Wednesday, July 13, 2011

7/10/11: Massanuttens to Shenandoahs and back

I ended up getting stuck in Charlotte on Friday night and didn't make it back until Saturday around lunch time. I was exhausted and only did about 14easy miles that afternoon. To make up for it, I headed to the mountains again for about 41 miles with 9K feet of climbing on Sunday.

I did a slightly shortened version of the route I ran with Greg last fall that goes up and over the Massanuttens, across the Shenandoah Valley, up the Shenandoahs to the Appalachian Trail, and back (what I call Virginia's Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim). I did stop a bit short of the AT, so it was more like 41 miles instead of the full 45 mile route.

The first 15 miles went really well. I was still tired from the previous 111 mile week, but everything was going smoothly. I made it up the 3.5 mile Sherman's Gap climb in about 45 minutes, which is pretty good time for me on that big 1,500 foot climb. I cruised across the Shenandoah Valley and stopped in the local store to fuel up with some more water.

Around mile 15, I started to get REALLY hot. It got to be over 90 degrees and was pretty humid. I started to seriously overheat on the 3,000 foot climb to the top of the Shenandoahs and had to stop at one point to let my heart rate slow down and body temperature cool.

I wasn't feeling so hot running down the Shenandoahs and crossing the valley, but it really helped to refuel at the store again on the way back. After that, I made pretty steady progress despite the serious heat.

It took me about 4 hours to run out and about 4:30 to run back. I was pretty happy with only losing 30 minutes on the way back given how much hotter it was.

This was a tough run with the heat and fatigue from lots of training. I also ended up getting many bugbites and some poison somethingorother on my legs.

However, this was another great training run and confidence booster for me. I leave you with a quote:

“He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man” Hunter S. Thompson


Start of the run. This is the stream that runs between the ridges of the Massanuttens. It was still pretty cool at this point.


I still look pretty sleepy here.

On top of the climb up to Sherman's Gap. The furthest peak in the distance is basically where I'm heading.




I descended the ridge after Sherman's Gap only to climb up again to this point. I really like this part of the trail.


This is a bit of a better view of the mountain I'm heading to across the valley. Still very far away!



I had just run down this, which was very fun. Going back up it in 6 hours .... much less so.



Nice view from down in the valley.



Crossing the Shenandoah Valley. It was definitely hot at this point.


I came across this fawn just at the start of the climb up the Shenandoahs. I thought it was just waiting for its mother, but it was still there when I came back down the mountain and wasn't looking so good. I fear this poor little guy didn't make it, which made me extraordinarily sad. Unfortunately there wasn't anybody or much of anything around this part of the trail, so I really didn't know what I could do other than give it some water on the way back.


View from where I turned around in the Shenandoahs. The closer ridges are what I had run up to get here. Way in the distance you can see the Massanuttens where I came from.



I was exceedingly hot at this point, but at least there was a nice breeze at this lookout.


This is where the Over Run Falls are, but they weren't really running too much since it's been dry recently

Saturday, July 9, 2011

7/9/11: My New Ultrarunning Nutrition Plan

Nutrition issues have plagued my running for several years. In most races since Vermont 2008, my stomach acted up to some degree, often resulting in a DNF. It's ridiculous to have the legs and lungs to run 100 miles but have my stomach hold me back!

Along the way I figured out that the first problem was I wasn't drinking the right amount based on conditions. Mainly I was drinking too much early on in races, particularly when it wasn't hot.

I've learned much more about how much I need to hydrate in various conditions. My fluid intake needs vary from 5-10 ounces per hour during cold weather all the way up to about 30 ounces per hour during the warmest weather. 30 ounces per hour is also right at the max of what you can process in an hour, so I typically would not be hitting that level for many hours in a row. I also always hold off on drinking anything for at least 5 miles in cold weather and 3 miles in warm weather. This helps me not fill up on water from the start makes it easier for me to start taking in calories early on. This is completely counter to the "drink early" theory, but hey, it works for me.

I was still having problems though even after dialing in the hydration. Then Greg Zaruba to the rescue! Greg had been recommending Hammer Nutrition to me for a while, and I finally decided to give it a shot.

I can say it has completely changed my running experience. I have had no real stomach problems since starting to use it about two months ago, which has included some long, tough 40 mile runs and lots of running in very hot weather.

First off, they make a gel that far surpasses any I have tried. With all other gels, after about 3 of them, I absolutely cannot stomach any more. Hammer gels are much less sweet tasting and go down very easily. I have had no problems with taking 7-8 gels during a run, and I could happily have more if I needed to. Having a fuel source that I can continue using throughout very long runs is incredibly helpful.


They also make an electrolyte drink mix called HEED that I use up through about 3-4 hours of running. Aside from the electrolytes, HEED is also a great way to get about 200 additional calories per bottle. I often go with part HEED mix and part plain water in the first several hours of long runs.

Perpetuem is a drink mix they design specifically for endurance fueling beyond 3-4 hours. A bottle mixed with Perpetuem has about 400 calories, and it has some protein in addition to carbohydrates.

Here is what I love about this. Later on in long runs, I sip on Perpetuem while still using water as my main hydration source. Even if it take me two hours to finish the Perpetuem, the 400 calories I get is close to all that I need. You can't absorb more than 250-300 calories an hour anyway, so all I have to do is take 1-2 gels over that same time. Even if my stomach isn't 100%, it has never been at all difficult to drink a bottle of Perpetuem over a few hours.





Finally, they make a bar that has about 250 calories. It is still good to have some solid food from time to time, so it is a good addition to the gels and powder mixes. This bar has worked better for me than any other solid bar I've had before (such as Clif bars). I think it is because it is a bit softer and seems to break down more easily to make it easier to digest.




I have been able to very easily get through an 8 hour run with 5-6 gels, a bottle of HEED, 1-2 bottles of Perpetuem, and a Hammer bar. My runs have been a whole lot more fun, and I can't tell you how nice it is not to have my stomach feeling terrible during long runs!




I know I sound like a spokeperson for Hammer, but these products have helped me out immensely, and I hope this ends up helping someone else out as well!

Oh, and note to self, always listen to Greg on all things!

Friday, July 8, 2011

7/8/11: Week of 7/2 Training Update

I'm sitting writing this on a plane at about 10pm on a Friday night, and man am I tired! This was another very big week of training after many other recent big weeks of training.

It is catching up to me, and I am exhausted, but I'm rapidly approaching taper time for the Headlands Hundred. While I'm mostly very tired, I've had some encouraging signs that I'm really snapping into good shape.


  • Saturday: 13 miles very easy. Was really tired and listened to my body.

  • Sunday: 25 miles. Rock Creek Park loop in 8:30. Felt pretty easy.

  • Monday: 35 miles. Browntown Loop with VHTRC in ~4h. Added another 14 miles. Probably close to 6K feet of climbing.

  • Tuesday: 11 miles. Pretty sore.

  • Wednesday: 13 miles. Still tired

  • Thurdsay: 7 miles. Yup, legs still felt terrible.

  • Friday: 7 miles. Better, but still recovering from the weekend.

  • Total: 111 miles

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

7/5/11: Browntown Loop and July 4th training

This last weekend was 5 weeks out from the Headlands Hundred. Given that it was a long weekend, that means it was prime time for some serious training!

On Saturday I was initially planning for a long run in the Shenandoahs. But I was just way too tired. I had traveled for work all week and was still beat up from lots of recent running, especially the 40 miler a week before.

I instead planned on 20-25 miles around DC. After sleeping in a bit, I started my run and realized my legs still felt like crap. I ended up doing a very easy 13 miles with some cross/training. The old Will would have just powered through the run anyway and probably done more harm than good. I think it is a very good thing that I'm better about listening to my body now.

I got a second good night of sleep and felt much better on Sunday. My goal was to do the 25 mile Rock Creek Park loop but run it very easily to leave plenty in the tank to head to the Shenandoahs on Monday. It was ridiculously hot and humid, but I managed to run 8:30 pace and still felt pretty fresh at the end.

On Monday, I headed to the annual July 4th Browntown Loop with VHTRC. It is about a 21 mile loop, and it is a great course that has a good amount of climb but is also pretty runnable. I did this last year as well and was looking forward to going back.

Other than being ludicrously humid, it was another fun day in the mountains. I ran the loop pretty hard and felt great. I ran almost all of the first climb and about half the second climb until you hit the really steep trail section. It was fun to run with the VHTRC crew, and I finished the loop in 4:05, which includes several stops along the way to refuel and regroup.

I had hoped to feel good enought to head back out for some bonus miles, and luckily that was the case. I ended up running another 2:50 (probably about 14 miles). That was longer than I had planned, but I took something of a detour and ended up running all the way to the town of Washington before turning around.

Total run was about 35 miles in a bit under 7 hours, and I still felt strong at the end. Last year I felt terrible at the end of the 21 mile loop, and I think my time was also a bit slower. Another confidence booster for the Headlands Hundred, especially since I had run 25 miles the day before!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

7/3/11: Headlands Hundred!

Yup, it's official. I've signed up for the Headlands Hundred in San Francisco.

In my fury after being sick for the North Face 50, I immediately looked at race calendars to find another ultra. There aren't as many ultras in the summer (at least ones that aren't already full), so I was pretty sure that the Headlands Hundred would be the winner. The flight is now booked, and race registration is complete.

It's a very hilly course with 20,000 feet of climbing, which is the same as the Tahoe 100. That is certainly some no joke elevation. However, without it being at altitude (like Tahoe) and with likely good weather (it's pretty much always nice in San Francisco), I think it could be a good course for me.

As you may be able to tell from my heavy mileage, I've been training as if I was doing this race since the North Face 50. My last three weeks have been 85, 95, and 103 miles. I'll hopefully be above 100 miles for the next two weeks as well.

I'm really fired up about this race. I'm also very excited to see Brome, and the big man himself is going to be doing some pacing duties! Can't get much better than running in the beautiful Headlands with Brome.

I did a 25 mile extremely hot run around DC today, and tomorrow I'm heading to the Shenandoahs for another long run with VHTRC. So far everything is coming together. In the words of Mickey from Rocky I, I'm going to become a very dangerous person.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

7/2/11: Week of 7/25

I capped off another solid week of training. The highlight was definitely the 40 miler in the Shenandoahs on Saturday. Good stuff. I was pretty beat the rest of the week but still managed some decent mileage.


  • Saturday: 40 miles, ~ 10K feet of climbing

  • Sunday: 20 miles with stairmaster and lifting

  • Monday: 10 miles

  • Tuesday: 8 mile tempo run

  • Wednesday: 12 miles

  • Thursday: 6.5 miles

  • Friday: 6.5 miles

  • Total: 103 miles