Elevation Trail Stickers are IN

IMG_1076They’re here! They’re here!
Whatever. The Elevation Trail stickers have arrived. VERY limited numbers (especially since I stuck a bunch of them all over the place already).
Minimum of $11 donation – you get a sticker
Minimum of $25 donation – you get a hat
https://elevationtrail.wordpress.com/et-gear/

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How to Write an Ultra Race Report

Over the years I’ve blogged about several things, a lot about running, but also a lot about other topics in daily life (some a bit too personal and thus pinched from public view after a scant few hours).  Seriously, though, how many times can one write about the eight mile run he does routinely without lulling even himself into a deep sleep?

This is where the humble race report shuffles out onto the stage from behind the black velvet curtain and shyly acknowledges the audience of blog readers who’ve grown accustom to following varying levels of blog reading etiquette and mores.  They question ideas when appropriate, plump up the original context with their own comments, and often rally to the defense of notions and even other people whom they will likely never meet in real life.  The diversity and anonymity of the blog reader is not always for the thin skinned.  But the race report seems to bring readers together in a like-minded circle of campfire warmth to share in the recount of self imposed race struggles.

Our friend, the race report, serves as reporter, lamenter, cheerleader, and historical reference.  Races are unique, even the same event from year to year is unique.  Players change, crowds grow, the venue morphs.  And yet they are similar.

Other than the bib number, medal, or belt buckle (if you’re nutty enough to finish a 100 miler), the only thing that stands as a tangible reminder of the event is the race report, so respect and effort must be given to produce the best place holder possible of your great achievement, or, unfortunately sometimes, your suffering defeat.

So, what exactly makes a great race report, well, great?

For me, the prospect of death (like mountaineering) or at least scary close encounters with death (like Putnam Pass in the San Juans) seem to evoke the most memorable and lucid writing from me.  There isn’t a lot of intrigue in the local trail half marathon just a mile from a large city, aid stations every 3 miles, and spectators at several trail intersections.  However, consider a tough, remote mountainous 100 miler and now you’ve got a good shot at finding a way to kill yourself, or at least suffer tremendously, and terrific fodder for your race report.  Other situations that virtually guarantee a good report are a competitive race to the finish, wardrobe malfunction, wildlife encounters, and crapping your pants.  I’m not saying you can’t create a great race report on a shorter local event, you can.  It just takes more work to squeeze the interesting parts (i.e. fabricate) from the experience.

There are varying approaches to the race report.  Gary Robbins is adept at the humorous report, typically in a humbling, self-deprecating way.  Geoff Roes lays it out in a realistic, journalist manner, leaving you knowledgable about the mundane facts of the race as he experienced it.  Some reports are so overly detailed (dragged out) that you wonder how the person ever made to the start line after exhausting himself in the pre-race preparations, while others seem to be written by a half-witted sloth – “I tied my shoes and ran.  The end.”

The astute reader will eventually see patterns to all race reports.  There are ingredients that have become  fundamental.  Some of these include sandbagging, excuses (Major = I got hit by a bus walking to packet pick up.  Minor = my iPod broke half way through “It’s Raining Men”), pre-race bowel movement details, running out of water, feet hurting, trouble with pre-race sleep, etc.

In part 1 of this post, I’ll layout my guide to writing a good an amazing race report.

The Build Up.  Me on an exposed wall at 14k ft.  I do epic shit.

You’ve just run an epic race, whether it be a half marathon in a local park or an ultramarathon in a place so remote that the pre-race briefing included costs involved in search and rescue operations.  You planned, trained, worried, talked about it until friends’ ears bled, then lined up and did it or, maybe, didn’t get it done.  Either way, it was an adventure and you need to do something to capture the details before they are diluted by the thin liquid of daily life.

If you ain’t so good at writing but good (and prolific) with a camera, you could put together a photo album of the race and call it a day.  Photos say a lot but only you can personally and completely express how you felt during your race and words are the way, my friend.

It’s not difficult.  You have the hardest part out of the way: the experience itself.  You simply need to lay it out in a somewhat organized and hopefully entertaining way.  Even if it’s not that entertaining, you’ll at least be able to go back to re-read it and relive the experience.  It’s more fun to make it entertaining, though.  Here’s how to do it.

1.  The build up.

I like to use snippets from conversations with others about the race or quotes from emails, race reports, and/or the event website.  This is the first opportunity to make people aware how difficult the race is and how your level of awesomeness for taking on such an impossible task is off the human charts.  It’s also the first chance you get to slip in a little sandbagging.  I like to use, “My training wasn’t great.”  This phrase is so vague that it could mean you’ve only been running 98 miles a week instead of 100, or that you’ve been eating 98 delicious cream filled Twinkies a week and running 20 miles.  Either way, the purpose is to soften the reader’s expectations of your pre-set abilities going into your epic race.  Here’s an example:

“In the weeks leading up to the race my training was lackluster and I missed some sleep.  I felt ok but something was missing.”

Read in context with preparation and build up to your race, those sentences blend in and subconsciously set the reader up beautifully for either a triumphant or disastrous outcome.  “Man, he killed that race even though his training was lackluster and didn’t get much sleep!” or “Well, of course he had a bad race.  His training was lackluster and probably didn’t sleep since January.”

Ok, let’s dissect that phrase.  “In the weeks leading up to the race my training was lackluster (lackluster?  what are we, like 90 years old – who talks like that?  What is lackluster?) and I missed some sleep (like entire weeks of sleep or 15 mins one morning when the garbage truck woke you?).  I felt ok but something was missing (WTF? something was missing, like a lung or your car keys?).”  

The beauty is that it’s so vague you can twist it’s meaning when questioned post race.

Another key during the build up is making sure people understand that you’re probably the only human who’s badass enough to undertake such epic shit like this race.  Any cool race has warnings; these are great to add to your build up.  Here’s one (of many) taken from the awesome Hardrock Runner’s Handbook:

The weather is a dominant factor for this run and can be at least as formidable as the terrain, remoteness, or high altitude. It is our general opinion that the first fatality we may have will be either from hypothermia or lightning! We would rather that there never be a fatality, and so we will continually be giving you warnings, cautions, updates, and suggestions regarding the exposure you must face when attempting this run.”

They all usually have warnings about wildlife encounters (more frequent than you might imagine), like bears, mountain lions, elk, buffalo, snakes, and other scary stuff (wait ’til you see the reflection of eyes in the woods on your first night run in the wild…).

Quotes from friends warning you of imminent death are great.  Here are just a few from my Hardrock Race Report from 2011:

“Be careful crossing above the waterfall, it’s a fatal spot.”  -Karl Meltzer

“Watch out for cliffs on the left.  Fatal spot again.”  -Karl Meltzer

“There is always one more climb.  You will feel the worst when you are high on the passes so get off of them quickly, your condition will return to good quickly.  I know this.  I have sat there on the passes with death coming soon but just know it will be a matter of minutes before you feel better if you get down.”  -Scott Jaime

“Virginius Pass, go across the Talus slope and pick up the route through the notch, it is steep, slippery, brutal.”  -Karl Meltzer

How great are those!?  Other guys telling your readers how badass you are for even thinking about doing this death defying event.  It serves a couple purposes.  It validates the difficulty and your bravery and it bolsters the sandbagging/excuses angle, sort of an ancillary benefit.

The rest of the build up varies in depth.  This is where you write about the details of preparation.  Write about some big training runs, about family and friends sacrificing for your self-centered venture, lists of every item you packed in drop bags, what you plan to start with, what the weather was like, things like that.  Over time, I’ve gone from long lists of things I “need” for races to now when I basically make sure my privates are covered and I have some water.

Next up:  The race itself…

 

 

Contest – Free ET Hats

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Secure in Elevation Trail Headquarters. One of those hats could be yours!

Ok, we’re giving away one new Elevation Trail trucker hat AND the last remaining (new with tags) old school original version ET hat with the old logo. OMG OMG OMG! Here’s the deal: If the Elevation Trail Facebook page reaches at least 700 likes by 11:59pm on December 31, we will randomly select two of the “Likes” from our FB page and send you each a hat with an autographed photo of Gary and Tim (calm down, ladies).

So get over to our facebook page and get your friends and family to like the heck out of it, so we reach over 700 likes by New Years. https://www.facebook.com/ElevationTrail

News This Week and Show Teaser

The first batch of hats were sent out to listeners (and people I’m trying to coerce into listening). Send me photos of you in your new Elevation Trail hat and I’ll post them here and on our stagnate Facebook page.

The show this week? Well, let me just say that this athlete has been a sort of hero to me for a few years now. My palms are sweating writing this and I can’t think of a complete sentence to say for the show. He has transcended his sport from granular beginnings to still dominating today against the best athletes in the world. He’s been called “The Giant Killer”. The show is Thursday, so don’t miss it!

Now, I leave you with Elevation Trail family photos:

http://brandon.fuller.name/archives/2014/12/14/17.29.55/

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New Elevation Trail Hats Coming

ETHatCamo

Flat bill trucker hat with camo mesh and brown logo.

Pre-order your new Elevation Trail hat and have it in time for Christmas (I’m not sure what that means, maybe give one as a gift or wear it to your mother’s house and have to explain what “STFUp” means, whatever).

Camo design mesh trucker hat. $25 (includes shipping within the 48 states – extra for other places, like Sri Lanka). VERY limited numbers, so don’t miss out on this edition. (Note: we’re not set on the little kids running on the logos, so they may or may not end up on the hats)

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Classic trucker hat in pink with grey logo.

And options for the ladies of Elevation Trail….

Giddy Up, Bronco Billy! Jeff Browning Interview

San Diego 100 Race.

Jeff Browning gets a well deserved low five from a litt girl after winning San Diego 100 again. Photo: Jeff Johnson

Welcome to the Footfeathers Show here on Elevation Trail.  I’ve been following this guest since I ran my first ultra.  He’s tough, he’s fast, he’s competitive, and he’s a super nice guy.  It’s a pleasure to have Jeff Browning on the show.  We have a great conversation, in which he talks about how to run 100 miles with some entertaining and valuable insights.  I hope you enjoy it because I sure did.

Jeff Browning – June 26 2013

Gear Review: SALOMON EXO II WINGS TW SHORTS

Running shorts.  There are few features of most shorts that require consideration.  Most shorts are like Honda Accords.  They look fairly average, are reliable, and serve their mundane duties admirably.  Then there’s the Salomon EXO II Wings TW shorts.  They are as exotic as their name is long.

First time I pulled them on I noticed they are tight.  I wear size medium and have other compression shorts.  The Salomons fit tighter, consistently tighter throughout the legs and rear.  The material is a four-way stretching, perforated nylon with a grid pattern that Salomon named “Sensifit”.  There is an over short that is sewn in a way where they don’t cover everything, yet are attached at the inner thigh both in front and back, exposing the inner thigh and crotch so that only the compression tight is left, eliminating any additional material bunching.  This is an interesting design that reduces friction, increases ventilation, and adds a modicum of discretion in public.

The tights are long, reaching just above my knees and thus supporting all major muscles in the quads and hamstrings.  The idea of compression makes sense when one thinks about the vibration and shaking of muscles with a normal running stride.  That creates a lot of stress at the connecting points of the muscles and, over a long distance race, can reduce fatigue and micro tears in the muscles.

Wearing any compression gear can take a little getting used to but once you’re comfortable in it, you’ll feel naked without.  I’ve put these shorts through the wringer, bounding over slickrock in the desert, zipping through long stride intervals on level singletrack, and careening down long, rocky descents.  I’m a proponent of compression products and the Salomon shorts performed in a way that only solidifies my allegiance.

These shorts have a few specific features I’d like to point out.  The waistband isn’t a traditional crimped elastic band; it’s looser, riding nicely on the hips, and the shorts rely on the overall fit to hold them up.  For the first few minutes of running in them they slip down slightly but once you get a little warmed up and sweat a bit, they hold snuggly in place.  There is a convenient pocket at the small of the back that can hold a couple gels.  A zipper pocket here would be useful.  The compression material varies through the thigh and crotch.  Around the quads and hamstrings the material is perforated, enabling it to breath well and dry very quickly even with the loose over-shorts.  In the crotch and inner thigh the material is solid.  Without the over-shorts covering this section, it allows for smooth movement with no friction and breaths well.

At $80-$100 they are pricey but the quality and technology built into the Exo II Wings TW Shorts will change your perception of this piece of utilitarian but otherwise forgotten running gear.

www.salomonrunning.com

Compression Clothing: McDavid

That’s thoughts about compression clothing, not compressed thoughts, whatever…

Antelope 100k with McDavid calf sleeves

I’m sitting here writing this while wearing McDavid compression socks after a 12 mile run.

I’m obviously not a scientist or doctor but I am a runner who enjoys running very long distances.  These are thoughts put into my own words, so they are simply the way I view how it works, not some scientific study I did in my kitchen.  It’s real.  It’s tangible.  It’s a process.

I only support or otherwise talk about products that I truly believe help me perform at my potential while  staying as comfortable and injury-free as possible.

During events the core benefits of McDavid compression products are the stabilization of muscles and increased circulation. Repetitive shaking or oscillation of muscles is reduced.  With each stride the muscles contract/engage and then relax.  Upon foot strike the leg suddenly stops and the muscle keeps moving with inertia then snaps back as it contracts.  Repeating this several hundred (thousand) times over the course of a long run puts increased stress on the muscle itself and the connective tissues where the muscle attaches to the bone, resulting in micro tears and waste product in the muscle cells, which we feel as post activity soreness.

Reducing the unnecessary oscillation and vibration movement of the muscle enables it to work more efficiently and provides enhanced comfort and performance over longer periods of time.

McDavid Calf Sleeves

The breakdown of running form is an unavoidable component of running long distances.  Early in workouts or races the runner has all the energy, efficiency and strength that enables good form and a springy stride where all the main muscles and stabilizing muscles are working effortlessly in unison.  Once fatigue sets in form falls apart, hips swing out, knees collapse and twist inward and ankles pronate at increasing angles.  Reducing the micro tears and promoting circulation offsets the fatigue, enabling a more comfortable, natural stride for longer periods. Improving economy means better efficiency and using less energy.

Compression benefits don’t end when the run ends.  Recovery begins.  Regarding nutrition, it’s widely known that recovery must begin as soon as possible after a workout or race.  Athletes benefit most by replacing carbohydrates, proteins, and electrolytes within 30 minutes after exertion ends.

This holds true for compression used in recovery as well.  Immediately following exercise full length compression pants reduce muscle and joint swelling and increase circulation, which helps flush out waste products from muscle cells and facilitate the healing process.  This in turn reduces soreness and speeds recovery, enabling a faster return to activity.

Next up:  More detail on how compression is used and aids training AND recovery for me.