USA 100k Champion, Camille Herron

Join us today on Elevation Trail as we welcome newbie ultrarunner, Camille Herron. She chats about the blend and transition from elite road racing to ultrarunning and she makes her own beer (we think that is equally important to note). Please feel free to comment and/or ask her questions here or on our facebook page.

Thanks for listening and if you feel like supporting the show, please click on the paypal button over yonder on this page.

US 100k Champ Camille Herron

Safety at Events – Barkley and Others

tentJoin Tim and Gary today on Elevation Trail as we chat about Gary’s memorial preparations for Jamil Coury, who selfishly ruined the plans by returning safely from the Barkley course. We also somehow discuss Cabelas, hunting, Geoff Roes, Western States, breaking bones, motorcycling, cricket, xc skiing, and blood. Hope you enjoy it. Oh, and buy a shirt. http://teespring.com/elevationtrail

Safety at Events – Barkley

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Our friend, the race report, serves as reporter, lamenter, cheerleader, and historical reference.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…

 

 

How to be an Ultra Pacer – Part 2

“Will you please get up.  You’re embarrassing me.” 

In the intro to How to be an Ultra Pacer, we covered the wide range of emotions from ebullient anticipation, to the grinding sad reality of the lead up and preparation, to the time you finally meet your runner.  Now we’ll focus on the process of pacing.  An important thing to remember going into your pacing duties is that, at one point or another (or many), you will hate your runner.  I mean like push-him-off-the-mountain in the middle of the night hate.  Like all misery and suffering in running ultras, once you anticipate and accept it, you’re able to manage the emotion and situation in a somewhat sane manner without actually killing anyone.  Side note:  Your runner will undoubtedly hate you at times as well, but who cares.

Before you meet up with your runner it helps if you’ve been crewing for him over the first sections of the race, so you can see the gradual transformation from happy, clean, likable person, to filthy, hobbling, scratchy-voiced, grouchy shell of a human.  With any luck, you will grow a tiny seed of pity for the poor slob, which will hopefully give you at least a touch of patience.  This patience will disappear “poof” the first time you start arguing with your runner about eating.  “Time for a gel.”  “I don’t want anything.”  “You have to eat.”  “I don’t want to.  It sounds gross.”  “If you don’t eat, you’ll bonk and die.”  “I don’t care.  Gels are disgusting.”  “I will beat you to death if you don’t eat a gel…”  

This could go on for hours, until he finally eats, or until you actually kill him.  This is a good opportunity to start lying.  “If you down just one gel and some water, I won’t bug you about it anymore.”  This will only work for about eight gel feedings, unless your runner is really dumb.  Another embarrassing tactic is to treat your runner like a small child.  “If you finish the three gels you have before the next aid station, I’ll buy you pizza and beer after the race.”  This is an awesome lie for a number of reasons, the main one being that your runner will never remember you said it and he’ll be so happy to be done running after the race, that he’ll be throwing money around like a drunken sailor in Charleston.

Eventually, nothing will work to convince him to eat gels and you’ll have to find anything he may like at aid stations and employ aid station workers to help you force your runner to eat.  “Eat the goddamn turkey sandwich, and shut the hell up.  You’re doing great!”  Getting your runner angry isn’t all that bad, actually.  In many cases it will serve to give him a shot of adrenaline and you’ll be relishing the speedy 12 min per mile pace as your reward.  At Leadville while pacing a guy, I refused to go further until he ate a gel and drank some water.  We stood on Power Line at mile 80, two grown men arguing over eating 1 ounce of sugar.  He finally ate it and then tried to drop me by running up that bitch.  He finished in 6th place overall and all was forgotten.

How far you want to take your pacing duties is up to you.  Charming lore of the pacing world are abundant.  There was last year at Hardrock when some dope dropped his shoe off the side of an icy mountain and Scott Jaime was on the verge of giving up one of his shoes to the runner until finally risking his life by climbing down to retrieve the shoe dangling on a lower ledge.  No freakin’ thanks, I say.  I’d be like, “Whoa, dude, that sucks.  If we hurry, you’ll probably only lose a couple toes to frostbite.”  “Now eat a gel.”  Then there’s that sad image of Alex Nichols squatting solemnly next to a dehydrated and soon to be DNF’d Anton at Leadville.  The image reminds me of animals that stay with their dead animal friends for days (apparently not bright enough to realize they need to move on and find a new friend, who’s breathing). 

Alex Nichols wishing he was getting teeth pulled instead of squatting in the middle of nowhere.  Photo Rob O’dea

And one of my favorite stories, sadly, about the same guy I’ll be pacing at WS this weekend.  He was out of it after running a poorly paced race at Leadville last year and at around mile 78 fell backwards to a sitting position.  The unfortunate part of it was that he had like ten gels in the back pockets of his shorts and they all exploded upon impact.  He now had a butt crack of sticky gels, was shivering, and couldn’t remember his name.  His pacer was forced to dress the poor slob in warmer clothes on the side of the trail in the middle of the night.  They somehow crawled to the next aid station and their race was over.  That’s loyalty (I would’ve just left him, sticky-assed and all, and jogged on into town for a beer).  I’ll omit my own story at Hardrock last year.  I hear about it regularly from my heartless pacer and am still scarred by the experience.

Once in a while you’ll get lucky and your runner will run a smart race, show up to meet you for your pacing duties and be in fine shape, run reasonable paces to the finish and you look like a hero for just running along with him.  This brings up the next topic of how to run with your runner.  Following or leading is a matter of taste.  I prefer the pacer to lead, both when I’m pacing and being paced.  Unfortunately, novice pacers will shoot off the front and yo-yo back and forth in front of you anywhere from two feet to two miles.  Don’t do this.  You’re not there for yourself; leave your ego at home.  Just because you see other runners up ahead does not mean that your runner wants to break into a 6:30 pace after 70 miles of running to catch the other poor bastard walking up ahead.  Do this to me and I’ll rip your shoes off and throw them in the woods.  Stay with your runner.  

While you’re staying with your runner, the thought of talking and keeping him company may cross your mind.  Let that thought cross and go away.  Your runner likely isn’t in the mood to be hearing stories of your boring ass life.  Very sporadic encouragement is key.  “You’re doing awesome.” or “That was a good stretch you just did.” Those statements uttered in a quiet voice will sink into your runner’s mind and make him feel like this stupid thing he’s doing might have some (albeit unknown) purpose and that he’s actually doing an “ok” job of it, even if he’s sucking wind at 16 min/miles.  Don’t over do it, either in exuberance or frequency.  Like sex, an hour is fun, 10 hours is chaffing.

Up next in How to be an Ultra Pacer:  Part 3 – Finishing the race and salvaging any fragments left of your friendship.  And how to embellish the details to make your runner look as dumb as possible.

How to be an Ultra Pacer – Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Dream pacer.  Jenn Shelton.  Photo Bad Ben’s blog

With Western States 100 approaching and Hardrock 100 just around the corner after that, you may find yourself on both sides of the rusty razor barbwire pacing fence.  So I felt it appropriate to discuss the act of pacing.

One of the most selfless acts a human can perform is pacing another person in an ultrarunning event.  Mother Teresa never paced, nor did any of the popes.  It transcends all mundane humanity and will surely secure you a ticket in heaven (I visualize heaven as an all day BBQ on the 4th of July with the majority in attendance being thin twenty year old women – you get your own heaven).

Becoming a pacer is the easy part.  With the abundance of novice (read: scared petrified) ultrarunners bravely signing up for races so far in advance that it never occurs to them that the race will actually take place until they get the final instructions letter from the race director warning them of injury, wild animals, lightning strikes, kidney failure, and, of course, running in the dark, there are plenty of pleas for pacers to be found.  This is where you come in, cape embroidered with a big “P”, tautly flowing from your broad shoulders and say, “Uh, I can pace you.”  The rush of relief and gratitude is palpable through the email response and you feel like you just kicked five Ninjas’ asses and saved a baby from a burning yurt.

Once the emotions settle, you and your runner have to figure out a few things.  Where along the course will you start your pacing duties?  Are you in good enough shape to pace for 50 miles?  Is your runner faster than you, even with 10 hours of running on his/her legs?  Will you lead or follow your runner?  Should you talk or stay quiet (or sing TV show tunes)?  Are you prepared to give the runner all your clothes and finish the race naked in 25 degree weather?  Are you ready to simultaneously feed a gel to your runner while he’s squatted with diarrhea? (I draw the line at feeding and wiping).  Can you stomach walking at 2 mph for 20 hours when your runner falls apart but is stubborn to finish? (tips on how to subliminally convince your runner he’s wasting his time and should DNF coming later).

There are a lot of things to consider before you take on this seemingly simple task.  Once you figure them all out, you can forget about them because nothing will go as planned and you’ll need to ad lib the pacing gig as it unfolds.  This flexibility in planning comes into play as soon as you meet your runner for the first time.  You have played and replayed the scenario of him scampering into the aid station, switching out bottles, sponge bath, eating gels, all while in full stride running at you yelling, “Let’s do this!” in a college football coach voice that sends chills down your spine.  You latch on to this running machine and the two of you bolt out of the aid station and onto endless ribbons of singletrack trail with the finish line as the one gravitational force.

By the time your runner shows up you’re amped up like a rabid squirrel that just shot an eight ball mixed with white heroin.  Your runner, on the other hand, looks as though he just fell off a 1,000 foot cliff onto a ten lane highway and got pummeled by speeding traffic.  Balancing this odd mixture is an art form and imperative if you want to make it twenty feet together, let alone 40 miles to the finish.

Here’s Part 2 of “How to be an Ultra Pacer”:  How to lie and how to not kill your runner.

Here’s Part 3 of “how to be an Ultra Pacer”: The Case Study

Super Size It With Guest, Dr. Allen Kinsler

Map-of-Obesity-ratesUltrarunner, Dr. Allen Kinsler joins us today to discuss his work with low income and homeless populations and the issues of obesity in the US. Seems like rich folks are gaining weight just as fast, maybe faster, but is it for different reasons? And, the new ET Fartlek feature is a fail. I don’t have the energy to play with the audio tracks, so we’ll work the fartleks into the next show… You’ll have to listen to know what that means.

Direct .mp3 file: Super Size It With Guest Dr. Allen Kinsler

Obese show appendix. Allen sent this to me after the show – Lots of complex issues (I think he’s looking to secure a spot on a future show again… hmmm):

Thank you very much for having me on. I think the saliva finally started coming back in my mouth about 30 minutes ago. Totally nervous. Hopefully I didn’t come across as a pompous asshole doctor. The problem is so complex and getting worse. It is a huge source of frustration. Not to mention that the numbers of people out there that are obese are going to overwhelm the medical system. Some would argue that has already happened.

Medicine/medical care, is very personal and can be a sensitive subject. Everyone has their own experiences and there is nothing more personal than one’s health. It was really hard because the way I practice medicine works for me and my patients. Certainly not everyone agrees with me which is why I am always reluctant to discuss this in public forums.

I am big into figuring out the cause and fixing that issue. I do a fair number of joint injections for pain. However I refuse to inject someone’s joint with steroids unless they agree to go to physical therapy. My explanation is that the pain is there for a reason and steroids are getting rid of the pain but not fixing anything. We need to fix the mechanical problem. I get some resistance but it is amazing when they go and sort out the issue and I never have to inject them again. The more economical plan for me is to just keep injecting them every 3-6 months that only really helps me ($). I refuse to work that way.

I got curve balled with the weight loss drug question: I still don’t know the answer as I haven’t looked up the drug. The quick snap shot of all the weight loss drugs thus far are is this: they yield about 10% weight loss (but only in about 50-60% of people, it’s not even a given that if you take the pill you will lose weight. the pills only work as long as you are on them. Drug approval time for treatment is usually less than 6 months, some of the amphetamine based ones are no more than 3 months. In 12 months time after stopping the drug people gain all the weight back. Cost is usually $300+ a month. In my view having someone lose 30 lbs over 6 months for$1800 (not to mention the costs to see me, get labs, etc etc) when they are going to gain it back seems to be pretty futile and a waste.

I do use medications, many are very helpful. However for my chronic disease stuff (diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol) medications are always accompanied lifestyle counseling and tons of encouragement with the goal that one day we can hopefully stop the pills.

I did attach 2 articles that I tried to incorporate into the show that provide good discussion. They likely make way more sense than I did.

Really appreciate the work you guys put into the show.

Trail Erotica? Garage Sales, Ultrarunning in 2015 (and 2025)

Ultramag08Got 90 minutes to waste? Then you’re in for a treat with this show. We cover a wide range of topics and somehow tie them all together in a cohesive orb, sort of like a rubberband (or gumband for you Pittsburg folks) ball.

Here’s my motovlog helmet setup:

Audio-Tech ATR3350 mic

GoPro Hero 3 action cam

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Direct link to .mp3 file: Trail Erotica

Voices In Our Heads – Holiday Show

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This was going on at my food store this week.

Crossfit, Grocery Store, Boulder Marathon, Brandon, Show Reviews.

Those are the topics. As far as show reviews, we’d really like to read some analysis and review of the ET show. Just be nice about it.

Thanks for listening.

Mining by Moonlight

“Mining by Moonlight” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Training, Coaching, Race Planning – Oh, and Gary, Too

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Vagabond (photo: Elisa)

Fun times today on the Elevation Trail Show. Gary pries into the personal life and inner angst of Tim. We talk about training, coaching, race entry fees, lotteries, and parakeets up your butt as the newest training method. Join us, LIKE us on Facebook, and please leave some comments and suggestions!

And the direct mp3 file:

https://elevationtrail.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/training-coaching-racing-and-satan.mp3

The Grilled Cheese Incident

grilled-cheeseThanks for joining us today for our return to the Elevation Trail show after a two month vacation! Today we have on Edward Sandor who had an interesting experience at the Arrowhead 135 mi race and experienced a bit of controversy in the following months. He’s now blacklisted from the event. Find out how a grilled cheese sandwich played a role in the situation.

Direct link to .mp3 – https://elevationtrail.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/grilled-cheese-incident.mp3