Sunday, January 29, 2012

Little Su 50k gear check

This weekend was my last long training run (24 miles) before the Little Su 50k which is now just 3 weeks away, so I thought it would fitting to do a gear check.  It is not uncommon for an ultra marathon to have some sort of gear requirement, and a winter race in Alaska is no exception, even if it is only 50k (and none of the gear has anything to do with the cold).  Also, like a few other Alaska distance races, this race is almost entirely self supported, so having sufficient gear and safety items for being alone for hours in the cold is important.

With that said, here is a list of the required gear plus the few additional items I plan on bringing with me.

Required Items

2 quart insulated water container - I got a new Salomon pack for Christmas that I plan on using.  While it is not insulated, I have insulated the tube and the bladder rests against my back so I figure my body heat keeps the bladder from freezing.  I ran 24 miles yesterday in 4 1/2 hours at -5 degrees and it didn't freeze, so this set up will work just fine.  I shove the valve inside my vest so it rests against my body and then blow the water back into the bladder to keep the line clear, so far this has proven effective.  There is an aid station at the halfway point with water, so if I top off with water there then 2 quarts plenty of capacity.

Headlamp or flashlight - I have a Pelican headlamp that I have used for a few years now for running in the dark.  While it only has 9 lumens on high mode, it is a 3 LED setup so the battery life is really good.  I wouldn't use this for a 100 miler in the summer due to the low light output, it provides sufficient light for use in the winter due to snow reflection.  I only plan on being the dark, if at all, for a short period of time, so this light will be sufficient.

Rear flashing light - I have a small red blinking light that I have clipped to the back of my headlamp strap, but since most of the race is on snow machine trails and this is a high snow year in Alaska, I plan on also using the larger blinker I have on my bike so I don't get squished by any snowmachines.

Additional Items I Will Carry

Wind Gear - Where the race takes place is prone to high winds, with that said I also now have a nice Brooks running jacket (5 oz) and a pair of Mont Bell ulra light pants (3 oz) that I will have in my pack should high winds occur, and they are light and small enough they are not even noticeable.

First Aid Kit - I bought a small, personal first kit at REI, mostly due to running distances in the winter and wanting to be prepared since I am out on my own for hours.  I have added a heat blanket and strike anywhere matches, and this is also where I keep extra batteries for my headlamp.

Hand Warmers - Two of my long runs, including yesterday, I have had to break out the hand warmers.  They last 2-4 hours so depending on the temperature I may actually schedule using them into my race day plan.  These are very light so I will probably carry 4-8 in my pack, enough for my hands and feet for up to 8 hours if needed.

Clothing - Racing in sub freezing weather means your head gear freezes up for various reasons and then becomes rather uncomfortable, and since there are no drop bags allowed, any gear changes mean I will have to have the items on hand.  Unless the weather is warm, I will plan on bringing a change of head gear with me, the exact combination I won't determine until I know the race day weather forecast.

Fuel - Lately my fuel of choice is Powerbar Gels, I started using these because they are thinner and don't get super thick when they freeze like Gu or other similar products, and luckily the taste has been pretty good too.  I will probably carry about 8 of these and a Stinger Waffle as well.

I will go over my race day plans in a few weeks when the race is closer, but wanted to cover gear now as I have it pretty well dialed in.  Part of training for ultras is simulating race day conditions on long runs, so for me that means carrying the above gear and running in the same temperature, which is important as this is a winter race. Although training on long runs has been mentally challenging if more than anything as we are having both the snowiest winter and coldest January on record here in Anchorage.  Overall though the training is going well, other than some achiles pain, but I should be able to make it 31 miles regardless.

As the 2 Gomers would say, Happy Running!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2012 year in preview

  First of all, I am really looking forward to 2012!  I have a handful of races I have never run and a few I haven't run in a while, so it should be pretty fun.  I have decided to cut out most of the shorter races to save on cost, plus it will give me more time to do race specific training.  Also I am going to set some time goals as well, which should help me stay motivated to do consistent speed work.  With that said, here is what my schedule is looking like:

February - Little Su 50k
June - Mayors Midnight Sun Marathon
July - Hatchers Pass Marathon, Crow Pass Crossing (24 miles), Resurrection Pass 50
August - Bears Tooth Marathon
September - Equinox Ultra (40 miles)
October - Zombie 1/2 Marathon
November - Out of state race

  As you can see, July is pretty crazy.  Hatchers Pass is an unofficial marathon all uphill with about 4k feet of gain, should be fun!  Then 2 weeks later is Crow Pass, about 24 miles, then a week after that is my focus race, Resurrection Pass 50 miler.  But for the most part the schedule is following a pattern of 1 race per month.  I will have a 5k and 10k in there somewhere which will be my only chance to meet my goals, but I am not sure of the dates yet.  Also the race in October is still a little up in air, there may be a marathon in there but I will probably stick with the half since it will be my only half marathon of the year and therefore my only chance to reach for my time goal..

For speed goals, I am setting the following:

5k - 20 minutes
10k - 45 minutes
1/2 marathon - 1:35
Marathon - 3:30
50 miler - 11 hours

  Based on my times this year, these goals are completely realistic, I just need to be disciplined about my speed work.  The big focus race however, is Resurrection Pass 50 miler which I will attempt to complete in under 11 hours.  The reason for the time is because this is a qualifying race and time for Western States 100, which I would apply for in 2013 should I hit sub 11 hours.
  On a side note I am really looking forward to Equinox Ultra up in Fairbanks, probably more so than any other race.  It is 40 miles with a good mix of climbing, single track, and roads, plus it is fully supported, unlike Resurrection Pass that only has a single aid station at mile 38.

Overall though, I am really looking forward to the schedule.  I am going to be on a training plan for the 50 miler that will be 50-70 miles per week.  Depending on how this summer goes will really depend on my plans for 2013 as it may include a 100 miler and / or a 100k, but that is a ways out to plan.  For now, I will continue to focus on Little Su 50k in February and look forward to NOT running on snow in the spring.

Christmas Eve I headed out early for a 21 miler.  This is from the lighted ski trails about 7 miles into the run.

Cold and snowy morning but really fun!

I have become particularly fond of a short piece of single track by the house, especially in the winter after a fresh snow.

We are having a record snowfall this year, so there is a lot more snow on the trees and trails than you see here, either way, very pretty and a lot of fun to run in!

Monday, January 2, 2012

It is done

I did it.  I ran at least 2 miles, everyday, for all of 2011.  It is difficult for me to compile my thoughts and think of a day, like today, that I won't be running (although my legs have been looking forward to it for quite some time).  It has been 367 consecutive days of running (January 1st 2011 through January 2nd, 2012),  367 days of lacing up the shoes and heading out the door.  A little hard for me to believe that the journey is over, as running everyday has become such a part of my life.  But, I am actually looking forward to a truly full rest day today, and I know that if I am okay with that, it is good the challenge is coming to a close.

About midpoint in the year I stated I wouldn't recommend running everyday to others, I am changing this, I would recommend it, but with some flexibility.  I would recommend everyone to do a challenge like this once in their life.  Maybe 2012, or 2013, or you start on February 1st, either way, pick a consecutive year and give yourself a fitness challenge.  Walk a mile, run a mile, run 2 miles, walk 3 miles, bike 4 miles, whatever it might be, do something physical everyday for a year, the journey will be well worth it!  The physical and mental discipline required that you will discover you have plus all that you will learn about yourself and those around you are truly priceless.  My friends and family, mostly of course my deeply understanding wife, have been incredibly patient, flexible, and accommodating as I undertook this challenge, and for that I am deeply grateful.

Something that did happen is that I PR'ed in every race that I ran, truly, every single race.  Throughout the year I just kept getting faster, even on my bad days I got a PR.  This of course could be for many reasons, but the consistent running is certainty a factor.  I mean after all, even on a "short" week I did 14 miles, not too bad really.  Plus, I learned just what my body is capable of, and also what I can put myself through mentally.  Which I know will come into play as I embark on a few ultra's in 2012.

Don't get me wrong, running everyday for a year is tough.  I sprained my ankle in February playing soccer and ran through the "recovery", ran through a bad spout of Achilles Tendonitis, ran in sub freezing weather, snow storms, rain storms, wind storms, completed early morning runs and late night runs, I even once packed my clothes and ran in the snow out of the Juneau airport during a layover.  However, the gains I saw in my running were huge and I feel like I took a big leap as a runnier.

With all that said, it has been a really great year and I am very much looking forward to 2012 and the exciting running schedule I have planned out.

I would also like to finish with a quote from Joe Grant, someone who has embarked on a very similar journey in 2011, "If I can show this unwavering dedication to something as trivial as running, can I also not show a similar reverence to others and other areas of my life?"

Finally, here are the 2011 numbers:

Mileage:  1,671
Count:  375 total runs
Time:  269 hours (just over 11 days)
Elevation: 57,800 ft of gain
Calories:  248,700
Average pace: 6.2 mph
States (in order of appearance):  Montana, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, New York
Number of shoes:  4
Weight:  -15 lbs

Final race of the year, New York City Marathon