Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Umstead 100 revisited: Living in the afterglow

A couple of weeks have passed and that gives an opportunity for thought and reflection. Here are a few more add-ons to my Umstead 100 report:
  • The 2014 overall winners, John Dennis and Liza Howard, completed Umstead in roughly 1/2 the time of us back-of-the-packers. That says a lot for them...and it says a lot for us.
  • I'm a big fan of Dr. Scholl's "Active Series" inserts. They contribute additional cushioning and it helps over the long haul.
  • There's a great link on the Umstead 100 home page on blisters: I don't have 100 mile feet, never have, and deep blisters become excruciating. I got the bright idea to use some second-skin-like blister gel packs on the balls of my feet. Within a lap or so I felt them shift up and scrunch under my toes. I think the magic in 2014 was hydration. I usually run with one hand-held, but this year dusted off an old Nathan hydration pack. I was draining two bladders a lap during the hot day hours and one bladder a lap in darkness. I was urinating well most every hour. It's hard to believe that water in the mouth leads to more pliable feet, but now I'm buying on. I was walking across campus the following Monday and was mobile.
  • Umstead is wonderful regarding back-side service. I must have lost a piece of brain somewhere on the course because somehow, half of the things I had in my start/finish drop bag ended up somewhere outside the bag. I ID'ed the items and emailed race promoter Blake. He and new promoter Rhonda followed up with emails, found my items, and offered to ship them back. I offered to pay postage, but Rhonda told me Blake had set a policy about shipping items back. Class act.
  • My Umstead 100 certificate arrived in the mail, along with my personal results sheet, overall results sheet, and custom photos from the event. Class act another time.
  • When I looked down on leaves and sticks on the airport spur during the night hours, I would see them turn into large bats and other dangerous animals.
  • Interesting how high profile the Umstead 100 has become. I heard from several people that the race lit up Twitter feeds and it's becoming "the race to be at" in the spring of each year.
  • For me, "success" in ultras comes through residuals. For example, how hurt I am and how torched my feet are. I have done terrible things to finish past 100's and could not walk for several days. This time, my feet we tore up but at minimal levels. All manageable and for me, that's winning.
  • My favorite thing is to stay on the QT regarding 100 milers at university. I like to hide the fact that I finished the race. A student said "you're walking funny" and I replied my back was giving me trouble. Nonetheless, I succeeded at my game.
  • In my earlier life I was a writer and photographer for motorcycle racing. One of the greats in the early 1980's, Darrell Schultz, was frequently injured. One one occasion, his knee was completely blown and his lung had collapsed. The carried Darrell out and set him in his machine. He rode that moto and won the National Championship that year. Darrell told me one thing I have adhered to the past 35 years. He said, "you can't remember pain." It's so true. Your body may be screaming out during an ultra, but a day after the finish, the pain is barely a recollection. If you can take the pain in the moment, it won't hurt you or your recollections after the finish.
  • I have to pay tribute and give a shout out to race promoter Blake Norwood. He's the man behind the vision, the smiling face riding the bike on the course. He's the creator of the mantra "eat before you're hungry, drink before you're thirsty and eat before you're hungry." He's Mr. customer service. He's encourages all and has probably taken more first-time hundred mile runners to the finish than any other promoter. I realize it's time for change, time for a new, younger community to come into the sport. But that said, I like old school, and Blake retained that old school feel for Umstead. I know his season is now past and Rhonda Hampton is ready and capable to take command. I have come to believe race promoters create challenges, support runners to accomplish those challenges, then leave behind memories. The Umstead 100 does it all well, it's a purveyor of dreams.

The threat of heart failure in endurance sport

AP/Travis Long for the News & Observer
Sad story in the regional news: Two runners fell over dead at the recent Raleigh Marathon.

It's unfortunate, but these stories are not uncommon. Check out this great input from my friend and Master Competitor reader David Campbell:

Very sad to hear that. There was a runner in Dallas who collapsed at mile 12.5. I think people pick up the pace near the end and their heart rate can't take it so well. I was about 100 yards away. Before I could get there some one jumped on the fallen runner, did a few chest compressions and up jumped the runner looking ready to fight the next person who did that to him!

As a cardiovascular surgeon I always adhered to the fact that exercise does not cure cardiac disease but rather unmasks it. There is a large portion of the population with significant cardiovascular disease that are asymptomatic until  they exercise and hit a critical heart rate. In a normal heart increased heart rate increases blood flow to the heart muscle, but in a heart with blockages in the coronary arteries, an increase in heart rate leads to a dramatic drop in blood flow to the heart muscle down stream from the blockage. The result can be a fatal arrhythmia or infarction (ie 'the big one"). 

The first snow of every year I would have a rush of heart surgery cases when sedimentary people suddenly decided to get out and shovel snow from their driveway.  Most of these people thought they were completely healthy even though most never exercised, were over weight, and nearly 100% smoked.

A cardiac stress test should answer questions about occult heart disease for any one who is at risk and wants to start an exercise program. At risk includes people who have a history of tobacco use, diabetes, high cholesterol or a family history of vascular or heart disease. Lesser risk factors include hypertension, advanced age and obesity. My montra is "when in doubt, check it out" before exercising.

Thanks, David. We all need to stay aware of, and responsive to, personal health issues. I have my annual physical for a complete report and I hope you do, too.

Monday, April 07, 2014

100 mile ultras 1989-2014. Rest in peace.

Slow, methodical, pace. Self-negotiating each loop, hill and finally every step. I finally found my way to another official finish at the 2014 version of the Umstead 100 mile, held this past Saturday at Umstead State Park near Raleigh, North Carolina.

Umstead 100 mile foot carnage. Game over, no more.
I crossed the line in 27:41 (unofficial) and went into the lodge for some pancakes.

It was a great year to make a comeback. I made a finish at this fine event in 2008, then came back for a DNF with 50 miles in 2012 and another DNF with 62 miles in 2013. This time around, I set my mind on survival as the primary goal. I jogged/walked to around half, then started the "ultra shuffle" the final four laps.

I have never been fast and now, at 57, I'm getting slow(er). The margin for success fades. Umstead is eight (8) 12.5 mile loops on a scenic, somewhat hilly, hard packed dirt path. The 30-hour cutoff hovers in the back of your mind all day.

A huge Umstead shout-out to the fine aid station volunteers, who offer a turnkey operation at two key points on the course. For example, I ran my Nathan hydration pack; all I had to do was hand it to a smiling volunteer and they'd give me a full fill, then help me get my arms through the support straps. This may seem trivial, but it's serious support assistance when your mind goes to mush late in the race.
Matt Christensen (left) was an expert
handler/pacer at the 2014 Umstead 100.
Matt was my guide on the final 12.5 mile loop.

And, the food was exceptional. I rolled out of the main station on two occasions with a fresh-grilled veggie burger; when exiting the second station I grabbed steaming cups of potato soup to keep my bones warm during the darkness hours.

Also most excellent is the Umstead pacer's program. The event assembles and organizes a long list of pacers, who will go out on the course and assist runners during the second half of the event. I came to the race alone and opted for a pacer on laps 6, 7 and 8. Eric supported me on lap 6. He's a top ultrarunner and is highly engaged and enthusiastic about the sport. On lap 7, Scott walked me around the loop. He's getting into the marathon scene and told me a lot about the Raleigh running community.

On my 8th and final lap, super dude Matt took me around the course. We had a great talk about life, business, family and religion. And after the race, Matt was helpful in getting my drop bags to the car...I was a bit weak at the knees.

There were other great moments on the course. For example, I ran with a former special-ops marine who had worked on a contingency planning team for potential nuclear strikes in major metro markets. Good conversation while the miles pass.

I guess committing this to writing is the best way to accept it. After a wonderful 25 years running 100 mile ultras, I'm going to let it rest in peace. My first 100 was the inaugural Vermont 100 in 1989. I went on to take six finishes at the Mohican 100 in Ohio. Then, my two Umstead triumphs. Best I can remember, that's my nine (9) ultra finishes and I also had four (4) less than 100 attempts...pulling the pin at 62, 62, 62 and 50.

For those of you who will be coming into the sport and carrying it to the next level, please know that 100 is epic. For me, it's not about strength or training or the best gear. It is a test of the will. The body and mind scream stop, but your forge ahead. For example, my first lap was a brisk 2:45; my last laps were four hours. You earn it step by step. A 100 finish is tremendously validating.

Sometimes I struggle when my faith ebbs and tides. But on a 100 day, it's easy to state "Thank you Lord!" for giving me this wonderful 25-year journey. For that, I will always remain grateful.

"Mind Over Diet" now live on Amazon

It's finally launched and ready for sale: "Mind Over Diet" is on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle digital versions:

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Brooks Transcend: It's good for what ails you

DISCLAIMER: I'm a Brooks promotional athlete. Have been for a long time, almost 20 years. So, in a research sense, I may be biased.

Now that I have that out of the way, let me post a quick shout out to the new Brooks more-is-better model, the Transcend. Here's a promo statement from the website:

"Explore plush new worlds and leave behind the traditional laws of comfort with the all-new Brooks Transcend. On a mission to maximize the Float experience, every element of this shoe was innovated using biomechanical insights. From the Ideal Pressure Zones that disperse impact to the Guide Rails that provide on-demand support, not to mention the plush comfort of Super DNA cushioning, the Transcend’s thoughtful design will blow your mind. Head reassembly not included."

Let me add a few comments. I'm a guy who has run in almost every shoe Brooks ever made, from the early days into the more recent Pure Project line. I may be on the trail in Cascadia, then gingerly earn a few road miles in the wispy Drift. But today, let's talk Transcend.

The shoe reminds me of a Brooks flagship model, the Beast, but with a low(er) heel drop and new high tech cushioning. This shoe is beefy, supportive and soaks up impact. I wouldn't consider it a "fast" shoe, but then I'm not a fast runner, am I?

With the low heel drop comes padding that distributes across the entire foot pad. I noted that when doing some tough road ascents, I could feel the shock absorbing effect well into the toe-box.

Here comes my political statement on the day: No disrespect here, but much of the imaging for running products are fit, attractive 20-somethings who are busting out yet another PR. That's surely a segment in the sport, but there's another large, money-in-their-wallet consumer group - that's the older and possibly heavier runner.

If that's you, consider ponying up the $160 for a pair of Transcend. They are stable, support well, and will lessen the shock. You can talk shoes all day, but for many of us, that's the bottom line. We need a shoe that will help us stay in the game, at possible a slower speed and shorter distance.

I'd go as far as stating that the Transcend may buy you a few extra years in the sport. They make me feel like I'm taking care of myself when I wear them. Maybe that's enough for you, too.

For those of you who would like a bit more info...check out this Road Runner Sports review:

Oak Mountain 50K + 2

It's been a while, life got in the way of my blog posts.

Shame on me, so I'm going to play a bit of catch up and pepper you with master competitor updates. They may be short and sweet, but I hope useful in your own fitness and nutrition planning and execution.

A couple of weeks back, I finished the Oak Mountain 50K + 2.  I had to rename the event for your benefit, in that the event does play out at 33 miles. When you're my age and my speed, two extra miles is a ton!

I truly enjoy Oak Mountain State Park. I mountain bike there quite a bit and know the main trails. But the ultra is a different game. At one point, we were hand over hand rock climbing over the crest of a waterfall. That surely will reduce your minute-per-mile pace.

A confession: I'm directionally challenged, daydream too much, and get lost. Here's a big shout out to my two trail partners on the day, CeCe and Rob:

We made quite a day of it, talking, tell tall tales, and most of all, staying on course! The route was well marked, but you still have to know what direction to head going out of the aid stations.

Met some great people on the course. When you run in back, it's all about fun and the experience. We did see one guy looking pretty rough, swaying on the course. Guy was wearing a pair of those toe-shoes and all I could think about was all the rocks I kicked. He asked me if were were almost to the finish and I had to break it to him easy...there were over six miles to go at that point.

Our trio wrapped it up in 8:51. Slow and easy, that's what we're about at this stage of life. I'm 26 years into the ultra game and Rob, he's about 30+. We're still out there, still seeing the enjoyment that derives from the sport.

In addition to the race itself, the ROI was excellent. A small gear bag, custom drinking glass for finishing, a long sleeve T, and big time after-party with food and drinks. All for around $40. Still old school prices. And to cap it off, one of the race organizers gave me one of the left over short sleeve volunteer shirts. I always have been a value shopper.

A great ultra, nice promoters, old school feel, reasonable price, good friends. The good Lord put a gem in my pocket on yet another day.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The book launches

It's been a long journey, but "Mind Over Diet" is live on Amazon Kindle for digital sale. The paperback version will be accessible in a few days.

I have been working to develop a promotional campaign, so I'd ask that master competitor readers spread the word. This book is different from the others, in that it prescribes very little. Instead, it asks you to step forward one small increment at a time, taking ownership and building your own success story.

Here's an intro teaser:  Ever hear of the "naked test?"

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Food, fitness and power within the mind

It's been a long journey. I started this book in my mind, and about my mind, over a year ago. I wanted to be authentic, realistic, and deliver value: Just what is it that I can contribute to the health, fitness and nutrition marketplace?

Thirty-one years of endurance sport took me into and through my new book "Mind Over Diet." I'm not the fastest, or the first on any occasion. But what I am is consistent, tenacious, and sustainable over a long period of time.

To that end, I have devised a road map for anyone who wants to get into a health and fitness routine and then keep it going, year after year. I'm not prescribing a cure, but rather presenting a road map to follow, where readers can build their own protocol. Being part of the process equals knowledge, knowledge is power, and when you're powerful, you continue forward.

"Mind Over Diet" is will be available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle digital editions.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Ten winter running techniques that are crucial to survive

I'm wrapping up 11 days in central Wisconsin. That means my only exercise outlet is running. So, for most all of the days here, I cranked out 10 milers. Here are a few relevant suggestions if you plan to put yourself through the winter torture test:

1) Balaclavas will become your best friend. Wear it always. You can pull it up over your face or down around your neck, as needed. There is some comfort in having a completely covered head and neck when it's chill factor zero or below.

2) Get ready for trashed feet. The surface is perpetually uneven. Semi-shoveled sidewalks, plowed snow mounds across your path, slushed-up roads from's all there, all the time. Try using a shuffle mode, as that will scrape your shoes off as you go.

3) Embrace patience. I noted that there was a 20%-30% slip on every footstrike. My 10-milers were taking two hours. Set the day's mileage in your brain, get started, then throw the elapsed time stats out the window.

4) Realize that some motorists are exceptional, others are jerks. On major snow days I ran down the edge of the road, as it was the only thing plowed. Be prepared to jump for the snowbank on occasion. This is the life of the winter runner.

5) Expect extra torque on your moving parts. When it's 10 degrees or colder, things start to happen. Your hands won't always work well, shins will ache and your Achilles tendons can feel rigid. These conditions aren't meant for high stepping speed work. Keep your feet low and even to the ground (check out my Most Efficient Running Technique video on YouTube

6) Don't stop. Once out the door, press forward methodically until the run has concluded and you're back in a warm, sheltered place.

7) Understand that small weather changes can make for big issues. A still day at 10 degrees, versus a wind chill at 10 degrees, are two different environments. One is "balmy" while the other will tear the fluid out of your eyes. This morning I ran at 18 degrees, but it chilled me to the bone because the air was damp.

8) Keep your hands and head warm as a first line of defense. They are the gateway to other parts of your body.

9) Appreciate the experience. Don't complain. Embrace it and absorb the sensations. Life isn't always better or worse...but simply different.

10) Listen to local radio stations. Break the groove of your usual digital feed. The rock stations here are exceptional. A bit of metal goes a long way when your going sub-zero into a headwind.

If you're looking at two more months of the winter blues, turn the corner and start a winter running regimen. I hope some of these tips get your enjoyably on your way.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Rob and Tom are poster boys

Well, it finally happened. I always dreamed about being featured on the cover of a magazine.

This is as close as I will probably get.

Check out the image for the 2014 Charlotte 50K. That race was a blur in my drifting mind (did the inaugural run in 2012). It all came back to life when my ultra buddy Rob Apple let me know we were poster boys for the event!

Gotta love it. But of course, the photo brought back memories of rain and wind and that relentless out and back on the greenway.

Of course, what's most interesting is that Rob is going on to ultra greatness, now focusing his effort on major Euro events. Me? I'm a gym rat and yoga pretzel.

Life is funny like that; we walk divergent paths.