Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Race week

This week I am resting, walking moderately at lunch, trying to stay rested and relaxed and to get a lot of sleep.

I got a bit of a curve ball last week.  A couple days after my last 30 miler,  a week ago last sunday,  I developed what I thought was a bit of poison oak or poodle dog rash on my back.  Hard to explain since I was running with a long sleeve dress shirt and a running pack.  Adding to the mystery of the unexplained poison oak was an extremely inflamed set of lymph nodes in my tender as to wake me up if I rolled onto my stomach while sleeping.    So I uncharacteristically made an appointment to see the doctor.  She took one look and pronounced, "Its not poison oak:  You have shingles".  Argh!  I started a prescription of valtrex immediately.  I've been feeling a bit run down and sleepy for the last week; the shingles spread along an arc from spine to belly button but have scabbed over now.   I must say the affected area hurts, its kept me awake some nights;  there is an odd sensory confusion between cold and pain such that my right side gets goose bumps at the slightest breeze of an air conditioner say, but these goose bumps hurt.  So this little bit of drama will just add to the overall character test that is the AC100.  What I can say is that on my runs last week and up Baden Powell, it did not bother me despite my fears of shirt chafing creating pain in the affected, highly sensitive shingles area.

What brought this on?  I dunno.  Its said that it can be  be brought on by stress but not necessarily so.    Work has been very demanding lately,   objectively stressful (I am an exec at a company that I co-founded, and its a tough globally competitive business we are in).  Certainly the training has been a physical stress, but this occurred as I was one week into my taper and feeling pretty darned strong.

In any event I am taking Thursday off to relax and will drive up to Wrightwood Thursday afternoon so as to go through the med checks Friday morning with a minimum of fuss and bother.  If you are reading this and are not a spamming robot, please send some positive vibes my way!

Its odd how deeply the AC00 has gotten into my psyche.  In some sense I feel that  I grew up on this course -  when I ran in 1991 coached by Jim OBrien, it was a formative experience.  I've run her trails many times over the years and know and love them;  I know and love many of the people involved and the stories of the champions.  I love this race but I also fear it.   I believe that approaching her with anything but a humble respect is a recipe for a real thrashing.    So tomorrow I will be off to my appointment with her,  for love or for a thrashing:  It may go well or I may blow up, and either way its all part of the fun.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mt. Baden Powell, concluding a 50 mile taper week

I have not been to Mt Baden Powell since the last time I ran Angeles Crest in 1991.  I had clean forgotten what a fabulous, beautiful trail is the PCT in this area.  I woke up early to get out, get 'er done, so as to get home to the family.  I hit the trail from the Vincent Gap trailhead at 7:30 and made the high point of the AC100 in 1:05.  The amazing tree just beyond the summit trail/PCT junction is the Wally Waldron Tree, dated as 1500 years old.
The Wally Waldron Tree at the PCT/summit junction

View running back towards Mt Baden Powell.

Today I ran past the junction and on to 7.5 miles read out of the GPS, then turned around, ran back and hiked up to the summit.    I felt so strong.  The run was a bit slow though;  I hiked up Baden Powell, intentionally-  I have no intention of running a  2800ft climb above 6600ft on race day;  and hiked a lot of the uphills today. Most of the run was above 8500ft and I was sucking air, feeling the altitude.  Total time was 3:20 for 15.2 excluding photo stops (lots!) and water-bottle-screwing-around stops.

I ran in a pair of Merrell Ascend Gloves.  I made special ninja gaiters out of a retired pair of spandex shorts, to cover the front open mesh in order to keep the sand out.  The whole thing was covered with an oversized pair of Dirty Girl Gaiters (size 13).  It worked perfectly on the left  and so-so on the right (shown below) at keeping sand out of the shoe.

Ascend Gloves with ninja gaiters plus oversized Dirty Girl gaiters
The race plan will be to run in the standard Merrell Ascends* from the start, with the ninja gaiters.  Despite having to go to some lengths to keep the sand and grit out, the fit and feel of these shoes is perfect, I just love wearing them.  I will keep my Skechers GoBionic Trails for the later section of the course, most likely out of Chantry, where I may be wanting a bit more cushioned ride.

Anyways-  the training for AC100 is done;  I have run 480 miles in 6 weeks and feel great.  I didn't know that I could still do this kind of mileage.  Its been a great adventure learning how to do it.


 (as an aside, I had against my better judgement bought  a pair of Merrell's Ascend Glove Goretex to try to solve the grit problem-  these $160 shoes do keep grit out but they just do not breath enough for summer wear, at least in southern California;  my feet were soaked after a 6 mile noontime run.  I can't blame Merrell for that;  the Goretex shoes will just go in my closet for the winter season.  Ouch.  Chalk it up to an experiment, and I will use the shoes, just not for this race.)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mt Wilson 30 mile loop for a 72 mile taper week

I ran the Mt Wilson loop today with some extra miles tacked on to make a 30.2 mile course.  I ran this in 5:29 (excluding stops to hunt for water, pump water etc).  It was a cool day -  high seventies with humidity 50-60%.  This probably  accounts for my speed on this course (compared to the June 29 workout it was 1/2 hour faster at the 27 mile point).    But part of this is the tapering,  I felt very strong today, the extra energy from the reduced training volume is flowing.   All systems were "go".  The only trouble spots were:  Backs of the ankles were sore at the achilles attachment points;  my abdominals are tender from the technical downhill running.  I got completely sodden in the humidity so there was some chaffing which just doesn't show in in the usual dry conditions we have in Pasadena..  Stayed on top of the hydration drinking about 2 of 21 oz bottles per hour.  Kept it clear and copious ...ahem.

Next week I'll ramp it down further to about 40-50 miles and watch those achilles attachments and do more situps and pushups to strengthen the abs.

Here are some pix from yesterday's taper "workout":
Boy Against the Sea
My son w/ a Red Rockfish

My son and I had a great time.  He loves to fish the way I love to run.  Seriously, 10 hours standing on a boat is, I think, race specific training (time on the feet!).

Here is a pic from the north side of Mt Wilson this morning.  It was lovely.  I thought it might rain but it didn't.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Starting the taper...

Conventional wisdom for the taper before a 100 mile race is to drop the mileage to 75% for the week ending 2 weeks before the event;  then drop to 50%;  then in the last week, just stay loose and run or walk nothing above what is required to stay limber.   The purpose is to heal up any injuries or damage left over from the high mileage training phase.

I've started my taper week.  Monday I did a walk/run of 4 miles and realized it was indeed time to taper.  My right ankle was extremely sore at the top of the foot-  dorsiflexion was extremely painful, to point of having to limp around afterwords.  This was leftover, I believe, from all the climbing over the weekend;  it may also be due to one fall I took where I caught my right toe and went down hard; I might have sprained it a bit;  just not sure.  (Fortunately I was carrying hand-air-bags, aka hand-strap running bottles.  One bottle of red juice exploded on impact with the ground, a small price to pay for uninjured hands).  I recall that after AC100 in 1991 this same joint/set of tendons on the right foot was swollen like a grapefruit.   Anyways, after my Monday recovery workout it was painful to walk;  I got home and iced it.  Tuesday I decided to rest completely and iced it again;  by Wednesday morning it felt fine and I ran 2x6mile double workout.

My plan is to run ~75 miles this week.  On Saturday I will be taking my son deep sea fishing, an annual trip we take with some friends on a chartered boat out of Oxnard.  This nice break with my son comes at a great time as it will force my taper!  The following week I'll likely run a bit more than 50% but we will see how I am feeling.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mt Wilson and another 100 mile week; and a rather serious lesson

I awoke early today and  did my customary Sunday Mt Wilson work out:  Hike up 4700 ft in 10 miles, run down, total 20 miles, completing another 100mile week.   I did it fast-  2:35 up (walking the whole way, on purpose) and finished in 3:52, so I was tearing down the hill at a good clip.  I felt fine when I woke up -  no soreness-  and I felt fine during the course of the run.

It was, like yesterday, a warm and for California an exceptionally humid day.  I pushed 2 bottles on the way up, drank a bottle at the spigot at the summit, and refilled all the bottles;  I was taking electrolyte capsules at the rate of 1 per bottle.  I was drenched despite the fact that it wasn't too hot, due to the humidity.  I took an anemic dribble of a piss just after the summit and didn't think much of it;  then charged on down the hill (10 miles in 1:17).   At my car I drank two bottles of water and headed home.

(WARNING:  Reading on is not for the squeamish).

Off to the shower,  I weighed myself at 145lbs (huh?!  9 pounds down from normal weight?!)  then used the bathroom and ...yipes...I was peeing what looked like  cranberry juice...the dreaded blood in the urine.    I kept pushing the fluids and  kept peeing and the urine  cleared up  quickly  (thankfully!) so this seems to be "just" a case of a bruised bladder.  If you are unfamiliar with the urinary viscisitudes of ultramarathoning:  One thing that can happen in a long run is that, after getting dehydrated (first problem) and emptying the  bladder completely (second problem),  the bladder walls can get bruised due to the jostling of a hard run which can bang the bladder walls together.  This happened to me a few times in the nineties, but not due to heat.  Rather, I was running in Oregon in cool weather with too strong a drink mix (in order to get calories without overloading on fluids, or so I thought).  I learned from that  experience to be careful to watch the concentration of my running drinks,  and to be mindful of my piss habits while running;  specifically I learned to not empty the bladder completely when running...but today I forgot that old lesson.

One problem with all this is that there are other much more serious conditions that can cause blood in the urine and other much more serious conditions that look like blood in the urine... "rhabdo", or rhabdomyolysis,  being one very serious possibility.  This is, as I understand it, when muscle tissue breakdown due to the trauma of exercise, recent illness, electrolyte imbalances,  and /or possibly use of NSAIDs, releases the red muscle pigment myoglobin into the blood, from which it is filtered by the kidneys.  The problem is that myoglobin can clog the kidneys' filtration system...especially if NSAIDs like ibuprofen are being used, as NSAIDs reportedly interfere with kidney function.  This can  lead to kidney failure.   There have been a few high-profile ultrarunners hospitalized with this condition in the last few years...its a very serious, life-threatening condition.  So when the pee is red or rust colored, it merits ones full attention, full stop and deal with the issue, its not a joke.

Back in the day (eighties and nineties)  advice commonly given  to newbies (like then me) by the experienced guys,  was to take 800 mg of ibuprofen every 25-30  miles as a prophylactic against inflammation injuries;  another one I heard was, take an  ibuprofen every hour to ward off inflammation injuries.    The  experience with blood in my urine back in the nineties scared the hell out of me sufficiently that I woke up and realized the complete folly of such an approach.  I stopped using ibuprofen altogether during runs, ever,  for fear of rhabdo (despite the fact that what I had experienced was not rhabdo) as well as a concern about reports that NSAID use can predispose one to develop hyponatremia.    I look back on this practice that many followed, including me, and see it as utterly insane.  Today I realize:  If one needs meds to ward off "inflammation" injuries, then one is not running correctly.  Better stop and figure THAT out before ramping the mileage.

 Back to my case of a bruised bladder.  So what happened?
  1. I got dehydrated yesterday in my 31 mile, 14,200ft grinder.  Despite the fact that consumed 14 bottles yesterday, it was not enough given the humid conditions and the fact that I sweat excessively.   I need to focus on better hydration. 
  2. After the 30 miler yesterday, I didn't fully rehydrate afterwords.  After the run I ate and rehydrated my way back up to 150 pounds but this still left me down from my normal weight of 154lbs.  I just wasn't that hungry after a long hot run in the humid heat.   This set me up for the run this morning probably already dehydrated.
  3. I didn't take today's 20 miler seriously.  It was relatively short (!) and the first 10 miles  was a power walk.  I felt fine.   So when I had signs of inadequate fluid intake (inadequate urine production), I ignored it.  I should have stopped and corrected the problem.
  4. I emptied my bladder completely before embarking on the fast downhill charge down the mountain- and my bladder got bruised as a result.  I should have done what I know to do..always leave some urine in the bladder to prevent this type of injury.  The reason was...there just wasn't enough urine to leave in the bladder,  but hey, see #3.
  5. I was likely low on electrolytes.  It was not excessively hot so I didn't think I needed to watch this too carefully;  but it WAS very humid and I was drenched with sweat.  I underestimated the conditions.
Looks like I got off easy, no harm done, just a scare.  I did go to an urgent care facility to get a few things checked out (make sure my self-diagnosis was right).   I am a bit embarrassed by this set of mistakes but I put it out there for the possible benefit of anyone reading this that may be into high mileage running particularly in summer weather:  Hopefully you may learn from my mistakes and not  repeat them!  And if you find yourself with blood in your urine associated with running, remember that we are all different, so while the episode above applies to me,  it may not apply to you-   my suggestion is to get it checked out and take it very seriously- and  especially if your urination does not resume quickly to normalcy, seek medical attention to be safe.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Skechers GoBionic Trail Review: A little test drive, 31 miles in Santa Anita Canyon

I think its a mark of a great trail running  shoe that one can don it  out of the box with no break-in, bust out 31 miles, and suffer no ill effects (blisters etc).   This was the case with my new pair of Skechers GoBionic Trail this morning.  I got these shoes a couple days ago and had run my double workout on Thursday in them, and based on how they felt then, today I took them out for a 31 mile spin in Santa Anita Canyon out of Chantry Flats.  Short story:  The GoBionic Trails were great.    My feet were comfy the whole run.  I will be taking these shoes with me to AC100 in three weeks.

I'd been waiting for the July release of Skechers GoBionic Trail as part of my quest to find a zero drop  shoe that doesn't admit sand and grit through the uppers.  Most minimalist footwear has a mesh upper for breathability, which is good, but this is a problem when running sandy trails if the mesh is too permeable.  While I love Merrell's Trail Glove and Ascend Gloves,  they do let sand and grit through even with gaiters and in the San Gabriel trails where I run this is a problem.  (This is in my Leona Divide race report where I ran 50 miles in the Trail gloves...and had to clean my feet three times, it was quite uncomfortable).   The GoBionic Trail doesn't have this problem:  While fine dirt got through, no sand or grit did.   But at the same time, the upper is quite breathable.  It was 89F today with a humidity of 37% and my clothes were sodden, however my feet were pretty dry.  See the photo below taken after the run and note the salt rime on my pants.   In addition, the sole is a bit thicker/more heavily armored than the Merrell Ascend Gloves and much more armored than the Trail Glove;  its a beefy shoe but its also feather light due to the materials  used.  The sole material seem to me to a be a generation beyond  what other shoes companies are using. Traction was great, lugs are big and they grip.   The GoBionic Trail is a winner in my book.  The only thing I don't like is that the toe box is a bit TOO big (I think its too tall, the width is fine) and I had to lace the shoes a bit tighter than I am used to in order to keep my toes from hitting the front of the shoe during the steep descents today.  I don't have this problem at all in the Merrell Ascend Glove, by way of contrast.
Skecher GoBionic Trail after 31 miles and 14,200 ft of climb and descent in the San Gabriels

As for the run today:  I awoke early and met some pals at Chantry Flats this morning for a little social running.  My friends planned a loop up the Wintercreek trail to the Wilson Toll Road, then on to the Wilson summit (and the all important water spigot), returning to Chantry via the rim trail to Newcomb's Saddle and on in via the AC100 course, total 16.5 miles.  I planned to do this loop and then add a second loop to get the mileage up over 30.   I decided to mix it up a bit and ran the second loop starting up the Wintercreek trail and heading up over Mt Zion to take the Sturdevant trail up the east side of Wilson, then back via the Toll Road and upper Wintercreek Trail, total 15 miles.

The run today was a bit slow; I was about 10 minutes off my target pace of 5mph after the first loop.    The second loop was really slooow.   The total run time (omitting mixing drinks etc) was 6:42 for 31 miles, about a half hour off pace.  The climb up the east side of Wilson in particular was really tough...2500 feet of climb in 3 miles, about 15% grade, in mostly direct sun.  I lost a lot of time  there.   Check out the elevation and pace profile of the double loop:  The total elevation climb and descent today was 14,200 ft.
I was glad to be wearing my long pants and shirt today as the Rim Trail was heavily overgrown with poodledog bush.  So I was well protected from it.   Later, on the second loop, I met a couple guys training for AC100 who were descending the east Wilson Trail as I was climbing it.  They recognized me from Leona Divide  because I was the shirt guy, wearing long pants...same as today.  One of the fellas asked me if I was a speed hiker or something given how I was dressed  and I replied that "yes, on 15% grades in direct sun, I am a hiker"!  These guys were doing a double loop of Wilson as well but in the opposite direction;  I saw them again a bit out of Chantry as I was finishing my second loop and they were starting theirs.  Really nice guys, and its part of the fun of training for an event like this to meet the fellow aficionados.

It was a pretty run: Below are views of one of the Wilson observatories from the rim trail (as I recall);  and the view down at Chantry from the trail descending from Newcombs.  The air quality was not great today and my lungs were a bit sore from smog exposure after the run.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Blisters & Healing; Skechers GoBionic Trail- great shoe

Last Sunday I ran in Merrell Mixmaster-2 (waterproof).   I'd bought a pair looking for a low drop shoe that would not admit grit -  most shoes these days, particularly the minimalist ones, have very breathable mesh-  great for keeping feet dry-  but mesh uppers such as found in the Merrell Trail Glove or Ascend Glove allow sand into the shoe which does not feel too great after 20-30  miles or so.  The Mixmasters were an experiment;  they have a 4mm drop and since my achilles attachments were a bit tender I ran in them on Sunday, and that worked fine.   They keep the sand out (good) but are not very breathable at all (bad);  they fit less like a glove than the Ascends but are pretty serviceable.   I'd previously run a few times in these shoes up to 10 miles, on trail and road.  But on Sunday's 20 miler the small toes got pretty chewed up and I got a blister;  on Monday I tore the blister on the worst toe removing a band aid.  Freshman mistake.  Still by Tuesday the toes were good enough to run 14 miles;  by Wednesday the problem spots were effectively healed.  I attribute that to the effect of the high mileage running (healing mechanisms are in overdrive).  My wife was amazed when i showed her.
Little toe was "all better" by wednesday  On Monday night I thought I was in big trouble.

I received a pair of Skecher Go Bionic Trail yesterday.  THESE seem to have a breathable but pretty impenetrable upper.  I really like the standard GoBionic for roads and non technical trail;  the GoBionic Trail just came out and having received them yesterday I ran 14 miles in them today.  Perfectly comfortable out of the box, no friction spots as the shoes have a big toe box..   I've seen on-line that Merrell has a Goretex version of the Ascend Glove which seems promising for keeping out grit; however what I see on-line lists for $160.  The Gobionic Trail costs $80.  Go figure.  Merrell better watch out, the GoBionic Trail is a hell of a trail shoe and I for one cannot afford $160 for a pair of running shoes.

Here is a photo of the Skechers GoBionic Trail:  So far so good.  I will take these out for a test spin this weekend to see how they do on steep descents and in keeping out sand and grit.

GoBionic Trail.  The inserts can be put in the shoe to convert it from zero drop to 4mm drop
Below is a photo of the standard GoBionics I own:  Note the rocks stuck in gaps between the segments in the sole of the shoe.  These are road shoes but I have been  taking them on dirt roads and non technical trails (in addition to road runs).  The segmented construction of the sole makes it extremely flexible, and a more cushioned/protected ride than, say, the Merrell TrailGloves.  I haven't taken these on technical trail, the absence of lugs makes this seem to me to be a bad idea.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Mt Wilson, rounding out a 103 mile week, and feeling strong

I got up and hit the trail this morning to do a 20 miler as the book-end of a 30/20 weekend; and capping off a 103 mile week.   As is my Sunday habit, I did Mt Wilson,  powerwalk 10 miles up, then run down.  I started the run purely on training inertia as I really didn't feel like being out there especially after the long hot run yesterday;  but I warmed into it, did the 10 mile uphill leg in 2:37 (which is pretty solid considering the grade..about 4800 ft of climb) and I ran down it fast in 1:15 for a total time of 3:52.  The achilles attachments which were sore yesterday were OK today,  as was the prima donna calf which gave me a couple little jolts during the 33 miler yesterday.  All in all, a fine workout.  It was great  to cap off a 100 mile week with 10 miles at 7:30 pace even if most of that 10 miles is downhill, it felt GREAT and left me feeling energized instead of drained.  Another unexpected pleasure was that I ran into a guy at the spigot on top of Wilson;  turned out this was the guy I hitched a ride with from the hotel to the Leona Divide start (enabling my wife and kids to stay in bed).  Small world.  The hills are thick with ultrarunners these days,  as was the case yesterday, today  I saw several parties out doing 100 miler training what with Tahoe,  Angeles Crest and other races coming up soon.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Three Points to Shortcut and back, 33miles

View at the top of Mt Hillyer, looking north
I indulged myself today and drove up to the Angeles high country for a run on the middle section of the AC100 course.  I started at Three Points (Mile 42.7) and ran to Shortcut Saddle (mile 59.3) and then ran back again for a 33 mile total.  This section of the course has always been my favorite-  I love the arid slopes of Mt. Hillyer and the run through Horseflats and on through Chilao and the sandy trail that drops to Shortcut from Charleton Flats. 

The run had some good elevation with most of the run over 5000Ft and much of it around 6000ft.Total run  time was 6:31 for 33 miles (33.2 by the race book, 32.9 by my GPS), so just under 5 miles per hour.   This doesnt count stops to fool with water, take pictures etc; all that overhead added an hour.  I felt pretty good the whole way and pushed the hydration;  worked the hills on the return trip.  Had a couple spasms in the right soleus in the last 6 miles or so pushing the uphills...uh-oh...but it didn't seem that any damage was done.   Knees were bulletproof the whole run.  My heels were back to aching by the second half of the run (as they did on the Mt Brown run on Thursday).

Tommorrow I will do a walk up Mt Wilson and run down;  I'll wear the Mixmasters with the 4mm drop to take a bit of stress off the achilles tendon attachments.   I saw a lot of AC100 folks running today-  some parties running Chilao to Chantry;  others Cloudburst Summit to Chilao and return;  and a couple of the local AC100 legends were out running from Vincent Gap to Shortcut....and that is a BURLY run at 47 miles....and that is why these folks are legends, they train like serious bad-asses.

Here are a more couple pix from today's run:
A good reason to wear long pants...a lot of poodledog bush in Charleton

Heading towards Chilao from Charleton, note the poodledog bush in this burned area

Friday, July 5, 2013

Over the hump at Mt Brown for some heat training, and averting an achilles problem

This morning I awoke late as I have the day off work-  got dressed and ran a nice light 10 mile recovery run on the local roads in my neighborhood.  I felt great, which was a relief.  Yesterday I did a middlin' longish run up Mt. Brown (14 miles) and it was a much tougher workout than I had anticipated.  

Because of the Independence day holiday I had the day off yesterday.  I had taken the kids to march in a parade in the morning, was on my feet for several hours and  had had lunch at a friend's noon time cookout.  What could be better than a little heat training with a belly full of hot dogs?   Good race specific training!  I hit the Mt Brown trail at 3pm in the afternoon and indeed I got my money's worth--it  was HOT!  That was expected but what was alarming was that the backs of my heels were very very tender where the achilles tendon attach, and my ankles and feet were very tender the whole run.  As I was working up the hill roasting in the sun and feeling my tired feet the thought occurred to me that this run was the crux of the week.  I had chosen this run as its sun exposed and hot, but with a runnable grade, so unlike many of the runs I've been doing in the San Gabriels lately, this uphill was an actual run as opposed to a powerwalk.  I wanted to work my ability to manage heat stress.  I wore my 2 bottle belt and carried 2 hand bottles;  I also donned my pack and put  half gallon of water in it.    I used up every drop in the course of the run either drinking or dousing my head and shoulders.

When I finished I went to my brother's place and jumped in the pool;  then massaged my heels for a bit and gorged on watermelon, chile;  and roast chicken.  I also stretched my hamstrings and calves.  The hamstring in particular was much tighter on the  left side than on the right;  the left side was the worse of the two legs for the heel pain I had experienced.  I took a couple ibuprofen before heading to bed and went to sleep concerned that the high mileage was taking its toll towards a tendon injury.  But a good 8 hours of sleep seems to have put the problem behind me.  My pal (the fella who won RAW) suggested that a good bit of this high mileage training has at purpose training the body's ability to recover quickly-  this seems to be the case and I am relieved and grateful for it.  Tomorrow I head up to the middle section of the Angeles Crest course to get in some higher altitude desert running, plan is a 30 miler up around Three Points/Sulphur Springs to Shortcut and back.