Sunday, September 26, 2010

RRR - What Worked...And What Didn't

Time for a little "out loud" introspection and race review here. I've now run two ultras and I thought I'd jot down some thoughts regarding what went well out there...and what didn't. I'm sure there will be more to add to the list as I digest and remember more, but here's what I came up:

What Worked

1. Shorts* with pockets (race ready) - About a week before RRR, I was given a new pair of running shorts for my birthday. They were the "race ready" type with five pockets around the waist band. I decided I would skip my hydration pack for the race and stuff my shorts while carrying handhelds only. I have to tell you they worked like a charm. I carried up to 6 gels, SCaps, TP, two ginger chews, and never felt I had any of it on me. The stuff did not bounce and never fell out. I can't say enough good things about them. Notice the "*".

2. Nutrition* - I implemented the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid) to follow. At Silver Rush I was taking a gel every 45 minutes and after about 2 hours, I couldn't remember when I took the last one or calculate when to take the next. At RRR, going every 30 minutes allowed me to mindlessly follow the plan all day. I put another "*" because my plan had some negatives.

3. Hydration/Handhelds - I carried one 20 oz handheld for the first 22 miles before picking up the second. I never needed a second during those cooler morning hours, but I was glad to have the another one on the return trip. I learned that during the second half of the race, if there's more than 4 miles between aid stations, I need two.

4. Drop bag - This was the first time I used one (mile 13 & 38). I planned well with the right number of gels to pickup. I also had sunscreen which I applied at both stops. I also slowed down enough to really think through what I needed pickup and leave behind.

What Didn't

1. Nutrition - The actual nutrition & plan worked. What didn't work is my ability to mentally accept gels after 30 miles or so. I wanted an alternative, but was too scared to try anything at the aid stations for fear it was going to jack up my stomach. I've trained with other food, but not in the 30+ mile range. My task going forward is to experiment with all kinds of foods/drinks on long runs. I can see no way of completing a run longer than 50 miles if I can't eat or drink something else along the way.

1a. Caffeine - Almost all the Gu's I ingested had caffeine. I generally have two cups of coffee a day, so caffeine has never been an issue for me. I did have a cup of coffee before the race. By early afternoon, I think the steady drip of caffeine through each gel was starting to build up and get to me. I began feeling jittery. I think I need to slip in some decaf slurps once and a while.

2. Ginger Chews - When I was feeling nauseous between miles 28-34, I tried to eat a ginger chew. Maybe it was the brand I got, but it took me 10 minutes to swallow it. I don't think it worked either. Maybe I just needed time to let the feeling pass. I drank Coke at every aid station on the return and that tasted really good. I may try Tums too.

3. Mental Stimulation - I wouldn't say I got bored on the return. I was having fun out there. It's just that I went for hours running all by myself, with nothing or no one to break up the monotony. Generally, I'm quite comfortable running alone, but it seemed like I needed something to temporarily shift mental gears and stop focusing on how I was feeling. I now have an ipod shuffle, so I think I may try to incorporate that during later miles on future runs.

4. Splits/Watch - I had a loose goal of running an eleven minute pace during the RRR. I printed out a little Excel table with aid station splits at that pace. While I pulled it out a few times outbound, during most of the inbound run, I could have cared less about my pace/overall time. I had a much more complicated table for Silver Rush and remember thinking the same thing. So my question for future races I even bother? Should I just go run by feel and not worry about splits? It seems during those last 20 miles (of a 50 miler), there's just too much going on physically/mentally to stress about splits.

5. SCaps - These work for me as an acceptable electrolyte replacement tool. I just need to find an optimal way to carry them. For three races now, I've used a small ziplock bag. This bag is easy to open at anytime...other than during the race. Same with getting the caps out of the bag. For the first time, I dumped a bunch of them on the trail around mile 40. You should have seen me trying to bend over to pick them up out of the dirt! Either I'm going to switch to something else or find a better way to carry/dispense them.

6. Shorts - Okay, the race ready shorts are by far the "shortest" I own. After training all summer in longer shorts, these baby's revealed my pasty white every picture! I didn't think about it during the race, but good pictures will be forever glowing. Guess I need to start wearing them in May so the sun can get a jump start working up that high!


  1. Nice dissection. I'm with you on the KISS approach. I'm lucky that I've not had puke problems in the three "ultras" I've run, even with amble grab-and-go aid station grazing. I too go w/ the gel every 30 minutes. I like a couple of the PowerBar gels, since they aren't as thick as Gu or Hammer (I recall you have an aversion to that brand). Goes down easier. I also drink Coke in the later half. I ran w/ an iPod in Lake City and Steamboat. Helps a lot. There are some long stretches of solitude.

    As for the shorts...well, the older you get the shorter the shorts get. Chalk it up to aging... Welcome to the short shorts club.

  2. Nice list. For the Scaps, try hitting up walmart, going to the camping section and finding a match carrier. It's a small plastic tube that is easy to use and store. About 3/4 inch in diameter and 2 inches high.

  3. Jim - It's just the Strawberry-Banana that is a no-go. Maybe I'll give them a try again. Love the shorts comment. I never thought it would happen to me!

    Patrick - great idea about the match carrier. Looks like I've got a reason to take a stroll over to Walmart on my lunch hour.

  4. I mixed in vanilla at Steamboat. Chocolate is too think. I think there's a couple new flavors that also might not be too think.

  5. I can't STAND those strawberry banana gels, even from mile 1, so I can totally understand why you would want to yack them after 30 miles. I'm still going to tell you to try EFS liquid shots - it solved everything for me...easy to eat, and includes tons of electrolyte so you don't need all the s-caps. my stomach had no objections eating it for 10 hours in leadville. (but everybody probably has a different experience and you obviously need to experiment with what works for you).

    And might as well give in to the short shorts! And you're right, if you always wear them, it doesn't look so goofy!

  6. Haha! I've got another strawberry-banana hater on my side! I did forget to write that EFS is definitely on my list of things to experiment with. Experiment...Test...Try...Repeat. That's the big thing I came away with from this summer. My plan worked okay, but it needs a lot of refining. I just wish it was easier to get to the physical condition of running 30 miles...without running 30 miles first.