Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Trail Running 101: An Intro

I know it's not original, but I'm starting an "advice" column for beginner runners. I'm calling it "Trail Running 101", but it's going to cover a WIDE array of different topics.

I'm going to cover everything from selecting running shoes, what clothes to wear (and avoid!), should you wear socks?, what are gaiters?, should I carry water?, how much water?, and all the trail and running advice in between.

Over the years, as I've become a more experienced runner, and now a slightly more experienced ultra runner (only 20 ultras), I've started getting a lot of random e-mails and messages from different people asking for all sorts of advice. I can't even count the number of messages I've gotten about training plans. Well, this is now going to be my "go-to" answer when I get these messages.

Each time I get a new message I'm going to post an answer here on for the whole wide world to see, because odds are if one person needs to know, there are others that are curious about the same thing!

So, is what you read here going to be the "end-all-be-all" last answer you'll ever need? Absolutely not. Odds are, you may completely disagree with my advice. If so I encourage you to leave me a comment on the blog or just don't read my posts anymore. This is going to be beginner friendly and a welcoming place for all those new to road and trail running. I may often refer to those with more experience myself, and even post links to others blogs so that you can discover the different trains of thought in regards to different issues.

My experiences in running started in 2005. I did my first half marathon in 2005, my first marathon in 2006, my first Ironman triathlon in 2007, my second Ironman triathlon in April 2008, my third Ironman triathlon in October 2008, my second free standing marathon in 2008, then I did my first ultra marathon in April 2009. That was the Hog's Hunt 50K. From there I did my fourth Ironman triathlon in 2009, my first 100K trail run in August 2009, my first 50 mile trail run in February 2010. I did my first double Ironman triathlon in March 2011, then my first 100 mile run in October 2011. My progression is obviously not "norm", but was a steady progression regardless. My friend Olga just posted a great article over on Endurance Buzz which discusses the reasons behind a safe progression in ultra running and how we should all have a healthy respect for the distances and terrain we cover.

I enjoyed triathlon while I was in it, but it didn't satisfy my need for something more. Something outside my comfort box, something a little bit more "dangerous". That need is satisfied with ultra running on trails. The lack of support during ultras, as well as the sometimes dangerous terrain we cover, helps keep me outside my comfort zone, and always has me wondering, "can I do this?"

If the last time you ran a mile was in middle school, but you're now looking to start running again, you've come to the right place. If you've run a 5K but are looking for something a bit more challenging, you've come to the right place. If you've run a marathon or qualified for the Boston Marathon and are looking for something a bit different? You've come to the right place.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at or just post comments below. I'll get a response written up as soon as possible.

If you'd like more information on me, check out the other sections of my blog. HERE's a link to "my story", HERE's a link to my race reports and all the races I've ever completed, HERE's a link to my race results, HERE's a link to my gear reviews, and HERE's a link to my training log where I log all my training on a daily basis.

Hope to have my second post up in just a few days!


PS- here's a fantastic video by Salomon and Killian Jornet about how he mentally and physically prepares for racing.

Monday, May 14, 2012

PLAIN 100 Part II : The Texans?

I'm big on firsts.

I had a good friend who is no longer with us once tell me to remember and enjoy all your firsts, because sooner or later you're gonna run out of firsts. Well I'm sure that she thought I'd run out of firsts well before I have, but alas, I think I found another first.

When I signed up for the PLAIN 100 I didn't really worry about anything other than the logistics of such a run. How much water should I carry for the 4,000ft climb in 6 miles. How will I carry 20 hours worth of food. How will I know which trail to take?

Now that I'm slowly growing more confident in those aspects of the race I've realized something else. That I'm going to be the first Texan to hopefully finish Plain. I'm not sure if another Texan has attempted, but I can't find a DNF list anywhere. Being a flatlander has it's disadvantages, but I'm pulled towards the rugged, beautiful mountains of the world like a fish to water. Unfortunately I like to learn my lessons the hard way and I'm sure PLAIN will put on a clinic for this flatlander.

Fortunately I'm headed to Hardrock in July for a week of "frolicking" in the San Juans, followed by pacing a friend at Cascade Crest two weeks before Plain. (Just a short hop, skip, and a jump from the Plain course!)

I'm also planning on heading back up to Arkansas to run on the Athens Big Fork Trail and the Eagle Rock Loop Trail as much as possible. The Athens Big Fork Trail has a few 1,000ft climbs that I can just do repeats on to hopefully tear myself down pretty good. (Then run it a few more times)

(This is one of the videos I took of my run on the Eagle Rock Loop a month or two ago)

My Plain planning/preparation is going well. I've received the pack I'm going to use. (The Nathan HPL 020) That thing is awesome. I was pretty anti-packs for running until I tried that thing on. It's funny, I've always been on the more minimal side of ultra running in terms of gear. I love to carry handhelds cause I hate something bouncing around on my back. I rarely run with a shirt, cause I feel like I cool off faster without one (a no brainer in Texas!) and I hate wearing any kind of waist belt. 

I'm slowly getting better at running with some weight on and have recently started a pretty strenuous core/strength exercise 4X a week to help with my overall strength. Cause we all know I'm gonna need if I'm gonna be on my feet for 35 hours with a pack on my back. I think for a race like Plain, overall body strength will play a huge role in finishing or not, but that's a post for another day. 

I'm still struggling with the fact that I'm not racing as much this year, but I know that I'll be way happier spending a week in the San Juans and doing Plain that I would be doing a bunch of smaller local races. 

Let's just hope it all pays off in Plain, Washington. 

PS- There's still plenty of time to register if you want to "race" me to the line to be the first Texan.... :) 


Saturday, May 12, 2012

2012 HARDROCK 100: Part I

I have officially committed to sweeping and tear down for the Hardrock 100 this year.

Ever since I first hear of HR (Hardrock) I knew that I was not only going to go there, but someday I'd race HR.

This will not be the year I run HR, but I will finally get to see the course in person. I've seen too many photos of this course than one could count. I've read more race reports from HR than all the other race reports I've read combined.

I've made my reservations at Molas Campground which resides just around 10,500ft. The plan is to leave north Texas on Wed July 11th, head up to Albuquerque, spend the night there, then finis up the last four hours or so the next morning. When I arrived I plan on heading up the biggest most epic climb I can find and hanging out around 13-14,000ft as long as possible. I'll hang out till Tuesday the 17th, then head back to Texas.

I've already started my bucket list of things to do while I'm there, and it just keeps getting longer.

For those seasoned Hardrockers out there, what should I add to my bucket list?

I may not be running HR, but I plan on jumping in headfirst to the Hardrock community and soaking in as much as I can while I'm up there.

If anyone is interested in tagging along shoot me an email and let me know. As of right now, it's just me.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Leona Divide Race Report

Now, if you've read my race reports before, then you know I'm pretty detailed. For those of you that don't like reading here's the down and dirty:

-One of my best races yet performance wise
-New 50 mile PR by around 45 minutes on a much harder course
-Dropped my S-Caps somewhere around mile 18 so I just used what they had on course
-Did have a low point around 24-26 miles
-Had another low point around 36-37 miles
-Had really high points (other than the first 20 miles) from 31-34 miles and 40-43, then the finish in
-Ran a 7:10/mile pace the last 3.9 miles
-Finished 38th of around 260ish?
-3rd Texan
-Ran all the downhills hard
-Hiked the big uphills hard
-Ran the flats

8.5 -> 1:10:51 (8:20/mile)
4.4 (12.9) -> 44:55 (10:12/mile)
3.5 (16.4) -> 31:00 (8:51/mile)
4.0 (20.4) -> 52:03 (13:00/mile)
3.3 (23.7) -> 32:33 (9:51/mile)
5.8 (29.5) -> 1:00:07 (2:43/AID) (10:21/mile)
5.8 (35.3) -> 1:08:07 (11:44/mile)
3.3 (38.6) -> 32:26 (1:27/AID) (9:49/mile)
4.0 (42.6) -> 37:26 (2:27/AID) (9:21/mile)
3.5 (47.1) -> 48:23 (1:08/AID) (13:49/mile)
3.9 (50.0) -> 28:00 (7:10/mile)


For those of you that like reading, continue on!

I had been eyeing this race for awhile now.

After looking through results from previous years I came to the conclusion that it was possible to run a pretty quick time despite all the climbing. With that in mind I set some pretty ambitious goals (for me at least) and set out for SoCal last week.

If you want to check out last weeks blog post on my goals then CLICK HERE.

I started the race with a pace chart that was set at an eight hour pace. Ambitious, but I was prepared to do what it took or crash and burn trying. I've never actually "raced" a 50 miler before and was ready to do so here.

The fast guys lined up!
 (Photo Credit: "A Runners Circle Running")

The front runners @ the start! 
(Photo Credit: Stephanie Deveau)

At 0600 with the sun still below the mountain ridges around us the race director sent us on our way. The course begins with a very smooth 8.5 mile run to the first aid station. We climbed around 800ft in the first 2-3 miles. I ran every step.

I didn't feel like the effort was too high and just enjoyed the incredible sunrise among the mountains. The views got better and better the higher we got. Around three miles in the fire road leveled out and actually started to drop a little all the way to the 8.5 mile aid station.

I reached it around 10-15 minutes ahead of my 8 hour dream pace. I was really surprised, considering all the climbing we just did, and hoping that I didn't push too hard too early. I finished that 8.5 mile jaunt in 1:10:51 (8:20/mile).

I turned out of that aid station and began a 700-1,000ft climb up another fire road to the PCT. I didn't really plan on this climb and was slightly caught off guard. Regardless, the views just kept getting better. As we ascended the fire road I could see the canyon road far below steadily dropping away. Across from us on the other side of the canyon, another ridge of mountains, equally as impressive as the ones we were running.

I did take a few very rare hike breaks here, because I knew some good running was about to start when we hit the PCT and I wanted to be prepared.

Before I knew it, I was cruising along the PCT. It was beautiful.

I maintained a steady running pace here and just enjoyed the course and early morning cool breezes. Soon I was at the 12.9 mile aid station. I refilled my bottles with water and was out in no time. Taking less than 30 seconds.

The next section was jaw dropping. About a mile from the aid station we began dropping down a canyon to the next aid station. It was around a 1,000ft drop in 1.5 miles or so. As I was running along the ridge I had the biggest grin on my face. It was a difficult task to keep my eyes on the trail. The mountains on my left had 90% of my attention. The rising sun was casting shadows that were unbelievable. The trail here was fairly narrow and the consequences for a mistep were high.

When we hit the steeper sections of downhill I really had to pay attention. Something new I was trying for this race was really opening up on the downhills and taking advantage of them. I cruised into the 16.4 mile aid station still around 10 mins ahead of my 8 hour dream goal.

Coming into the 16.4 mile aid station
(Photo Credit: Stephanie Deveau)

The next section I was prepared for. It was a 1,600ft climb in 3.5 miles.

I crossed the road and ran to where the incline was and started my hike. Occasionally the trail would slightly level out and I'd run 50-100ft then back to hiking. Once we were at the top I started running again and noticed it was nice and runnable. It was also here that I found out I'd either dropped my S-Caps somewhere or I'd left them at the last aid station. Wow.

This was pretty demoralizing and all I could think was that my race was over.

I quickly started thinking of what to do and asked my new found friend Felipe if he had any salt. Sure enough he had some Salt Stick product. Not knowing how much salt they actually had I took two of them.

My plan was to see what they had at the aid stations and take from them from here on out. I made it the four miles for that section in 52:03 and a 13:00/mile pace. Not too shabby considering the hard hiking we did. Once at the aid station I found there salt product, grabbed a hand full and headed out.

I knew the next section was pretty much flat so I planned on running as much as possible. I started taking two of whatever salt product I got from the aid station every hour. After a few hours my stomach started bothering me and I realized I was probably taking too much. I started taking one every 30 minutes and that helped a lot!

Me and Felipe finished that 3.3 mile section in 32:33 (9:51/mile). I felt "OK" but wasn't 100% anymore. I came out of that aid station ahead of Felipe and the trail became jaw dropping beautiful. The next few miles were gradually uphill and I didn't know that. I did quite a bit of hiking and was getting down on myself. I knew there was a significant downhill coming and was ready. (yet dreading the turnaround when we'd have to go back up it)

Soon the 50 mile leaders were flying past us and I knew the downhill was coming. Felipe passed me here and I was pretty much solo.

I reached the downhill fire road and was pushing the pace hard. I ran the entire way back down the fire road. I caught Felipe and we ran it all the way to the turnaround aid station. Mile 29 something or other.  5.8 mile section in 1:00:07 (10:21/mile). I spent around 2:45 in the aid station cleaning my face and refilling my bottles then was back out.

The hiking began. Felipe said we needed to run everything that we could, so every time the fire road leveled out at all we'd run it. Believe it or not it only took us around 30 minutes to hike back up. Once I was back on the PCT Felipe was out of sight. I was feeling MUCH better and started running again. Next thing I knew I was FLYING down the PCT on some sketchy sections of trail where again, the consequences were high for a mistep.

This is when I realized this section was definitely uphill on the way out, and downhill now.

I kept pushing the pace and was trying hard to catch Felipe. The trail was beautiful and I was LOVING this section. I was on a high and wanted to take advantage.

Soon I could see Felipe up ahead and caught him. We ran together for a few minutes then he let me passed and I pushed the pace to the next aid station. I covered that section in 1:08:07 (11:44/mile) including all the hiking up the fire road.

I refilled the bottles and was out of that aid station in no time at all.

The next section was dreaded, yet flat. It's very exposed, twisty, lots of small 5-10 ft ups and downs with sand that would get in your shoes.

As soon as I left the aid station I hiked so I could eat my waffle, then Felipe caught up. I let him hop in front as he was feeling good. I followed him and we were really running good. Then the another low hit. I was fading a bit but still running almost everything. I kept looking around the next corner to see if we were out of that section yet. It seemed like forever. Fortunately it was only 32:26 for that 3.3 mile section (9:49/mile), 6 seconds faster than I covered it on the way out!

When I pulled into the next aid station I didn't see Felipe, but did see Jen Shelton and my friend Paulette. This was about to get interesting.

I refilled my bottles and got out of the aid station in 1:27. The trail unfortunately turned up for a bit, before we started the big 1,600ft drop down to the drop bag aid station. As I was hiking Jen and Paulette came flying past me. I figured that was the last time I'd see them.

I hiked/walked till I finally hit the downhill. I knew it was big and I was planning on taking full advantage. As the trail descended harder and steeper, I opened up more and more. I was flying around the ledges with reckless abandon and knew that I needed to make up as much time as possible for the big climb back up the canyon.

My 8 hour dream goal was definitely slipping away, but 8:30 or even sub 8:20 were still within sight. I thought they were unlikely, and that sub 9 was probably more realistic, but I was pushing like sub 8 was still possible.

Soon I could see the canyon road about 800ft below and knew I was getting there. I opened up my stride even more and let my body weight pull me down the mountain.

I then saw Paulette ahead and passed her about a 1/4 mile before the aid station. I covered that 4.0 mile section in 37:26 (9:21/mile). I was out of that aid station after 2:27 and refilling my food from my drop bag.

Once out of the aid station I knew it was one more big hike uphill till the final push downhill to the finish. All I had was one more climb.

I had the biggest smile on my face when I was descending this canyon. This time, it was far from a smile. I tried to run when I could but it wasn't for anymore than 50 ft. I was hiking as hard as I could. For a brief second I saw Felipe about two switchbacks ahead of me.

Behind me I could see Jen and Paulette was about to pass me. She was soon blazing past me and Jen was closing in. The sun was just beating down on us and I was pretty miserable. I felt like this hike was going to take forever. Literally. I couldn't see the top and had no idea how long it would take. I kept doing calculations in my head and figured I'd be luck to break 9 hours now.

At one point I actually sat down under some brush for some relief from the relentless sun. I caught my breath and started hiking again.

Finally I reached what seemed to be the top. Jen hadn't caught me yet. I decided to pull of the trail and pee, then sit down for another second. When Jen finally came around the corner I decided I'd try and hang with her as long as possible. We got to chatting and had a good little time. It really helped the time pass here. She then pulled off into the bushes to handle some business and I cruised into the last aid station. That 3.5 mile stretch took 48:23 (13:49/mile) and I spent 1:08 in the aid station refilling my bottles.

I turned out of the aid station and saw the fire road go uphill?! Ugh. Did not plan on this. I started hiking again. The road kept ascending. I hiked as hard as I could then finally got hard on myself. I had less than four miles. I could run this.

Then I started running and didn't stop till the finish line. Soon I crested the mountain and the fire road started turning into a descent. I started opening up the stride and began brining the pace down. Then all the sudden I was running almost wide open. I looked at my watch and realized that I was going to be really close to 8:30 if I kept this up.

Before I knew it I could seen Paulette up ahead. She's a fast downhill runner so I was surprised to see her. I soon caught up and thought she'd come with me, but she didn't. I kept pushing harder and harder. Soon I saw another 50 miler and passed him. My next goal was to hopefully catch Felipe.

The views were gorgeous and I was really enjoying the run here. My goal going into this race was to finish with a smile on my face and running. I was achieving both and in a decent time.

The fire road was nice and smooth here so I just focused on running as fast as possible. I then started recognizing the turns and knew I was a 1/4 mile or so away from the finish. Still no Felipe.

Last turn!
(Photo Credit: Terry Majamaki)

I watched 8:30 pass, but was still close. Then I rounded a quick switchback and knew it was straight down to the finish. I turned right off the fire road and up behind the community center to finish in 8:33:44. Felipe was waiting for me after finishing in 8:30:14! Just awesome. That's why we ultra run.

I hadn't known this guy 9 hours ago, but we were now best of friends and 50 miles closer ;)

Me and mi amigo Felipe!
Post Race:

I gave my new friend a big ole hug and we chatted for a half hour or so next to the finish line. Someone else I'd been running with offered me a Negra Modelo and I of course said "yes please" and "thank you". Less than 3 minutes after finishing and I already had a beer in my hand. I love ultra running.

I talked with all the friends I made out on the trail and just hung out with some awesome runners. I was in awe of some of the competition walking around. Tim Olson, Dylan Bowman, Jorge, Dom, Yassine, Jamil and of course Steven! haha. But seriously, it was awesome. I honestly didn't care what place I'd come in, I was just happy I'd run the best possible race I could have.

I then headed back to the car, changed into some flip flops, grabbed my cooler and headed back to the finish to wait for my friend to finish the 50K all while eating Fajitas and enjoying a good SoCal IPA.

Leona is a great race. On the website they say it's got a lot of climbing but is very runnable. I didn't really know what that meant. Now I do. ;)

I can't help but give credit to God for my ability to do what I do. Hopefully everything I do, including my ultra running endeavors bring glory to Him.

My wonderful wife is always supportive and makes sure that I keep a healthy balance! Couldn't do all that I do without her by my side.

A huge thanks to my favorite sporting goods store Sun and Ski Sports in Frisco, Texas for all my nutrition and running needs. Those guys are the best and always have a smile on their faces!

Congrats to everyone that ran this weekend. It was a beautiful race and a great time of running.

If you wanna check out all my photos from the trip to California you can see them HERE.


Finish Medal
(Photo Credit: Stephanie Deveau)