Tag Archives: ultramarathon training

If you think it’s been colder this winter, you’re right

13 Feb
The Mississippi River near Keokuk, Iowa, was iced over for much of January and February.

The Mississippi River near Keokuk, Iowa, was iced over for much of January and February, which made for great eagle watching but for chilly running.

After my third or fourth run in a row in single-digit temperatures, I was ready to toss in the towel on my outdoor Iowa adventures for the winter.

But I would do almost anything to avoid the dreadmill. It hasn’t always been this way. Just a few years back, if it got into the teens, I would retreat to the warmth of an indoor workout. But as I ran further and more often, I couldn’t stand the thought of heading indoors.

A Cold WinterI enjoy the fresh air — even if it’s especially brisk air. I love the  sights, whether it’s the frozen river, falling snow or an eagle sitting by an ice-hole waiting for dinner to swim by.

But this winter has seemed especially harsh. And in reviewing my training log from the past few years, it has been. Since November, the temperature has been a bit chillier than the past couple of years. And since mid-January or so, it has been considerably colder.

But I’ve managed to avoid the dreadmill by adding an extra layer — or two — and having a ski mask in reserve for those very cold days.

Just as I thought the cold may get the better of me, I’m headed out of state for a few days. It’s bound to be warmer in New Orleans and San Diego.

But then there’s always the hassle of trying to get in a run in unfamiliar surroundings and at odd times. If you want an excuse not to run, you can always find one.

But out as my wife is fond of saying: “Suck it up, Buttercup.”

See you on the roads.

New, challenging goals help keep me motivated to run

21 Jan
Barb shot this photo of me starting a climb in the Potawatomi Trail 50 mile run.

Barb shot this photo of me starting a climb in the Potawatomi Trail 50 mile run.

I often hear of runners who have lost their motivation. Every six months or so, “Runner’s World” publishes a new story on how these folks can get their mojo back.

In a dozen years on the roads, this has never been a problem for me. The stress relief alone keeps me motivated. 

But I think there’s another key to my internal motivation: I am always striving toward a new goal, a new challenge. 

2013 mileage by monthAt first, I wanted to complete a marathon. Then I wanted to complete a marathon faster. At one time, I was working hard to qualify for Boston — although a years-long injury and an acceptance of my limited abilities have prompted me to set aside this goal. Last year, the goal was to complete an ultramarathon — 50 miles in my 50th year.

So what will get me off the couch and onto the frozen, snow-packed roads this winter? The challenge presented by the Bighorn Trail 50 mile run, which will be run near Sheridan, Wyo., in June.

The unknowns of my first 50-miler kept me honest last year. The Potawatomi Trail 50 was nearly double the length of my longest previous runs. It was on a trail and featured some crazy ascents, descents and creek crossings. It started in the dark and, as it turned out, finished in the dark, too. 

The Bighorn 50-miler takes this to another level. First and possibly most obvious, it takes place in the Bighorn Mountains (the web site says that, under certain circumstances, runners may be liable for their own search and rescue costs). It tops 9,000 feet in altitude. Despite the fact that it starts on top of the mountain and ends in the valley, one climb includes more than 3,100 feet of vertical gain. If I don’t stay motivated and honest in my training, this could be a disaster.

There’s another factor that will keep me motivated: I’m running with my niece. And she’s a decade younger than me. Screw this up and Christmas dinners could be embarrassing for years to come. 

♦ ♦ ♦

2013 snapshotIt’s probably easier to stay motivated in the coming year when the previous year has been good to you, and that’s certainly the case with me. 

Having just passed the age of 51, I’ve learned that injuries can become a problem. But for the most part, they weren’t a factor in 2013. Sure, my hamstring bothered me off and on over the months. But I have learned that when the dull ache becomes a constant pain, I’ve got to lay off for a few days. 

My total mileage was up in 2013, which training for a 50-miler in the spring will do. And I ran a pair of marathons in the last quarter of the year, although my finishing time in the Belize marathon hardly qualifies me for “running” a race. But when you are in Belize, who cares?

And a review of my training log has helped me determine an area of improvement for 2014. Over the past three years, my annual mileage, monthly mileage and average run distance have all increased. Unfortunately, in 2013, my average weight increased, too, so some sort of weight loss plan will be on the agenda in 2014.

Ultramarathon: Ready or not, here I come

12 Mar
The Mississippi River can be seen in the distance as River Road makes a bend a few miles north of Keokuk, Iowa, on a gray March 2013 day.

The Mississippi River can be seen in the distance as River Road makes a bend a few miles north of Keokuk, Iowa, on a gray March 2013 day.

When do you know you’re ready for a race? Well, not just any race. But a race that is a one giant challenge beyond anything you’ve done before.

That’s a question I wish I could answer definitively.

Over the past 10 years, I’ve run 9 marathons and 8 half-marathons. In that time, the only time I had real doubts was for my first marathon. I worried about finishing within my goal time. I worried about finishing with a minimum level of pain. But I never really doubted my ability to complete the race.

30-mile run from Keokuk, Iowa.

30-mile run from Keokuk, Iowa.

In three weeks, I’ll tackle my first ultramarathon — the Potawatomi Trail 50 in Pekin, Ill. — and I have doubts aplenty.

Today, I finished my last pre-race long run, a 30-miler. I had back-to-back runs planned for Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, I waited out the rains and got in my 10-miler. On Sunday, the rains didn’t stop until late afternoon, so there was no hope of getting in a long run. So Monday, I took a half-day of vacation. It was gray and windy (25-35 mph) and fairly cold (32), particularly considering the wind.

That’s the longest I’ve ever run. It was my lone 30-miler. My hamstrings were tightening, my quads were aching, my feet were hurting, my pace was falling. And I wonder if I have enough long runs in me to complete the ultra.

For marathons, I’ve been able to fuel myself with gels and sports drinks and the like. But I expect to be on the trails three times longer than any marathon I’ve run, and I don’t think I can stomach the processed fuel for that amount of time. I’ve been trying lots of different food and drink in training, but toward the end of my 30-miler, my stomach was queasy and I was reluctant to take in any other fuel. I wonder how I’m going to handle my fueling needs for another 20 miles.

Fish on the road dropped by an eagle

An eagle is missing dinner.

The Potawatomi will be my first trail race. I made a trip to Pekin to see the trail a few weeks ago. Wow. They won’t be growing corn on these trails, which rise and fall like a rollercoaster. I wonder what those hills will do to my quads, and I wonder how my ankles will handle the tricky footing.

These are just a few of my unanswered questions. But if I had all the answers, if everything was a certainty, then it wouldn’t be a challenge, would it?

It’s easy to fall into a rut. An old boss of mine had a favorite phrase: The only difference between a rut and grave is the depth of the hole.

I want to continue to explore the world around me. I want to see new places, try new foods, meet new people. I want to push myself mentally and physically.

As I celebrate a landmark birthday (my 50th) this year, I wanted to push myself beyond my comfort zone. At the time, running a 50 at 50 sounded like a good idea. Now I wonder if I was crazy. I’ll answer that question April 6.

Logging miles on the Wabash Trace Nature Trail

12 Feb
The Wabash Trace Nature Trail crosses the East Nishnabotna River just outside of Shenandoah, Iowa.

The Wabash Trace Nature Trail crosses the East Nishnabotna River just outside of Shenandoah, Iowa. I just missed capturing a bald eagle in this picture.

Ran a 20-miler on Saturday and an 8-miler on Sunday. It’s 8 weeks until my ultramarathon. Twenty miles seemed long on Saturday, so I’m not sure what to think about 50 miles in April.

Here’s a link to Saturday’s run, which was run on the Wabash Trace Nature Trail in my hometown of Shenandoah, Iowa. Shenandoah is in extreme southwest Iowa, about 60 miles southeast of Omaha, Neb.

The Wabash Trace is Iowa’s longest trail, running from Council Bluffs to Blanchard. It’s great for hiking, biking or running. 

The trail is mostly crushed limestone. It was a bit spongy on Saturday, but it firmed up for Sunday’s 8-mile run.

The trail is maintained by a group of dedicated volunteers. In September 2012, the group held its first half-marathon and marathon on the Trace — as it’s called locally — and they did a great job. I would recommend the race for anyone looking for a small, fun trail race in the area.  

More information on the 2012 race can be found here; I would suggest checking back for updates on future races.

Sunday’s 20-miler

28 Jan

Click on a photo above to launch the gallery.

Freezing rain all morning tested my patience, but by about 1 o’clock the rain stopped and I was able to hit the road by about 2 o’clock. This weekend, I lengthened the long run by 3 miles.

After last Sunday’s bout with nausea after the run, I made sure to drink plenty of water and ingest plenty of calories on the run. I drank 36 ounces of water over the course of the run, and I ate one package of Honey Stinger Energy Chews and one package of PowerBar Energy Blasts. And I ate a half an orange in the last three miles of the run.

Barb had a smoothie ready when I got home, and, after a long shower, I had some home-made gumbo. That entire combination seemed to do the trick. Other than some really sore and tight muscles, I felt great.

For a map from Endomondo on Sunday’s run, click here.

I haven’t had a cutback week in too long, so next weekend I plan to do back to back 9-mile runs on Saturday and Sunday.

There’s how many calories in a large Blizzard?!

23 Jan

I came across this informative and entertaining graphic on fast food. I try to steer clear of fast food as much as I can, but I admit I have a sweet tooth. I just won’t be ordering a large anything after looking at this.

Thanks to Fit for a Year for the original post. It’s a good blog worth following.


Click on the graphic to go to the originating website.

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