Monday, May 21, 2018

Race Report – American River 50 Mile 2018

* I'm a little late on completing my race report, but here it is.

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.  I took on the Way Too Cool 50k in the beginning of March and was ready to take on my first official 50-mile run.  

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 wasn’t to kill myself on these first two races, but enjoy them and really study the course while I was out there.  

I was building off my marathon and 50k training.   Almost all 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.

The month before Way Too Cool 50k, I hurt my ankle.  I tried to train smarter since that injury.  In weeks leading up to WTC50k, 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.  I completed the WTC50k in a decent time considering my ankle injury and ongoing Plantar Fasciitis pain. 

After the race, I spent a week of cycling and swimming to give my feet a chance to recover.  I quickly got back into my training since I only had about 3 weeks until the American River 50 Miler.  I decided that I needed to get in one more long trail run, so I got up at the butt-crack of dawn (actually way before dawn) and headed up to Auburn.  I was doing the second half of the WTC course, starting about 90-mintues before sunrise.  It was cold, foggy, and wet out.  I have never had anxiety before when it comes to running, but that morning was different.  It was completely dark with no moon.  I parked my car and was heading out for my first solo night-ish run.  I finally set out on my way, knowing that my Garmin’s navigation would help me stay on track.   

I had my high-powered headlamp on and was only able to see about 25 feet in front of me.  There were creek crossings (one of which was really sketchy), but I was ready to get wet and muddy.  I was a little worried about mountain lions and bears since they are known to be in this area.  There was a ledge about 10-15 feet above me which would be a perfect place for a mountain lion to stalk me.  By the time the sun came up, I felt more at ease, as I stumble upon a fresh bear cub print.  Fortunately, I made it back safe and sound and my final long run was complete.  It was taper time.    

Race Morning/Pre Race

I woke up at about 2:30 and got dressed.  I grabbed a Pro-Bar Meal Replacement Bar and headed out to the car.  I had to be at the finish line at 4:00 to pick up the bus to the race start.  I met up with my friend Abdulah who I also ran part of Wat Too Cool with.  We were going to run together for as long as he was willing to stick with me, since he is a faster runner.  Also, I knew that I was going to run my own race and not try to stick with Abdulah if it was going to be too fast.  It was going to be a long day and I knew I needed to save something for the second half of the race. 

It was pouring out with some 15+ mph winds.  We got on the bus and made our way down to the start.  They said that we would be able to stay on the bus until the start, but ended up kicking us out 45 minutes early.  I grabbed my huge duffle bag with my drop bags for 25 miles and 41 miles and headed out into the storm.  I picked up my bib the day before, so I threw my bags into the back of a pick-up, hoping that they stayed dry until I reached them.  Then I hit the line for the port-o-potties.   

The worst thing was that people were hiding out in there just to stay dry, so the line took forever.   
Once I got out I met up with Abdulah who had to pick up his bib.  We couldn’t find any room under the eazy-ups that that had, so we just stood there in the rain.  Let’s just say that there wasn’t a dry piece of fabric on either of us by the time the race started.  

The temperature was in the 50’s so I went with shorts and a short sleeve shirt, both from Patagonia.  I was wearing my Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket and Drymax socks along with my Hoka Speedgoat 2’s.  For my pack, I had the Salomon Ultra 8-set, which is amazing.  

The first few miles were a little slow since the trail was soggy and narrow.  We eventually made it to the levee where it widened out and we were able to pick up the pace.  We were on pavement for the next 23 miles or so.  

The rain let up after about an hour, so my jacket came off.  Abdulah wanted to pick up the pace just after that so we wished each other luck and he headed on his way.  Abdulah went on to have an awesome race.

After a few miles, I ran across a few runners that I recognized from the 12-hour race I did (Michael and Yoly).  We talked a little during that race and ended up running for about 30 minutes together at AR50.  It is funny how you run into people you that you have met before, then you end up talking for a while like you have been friends for years.  I love the ultra-community and how we can relate to each other.  We all strive to push ourselves and it is why trail running has taken over such a huge spot in my heart.

Fast forward for a little, we follow the American River Bike Trail for a while until we cross a bridge at Nimbus Dam and head up the bluffs.  I ended up seeing a Bald Eagle Nesting Area and sure enough, it was just perched in the tree.  I felt like it was a sign that good things were going to happen that day.

A few miles later I ran into a few friends who were cheering and volunteering.  

I was approaching Beal’s Point in a few miles and I started to develop some pain in my outer metatarsal from my shoes compressing my left foot too much.  It slowed me down quite a bit and eventually I had to walk for a few minutes at a time until the pain lessened.  I also was getting a blister on my right small toe from debris and moisture.  I was really concerned that I was going to not make cutoffs because I was slowing down so much.  I just plugged along though, knowing that my dad and step-mom were at the mile 25 aid station with my drop bag (Beal’s Point).  

I decided to chug an Ensure, drink some Coke and eat a little.  I also swapped out my shoes and socks.  I stuck with Drymax Socks, but switched to my Altra Lone Peak 3.5’s.  I hit the real bathrooms in the park and headed on my way.  I am so grateful for my parents heading out to cheer me on.  They told my wife that I looked pretty beat up (which I didn’t find out about until I got home that night).  Even though I knew I would be chasing cutoffs if things didn’t change, I wanted my damn jacket and was going to give it my all. 

I headed out and instantly I noticed that the compression issues were gone and that pain went away.  About a mile later, I could feel the blister again.  I had about 4.5 miles until the next aid station, which is where I was picking up my pacer, Tim.  I sent him a test and asked him to find some moleskin if he could.

I got to the Granite Bay Aid Station, where Tim was waiting.  He wasn’t able to find moleskin, but we did get some medical tape and wrapped my toe.  Then we went on our way.  It was great to just have someone to talk to and push me when I wanted to slow down.  Tim is great because he pushes me, but in a kind way, “Hey buddy, we need to pick it up a little.”

The miles started flying by.  We made it to the Rattlesnake Bar Aid Station at mile 41.  Where I refueled and headed out.  I was keeping with my plan of getting in and out of aid stations quickly (less than 2 minutes).  

The next ten miles or so started to get interesting.  We had been in wet conditions all day, but the single track narrowed and were filled with water.  We were basically running up a creek, and yes, without a paddle.  

I kept doing math in my head to make sure I was going to make my cutoffs.  I don’t know why, but doing pace calculations tends to keep my mind busy.  It is similar to repeating mantras. We plugged on and finally made it on to the Last Gasp Aid Station.

We started plugging up the last 3-mile road (yes, paved).  I was so ready to just finish that I would run as much as possible, and by run, I mean very slowly jog.  I knew it wasn’t efficient and power walking would have been better, but I just wanted to finish and knew I could push a little.  

We made it to the finish line at 13:28:15. The cutoff was 14 hours so we did have a little time to spare.  While I knew I could have run a lot faster, the injuries were significant and I was thrilled with my finish.  I was handed my medallion and jacket.  We picked up my drop bags, but I forgot my headlamp.  At least someone is getting to enjoy it now (so sad).


Electrolyte/Fuel: Glukos Gummies and Tailwind Nutrition
Other Items in my pack: Ginger Runner BUFF, Baby Wipes, Extra GoPro Battery, Ensure

Lessons Learned

I try to take a few things from every race or long run that I do.  I had another great race of making sure my nutrition and fuel were on point.  I found out that Redbull was great for a pick-me-up, one is my limit.  Coke as usual kept me happy and tasted so good (which I usually don’t like).

Running in the mud is really fun if you have some good shoes and socks.  My Drymax socks kept my feet feeling good in past races and training runs because they pull the water away from your feet so quickly.  With the blister issues, I will be switching to Injinji socks for my future long-distance training and RDL100.  I think it will really help prevent blisters since there is no skin-on-skin contact.  I also had a huger blister under my big toe-nail, but luckily I won’t lose the nail.

While the Hoka Speedgoat 2 has tons of cushion, is responsive, and have great traction.  I will need to do my future trail runs in shoes with a wider toe box to prevent compression of my feet.  I will be going back to Altra shoes, which I spend a great deal of time running in already.  I can’t wait for the new Lone Peaks to come out and hopefully a new Olympus.

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 in 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.  Even after 13.5 hours of running/hiking, I still had more left in the tank.  I can’t wait to get healthy and take on my next challenge.  

What’s Next

The reality is that I had been running for the past year with Plantar Fasciitis.  I never gave it a break because I was doing one training block or race after the next.  At AR50, from mile 10 to the finish, it felt like I was running on bruised feet.  While I could run up hill, running on flats and downhill was extremely painful.  I knew that I would take the next two months off running to let it heal.  I was going to get cortisone shots and try Shockwave Therapy, which my doctor was suggesting.  Time to finally let my feet get better so I could have a legitimate shot at completing the Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Endurance Run in November.  

Update: It has been 1.5 months since the race and I have not run more than ½ mile, which is how far the gym is away from my work.  There is still some pain, but I am working on getting better and can’t wait to start training again.  I have been cycling, swimming, and hitting the gym.  I am getting stronger in preparation for the hardest training of my life.  I have done Active Release Technique and had my cortisone shots.   I have my Shockwave Therapy in a few weeks.  Bring on Rio Del Lago 100 and let’s see what happens.  Even if I get timed out because of my Plantar Fasciitis, I will give it everything I have.  That is what being an ultra-runner is to me.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Skechers GOrun Ultra Road 2 Review

I have been pleased with the Skechers Performance shoes that I have tested in the past.  The GOrun Ultra 2 is a max cushioned trail shoe and its sister shoe is the GOrun Ultra Road, which is made for running on pavement, hence the name.  I really liked both the Ultra 2 and Ultra Road.  They both have plenty of cushion and fit really well (both have been updated).  I have also tested the GOmeb Speed 3, which is an awesome, extremely fast shoe that is great for races, tempo runs, and speed workouts.  The GOrun 4 is a solid everyday trainer that can handle the fast and slow days.  Here are links to my past reviews.

I got the GOrun Ultra Road 2 to test out a while back.  It has more cushion than the GOrun and GOmeb shoes.   Just taking them out of the box, I was impressed with the look, materials, and weight.  Many people know about Skechers shoes, but most people don’t know how good their Performance shoe line is. 

The original GOrun Ultra Road was one of my favorite shoes back in the day.  It is extremely comfortable, had a wide enough toe box to not cause compression issues with my toes, and had enough cushion to handle whatever mileage I threw its way.  

The upper material is made of Skechers Performance flat knit material that is almost seamless.  It is not only light weight, but conforms to your feet and is extremely breathable.  There are some synthetic overlays that help add stability and durability to the upper.

Harder blown rubber in the forefoot and heel for added durability

There is a new Quick-Fit feature, which is a tab on the back of the shoe that makes putting the shoe on easier.  I know… it sounds like a gimmick, which was my thought when I pulled them out of the box, but it really does work and I used it more than I thought I would.  

Quick-Fit Tab makes putting on the shoe a snap.

There are drainage holes built into the midsole as well as a trough under a mesh material. The insole also has holes in them so the water can drain easily. I really liked this feature when running in the extremely wet spring that we had.  It also had a secondary benefit though.  In warmer temperatures, I found that the holes forced air into the shoe and provided a little extra ventilation.  A nice feature indeed.

Drainage trough under a mesh (sits under the insole)

The GOrun Ultra Road 2 has a nice roomy toe box like its predecessor, which is way better than most shoes that compress your toes.  I have slightly wider than normal feet and can’t run in most shoes without some compression issues.  Skechers has some of the only non-toe box shaped shoes that I can wear without pain (for longer distances).

Skechers Performance is using a new lighter weight insole.  They call it their 5Gen cushioning and I must say that I like it.  It might be slightly firmer than past models, but it is still cushy and provides a stable ride with a huge weight savings.  After almost 80 miles, the midsole feels as great as my first mile.  Some other shoes can tend to flatten out or the cushioning doesn’t protect your feet as well, but not these.

Drainage holes in the midsole
Now to the specs.  The GOrun Ultra Road 2 weighs in at a 8 ounces for a men’s size 9 which is incredibly light for a shoe with this level of cushion.  The first version of the shoe weighed in at 10.4 ounces.  That is a huge difference (new version is 2.4 ounces lighter).  It has a 24mm forefoot height and 28mm heel height (4mm heel drop).  

Great price ($120)
Low heel drop at 4mm
Super-Lightweight at 8 ounces (men’s size 9)
Upper mesh conforms to your foot and is extremely comfortable
Great drainage

Skechers Performance Social Media Links
The reality is that Skechers Performance is really putting out some great shoes that you should take a look at. The GOrun Ultra Road 2 is no exception.  It is fast and stable, but still provides enough cushion to make the miles fly by.  When I put them on, I don’t even think about the shoes, which is about the best complement that I can give for any shoe.  You can buy them for $120 at the Skechers Performance website.  Give them a try and I am sure you won’t be disappointed.  

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.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Why I love Injinji Toe Socks!

If you have been following my blog for a while, then you know that I am a huge fan of Injinji toe socks.  I have been running in them for a few years now.  It all started a when I was curious why runners would want to use toe socks.    I quickly discovered that they offer the benefit of letting your toes splay (spread) while you run.  These are great for people who wear wide toe box shoes made by companies like Altra and Topo Athletic, but are great with any shoes. These socks are funny looking and the first time you use them, they feel a little weird.  With that being said, the weird feeling went away after about 5 minutes and they are some of the most comfortable socks that I own.

There are several benefits of using the
Injinji toe socks.  The socks are anatomically designed for your foot, covering each toe and allowing your toes to spread out as they naturally want to.  Normal socks restrict your feet and tend to push your toes together, which can lead to various foot injuries.  While you might not feel that this is a big deal, give the toe socks a try and you will realize what I am talking about.  You will gain stability and feel more comfortable as your feet learn to spread out.

They are great for people who get blisters.  By having no skin on skin contact between your toes, you eliminate that point of friction which can cause blistering.  Each sock is made of moisture wicking material and has seamless toes.  They have a mesh top for more breathability, an arch support band, and an enhanced cuff so your socks don’t slip down.  You can get them in light weight, original weight and midweight styles depending on the amount of cushion you prefer.
They have different materials, including the spectrum version, which has special and bold graphics that are made by using a printing process that will not distort or face over time.  Here are links to the reviews that I have done in the past. 

So let me tell you a little story.  I ran the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run on April 7th.  It had been raining for a few days and even the morning of the race.  The trails were muddy and I was drenched before the race even started.  I was wearing another brand of socks, which I normally love.  They are designed to pull the moisture away from your feet, but are not toe-socks.  I figured with the extremely wet conditions, that they would be a good choice.  I never had any blistering issues with them, but I also hadn’t run that far in conditions like what we were experiencing. 

I started to have issues at mile 20 with debris in my socks and shoes.  It was creating a blister in between my 4th and 5th toes.  I had a fresh pair of shoes and socks at the 25 mile aid station, where my drop bag was waiting for me.  I put on a fresh pair of shoes and socks when I got there, but didn’t have anything to put over the blister.  I ran another 4.5 miles to where I was picking up my pacer.  I had texted him and asked him to find some mole skin or something similar to put over the blister.  It could have ended my day if I didn’t take care of it.  I was able to finish the race, but it was an issue that could have been avoided and would have saved me a lot of discomfort.

The reason why I like Injinji socks so much is, like I stated earlier, the toe splay helps with stability and allow your feet to work as they were meant to.  You don’t have to worry about your socks causing compression issues (which can lead to metatarsal and other pain).  The more important thing is that it does a great job of keeping debris out of the socks.  It even protects in between your toes if some debris does get inside your shoes.  If I chose to wear Injinji socks during the race, I may have been able to avoid the blister, which in turn slowed me down quite a bit. 

I got to test out four pairs of trail socks.  The first one were the crew length Spectrum Performance 2.0 Trail Socks.  I tested the No-Show version in the past, which is below the ankle and has a tab in the back to protect the back of your heel.  While I really like Injinji’s wool socks, they don’t even compare to how comfortable the Spectrum material is.    I tested the Gritty version of the sock which sells for $18.00.

Performance 2.0 Trail Midweight Crew Length (Spectrum)
I also tested the Trail Midweight Mini-Crew Sock, which has been one of my favorite trail socks over the years.  It has a decent amount of cushion that protects your feet and does a great job of keeping debris out.  I have always been into thicker socks because they provided more cushion and these mid weight socks were great for longer runs.  I tested the Pine version and it sells for $15.00.

Performance 2.0 Trail Midweight Mini-Crew

I also tested two new socks that they just came out with.  Their Ultra Run series is made to provide comfort mile-after-mile.  It has a terry material throughout the entire foot and toes.  This helps reduce the impact of your foot strikes.  The terry material really does a great job of keeping your feet feel fresh.  They come in two sizes, the no-show and the crew length.  They have men’s and women’s specific designs.  I tested the Ultra Run Crew Socks (Color: Lime) which sells for $18.00 and the Ultra Run No-Show Socks (Color: Lime), which sells for $16.00

Ultra Run No-Show
Ultra Run No-Show (inside out) showing terry inside
Ultra Run Crew Length
Let’s your toes spread out
Keeps your feet dry and blister free
Very durable
Look awesome
Feel great even after months of washing
Decent Prices

Injinji’s’s Social Media Links:

I love my Injinji socks.  After my race, I realize the importance of having each toe protected and my Injinji socks do just that.  Please learn from my misery and give them a try.  You can purchase yours at the Injinji website or at a store near you (click here for locations).  If you haven’t tried them, you definitely should.  Let me know what you think and please feel free to share a picture of your favorite Injinji socks with me.

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.