Category Archives: run

Zion 100- Running 100 miles takes more than cycling legs and heart!

A runner at the top of Smith Mesa, 4 miles into the race, just after sunrise.

I hate quitting anything.  But there I was at mile 63 of the Zion 100, about a quarter-mile past Aid Station #7, alone on a dirt road walking hobbling, in circles. It was just after 1am, over 19 hours into the race. I knew Donovan was ‘only’ 7 miles away at Aid #8, waiting patiently to pace me the last 30 miles. My fuzzy brain calculated some fuzzy math that said it’d take me 2.5 hours to walk that short distance. The crazy thing is that I considered it. I had wanted to quit at the 51.5 mile aid station but when I walked up to the volunteers I just couldn’t get the words out (I asked for peanut butter on a tortilla instead). In my stubborn brain it was easier to carry on than to say the words ‘I quit’ aloud.  Now I was paying for that decision, 4 hours and only 11.5 miles across Gooseberry Mesa from there.

When a volunteer’s truck rolled up to me I was facing back toward the aid station. He asked if I was alright and I heard myself say, ‘I am done.’ His eagerness to help me out made me realize I probably looked pretty sad standing there alone in the middle of the night, facing the wrong direction. Once in the truck we started passing other runners and I hung my head low- I didn’t want to be recognized by anyone I had run with earlier. Partly because of my pride, but also because I didn’t want them to be discouraged by seeing a fellow runner fail. Every endurance athlete talks about not letting their crew down- it’s a significant motivating factor- so when I saw Donovan I felt a pang of sadness and my first vocalization was to apologize. But, like any good crew member, he knew what I had gone through and that if I had quit I must have been in pretty bad shape.  And I was.

Running 100 miles has been on my mind for over 5 years now- since the first time I helped at the Badwater Ultramarathon. I ran some 50k’s last year, then a 50-miler I was signed up for got canceled. Then I hurt my groin- which it turns out was from yoga and not running- and I basically stopped running. Getting to those longer distances always seemed just out of reach. Then February of this year I ran the La Jolla 50k in Malibu and felt really good- except for my foot. Did I not train enough? Post-race runs still bothered it. I was already signed up for the Zion 100- maybe I could switch to the 50-miler? But I did what every over-committed, busy person with too much on their plate does- nothing. Oops. Thirty-five miles a week had been my goal- I never even got close. My test run was 22 miles one night and then 13 five hours later two weeks before the race. And I decided to go for it! Like Shawn, who I ended up running the first 35 miles with, said, ‘Might as well start the 100-miler and see how far you can really go.’ Yeah, I like that.

I don’t find dogs, dogs find me! This little guy had some serious energy for it only being race check-in.

The Zion 100 is a brand-new race and the course is much harder than the 7850 feet of elevation would have you believe. Sixty-five percent is on single-track trails, much of it technical, and only 5 miles are paved. The rest is dirt roads and double track. Giant slick rock is everywhere- in many sections spray-painted circles on rocks marked the course. Sandy sections contrasted the rocks- both equally hard to get a groove on.

Technical rope section near mile 19.

This part of the descent required a rope. From here the trail stayed very technical as it ran in and out of the rocky creek bed.

My trip started on Wednesday when I rode 36 miles to a train to meet up with Donovan and Megan who was catching a ride with us to Las Vegas- where we’d spend the night before getting  Ronald’s vegan donuts, which is pretty much a mandatory stop.  Thursday was race check-in since the race started on Friday morning- something new to me. Is this an ultra-runner thing? The race organizer was thoughtful enough to post free camping spots on the site and Donovan and I took advantage of one just 5 miles up the road from the start.

Kolob Terrace Rd, the only significant paved section, very close to where we had camped the night before. Photo by Donovan.

When I stood there at the start and looked around I immediately felt out of place. Am I really here? Trying to make it back to this spot 100 miles and at least 24 hours later? Yes, I am! When the trumpet sounded I raced off at a blistering 12-minute mile pace.  I had met Shawn at check-in and he found me before the first climb and we’d end up running the first 35 miles together talking about everything from his experience at the Copper Canyon 50-miler (RIP Micah True) to our favorite places to eat.

Shawn and I weigh-in at the Mile 35 aid station.

Donovan met me at mile 35 where I arrived in just over 8 hours- right where I wanted to be. It was warming up, but I felt good. I had been keeping a slow but steady pace. Shawn and I ran everything but the hills. Him and I got split up here, but it wouldn’t be the last I saw him. The next 10 miles were hot and exposed trails that transversed the desert in the mid-day heat. But I felt good! I ran nearly all of it and was passing people regularly. Too fast? At the mile 42 aid station a lot of people were sitting down in the shade- no way could I do that. I had only sat down once and that was to get the dirt out of my shoes.

Single track through the desert! Not bad at all.

And here’s where my story takes a turn for the worse. My elevation increased, 1500 feet in one mile to be exact, but my mental and physical state headed in the opposite direction. I was hydrated. I had eaten. My motivation was high. But something happened on that climb. It was one of the steepest trails I had ever been on. There were points where I could reach out and touch the trail in front of me. I got to the top and a water-only aid station and I laid down on the ground. I was out of it. No!

Gooseberry Mesa viewpoint. The climb that wiped me out did award me this view.

I drank some unexpected, delicious electrolyte slushy and I got up and pushed on. The trail was mostly on slick rock- I ached for my mountain bike. I was becoming more aware of my feet- hot spots were now turning to blisters. I was getting annoyed by little, unchangeable things, a sure sign of mental and physical fatigue. Why is this ribbon here? It should be over there!! I recognize this and take some deep breaths. Shoot some more photos and be thankful to be where I am right now. It helps everything but my feet.

Mini canyon-like sections on the North Rim Trail. Probably more fun to ride than run!

If you look closely you can see the 1000 foot drop just off of the trail!

And not long after this the slight pain in one of my toes becomes a sharp pain and I’m forced to limp. Wtf? I sit down and take off my shoe and sock and what I see turns my stomach. Two of my toes are totally black, which isn’t new, but they are both surrounded by huge blisters. One of which is behind my toe, closer to the top of my foot.  One runner stops, takes a look and makes a face like I had just dropped a piece of pizza on the ground cheese-side down. He runs on. I contemplate my options. Two more runners stop and one is an MD! He tells me what I already know- the toenail has to come off. They count down and I start to pull. They both moan, I pull harder- it doesn’t want to come off. The last vestige of healthy skin holds on. It finally snaps off in my hand and I get light-headed. The doctor’s friend teases him for being grossed out- I thought you were a doctor?  [photo at bottom of post!]

Gooseberry Point from the aid station. We did an out-and-back to the viewpoint- you can see runners out there in the photo.

I still managed to run a few of the miles into Aid Station #6 at mile 51.5. I had told myself I was quitting here. But then I went out to the viewpoint and realized I didn’t have it in me to tell them I was done just yet. I had carried my headlamp since mile 35, I might as well use it, right?

On Gooseberry Point. Thanks to the guy from Vegas’ pacer for the photo!

It’s now getting dark and I’m headed out for one of the most technical, confusing sections of the course. I put some motivating music on my headphones and work toward my second wind. I pace with a few other runners and their pacers, we get lost, we find the trail, go up and over so many big rocks I think we’re going in circles….and then I fall off of their pace. I eat and it doesn’t help. I get passed. The pain medicine has done very little for my feet that are aching like I’ve never felt before. My arches, achilles, toes, tendons, everything hurts. And now my knee does. Shoot. A few more lonely, slow, agonizing miles and this is where my story picks up where I began just past Aid Station #7.

A fire at Aid Station #8 warms runners and pacers.

I don’t regret my decision to quit. And yes, I do feel very accomplished for doubling the farthest I’ve ever gone. What is hard to accept is that I never reached physical exhaustion- my feet and knees quit first. It’s a frustratingly simple thing to overcome- just get more running miles in! I’m mad at myself for not respecting the distance and only getting a dozen or so runs done in the months leading up to the race. What did I think would happen? Sometimes stubborn people like me need to be standing alone on a dirt road in the middle of the night in order to learn these lessons. I guess if I was the type of person to figure this out ahead of time I wouldn’t be putting myself in these situations.  At least I know this about myself?

See the results here (pdf!). When a Badwater winner takes 26 hours you know it’s a hard course!

We hitched a ride back to Virgin and it was about 4am when we went to sleep in the park just 100 feet from the start/finish line. After a few hours sleep we decided to head back toward California, but not without stopping at The Bean Scene in St George for breakfast burritos and coffee.

A few questions I’ve gotten:

What did you carry?
I carried my phone, headphones and a few gels in my shorts pockets and sunglasses for the day and a headlamp for night. My only water was one 24-ounce handheld which was plenty for all but one section where I ran out early in the day.

What did you eat?
Mostly bananas, peanut butter on tortillas and potatoes. Gels for between aid stations.

Did you use drop bags?
Nope.

Pacers?
Donovan was going to pace me for the last 30 miles.

How much did you actually run?
Most of the first 45 miles- except the really technical sections or steep hills. Less from 45-63.

I cannot even imagine this. What’s it like?
Imagine a long hike with aid stations where you run the flats and downhills! And remember it’s for fun. That helps. It wasn’t that long ago I couldn’t imagine running double digits! You’re looking at someone who brought two clif bars and two gels on a 10k cause I was worried I’d get hungry!

Why?
Not sure. Scott Jurek has a good explanation.

Did this make you more or less stoked on running? Will you try the 100-mile distance again?
More stoked! I can’t wait to start running again and I’m already signed up for the Oil Creek 100 in October. Plenty of time to train and run some 50-milers or 100k’s, right?

 

Sorry it’s out of focus!

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Filed under race, run, travel

Successful Day in the Life screening!

 

Thanks to everyone who came out for the first ever Day in the Life screening. Over 70 people joined us! Many thanks to The North Face for not only providing the space, but donating 2 $50 gift cards to the raffle. Just by showing up you had a 1 in 35 chance of walking away with $50 to spend at The North Face! We’d also like to thank Veggie Grill for giving us a great deal on the delicious food and Golden Saddle Cyclery, Moth Attack Bikes and Ergon Bike Ergonomics for donating to the raffle.

 

Chris Kostman/AdventureCORPS photo.

 

As I’ve said before, we are so fortunate to have been there to capture Donovan’s experience running 100 miles. Sasha’s short film is so damn motivating! Everyone had smiles on their faces when it ended and we had a number of great questions about veganism, ultra-running, filming and our project. The excitement in the room makes me think we need more events like this. Thank you again to everyone who came and participated in one way or another- we could not have done this without you. If you missed it and still haven’t seen it, you can always watch Day in the Life episode 5 online. Meanwhile keep your eyes out for our next episode!

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Filed under Day in the Life, run, vegan

Day in the Life Screening April 15th

I am so stoked to announce our first ever Day in the Life screening! On Sunday April 15th at 630pm at The North Face in Beverly Hills [map] we’re showing a special edition of Donovan’s episode where he runs his first 100-mile race. A Q&A with Filmmaker and co-creator Sasha Perry, ultra-runner Donovan Jenkins and myself will follow.

 

Details

-Free food samples from The Veggie Grill! Both The North Face and Veggie Grill have been super helpful in making this event not only great, but free. These will be samples, not a meal. Looking at you Jack Lindquist.

-Raffle for all attendees! Prizes from Golden Saddle Cyclery, The Farmhouse Conf 2, The North Face and True Love Health.

-It’s the night of CicLAvia, which you should definitely also do that day.

-The Q&A should be super fun because we’ve planted people to ask all the pressing questions like, ‘where do you get your protein?’

How you can help

Share the above flier and the link to this page with running and vegan forums, meet-up groups, organizations, etc. Your own connections can really help to get people there!

Use this printable pdf of the flier for running stores, vegan restaurants and other places.

Join and share the facebook event page.

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you there! If this is a success there’s talk of a mini-tour where the three of us travel to do screenings in other cities.

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Day in the Life 5; Ultrarunner Donovan Jenkins Attempts a 100-mile Run

First off, a big thank you to those who supported our successful Kickstarter. Because of you we are able to continue making these Day in the Life episodes with vegan athletes!

The Javalina Jundred course is 6 15-mile laps run 'washing machine style': each lap in the opposite direction. The 7th lap is a modified 10-mile loop.

Are you ready for this? You’ve had a preview of today’s episode because I posted about my experience filming with Donovan as soon as we got back from the Javalina Jundred. I mean, can you imagine running 100 miles? ONE HUNDRED MILES ON FOOT! And while 100% vegan. Donovan’s story is a truly remarkable one and it is a pleasure to share this with you. Enjoy!

How stoked are you right now? Don’t you want to turn off your computer and run to the farthest place you can imagine? Donovan really came through on this and I can’t thank him enough for the stokedtivity that he’s giving the world. Wow, just wow. If you truly are ready to take the next steps toward running an ultra, see his personal tips below.

Donovan’s tips on running your first ultra

Make it public—Enlist friends to run with you and tell people about it. When others know what you are doing it can give you a little extra motivation to get out the door and train on those tough days.

Follow a plan—Pick a training schedule appropriate for your race distance/terrain and stick to it as much as possible. Being consistent and gradually building up to your goal are essential for staying injury-free and having a successful race.

Keep records—You can’t follow a training schedule without paying attention to the numbers. Keeping records provides you with valuable information that can help you maximize the efficiency of your training and avoid over-training injuries.

But be flexible and keep it fun—Don’t be too obsessed with those numbers. Listen to your body, take time off, and cross-train as needed. Don’t let the numbers ruin your race or your life.

Spend extra time on your feet—In addition to the training miles and racing, one of the best ways to prepare your legs for a race that can take 24 hours is to spend extra time on your feet every day. If you walk/run a couple miles to and from work, spend all day on your feet, walk to the store, etc., you can easily spend 10-12 hours on your feet a day. Every little bit helps!

Race!—The best way to train for a race is to run shorter races. The more you race the better you will be able to pace and run your own race and know how hard you can push yourself. You also gain valuable and often overlooked knowledge about when to stop and what to eat at aid stations, how much water you need, what you should put in your drop bag, what clothes to wear, etc. There are fewer unknowns as you gain experience. Shorter races are great; learn from them and consider them hard training runs.

Eat the right foods—Reduce high fiber foods for a few days leading up to the race and during the race. Too much fiber may upset your stomach and cause extra bathroom breaks during the run. Also, for a more constant and steady energy source, stay away from the candy and refined sugar. I have better luck and bonk less often when I stick with fruits, potatoes and other real foods, like burritos.

Slow down—Most new runners run their easy runs too fast. Weekly long runs are for conditioning your legs to run long and if you push the pace it’s essentially racing, which is counterproductive if you don’t have the time to properly recover. If you are doing speed work and faster, shorter runs you will be better off keeping your long training runs slower than you feel like you need. Save the long, hard runs for races.

Run your own race—Don’t get carried away trying to keep up with a competitor. The person you are chasing up that hill may be running their first ultra and not know how to pace themselves, or it may be Scott Jurek! Whichever the case, if you stick to your plan and run within your abilities your race will come together as it should. My worst races have been those where I ran too fast at the beginning trying to keep up with someone when I shouldn’t have. If I had slowed down and let them go, there’s a good chance I would have caught them and passed them later in the race. Don’t let those around you determine your actions. It’s your race, run it as you have prepared to run it!

You may be asking, ‘where’s Donovan’s recipe?’ I requested one and what I gathered from his response is that his daily life is a lot like a 100-mile race: he snacks on fruit, nuts, coffee and burritos all day long. He did send me this photo of his work locker:

donovanslocker.jpg

Maybe if we pester him enough we can get an actual recipe-leave your requests in the comments! You can also harass him on twitter: @Donorun

Lastly, a huge thank you to Donovan for spending the day weekend with us, Aravaipa Running Race Director Jamil Coury (who is also vegan!) for letting us film, all the runners on the course and again our Kickstarter donors who made this possible. See you next time!

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Filed under Day in the Life, off-road, race, run, vegan

The Los Angeles I Love

9-mile trail run in Griffith Park, a short walk from my friend’s place. I love winter in Southern California not just because it’s not cold, but also because it’s so green and clear. At a party the night before a guy who had hike Mt Luekens that day said he had 100-mile visibility! Epic.

I won’t say much about the run except that I need to run more! These two dropped me on every hill…

20120109-172527.jpg

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Javalina Jundred and My First Time Supporting a 100-mile Racer

I’ve spent a lot of time at endurance races, but almost all of them have been bike events. I’ve officiated at the Badwater 135, so I’ve some idea about ultra-running, but what I experienced this past weekend at the Javalina Jundred 100-mile foot race was completely new. I went out with my friend Donovan to film our first Kickstarter funded episode of Day in the Life so I can’t give away too many details….but let’s just say he wasn’t the only one to walk (limp?) away more stoked on ultra running than before the weekend started!

Donovan out on the course in the beautiful Sonoran Desert.

Watching runners come through the start/finish all day and then into the night was really something else. The course is a 15-mile loop with each lap run in the opposite direction. The last lap is only 10 miles to make 100 (101 actually!). We had gotten there earlier enough on Thursday to snag a camping spot right at the start/finish so we were embedded in all of the action.  In true Swarm! fashion we camped each night (many people set up their camp and then stayed in hotels) and cooked all of our meals on camp stoves. And keeping with the Burro Schmidt Running Club tradition started at the Calico 50k earlier this year, we cooked pancakes and beans. How cool is it that the athlete we film is down to camp and to be cheap before his first 100-mile run? I don’t know how we keep finding these people!

Our base camp. Photos courtesy of Donovan's mom who flew in from Montana for the race!

I’m going to have a full post with the Day in the Life episode where you’ll learn more about Donovan, his unbelievable path to veganism and what it was like to run his first 100-mile race.  Meanwhile I just couldn’t wait to mention this race and the awesome time I had out there. If you have the opportunity to do support at an ultra event please do take it. Being a part of an accomplishment like this is really gratifying; you don’t even have to run it! Discovery wrote about this year’s race if you’d like to get more of an idea about it.

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The Pull of Habit

The statement, ‘we are creatures of habit’ is an understatement, and as much as I love newness and change, this is still true for me. And a huge part of my profession is teaching behavior change!

I ride a lot. Most of my friends probably figure if I’m not working, eating or interneting, I’m out riding or running. And this is true, sometimes. Only when I’ve created that habit.  It is as true for me, someone who aims to ride 800-1000 miles a month, as it is someone training for their first organized bike event. Same with running.  If you are not in the habit of running, training for a 5k is just as hard as training for a 50k. When I’m out of the habit, I can’t imagine devoting 2 hours or more a day to getting on my bike or strapping on my running shoes. And if you are reading my site, then I know you’ve had the same experience (if not, you are a special human being and I am envious!).

I’m writing about this now because failing at the Arizona Trail Race really knocked me out of the habit of riding. I just didn’t want to. In behavior change psychology we say that the new, healthier behavior must appear more rewarding than the old behavior. When you don’t feel like riding, sitting on the internet just feels better. Why go out and do something you don’t want to do? What’s the benefit to that?

But there is benefit. And I’m not talking about physical benefits, but mental and relational. So many great conversations with friends happen slightly out of breath on the bike saddle or while running up trails in the wilderness. Not to mention the ideas that come with the clarity of movement and being out in the world. This is what I have to convince myself of.

Over the previous week I did 7 rides in 7 days. Nothing spectacular. Nothing super long or super fast. Just riding in order to create the habit of riding. Everyone, no matter what crazy events they have done, need to start anew after not training or riding regularly.  My advice for anyone trying to ride or run more often or at all, which is partly professional, but mostly personal, is to first work to create the habit. Just go. No structure or plan beyond making the time for it. If you are one of those people who signs up for an event, prints out a training schedule and follows it exactly for 8 weeks, this does not pertain to you. But for the rest of us, just getting out there is huge. Our biggest critic is our own brain- we tell ourselves we aren’t running long enough or fast enough and it’s just not worth it. Ignore it! Just get out there.  After a week or two of just doing the activity you are into you are in a much better position to plan and focus. It’ll come, you have to trust that.

So for the first time in a month I’m thinking about what events to sign up for this summer. I’m obviously not racing the Tour Divide, but I know that is for the best. I may do an 8-hour mountain bike race, which will be a nice change from doing only 24-hour or 100-mile events recently. May also do a few double centuries, since I didn’t do any all of last year. And maybe some shorter runs like halfs and marathons? What are you doing this summer? No matter what it is, if you are changing your behavior and pushing yourself to do more than you’ve done in the past, it is awesome. I get as stoked on friends’ first 5k as I do for their 100-mile runs! Just get out there.

Lastly, thanks for all of the AWESOME feedback from the A Day in the Life videos (if you haven’t seem them you should! Part one and part two). We’ve already filmed episode two and should have it up within a few weeks. I’m super stoked on this project!

 

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