Rocky Raccoon Nailed It, Failed It
|February 7, 2020||Posted by Melinda under Uncategorized|
I finish some races and have the story fully formed. Others, the lessons learned are the dominant force. This race was the latter.
As a reminder, these are the more technical posts for the events – the how’s and why’s. They are reminders for me when I do future races, and perhaps nuggets of insights for anything that is struggling with the same thing. As always questions are always welcome and I’ll answer them to the best of my ability and experience.
Fueling and Hydration
Was spot on. Drank water and tailwind (from aid stations) according to thirst, supplemented with a Hammer extreme endurolyte capsule as needed, ate every 30 minutes according to a timer. When food became boring I ate either a Huma or Spring (my preference) gel. I ate tons of hot food after the sun set at the aid stations (bacon, pancakes, grilled cheese sandwiches, ramen were the highlights). I also figured out how to stop over packing food snacks my vest. Turns out when I calculate my food needs I was including the start and end points of the time period, not just the time on the trail. Because I’m eating stuff out of crew and drop bags at the time I’m refilling my vest, I don’t need to include that fueling in the amount of food going into my vest. This eliminated 1-2 snacks per section and more often than not I arrived at my refill point with 0-1 snacks left which was better feedback that I was eating what I needed to eat.
The gels were a success. At my lowest point when I was trying everything to get my race back on track I pulled out my secret weapon – a caffeinated 250 calorie Spring branded gel and sucked it down at extremely tiny amounts over 30 minutes and it REALLY helped. Not enough unfortunately since my metabolic were pretty good all race and it was a foot pain thing, but it was enough for me to see the promise of these gels. The Huma’s were OK mid race but I definitely preferred the Springs overall.
I hardly ate any food from the aid stations during the day (only once they had hot food), because my food was working really well. Ritz Bits with Cheese, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Applesauce were the main stand outs. I also had pop tarts, a second type of breakfast cereal, miniature moon pies, and Uncrustables (crew bag), that worked OK.
I’ve really taken it to heart to try a new food at every long training run. I’ve discovered several more things that work well and it’s so nice to have a variety, especially things that aren’t sweet.
My crew person was a little horrified about how unhealthy the food is that I eat on the trail, but I prefer to look at food in a different way. Instead of healthy and unhealthy, I like to evaluate how food makes me feel after I eat it. Normally everything on the list above would make me feel wretched in everyday life. I don’t eat it in everyday life. When I’m running an ultra and my body is craving ready calories that can be digested easily the *food above does the trick. That delicious Sweet Winter Slaw or Green Pancakes recipes that make me fabulous on a normal day would make me vomit on race day. Listen to your body. Give your body what it needs.
*Yes, it’s a stretch to call any of my race food, “food”. Trust me, if I could eat unprocessed foods such as nuts, nut butters, honey, and the like during a race – I would. But, I am very texture-picky and during an ultra my brain and body has very specific needs/wants and so I listen and savor the perfect textures and flavors of Ritz bits (at least, that’s how my brain interprets them in the middle of an ultra).
I found a version of a caffeine capsule I like in a 100 mg form, which is a lot more manageable than 250 mg. I was able to hold off until after dark to take them and with the lower dose I could keep myself more stable instead of swinging up and down and worrying about my stomach.
This is the least cranky my joints and ligaments have EVER been during or post race. It was AMAZING. My IT bands didn’t twinge, my hip flexors were content, and my hips were fabulous.
I was able to contort myself into the back seat of a sportscar, and then get back out of it, without minimal hysterics.
I slept better and was moving around instantly better than any other ultra of any distance I’ve ever run.
What do I owe this to?
I firmly believe it was the yoga I started doing at the beginning of January. If you missed it I talked about it in this post.
Sure, I only went 70 miles. But I’ve done plenty of 100k’s and even a few 50 milers and the way I feel after this run is DIFFERENT. Yoga is the only thing I changed. Not even hard-core yoga. Gentle, not even close to pushing myself to the limit, yoga.
It’s making a huge difference in my running, recovery, and every day life.
Sure, I’m sore and I’m stiff and my feet still hurt. But….full range of motion of my joints. No creaking. No feeling like my knees are going to snap off or my hips catching. It’s amazing. My joints don’t feel swollen or “borderline”. I don’t feel like anything is close to injury. It’s pretty amazing.
I haven’t gotten to run consistently for a long time. During vet school I ran very consistently and at the end of four years I was really happy where I was. Then I got pregnant and it’s been a struggle because of injury, medical issues, and life circumstances. “Consistent” running has been extremely hit and miss for the last six years except for the first year postpartum.
I think yoga is going to help me achieve what I want most this year – a year (and beyond) of consistent running.
Consistent running is one of the things I thought about at the end of this 100 when I was contemplating whether I should/could continue to go on until the next aid station and then be truly over time…I’m uninjuired and running better right now than at anytime prior to grad school graduation. It’s more important to me not to f*ck this up than any finish line, western states qualifier, or sticking to my rules out of pride. I guess I found my “why” for this race and it was a “why” that allowed me to exit the race sooner than I might have otherwise. It’s not that my “why” wasn’t strong enough to finish – it just turned out my “why” was a little different from what I thought going into this race. I wanted a strong running year more than I wanted a western states qualifier (which wouldn’t have happened anyways, even if I have death-marked trudged into the darkness at 1.5 mph).
Drop Bag Organization
I’m not going to lie. It was pretty awesome. It was awesome enough that a fellow runner looked over at me grabbing my stuff out of my bag and said in amazement, “I’m copying that.” Go right ahead dude. No good idea is original and my system definitely isn’t entirely my own.
I passed through the out aid station that allowed a drop bag eight times. Here’s what I did:
Found a suitably sized soft sided lunch box.
One zippered compartment for each loop (4 total).
Two interior clear bags inside of each loop bag because I went through the aid station twice per loop. A card with aid station instructions in each interior bag that described how much food and gel (already included in the bag), what things I needed to ditch out of my pack, what things I needed to pick up (mostly already in the bag), and relevant reminders (such as apply sunscreen, dump and replace batteries).
Extra food from my vest that I thought I might want later to replace my planned food in the pouches went on the bottom. Batteries were in seperate ziplock so I could change out as needed each time. In the future I’ll tape or otherwise affix the bag of batteries to the inside of the lid.
It was one of the best drop bag set ups I’ve done. Super easy to find stuff and for reminding me what needed to be done at that aid station.
For my crew bag I used my rolling carry on suitcase. This also worked really well and for future races I’ll evaluate whether a backpack or stiff sided suitcase is more suitable. I kept smaller gear in a ziplock in the inside of the lid along with paper crew instructions, pouches (one per loop), extra “special” food, spare gear, and finish line clothes in the large main compartment.
Chafing and chapped lips
Lips got so chapped for some reason, and I had some chafing on my back and starting around my underwear lines. I wore a bigger pack and carrying a jacket the entire time, which I think contributed to the rubs on my back at my sports bra line. It’s why I don’t do a bladder any more. The chafing was pretty minor in the scheme of things and worth having the jacket at ALL times so I didn’t wuss out and say “too much time to put that in, just leave it.”
I wear underwear at the beginning of races to serve as emergency toilet paper. Gross I know, but there you go. When you are popping caffeine pills, are in a time zone that isn’t your own, and pushing food down your gullet as you run for 24+ hours things can get unpredictable. This is the first time that the decision caused rubs, since discovering squirrels nut butter. In the future I’ll just carry a baggie of toilet paper or wet wipes.
Maybe I should add scissors to my crew bag? It was very handy to just cut clothing off instead of take the time to take it off properly. I can think of all sorts of scenarios where I could just slice things off happily….
I’m still pissed at my feet. But to be fair, perhaps I didn’t give them the R and R they deserved and needed after Rio. I have a job that keeps me on my feet a LOT and I’ve come to realize that all those articles about “stand as much as possible” don’t really apply to me. I stand a lot and I should probably try to sit when given the opportunity.
Thankfully none of the small stuff that bugged me for weeks after Rio have reared their head again, but considering the can of whoop ass they opened on me during the race, I’m reluctant to do anything but give them their full 2 weeks recovery period, despite only 70 miles run. I need to do some experimenting with what I can do in my training and my daily life to make my feet feel better during races.
In addition to the “sit more” idea, I probably need to buy a pair of road trainers and stop using my old trail shoes when I run in town.
Diet is also worth looking at. My joints and soft tissues feel better if I keep dairy to a minimum in my diet. I don’t have to completely eliminate it at this point, but not going overboard means that when I put my feet on the ground in the morning, they don’t ache. My hands also feel better (I have a high-repetitive motion job that requires a lot in my hands so I tend to be very aware of how they are feeling). I also note an improvement when my daily food intake comprises of mostly “real food”. Bread products I make myself, high levels of vegetables and plants, protein. I don’t know **exactly** what it is that is specifically causing the improvement, but I pay attention to what foods make me feel good and what makes me feel poorly and then try to do more of the former and less of the latter. (And please, I don’t want to debate sugar, white flour, or what diet I should try. I’ve tried most of them, parts of all work, and I’ve spent a lot of years developing a healthy relationship with what I eat. “What makes your body feel good” is extremely individual and I just don’t want to justify why I include one food but leave out another.).
Time zone difference
Time zone difference wasn’t bad, I adapted well, but I noticed it most strongly during my traditional bonk times – 1-3p and 1-3a. Where I live is 2 hours difference from the race location. The bonks bled out of their times a bit which means it’s probably not entirely in my head and also depend on environmental cues such as sun position.
I had an early flight in on Friday and was asleep by 8:30 or 9p local time which is REALLY good, considering I have trouble sleeping before 10p at home. No problems waking up for the race start. Remembered to take melatonin afterwards in the hotel room to try to get more restful sleep.
But, the two-hour difference definitely affected me during the race. If I go any further east I’ll need to figure out a way to arrive a little earlier, or try to adjust my schedule at home the week before (something that JUST now occurred to me). I could see it being a real problem for a tough race that was 3+ hours difference.
This is a fourth “failed it”, but it’s really an unknown. Could I have done it without a pacer? I think so, but it’s only because I had company for loops 2 and 3. Hooking up with another runner was key. I need the distraction. I don’t really need someone to take care of me through a 100 usually, I need someone who is good company. I don’t know what this means for future races because I can’t afford to take someone with me to these things. Maybe it means I only get to fly around to different states for 100k’s and my 100’s have to be closer to home? I don’t know.
Gear and Food Notes
Here’s where it gets really boring and technical so feel free to skip. I also write these notes in my race prep documents, but including some of that “post analysis” about gear and fueling here just in case it helps someone else, with the full disclosure that this section is most definitely tedious and boring.
Shoes: Topo Athletic Ultraventure. Remain a great ultra shoe for me.
Jacket: A waterproof lightweight jacket by Columbia I got off a sale rack right before Black Canyon in 2017. It does OK as a light outlier option and is generously sized enough to fit over my pack, which makes it more likely that I’ll take on and off as needed. I had a jacket when I needed it because I carried it the whole time. Really glad I did this since when you aren’t from the area it’s hard to judge whether it’s going to get cold or not! I wish I would have carried the tighter fitting one that went under my pack. Really my pack isn’t hard to take off and put on at an aid station, so if it’s not going to rain, consider bringing my “other” running jacket that is a bit cozier and less clammy.
Socks: Balegra hidden comfort. I usually have to use enduros because I need the higher cuffs, but with the gaiters I could use the hidden comfort model, which I like better but have a dumb cuff. I’m between a medium and a small which is hard. I had trouble getting all the wrinkles out of the mediums at Rio (my last 100) so I used smalls, but I felt like they had a tendency to get tight across my toes.
Gaiters: Dirty Girls. Reinforced the velcro on my shoe with some gel super glue. Worked perfectly
Shirt: endurance ride tech T-shirt
Bra: random one from Target. They are all starting to rub because they are all getting old and the binding gets more rough. Need to look at replacing before next ultra.
Arm sleeves: wool ones from smart wool
Same calf sleeves as always by a brand that starts with Z. Probably should be replaced soon. They are sort of stiff and icky even with washing.
Baleaf compression shorts (cheapest best running shorts in the world. Under 20 bucks from amazon).
Salomon Vest: My new dark blue one. 8L women’s specific one. Worked great. Really liked how easy it was to get water bottles in and out of the vest compared to the old red one. Also I hate to admit it, but the stupid flat women specific water bottles do bounce less than the round ones with the wide mouth. Sigh.
Boca brand hat. Was going to use my orange mud one, but then bought the rocky raccoon race cap of the same brand. Actually like the orange mud one a bit better because it’s shallower in the cap, but this one did fine and will be better for stuffing ice in.
Assorted Gear: I carried Leukotape, ibuprofen, endurance extreme hammer caps, 100 mg caffeine capsules, a small container of squirrels nut butter assorted fuel and fuel (described below), random walmart fishing sunglasses that I never used, OVLED headlamp (used as waist lamp), a fenix hand flashlight (still borrowing from tolerant husband), Black Diamond headlamp, random cheap knit gloves that magically are in the pocket of the jacket when I need them.
I think that’s all the gear?
Food: Ritz bits with cheese were the bomb and I managed to find pouches. Best cereal was cinnamon toast crunch (I divided into ziplocks). Also took Honey O’s and they weren’t as good. Uncrustables were good as crew bag food. Spring and Huma gels worked really well. Applesuaces were good but not wonderful. Poptarts worked well in first half of the race. I recently found mini pop tarts in the store and want to try those instead. Miniature moonrise actually hit the spot several times. Never needed my sugared ginger. Never needed mentos. Drank Tail wind and water at aid stations. Best aid station food (after dark) was ramen, grilled cheese, quesadillas, bacon.
Gels were OK to go through TSA as long as they were in a clear quart ziplock. I had to leave deodorant home and buy applesauce once I was there. Two empty water bottles that were filled on the other side of TSA helped keep me hydrated on the plane. I also carried all sorts of snack food like Perfect bars that worked well for travel. Also carried green pancakes and diced up ham. Only my computer and kindle had to be removed from the back. They didn’t even blink twice at the GPS’s, chargers, millions of AAA batteries, and headlamps that were in the bag (I asked the agent prior to going through the check and he said it would all be fine to stay in the bag).
I only had the energy to stop once at a store the day before the race, but thought I would be OK stopping twice. As a result I didn’t get sunscreen or a lot of post recovery food at my first stop – just food for the race. And…then didn’t go back to the store until afterwards.
Good recovery food was breakfast burritos, jimmy dean breakfast bowls, unsweetened dried mango, perfect bars/cubes, sushi.
Getting everything into the bags, even on the way home was TIGHT. I ended up with a lot of food left over (probably would have had less if had gone entire 100 miles) and 2 pairs of shoes takes up a lot of room. Using a drop bag that was a simple plastic sack would have saved a lot of room, both directions. Even though the lunch box was really nice to work with during the race.
Love your posts! Would you share which Spring gels you use?
The speednut with caffeine was a life saver in the middle of the night. As far as the other ones, the cranberry is ok but the amount of acidity sometimes irritates my mouth and I really don’t care for the flavor of the mango. I haven’t tried all the flavors enough to really know what I like and don’t like, but over various runs the speednut is definitely my secret weapon especially when I’ve gotten behind on calories (because it’s 250 calories!). Goes down easy. The rest of the ones I’ve tried are sort of like applesauce but higher calories and better variation :). I’ll update when I have some clear favs beyond these.