Add to Technorati Favorites "Going the Distance!": October 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I Hit The Wall: My Endocrine System said Enough is Enough!

Major Endocrine Glands: 1. Pineal Gland 2. Pituitary Gland 3. Thyroid Gland 4. Thymus 5. Adrenal Gland 6. Pancreas 7. Ovary 8. Testes

As most of you know I've run quite a few races lately with the Flatlanders 6 Hour on September 2nd, the Turkey and Taturs 50K on September 16th, the Arkansas Traveller 100 on October 7th and the Rock Creek 50K this past weekend. I returned from the 50K this past Sunday and was feeling pretty good; physically I was a bit stiff and sore but mentally I was better than ever energized from a weekend of trail running and spending time with friends. I took Sunday and Monday as rest days to recuperate and then planned on a run Tuesday. Then, yesterday, I noticed a sharp decrease in my appetite and was feeling a bit off in general but headed out for my scheduled run anyway after work. The weather was so perfect that instead of running 6 miles I ended up doing 12 miles which put me over the edge. Today I awoke feeling queasy, with no appetite, no energy and emotionally depressed opting to call in to work and spend the day resting; I ended up sleeping 17 hours! So after a bit of research and consulting the "Ultra Bible" I figured out that my endocrine system was stressed to its max; it simply couldn't take anymore and things went a bit haywire (commonly diagnosed as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome). Here's what A Step Beyond: A Definitive Guide to Ultrarunning says about the endocrine system:

"Most runners have no idea what the endocrine system is, nor its significance to ultrarunning. An ultra places tremendous stress on the body. The endocrine system reacts to enable the body to respond to the stress. WIthout proper endocrine system function, completion of an ultra would be virtually impossible. That system is trained by repeated exposure to stress. Mutltiple glands (pituitary, hypothalamus, adrenal) are active and they secrete multiple chemicals (aldosteroone, vasopressin, glucagon, insulin, adrenaline, cortisol, endorphins-just to name a few) that affect how we get through these long, stressful runs. The endocrine system can strengthen with moderate training, but can also be pushed to the point of fatigue and collapse by too much stress. That is really what overtraining is all about. Muscles recover rapidly from an ultra, but the endocrine system takes many weeks to fully recover. Too many long runs in too short a time will push a runner into an overtrained state that will force rest, not so much for the muscles, but for the endocrine system... And make no mistake, ultrarunning does exact a cumulative effect on most of us. It takes extraordinary effort to push your body through the demands of 50 miles, 100 or even longer distances. You are "borrowing" on your body's reserves. Just how long it will take to "repay the debt," varies among runners. But if the debt is not repaid in full, there may be foreclosure down the road."

Click HERE to read an article on endocrine system depletion by Jay Hodde and the owner of Succeed Products, Karl King.

What I learned today was that I definitely have limits; I have come to think that I can just keep going like the Energizer Bunny but that is not the case. I am human and not powered by batteries that you can just swap out when they're depleted. This feeling of invincibility has led me to do too much, too soon and today it all came crashing down. You must give your body (muscles and endocrine system) enough time to recover after events or it WILL SHUT DOWN. I wanted all of you to know about my experience so you can learn from my mistakes and know that it is OK to rest; if you don't do it on your own your body will do it for you.

Hope all is well and Happy Resting,

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My Cousin Dan: From Couch Potato to Marathon Runner

The above picture is Dan at his 182 lb. "fighting" weight

I wanted to share my second cousin's story with all of you as he is a real inspiration! Dan and our other cousin, Brian, will be running their first marathon at the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, OK on November 18th. I will be joining the two of them and am honored and proud to share in this life changing experience and celebration of their hard work and dedication. Here is Dan's story:

"Starting in high school, I had always been very fit, played football, lived in the weight room, and ate a healthy diet (on a teenager scale). During college my weight, like many other people, started to climb. I continued off and on to lift weights but as my weight room experience tapered my food consumption increased. At the age of 30 my weight had reached a new all-time high at 270lbs and 5’10”.

Ironically, it is not the person in the mirror that wakes us up to our weight it is a photograph that makes us think, “I don’t recognize this person!” It was that last picture that made me say enough is enough! I began to run and hated it! A half mile was torture! I started gradually, slowing building up to a mile, then a mile and half and so on. Now, I can’t wait to get out there.

I am now training for my first marathon. Running has helped me shed the weight fairly quickly along with eating sensibly. I didn’t follow any fad diet. I just ate sensibly. Many people get caught up in the diet scene and are more worried about points than what their brain is telling them. I now weigh 182lbs and the rewards are too numerous to count. For starters, I have more energy to keep up with my five year old daughter now! Running has transformed my life, one from obese and low energy to, “I can not wait to take that long run this weekend!” Your self-confidence will soar along with a boost in self-esteem. The worst thing about running is that I have had to buy a new wardrobe twice!"

Absolutely AMAZING! Dan followed the 4 steps of the Running4Recovery program by:

CLAIMING OWNERSHIP: He took an honest look at himself at the age of 30 and knew he had to change his habits. He took responsibility for his obesity and made a plan to do something about it.

ASK FOR HELP: He asked his family and friends to support him in his new lifestyle by helping him to make healthier choices in his diet. He also consulted books and online resources to help him reach his goal of running a marathon.

RUN FOR RECOVERY: He hit the streets religiously following his training plan and grew to love running; now he's a regular Forrest Gump!

ENJOY YOUR FREEDOM: On November 18th he's going to enjoy the benefits of being leaner and healthier by running his first marathon. This will be a celebration of his tremendous achievement!

Congratulations Dan; I am so proud of you. I can't wait to run with you and Brian in Tulsa and know that the two of you will do great!

This is my second post this week so if you missed the first one continue down the page to read my race report from the Rock Creek 50K this past weekend in Lake Perry, KS.

Hope all is well and Happy Running,

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Rock Creek Trail Series 50K: Good Friends, Good Trails and GREAT TIMES!

As you can see from the title above I had another awesome ultra-running experience this weekend at the Rock Creek Trail Series 50K near Topeka, Kansas. I left St. Louis around 1:00 pm Friday and headed over to Columbia to meet up with my good friend Deanna Stoppler and then we continued on to Lake Perry for a fun-filled night of camping before the race. Deanna's friend, Jeff Wells, had headed over a little earlier to get a camping space as he would be joining in the festivities too. Deanna and I arrived around 6:30 pm, found Jeff and our camping spot and hurried to get our tents up before it was dark. Once we were situated Jeff got the fire started and we made dinner; Deanna and I had some pasta with chicken while Jeff mowed down on a big, juicy steak. We then sat around the campfire swapping adventure stories and cooking up SMORE's. I hadn't made SMORE's in over 15 years and Deanna had never had them so we were in for quite a treat (she's Canadian, eh; do they even have marshmallows up there?). They were just as awesome as I remembered although Deanna had some trouble when her stick broke off inside the marshmallows; she had to perform a bit of surgery using Jeff's Leatherman. After a few laughs we all retired around 10:30 pm to get some rest before the race; Deanna came back from the bathroom and said there were a lot of barking spiders around. Still not sure what she meant; is that some sort of species I haven't heard of? Anyway...

We woke up the next morning around 5:45 am, ate breakfast, broke down our camp site and headed off to the race; the morning air was cool and crisp as the temperature hovered around 40 degrees. Perfect running weather! We arrived at the race and immediately I saw my good friend Dave Wakefield and talked with him a bit before checking in. He had made a running skirt out of his shorts; he's quite an interesting dude (in a good way :-) Deanna and I headed back to the car to begin getting ready and saw a TON of our friends; Rick Mayo, John King, "Bad Ben" Holmes, Stuart Johnson, Pat Perry and Paul Schoenlaub were running in the race and I was stoked to see them. We all chatted before heading over for the pre-race spiel and at 8:06 am we were off.

Before the race I was a bit worried as I had a weird pain in my right knee that started flaring up on Wednesday; I had done some research online and still suspect I may have a torn meniscus. I began running with Deanna and could feel the slight, sharp pain with each step; I told her that it was definitely real and I was worried. I figured that if it started bothering me too badly I'd just drop at the turn but hoped it wouldn't come to that. Deanna and I continued running together in silence for the first 6 miles before coming up on fellow SLUG's Stuart Johnson and Paul Schoenlaub. We politely passed them and in return were called "Young Punks" by Stuart; them sound like fighting words to me! That would be the last I saw of the two of them during the race but not the last I heard out of them; Paul's voice carries for miles! As we entered the 8.5 mile aid station I decided to let Deanna go; she was really book'in and I was still a bit worn from the AT 100. I continued on by myself hitting the turn in 2 hours, 30 minutes and feeling good. I talked a bit with Rick and John as I filled my water bottles and gulped down the Hammer Gel that Jessica Wakefield handed me. They had both signed up for the 25K race since they each have a busy racing schedule coming up and had just run at Arkansas Traveller a few weeks ago (Rick ran the entire race and John paced Gabe for the last 52 miles). Perhaps they had the right idea but I was having so much fun I figured I'd head back out for a 2nd loop :-)

Once back on the trail I was greeted with views of Lake Perry; the constant lapping of the waves against the shore served to relax my mind. As I ran along the bluff the cool wind swept across the lake sending a much welcomed chill throughout my body reminding me how lucky I was to be out enjoying the beauty and serenity of the trail. Then I heard it, this moment of peace and tranquility was interrupted by the voice of Paul Schoenlaub carrying through the forest! Stuart and Paul were closing in and I pushed on as there was no way I'd give Stuart the satisfaction of passing this "Young Punk." I found out later that they were gunning for me the entire second loop but I always knew exactly where they were; it was impossible for Paul to keep quiet long enough for them to sneak up on me (I'm just kidding with you Paul; OK, not really). As I entered the 28.2 mile Aid Station I was encouraged by the young volunteers to pick it up as there was a gentleman just up ahead walking, "He's only 2 minutes out just around the corner, he's yours!", they said. I humored them and accepted their challenge as I filled my water bottles and grabbed a Jolly Rancher. About a mile down the trail I spotted him; he politely moved aside and exclaimed in a thick British accent "I'm beat and tired as Hell, plum out of gas!" "I hear what you're saying, Brother," I replied as I passed him and continued running up the hill; there would be no more walking for me this close to the end. I spotted the blue Trail Head signs and knew the finish was near; minutes later I was greeted by the familiar hum of the generator as I rounded the corner for one last sprint finishing in 5:16:07 and placing 7th overall. Dave Wakefield took 1st place overall with a strong 4:41:50 finish and Deanna was a ROCK STAR taking 1st place female with a 4:56:57 finish placing 3rd overall; CONGRATS to both of you! I think "Bad Ben" sums up the race perfectly in saying:

"This race was a wonderful first-year production by Willie Lambert, the race director. And what a course...probably the most perfect 50K course that I've ever run on. Singletrack in the woods, with occasional views of beautiful Lake Perry. Just enough technically-rocky sections, broken-up by faster sections. There was good aid station placement and great volunteers."

I couldn't agree with him more! The post-race festivities were AWESOME with a live band, chocolate milk from a local dairy, baked potatoes, chili, soup and some great giveaways from the sponsors and Great Plains Running Company. Deanna cleaned up taking home a beautiful 1st place trophy, a pair of Montrail shoes, a Suunto T3 Watch, a Montrail Beanie and a Nathan Waistpack; must be nice to be a winner! We hung out for a few hours chatting with all of our friends before heading back to Colulmbia.

We got back to Columbia around 9:00 pm, picked up my car from Deanna's work and discovered about a mile down the road that I had a flat tire. I hadn't changed a tire in about 15 years (that's what AAA's for, right?) so Deanna took the lead. Although we were both tired, hungry and dirty she exclaimed "You may think I'm a bit crazy but this is great. The weather's perfect and it's a real team building experience!" She's right, I do think she is crazy but you got to love her attitude! Deanna and her boyfriend Dave were kind enough to invite me to stay the night at their place and I took them up on the offer. They live on a farm about 15 miles south of Columbia and it is absolutely beautiful. I awoke this morning to the smell of freshly brewed coffee and homemade pecan pancakes with real maple syrup; YUM!!! With a full belly I headed back to St. Louis around 10:00 am energized from another amazing adventure! To check out all of the pictures from the weekend click HERE and for the full Rock Creek Trail Race Series 25K and 50K results click HERE.

I'm often asked why I run ultra's and my response is first and foremost that I love the people. The ultra-community is one big family and we are excited to share our lives and experiences with each other. Today my closest friends are ultra-runners and although I've only known them for a short while it feels like we go back a lifetime. They are some of the kindest, warmest and friendliest people I've ever known and I'm thankful each and every day for this sport and the joy it has brought into my life.

Hope all of you are doing well and Happy Running,

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Trails and Tribulations Arkansas Traveller 100 Interview Now Available

I wanted to let all of you know that the Trails and Tribulations Podcast Interview is now available. As I mentioned in a previous post Kim and Andrew approached me a few weeks back about doing an interview about the Arkansas Traveller race and I thought this would be a great chance to add a 3rd dimension to my AT 100 Race Report. I also speak in length about how I got into running in the first place, the Running4Recovery Program and how ultrarunning has changed my life. Click HERE to visit the Trails and Tribulations website and at the bottom of the "Show Notes" you will have a choice to either download and listen to the interview on your computer or subscribe to the bi-weekly podcast. Thank you Kim and Andrew for all of your hard work and giving me the opportunity to share my experience with you and all of your listeners. I hope that through my story others realize that in ultras, as in life, things can change in an instant for the better; don't give up because you may miss out on something extraordinary!

Happy Running,

Sunday, October 21, 2007

"Marathon Challenge" on NOVA, Diet as a Lifestyle, Re-evalute Your Footwear Needs and Upcoming "Adventures"

Vermont Foliage: Photo by Matt Ramos

Running - 39.01 Miles, 5:40:19, 8:43 Pace
Yoga - 3 Hours
Elliptical Machine - 1.5 Hours

This is my favorite time of the year; the mornings are crisp, the humidity is low and the beauty of the changing forest is breathtaking. Fall is definitely here! Just this morning I was running with a group of SLUGs out on Chubb trail and the golden glow from the leaves was practically blinding; what a day to be a runner! If you'd like please share some comments or pictures of the fall foliage from your area; I'd love to hear about your experiences during what I think is the best season of them all.

I thought this program would be of interest to many of you as it definitely is to me; I love to hear about others pushing their limits to achieve a goal which they once thought was impossible. These individuals and many of you are living proof that we are all capable of anything we put our minds to through hard work and discipline. Following is a description of the program:

"In cooperation with the Boston Athletic Association and Tufts University, NOVA was granted unprecedented access to the Boston Marathon course. In the summer of 2006, we began following 13 hopeful novices as they took the first step toward completing the 26.2-mile race in April 2007. The participants come from diverse backgrounds - a young woman running in memory of her mother, who died in a tragic car accident; a working single mom; even a former NFL linebacker. The one unifying element is that none of them is currently a runner. Over the nine-month training period, exercise and nutrition scientists and doctors at Tufts University use sophisticated technology to monitor the physical transformations that the participants have undergone. The experience demands a transformation of mind and body, and NOVA cameras are there, following every step of the way. Who was able to finish the race and what type of changes did the runners experience? You'll have to tune in to find out. "Marathon Challenge" will premiere Tuesday, October 30 at 8:00 pm on most PBS stations. For more information you can visit the Nova Website. You can also view a short promo of the show on Youtube by clicking HERE.


Many of you know that I once weighed in at 230 lbs. and was approaching a 40 inch waist; most of the people I meet today have a hard time believing that but it's definitely true. Runner's World recently had an article about how to maintain a healthy weight and not always be on a diet; diet's don't work. You must adopt habits and a healthy lifestyle that you can maintain indefinitely. By no means does that mean depriving yourself, as runners we can get by with a few more calories than the average Joe, but it does mean being aware of what you are consuming and burning. Here are a few tips from the article:

1. Keep Up the Carbs
You won't find NWCR folks on a high-protein diet. Most successful losers get about 49 percent or more of the calories from carbs, about 29 percent from fat, and the remainder from protein. This makes sense for runners, as you need the carbs to fuel your workouts. The key is selecting the right carbs-foods rich in fiber, like grains, beans, fruits, and veggies. Fiber helps dieters by providing a sense of fullness. Even better, research shows that a diet that includes 34 or more grams of fiber daily actually drops the number of calories your body takes up from your food. Over a year's time, this could equal a 10-pound weight loss.
2. Become a Morning Person
In one study, 78 percent of NWCR participants reported eating breakfast every day-a habit that may help curb appetite later in the day. Research shows that breakfast eaters, especially those who start the day with cereals (a natural for fiber), have a lower body mass index than those who skip the morning meal. Plus, protein often appears in breakfast foods in its proper proportion for sating appetite. Eating in the a.m. is particularly important for runners who work out in the morning, since it helps restock drained glycogen stores, along with supplying a variety of vitamins, minerals, and protein needed for recovery and good health.
3. Keep Moving
You know as a runner that burning calories tips the scales in your favor. So it comes as no surprise that NWCR participants are steadfast with their exercise. "The average person in the registry is burning about 2,800 calories a week in activity," says Wing. Last year, the USDA established 60 to 90 minutes as the recommended daily physical activity for those trying to maintain weight loss. Research shows that people who exercise daily on average weigh less than sedentary folks but eat more.

You can read the article in its entirety by clicking HERE.

I've been running in Asics Kayano's for almost 2 years now; they have quite a bit of support, are a bit heavy and just generally a lot of shoe. In the past 2 years I've logged thousands of miles and my running stride is much more efficient now than when I started. I used to be a heel striker, slight overpronator and a somewhat heavy plodder; now I have a mid-foot strike, a relatively neutral gait and when running on road you can barely here me coming. Friday I realized that I needed to visit the running store to get into a shoe that fits the runner I am today rather than just sticking with the same old standby. I went to Big River Running Company and discussed my needs with Matt and Ben and walked out of there with a pair of New Balance 902's. I had always said I was an Asics guy but after running in them yesterday I may have found a new brand; plus the wild Orange color makes me look really fast! Key word here is LOOK fast :-) You are constantly evolving and improving as a runner; it's OK to re-evaluate your footwear needs and perhaps make a change. You may find out that is exactly what you need to get that spring back into your step.

So I told you last week that I have a lot of things going on between now and Thanksgiving; I have to keep my life interesting so that all of you will keep tuning in to the blog. OK, maybe that's not exactly true, but sounds like a good excuse for weekly adventures to me! I've been having a great time lately traveling to races and making new friends from all over the country. Of course there will be pictures and recaps up on the blog but I wanted to give all of you a quick preview:

This Weekend (10/26 - 10/28) - My good friend Deanna Stoppler and I are heading over to Topeka, Kansas to camp out, eat some SMORE's and run the Rock Creek 50K. There will be a TON of my friends either running or volunteering at this race; here are a few that I know will be there, Dave Wakefield, "Bad Ben" Holmes, Paul Schoenlaub, Stuart Johnson and we could see an appearance (at least as spectators) from fellow Arkansas Traveller finishers Rick Mayo and Gabe Bevan.

November 1 to 4 - Heading out to Western Nebraska (via Denver) to meet up with Running4Recovery founder and co-owner Brad Holzworth and the rest of the team. We plan on spending a few days out at his condo discussing our plans for the future of the program and just really getting to know each other better. We'll be hitting the trails out there and putting in some miles as we're brainstorming through our ideas. I'm really looking forward to the trip and the chance to connect with Brad, the team and to explore a bit of Nebraska (uncharted territory for me).

November 7 to 11 - I will be going out to Los Angeles for a few days to spend some time with a good friend and former colleague, Erik Joule. I worked for Erik at Guess and he has always been someone who stood by me and helped me through some of the darkest moments in my life. As many of you know I'm in "hover mode" right now as I figure out what is next for me in life; Erik and I have quite a bit of catching up to do as I am very different today than I was during my LA days. He is someone I greatly admire and respect and I know he will have some great advice and insight. We plan on doing a lot of hiking up near Ojai, running along the beach and Yoga (of course!). It will be my first time in LA since 2003 and it is nice to be going back to visit someone I can trust to support me in my new, sober lifestyle.

November 16 to 18 - I am running the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, OK, on November 18th with my second cousins Dan and Brian. They both recently started running and it will be their first marathon; I am so excited to be supporting them through to the finish and sharing in this life changing moment with the two of them! Dan has quite a story as he has lost almost 100 lbs. through running. He is in the process of putting the finishing touches on his testimonial and I will be posting it up on the Running4Recovery website soon.

So what have all of you been up to? Any recent adventures you'd like to share or some exciting events that you have coming up? I encourage you to post your thoughts and news in the comments section as I'm always interested in what is going on in your lives.

Hope all is well and Happy Running,

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Arkansas Traveller Recovery, Science behind my "2nd Wind", Rick Mayo's Race Report and The Trails and Tribulations Podcast Show

Sunrise on the Mt. Whitney Trail: Photo by Amy Wind

Running: 7.02 Miles, 1:07:31, 9:37 Pace
Other Non-Running: 4:45:00

Arkansas Traveller Recovery
A lot of you have been asking about my recovery; how are you feeling, what do you do after a 100 miler and when are you going to start running again? Here's what I did, what I SHOULD HAVE done and how I'm feeling:

Sunday and Monday: Immediately after the race (15 minutes) I jumped right in the car as I'd been dreaming about a shower for about 15 HOURS. I kept nodding off during the 40 minute drive but didn't feel too bad, that is until I tried to get out of the car. I could barely lift my legs as my hip flexors were trashed! It took me a while but I made it to my room on the 2nd floor (always request a ground floor room) and straight into a warm shower to clean up before lying down; I didn't eat or drink anything. I knew better and did a lot of things wrong here but didn't really care; I wanted a shower and rest so I skipped some important steps. I should have walked around a bit after the race, LIGHTLY stretched, and then after about an hour jumped in the car. Once at the hotel I should have taken an ice bath before my shower to reduce the inflammation and then a lukewarm shower to clean up followed by consuming some complex carbs, protein and drinking water to start replenishing my body and flushing my system out. Typically after a long run I'll drink Endurox along with eating a Clif or Odwalla Bar. We drove back to STL that night and only stopped twice along the way to get out and stretch; once again I knew better but we all just wanted to get home. Once home around 9:00 pm I ate a chicken breast, brown rice, ice cream, took some vitamins and 4 ibuprofen's and went straight to bed and slept until 10:30 am Monday. I slept like a rock and was VERY SORE when I first got up; I could barely walk but forced myself to get out of bed and within about an hour everything was working again. By mid-afternoon I was moving around pretty well.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday: Went for a 30 minute walk Tuesday evening, rode the stationary bike 30 minutes Wednesday evening, 1 hour of Yoga Thursday and a 40 minute walk on Friday evening. During the week I increased my protein intake by eating 2 chicken breasts instead of one, having a protein shake every morning and eating something every 2-3 hours with a good mix of protein, carbs and healthy fats. I continued to take 8 ibuprofen a day (4 in the morning and 4 at night) to combat the inflammation along with vitamins and Joint Command to encourage joint recovery. Monday was my only sore day and by Wednesday I felt like I could head out and run a marathon; of course just because I felt good doesn't mean there wasn't a tremendous amount of damage that still needed to be repaired. No matter how good you feel you MUST give yourself ample time to heal after an event such as this.

Saturday and Today: Yesterday morning was my first run since the race and I headed out to Chubb Trail for a 7 mile run with Andrew; guess we didn't get enough of each other last weekend! I was fine through the first 3.5 miles but then my left calf started cramping up and I developed hip bursitis on my right side. I was running too fast and too far because I felt good going into the run; I should have listened to my body and slowed down when things started hurting. After the run I showered and went home to take 4 ibuprofen and go to an hour long yoga class. Today I didn't run at all and did an hour on the elliptical at the gym; this actually reduced the inflammation in my hip relieving the bursitis. My plan is to run 4 miles tomorrow at Queeny Park and see how I feel.

Regarding ibuprofen there are numerous studies that suggest that it is very hard on your kidneys and could cause permanent damage. Each of you must weigh the risks and benefits of using ibuprofen to determine for yourself if it is right for you. One of my good friends suggests using Bromelain, an all natural anti-inflammatory supplement, as an alternative.

Hope that answered the questions you had and then some. Please leave a comment or email me if you have any other ones that pop up.

Science behind my "2nd Wind"
I just finished reading the book Surviving the Extremes by Dr. Kenneth Kamler and stumbled across something very interesting and powerful especially in light of my race turnaround last weekend. In talking with other ultrarunners who have been at this a while the 100 mile distance (and beyond) seems to get easier with experience. Of course this is because they have physically trained themselves by putting in years and even decades of miles and also mentally they are prepared by knowing what to expect and how to handle the ups and downs. Dr. Kamler provides a great scientific explanation for this in his book of how we mentally strengthen ourselves.

"Testing the capacity for survival doesn't necessarily require being placed in harsh surroundings. All of us, whether living at an extreme or protected by an advanced society, are surrounded by emotional and mental, if not physical, obstacles. We spend most of our lives on the near side of those barriers, even as we long to surmount them. We take the easy way out, arguing, often with much validity, that to do so is safer or more practicial. If, however, we gather the will to cross over the obstacle, to confront the emotion or solve the problem, we gain strength from it. Telling the truth, making the sacrifice, doing the job though there won't be any recognition for it-these are mental exercises that strengthen will as much as physical exercise strengthens muscle. Such efforts actually form nerve connections in the brain that make it easier to overcome an obstacle the next time. Moreover, if we persist in the face of adversity, we often get a "second wind," much as an endurance runner does when he refuses to quit. The unexpected energy can carry us much farther than we ever thought possible and allow us to triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds."

Now, please go back and READ THE ABOVE PARAGRAPH AGAIN and start applying this immediately in your every day lives. By doing so you will train yourself to be able to overcome any obstacle that comes your way!

Rick Mayo's Race Report
Last night I was talking with a good friend on the phone and she asked "What did you do for 24 hours, listen to music?" Great question! Actually I only listened to my Ipod for about 1 1/2 hours so I had to think back to what was going through my head for the other 23 hours. When running a race of this distance you focus on how you're feeling (body scan from head to toe and internally), keeping your hydration/electrolytes in balance, following your fueling strategy and what you're going to need at upcoming aid stations. When you scan and something isn't right you then move into a solution oriented mode to figure out what you need to do to fix the problem before it gets any worse. If you are at a REALLY LOW POINT, like I was from mile 32 to mile 45, you start thinking about why you're doing this as you search for meaning and inspiration to push on. My friend, Rick Mayo (pictured above, finished AT in 23:33:22), wrote a great entry in his blog about the dialogue going on in his head. This captures what we're thinking and feeling better than anything I've ever read; nice job Rick on the race and the blog entry! This is a must read so click HERE.

The Trails and Tribulations Show
Ultrarunners Andrew Edwards and Kim Love-Ottobre have a new podcast called The Trails and Tribulations Show. The podcast features discussion on races, ultra race reports, interviews with ultra runners and people in the running industry, gear reviews, and all things connected with the ultra community. After reading my AT 100 race report, Kim emailed me and asked if I'd be interested in doing a phone interview with them regarding my recent finish at Arkansas Traveller and I said sure. I was quite honored that someone would approach me to do something like that and was very excited about getting to talk about the race. I also figured it would add another dimension to the blog and make the story come alive even more. So last Wednesday night Kim, Andrew and I chatted for about an hour about the race, how I got into ultrarunning, the Running4Recovery program and how running has changed my life. The interview will be up this coming weekend so please check the Trails and Tribulations website so you can download and listen to the interview. I would also highly recommend downloading the other podcasts available from the show as they are very interesting and entertaining. Thanks again Kim and Andrew for providing this great service to the ultrarunning community!

I have a lot of events and trips coming up in the near future and will fill you in on them next week. Hope all of you are doing well and enjoying this cool Fall weather!
Happy Running,

Monday, October 8, 2007

2007 Arkansas Traveller 100 Mile Race Report: From the Brink of a DNF to a PR

Throughout the week prior to the race I had been eyeing the Saturday weather forecast for Perryville,AR, 89 degrees, 79% humidity and an Accuweather “RealFeel” of 99 degrees; are you kidding me!?! For some people they may welcome this last taste of summer before the long, cold winter but when you are running 100 miles through the woods these are far from ideal conditions. The Arkansas Traveller 100 would be my 2nd 100 mile attempt this year and hopefully 2nd finish; in fact going into the race I was so confident of a finish that I had proclaimed to all of you that I would beat the 24 hour mark. How quickly I had forgotten the physical pain and mental challenges I had faced at Kettle in June but I would soon be reminded!

My Dad, Andrew Karandjeff and I headed out early Friday morning to make the trek to race headquarters at Lake Sylvia, AR. We arrived there around 1:30 pm, I checked in, they recorded my weight and then we headed over to await the pre-race briefing from Stan and Chrissy Ferguson. We pulled up chairs alongside my good friends Rick Mayo, Gabe Bevan and his wife, Tiffany; Gabe and Rick were running the race and Tiffany was the crew chief. Chrissy went through the briefing filling us in about the history of the race and cautioning us about the heat and humidity we would face the next day; considering that it was about 91 degrees at the time we all knew exactly what we were in for. There was one piece of advice Chrissy told all of us; “Tomorrow is going to be hard, there will be moments when you feel awful and want to quit. It’s during these times that you need a reason to keep going; every year I’ve run the race I've dedicated it to a friend, relative or a cause and when the going got tough I focused on that reason. No matter what, unless you are on the brink of death, DON’T QUIT! Things will get better if you can just power through the rough times and you will finish.” This speech of inspiration would be something that I would remember the next day; at that time I didn’t know how important those few words would be.

After the briefing all of the SLUGs gathered for a group picture; there were quite a few that were either running or crewing for the race this year including Gena Bonini, Jeremy Bolt, Brian Kuhn, Mike Samuelson, Dale Perry, Lee Hess, Andrew Karandjeff, Charles Stroud and Carol Izadi. We chatted a bit more and then headed back to check-in to the hotel and get settled for the evening.

The next morning I awoke at 4:00 am not really nervous or excited, actually I was indifferent which concerned me a little; mentally I just didn’t feel into it which is not good when you’re facing a 100 mile run in 90 degree heat. I met Gabe and Rick and jumped into the car with them to head to the race. On the way none of us really said too much; it was really early and we were all focused on the task ahead of us. Gabe did say how much he really liked 100 milers and then qualified it with “Actually I don’t really like the process but the finishing part is great!” We got to the start, checked in and patiently awaited 6:00 am.

The temperature was around 74 degrees, humidity 97% (like running underwater) and promptly at 6:00 am we were off; as we started heading up the hill out of Lake Sylvia Gabe, Rick and I remained together. I was pushing for a sub-24 hour finish and figured I would try to stay with Rick as long as possible as he was shooting to break 23 hours; I soon figured out he was planning to run as much as he could and even voiced my concerns saying to Gabe and Rick “We shouldn’t be running the uphills, we will pay for this later.” They both pretty much ignored me and I ignored myself continuing to run everything along with them; this was a HUGE mistake which almost cost me the race. Around mile 8 the reality of the humidity, the distance and the steaming temperatures we would face later on set in and Gabe and I let Rick go; unfortunately a lot of damage had already been done. We then entered the Ouachita Trail section where I rolled my left ankle a few times and I already started wondering if I would finish; too early for that! We reached the Lake Sylvia Aid Station (mile 16.7) a little after 9:00 am on roughly a 20 hour pace and already my stomach was starting to bother me. My Dad and Andrew were there and I voiced my concern to Andrew that I shouldn’t be feeling this bad so early on; he encouraged me that things would get better but I didn’t really believe him. Heading out I knew this day would either be really short or extremely long!

Gabe and I headed out and ran together for the next 16 miles; he had been struggling with an injured right foot and now his left shin was in a lot of pain from favoring that foot. He was a bit discouraged and in a bad place mentally; I did what I could and told him he had to keep going. We both talked about how bad we were feeling and how it was way too early to be in this bad of shape; while we both encouraged each other it was also nice to know that we both were suffering so we didn’t feel alone in our battle. I continued to take my S-Caps, drain my water bottles and eat my Hammer Gels but my stomach was getting worse. We powered on and reached the next crew access aid station, Lake Winona (mile 32.2), a little before 1:00 pm still on pace for a sub-24 hour finish. At this point though I was questioning whether I would finish at all as I was feeling horrible and the day was heating up reaching 90 degrees. When I arrived an Aid Station volunteer had my drop bag in hand and asked me if I needed anything; I told her it was for the way back (mile 83.9), that is if I even made it back! Lee Hess heard this and said “What was that!?! We’ll have none of that talk; you will be back!” He came over to see what was going on and I told him my stomach was going south and I felt awful; Andrew and my Dad were there too and both were a bit concerned. We talked through my fueling, hydration and electrolyte strategy as I felt I was doing everything right. Lee gave me some rock salt in a baggy and told me to suck on it while I headed out. I left there knowing that the next crew access aid station was another 15 miles away wondering if I should have just quit there; I figured I could crawl 15 miles if things got bad enough and kept on.

At about mile 34 I knew that I had to eat something no matter how bad I felt and opened up a Hammer Gel; as I squeezed it into my mouth I was unable to keep it down and threw up everything in my stomach. Well, I’ll either feel better now or that would nail my coffin shut because of dehydration. I kept moving forward in a steady walk and was being passed left and right; fellow SLUG, Dale Perry, came up behind me and asked if I was alright. Apparently he could hear me heaving and we talked a bit about how I was feeling and the heat and humidity; he encouraged me to keep at it and moved on as I could only walk. I arrived at the Club Flamingo Aid Station (mile 39.7) and was contemplating dropping out; in addition to the stomach issues both of my calves were completely seizing up so bad that the minute I tried to run I was crippled with cramps. There was no way I was going to go another 60 miles like this plus my kidneys were starting to ache a bit which is also another bad sign; perhaps this just wasn’t my day. I sat down at that aid station and talked to a few of the volunteers about what was going on; I told them I wanted to drop but couldn’t do that to my Dad and Andrew and needed to move on to the next crew access aid station so we could discuss the situation. They wished me luck and I headed back out. It was in the next few miles that I was passed by a runner who was a nurse and she asked how I was doing; I told her not so good and that I didn’t think I was going to make it because of my stomach. She turned around and handed me a Queasy Pop (like a lollipop) which she gives to kids who have upset stomachs; I figured I’d give it a shot and thanked her. Little did I know this would end up turning things around for me. I had already come to terms with a DNF and decided I would drop at Powerline (mile 48.5); in my head I was already writing my blog entry to explain to myself and all of you why I quit. For the first time ever I was OK with a DNF and wouldn't let it define me as a failure; perhaps it was this realization that "set me free" and gave me the strength to continue on. I was no longer stressed or worried as a calming sense of relief and acceptance washed over me. Then, around mile 45, my calves stopped cramping, my stomach felt better and I began to run; soon I was passing people who had earlier passed me! As I neared Powerline I saw my Dad up ahead on the trail. He had come out to see where I was since they were worried; I filled him in on the last 4.5 hours (from mile 32.2 to 48.8) but told him that now I was feeling great. We walked along the trail and then came out on the road heading into Powerline; as I started running he did too! I told him not to run and get hurt, please walk down I’ll still be there as I had to get weighed in and re-stock my supplies. I headed into Powerline, passed the weigh in and told Andrew and Lee Hess that I was about to drop but had a miraculous recovery. I would see them again in 3.9 miles at Chili Pepper; by now I was no longer eating Gels and was living on Coke and soup since that’s all I could stomach. I ran much of the next 4 miles and got into Chili Pepper around 8:30 pm, got my headlamp on, chatted some with Paul Schoenlaub who was volunteering there and headed out towards the turnaround which was 5.1 miles away. Andrew was going to join me as my pacer here at Chili Pepper when I was heading back so I only had 10 more miles to go solo.

I pushed really hard during this section and started passing many people along the way; I was feeling good, strong and confident and knew that a sub-24 hour finish was still possible but that there was no way I could let up. I hit the 50 mile mark 12 hours and 9 minutes into the race and would need a negative split to make it happen (11 hours and 51 minutes in the dark); improbable but not impossible! At around 10:40 pm (26 hour pace according to the pace chart) I returned to Chili Pepper and quickly chatted with Paul Schoenlaub and Stuart Johnson to let them know I was back on track. Andrew joined me to pace, I grabbed some soup and Coke and we discussed our strategy as we walked out of the aid station. We would need to make up some time and couldn’t afford to let up; we would be toeing a fine line between a sub-24 hour finish and a DNF but I felt that I had it in me. Heading into Powerline, I weighed in, grabbed some Coke and soup and talked with my Dad and Gabe’s wife, Tiffany. They said they would see me in about 4 hours at Lake Winona and I confidently proclaimed “More like 3! I’m in a zone and have the Eye of the Tiger!” Tiff teased me and said “Oh yeah, is the music playing for you!?!” She then told me to stop wasting time and get moving; obviously she has a bit of experience at these things with an animal like Gabe for a husband! Andrew and I powered on through the night running as much as we could; we continued to pass people as we moved on and voiced words of encouragement to them along the way. Andrew was great; pacing is an extremely difficult job. You have to anticipate the needs of your runner, be able to read when to push them and when to let off; you must completely run like they feel. Even if you feel like you can’t run anymore and are tired or hurting when your runner decides to run you have to push on with them! In addition to monitoring your own needs you also have to be aware of how your runner is managing their hydration, electrolyte and caloric requirements. They truly are the forgotten heroes of these races and most of us wouldn’t be able to finish without them; thanks Andrew!

We reached the Lake Winona aid station (83.9) around 2:50 am and were in and out rather quickly; we had 3 hours and 10 minutes to finish under 24 hours. At this point both of us were hurting but were still driven by adrenaline knowing that we could do it; my Dad and Tiffany told us that Gabe was about 15 minutes ahead and we were determined to catch up to him. We had our aid station strategy down by now as I was downing a few cups of Coke while Andrew filled my water bottles and at the Rocky Gap station (mile 87.2) we were in and out in less than 2 minutes. We continued to pass other runners along the way and at about mile 91 saw a runner and his pacer up ahead on the hill; as we approached I saw it was Gabe and his pacer John King. Gabe was powering up the hill and as we passed him Andrew and I told him he was looking great and running strong; I knew he was hurting and wanted to try to encourage him as much as I could. We entered the next aid station together and were out in 30 seconds; Andrew and I continued running out of the Electronic Tower aid station (mile 91.4) and looked behind us to see John and Gabe’s headlights disappear in the distance.

During the next stretch we were flying and when we weren’t walking the uphills we were maintaining at least a strong 8:30 min/mile pace. We reached the Pumpkin Patch aid station (mile 93.7) at around 5:07 am and knew that there was no letting up if we wanted to beat 24 hours; we were in and out in seconds and sprinted from the station. We then were running around a 7:30 min/mile pace and as I looked down at my watch which read 5:17 am I knew that I simply couldn’t maintain this kind of pace to the end. I told Andrew this and he agreed; I had given it everything I had during the last 50 miles and was running on fumes; literally! We continued to run when we could and came to the top of the hill where there were 2 volunteers manning a tracking station; they asked my number, radioed it in to the finish line and told us we had 1.7 miles all downhill and on the road. Andrew and I both thought we were closer than that and were disappointed but didn’t say a word; we would just have to push on a bit more. We started down the hill maintaining what seemed like a 7:30 min/mile pace and I knew we had to be getting close; I was hurting and the only thing I said to Andrew was that I was going to puke the minute I crossed the finish line. I didn’t think I could keep running but there was no way I was going to walk this close to the finish! As we saw the lights ahead Andrew said “You did it man, this has been one of the most inspirational experiences I have had!” and I told him that there’s no way I could have pushed like that without him. I rounded the corner, the finish line music started playing as the landing lights were flashing and I crossed the finish line at 6:35 am; 24 hours, 35 minutes and 53 seconds after I had started on this epic journey.

Unlike Kettle I wasn’t filled with emotion at the finish; it was a different feeling but just as powerful. Instead of disbelief and relief at being finished I was proud to know that I had pushed myself to the limit; faced with sickness and mentally coming to terms with my first DNF I dug down deep to continue on when every part of me wanted to quit. There were times out there when I was searching for a reason and I thought back to what Chrissy had said Friday afternoon. At mile 35 I even had a mini-panic because I didn’t think I had a reason and knew that there was no way I’d finish without one. At Kettle I finished for my parents and for Mindy because I wanted them to be proud of me but yesterday I finished for myself. I doubted myself at numerous times early on and thought that perhaps I just didn’t have what it took to truly run a 100 miler; seems I was wrong. When the going got tough I kept going even faster!

First and foremost thanks to God for giving me the strength to persevere, my Dad, Andrew, Stan and Chrissy Ferguson and all of the volunteers for putting on an amazing event. This was the hottest AT 100 in history and had the lowest finishing rate in history (47%); they did everything they could to get us all to the finish line. Without them none of us would have made it! Congratulations to all of the finishers and for the complete results click HERE. You can also click HERE to view the pictures from the race.

Happy Running,

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Piotr Kurylo - Spartathlon 2007 2nd Place Finisher

Sasha Brewis (was involved with the original race in 1983 - 1985) was at the Spartathlon this year and asked why I didn't give more attention to 2nd place finisher Piotr Kurylo from Poland (pictured above from Kathimerini Newspaper). Apparently Kurylo walked for 6 weeks to get to the race in Greece from his home in Poland, UNREAL! Also, since he is not a wealthy man, his friends and family put together a collection of money for his entry. What an inspiring story of determination! Piotr Kurylo is a fine example of an every day person doing something absolutely extraordinary; Congrats Piotr!

Sasha also provided me with a bit of interesting trivia I thought you all might appreciate as follows:

"By the way, did you know the name Sparthalon comes from Sparta - Athens - London in tribute to John Foden and the other 2 RAF (Royal Air Force) runners from the UK who originally tested the course in 1981 on learning Phidippides had left Athens at sunrise and arrived the following day at sunset to ask for help with the battle of Thermopylae?

Foden got in touch with Mike Callaghan and John Leatham and convinced them to help make it race. Those of us involved in the initial first 1983 Race were very proud that Yannis Kouros won. He was a local guy who worked as a guard at Nemea and would regularly run across Sangas Mountain to have a coffee in Nestani. We heard about him when we did the check on the route for water holes and asked the coffee shop in Nestani to let him know when we were holding the first race.

Kouros turned up for the briefing, having not been in time to register and it was to the credit of the other international athletes that agreed he should be allowed to run."

As most of you know Kouros holds the course record finishing in an amazing 20 hours and 25 minutes back in 1984.

Hope all of you are well and Happy Running,