Monday, March 29, 2010

First Ultra: 53.7 Miles!

Earlier, I (Greg) shared what CrossFit is about and that Tammy and I had decided to give it a try. Eight months in, I'm happy to report that we're still having a blast with it! The feeling of adventure is still there, with no burnout or boredom, no noticeable wear-n-tear on my mid-40's body, lots more physical capacity, and new friendships formed through a little joyful shared-strife bonding. Very cool.

Recall that the goal with CrossFit training is not to be elite at anything in particular, but rather to perform well at everything in general. CrossFit's founder thinks this is possible, and that the CrossFit methodology is a great way to pull it off. Doesn't that just beg to be put to the test? We think so.

Tammy loves to run. When I met her, she'd finished a bunch of races including a couple of marathons, and she had trained for several more. But her tight focus on the endurance thing meant that she simply hadn't developed (and had maybe even untrained!) the kind of core strength needed to sustain her in those sorts of efforts. That's why she ran so many fewer marathons than she trained for. She spent lots of time just grinding out long miles on her legs, totally avoiding interval and strength training. And it didn't help that she'd spent decades eating a lowfat vegetarian version of the typical distance-runners' carb-heavy diet filled with lots of grains and legumes. This was not exactly a sustainable recipe for robust fitness and health.

After jumping into CrossFit we got wind of CrossFit Endurance, which purports to let endurance athletes avoid those "chronic cardio" workouts while providing the sport-specific conditioning necessary to go out and supposedly crush ultramarathons and triathlons and such. CrossFit Endurance basically turns the conventional approach to endurance training on its head: their prescription is first to do the same CrossFit training that every CrossFitter does, and to then supplement that with run-biased workouts a few times a week. But these additional workouts are not long chronic-cardio sessions: they're relatively short interval and intensity work, skills work, some tempo work and specific conditioning for body parts that will need to withstand the stress of an actual endurance event.

Tammy hasn't raced for several years, and had never attempted anything as ambitious as a 50-mile ultrarun. But she was intrigued by the idea that she might be able to complete one -- and with a dramatically smaller training investment that also avoided the chronic-cardio thing. So this January, about five months into our general CrossFit adventure (and long after we were both eating paleo), she signed up for the 12/24 Hours of Utah ultra in Moab. To gear up for it, she added two or three CrossFit Endurance style workouts per week (varying tempo runs, tabata interval runs, etc.), coordinated with our usual four-day-a-week random CrossFit regimen to not step on recovery days. Oh, and she also started using our normal CrossFit warmup periods for a little additional conditioning of her core and legs.

It would be an understatement to say this was counterintuitive for Tammy. These super-long running events are no joke, and she wasn't out there getting ready by running! Imagine training for your first marathon by doing mostly weights, some sprints, and no running over, say, an occasional 5K. This was leaving her with a lot of questions, doubts, and insecurity... Was she just setting herself up for failure, even injury? What if the CrossFit Endurance poster-children she'd read about were simply elites in the first place who would do great whether or not they flouted everything the experts said? Or what if they were more normal but had previously established a huge capacity the standard way and were now just maintaining it with CrossFit Endurance? On and on. It left her uncertain enough that she even panicked a bit and tried to slide a bunch of standard-issue miles in near the end of her training window, over a few weekends last month. Of course those miles were insignificant compared to the volume that the traditional approach would counsel.

After three short months of this training, we packed the car and headed to Moab to put it to the test! Sensing a little adventure in the making, I borrowed a video camera to stick in her face all along the way. She absolutely loved that! (Um, NOT. But stressing her out with all that camera time really was for a worthy documentary cause. ;^) Here's how it all went down:

Tammy's 53.7 Mile Run for Time on Vimeo.

Woo! Mission accomplished!! She ended up placing 3rd (just one minute shy of 2nd place) in the Solo Female 12-Hour category, an unexpected bit of fun. And with no limping around for a week afterwards like with earlier marathon efforts: though a bit depleted, she was right back in the gym for our usual Monday-morning random CrossFit beatdown.

Most interesting was what she learned from actually doing it and watching other runners do it -- in contrast to imagining doing it and reading lots of runners' online descriptions and hints for doing it. The bottom line? CrossFit Endurance was vindicated! Her doubts and insecurities around it are now gone: even with the weird IT band/knee thing that progressively diminished her pace and forced her into walking a few laps in the middle, she ended up doing better than average. And I'm pretty sure that without that hip issue, and with some obvious, easy improvements like a little discipline on her pit stops, she would have outperformed all of the other females, and all but one or two of the males! Sure, that's kind of bold for a newbie, but here's the deal: she found so many ultrarunners talking online about their "walk strategies" and how only the elite didn't walk that she went there fully expecting walking to be a necessity -- and sure enough, we saw a lot of walking at the event. But Tammy's training left her feeling just fine motoring up all the hills, etc. If it weren't for the weird IT band/knee thing, she would not have needed to walk at all. She would have simply run the entire thing at her "easy" pace of around 10 or 10.5 minutes/mile.

I expect she'll want to verify that by going and running every step of it next year, so we'll see!

[originally published on Modern Paleo's blog]

Thursday, March 25, 2010

We're in Moab!

We left Boise today at 8am, on our road trip to Moab. It was a long day of driving but we were entertained by talk radio, discussions about the race, and business editorial podcasts.

Greg built an incredible spreadsheet for me that will calculate my laps time, pace, rest time, miles remaining, pace needed to meet my ultimate goal, etc. It's an incredible spreadsheet and will help me out more than I can imagine.

I'm not talking too much about my race right now -- it makes my heart rate increase and I start to worry.

Going to go eat and get a good night's sleep.

Electrolyte Water

I've tried all sorts of electrolyte waters. The flavored waters are super sweet, and the ones without flavors, taste "thick" and yucky. I find it very difficult to even drink this kind of water. But the worst is this water does not stay in my body!! I've been very scared as endurance sites highly recommend some kind of electrolyte water for overall body health - and sodium is extremely important. Ugh! So, I had succumbed to the idea that I will drink just plain old water and get my minerals from my food. However, I discovered that I've been drinking (for years) Smart Water (SW). SW is in fact a vapor distilled water with electrolytes!! SW does not contain the levels of electrolytes that the sports drinks have but it has some, and does not include sodium. No problem - my sodium will come from other sources!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cleaning Up My Act

Cleaning Up My Food

In general, I eat *clean* - meaning no wheat, grains, dairy, sugar. I occasionally have beer and mangos - not together but both very yummy!

Over the past week + I've prepared for my race by eliminating beer, mangos, and my coffee intake to 2 cups a day. Plus, I've been eating super clean.

Now that I'm a few days from my run I'm eliminating wine! Along with eating super clean and with no alcohol in my system - I'm expecting my body will run to the end of the race in record time just so I can have a beer, eat some mangos, and drink some wine :)

Thoroughly Hydrating

I'm drinking 24-32oz water x 4/day. I'm getting super hydrated this week.

Vitamin Ready

I've been dedicated to taking my vitamins every day after breakfast. My vitamins include: K, D, E, C, B, Cod, Multi, Flax, Selenium, Magnesium, Fish Oil.

Loosening Up

I'm big on stretching this week. I also got a massage yesterday to loosen up my hip flexor and went to physical therapy this morning for some more yanking on that hip. I was also given a couple really good stretches for my hip that I'll be doing a couple times a day until race day.

I am also on a regular regimen of ibuprofen until race day.

Race Day Weather

It appears to be perfect weather in Moab, Utah for my run!!

High 55
Low 30

Few showers, cloudy.


4 Days to Go to Dial in My Run Nutrition!

My run is 4 days away. I'm super excited with just a bit of nervousness.

I am finally calm about my training -- which is really great. I've been so nervous wondering if I've done enough. I am no longer questioning my training, or lack thereof. I know I will do what I can do -- and there is nothing else I can do at this point.

I am nervous about my nutrition. Just day to day my stomach gets upset on a regular basis so nutrition while running has always been a little more difficult than most runners I know. Lately, even my nutrition on my shorter runs, 1-3 hours has been sketch.

I am focusing today on nutrition. My plan is to carry rolaids tabs with me -- enough to last the entire run! I have to intake 250 calories per hour. I will have my own table full of various foods including: potatoes, boiled eggs, a mix of bananas w/ protein powder glucose and almond butter, yummy Avacado potato chips, vegetable soup, various protein bars, mix of applesauce glucose and protein powder. And for those loops that I can't even think of eating - I have fully charged Coca Cola and 7-up (something I never drink!). What else could possible sit in my stomach without much trouble? I'm still researching!

I can tell you what I'm having after my run - Champagne!!!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hurry Up and Relax!

Gearing up to relax for my run includes relaxing this seriously tight hip flexor/low back/hamstring tightness. I went to Boise Therapeutic Massage by a gal named Tammy. Great, great, great!! She knew what the Soas muscle was and how to handle it to release! Not many masseuse know what the Soas is, or is to shy to get in and "work it". As far as I'm concerned - I hurt - I'm not shy - get in there and work it!! Tammy did! She is my new favorite masseuse!!

Here's her info:
Tammy Lara
Boise Therapeutic Massage Center
1114 N. Cole Road

Saturday, March 20, 2010

1 Week Away

It's only 1 week away - my big 53.7 mile race! Last week I was nervous, felt unprepared and unable to run. Today, I feel more confident.

I am working on strategy for each lap and overall run goals. Strategy includes best and worst case scenarios for pace per lap, rest time, nutrition, etc.

Scenarios: 1) Best case scenario is I run a consistent 10 minute pace, giving me about 5 minutes rest/stretch and sign-in time between each lap. This would provide me a little less than 1 hour per lap -- giving me plenty of time to complete my race in less than the 12 hour time cut-off period. This would be great! 2) Less than best case scenario is I run a consistent 11 minute pace. This would give me under 1 minute to rest/stretch for the 1 hour per lap. This would not be optimal but still - even if I took 5 minutes rest/stretch time, I could still complete the race in under 12 hours. 3) Another less than best case scenario is I run an average 12 minute pace. This would give me 1.05 to complete each lap. I could still finish the race, but very little time for rest/stretch in between laps. 4) At a 13 minute pace, it would be hard to finish 53.7 miles in 12 hours. 5) Worst case scenario is that I don't finish due to injury or health reasons.

How I feel physically? My legs are sore -- likely from accumulated running, although the last long runs I did was 3/5 and 3/6 -- accumulated to 48 miles. This weekend was supposed to be my final 1 mile runs - 1 on Friday and 1 Saturday. Yesterday's run was good in that it was great to be out there for only 1 hour; but I felt my hip and hamstring and a little tweakiness in my left knee. Should I run today? I'm not sure it really matters as far as my endurance goes - and at this point it may just hurt me. So.... I may just walk today to stretch my legs.

I'm taking control of this run now. I am thinking more positively. 10 rounds of 5.37 miles for time. I will finish.

Friday, March 19, 2010

12 Hour Moab!

When looking for my first 50 mile run, this is the perfect run -- or so I think ;)

At first what made this run so intriguing was that it is within driving distance - a mere 10-11 hours drive away. Because it's so close, Moab has similar weather with only a slightly greater elevation.

What also made this so intriguing is that it is a loop of 5.37 miles. Since this is my first 50 mile run, I have no idea how I will do. A loop offers safety. If I were on an out-n-back, it is a much bigger deal if something goes wrong; plus I have such a hard time with nausea that carrying enough food to last 10-12 hours would add more weight to my pack that I really don't want. After each loop, I will check in with Greg - evaluate hydration and nutrition, and have a second opinion on my physical and mental state. Greg will also be there for what is most important - words of inspiration when I feel like (but won't!) give up before meeting my goal!

My legs are strong enough to go 53.7 miles -- but am I mentally strong enough?