Monday, June 25, 2012

Sunday's Trail Run!

Sunday's run on the trails of Chicot State Park was a huge success! There 11 runners total, 6 of them hitting the trails for the very first time in incredibly humid conditions.  Everyone did an out and back run of anywhere from 8 - 10 miles and did great!  Here are some of our first timers:

Sandi (a veteran trail monkey) with her nephew, Jace,
who was pounding the dirt for the first time.

Dawn Broussard won the award for
"Most Graceful Roll" 

Emma Valentine gets the award for best quote,
"My Chicot cherry has been popped!"
Love Emma!

Josh Louviere isn't even over the soreness
from the run and is already ready to go back.

Lonny (first time) and Randy (second time) -
10 miles done, and Lonny already wants to do
the whole loop!
We hit the trail a little after 6:00 a.m. (which meant leaving Lafayette a little after 5:00 a.m. - jeez!).  Despite it being a little muggy (like running underwater), everyone had fun!  The same thing happened last summer, and I don't fully understand it.  We bring first timers out to the trails on a horribly hot and humid day, and they all leave with smiles on their faces.  I can't figure out if it is because we share with them our love of the trails before they get out there, so they expect to enjoy it, or if it is the type of person who is attracted to trail running, but it is not too often that we bring someone out there and they don't have a great time.

I have run alongside people on the roads who complain - ALOT!  But, I can honestly say I have never run with anyone on the trails who complains.  Someone may make an observation like , "My hamstrings are tight - I need to stretch", but no one whines.  There are times when one or more of us may get quiet, and the rest of us know that they are suffering, or they are in a low spot, but it never lasts long, and it never infects the rest of the group.

I think that running trails is much more meditative than running on the roads.  Yes, I can play my music and zone out on road runs, and sometimes I may get some clarity on a subject after a road run, but I think they are too close to home for me to completely unplug.  When I run on the roads, I always have a time limitation.  I have somewhere else I need to be, or something else I need to be doing.  I usually end up making lists in my head, while I am running, of what needs to be done that day.  When out on the trails, I am away from home, out in nature where I love to be.  The air is fresh (if moist), and the sounds are pure.  No cars, dogs, etc.  Trail running requires quite a bit more focus than road running - if you zone out too much, you will find yourself with a mouth full of dirt.  You have to pay attention on the terrain, which blocks out all of the external noise (kids appointments, work to do list, what I need from the grocery store, friends birthday next week, etc.).

When people come off of the trails, they always look exhausted and refreshed.  Their faces are red from exertion, but they are glowing from the stimulation that trail running offers.  I think running through the woods brings us back to some sort of primal state of man vs. nature.  It's an ongoing battle, and one I hope to  never stop fighting.  As long as I can keep doing this, I will always consider myself the winner.

Happy Running!!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Timothy Olson leading Western States!

At 62 miles into the Western States 100 miler, Timothy Olson is in the lead, with an average pace of 9:00 minutes per mile.  Timothy has a great story. Check it out:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Trail Run at Chicot this Sunday!!

Okay, so maybe this is a little bit of false advertising.
There aren't really mountains in Chicot, 
but it does have alot of this:
and this:
 Actually, there is a whole lot more water
 under these bridges now.
And it could have this:

We will meet at 5:00 am.  in the Northgate Mall parking lot near Hwy 90.
Next to the gas station in the front of the mall.
If you are not sure about where this is, email me at the address 
below and I will give you my cell number so we can meet up.

The plan is to have shoes on dirt by 6:00 a.m., so if you just want to meet us at the park entrance,
that works too.  There is a $1 per person fee to enter the park.
Most of the runners going are going in an hour, then coming back out, for whatever distance 
that gets them.  This will at least get you to the long bridge at mile 16 -
a beautiful spot!  Some of us may be looping it.  If you plan on doing the whole 21 - 22 mile
loop, you HAVE to HAVE enough water with you - ie a hydration pack.  Otherwise
you put yourself and your fellow runners in danger.  We would love to have everyone 
join us, but this is a self supported run.

What you will need to bring:
bug spray (no kidding folks - there can be some pterodactyl sized skeeters out there)
handheld water bottle or some type of hydration system (there are no water fountains on the trail)
nutrition (gu, waffles, gummies, whatever you usually use for a long run)
towel and dry clothes to change into after the run (makes for a much more pleasant ride home)

The trails were pretty dry last weekend, so you should have no problem running
in your road shoes.  No special clothing is necessary - just what you usually wear.

And don't forget your sense of humor.  This is a little more challenging than road running,
and there is a good chance someone will face plant during the run.  No one has
died this way yet.  Promise.  :)

Email me with specific questions:

Hope to see some new faces out there discovering this hidden treasure right here in 
south Louisiana!!

Happy Running!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Oh, The Places You'll Go...

One thing I can credit running with teaching me is adaptability.  During an ultra, there come many times when you are forced to amend your original plan, and make decisions in the moment.  Whether or not it is the perfect decision is irrelevant, it just has to be the best decision at that time, based on the information that you have at hand. Once made, you have to put into place any actions necessary to make that decision work.  That is where I am at in my life right now.  This is one of those moments where I have an array of options before me.  All are good.  I just have to decide which path to follow.  The great thing is that through my races, I have developed a lot of confidence in my decision making, and I always know that if some time down the line I need to reevaluate, I can take a step back and do so.

I am also a big picture kind of girl.  I don't usually get too bogged down in the minutiae of the moment.  I guess, from a trail running perspective, I don't let the trees get in the way of my view of the forest.  :)  What I see right now is how incredibly blessed I have been over the last year to have been the driving force behind Geaux Run.  I have left that job with so many treasures that can't be seen.  Connections have been made, and lifelong friendships have been formed.  And, the best part of all....seeds of achievement have been planted!

It is not because of me that you may be having that little tickle in the back of your brain about doing something ridiculous like trying out trail running, or running a half marathon, or even an ultra.  That was always there in you, just waiting for you to be ready.  Well, what the heck are you waiting for?  Life is short, folks, and adventure awaits.

I will continue this blog as long as there is interest, and I will keep you up to date with my training and what direction my life heads.  I can honestly say that right now, I have no idea what direction that might be, but I am okay with that.  They say that when a door closes, God opens a window.  Well, in my life, when a door closes, the entire side of the building is usually blown off.  There is always something bigger and better out there, its just up to me to be open to it.

Please feel free to share my blog address with your friends, and if they were my customer/friends at the store, tell them they can friend me personally on FB to keep up with group runs, etc that will be happening in the area.  Running is bigger than any store front.  It is a community of amazing people that I am very grateful to be a small part of.

Happy Running, Folks!


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bringing them over to the darkside!!

The coolest thing is starting to happen!  More and more otherwise sane folks are becoming ultrarunners!  Here are some local folks who have moved into ultra distance races:

50k Finishers (31 miles)

Tim Sharlow

Jess Russo 

Tyla Hudspeth

50 Milers
Jessica Amy, Jara Ahrabi, Bobbi Parker, Denise Kidder

100 K'ers (62 miles)
Fred Arsement (left)

Nathan Shull

Jim Winter

100 Milers
Smitty Smith, Me, Keith Manuel, Brad Delcambre
Donald Cleveland (left), Lane Gremillion (right)

Really Bad Ass 100 miler
John Powers (right) - John has run 20 - 100 milers,
and has more on the schedule for this season.
HE is a true BADASS!!

These are all fairly normal people.  Chances are, if you are from the Acadiana area, you have some degree of connection to one or more of them.  They started out as beginners sucking wind for their first one mile run, just like everyone else.  The difference with them is that they didn't stop there.  All of these ultra runners have full time jobs and families.  They all have the same responsibilities that you do, and the same 24 hours in each day in which to get things done.  The only difference is the way they budget their time, and the dedication that they have for the sport.

I had to laugh recently at the study from the Mayo Clinic that said that ultrarunning can be detrimental to your health. (Excessive Endurance Training Can Be Too Much of a Good Thing, Research Suggests)  While I respect the research put into the article (even though there seemed to be quite a few statements like: "excessive exercise can lead to rhythm abnormalities" and "excessive sustained exercise may also be associated with coronary artery calcification"), what the Mayo Clinic fails to understand is what motivates many endurance athletes.  

I don't do ultramarathons to become healthy.  I am already healthy.  All of the people in the pictures above were healthy before they began running ultras.  As a friend (Jessica Amy)  wisely said about her reason for running ultras, it's not about adding quantity to your life, its about adding quality to your life. (Read Jessica's open letter to the Mayo Clinic in response to this study, here). 

The point of this post is not to tell you that everyone should run ultras.  This sport is not for everyone.  Just like how I don't do triathlons because I swim like a brick, not everyone is suited to running for up to 30 hours at a time.  The point of this post is to show you that ultras are not filled with super-human people doing impossible things.  Ultras are filled with normal people pushing their limits and achieving some amazing things.  Running ultras parallels life in many ways.  A 50 or 100 mile race is not about crossing the finish line, it is about all of the hard work and dedication that goes into the effort to get there, the relationships that are formed, and the experience that is gained from the moment you decide to go beyond the marathon distance.  It's not about the destination, its about the journey.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Last Weeks Training

Ugh.  Laziness won out last week.  3 runs for a total of 35 miles.  I can say that I had a couple of days where I wasn't feeling so great, which is true, but really I could have done the 47 miles I had on the schedule.  The good thing is that I have been doing this long enough not to get tied up in knots about it.

Yesterday marked my first of many 20 mile days for the season.  I split the run into 10 miles in the morning, where I got to run from Geaux Run with a couple of good friends, then I ran again about 2:00 p.m. at home to get in the last 10.  The first 10 were a breeze since it wasn't hot yet, and I had great company.  The last 10 were very hot, and the last few miles it felt like there were bricks tied to my ankles.

I will not be splitting up many of my long runs this way.  I know they say that as long as you do both runs within a 24 hour time period  that you get the same benefit as doing your long run all at once, but when it gets down to my peak weeks, I like to run all of my long runs in one piece. It's good to feel tired legs, and learn to ignore your body's protests and keep running.
By running some of your mileage in the morning and the rest later on during the day, your body is getting most of the same physical endurance training benefits of a continuous long run since you're not completely recovering in between runs. However, the benefits are not as great as when you do one continuous long run. And, of course, it's definitely easier mentally to run 10 miles in the morning and 8 miles at night, rather than 18 miles all at once -- which is why you don't want to do it every week. Ideally, you want to run your long run continuously, since that's what you'll be doing in your marathon. But splitting your run is a great way to squeeze a long run into a busy week and it definitely beats the alternative of skipping your long run altogether. (Click here for the article.)
I think the heat training is paying off a little, though.  It is getting to the point that midday runs are bearable for a little longer now, and early morning runs feel downright cool.  As for now, I am cutting back on my super-hot runs to one a week.  This should be sufficient to hold onto any gains I may have made, without leaving me feeling completely wiped out all of the time.  While running in the heat has long term benefits. it definitely takes its toll.

I almost hate to admit this, but I am not sure what is on the schedule for this week.  I usually look at my schedule the night before I am running to see how far I am going.  Whether its 6, 9, or 12 miles doesn't really matter except to figure out how early I have to get up that morning.  If you could see the alarm clock on my iPhone, you would see alarm times that I have programmed from 4:00 a.m. all the way up to 7:00 a.m.  Most of my weekday long runs (when they get into double digits) have me getting up about 5:00 a.m., with shoes on the pavement no later than 5:30.  This way I can run for 2 hours, and have time to stretch a bit, and get ready for work.  During this time, my usual bedtime is around 9 or 9:30 p.m.  Not because I am rigid about getting enough sleep, but because I can't keep my eyes open much later than that.  The life of an ultrarunner - not much partying going on.

Miles run last week: 35

Make it a great week, folks!


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Why do I run ultras?

Good question.  And it is one that I am asked on a regular basis.  I have actually put alot of thought into this over the last couple of years.  For a long time, when asked why I run distance, I really didn't have an answer.  It was just something that I was drawn to for a reason that had not yet been made clear to me.  I thought that maybe I was running away from something, or running toward something.  Over the last year or so, I have made some major life changes, and I was worried that once my life settled down some I would lose my desire for running long distances.  I thought that maybe my unhappiness had been fueling my drive to run.

Thankfully, I was wrong.  I still wanted to run, and I still looked forward to signing up for repeat ultras to see if I could beat my previous time on that course. (One thing about trail ultras, you really can't compare times between races.  The terrain and weather conditions over 50 or 100 miles makes each course very unique.  The only way to attempt to track your progress is to compare your time against the time you ran at that same race the previous year - in my opinion.  And, what is this blog but a whole pile of my opinion?)

With that possibility off the table, I had to dig a little deeper to attempt to figure out why I was putting myself through so much discomfort, and yes, even pain.  As much as I would love to give you a sexy answer like, "I'm running away from an abusive past" or "I'm running away from my addiction" or "I'm running for enlightenment", sadly none of those apply.  Except for the enlightenment part, and that is not a goal of my running, just a pleasant by-product.

What I have finally figured out, when all is said and done, I am running because I really LOVE to race.  I love ultras and everything that comes with them.  I love the goofy people who participate, and the amazing, self-less people who volunteer.  I love the "you're on your own" attitude of the race directors, and the "We'll help you out, but don't be a dumbass" attitude of the volunteers.  It makes me happy to run in the woods or over rocky hills through cactus all alone.  The solace is a form of meditation for me.  It is interesting to me to see what might go wrong during one of these races, and to figure out on the spot how I will deal with it so that I can continue.

Before road races, I get butterflies in my stomach and I always have that "Get me outta here" feeling.  Then the gun goes off and all is well.  Before trail ultras, I always have a sense of calm, a sense of being exactly where I am supposed to be at that moment.  But, my absolute favorite part about running ultras is lining up at the start and having no idea if I will make it to the finish line.  THAT is very exciting to me.  I love the feeling that whatever decisions I make between mile 1 and 50 or 100 will determine whether I can achieve my goal.  I have made bad decisions and finished half and whole marathons. I have seen many people make bad decisions at ultras, and that usually ends in a DNF (Did Not Finish), or worse, a couple of nights stay in a hospital.  I know it is just a matter of time until I DNF, alot can go wrong - especially on technical trails where a fall may send you rolling down a steep, rocky hillside.  I hope when this time comes, so does a lesson.  Then the bruised body and ego will be justified.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

UltraMarathon Race Day Nutrition

You might think that since an ultra marathon is really just an extended marathon, that the nutrition for these would be the same for a marathon, just spread over a longer time.  If you do 4 or 5 gels for a marathon, then for a 50 miler, you just double that, right?  Well, thank goodness that is not the case, because I would have had to find another sport!

The first difference between marathons and ultras is that a certain level of self-sufficiency is usually expected at ultras.  Yes, most have aid stations, and some of those may actually provide everything you might need to make it to the finish line successfully, but that is not always the case. We'll get to that later.

First off, let's talk about supported races.  These are ones with aid stations anywhere from 3 - 10 miles apart.  Yep, they can be up to 10 miles apart, even further in a few.  When you are running over difficult terrain, in whatever conditions Mother Nature decides to throw at you on that particular day, even 5 miles is a LONG way to go without aid. carry your own.  At a well supported race like Rocky Raccoon, I wear a waist pack and carry a handheld water bottle with an extra pocket for a gel, etc.  My handheld usually gets me to the next aid station for winter races.  If the distances will be a little further, or the temperature a little warmer, I carry the handheld, and have a different waist pack which carries a backup bottle.

In my waist pack, I usually have the following:
Emergency gel (I RARELY use gels during ultras.  Maybe one late in a 50 miler, and I didn't do any for my 100 milers.)
Salt Pills, Ibuprofen, Immodium
Batteries (late in the race for headlamp and flashlight)

Amphipod Air Flow Endurance
I love this belt - this is the best one I have found
that doesn't bounce, and holds alot of stuff.
So, I start the race with my waistpack (above) and my handheld (previous post).  At Rocky, Wild Hare and Bandera, my handheld is enough to get me to the next aid station, either because of the closeness of the stations, or the cooler temps.  At Big Butt and Cactus, I will be using this pack:
Amphipod Full Tilt Velocity
Again - minimal bouncing, plenty of storage,  and the bottle is
 interchangeable with
my handheld.

I do a Vespa every 2 - 3 hours during my ultras, or at least as long as my stomach will accept it.  Later in the race, your stomach is no longer your friend, but a very sensitive enemy that you are trying to co-exist with.  What works for you at this point can be learned only through trial and error.  No two people's needs will be exactly the same.

Since most of the races I do are on loop courses, I pack a large ziploc type bag and label it for each lap.  The more thought you can take out of your race day experience the better.  I can remember what lap I am on. I can not remember what I should pull from my bag to restock my pack with.  So, when I reach the start/finish point, I just get the next bag in line - the one with the current lap number on it, and put everything in it into my waist pack.  No thought required.

That takes care of my specific needs.  Now for the fun stuff.  THE ULTRA AID STATION!!  While you might expect something like this:

What you will actually find is something more along these lines:


Yep, I see cookies, nuts, candy, chips, p b & j sandwiches ......ahhhhh!!  Nevermind how nasty the hands of the runners ahead of you were - by this point, you would lick their hands to get a small treat from these nice folks!!

Later in the evening this will change some, with warm options being offered, like chicken broth (Nectar of the Gods when you are sodium deficient), potato soup, quesadillas, etc.  You will also find things that at first don't make sense - Coke? (Aren't you people supposed to be healthy?) - a good pick me up late in a race, and flat coke settles my stomach; Ginger Ale? (What kind of run is this?) - Actually, ginger ale does a great job of settling a sour stomach, as do ginger snaps.  

These little oases on the trail are also where kind people will refill your handheld or hydration pack, and if you are lucky, they may lance, drain, and tape up your blisters.  

Even though this seems like quite the buffet, this is not designed to be your primary source of fuel - that is up to you to provide, and it is something you have figured out after many hours of long runs leading up to this point.

Bringing us to unsupported, or minimally supported races.  My current favorite race is the Cactus Rose 50/100 miler in the Hill Country of Texas in late October.  Here is an excerpt from the race doc..

Cactus Rose is a race for veteran trail runners and it seems to me that most veteran runners usually take care of their own nutritional needs. It seems redundant to supply food for a group of people who don’t need this type of help. So… there are NO volunteers at ANY aid station and we do NOT provide ANY food. There is one exception to this… and that’s Olga. She wanted to cook some hot food during the late hours for those who would be out there all night. So, there will be a hot grill going all night at the equestrian aid station. Also, there will be one going at the Lodge too.
This is a great race, because strategy is SO important.  They let you go out onto the course the day before, and drop your own containers at specific points.  They will have bottles of water on tables at a few spots, but everything else is up to you to bring.  And the loops on this course are 25 miles long, so you have to put alot of thought into this one.  This is where having done a few of these races comes in handy, because you can look back on what kind of food appealed to you at different points in your races, and you add those to your box.  My personal favorite at Cactus last year - animal crackers.  Go figure.

I don't know who these nice people are, but I
wanted to give you an idea of what a Cactus Rose Aid Station
looks like.  Nothing fancy, but when you have been running alone for
miles and you see this little bit of evidence of human existence,
it is a beautiful sight!
After these races, I am usually not hungry for quite a while, believe it or not, so I bring plenty of Ensure - its a meal replacement that they give the sick or elderly to give them some much needed calories.  It is in small bottles - you can buy it at the grocery store or Walmart (one of Dante's loops).  I drink alot of these in the week or so after the race, even when I get my appetite back.  I figure that I burn at least 10,000 calories during a 100 miler, and my metabolism is supercharged for days after, so the more calories and protein I can take in, the better.

Well, I am tired of reading this, so I am sure you are too :).  More later.  Message me with any specific questions, and I will address them in a later post.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Heat? What heat??

As I was running in 90 degree temps today for 14 miles, I was thinking about all of the preparation that goes into these runs (at least in the times between doubting my sanity and cursing at street signs - more on that later).  I knew that I had to pre-hydrate yesterday and this morning, so I drank a little more water than I usually would have, and added a little salt to my diet - I am usually not a big fan of salty stuff, but somebody has to lick the rim of the margarita glass, right?

I ended up starting my run this morning about 10:30, when it was already in the high 80's.  I took all the necessary precautions - sunscreen (to avoid making my ridiculous runners tan worse...and, oh yeah - there's that skin cancer thing), white Headsweats hat and white shirt.  Not sure exactly what the temperature difference is in wearing light colored clothes, but they make me feel cooler, so that's what I do.

When getting ready for the run, I drank a bottle of water and took a Vespa.  I filled my handheld with ice water and stuck a Clif gel in the pocket.  I also stashed a bottle of salt tablets and an extra bottle of water on my front porch for when I was done with my first loop of 8 miles.

And, off I went.  I have to admit, the first 8 miles weren't bad.  I like my running route, and even though  I was drenched pretty quickly, there was a light breeze that did a nice job of cooling me off.  I stopped at a house at mile 2 and 5 to top off my water bottle and did half of my Clif gel at mile 4 (I usually wouldn't have done anything this soon, since I had done a Vespa, but I am over-cautious for really hot runs), and the other half at mile 7 or so.  At 8 miles, I made it back to my house.   I refilled my handheld with ice water (see link below), took 2 salt tabs - since I don't use any type of sports drink because they give me heartburn, and are usually way to sweet for my taste,  I get my electrolytes on super sweaty runs from Saltstick Salt Tabs.

"Colder fluids leave the stomach more quickly than warmer ones, allowing faster rehydration. During hot weather, when we tend to lose extra fluids, beverages in this temperature range will have a cooling effect on the body. Drinking cool beverages can help to cool us from the inside."  ....

Click the image for more info on SaltStick.

It wasn't until mile 10 that I really started to notice the heat.  At mile 11 or so, I did another half of a Clif gel (I have learned that taking the entire gel at one time is just too much sugar dumped into my stomach.) It was at mile 12, when I was feeling pretty toasty, when my appreciation for irony was tested by a street sign.  The name of the street is Rue Beau Soleil. If anyone reading this lives in that area and happened to be outside when I was running by, I apologize.  Actually, no I don't.  Calling the street sign that particular name made me laugh.  I will probably have reason to do it again at some date.

I added a couple of walk breaks in towards the end when my heart rate was getting too high for the amount of effort I was putting out.  Once my heart rate would get back to normal, I would start running again, keeping the pace for the last couple of miles at a comfortable level. 

This brought me to 14 miles.  My goal for today was 17, so I did another 3 miles this evening when it cooled off.  I knew that 14 was quite enough for that time of day and temperature.  I could have continued to reach my goal of 17, but I think that would have been a bad decision.  I am doing this to get stronger and challenge myself, not cause permanent damage or have to be hospitalized for being an idiot.  People look at me funny when I am running down the road in 90+ degree heat just the way they do when I am running in the rain, or even better - when it is 40 degrees and raining.  I look at them funny when I hear them say they watch a few hours of TV everyday, so I guess we are even.

Miles run this week: 45

Have a great week, folks! 

 My next post will be about nutrition on the day of an ultramarathon. Or, "One More Reason to Love This Sport!" :)