easily reached by a steep rolling series of climbs by dirt road and single track out the door of our dodgy apartment on Ignacio Boulevard. Up Ignacio two miles away is College of Marin, a beauty of a college campus trailhead of about 20 miles of moderately difficult and beautiful trail link ups onto some private land (never crossed this private land though..wouldn’t dare :) high above to the aforementioned ridge. The kids, dog, Ellen and I had an excellent evening hike down low near the college today to a small pond on the Waterfall trail, which was perfect for a family jaunt with a one-year old strapped to my back and a three-year old leading the charge.

The other skyline feature of Novato is Mt Burdell, a mini-massif of dirt roads and single track to about 1500 feet, with an awesome five-mile long narrow switchback descent on the backside to Mt Olompali State Park, which used to be the largest Miwok Indian encampment long ago, as well and where the Grateful Dead used to jam. This trail combo can be a sweet out and back, offer excellent leg turnover with vertical as needed. All in all, Mt Burdell is super nice for running and views. And Novato is a nice town, a bit less pretentious than much of Marin, yet just as attractive, with a cool farmer’s market that rivals Boulder’s.

So WS is coming up and I have re-evaluated my plan for this race. The past two times I have raced it I ran at the front until Michigan Bluff and ended with mixed results, suffering the effects of the heat for doing so. This year I am taking a new tack and am going to “chill” and try to enjoy the experience without killing myself and not being able to function at school the week after. According to the point system, all I need to do is finish to win the Montrail Cup, which is more important than trying to win the race this year and risk blowing up (not that I could win it anyway). I look forward to being 30 minutes back of the leaders coming into Foresthill, and then see what may materialize after that in terms of a podium spot. Unlike others, who run away to escape north over the Arctic circle to evade the pressure of WS title defense, I am going to chill like the ice cube I am. May I not melt before mile 30.