Friday, March 9, 2018

Race Report – Way Too Cool 2018

Pre-Race Report

I finished the California International Marathon in the beginning of December and decided that I was not going to run a road race in 2018.  My love for trails and running ultras has taken over and I started to work on my race plan for 2018.

Ever since last year (2017) when I did a 12-hour race, I knew that I would try for a 100 mile race.  The Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Endurance Run is not too far from me so I knew that would be the race.  I just had to figure out what other races I would do in preparation for RDL100.  I tried to get into the Miwok 100k, but did not get picked through the lottery.  

I then signed up for the lottery for the Way Too Cool 50k, which is one of my bucket-list races.  I actually got in.  I decided that I was going to do the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run as well since the Way Too Cool and American River 50 courses combine to make the Rio Del Lago course.  I saw it as doing recon for the big race.  My goal isn’t to kill myself on these first two races, but enjoy them and really study the course while I am out there.  

I was building off of my marathon training by taking a few weeks really easy and then ramping up my mileage.  I did not add mileage too quickly, or so I thought at the time, and almost all of my runs were at 65-70% of my max heart rate.  Basically I was building my aerobic endurance.  Everything was going really well.  I was doing back-to-back weekend runs and following Hal Koerner’s plan from his book “Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning.”  It is a great book and I strongly recommend it.

I averaged 253 miles in January in 24 runs (which was my biggest mileage month ever).  My legs felt great and I had really built up my aerobic endurance. I was doing a 22 mile slow run and started to get some ankle pain after about 14 miles.  Nothing terrible, but it was noticeable.   I didn’t feel a pop, didn’t land weird, it just started hurting.  The pain got worse when I got home and let it rest for a while, but there was no inflammation.  I did the normal ice/rest as well as some warm therapy.  I took about 5 days off of running, substituting cycling and swimming for some run days.  I even took Ibuprofen, which I hate doing.  I ran 88 miles in February, which 60 of those were pre-injury.  That means that the three weeks leading up to the race, I only put in 28 miles total.  Looking back on my monthly mileage, my injury is probably due to overuse.  I am figuring it’s some form of tendonitis or an impingement at the joint.  

Way too Cool 50k was exactly one month after I hurt my ankle.  I tried to train smarter since the injury.  In weeks leading up to the race, I had had some very good, pain free runs.  I had a few runs where my ankle hurt as well (even stopping a run 1.5 miles in and walking back to the start).  Honestly, I was worried about it with the race quickly approaching.  I decided to take the 3 days before the race off to let it recover a little more.  

Race Morning/Pre Race

I woke up at about 4:30 and got dressed.  I grabbed some overnight oats that had been in the fridge and headed out to the car.  I wanted to get up to the race by 6:00AM so I could get a good parking spot.  There is a parking lot right near the port-o-potties and not too far from the event tents.  If you get there too late, you end up parking along the road (where the first mile of the race takes place) or at a store down the road (if you get there after 7:15 am.  I got my primo parking spot and hit the bathrooms.  If you are going to WTC in the future, I would strongly recommend getting there early. 

I was continually second-guessing myself on whether I should change from my CW-X Thermal Tights to my North Face Shorts.  It was about 36 degrees out and the high for the day was going to be about 44.  I ended up sticking with the tights and am glad I did, but more on that in a little.

I was waiting for my friend Abdulah to show up when I turn around and see Max King (left picture below).  He is a killer ultra runner who holds several course records and is a super nice guy.  I also ran across Jamil Curry (right picture below) who is the founder of Run Steep Get High and Aravaipa Running.  Jamil is not only a great ultra runner, but does vlogs and other videos.  I have been watching his content lately, so it was really cool to see him there.  Jamil was taping some of the race (following some of the Salomon athletes).  I was able to get pictures with both guys.  It totally made my day.

Abdulah showed up and after a quick trip to the blue palace (not together), I was ready for the race to start.  The race starts out for about a mile on a paved road with cars parked along either side.  After a mile, you head out on Olmstead Loop.  When we got to the trail, there was a bad bottleneck, but it only lasted about a minute before everyone was on their way.  The first section of the course is 8 miles and was mostly runnable single track with the exception of a few small hills.  I was able to get a nice warmup mile in on the paved section and had a decent pace going with absolutely no pain.  Here is a video of the first creek crossing at Knickerbocker Creek.

The first 8 miles were great.  The sun was out for parts of this section and just a few sprinkles.  The rain was expected to roll in about 3 hours after the race start.   The trails were a little muddy, but not too bad except for a few sections.  At mile 5.5 miles there was no ankle pain and I felt really good, especially since I had not logged many miles for the past 3 weeks.

At the end of the 8 mile Olmstead Loop, you come back to the start area where you hit the first aid station.  I chose to stop by my car (thanks to my primo parking spot 10 feet from the course) to swap out my long sleeve Smartwool NTS Mid 250 Pattern Crew Shirt for my Smartwool PhD Short Sleeve Shirt.  The shirt was getting kind of warm and I knew that I would probably be wearing my waterproof jacket so I wanted a cooler shirt.

I grabbed some coke, boiled potato, a few pieces of PB&J, and refilled one bottle with Gu Roktane.  Then I headed out on the next section of the course that took you from Cool down the Western States Trail toward No Hands Bridge.  Before you get to the bridge, you cross highway 49 and head along the Quarry Road Trail which is relatively flat until you reach the aid station at mile 13. I felt good at this point.  I grabbed more PB&J and coke.  Then I filled up my bottles with more Gu Roktane and headed out.  No ankle pain still, but because I was landing more on my heel to put less pressure on my ankle, my Plantar Fasciitis on my left foot was starting to act up.

At around mile 16 the smaller hills started.  Nothing too major, but it did slow me down a little.  There was a little over 1,000 feet of vertical in the next few miles.  I just took it easy and power hiked this section.  My Plantar Fasciitis was getting worse, but my ankle was still pain free.  I am able to run through the PF pain, but the ankle pain that I had in the weeks leading up to the race eliminated any running immediately, so I was happy with how everything was playing out.  Most importantly, I was staying positive and just enjoying the journey.  It was great to run a race where finishing was my main goal (usually I have a time goal that I try to hit).  To help with the Plantar Fasciitis pain, I would just stand in the creek crossings for about 15 seconds to cool off my feet and try and keep the inflammation down.  Here is a progress check at mile 18.

From mile 18, I just kept chugging along and having a great time.  I decided before the race that I was going to enjoy the mud and not try and avoid every puddle along the way. Normally, I try and avoid puddles, but this was so much fun.  Even on the climbs, I just put my head down and put one foot in front of the other.  There were a few hills here and there, but nothing bad until Goat Hill, which was at about mile 25.5.  It’s a short, but steep hill that’s over a 20% grade.   
To be honest, this is where my reduced training mileage was apparent.  I was slow to climb the steep hills.  The good thing is that I didn’t stop completely, just kept slowly working up the hill.  At the top, there was a volunteer cheering you on, letting you know that you made it to the top and the aid station wasn’t too far away.

With less than 5 miles to go, I grabbed some soup, coke, and sandwiches before heading out.  I ran the last 5 miles a little slower than I would have liked, but considering my Plantar Fasciitis was really bad by this point, I was thrilled to not have to worry about the cut-off times.  I even passed the great Ann Trason (14 time winner of the Western States 100) who was walking her dog on the trail.  She told me the finish line was just up ahead. 

As I approached the finish line, I stopped in a big mud patch, reached down and gave myself some mud stripes.  I earned this finish and learned many valuable lessons (more on that later).  

The finish line party included a signature frog cupcake, a pint glass and beer from Tap It Brewing Company from San Luis Obispo, and homemade soup.  It was rather cold by this point and the soup was amazing.  

There were a few vendors who were there including Salomon and Victory Bags.  I grabbed my stuff and headed to my car to change and get home.  My poor wife was stuck at home with our three young kids, so I saved the frog cupcake for her.  She definitely deserves it.

Shirt (last 22 miles): Smartwool PhD Short Sleeve Shirt
Electrolyte/Fuel: Glukos Gummies and Tailwind Nutrition
Other Items in my pack: Ginger Runner BUFF, Baby Wipes, Extra GoPro Battery

Lessons Learned

I try to take a few things from every race or long run that I do.  Because this was a scouting mission for RDL100, I wanted to prepare for doing this section of the course at night, which would most likely be when I make it to the Way Too Cool course.

I had another great race of making sure my nutrition and fuel were on point.  My favorite part of running ultra runs is that you get to eat awesome food and hang out with great people who you have never met.  This was my first time having warm soup.  Total game changer right there!!!

Running in the mud is really fun if you have some good shoes and socks.  My Drymax socks kept my feet feeling good because they pull the water away from your feet so quickly.  The Hoka Speedgoat 2 have tons of cushion, are responsive, and the lugs dig into the mud for some great traction.  There were a few hills where people were running in place because they couldn’t get any traction.  I was hiking up the hill and would push them until they could get some traction.  I LOVE THESE SHOES!

I am a mid-packer, plain and simple.  I have no issues with this at all.  I am not super-fast (I know that fast is all relative) but my training has helped me gain the ability to just grind away, one foot on front of the other, for hour after hour.  I know where I should be in a race and have no problem when people pass me.  I check my ego at the door and run my race.  That is a huge change from road running, at least for me.

I have to trust my training.  After almost 3 weeks of minimal training due to my ankle injury, I still had the endurance to far surpass what I thought I would be able to do on race day.  I just wanted to make the 8:30:00 cutoff and my 7:19:00 was only about 25 minutes slower than my PR.  Most of that was due to my Plantar Fasciitis pain and having to slow down for that.  I am very happy with how everything went down at the race.

What’s Next

So with a little over a month until the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run, I will take a recovery week of swimming, cycling, and some easy running.  My ankle is almost completely healed as of today, but my Plantar Fasciitis has become worse.  I will work on every other day runs with more cross training (swimming and cycling) between now and the AR50.  My goal is to enjoy AR50 and I know that my Plantar Fasciitis will be a factor, but I also know that I can run through that pain.  I plan to take a month off after AR50 to let my Plantar Fasciitis recover.

Friday, February 23, 2018

The BFF Massager Review

I thrash my body on a fairly regular basis.  In the past few years, I have dealt with Achilles tendonitis, a calf strain, ongoing plantar fasciitis, and most recently, an ankle injury.  I have been able to run through my plantar fasciitis for almost 9 months now, but the ankle issue stopped me dead in my tracks.  Kind of ironic since I write about running without injuries, right.  The reality is that I do research, but tend to push myself farther and faster than I should.  Just being real with you.

I try to foam roll and stretch on a regular basis.  I also try to cross train, although I tend to be really good for a month or two and then just seem to slow down on my cross training and stretching until I get an injury.  I think I just get complacent when by body feels good and stop doing what it took to get to that place.  I know exactly what I should be doing, but just don’t do those activities at times.

I have used multiple types of foam rollers, some of which vibrate, massage balls, sticks, and everything in between.  Some of the products are amazing while others are just horrible.  I have my favorites, but am always interested in testing out something new.  You never know when you will find that next miracle piece of gear that can help you stay more injury free.

I was on Facebook and ran across a Sponsored ad for The BFF, which looks like a car polisher/buffer.  The BFF is a small startup out of Chicago, where founder Joshua Grabuffsky came up with the idea after attending a part where he got “buffed” using a large polishing device.  He wanted to come up with a similar product that was more sleek, simple, and practical.  He started to teach himself every facet of how to transform his vision into a reality.

I got The BFF and started using it that night.  It is extremely easy to use, but, let’s first go over what comes in the box.  You get The BFF, and two pads, a white mitt for massaging over clothes or on bare skin, and a blue mitt to spread lotion for keeping your skin silky smooth.  There are also hair removal/exfoliating pads that can remove body hair (almost like a fine grit sand paper), but more on that later.

The BFF has a 12 foot cord, which is awesome for using anywhere around the house.  I have more than one massager/recovery device that has a 6 foot cord or shorter, so I either have to use an extension cord or sit right next to the outlet.  Not with The BFF though.  The BFF operates at 3300 buffs per minute and the pad is 6” in diameter.  The pad that the mitts go on is a triple density foam disc that rotates and vibrates. 

The skin exfoliating/body hair removal disks work well although it does take several passes of the buffer to get the hair off, and in my testing it did not get all of the hair but most of it.  I do have to say that is was painless and felt calming as I was removing the forest of hair on my legs (all in the name of product testing). 

The BFF recently came out with the Jeff Galloway version.  Jeff Galloway is an Olympic runner and author.  He has written books all about running, including about the “run walk run” method. Here is a video that Jeff put out about The BFF.

I have been using The BFF for over a month now and have really enjoyed it.  The instructions say to let the weight of the device put the pressure on your body, there is no need to push.  I have had one incident where I was really trying to get deep in my shin muscles and pushed a little too hard.  I ended up with a friction burn.  After using this almost every day, that was the only incident that I had.  There was also a warning that you need to watch out for loose clothing, which I never had an issue with. 

When I hurt my ankle, probably due to overuse, I was running about 65 miles a week, which were the highest weeks I had ever done, although I had been building up to those distances for quite a while.  I was just in the middle of a long run when I started to develop a pain along the tendon in the front of my ankle.  I feel that it is most likely an impingement or some sort of tendonitis.  Unlike almost every other running injury that I have had, there was no running through this pain.  I tried ice and compression, both of which made the injury worse.  I then tried heat and Active Release Techniques, which helped, but I think one of the main reasons why I am recovering so quickly is using the BFF on a regular basis to massage the muscles all around the shin, calf, and ankle.  I also for the first time ever, actually took time off of running, which was huge.

I recently started to use the tips in this video by Jeff Galloway to help with my Plantar Fasciitis.

I am a huge fan of The BFF and would not hesitate to recommend it.  In my opinion, the biggest issue of The BFF is the price.  At a hefty $300, you might have to hold off on those shoes you want to get, but it may help you stay healthier and increase mobility. 

The BFF website claims to increase blood flow, provide nerve and cell rejuvenation, and vascular dilation.  It also claim to help clear lactic acid, release tight or sore muscles and provide Myofascial trigger point release (like foam rolling).  There are some other claims as well.  While I can see that the claims may be valid, but there is no scientific data backing up their claims from what I can see.  I am not saying that the claims are incorrect, but if you are looking for a doctor’s testimonial backing the claim from a medical perspective, it wasn’t on the website. 

Helps to loosen muscles before and after workouts/running
Has several mitts for massage, moisturizing, or hair removal
Feels great and not painful like foam rolling
More benefit in less time

A little pricey at $300.00

The BFF’s Social Media Links

If you are looking to keep your muscles loose and help your overall mobility, I think The BFF is a decent product.  You should stretch as well as use other methods of increasing mobility and getting stronger, but The BFF could be a great tool to help you perform and recover more efficiently.  While the price can be a little high, it’s a solidly built product that should last for years to come. 

Note:  I received this product in exchange for a review.  The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it.  I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Active Release Techniques®

As runners, cyclists, parents, or simply as humans, we all have aches and pains.  When I started running almost 5 years ago, I had no idea that my first year of running would be full of injuries.  I had shin splints, IT Band pain, and even some lower back pain.  I eventually got over several of the issues, but that doesn’t mean that I have remained injury free.  In the last year, I have had Achilles tendonitis and Plantar Fasciitis.  I went to the Slowtwitch Roadshow last year where they had a bunch of booths and speakers on various topics.  The one that really grabbed my attention was the talk by Dr. Vince Hoffart of Hoffart Chiropractic, Inc.  Dr. Hoffart specializes in ART® or Active Release Techniques® therapy and after listening to him talk about the benefits, I decided to meet up with him so we could do a blog piece about ART together.  Here is a little history on ART® to start us off.

Dr. P. Michael Leahy was working with elite athletes over 30 years ago when he developed a new way to treat soft tissue disorders.  He wanted to find a way to get these athletes back to peak performance as quickly as possible. Originally trained as an engineer in the Air force before becoming a chiropractor in 1984, he watched athletes perform and studied their movement.  He combined what he knew about engineering with his chiropractic knowledge of the anatomy and biomechanics.  Active Release Techniques® was born (1).  

In 1988, Dr. Leahy’s colleagues convinced him to hold a seminar to teach his method of treatment and the response was overwhelming.  Shortly thereafter, he began formalizing a training method for ART®.  The method of Active Release Techniques® has been patented and over 10,000 ART® providers have been trained (1).  What exactly is ART® though and how could it help you?

Most injuries that occur during exercise are due to overuse.  Even in day-to-day activities can cause overuse injuries.  These can be acute conditions like muscle pulls or tears, accumulations of small tears like micro-traumas, or not getting enough oxygen to the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, etc.).  Active Release Techniques® is a patented massage technique that’s more than just going to a local massage therapist to work out knots.  It’s a soft tissue/movement based system that treats muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and nerves by using a combination of massage/pressure and movements to work out knots and other scar tissue (1).

Scar tissue is built up when you have trauma or injuries to a specific area.  It prevents muscles to move as freely and can even make muscles become shorter and weaker.  This can lead to a reduction in range of motion, loss of strength, and pain.  You can even get numbness and tingling (1). 

When you go in for an ART® session, you get a combination of an examination and treatment.  The practitioner will use their hands to evaluate the texture, tightness, and movement of the muscles.   

Once an issue is found, the practitioner will use a combination of precisely directed tension with very specific movements to treat the issue.  There are over 500 specific moves that are a part of ART® and each person or injury may be treated by several different movements (1). 

Here is a video that is about 5 minutes long but it does a good job of explaining what ART is and shows the process of an ART® treatment.

I went to Dr. Hoffart originally because I had pulled a muscle in my calf and had been having some Achilles Tendonitis for almost 4 months.  I had tried massage and acupuncture with minimal success.  I was training for my first 50k Ultra Trail Run and needed to get back to 100% as soon as possible.  I met with Dr. Hoffart several times and each time he started with the evaluation of not only my lower leg, but all the way up to my hips.  He checked for mobility and differences in strength.  He would hold my leg and ask me to push out, then repeat and have me push in.  We did this with both legs along with other similar tests.  He was able to see that I had some loss of strength in my injured leg as well as a loss of mobility. 

Dr. Hoffart was able to do several different ART® techniques and my mobility immediately increased.  My pain lessened and within about 3 visits, my issue was basically gone.  I had heard that ART® was extremely painful, but I really didn’t think it was that bad.  One thing that is great about ART® is that the whole idea is that you get treated and back on your feet quickly.  I have known a few Chiropractors to plan out a 6-12 month recovery plan (not saying that all Chiropractors are like that by any means).

Talking with Dr. Hoffart, when you get a massage and they are working on a knot, it is really painful. They are putting pressure directly on the knot, trying to work it out and break up scar tissue.  ART® on the other hand is using the act of your muscles lengthening to help break up the knots as well as scar tissue.  It is this process of your muscles moving to break down the knots that makes the pain less significant than if you were putting pressure directly on the knots.  I know that these are not the technical terms that are used in the industry, but it is how I understand it and how I can best describe it to non-medical professionals (since I’m just an ordinary desk jockey).  I honestly get lost when hearing about adhesions and different muscle groups that make up a larger muscle. 

The bottom line is that Dr. Hoffart was able to do what I was not able to do by just researching and doing exercises found on YouTube.  He healed my Achilles/calf issues and I was able to complete my first ultra distance race almost pain free (I had muscle soreness, but that was it). I can’t thank Dr. Hoffart enough and could not have a stronger recommendation for him as a doctor.  If you live in the greater Sacramento area, please let him help you out.  If you are out of the area, find an ART® specialist in your area.  They can help you get those injures healed so you can perform at your best.

Hoffart Chiropractic
6000 Fairway Drive, Suite 6
Rocklin CA
(916) 632-8315


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Topo Athletic Mangnifly 2 Review

If you have been following my blog for a while, you know that I really like Topo Athletic shoes.  They offer shoes with a low heel drop and wide toe box.  This allows your toes to spread out instead of feeling claustrophobic like in most shoes.  The durability of the materials that they use is excellent as well.  The MT is one of the first pair of shoes that I reviewed on my blog.  It is still one of my favorite trail shoes because it is so light, comfortable, and really flexes with your foot.  The Hydroventure is an amazing trail shoe with a waterproof eVent material that keeps the water out but is still breathable.  Topo Athletic also has some amazing road shoes.  My favorite road shoe from Topo Athletic is the UltraFly because its lightweight, responsive, and has plenty of cushion.

I have tested 13 shoes from Topo Athletic and have been impressed with everyone.  Here are some of my past reviews.

Topo Athletic took the Magnifly and made some changes to get back to their roots.  Topo Athletic has been known for their zero drop shoes (with only a few exceptions in their lineup that had a low heel drop between 3-5mm).  The original Magnifly  had a 5mm heel drop and weighed in at 8.8 ounces.  The Mangifly 2 has a 0mm heel drop and weighs in slightly heavier at 10 ounces which actually surprises me since it looks like they have streamlined the second iteration of the shoe.  My guess is that the extra weight is in the midsole material.  While 10 ounces isn’t too heavy, I was curious why they added weight to the shoe since most of Topo ’s shoes tend to me on the more minimal side in both weight and cushion. 

First of all, if you are not familiar with Topo Athletic shoes, they fit snug in the heel and midfoot, while it they are looser in the toe box.  The wide toe box allows your toes to spread out, which has several benefits.  This will not only help you be more stable, but will also reduce foot injuries commonly caused by shoes that compress your toes.  They also typically have a low heel drop (most at zero drop) which promotes a more natural gait with less heel striking, generally speaking, and puts your body in a better alignment. 

The Mangifly 2 provides a responsive ride that is not only good for speed or track workouts, but is a great everyday trainer.  They would even be good on race day for shorter distances up to maybe a half-marathon (it might be suitable for longer races depending on your personal preferences though).  I have been using shoes with more cushion lately because of some Plantar Fasciitis issues, but the amount of cushion on the Mangifly 2 was just fine for me. 

Topo Athletic uses a Multi-Density Midsole material with two separate levels of cushioning.  There’s a softer level near your feet and a firmer more responsive level near the outsole (ground).  I felt like I was getting the responsiveness that I crave and the cushioning that made my feet happy.  That’s not to say that there’s a ton of cushion… it definitely isn’t a Hoka oversized sole, but it’s decent.

The Mangifly 2 comes in three men’s colors (Black/Black, Bright Green/Black, and Slate/Black) and three different women’s colors (Grey/Peach, Ice/Raspberry, and Navy/Pink).  The shoes really feel great from the moment you take them out of the box and give you enough cushion to really push, while still remaining relatively light.  I can’t get enough of shoes with the wider toe box.  Most of my foot pain (due to foot compression of narrow shoes) has disappeared since switching over to wider toe boxes.  I really like the Mangifly 2 for the simplicity and feel you get with them.  They are not overbuilt, but provide you with a great feeling throughout your gait cycle.  You really can’t beat the value either as they only cost $110 on the Topo Athletic website. 

Lightweight (10.0 ounces)
Wide toe box allows toes to spread out
Zero heel drop allows for better form and posture
Great price ($110 at the Topo Athletic website)
Extremely flexible for a natural feel
Great mix of cushion and responsiveness

1.2 ounces more than the first version

Topo Athletic’s Social Media Links:

As I have been saying with almost every review, Topo Athletic continually ups its game with each release of a new shoe.  The Mangifly 2 takes a great shoe and made it even better in most areas.  It feels light, even though they increased the weight of the shoe.  If you haven’t given Topo shoes a shot, you really should.  Everyone has different shoes that work for them, but Topo puts out some really great products.  You can get a pair at the Topo Athletic website, or check the Topo Athletic Store Locator for a store near you.  Give them a try today and let me know what you think.

Note:  I received this product in exchange for a review.  The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it.  I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.