If you talk to me much on the phone or in person, you already know that a common question I use to follow up a greeting is "What's new and exciting?" At work, it's a rather disarming way of getting people to tell me what they are doing or what's on their minds. Among friends it's a good way to get straight to the fun part of the conversation at the onset. However, it is born out of a tendency in me to always want to know and do new and wild things. Today held a lot of firsts for me, here are a few (carefully selected for their value to this tale) and also some interspersed pictures I took today and yesterday to break up the monotony:
-First trail marathon (all dirt paths through the high desert)
-First race over 3000' elevation (this was 5,200-5450')
-Coldest Race (It was 19 degrees when I left my hotel and made it from there to a balmy 35 during the race)
-First time I have ever attempted 4 consecutive daily marathons
-First time I've ever had a real audience or blogged a race
I need to preface the next section by saying that it gets a bit technical at points. If you are not an endurance athlete, you may be bored to tears by it, preferring to skip the written parts and just check out the pictures- I'll allow it! When you eventually become an endurance athlete by osmosis just from reading the jibber jabber parts of this blog... then you're sure to be riveted by the knowledge contained herein...
The trail marathon concept was so new to me that I really didn't even know what to expect or fear, so I wore my gaiters (to keep the dirt out of the tops of my shoes), braced myself for limited aid stations, and vowed to take it slow. All that worked to plan and I really enjoyed having to keep my attention focused on rocks, tripping hazards, deep sand/sediment, very narrow footpaths, vegetation, etc and not on the pain of using untrained road marathon muscles to navigate through this foreign environment, especially given the thin air.
If anything concerned me going in, it was the elevation. Ok, I know this isn't Leadville 100 mile race at 13,000 feet or climbing Everest... but I'm sensitive, ok? About this issue, the only thing I figured I could do to mitigate it was hydrate and then hydrate some more to lessen the natural effect of dehydration at altitude- a skill I will need even more when flying around the world everyday at 30,000' to the 7 Continents. You might think that means to keep drinking crazy amounts of water yesterday and during the race. That's what I used to think too before being coached and becoming an Ironman and USAT Coach. What I have learned is to drink both water and Gatorade to get hydrated the day before and also directly after the race, but the evening before and on race morning I take a serious dose of salt to help me hold my hydration then make sure to drink even more. I also drink or eat Chia which helps you hold hydration, and drink both beet and cherry juice as part of my morning routine for other metabolic effects. Then, during the race I NEVER drink water. Never? Never. Water is fine for hydration alone, but you need to add electrolytes to the mix so you don't sweat yourself out of the stuff that helps your brain's electrical pulses get to where they need to go and help maintain proper hydration while you sweat and exhale all your precious fluid. You also need to add calories to your system in order to keep fueling the workout. "Sports Drink" does all of that stuff in a cute, simple, little Dixie Cup and also doesn't dilute your blood sugar like plain water does. Diluting your blood sugar over and over during a day sets you up for an emotional and athletic roller coaster that really sucks- trust me on this one. So, I brought my own Gatorade Endurance Formula (my go-to sports drink) but also drank about 10 oz of regular Gatorade when it was offered at the race (about every 3 miles). For additional nutrition I ate a Gu and 2 Cliff Gels and took a couple more S-Caps during the race. I have also been taking an iron supplement to help my red blood cell count which is needed for oxygen transmission and sometimes drops pretty low in me. All day I had no elevation sickness issues and surprisingly little respiratory distress or excessive heart rate- Success!!
Next up, cold. Not only was it sub-freezing temps for most of the day, but it was also extremely windy. I wore way more clothes than I thought I would need and shivered my way through 1/2 of the first 6 mile loop. I wore 3 shirt layers, 2 bottom layers, 2 sock layers (in truth, these are more for blister protection than cold), 2 head layers including a balaclava, and 2 pairs of gloves. I never took any layers off but was mostly comfortable all day after that first 1/2 loop. Only the wind on my exposed lips and nose caused me grief because I couldn't breathe sufficiently through the full face mask.
Having never done 4 consecutive daily marathons, I told myself going into this race that I needed to take it slow. That meant holding down my stride length and cadence and throwing in brisk walk breaks up hills, especially when my heart rate got above 160-165. Doing this allowed me to keep burning fat for fuel instead of the sugar we burn for more anaerobic (out of breath) running. It also keeps us from building up too much Lactic Acid in our muscles by, first, producing very little and, second, actively processing it out while walking (commonly called active recovery). Lactic acid is what causes most of your soreness in endurance sports and needs to be handled properly if you want to run marathons day after day. Since I do want to run a bunch of marathons in consecutive days, Lactic Acid is a major enemy, right up there with blisters and racing accidents leading to injury. Both of those things are also less likely when you take it slow, but I also did lube my feet with really intense lotion (as I try to do often for 6 months leading up to long races to get them healthy), wore Injini toe socks and also adorned calf compression socks over them. In between the sock layers I use 2Toms Blister Shield powder which acts as a dry lubricant between the tight Injini socks and the looser outer socks. Any rubbing happens cloth on cloth instead of cloth on skin, dropping the chances of getting debilitating blisters- the mistake that kept my Across the Years 72 hour race distance down to a pitiful 112 miles.
Finally the blogging and audience. This one really just gives me a chance to thank you all for giving a damn. This post is intended to be more educational than my previous posts because it occurred to me, while I was running, that I should share some of my accumulated knowledge on this subject in case someone else could use it. I feel strongly that anyone can do endurance sports if they want to get mentally and physically stronger by seeing how far they can push themselves. If you have run a marathon or half and are thinking about going bigger into Ultra-Endurance events like Ironman, Ultra marathons, multi-day races, and the rest, then maybe these tips will help you to prevent a lot of the mistakes that I made before I found workable solutions. Truth be told, today's marathon was not that hard. I fully believe that I would have been fine just running tomorrow's Utah marathon directly afterward if it didn't get dark and drop back down to the teens, which is no fun for anyone! So, all that stuff I said in my last blog post about not taking my physical training preparation seriously and it's all mental... forget that hogwash! (at least until I wake up crying in the morning!) Part of physical training is also being prepared with a plan for your race pacing, nutrition, hydration, clothing, accessories, and even pre-planning of foot care and hydration days or months before the race begins. One's wife may or may not repeatedly call one a diva with one's foot lotion, toe socks, special Gatorade powders, etc... but just love her anyway and hope she doesn't start spending money on anything like you do on endurance sports!
I'll be back tomorrow with a post from my 1 mile loop marathon in Utah, yes, 26 1 mile loops! I sure would appreciate it if you would tell a friend to read this blog or Like/Share my updates on Facebook (Eternal Endurance) and Twitter (EternalEnduranc). Goodnight!