Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sage Burner 50K Race Report

"Don't blow up."

That was pretty much my strategy for setting a PR on the Sage Burner 50K course. None of the two previous times I'd run this race had gone particular smoothly, so I knew that if I could just make it to the finish without any major issues I'd most likely set a significant PR. And that's pretty much want happened. Mission accomplished!

My campsite-- 0.5 miles from the start. The course ran right past it.

I feel like the Sage Burner is a deceptively tough course. It's all run on mountain bike trails-- most of it single track-- that undulate up and down on both the macro- and the mico-level. There are no long, sustained climbs-- though there are plenty of grunters-- but the course is almost never flat. Your pace is constantly fluctuating and it's hard to get into a groove. Especially because there are rollers on the scale of a few feet-- little mounds that must be fun to hop over on a bike, but get to be a little exhausting when you're running over them on tired legs.

The weather was probably as good as could be expected for Gunnison at this time of year. I would guess the high was around 68F or so-- it could have been much worse. There are basically no trees on the course to provide any sort of protection, and the sun and the wind were out in force. I finished the race a bit sun burned and feeling crispy. For a runner used to Leadville's cooler temperatures it was difficult to stay on top of hydration. I wasn't acclimated to the heat at all and unsurprisingly hydration was probably my main issue during the race. Around mile 15 or so I felt like I was getting dangerously behind. My stomach was feeling "sloshy" which I attributed to not drinking water in the correct proportion with the amount of food I was consuming. Also, I think that a lack of electrolytes (specifically potassium) made it harder for my stomach to empty. I tried to address those issues over the next couple of miles-- which was hard because drinking more fluid is not really intuitive when your stomach already feels uncomfortably full.

It was difficult for me to keep track of how much I was really drinking during the race. The aid stations are relatively close together (generally around 4 miles apart) which wasn't enough time to drink a full 20 oz bottle of anything. Plus, I was carrying two bottles-- one of water and one of energy drink, which I'd alternate drinking from. So when I'd reach an aid station I'd have two bottles that were both fractionally full. I quickly gave up trying to keep a running tally of ounces in my head, so I pretty much ran by feel and tried to take 2-3 gulps every 10 minutes or so. I was also running with my water bottles stuffed in my waist pack, which I've noticed tends to slightly diminish the rate at which I naturally drink unless I stay focused. I think it takes just a tiny bit more effort to reach back and grab a water bottle from my waist pack, take a few sips, and stuff it back in, than when I'm running with a hand held which is always right there in my face. I managed to avoid severe dehydration (barely), but I must have lost 1-2 minutes/mile for at least 8 or so miles in the middle of the race. I wish I had been able to weigh myself at the finish line-- I should start bringing a scale to these races. I bet I was 4-5 lbs down in weight at the finish-- not good. I drank 3 12 oz cokes, 2 12 oz chocolate milks, and 1 12 oz smoothie on the two hour drive back to Leadville. When I weighed myself at home I was still 1.5 lbs below my normal weight! I had similar-- but much worse-- dehydration issues at last year's Silver Rush 50 miler. That experience definitely helped me recognize what was going on yesterday and fix it as best I could.

I managed to eat a good breakfast beforehand and about 1,450 calories during the race, which works out to be about 240 calories an hour-- solid. I never really felt hungry, which was great, and I'm sure those calories helped me keep moving relatively well even during the last 6 miles. The potatoes, in particular, were awesome. Love the potatoes. Easy to swallow (moist), slightly salty yet bland, filling, and totally unlike sticky-sweet gel.

  • 6 oz of Hammer gel (540 calories)
  • 1 oz of GU (100 calories)
  • 12 oz of chocolate milk (400 calories)
  • 6 oz (?) of Coke/Ginger Ale (70 calories)
  • 40 oz (?) of Acclimate (140 calories)
  • 2 small potatoes (200 calories)

I never lost my ability to run the gentle uphills even during the final files-- always a good sign, though I was running them pretty slowly. Probably due to the heat and dehydration, I definitely didn't finish the race feeling as strong as I did when I crossed the finish line at Quad Rock, but I'll take it. I didn't blow up! Only one person managed to pass me during the last 10 miles (and I probably passed 6 or so racers-- 10% of the field!) so I feel like I calculated my pace pretty well. (It hovered around ~11:30 min/mile for the first 15 miles and then dropped to ~12:30 min/mile during the last 16 miles.)

I finished in 6:20, which was a 35 minute PR for me. That's huge-- almost a 9% improvement. My biggest improvement in a race to date. Of course, I think at least half of that was due to how poorly I'd run this race in the past, but hey... a PR is a PR. I didn't quite make my ambitious goal of 6:00, but that was, well... ambitious. I think that if my hydration had been totally dialed in I might have come pretty close.

Things I should've done differently:

  • Don't rely on looking at how empty your water bottle is at aid stations to determine how much you've drunk. Instead, create an drinking schedule and try to stick to it. At least this will give you a known baseline level of hydration to adjust from on-the-fly. (I need to figure out how often I have to sip water to consume 20 oz/hour.)
  • Carry a water bottle in your hand even when using a waist pack. It makes a difference.
  • Pour extra water on yourself to cool off at aid stations. (Why didn't I do this?)

Next up for me is the San Juan Solstice 50 miler on 6/23-- only 3.5 weeks away. I'm super excited to run it for the second time-- this year on the original course. It will be a brutally tough race-- easily the toughest race besides the 100 that I'll run this year. And, mile or mile, it's much tougher than Leadville. It makes the 50 miles to Winfield look like a piece of cake. (That's the general idea behind running it!) Over the next few weeks I'm going to shift my training a bit towards the hiking end of the spectrum-- paying more attention to elevation gain, time on my feet, and altitude rather than distance or speed. It's time to beat up my calves and quads, and work on my Euro-style hand-on-knees power hike! Yeah, that's right Mt. Elbert... I'm lookin' at you!

I'm hoping to keep my string of consecutive PRs alive!


Friday, May 25, 2012

Sage Burner 50K Pre-Race Thoughts

Monday will be the third time that I've run the Sage Burner 50K in Gunnison, CO. It's one of the smaller races I run (in terms of number of participants), but I've always been glad I've run it. It's the first time I break the 30 mile barrier in my training each year.

On the Marathon/Silver Rush course in Evans Gulch

I talked about last year's race in an earlier post. Suffice it to say that I did not have the race I wanted in '11 or in '10. In '11 I was suffering from a terrible cold and in '10 I bonked-- hard-- and ended up hiking pretty much all of the last 6 miles.

With luck, '12 is going to be different!

Of all the races that I've run before, Sage Burner's course is the most like CPTR's. There's not too much elevation gain given the distance (by Colorado standards) and the course is fairly runnable.

Sage Burner 50K vs. CPTR 25 (4:34)

  • SB is 6 miles longer.
  • SB is at approximately the same elevation.
  • SB only has 1,000 ft more elevation gain.
  • But it's probably going to be hot (by Leadville standards).

So, just 6 miles longer-- no problem, right? I should be able to run it 5:40! Ah... classic 50K wishful thinking. Instead, my slightly more realistic goal is to try to run it in 6:00. That's still a huge improvement-- 57 minutes!-- over my previous PR. Is a 15% improvement really possible? Well, I'm hoping it is, given how poorly I've run it previously and how well my training has been going this year. Basically, I think my PR is relatively soft. We'll see... 6:00 definitely seems ambitious to me.

The thing that scares me the most about the race is the potential heat. There is barely any shade on the course, which loops around a large, sage-filled mesa. There's nothing to stop the sun or the wind. And, as chance would have it, pretty much all of my recent weekend long runs have been in cloudy, chilly weather. Quad Rock was 45F and in the clouds (WTF?!), and my 25 mile run last Saturday along the Colorado Trail took place amid snow flurries. So... I think it's safe to say that I'm not exactly acclimated to running in 75F temperatures yet. I'm not sure what I can really do except drink lots of water (I'm going to try for 28 oz/hour) and pay attention to my electrolyte intake. Hot weather generally makes it harder to eat, too, so I'll have to stay vigilant.

On the Colorado Trail below Mt. Massive

I've never been able to run more than 7 hours without some kind of stomach issue, so Sage Burner is just about at the limit for me. Each year I learn new tricks, become a little more experienced, and I'm able to fight off nausea a little bit better. Still, I consider my stomach to be the major factor limiting my performance at ultra distances. It's always a balance between pace and adequate nutrition.

Cruising around Turquoise Lake in preparation for the half marathon.
Given the odd timing of the Sage Burner (it's on a Monday), I'm taking it relatively easy this week. I've run 50+ miles and 7,000+ ft of vertical each week for the past 3 weeks, so it's probably time for a little recovery. And the Sage Burner 50K isn't the only race I'm planning to run next week! There's also the Turquoise Lake Half Marathon on 6/2 and the Fish Hatchery 5K on 6/3. Stretching back to CPTR on 4/28 that'll make it 5 races in 6 weeks! And the summer is just beginning...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Quad Rock 25 Race Report

The Quad Rock 25 turned out to be a very solid race for me. My time was a bit slower than I had hoped for, but my nutrition was dialed in perfectly and I finished strong without any low points to speak of. My GPS recorded 6,347 ft of climbing (with elevation correction). That's more than the Leadville marathon and almost equivalent to the amount of elevation gain in 25 miles on the San Juan Solstice course! (The toughest 50 mile course I've ever run, er... hiked.) For that much climbing, I feel fantastic. The climbing was tough, but it wasn't that bad. I think the cool temperatures and the lower elevation helped. My calves are a little sore from all the climbing, but that's about it. (No ITBS!)

I packed up Friday morning and drove the 3.5 hours down to Ft Collins in a nasty spring storm-- it rained and snowed almost the entire drive. I made my way through Ft Collins' 10,000 stop lights to Horsetooth Reservoir and found my campsite at the South Bay campground. The campground was very much biased towards RVs-- not tents-- and my spot was directly (and I mean directly) beneath a giant set of buzzing high voltage power lines that cut across the campground. Ugh. Really? Luckily I was able to swap sites without too much trouble. However, at my new site, the only flat spot to put up a tent was a patch of grass two feet away from a pair of dumpsters. I paid $64 for that privilege (minimum length of stay: two nights, plus a daily fee to get in the park). Well, it would have to do. I've camped in worse spots.

After securing my site, I fought my way back through 10,000 stop lights to pick up my runner's packet at a running store in town, ate some pizza, and then returned to the campground as a light drizzle began to fall. I sat in my car as the rain pitter-pattered on the roof, organized my gear as best I could, and jumped into the tent around 9pm. I slept in my running clothes.

After a few hours of sleep I woke up at 3:45am, hopped into my car, and drove to the start line at Lory State Park at the other end of the lake. (It's a long damn lake!) No rain, thankfully, but the lack of stars indicated complete cloud cover. By the time I got there I had to park half a mile from the start. I fumbled around in the dark getting the rest of my gear together, eating what would have to serve as breakfast, and putting together a small drop bag for mile 11. Everything felt rushed. I quickly got my bib number and slurped down a gel while taking the last 5 minutes before the start to stretch my IT band. Lines of runners 10+ deep stood in front of all the toilets, so that wasn't happening! The morning's chaos made me very appreciative of the races I run in Leadville where I just have to roll out of bed and walk a few blocks to the starting line.

At 5am, head lamps bobbing, we set off into the night. After a short stretch of dirt road we switched to a sweet single track that ran parallel to the lake. The first few miles were relatively flat with only a few rolling hills. Unfortunately, I didn't quite position myself correctly and I got stuck behind a long line of runners that were moving just a bit slower than I ideally wanted to run. No big deal, better to start off too slow than too fast. I had to make a few off-trail passing moves on some of the hills, though, which is always a little risky in the dark. After two miles, there was a small aid station where we could drop our head lamps. I dropped mine but neglected to top off my water bottle. I was already about half empty and there were five miles to the next aid station. Hmmm. In the end it wasn't a big deal, but I should've paid more attention.

As we began our first 1,500+ ft climb of the day, I switched to power hiking mode. As we gained elevation we were engulfed in the clouds. At the top there was even a smattering of snow that had fallen overnight. I had on long running tights, two shirts (one short sleeve, one long sleeve), and gloves. I felt perfectly comfortable climbing. I was a little worried that the tights would be too warm, but I ended up being happy with the choice. Better to err on the side of warm legs (muscles) when recovering from a leg injury.

Next came the first big downhill. Again, more beautiful single track. Beautiful, but slow. The narrow trail, the just-tricky-enough footing, and the aggressive, curving descent made picking up speed difficult. I actually train on similar trails every week, so I'm used to it, but this was a far cry from CPTR where the downhills were gentle, wide, straight, and smooth.

At mile 11 I grabbed my drop bag (skipping another line for the bathroom, dammit), dropped off a jacket I was carrying (not wearing), dropped off my gloves (a mistake: my hands would grow numb on the next climb), and then unleashed my secret weapon:  I chugged 16 oz of lowfat chocolate milk! Laugh if you want, but chocolate milk has the perfect ratio (1:3) of protein to carbs and has a ton of salt for electrolytes (520 mg-- more than the S! Caps they were handing out at the aid stations!). Better yet: 400 calories that I could consume in less than 30 seconds. Now, there's no way I could drink that much milk and immediately bomb down a hill, but after the aid station was the longest climb of the race. It would be slow going so there would be plenty of time for me to digest. By the top of the climb I felt great-- actually full! That's such a great feeling to have deep into a race.

The miles ticked by. Again, the downhills weren't going as fast as I'd like, but I was enjoying running through the clouds. A good way to measure my fatigue is to see how I respond when a prolonged downhill switches to an uphill. Do I keep running or do I drop to a walk? I was happy to see that I was holding steady and running the gentle uphills. These downhill/uphill transitions are where I found myself passing a lot folks as the race wore on.

At mile 18 or so, I hit the last aid station. (Finally, a free bathroom!) Next up was the third and last big climb. My chocolate milk was starting to wear off and I knew I needed to re-focus on my nutrition so that I was in good shape for the final downhill. I took the base of the climb slowly, nibbling on my homemade rice/egg/bacon/almond butter/cashew bar and taking shots of gel every 10 minutes or so. Headphones were forbidden during the race, so there were lots of opportunities to chat with fellow runners. It was refreshing. I had a lot of great conversations and shared quick words of encouragement throughout the entire 25 miles. One such conversation helped the time pass quickly on this final climb. At the top of the uphill the first 50 mile racers started passing by in the other direction. I expected to see them much sooner, so I felt a little bit better about my slightly-slower-than-expected pace. This course was tough. Again, more narrow, twisting downhill. I started raising my intensity a bit in the final miles as I felt like I still had a lot in the tank and that maybe I had taken things a little too easy. Just a short training run left to run! I saw the finish line far below me at the 5:00 mark, but there were still two miles to go. Luckily those two miles were probably the most runnable of the entire course. Two 8:00 min/miles later I had crossed the finish line! (I averaged ~10:00 min/miles for the first two miles for comparison.)

I felt great at the finish. Not too hungry. Not too beat up. I felt I had accomplished what I had set out to do: run 25 miles with a ton elevation gain, focus on nutrition, and finish strong. I was certainly glad that I wasn't turning around to run the course again! Most of the runners in the race were 50 milers and they still had hours and hours to run. My hat goes off to them! I'll run two 50 milers this summer before the 100 (the first is just six weeks away!), but I still need to get some more miles under my belt before I tackle one. A death march right now would only set my training back.

While the unnaturally cold weather was great for running, it wasn't so great for post race festivities, which was too bad because there was a lot of cool stuff planned. I hung around for a while, enjoyed some burgers and tasty local brew, and chatted with a few folks, but then I grabbed my head lamp and drop bag and headed back to the mountains. Back to Leadville. This was the first time I had to turn the heat down as a climbed back to my home. Usually there's a point on every drive to Leadville when I find myself reaching for the climate controls and setting the heat just a notch higher. Not today. The only sun I saw all weekend was when I crested Freemont Pass at 11,200 ft and saw the Arkansas Valley stretching out before me.

In two weeks I'm headed down to Gunnison for my third running of the Sage Burner 50K. I can't wait!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Quad Rock 25 Pre-Race Thoughts

The Quad Rock 25 will be a new race for me (and for everyone else running it) so I don't really know what to expect. It's kind of refreshing to be running something new with no past splits to obsess over.

Given the course's impressive amount of vertical (5,500 ft of climbing) it will probably fall somewhere between the Salida marathon and the Leadville marathon in terms of difficulty-- probably closer to Salida.

QR25 vs. CPTR (4:34)
  • QR25 is 2,500 ft lower in elevation.
  • QR25 has 2,000 ft more elevation gain.
  • I'm in approximately the same shape as late April.

QR25 vs. Salida (5:34)
  • QR25 is 1.2 miles shorter.
  • QR25 is 2,000 ft lower in elevation.
  • QR25 has 1,000 ft more elevation gain.
  • QR25 will be snow free!
  • I'm in much better shape now than in early March.

QR25 vs. Leadville (5:49)
  • QR25 is 1.2 miles shorter.
  • QR25 is 5,000 ft lower in elevation.
  • QR25 has 500 ft less elevation gain.
  • QR25 has gotta have fewer rocks than Mosquito Pass.
  • I'm probably not in better shape now than I typically am in early July.
So... I don't know. I'd be thrilled with a 4:59 finish, but I think that's a little optimistic. More realistic would be something like 5:10ish. The big unknown for me is how much the lower elevation will cancel out the extra climbing. The lower elevation has gotta count for something-- the race is 5,000 ft lower than my average training run!-- but climbing is climbing. It's always tough and the QR25 has plenty of it. Another X factor would be the potential heat in Ft. Collins, but the weather actually looks perfect for Saturday's race-- a relatively cool 65F. I'm not tapering for the race, but the only race I do taper for is the 100, so that shouldn't really be a factor when comparing times.

My strategy will be what it pretty much always is:
  • Start slow and steady.
  • Focus on nutrition and hydration. Eat! Drink!
  • Power hike the steep uphills. Run the downhills.
  • Have fun!
  • Try to finish strong.
Most of the racers are actually running the 50 mile version (doing two loops) so I should have plenty of company on the course (since they'll be pacing themselves for a ~10 hour run).

The trail around Twin Lakes is totally melted out.

I've gotten in some solid training since CPTR two weeks ago. I enjoyed a beautiful 20 mile run around Twin Lakes last Friday-- completely snow free! The heat and sun definitely crept up on me and I became seriously dehydrated just before the epic 2,000 ft climb up to Lily Ponds at mile 14. It was a grind, but a good opportunity to practice my power hike. I finished the run weighing 5 lbs less than my starting weight-- not good. Every year it seems I need a reminder to drink, dammit! I try to consume 20 oz of water an hour, but sometimes I get lazy and pay the price. I find that each long training run has a lesson to teach you-- though it may not be the lesson you expected.

They've also replaced the footbridge on the west side of Twin Lakes. (It was washed out last year.)

A view of Hope Pass from Lily Ponds. I bet the CT from Twin to Halfmoon is runnable!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Month in Review (April)

4/2010: 163.3 miles
4/2011: 135.0 miles
4/2012: 164.9 miles

On Sunday and Monday (the last two days of April) I managed to run two recovery runs to bring my monthly mileage total just barely above my previous record for April. It was a small triumph to return from my injury-enforced reduced mileage fast enough to be able to log that many miles in April. That makes 10 consecutive months where I've set personal records for total mileage run.

The Boulders Trail, Iowa Gulch, Leadville.

More than any other month I can think of, April was a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows. When my ITBS struck it was like someone pulled the rug out from under my feet. I lost my balance, everything was up in the air. Could I recover in time for CPTR? For any of the races I had planned for May? For the San Juan Solstice in June? To be able to bounce back as quickly as a I did and set a PR at Collegiate Peaks seems almost miraculous. As elated as I am, I'm still jittery about my knees. Is my ITBS truly behind me or will it surface again as my mileage increases? I will continue to stretch, massage, and strengthen and hope for the best.

My last six weeks of training have looked like this:

3/19: 37 miles
3/26: 18 miles (injured)
4/02: 20 miles (injured)
4/09: 50 miles
4/16: 42 miles
4/23: 43 miles

Even though I have several different training plans sitting on my desk, I'm not really following any particular one. I'm not sure exactly why (fear of commitment?), but I guess I'm trying to run more by feel this year-- adjusting my training schedule to fit the race schedule I've signed up for. My training logs from the previous two years form the foundation of my training. I know what kind of results they produced, so they're an invaluable benchmark.

As complicated as training schedules can get, here's my basic high level plan for this year:

Jan: 25 miles/week
Feb: 30 miles/week
Mar: 35 miles/week
Apr: 40 miles/week
May: 45 miles/week
Jun: 50 miles/week
Jul: 55 miles/week
Aug: taper and race!

Of course, nothing is set in stone and there are always weekly variations from the average, but I think these high level per week averages are a good guideline for me to train by. Their beauty is their simplicity: weekly mileage just increases 5 miles/week/month.

May is when the hammer drops. I consider May, June, and July to be peak training time. Every year, Collegiate Peaks ushers in a new phase of training for the 100. This year I've got the Quad Rock 25 in two weeks and the Sage Burner 50K two weeks after that! So my week-by-week schedule for the end of April and the rest of May looks like: race, train, race, train, race. (That pretty much sums up the life of an ultra runner.)

The mileage to beat for May is 238.4 (set in 2010). That's my all time monthly high. I don't think I'm likely to top it this month-- nor am I sure it's smart to even try. Training is more than just mileage. Probably my most important goal this month is to run one 20+ mile run every week and follow it up with a 5-10 mile recovery run the day after. Sure, I could pad my mileage by sprinkling a ton of 5-7 mile runs throughout the week, but the long run is the key.

The plan is for May is ~20 miles Tue/Wed/Thu and ~30 miles Sat/Sun. Stay vigilant about ITBS: continue to stretch, foam roll, and strengthen. Eat lots of protein. Drink lots of Recoverite.


Clown shoe power!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Collegiate Peaks Race Report

This year's CPTR went almost perfectly. I finished in 4:34-- almost exactly the time I was aiming for and a 17 minute PR over my previous best time in 2010. My pacing went pretty much exactly as planned-- run the first 18 miles slow and steady, focusing on nutrition, and then finish strong, taking advantage of the downhills.

Here's a split comparison to last year with the form: mileage/2011 time/2012 time/difference.

02.92 miles/00:26/00:26/-00:00
05.92 miles/01:02/01:01/-00:01
11.57 miles/02:07/02:06/-00:01
14.47 miles/02:37/02:40/+00:03
17.87 miles/03:30/03:25/-00:05
21.70 miles/04:13/04:03/-00:10
24.94 miles/04:53/04:34/-00:19

I had my splits from the previous year memorized and my main goal was to reach the top of the hill by 3:30. From there, I wanted to average low 9 min/miles to the finish. I ended up climbing the hill 8 minutes faster than last year and arrived 5 minutes ahead of my goal. I didn't quite average low 9 min/miles for the rest of the race, but I came damn close. (I blame the energy sucking head wind during the last few miles!) I don't think anyone passed me during the last 7 miles and I managed to reel a bunch of people in. Finishing strong is such a huge psychological boost-- especially when your ultimate goal is to finish a race that 4x as long as the one you're currently racing!

This year's CPTR represents my biggest percentage improvement in a race (6%). It's such a great feeling to see all your training and preparation pay off. A giant grin was plastered on my face for the rest of the day.


A collection of random race thoughts:
  • I ate a little over 900 calories during the race (plus 200 calories at the starting line, plus 750 calories for breakfast). That's a little over 200 calories/hour during the race-- barely enough. I skimped on calories during the last leg since I had nothing easy left to eat (i.e., gel) and I really wanted to keep moving. From mile 6-18 I almost always had something in my mouth, dissolving between my teeth and cheek. It took me about a hour to eat a single Honey Stinger Waffle! Most of my calories came from a flask of Hammer gel. I also nibbled on a homemade rice/egg/bacon/cashew bar, which was a welcome change from the other sweet foods I was eating. (I highly recommend The Feed Zone Cookbook.)
  • In past races, I've normally consumed calories in little "bursts" every 30 minutes, so this race was a little different. I found myself taking lots of smaller bites of food more frequently. I never stopped eating for a significant amount of time-- it was more of a slow, steady drip of calories. I think this worked well for me since I have an incredibly sensitive gag reflex when I'm running.
  • A deep cough around the second aid station turned into a bout of nausea that I fought off for approximately 5 minutes. I was sure that I was going to puke, but I managed to keep everything down. I had to walk for almost half a mile though, and I lost some time during that leg-- running it 3 minutes slower than last year. Who gets nauseated only 11.5 miles into a race? I'm special like that.
  • I took nothing from the aid stations except water. There really wasn't anything appealing. I expected that and I was carrying all the food I needed.
  • After the first aid station (around mile 6) I was almost always feeling slightly hungry. It was never a problem, but it's amazing to me how many calories I seem to have to eat to stave off hunger while running. It probably doesn't help that I'm 6'5" and 185 lbs.
  • How much did my new Hoka One One Mafate 2's help? I keep asking myself that question. I've been running in them now for 3 weeks. What can I say? They feel very,very different than the minimalist running shoes I was running in before (New Balance MT110's). Running downhill is certainly much more comfortable. And the key for slower runners like myself at ultra distances is to generally walk the steep uphills while conserving energy to run the downhills/flats. So shoes optimized for downhill performance make sense. Another important piece of advice for ultrarunning is to focus your efforts on improving your low points during a race. In other words, don't worry about running the first 50 miles 10 minutes faster, work on running the second 50 miles 90 minutes faster! The Hoka  One Ones seem well designed for that. They still seem gimmicky to me, and I prefer the "romance" of minimalist shoes, but it's hard to argue with results...
  • No IT band pain! Hooray! This was a huge boost in confidence. Disciplined stretching, foam rolling, hip strengthening, and knee icing pays off!