Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho – Off to Pokey We Go!

This Friday Peter, Erik, Greg, Christian and Jay venture north for Jared Campbell and Ryan McDermott’s Pocatello 50. We’re excited!

Oddly, it’s quite rare that our schedules and race interests converge and we all end up at an event together.  When that does happen, it creates an opportunity to see an eclectic (and perhaps bizarre) assortment of pre-race routines and rituals. Each of us is competitive, and we want to perform at our best. And in an effort to do so, each of us has developed a pre-race routine that at least in our own minds, will contribute to a good day. Here’s a sample of what will be happening in advance of the 6:00 am start of the Pocatello 50.

Gentleman #1
  •      NEVER eat a pre-race dinner provided by a race
  •      A cup of coffee before bed for a good night’s sleep
  •      White shirt and hat if it is going to be sunny
  •      A light breakfast 90 minutes before the race

Gentleman #2
  •     Clip toe nails while drinking 1 beer
  •     Avoid dairy and acidic foods
  •     Crinkle race number and pin onto shorts before going to bed
  •     Lay out and inventory clothing for race day

Gentleman #3
  •     Poop before the race – low volume meal the night before
  •     Poop before the race – wake up 90-120 minutes before the race
  •     Poop before the race – several cups of coffee immediately after waking up
  •     Poop before the race – make colonic motility a reality through concentration and visualization

Gentleman #4

  •     Eat whatever sounds good for dinner (burger, pasta, curry) – followed by peanut M&M’s  
  •     Adhere Band-Aids on the nips and lubricate the more sensitive areas
  •     ONLY Darn Tough socks for the feet on race day
  •     Look at the race map in advance if there is time and motivation. Otherwise just show up!

Gentleman #5
  •     Don't change anything on race day, that said…
  •     Eat fish and rice the night before a race
  •    Eat a little yogurt and Grapenuts for breakfast + good coffee (espresso shots preferred)
  •     Arrive a few minutes early to see good friends that haven’t been seen since the last race

What pre-race routines, activities or talismans help you run better? Is there a preferred food, a special shirt, a certain song that you feel gives you an edge. For the first person to match the above routines to the correct person (Peter, Erik, Greg, Christian, Jay) – a $20.00 gift certificate to Salt Lake Running.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Ultra Running & Yoga – The Science of Yoga

I’m conflicted as to whether yoga is of benefit to ultra runners. My personal experience based on almost two-years of regular yoga (both Hatha and Bikram) is mixed. When I recently heard an interview with William J. Broad on NPR about his new book, The Science of Yoga; The Risks and Rewards I was intrigued. Might this book provide me with some insight as to my personal observations and experiences?

I first started practicing yoga on a regular basis about two years ago. At the time I had started to take running more seriously and felt that I needed an activity that would help with flexibility, balance and core strength. Yoga seemed to be the perfect answer. I found the first month or so to be very challenging; learning the poses, not having the flexibility to perform many of the poses, and realizing that my core strength was clearly lacking. I suspect I provided great amusement for my classmates as I tried to touch my toes, fell out of poses, and always seemed to be a move or two behind the class. Yes, I was “that guy!”

But, I got better at yoga. And, at the same time my running was improving. While I don’t think there is a strong or direct correlation between yoga and running faster, I do think the yoga was a contributor to my improvement through increasing my flexibility and core strength.

This past December I tried Bikram yoga. Several friends gave Bikram rave reviews and I felt I needed to check it out. I liked the heat and found the poses to be challenging, but with the flexibility and strength I have developed over the past year – doable. I loved the feeling at the end of the practice of being spent, cleansed, and invigorated. Yet, after every practice my hamstrings felt weak and irritated for several days, and I would have various aches and pains in my knees, lower legs and feet. I found running the next day to consistently be a chore – heavy legs, miscellaneous shakes and rattles, and a feeling of being tired. It was during this time of practicing Bikram yoga two to three times per week that my hamstrings became completely fried and I was unable to run for about a month. “Was Bikram yoga hurting my running?” I asked myself. Was Choudhury Bikram’s claim that his yoga “provides optimum health and maximum function” and “you’ll become a superman” false? Was there a role for yoga in my ambitions to become a faster runner?

The Science of Yoga; The Risks and the Rewards answered many of my questions. The book provides an impartial evaluation of yoga through a survey of research conducted over the past 100 years to illustrate what are the potential benefits, as well as identify how yoga can be hurtful.

A key learning for me was that injuries from yoga are much more widespread than probably most people realize. A 2008 study conducted n Europe showed that 62% of regular practitioners of Ashtanga had suffered at least one injury from yoga that had lasted more than a month. Another study indicated that the heat experienced during Bikram increased the risk of overstretching, muscle damage and torn cartilage. It also suggested that ligaments failed to regain their shape once stretched and that loose joints could promote injury.  This exactly described how I felt several days after Bikram; loose joints, lack of spring in my legs, and heavy legs potentially as a result of micro-tearing of muscle.

Other learnings were that yoga provides little cardiovascular benefit. Don’t look to yoga to increase your VO2. In fact, a brisk walk probably provides more benefit. And, regular yoga can result in lowering one’s metabolism. In one study regular yoga cut the basal metabolic rate of subjects by an average of 13%.  Don’t look to yoga for weight loss!

A large body of research indicates that yoga improves self-esteem, provides a sense of well-being, lifts moods, and can help manage depression. The benefits for our minds and spirits are significant. And, a number of studies suggest yoga is good for sex! There seems to be a correlation between yoga and increased testosterone levels in both men and women – with increases as high as 55%. Evidence also suggests that the hyperventilation achieved during fast breathing (Kapalbhati & Bhastrika) promotes arousal. Hmmm!

Each of us is different. And, what works for each of us varies widely. But for me, I’m going to look to yoga to help me with flexibility and core strength – and some serenity along the way.  My plan for the summer is to attend a 1-hour restorative yoga class Wednesday and Friday mornings at my gym. It’s low key, relaxed, and doesn’t have that “push yourself hard” environment found at Bikram. As for Bikram, while I love the intensity of the practice, the hot ladies, and how I feel at the end of the practice – I do believe it is detrimental to my running and has contributed to some of the injuries I have experienced over the past 6 months. No more Bikram for me.

As I continue to evaluate the role of yoga in my life and in my running, I’d be curious as to what other runners have experienced as the risks and rewards of yoga….

Saturday, May 19, 2012

2012 Grandeur Fun Run Results and Report

The Grandeur Fun Run was created by Erik back in 2008 and every year since then he has carefully coordinated the course marking, timing and most importantly the breakfast. So this year when he told us he was going to be out of town on the day of the run we knew we had some big shoes to fill.
Finish Line Fun - Photo Credit: Greg Norrander
Erik still provided all the breakfast necessities and lined up Jay and Peter as co-RD's. Jay also led the course marking along with Ken Jensen and Greg Norrander. Thanks to Tony DeArcos and George Odell for the water at Church Fork. The breakfast specialists this year were the fabulous duo of Marge Norrander and Betsy Johnson who cooked enough pancakes, bacon and sausage to feed 100 hungry runners. Thanks, you two were awesome!
Tom Diegel climbing Bambi hill on his way to victory. Photo Credit: Greg Norrander
Thanks to Suzanne Lewis, David Hayes, Roch Horton, Matt Hart and Chad Brackelsberg for pulling flags, much appreciated.
It seems the only thing we missed this year was summit times, sorry about that.

SPECIAL THANKS to all you fun runners who donated over $700 to the Granite Education Foundation. That's going to buy a lot of books, art supplies, hats, gloves and fleece blankets for children in need.

The run went off without a hitch (that I could see anyway) with a fast group up front. Tom Diegel came in first in a time of 1:44! and took down the course record by a handful of seconds held by Jared Campbell. He was closely followed by Derek Gustafson in 1:45, with Chris Gawley and myself battling for 3rd (Chris got it) in 1:49.
For the women, Meghan Woolley continues to impress with a winning time of 1:52 and new course record taking down Emily Sullivan's 2:06 performance from 2010. Bethany Lewis came in 2nd in 1:59 followed by Liz Gleason in 2:05.

I know many of you ran two loops but we only have times for a few of you. If you did a 2nd loop send your time over along with any name or time corrections to:

More great photos from Greg Norrander: (stay posted for more photos on his site)

Until next year, happy trails...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Grandeur Fun Run - Sat May 19

Join fellow train enthusiasts for the annual spring Grandeur Fun Run this Saturday, May 19th at 7:00 am. Information on the course, parking and festivities can be found at

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Zion 100 Race Report

I have a love for Zion National Park and the region that surrounds it. I’m lucky in that I get to travel to this area every couple of months for work.  Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of running the Zion traverse several times and much of the trail system between the Park and Hurricane. When I heard Matt Gunn was planning an ultra in the area – I was intrigued. When I was able to get in – I was ecstatic!

The course is a figure eight that that starts and ends in the Virgin, UT town park. At 6:00 am on May 11th 2012, a group of about 100 runners left the park for the inaugural Zion 100 and began the first climb of the day to the top of Flying Monkey Mesa.  The lead group went out slower than I expected or wanted, so I was quickly off the front. Part of my plan for the day was to go out fast, trying to put maximum miles in before afternoon temperatures reached the 90’s. I felt good climbing the single track up the mesa and was surprised to have Matt hand me a Ben Franklin at the top. I had no idea there was a preem for the first to the top of Flying Monkey. Lesson learned, don’t be sitting in the blue box before a race instead of listening to the prerace briefing.

The next 15 miles or so were rolling graded road and I focused on getting into a rhythm and going to that other place. The morning was cool and the miles went by quickly. I wanted to make some good time knowing that the section after mile 18 was a single track descent and moderately technical – two things I don’t do well.

This section did not disappoint. Immediately after the aid station you drop into North Creek. The descent while short, is steep. Volunteers had placed a rope to help with the drop which was most appreciated. Without the rope – I would have been doing some ass sliding. The trail then followed the creek for a bit before meandering down the canyon. This section was just slow; navigating through the stream, doing the multiple 90-degree turn thing while navigating through tamarisk, watching for flags. Then, when the trail finally opened up it was pocked with the hoof prints of cattle. I felt as if I was running on fossilized bubble wrap. Foot placement was tricky. I wished I had beefier shoes. I began to feel the heat of the sun. The Smash Mouth song “ might as well be walkin’ on the sun” got stuck in my head.

At the Sheep Bridge Road aid station (mile 35) I transitioned from a single bottle waist pack and handheld to a Nathan hydration pack knowing that hydration would be key in the heat of the day. Thank you Jamie Kamm for not only having my pack ready, but also having a rag with cold water to cool me down. It was exactly what I needed.

I left the aid station feeling optimistic that the day was going to go well. Then rather quickly, I started to run out of gas. The legs started to feel heavy. I was having trouble keeping up the turnover. I had no energy. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Was I tired from running the Salt Flats 100 two weeks ago? I had learned earlier in the week that I was anemic again. Is this what bad blood feels like I thought to myself? Or, was I just experiencing mid-race laziness? As much as I tried, I just couldn’t seem to keep moving as fast as I wanted.

The miles to AS#5 (42.4 miles) were hard. I could feel the heat. I wasn’t in the zone. I struggled. I was looking forward to the climb up to Gooseberry Mesa where I could do some power-walking, work on hydration, and hopefully regroup.

As I climbed up to the mesa I started to experience cramps in my calves. My best guess was that despite being conscious about drinking, I was behind on hydration. I took a couple of salt tabs and emptied my Nathan. The cramps got worse. At the top of the mesa there was a self-service water drop. I filled my pack and drank all that could. However, the cramps continued to get worse both in my calves and quads. The trail along Gooseberry Mesa meanders along the rim of the mesa, undulating between slick rock and sand. If I lifted my leg to high to step onto a sandstone ridge I could feel a cramp coming on. If I pushed too hard in the sand I could feel a cramp coming on. If I turned a corner too tight or hard, I could feel a cramp coming on. I knew it was inevitable and just mater of time before I seized.  I tripped on a root and as I went to catch myself, my left calf cramped.

As I laid on the ground I was able to fully flex my foot before the cramp became so severe that I would have had a hard time releasing it. I got up and started walking in an effort to stretch my calves and legs. I realized the only real option I had was to try and drink myself out this predicament and get some electrolytes at the next aid station. If hydration didn’t work, then the race was over for me.

By the time I reached AS#6 (Gooseberry Point - mile 51.5) I was feeling better. I figured some Coke, electrolytes and food would have me back in business. To my dismay, I got there before the aid station volunteers had arrived. However, the radio crew was there and shared some water with me. I left the aid station knowing that things could get a bit precarious over the next 10-mile section of the course with no food or electrolytes.

This section of the course was new to me, and my expectations that it would be a fairly fast section were misguided. It was technical and slow. What I had thought would be a 90-minute leg took well over two hours. I was bonking and getting dehydrated again.  It was one of those times for me that we all know so well, when that needed or anticipated aid station just never seems to be around the corner like we think or hope it should me. Then, suddenly Matt appeared running the opposite direction. He indicated that he was checking on the flagging. I told him the flagging was fine, but asked if he had any food. I thanked my lucky stars that he had a gel in his pack.

AS#7 (62.7 miles) was not setup when I arrived. Fortunately, the radio crew had arrived and some kind volunteer offered me part of his lunch - a Mountain Dew and banana. It was exactly what I would have picked up off the aid station table had it been there!

With the last 20 miles having been a train wreck for me, I was ready to get back to the business of racing. I was sure any lead I may have had, had evaporated in the heat of the day. And that any chance I had to win depended on me starting to motor. I pushed hard to AS#8 (Smithsonian Butte - 69.7 miles) where Adrienne and my kids met me and quickly got me on my way.

Shortly after leaving AS#8 I somehow got off course. While I had a sense as to where I should be, it took me sometime to get reoriented and back on course. My best estimate is that I added about four bonus miles. I was cursing myself knowing that speedster Gary Gellin had the GPS coordinates and had most likely passed me while I was on my detour. However, upon arrival at AS#10 (Diamond Ranch - 82.7 miles) I was stoked to learn I was still in the lead.

I took some time at AS#10 to regroup. The extra distance and mental stress of the detour had me feeling a bit off. I needed to eat and drink. But nothing sounded good. I tried a few things - canned peaches, Skittles, dried ginger, Red Bull – but nothing hit the spot.  I moved on…

I was excited about the last section of the course. I knew it fairly well from previous runs and knew that it favored my abilities – rolling and non-technical. I knew I just had to keep moving. The last 20 miles went by quickly. I enjoyed the solitude of the night. I found amusement in watching the bugs and rodents scamper out of my way. I daydreamed. I finally got into the zone for the first time all day. Things were good.

I crossed the finish in 18:25, several hours slower than I had planned. Yet, I was pleased with the result given the surprises during the day that I had encountered.

A big shout out to RD Matt Gunn, his family, and all the volunteers that made this race possible. Conceiving, planning and executing an event of this scale and complexity is no small feat.

Congrats to Slater Fletcher for running a remarkable first 100. Sarah Evans on placing second. Brian Kamm for running an extremely smart and patient race. Race results can be found at

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Zion 50 and 100

This weekend is the inaugural running of the Zion 50 and 100. This new event is the brainchild of RD Matt Gunn, who from all indicators will be overseeing a first-class event. Matt seems to have thought about everything; from aid stations, shuttles for pacers, misters to keep runners cool, great post event activities, unique awards, and some innovative LED trail markers. I’m looking forward to running the 100 and reporting back on my experience.

A number of Wasatch Front runners are making the trek south for these races; Erik Storheim, Mick Jurynec, Sarah Evans, Brian Kamm, Mike Place, Jim Huffman, Rich McDonald, Emily Brackelsberg, Colleen Ford, Aric Manning, Carl Tippets, Charlie Vincent and others. Good luck to everyone!

The Zion 100 course looks to be fast with just a couple of slow/technical sections. Be sure to check out the fabulous course maps created by our very own local mapmaker/artist, Christian Johnson. The big variable of the day will likely be sun and heat – with the forecast calling for a high in low 90’s and sunny. Kind-of hot for those of us from the north who still have our winter blood and haven’t acclimated yet to the heat!

For anyone interested, the race can be followed at or The Zion 100 race starts Friday at 6:00 am. The Zion 50 starts Saturday at 6:00 am.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hidden Superheroes

A toothbrush and some floss to anyone who can identify this masked Super Hero.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Leg Whisperer

I’ve become a convert to therapeutic massage. Specifically, I have found that a massage several days after a race helps accelerate the healing process.

My first exposure to therapeutic massage was back in 2009 when I started running. I was having trouble with my hamstrings (hamstrings are still my literal Achilles heel) leading up to the Wasatch 100. After months of excruciating pain at the insertion points, therapeutic massage finally gave me some relief and I believe put me on the path to recovery.

Fast forward several years and I’m even more of a believer. I’m a regular of Emma Maaranen at Focus Body Works. In fact, I call Emma the Leg Whisper because of her uncanny ability to know exactly how my legs feel and what is ailing them solely through feel.

Our conversation from last week’s session after the Salt Flats 100 is typical,

Emma: “How are you feeling after the race?”
Jay: “I’m not saying. Tell me how you think I’m feeling”
Emma (after several minutes of examination): “Tearing with inflammation of the left flexor digitorum longus and tibialis posterior. Both muscles are pretty worked. I’m guessing you ran fairly fast and were using your toes to push off more than you are used to.”
Jay: “Yeah, I ran hard. And, my calves were getting a workout, particularly during a six mile or so section of running on soft dirt and sand. They felt pretty fried towards the end. What else??” 
Emma: “There’s some inflammation between the 2nd and 3rd digits of your left foot. Otherwise, the legs feel like they’ve been well used – but everything else seems healthy.” 

While Emma aligned tissue and worked out adhesions we talked about what might be the cause of the inflammation in my left foot. Emma’s sense was that it was shoe-related. I told her that I run almost exclusively in the Montrail Fly and that they have a slightly convex sole. We hypothesized that perhaps the convex sole was causing pressure in this area. I told her I would run in Hokas (great recovery shoes) for a few days and report back.

Yet again the Leg Whisper was right, after a week of running in the Hokas the inflammation is gone. So the big test of Emma’s abilities will be this Friday when I run the Zion 100, just two weeks after running the Salt Flats 100. We’ll see if she has been able to yet again keep my tired old legs running!

I’m curious what others have experienced with therapeutic massage. Has it been beneficial? How has it helped? Is it worth the time and money?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Montrail Bajada Review

You can find a review of the new Montrail Bajada over on Matt Hart's site.