Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Trap of Being Busy

Photo by Howie Stern at the Bigfoot 120mi/100k in October

I hate to admit it but I have fallen into that trap of being too busy this year and one of my favorite things, writing, has fallen by the wayside. So I wanted to write a few updates here and promise to myself to find more time to write about running and running culture in the coming months. I have some articles I have been pondering in my head and I am excited to share them with you. For now, Here's some updates from the year:

  • I successfully directed 15 races this year, just 2 more to go, with three of those being over 100mi (two 200 milers and one 120mile/100k). 
  • I've created a brand new 200 this fall that will (hopefully) be permitted for next year (2017), the Moab 200 Endurance Run. It will be organized in memory of Stephen Jones who came up with much of the route. The race will be in a similar format to my other 200s: non-repetitive course, just one single loop from Moab south through the red rock canyons to the Abajo Mountains and north through the La Sal Mountains to finish in Moab, UT. To understate how much work this is to organize, I'll just say I have in fact been busy!
  • I raced two 100 mile races, HURT 100 in January (2nd place finish) and Tahoe Rim Trail 100 in July (slowest finish ever in a 100, but I finished!). 
  • I moved to Lake Tahoe (my dream for a while) in February for a year and have been traveling almost constantly to organize events.  I estimate I've only been home 40% of the year. Each 200 I organize takes about 1 month on site to organize. They are a huge, massive time, energy, and monetary investment. 
  • I hired a videographer for my 200s this year, Derrick Lytle, and he has made a few promos for the Bigfoot 200 and Tahoe 200 and is working on a documentary that follows three runners as they tackle the 200s. Can't wait to see what he comes up with! Check out the promos below the post so learn a bit more about the races.
  • I began cross country and back country skiing in March and I'm totally hooked! Now I travel with my skis, just in case I find some snow. 
  • My race organizing business grew by about 10-20% overall, but doubled for the 200s. Pretty excited about that but looking forward to a simpler time with fewer responsibilities so I can play more.
  • This was the year I added another best friend to my life, Hank the unusual chihuahua. Hank is such a blessing... as are all best friends. He fills an emotional void that only a special friend can fill. I still have the lovely River (Husky / German Shepard mix) and she is doing great. Unfortunately I have not been able to travel with her on some trips, but she gets to enjoy staying in Tahoe with her pals Marvin and Garrett while I am gone. Hoping to upgrade vehicles so I can fit River in my vehicle comfortably in the coming year.
  • Speaking of which, I plan to get a Sprinter Van for next year so I can travel with a bit more gear and space. My Honda Element (Hotelement) is just a bit small for 2 dogs, my gear, and myself. Plus if I'm traveling 60% of the year I might as well get a bigger rig. 
Road trippin'
That's it for now... stay tuned for some articles in the coming weeks and months as I plan to invest more time in my writing and I hope you enjoy it! For now, here's a few ways to follow my adventures:

Bigfoot 200 Endurance Run

Tahoe 200 Endurance Run

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Limitus and Other Ridiculous Concepts plus Why Breathing is Sort of Important

Organizing the inaugural Bigfoot 200 in 2015. You don't know stress until you
babysit a hundred f@cking runners for 4 days. Photo by Howie Stern
There's a reason they call my foot condition "Hallus Limitus." I'd like to start out by pointing out that the word "condition" has the word "con" in it. Just sayin. I guess I should back up. I've been pining for a real doctor diagnosis on my foot for at least 2.5 years. Before folks were required to have health insurance, lest they be fined into the system, I didn't have insurance. I honestly didn't think I could afford it at that time nor did I think I needed it, but I had this nagging and increasingly intense pain in my right foot, just under the big toe that was very sharp, deep, and gnawing. The pain felt as though someone was drilling into the very middle of the joint. The sharp and gnawing pain would last a few seconds to half a minute in some very severe cases (when I was deep into running a 200 miler last summer). After a DNF at that 200 miler (mile 175-ish) my foot was excruciating, which is saying something because I tend to ignore and downplay most pain. My foot was twice its normal size, throbbing, and it was hard to walk on. So naturally I thought I had a stress fracture or that I was going to drop dead. One or the other.

Relaxing in Tahoe this summer
One x-ray and a few doc appointments later, I was told there was no stress fracture and no arthritis. So what the hell was going on in that toe? I recovered, moved on... I thought. Yet whenever my mileage went over 70 mpw (miles per week) the pain would become increasingly intense, both during rest and running. Fast forward to two weeks ago, I now have health insurance, a foot doctor and a real live appointment with the doc. Another x-ray and lots of prodding later, I was told "Hallux Limitus." Ok, so what exactly is that? Hallux stands for big toe, and Limitus - the increasing lack of motion in the big toe:

Hallux rigidus is considered by many podiatrists to be the end stage of hallux limitus, or a state in which your ability to create motion in your big toe is lost or severely restricted. Hallux rigidus may lead to long-term damage of your first MTP joint, and it usually involves erosion of your joint cartilage and the development of osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease. Hallux rigidus is a condition characterized by near-ankylosis, or a state in which your big toe becomes stiff and immobile due to the partial fusion of your involved bones. ---https://nwfootankle.com/

My doctor measured my toe and metatarsal bone lengths as well as the cartilage and determined that due to genetic foot bone lengths and my ultra running, this condition has developed to the point that its progression is guaranteed to continue. Now that I am aware that the issue is nothing I can just rest and recover from, I am ready to let it go. I guess I'm saying that I will do what I can to slow the progression of the issue but the prognosis is considered self-limiting and there doesn't appear to be a "cure." So I'll just integrate the experience, the pain into my life, as we do with so many painful things in life. I refuse to allow anything to "limitus" me, let alone my toe. I'd rather become friends with it. Friends in pain, and sometimes not in pain.
Biking is cool too. I've recently gotten deep into Mountain Biking. LOVE IT! Working on getting air lately. 
Did I tell you I've been unable to breathe properly as well? Might as well throw that bombshell in too. I have always struggled with bronchitis type conditions, severe pneumonia as a child where I was coughing blood, and more recently, a diagnosis of exercise induced asthma. Rather than go in depth into the process I struggled through to determine this recently, I'd rather talk about how I feel that racing hard 100s and other ultra runs has severely stressed my lungs. I think we all are predisposed to different issues. We tend to hold stress somewhere, for me it has been in my lungs. In Chinese medicine, the lungs represent grief. I think that this combination of grief from recent life experiences and stress from extreme long distance running has damaged my body's ability to deal with lung based stress, hence the asthma conditions, which can be so bad some days that it's hard to walk up my stairs from the 1st floor to the 2nd floor.

Before you even think to feel sorry for me: know that I really just want to explore my experiences in writing, and with my readers, but do not think for a second I won't kick your ass in my next race, if given the chance. I'm healing, taking time for exploring natural therapies as well as Western medical practices to get all these issues under control. I think that because it's very difficult for me to be vulnerable AND feel vulnerable I have been silent on these issues. I've only shared them with a few people. Now, I'm ready to write about them, to conquer them, to continue my path toward creating some of the most epic trail running events ever... Promise...and to running my strongest races yet.
Training a week ago on the Tahoe Rim Trail, 50 mile day despite breathing issues.
If you don't believe it, then I'll just have to show you how it's done. In the meantime, enjoy some 200 mile porn. My 200s and my 8 other events have been keeping me busy, full time. Especially this time of year with Bigfoot 200 just one month away and Tahoe 200 two months away!! So excited honestly, we have some amazing runners and we are filming a documentary about them this year. Sometimes, running isn't about "me" but even better, it's about leaving a legacy, I hope. One that pushes people beyond what they think is possible until they realize their true infinite capabilities. I'm not just talking about elite runners here, I mean to show the couch potato, the average runner that even they can inspire themselves, and thus the world. 200s are conquered by the mind first, the body second.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The New 200+ Races: What's on the Horizon for 2017

I'm ready to reveal a few events that I have been working on, if not directly (I'm not in the field fastpacking until next week), then by envisioning how I can clone myself into another 4 race directors. Jokes aside, I have decided to add not one, but two 200 mile race in 2017. Before you get all excited and shit, keep in mind that these will be very, very different beasts than the 200s I currently organize. And they'd have to be for me to be able to do an entire grand slam in one year. They will be harder, but cheaper. They will not be for beginners, but beginners with the right motivation will be able to tackle them (maybe).

New Races for 2017, pending permits:

Arizona 250 mile - June 2017
Stephen Jones' Moab 200 - July 2017

In addition, we will include in the new Grand Slam, our current races:
Bigfoot 200 - August
Tahoe 200 - September

So what makes the new 200s so different? 
  • Whereas my current 200s have major aid stations every 6 - 22 miles, these 200s will only have drop bag locations every 10 - 30 miles, water only aid stations as needed and major aid every 50 - 60 miles. 
  • You will be required to navigate without course markings. We will give every participant a map of the course and you will have access to GPS data (GPS devices will be allowed). 
  • We will not have medical or major communications teams. We will track runners for safety purposes only. 
  • Fewer participants will be allowed (around 60-100 total per 200)
Those are the differences, but they are very major. Those differences will allow us to organize the two new 200s with a minimum of work. Permits, websites, planning, employee costs will still be high for us, but with just 4-5 major aid stations we will be able to offer the races at a fraction of the cost. 

So what exactly will you get for these 200s?
  • You will get a 200+ mile stunning course that is mapped out and planned for you. It's like getting the cliff notes to a bad ass book, doesn't hurt to have the notes, but you're gonna wanna read that mother fucker. 
  • You'll still get some babysitting in terms of having your gear dropped (and picked up) at 10+ locations as well as some sweet aid at 4-5 locations including hot food, warm tents, beer, and shit too. 
  • You'll be running with a group of BAMFs. That should be good for stories around the campfire. 
  • Enhance or Worsen your current relationship with your partner/crew/friends/lover
  • We'll have the usual Destination Trail post race party awesomeness including awards, buckles, fires, beer, food, and friends with guest appearances by a live band and a real finish line arch! 
  • Satisfaction
  • Maybe, just maybe you might be able to complete the Grand Slam of 200s. 

Ok, I might be interested. So how do I get in?
  • You must have finished Barkley at least 2x. 
  • You've beaten the Hardrock lottery and gotten into the race more than 3 times but either DNF'd or DNS'd each time you've gotten into this insanely hard-to-get-into-lottery. That may only qualify 2 male individuals in the world. Guess who they are and win automatic (not free) entry! 
  • You are required to have a crew of 10 plus license plates from 49 of the 50 states in the USA. 
  • The race director shall be provided with at least 3 coins of pirate origin
  • Write a 20 page essay about what's wrong with our current political system
  • Did I say you need to send 49 license plates? Make sure at least 1 out of 3 are vanity plates. Points for funny shit. 
  • That's it! 
But seriously, these races are not a joke, only the the so-called entry requirements are. Most likely we will abandon all elitist entry requirements and instead allow any poor soul to fork over a few buckeroos and run the damn thing. 

Stay tuned crazy ones. We got some good stuff brewing over yonder. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

How to Train & Mentally Prepare for a 200 Mile Foot Race

“If we all did the things we are capable of doing, 
we would literally astound ourselves.” — Thomas Alva Edison
Bigfoot 200, 2015, by Howie Stern
200s Are the New 100
I want to start by saying this is meant to be a guide to the types of workouts (both mental and physical) to include in your training for a 200. It is by no means exhaustive and it is purposefully not super detailed. You need to do the hard work (or your coach) to determine what mileage is best for you as well as exactly which workouts to include and which to leave out each week. It's an art and it's also intuitive. Trust your body, your intuition and your innate ability to be a runner.

As much as running 200 miles may blow your mind, it's really not as crazy or extreme as you think. In fact, it's attainable even for those who have completed a small fraction of the distance. Take Ken Dam's story. Ken helped at the inaugural Tahoe 200 in 2014. Shortly after the race he got very sick and had to have a large portion of his intestines taken out. Even by early 2015 he was still recovering from surgery he had to have in December. Even though the longest run he had ever completed was just 35 miles (pacing for the Bigfoot 200) and he barely just recovered from major surgery, he decided to run the 2015 Tahoe 200. Then this happened, amazingly:
As race director for the Tahoe 200 & Bigfoot 200 as well as someone who runs and fastpacks long distances, I've wanted to write a post on how to train for this new thing we call "2's" or 200 milers. As many of you have noticed, since the explosive introduction of the Tahoe 200 in late 2013 (we had almost 200 lottery applicants for 90 spots that first year!) 200s have been popping up everywhere. 200s had been around before the Tahoe 200, they just hadn't really gotten much media attention. The Tahoe 200 in its introduction in 2013/2014 seemed to inspire many runners to attempt (or bucket list) the distance with it's non-repetitive, adventurous route in a stunning and iconic location.

Without further ado, here are some of the training guidelines that will help any runner complete this massive, but life changing distance as well as some essential gear suggestions and resources for further study.
Skyler Mills, training smart for upcoming Tahoe 200
during his crew/pacing duties at Bigfoot 200 (Aug 2015). Photo by Howie Stern
Train Smart, Not Necessarily More
What I mean here is that there is a limit to how much the human body can handle before it begins to break down MORE than it can build up. This is likely one of the most important lessons that you don't want to learn the hard way. It's good news for most of us because we don't have much time for training in the day between family obligations, work, and other activities we enjoy. Also consider counting your training in hours not miles because hours levels the playing field between slower and faster runners. If a slow runner is trying to do 100 miles a week, it may take them 25-30hrs a week while a faster runner may accomplish that in 15 hours. The following also influences how fast/far you can run in training per week: altitude, whether you are on trail or on roads, flat vs. hilly routes, technicality of routes... not to mention your personal life.

Each person has their own mileage/ "time devoted to training" limit, but for most humans it seems like keeping the mileage under 100 miles a week is a good idea, at least for most weeks. You're going to want to have some high mileage / lots of time on your feet training weeks to do your best, but what is considered "high" will depend on your overall training and the time you have to devote to it. You're going to have to find your own sweet spot. For some it's 40-60 miles a week with cross training, for others it's 70-90, and for fewer it's 90+. Those who do 50 miles a week aren't necessarily any less fit for a 200 - especially if they include the following guidelines in their training. So do what works for you and train smart by getting in the Back to back long runs, fastpacking, and other race specific training runs.

Go Fastpacking
In case you don't know what fastpacking is, it's like backpacking but going more minimal and running when you can. Usually it's a mix or running and hiking over several days with a heavier pack than you'd use for a race or one-day excursion. I love using fastpacking for training for tough 100s and 200s. Here's why: it toughens your body up by carrying a heavier pack and it gives you invaluable feedback on what gear will/won't work for your 200 mile race. It also strengthens your hiking muscles and increases your endurance more than any 1 day run could. Mentally, fastpacking mimics a 200 miler and will make you tougher as you run/hike through the night, or if you're camping out at night, it will get you used to sleeping with less comfortable gear. After all, you're traveling light, so no kitchen sink allowed.

To create a good fastpacking adventure for training, choose a route that is 75-200 miles, go for less mileage if you haven't done much fastpacking as it is a learned skill. I recommend getting the route you want to do on a GPS device and carrying all the essentials you may need for safety. I don't personally bring a camp stove or sleeping pad (unless it's going to be cold), but I always bring lots of food, GPS, maps, extra batteries, at least 2 headlamps, rain jacket, rain pants (even if it isn't supposed to rain), and extra clothing in case of emergency. I may need to do another post just on how to fastpack, it's such an important skill.  Try to fit in 1-4 fastpacking excursions before your big event. Fastpacking usually lasts 2-4 continuous days, and can be done over a weekend. It's up to you! Channel your inner race director and create a route!
Fastpacking on the Bigfoot 200 course
LSD is Your Best Friend
Not the drug silly, but rather Long, Slow Distance runs (although to each their own...). Try to fit in a long run of 15-50 miles every 1-2 weeks. I say 15-50 because I know that it doesn't always work to get in a 50 miler or even 30 miler, and honestly you really don't need to. Some weeks you may get in a day with 15 miles (try to back it up with a 10 or 15 miler the next day if possible) and some weeks you may race a 50 miler. Both are good because you need the experience of time on your feet (25-50 mile runs/races are perfect for this) but you need lighter weeks just as much for rest and recovery. Remember, it's about training smart and rest is smart!
Photo by Scott Rokis, Tahoe 200, 2014
Race Long Ultras
Of course you can do all your training without racing, but I think races offer invaluable information on how your gear works as well as give you the opportunity to push harder than you would in a training run. They also give you a mental edge, it takes a lot to put yourself and your training out there! I don't recommend doing a 100 miler within a month of your 200 because I don't think that it gives you enough rest, UNLESS you take it easy. Keep yourself from pushing hard and then it may be ok for the more experienced ultra runners. The race should feel super easy and relaxed and if you feel any injuries then I recommend dropping out. I'd like to add that some people who run 200s do a lot of races--all the time--and I think because of this their bodies can handle the stress, but most runners are not able to handle the stress of lots of racing. It also comes down to differences in body types and training. If you get injured easily, a lot of racing is probably a bad idea. Racing recommendations: 1x month to 1x every 2 to 3 months, depending on the distance you want to race, how hard you race, your experience level in ultras and your ability to handle mileage.

Back-To-Back Long Runs
Running two or three long runs in a row is an excellent way of training for 200s without putting as much stress on your body as doing one really long run would. This could mean 15mi-15mi-15mi back to back runs or maybe 25mi-25mi or 20-15-10, really whatever works for your schedule. These runs will serve to toughen up your legs, enhance your endurance, and teach you to mentally accept and even enjoy going out day after day on runs. Do 1x a month or 1x every 2 months. Those who can handle higher mileage may do it more often. 

Do Race-Specific Training Runs
This concept is key to racing well in any event. What I mean by train race specific is choose training runs that will mimic the terrain, technicality, elevation gains and losses, altitude (if possible), weather and other conditions and mental challenges you will face during your 200 miler. Some of this you will not know until race day, but get as much information about the route that you can from previous year's finishers, runner's manuals, and race reports. The workouts outlined in this article will help you prepare for a tough 200 miler, but there will be specifics about your race that you will want to learn in advance.
Is your race exposed terrain? In a hot climate location? Cold? Will it be technical or smooth?
Is it hilly or flat? Photo by Scott Rokis, Tahoe 200, 2014.  
Cross Training
For me cross training has always been key to succeeding in ultras because I have many outdoor passions and I tend to burn out when I maintain higher mileage for long periods of time. Plus I love yoga and would never want to give it up for achieving super high running mileage. I also feel that 200s are so much more strength based than other race distances and so cross training that works your entire body is key to dealing with the fatigue that you will feel after that first 100 miles. The stronger your body is overall the easier it will be to keep moving for up to 4 days! Jim Trout, winner of the 2015 Tahoe 200 echoes these sentiments as well as doing the cross training that works best for you, individually:

"I did LOTS of cross-training: mt. biking, adventure racing, hiking, kayaking, bicycle commuting 6 miles every day, frisbee with the kids, etc. Tried some Yoga for a few weeks, then just wanted to get outside...Over the years I've tried to follow plans and day-to-day schedules but I never have lived up to them and consequently feel disappointed with myself. Working errands into runs helped me scrape every last minute I had to spare with getting out the hokas. "I'll meet you at the grocery store" or "I'll run back home from my parents house" became common requests." 

I highly, highly recommend the following sports based on my own success with the following modalities: yoga, cycling, weight lifting, swimming, backcountry skiing, bodyweight exercises, anything core based, and even crossfit-type workouts (don't overdue it though!). Really whatever you love to do. Don't do it if you don't love it, after all there are just too many fun things to do to waste your time on things you don't enjoy. Key with successful cross training is to do it regularly. A daily or weekly strength routine is a really good idea. Try my 200/100 workout to get in killer shape! Do cross training 1x a day to 1x week, depending on the cross training and your schedule. Easy days can be cross training days, just make sure to take it easy! 
I'd recommend regular yoga, cycling, and strength training as my top 3 cross training suggestions.
I personally prefer power vinyasa yoga. Yoga will keep you flexible while making you very strong from the core outward.  
Include Long Hill Repeats, Hill Workouts, & Hilly Long Runs
Hill workouts of any type will make you a stronger runner. Hills are the strength training of the running world. Try this workout for more endurance-based strength work: Steep Uphill Continuous Run. Also consider adding some shorter hill repeats, like 1/4mi uphill (80% intensity) with 1/4 mile easy/rest. Begin with fewer reps (4-6 reps) and work up to more reps (6-15 reps). Another good hill workout is to choose a hilly route for your long run. A hilly long run is a relatively easy way to get in the benefits of a hill workout without psyching yourself out, and a great way to mix it up. Hill workouts will make you mentally and physically tough. They are the bread and butter of any runner's weekly workouts. Do a hill based workout at least 1x week. If you live in the flatlands, find stairs or revert to the dreaded treadmill. Whatever it takes!

Train Regularly with Your Gear and Nutrition
You need to have all systems dialed for a 200 miler and training with the gear and nutrition will help you determine what you want to use during the race including what works and what doesn't. I really believe in the saying, "Don't use anything new race day", although there are always exceptions and I have broken this rule many a times! Ideally you will have a good idea of what works for you on your longer runs through regular and methodical practice. Don't wait until a month before the race to think about what gear & food you might need. Keep in mind that nutrition wise during a 200 you will likely eat a lot more real food than in any other race of shorter distance. I've noticed that the body just needs more nutritious foods after 100 miles and because 200 mile pace is slower you can also digest more substantive foods. Do a gear/nutrition workout at least 1x week. That means take everything you plan to use for your 200 on a long run. This will prepare your body for the added pack weight and give you a chance to practice for your big day. 
Kerry Ward enjoys the tough volcano rock sections during the Bigfoot 200, photo by Howie Stern, 2015.
Train Like You're Focusing on a Tough 100 Miler
I love this idea because honestly if you think about training for 200 miles you are likely to overdue it or give up. Anyone who is well trained for a 100 will be ready for a 200 as long as they maintain confidence and mental toughness. On forums on Facebook the following point came up regularly: Kent Dozier (aka Bull Dozier) wrote that, "Just train like a 100 but make the long runs a little longer. Make sure to train for hiking up long hills. I like Victor's recommendation of doing 25 miles every other day for 2 weeks, about 3-4 weeks out from the race." 

Make Hiking Part of Your Training
Let's face it, even the front runners are going to be hiking a lot in a 200 miler. If you only train running then your legs will actually get sore from hiking so much! Make sure to include training runs that are "hiking heavy" like fastpacking, long runs with lots of steep hills, and one of my personal favorites:

Find a long, steep hill that's 1/2mile- 3miles long. Generally it's best if it climbs 600-1300ft per mile (the more the better) Do repeats on this hill by hiking at 80% max on the uphill and jogging easy on the downhill for recovery repeat 2-4x. 

If a 100 miler is 80% mental, a 200 is 99% Mental
Don't forget that so much of racing and training comes down to your attitude and how much you fucking want IT. Don't allow yourself to blame anyone or thing. Don't fall trap to the existential crisis of making the adventure meaningless. Take responsibility for your journey, your emotions, your physical state and everything that comes your way. A strong, positive mental state will carry you though almost anything. I love the quote,

  "Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal. " --Henry Ford 

Use your training runs, cross training, challenges in life, and remind yourself of all that you have sacrificed to get to where you are on race day. These things will remind you that you can get through anything. A 200 is nothing compared to what you have been through in your life to date, I'm sure of this. Remember too that finishing the 200 will give you courage to face other challenges in your life. It will break you apart and help you rebuild stronger.

Rest Like a Champ
Get lots of sleep, taper, and keep all races easy in that last month of preparation for a 200 miler. In other words, treat your recovery like it's just as important as your training. Some would argue that a taper is not necessary, but I'm not of that camp. I feel that a taper is important. Start about a month before the race. At this point you will still want to be running long runs but don't run yourself into the ground intensity wise. Gradually taper your mileage so that you feel rested before your big event. I think it's worth saying that some people do not seem to need a taper. If you know yourself well then you will know what to do that last month before the race. If you're not sure then it's probably not worth pushing really hard that last month only to enter the race fatigued. The final 2 weeks before the race will be an important time to get extra rest at night. Sleep deprivation can be tough on even the most rested! Rest and caring for one's self can also come in the form of getting regular massage, physical therapy, and other healing modalities.
A runner grabs some sleep during the Bigfoot 200, Photo by Howie Stern, 2015
Just because 200 miles is likely 2x (or longer!) than you've ever run doesn't mean you should freak out and overtrain or make yourself miserable worrying about this and that. Truth is you could probably cover the distance tomorrow if you wanted to. Generally cut offs are generous enough to allow for plenty of hiking. Plus, it's supposed to be fun! One step at a time! You got this. It's going to be a spectacular journey, stay positive. To become better at relaxing, try meditating every day. I love the following quote to remind me of these facts:
“The true miracle is not walking on water or walking in air, but simply walking on this earth.”― Thích Nhất Hạnh 
Start of the Tahoe 200 by Scott Rokis, 2014.
Training That is Totally Unnecessary for 200s 
But if you enjoy any of the following workouts go ahead and do them, just don't get injured! Remember that everyone is an individual and enjoys certain workouts so just because it's on this list doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. You probably just don't need to do it. 
  • Track workouts
  • Speed Workouts
  • High Intensity Workouts: for cross training it can be helpful, but for running it can just get you injured
  • High Mileage (over 90 miles a week)
  • Lots of 100 mile races: works for some, but not necessary

Gear that 200 Mile Graduates Just Won't Go Without
I asked my 200 mile finishers what gear they thought was essential for running a 200 miler and here's what they said, keep in mind as Will Fortin stated on our Facebook forum, "I really don't think it is gear that makes a successful 200," but I think we would all agree it can help!
  • First off check out Kerry Ward's video: How to Pack for an Ultramarathon (in this case for the Bigfoot 200). I think you can go lighter than he did, but it's a helpful video. 
  • Hiking Poles: Go with carbon fiber if you can afford it. You can get cheaper poles, but the carbon ones are oh-so-wonderfully light! The overall favorite seems to be the Black Diamond Carbon Fiber Z Poles. Be sure to check with your race of choice to see if they are allowed (they are allowed at Bigfoot 200 & Tahoe 200).
  • Comfortable Pack with lots of front storage. I prefer (and am sponsored by) Ultimate Direction. I love their packs and not just because they give me their awesome gear, but because I chose them. Back in 2012 when I ran for a competing company, I realized I just couldn't ever again run for a company just because they agreed to pay me and give me free gear. I had to love their product, so I messaged some of the folks at UD and said that I wanted to run for them because their products were so cutting edge, light, and well IMHO they were and are the best. Check out the UD Fastpack 20 (most space, you'll never be cramming stuff in), the PB Vest (lots of space), and the Ultra Vesta (less space but good for those who have everything dialed and like going light). 
  • Lightweight Jacket at all times, see "Rain Gear". Save space by getting an ultralight rain jacket, but keep in mind that the lighter the jacket the less likely it is to be waterproof. Ultimate Direction had a great new lightweight rain jacket!
  • High Quality Headlamp, and an extra headlamp in case one dies. Yes, sometimes headlamps inexplicably stop working. Have extras. My favorite? Petzl Nao. Get extra rechargeable batteries! I also use regular headlamp around my waist.
  • Water Purification Method: you won't need this for multi loop urban courses, but for mountain 200s you will want a way to filter water since some aid stations are spaced far apart. I personally like the Sawyer Filter or SteriPen. 
  • Changes of Clothing & Shoes: Especially shoes and socks. Many runners find that their feet swell up so having larger sized shoes for the latter stages of a 200 is a good idea. Ask the RD where water crossings are and try to place extra shoes in drop bags after these sections. Some races have so many water crossings that this is sort of pointless. For the Bigfoot & Tahoe races you can get around just about every water crossing without getting wet unless it's a high snow year. 
  • Plenty of Extra Food: It's going to start taking you longer to get from aid station to aid station in the latter stages of a 200, plus at 200 mile pace you should be able to eat more real food! Check with the race to see what will be at aid stations. Always care "emergency calories" in case you get lost, injured or if a section takes longer than expected. 
  • Foot Care: When runners have medical problems it's 90% of the time foot/ankle issues. Learn how to deal with blisters, foot chaffing, ankle sprains and more. Consider using gaiters even if you've never used them before. they will keep the micro sand, dirt, and pebbles out of your shoes, the first step toward keeping your feet free from problems. Some use duct tape to cover blisters (use a bandage over it first, others use moleskin or KT tape/sports tape/Leukotape. Covering blister-prone areas of your feet is great insurance before you even set off on the trail. Read Fixing Your Feet., you can purchase it here.  It's the best damn book on the subject and far too many people quit ultras each year because of preventable and fixable issues with their feet. 
  • Anti-chaffing product: You're going to want something to put in those chaffing prone areas before you even set out on the trail. I really like 2Toms, but there are lots of great products out there to choose from. I've heard great things about RunGoo and Trail Toes.
  • Change of Clothing in Drop Bags: You're gonna need to freshen up, let's face it. It's 200 freaking badass stinky, sweaty fun miles. Put socks in all drop bags. Non- negotiable. 
  • Socks: As mentioned above, put a fresh pair of socks in every drop bag. It feels amazing on tired feet to have new socks. On that note, I know that Paul Romero (2nd overall Tahoe 200, 2015) ran with NO socks! But for most of us that just isn't gonna happen. A lot of 200 mile runners prefer injinji socks. They are the "toe" socks you have seen. I love them because regular socks can get a bit tighter and more constrictive after washing and injinji socks will keep all your toes separated which cuts back on chaffing and keeps your toes cooler in hot weather. 
  • Rain Gear: This is a important safety consideration. Have a lightweight waterproof jacket at all times. Consider having lightweight waterproof pants as well. 
  • Warm clothes for sleep stations. I actually always carry a light down jacket at all times. I'd rather carry that little bit of extra weight than freeze on the trail. Think: gloves, hat/buff, puffy jacket, pants (wool, synthetic).
  • GPS & Maps: A lot of runners really liked using the Gaia app on their phones, it was minimal cost and can be used while phone is on battery saving airplane mode. If you have more money to invest consider getting a higher powered device that runs off of batteries. I mapped all the courses with a Garmin 64st. There are better and flashier models now - so go to your local retailer and check them out if you can invest several hundred dollars. Always, I repeat ALWAYS carry a hard copy map for mountain 100s.
  • Ziplock Baggies: I love this one because it's totally how I keep my stuff dry and separated inside my pack. Put extra in drop bags. use gallon size for clothing. 
  • Ability to Carry Water: Depends on the race, but for hotter races with long stretches between aid make sure you have high capacity bladder and/or bottles. 
  • Cheat Sheet: List of aid stations, mileages, and possibly the race profile
  • Sunscreen/chapstick: if I don't want to carry a lot of sunscreen I put it in a ziplock. Works pretty well. Double ziplock for added security
  • Buff: Can work as a hat, scarf, sweat wicker (on wrist) and more! 
  • Pills: A lot of runners stated that they used salt caps. I don't use them personally, but you might find them and other pills like TUMS, caffeine etc, are helpful, just be cautious when using anything as some medications can be dangerous when doing endurance events. 

Gaiters are highly recommended!
200 Mile Resources
Bigfoot 200 Facebook Forum Ask questions and learn about other's training & more!
Tahoe 200 Facebook Forum Ask questions and learn about other's training & more!
Why 200 Mile Athletes Do Not Quit
Kerry Ward's video: How to Pack for an Ultramarathon (Here he shows what he packed for the Bigfoot 200)
Run 200s: Dustin Smith, finisher of the Triple Crown of 2's last year goes in depth on lists of 200s, foot care, training, and other essential info
How to Win Two 200 Mile Races with Gia Madole- podcast
Tahoe 200 - But What If I Can?- podcast
Talk Ultra Episode 104 Talk Ultra and I discuss the appeal of 200s, podcast
How to be Tough as Nails Mentally for Your 100 Miler
Weekly Workout Challenges

Get Inspired 
Race Trailer for Bigfoot 200
Race Trailer for Tahoe 200
Bigfoot 200: Toughest Ultra in USA?
Tahoe 200 by Kerry Ward
Tattoo Tom Runs 200 Miles For 200 Children with Childhood Cancer
200 Mile Races with Victor Ballesteros, Journey Film
Tahoe 200 course: one single loop around iconic Lake Tahoe! 
Nighttime can be some of the most peaceful and beautiful moments, especially in
Tahoe where you're likely to enjoy beautiful clear starry nights! Photo by Scott Rokis, 2014

Good luck training!
Please add any training suggestions, inspirational articles/posts, essential gear you may have in the comment section!

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Knowing you're at a cross roads without getting TOO lost...

It should be obvious, however sometimes, or I should say often times, I am a bit dense when it comes to realizing I'm in place that requires a major change in my perspective. I'd say I have to deal with this minor, becoming major inconvenience of CHANGE every year or TWO. In fact, in the past, changes in the personal perspective department have required the following: breakups, hospital visits, injuries, births of children and other massive life earthquakes. But why not allow thigh cramps, IPA indulgences, or Bernie winning Wisconsin determine timing for leaving social media and pursuing life!

I've always felt like many missed out on blogging or real writing (which blogging can only claim but not own) by posting all that shit on Facebook is just downright stupid (sorry I love you but c'mon!!!). If you're gonna write about it, just fucking write about it. Like, seriously dude. WRITE. Write like you're in a drug fueled Tom Wolfe rage or Hunter S. Thompson freaking monologue. Or write about it somewhere anywhere but facebook. Or twitter (is it possible to write on twitter?).

On moving forward, I say, you are probably a runner and good on you but I think that we need to analyze that statement. And our intentions. Let's actually simplify by making some social media rules that would make me feel like it's not a freaking hell of self indulgent running:

RULES, beginning as one might expect with #2. Yes, I said #2:

2. You're so awesome to be sponsored! Oh you're so great.... but we don't need to hear about it everyfreakingdayc'mon. Seriously, you could be the best in the world and if you keep posting selfies of you and your greatest love-bomb partner/sponsor we are going to start hating you one post at a time until we have to cover our eyes to the blinding obnoxious promotion. Ok, we understand... I UNDERSTAND that we make a living off of partnerships, well some of us, and I do admittably. But I don't plan to rub that in your 9-5 ass. Got it? Get it? Good! Pass on to those that don't #ambassadorks

1. Back to #1 --- YO. That's you baybay! It's simple, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all. I just said this to my 11 and 8yr olds and they admitted "that's what grandma says" and they stopped being rude to each other, it was amazing honestly. Listen to your G-Ma! As long as she isn't a bigot.

3. If you're a woman expect people to friend you just because they are interested in you romantically and expect to loose those people if you get in a relationship. Not that those people would ever do anything to actually connect with you in person, but they expect you to be single to give you their praise. Forget about them. You are important, man or woman, regardless of your sexual appeal and/or sexuality. At least you are on this freaking #rainbowblog.

4. Facebook is the media giant. Twitter is about simplicity and being funny but concise. If you are a talker you won't get twitter. Just stay away. The other programs are on their way, try them and let me know what you think. If you Linktn (linkten? linktin? Not sure how it's spelled???) me, just know that I don't really do anything there, ie: I probably won't accept your anything and it's not because you're not awesome but rather it's because we all only have so much time for the computer and I'm sure as hell not going to be there!

5. Consider "unfollowing" vs. "unfriending" unless you really really want to cut ties 'cause that kind of social media breakup is major and they will probably find out. Sooooo .... yeah....

6. Social media isn't about making YOU feel better. It's about making "them" feel included and cared about. Well, that is if you care about anyone other than yourself. I would suggest y'all at least make it feel like you do.

7. Back to #ambassadorks: ok here's the thing, you are the only one who cares who gives you free shit so think of a cool way to include your free shit sponsors without killing our running highs. Thank you in advance for not posting you biting metals/gels/bars or posting solely about a company who pays you money to post. Zzzzzzzz We won't buy it ever. So stop now.

8. I was napping did I miss something? Oh yeah! Remember that life is more important that anything online. Make a priority of being a real in-person human!

9. Read 0-8.

10. Read 0-9.

11. That's it! Cheers! Love and hearts and emojis and shit. Shit too yeah! XO

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Thursday, March 10, 2016

2016 HURT 100 Race Recap

HURT 100 Endurance Run 
Photo by Pascal Kalani
The HURT 100 in Hawaii is a 100 mile race considered to be one of the toughest and certainly one of the most technical in the USA with heat, intense humidity, endless roots, scaling slippery rocks, steep climbs and descents that sometimes require use of ropes. It is as mentally tough as it is physically strenuous and is set up as five 20 mile "loops", the loops having several out and backs to the aid stations. In the two months leading up to HURT I did a daily routine of body weight strength exercises and yoga but was unable to get my milage over 30-40 miles a week, unusually low for me. Because of this, I decided my race strategy would be to start conservatively and pick off runners throughout the day and the long 14 hr night in the jungle.

I was experienced enough at this race (it was my fourth time running it) to know that most runners would go out hard for the first couple of 20 mile loops and then slow down drastically. By the end of the first loop I was somewhere in 6th place for the women. On the second loop, between mile 20-28, the magic of having patience and pacing myself catapulted me into 2nd place as I passed four women by running almost the same pace as I had for the first loop. I used my experience breathing through strenuous yoga poses to stay confident, keep my heart rate low and maintain a calm and strong energy. I held onto 2nd place for the rest of the race drawing my lead to over an hour ahead of 3rd place to finish this year's HURT 100. Even more satisfying than a finish was receiving a Hawaiian Ultra Running Team Shirt at the award ceremony, an honor bestowed upon only a few out of state runners each year and reminding me that the supportive and inclusive community is why I run ultra marathons.

I'd like to thank Ultimate Direction and Altra Running from their support. I used the Ultimate Direction groove series new waist packs with the body bottles and the Altra Superior 2.0 and Altra Lone Peak 2.5 for the race.
Top 3 men and women at HURT 100, 2016. Photo by George Plomarity

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

RIP Stephen Jones, Adventurer & Pioneer of 200s

Steve finishing the 2015 Tahoe 200, Credit: Howie Stern
I knew Stephen from being an entrant and finisher in my 200 mile races. Through those races, I got to know him very well. Stephen was the type of person who would tell you his opinion straight up, no sugar coating, which I love because that's how I am too. He loved to make new friends and share his passion for the trails. Right away when I unveiled the first single loop 200, the Tahoe 200, Stephen came on my radar. He was excited about the race and he let me know through messages and social media comments. I was, at the time, a relatively unknown race director and organizing a race of this magnitude was unheard of. "Who was this girl who thought she could put on a 200 mile race? She hasn't even organized a 100!" Was a common sentiment from the ultra running community and naysayers. And to some degree they were right to question my abilities, I would have done the same.
Me greeting Stephen at the finish of the 2015 Bigfoot 200, photo: Adrienne Binh
Those sentiments were common at that time, but despite my lack of credentials, we had a full race that first year. The race went off without any major hitches and we received lots of positive accolades. Throughout the entire year, Stephen was a supporter of the race. After the race, I remember thanking Stephen for his support and for believing in the race, in me as a director. Without adventurous runners like him, my dream of a race that would be on trail and would circumnavigate the entirety of Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in the USA, would never have been able to come to fruition. After I thanked him, he said, "I did my research. I saw that you were a good ultra runner, than you had run 100 mile races, had won some and that you had done unsupported long routes in the mountains. I knew that you worked as a race director at the time. Yes, it took some faith but I had a good feeling about it." He told me that he would do any 200 that I organized because he loved the vision, and I sure hope he knew that he was a key part of that vision, and always will be.
Finishing the first Tahoe 200, 2014. Photo: Jerry Gamez
As many of you have heard, Stephen died in an avalanche Sunday, Jan. 31. His death was unexpected, shocking, and devastating to everyone who knew him. Not everyone can make a lasting impact on so many around them but Stephen sure did. I wanted to share some of the stories I have of him, they all involve running 200s, one of his passions. Please consider donating to the memorial fund for Stephen's wife and children. He has young two school age children and although your donation can't take away the immense grief the family is experiencing, it can help ease their transition during this painful time. Donate here

Here are some of my stories, I hope you enjoy them.

Tradition at 200s: Beer for the Race Director, Tahoe 200, 2014
The first year of the Tahoe 200 Mile Endurance Run Stephen had been one of the especially excited runners and a few weeks before the event he commented on our Facebook forum for the race that for good luck the runners should bring me (the race director) a 6-pack of local beer. On race check in day, the day before the runners were to line up to run 200 miles, Stephen came up to me with a 6 pack of beer from Utah. He said it was his good luck offering for the race and insisted that it would bring him, and any other runner that brought me beer, good luck in finishing the race.
It sure seemed to work for him, he finished all 3 of my 200s, the inaugural Tahoe 200 in 2014, the inaugural Bigfoot 200 in 2015 and the 2nd Tahoe 200 in 2015. For each race he made sure the runners knew that they should give me beer for good luck, and the day before the race he presented me with beer from Utah. He knew how much I loved craft beer and I think he knew the management would need it after the event to reduce stress levels. I sure loved getting that free beer and it became a tradition for runners to bring me a six pack pre race, an offering for the hard work I'd put into organizing and a good luck charm. 
New year, new rules. 2015
More Beer Stores - Beer solves hyponatremia - Bigfoot 200, 2015
I was on course during the 2015 Bigfoot 200 checking on the aid stations, it was day 3 of the 4 day race when I saw Stephen coming into an aid station. He was animated and excited to see me and he told me about how on day 2 of the Bigfoot 200 he had suffered with dangerously bad hyponatremia. He didn't know it at the time and he felt so awful that he planned to drop out of the race, something that for him was almost inconceivable so I knew it must have been bad! He came into an aid station where one of our medical workers was on duty from the Ultra Medical Team. As the story goes, he was told to have a beer to treat his symptoms. Lo and behold, that beer completely solved his electrolyte issues and he continued on to finish his second 200 mile race. He was so impressed by how quickly the beer worked that I heard him tell that story about 10 times after the race. Knowing him, he was still telling that story up until his death. He loved to help other runners out.
2015 inaugural Bigfoot 200, about to finish after 90+ hours. Photo: Howie Stern
Mocha time!
At the inaugural Bigfoot 200 I greeted all the runners at the finish line. As Stephen rounded the last turn of the track (runners finished 3/4 mile on a track) you could see a smile on his face, one that mixed all the emotions one feels during a 200 and the sweet relief of being home. We hugged at the finish and he immediately told me that the Bigfoot 200 was by far the most difficult of the 200s and about how glad he was that there was an espresso stand in Randle en route to finishing the race. He had brought cash or a card with him the entire race and that last mile was the only place where he was back in civilization and could actually use the money. He said that mocha got him that last 1 mile to the finish. He was right too, the Bigfoot course is so remote that you don't go by a single home or business until the last 10 miles of the race. 

Why He runs 200s
Lastly, I love this post that Stephen made about why he does 200s. He always planned to run Tahoe 200 every year, said that it was special to him. I believe your first race of a certain distance does hold that mystique: 
"For me, it [the Tahoe 200] wasn't about the suffering, or even the beauty of course, although the course was very beautiful. While it was rewarding to finish something so big, even that feeling of accomplishment was not what made the race so special. It was witnessing the triumphs of other runners.
Like the runner whose heels were raw from blisters at mile 40, who was used to finishing on the podium, refusing to give up and ultimately finishing near the last. Most people would have dropped a 100-miler if their heels looked like that at mile 40. 60 miles is a long way to suffer on raw heels. But ONE HUNDRED and 60 miles. I was in awe and humbled.
Or the runner at mile 153 who said to her pacer, "I'm done. I can't go on. I'm proud of what I've done. I'm proud of the 153 miles I've done, but I can't go on." Normally, I would have told any runner to suck it up, quit whining, and get out and finish it. But not this time. I could feel the emotion in her voice, I knew how she felt, because I was close to feeling the same way, so I left the aid station feeling so sad for her to have come so far. Seeing her come into the next aid station at mile 170 was one of the best moments I've had running.
Yes, you're a participant, but you're also a spectator, and you get to watch it unfold from a perspective that nobody else has."
Earning the finisher buckle, Bigfoot 200. Photo: Jerry Gamez
In moving forward
With the loss of one of Stephen, I've been thinking a lot about how to memorialize his impact on 200s, especially the Tahoe 200, which was near and dear to his heart. I've decided to rename the last aid station at mile 190.6 in his honor. Rideout Aid Station will now be called "Stephen Jones Aid Station". From here, runners will have just 9.4 miles to the finish, and I have a feeling that won't be any ordinary 9.4 miles. We are looking for volunteers for that station, so if you'd like to help, please email us at volunteer@tahoe200.com

Another 200 miler? 
Short answer, yes. Long answer: Stephen dreamed of having a 200 miler in Utah. He believed his state would be able to host the most scenic one of all and he contacted me with a course that he thought was doable. I am looking into the route and its plausibility. 200s are complicated for many reasons and permitting is a big one. For now I plan to research and run the route. I have done the impossible in organizing these races in the months, when it takes others years so I know I can do it. This project is on my front burner and I hope to get started on it this spring. As many of you know, the demand for 2's is still relatively low and the cost of organizing is sky high. We will find a way, we always do! Stay tuned for this one. 

 RIP my friend and fellow adventurer, you are missed

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