Fifty Miles: a post-mortem.

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One year ago I started this blog to document one of the greatest running events I’ve ever been a part of. I was venturing into the unknown, pushing my limits another 24 miles past what I knew I could achieve. It was magic. On Saturday I competed in the same event for a second time, and it was… anticlimactic. Don’t get me wrong. This was an amazing experience and I was smiling ear to ear for almost all of the nine hours I was moving. Everything went off without a hitch. No nutrition drama. No major falls or injury. I didn’t even get stung by wasps like many others did. The women’s field was so competitive that I had no shot at even placing top 20. And that’s okay. Not every race has to be an epic fight to the finish or record breaker. My body and mind allowed me to cover 50 of the most beautiful miles in all of the world. I got to share my backyard with some of the best ultra runners in the country. I experienced one of the most vibrant sunrises I’ve ever seen. All while doing something I love passionately.

So this won’t be the typical mile-by-mile race report. Think of it more like a post mortem. What worked. What didn’t. What I’d do differently. Why I can’t wait to try this distance again. Continue reading

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50 Miles: the ultimate playlist

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Music is an incredibly personal choice. Finding a beat or lyrics that motivate and make you momentarily forget about how badly your legs are burning can be the difference between fading out or pushing just a little bit harder. Science even says so. 

I don’t listen to music when I race. I never have, and most road races discourage headphones due to safety reasons. On the road I’m usually pushing myself hard enough that if I take my focus away from my pace, I start to slow. Ultras are a different beast. Pace is much slower and totally varied based on terrain. There’s a good chance you will be the only person around for miles on end. It can get pretty lonely, and after running for 6 hours my brain starts to run out of things to think about. I can only talk to so many bunnies before I begin questioning my sanity. Continue reading

Anatomy of a PR

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The Personal Record. That elusive, arbitrary time goal runners chase. It haunts us, often missed by seconds. But sometimes it is crushed, setting a new benchmark to attain. Most of us will never win a race, so we race ourselves instead. That number is a motivator, helping us dig just a little deeper when the wheels are about to come off late in a race.

What makes a PR? Well, the training, obviously. Stress, recover, repeat. The basic formula is simple, yet so easy to screw up. There are no magic workouts that will guarantee a faster time, but the most important thing you gain from proper training is confidence. You need to believe that running a PR is possible, because if you don’t, who will?

Let’s analyze two PRs I fought for this year. The first came at the Boston Marathon, where I dropped from a 3:07 to a 3:04, and the second is from the Humboldt Redwoods half marathon, where I knocked 6 minutes off my best to run a 1:24. Continue reading

Trail Running 101, part 1

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Trail running: it’s just like road running but on dirt, right?

I wish it were that simple. The trails are a different beast. When you are dealing with nature there’s a lot more that can go wrong. But, in my opinion, you get so much more in return from the trails versus roads. I’m here to give you a primer on how to survive (and thrive!) without getting run over by a mountain biker or eaten by a snake. This is part one of a series I’ll be writing in collaboration with my MoveWith Trail Running 101 class. Let us start with how to behave on the trails… Continue reading

A humbling distance: Headlands 50K race report

Photo by Richard Bolt

Photo by Richard Bolt

I feel like I’ve got marathoning down. I know how to train for it, pace myself, and fuel properly. And barring any weather disasters, I can usually come pretty close to the goal I set for myself. Ultras, as I’m quickly learning, are a whole other beast. The 50K is a humbling distance. Just five miles longer than a marathon, but with that five miles comes the unexpected. So many things can go wrong out on those trails that it’s hard to prepare for all worst case scenarios.

I chose the Tamalpa Headlands 50K as my first attempt at that distance. It’s in my backyard, making travel logistics a non-issue. And more importantly, I could train on the course. Looking at past year’s winning times, I felt I had a pretty good shot at placing in this one. And then I realized it was the USATF 50K National Championships and there was some big prize money on the line. Okay so the field would probably be stacked and top 10 would be cool, but I tried to set my expectations low so I wouldn’t be disappointed come race day. Continue reading

Pro Tip in Pictures: Handheld Bottles

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I hate running with anything in my hand (mostly because my arm gets tired and it reminds me how weak my upper body is). But buying the right handheld bottle can make all the difference on the annoyance scale. Look for a bottle with a wide cinching strap, like the Nathan bottle on the left. Try it on, pull it tight, and violently shake your hand around. Does it come loose or fly off, narrowly missing someone’s head? If so, you probably grabbed a bottle with a narrow strap, like the one on the right.

The less energy you have to put into holding onto your bottle or re-tightening the strap, the more energy you can channel into trashing your quads on that next downhill.

Bonus: the bottle will protect your hand if you ever dive headfirst into the trail. I may or may not have firsthand experience with this.