Thursday, March 20, 2014

50 Mile Race Recovery

After running the Green Swamp 50, I didn't think I would need to write this post. I didn't think I'd have enough content to give my 2 cents. This was before the car ride home. This was before I started to get stiff. This was extremely naive.

When I got out of the car, after driving 2 hours to get home, I couldn't believe how much different my body felt from just 2 hours prior. It seems that ever joint in my body, did not want to extend any more than it had during that car ride. It took a good 20 minutes of walking around to get my body semi loose again, though it didn't last long. That evening included a long shower, a lot of eating, a movie, and an early, well needed bedtime.

The next morning the stiffness was to a whole new level. Every joint all the way down to my toes were sore. This was a whole new type of stiffness. Walking around, there was a sharp pain coming from the outside of the bottom of my foot. My feet were completely swollen. The reminded me of and sometimes felt like sausages.
My "sausage-like" feet a day after the race.
My "hobbit-like" feet on a normal day.
 Over the next few days I spent a lot of time with my feet in an ice bucket. I tried to walk around as much as possible, whether it was at school, the store, or work. I tried to find excuses to take the stairs. Everything was tight and walking was very slow, but day by day I could feel it getting better.

Recovery "Florida Style"
By the fourth day, pretty much all of my muscle aches were gone. There was still irritation in walking, but it was only from joints and tendons. I decided I'd try running the following day. On Thursday, I woke up feeling the same and decided to run 3-4 miles. Around a mile in, I was starting to really feel good and decided to make a turn for a 10 mile loop. Bad choice.

I felt great through mile 7 and then I felt a sharp pain in my foot right where it had been the previous 5 days. I quickly stopped running and continued to walk the final 3 miles home. I didn't want to do any more damage than I had already just done. There was a sharp pain every time I took a step for that entire 3 miles. My stubbornness in wanting to be back on my feet quickly was to blame. I had to rest it.

Two days later, I was back to a slight irritation while walking. The next day, Monday, I decided to run again. This time I only ran 3 miles. At the end of my run the irritation was there, but it wasn't a sharp pain. It had only taken 9 days, but this was improvement I could work with. Tuesday I ran 4 miles with a little less irritation and Wednesday was 6 miles with barely any. I am glad I was able to correct my problem early enough for it not to effect my training for too long. I can see how easily it is to really injure yourself. Especially when you want to get back on your feet but your body isn't ready. I plan on continuing to slowly add miles until I am completely recovered. If that is such a thing.

Lesson Learned:  Joints and tendons take a lot longer to recover than your muscles. Be patient with your body.

Recipe of the Week: Easy Granola

Easy Granola
This recipe makes a fairly large batch, but stored in an airtight container it can last for weeks. This is a very simple recipe that can easily be altered to create different  flavors. Since we try not to eat too much processed sugars, the sweetness comes from honey and nut butters, but if you were not on a restricted diet, you could substitute agave, maple syrup or any other sweeteners according to your taste.

Prep Time: 5 Min
Baking Time: 30 Min
Servings: 10-15

4 C. Rolled Oats
2 C. Coarsely Chopped Nuts ( I use a combination of whatever I have on hand, usually Pecans and             Almonds)
1/2 C. Almond or Sunflower Butter
1/2 C. Honey
1Tbs. Vanilla Extract
1 Tbs. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt

1.      Preheat Oven to 350 Degrees F
2.      In a large bowl, mix Rolled Oats and Nuts
3.      In a microwave safe bowl, mix Nut Butter, Honey and Vanilla. Microwave in 20 second intervals, until it can easily be mixed with a spoon.
4.      Mix the warm honey mixture into the oats and nuts. Toss with the cinnamon and salt.
5.      On a parchment lined baking sheet, spread out the granola mixture as evenly as possible. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until slightly golden brown, stirring after 15 min.

Chocolate Granola: Substitute cinnamon with 2 Tbs. cocoa powder.
Pumpkin Spice Granola: Substitute cinnamon with pumpkin spice, substitute nuts with pumpkin seeds and substitute honey with Maple syrup
Fruity Granola: Substitute 1 C. of the nuts with 1 C. of  chopped, mixed, dried fruit such as           apricots, cherries and cranberries.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Recipe of the Week: Almond Crusted Eggplant Parmesan with Zucchini 'Pasta'

Almond Crusted Eggplant Parmesan With Zucchini 'Pasta'
                Although this lovely dish does takes some time to prepare, I usually double the recipe to make sure there is plenty for leftovers. When the hubby is craving protein, I will also roast a few chicken breasts in the same sauce, topped with cheese to make the meal more hearty.

Prep time: 15 min
Cooking time: 1hour 20 min
Servings: 4

1 Large Eggplant (Sliced 1/2 Inch Thick)
2  Large Eggs
1 -1/2 C. Almond Meal
1/4 C. Grated Parmesan
1 tsp. Dried oregano
1 tsp. Dried Parsley
1/2 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper
1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp. Paprika
Salt & Pepper to taste
3  Medium Zucchini
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1-26oz Jar of Spaghetti Sauce or homemade version
1 C. Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

1.       Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2.       In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together.
3.       In a larger bowl, combine the almond meal, Parmesan, oregano, parsley, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, paprika and salt and pepper.
4.       Dip the eggplant slices in the egg mixture and then coat with the almond meal mixture. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 45 to 60 min, or until just brown and crispy.
5.       While the eggplant is baking, prepare the zucchini.  remove the ends and thinly slice lengthwise on a mandolin slicer.
6.       Place sliced zucchini in a 9 X 13" baking pan and drizzle with olive oil. Lightly season with salt and pepper and bake at 375 degrees F for 20 min or until tender.
7.       When zucchini and eggplant are both done, layer the eggplant slices over the zucchini, cover with spaghetti sauce and cheese and bake until the cheese is melted and starting to brown and the sauce is bubbly, 15 to 20 min.
8.       Allow to cool slightly before serving and add protein of choice if desired.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Dances with Dirt Green Swamp 50 Miler Race Report: My First Ultramarathon

It was the night before the race around 7PM. Josh, Victor, Crystal, and I were hanging out in our motel room sharing our ritual pre-race bottle of wine. A tradition we had started just 16 months prior before our first half marathon. That was the true beginning of this crazy dream, "To finish an ultramarathon" and we were on the doorstep. We reminisced over the journey and shared our apprehensions of the goal. It was lights out by 8:30 with my first alarm set for 3:45 AM.

After a restless night of anticipation, the car was packed and we were driving to the race. Crystal had prepacked breakfast bowls of fruit, yogurt, and granola along with a few hard boiled eggs. I normally don't eat and drive but I made an exception out in Pasco County, FL at 4:30AM. On the ride to the race, the thermostat read 39F. With a forecasted high of 74F, I looked forward to the beautiful day.  We arrived at the race a 5 AM, which gave us 30 minutes to get everything in order.

Those were the most rushed 30 minutes I can remember. I chose to wear a long sleeve shirt and a pullover for the first 5 miles. By then dawn would be among us and my body should be warmed up. I changed my original portions for my Phil's Bars from 190 calories to 150 calories. Since I was shooting for 300 calories/hr, eating every 30 mins would be much easier to keep track of. I also decided to take salt tabs once an hour instead of once every 40 min. as I originally had planned. I packed my running belt with 8 Phil's Bars, 12 S!Cap tabs, and 6 Tums. I couldn't find water anywhere at the start for my water bottles so Crystal dumped one of hers into mine. There would be an aid station within 5 miles and I wouldn't need much water to get there. 

They allowed drop bags at the start/finish, which was super convenient as we were to run by it at miles 5, 25, and 45. In my drop bag I had a backup pair of shorts, shoes, and socks along with a shirt just in case I needed it and all my backup nutrition. I also left my sunglasses in my drop bag at the start.

Victor, Crystal, myself, and Josh seconds before the start!
After a half hour that felt like 5 minutes, we were corralled like cattle at the starting line while someone from the race staff explained the course to us. My heart was pounding. Everything was happening so fast. I looked around and there were roughly 30-35 people starting with me. My buddy Josh called over for a picture.
And then we were off.....

The Race
 The first 5 miles of the race was a loop through the Withlacoochee River Park. The terrain through this area ranged from paved path to single track rooted trail. I started off excited and realized that I was keeping up with the front runners for a while. I looked at my watch and saw my pace was around an 8:00/mile. I asked the guys around me if they were planning on keeping this pace for a while. After confirmation, I quickly slowed down and decided to only worry about my race. I was surprised that I was able to slow myself down, but I had my own race to run. I slowed down to a 9:30 pace to warm up and feel comfortable in the dark. Within 2 miles, I was warm and had already stripped my pullover layer. I was running with a small group that helped light up the trail and the surroundings until we got back to the start/finish (Big Ma's).

Dances with Dirt Green Swamp Trail Map 2014
When I got back to my drop bag at mile 5, I took off the shirt I had been wearing, the head lamp, and put my sunglasses on my head to keep my hair back. The sun was starting to light up the sky and I could see decently. I grabbed a few GU's from the aid station to fill up my empty storage space in my handhelds and filled them up with water. I took a little longer than I had wanted, but would only need to stop for water over the next 20 miles so the extra time was worth it.

The next portion was the first of two 20 mile loops. The trail led us out of the park, over the river, and through the woods. These woods were interrupted here and there by fog covered fields. We were running on backwood roads that weren't passable in some parts unless on foot. Between the beauty of my surroundings, the nice cool temperature, and the moment of the race, I was feeling amazing. I spent a few miles talking to a few people, stopped to take a picture, and was really enjoying the environment.

Fields around mile 7 as the sun was coming up.
I was talking to a local guy, running his second ultramarathon, while running into Ranch Rd. aid station at mile 8. He decided to stop and I didn't need anything and kept on going. I didn't know it at the time, but he was my last companion for the rest of the day. I decided this would be a good time to speed up. I started to try to maintain a pace around 8:30-9:00 min miles.

I continued on through Traffic Jam, the aid station we worked last year at mile 12, and didn't need to stop for water until the FL 471 aid station at mile 17. When I got there I was 2 hours and 40 minutes into the race and feeling fresh. I was having no problems eating on time and taking my salt tabs as scheduled. I asked the race staff how far back I was and she said 15th or something  and 15 mins behind the leader. The race was just getting started.

The 3 miles to the next aid station (BFE) went by in a flash. As I was running up to it, I realized it was just a table with a stack of boxes with water. I was good on water and just kept going. It was starting to get warmer and I was having issues stomaching the density of the Phil's Bars. At 3.5 hours into the race I replaced my planned bar with some Cliff Bar Shots and the gummy fruit was amazing! By the time I reached Traffic Jam, I was getting low on water. I also knew that Big Ma's was only a mile further, so I decided to stretch my water until then. The mile stretch between Traffic Jam and Big Ma's is my favorite part of the course. It starts on a road and then breaks off through the woods for a quarter mile. Then there is a river crossing, which feels absolutely amazing! Finally you are back in the park and almost back to Big Ma's. Halfway done!

At Big Ma's, I decided that it was time to eat my last Phil's Bar. I filled up one of my water bottles with gatorade, one with water, and then stuffed my belt full of GU's. For the second half I would have to keep my calorie intake up using a variety of options.

For the second loop 20 mile loop I slowed down and tried to conserve what I had left for the next 25 miles. I experimented with 2 different GU's on three mile trail to Ranch Rd. The flavors were mandarin and strawberry-banana and both were absolutely disgusting. Not to mention they made my hands sticky. I needed to find a different solution. At Ranch Rd. I ate a few orange slices, topped off my bottles, and was off. While running to the next aid station, I started passing a lot of people. They were fast hikers and slow runners from some of the shorter races and were all super encouraging. I exchanged a few sentences with some of the nicest people in this section. Once I hit Traffic Jam at mile 33, I decided to switch to Coke. I knew it had a ton of calories, all sugar, and it was easy to consume. I drank a cup of it, topped off my fluids and moved on.

I was now in new territory, with the longest run before this being 31 miles. I was feeling good. I knew it wasn't going to last for much longer but I was enjoying it while it lasted. The next 5 miles to FL 471 aid station went by quickly. I stopped there and had a few cups of coke. My system wasn't upset by it and I was easily intaking my caloric goal. I was also at ease knowing I was already 6 hours into the race and my system had held up this long. I just needed enough juice to last me one more half marathon. A run I normally don't eat on. I decided to not worry about eating much solids from here on out.

Selfie at mile 39. 
I left FL 471 at mile 38 tired and optimistic. I just needed to make it back to the start and do a "quick" 5 mile loop. My spirits were up. Roughly two miles down the road my feet were in a good amount of pain. I started walking and that felt better. I remembered listening to podcasts and hearing over and over about the pain coming and going and coming and going. I just kept telling myself that this was one of those times that it was with me. I reached in belt and pulled out my phone for a selfie and forced a smile. Those 2 minutes with my mind somewhere else was enough distraction to deal with the pain. Game on!

The next 6 miles were slow and painful. I was averaging 10-11 minute miles but my muscles felt like they were sprinting. I refused to stop running, as it hurt more to start running again than it did to continue. All I could think about was how excited I was for the river crossing at mile 44.5. I reached Traffic Jam aid station for the last time at mile 44. I thanked them for volunteering and talked to them a bit about the previous year while enjoying a few cups of coke. I also splurged and ate a few handfuls of pretzel M&M's. Calories were calories at this point.
Traffic Jam Aid Station

I took off from Traffic Jam a little sentimental. It was just last year that Josh, Crystal, and I were working there with the dream of running the following year and here I was 6 miles from finishing. I felt no pain while the trail turned off the road and through the woods again. This time I knew there was a nice cold river ahead and I was read to get wet. I saw a bunch of people working on crossing it up ahead and planned my route from a distance. The water almost came up to my hips and I plowed through it. I was so excited get to the 5 mile loop and end this thing. I then heard my wife calling my name and taking pictures from the other shore. What an awesome surprise. I didn't need the lift but I'll take it!
Withlacoochee River crossing at mile 44.

Running up the shore as I hear my name called.
I reached the end of the second 20 mile loop in great spirits. I had been running for 7 1/2 hours and only had a 5 mile loop left. My shortest of short training runs are 5 miles. It was in the bag. The start/finish area was super busy. A bunch of people from the 10k, half marathon, marathon, 50k, and relay were hanging around. There was music playing and it looked oh so inviting. I drank another coke at the aid station and took off into the woods. I could hear a few words of encouragement as I left.

According to my watch, it took exactly .72 miles for me to completely fall apart. With 4 miles left I just wanted it to end. I spent the next 4 miles in what I like to describe as a walk/run with an argument with myself in between each transition. Part of me wanted to walk for the next 4 miles while the other part of me didn't want to lose any more time than I had to. I hadn't been passed by anyone since around mile 3 and I wasn't going to let it happen now. For the next agonizing 4 miles, I continued a run/walk. Starting around mile 49 I kept holding my breath, hoping to hear music from the finish line. At mile 49.9 on my watch, I ran through a campground and started to hear it. I then saw a sign for a trail pointing to the "Recreational Fields". I knew I was there. The pace of my feet and my heart quickened. I ran through an opening and out onto the field. I could see the finish line. People started to see me from a distance and started to cheer.

The closer I got, the more people cheered. I saw my wife to the left taking pictures. I just ran with a  huge smile and tears flowing down my face. There is no word or group of words I can use to describe the feeling in that moment. So much went into this goal and to witness it unfold was amazing.

Wrap up/Recovery
My official time was 8 hours 28 minutes and 12 seconds. I finished 5th overall and first in my age group! I am completely hooked. Recovery has been decent. My muscles recovered fairly quickly. My joints and tendons on the other hand have been much slower.There have been numerous ice baths and massage roller sessions. I hope to be running by the 4th recovery day. Next race is 9 weeks away!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Dances with Dirt Green Swamp 50: Pre-Race Preparation and Concerns

Race Preparation
I am a week away from my first ultra marathon and have realized that this is my least favorite part of endurance sports so far. The period of time in-between the months and months of hard work, and the moment when you get to see what all of your hard work has created. This period of time is filled with "what if's", anticipation, and calculations. With the lowered mileage during this period, there is also plenty of time for planning!

Over the last year, Crystal and I have experimented with a bunch of different foods for nutrition during a race. Some have been store bought and some have been homemade. For this race I have decided on a recipe from Dr. Phil Maffetone called Phil's Bars. Since I have been training my body to use fat as my source of fuel, it would make sense that my nutrition consist of mostly fat calories. After doing some calculations, I found I could get 18 bars per batch. Each bar has roughly 190 calories, 117 of which are from fat. That is a 60/40 ratio of fat to sugar calories. I am planning on consuming 300 calories/hr at first and adjust according to how I feel. That means a bar every 40 min. With a goal of around 8 hours, I should consume 13 bars or ~2500 calories for the whole race.
Once I get past 30 miles, I will reach a territory that I've never experienced. I am prepared to start consuming GU gels or something similar if I feel my heart rate is rising and I might need to consume more sugar. The projected high that day is 72 degrees so I don't expect to be close to overheating at any point in the race. I'll be running with two water bottles. Living in Florida, I have grown accustomed to always running this way. Having two water bottles and carrying my own food should cut down on unnecessary extra aid station time. To help replace lost sodium, I will also be taking salt tablets. I will be taking an S!Caps salt tab every time I eat to help keep my sodium and potassium levels up. 

  • Shoes-I will probably be running most of the race in my broken in New Balance Minimus MR20v2. With the race being here in FL, the terrain won't be horrible for road shoes. Second option will be my new Merrell Trail Glove 2. The deciding factor will be how many miles I can get in the new ones. Reviews coming for both shoes. 
  • Socks-I don't wear any special socks. I typically like to wear my older pairs for running.
  • Belt-Ultimate Direction Jurek Essential- review coming
  • Handhelds-20oz. Amphipod Handheld Water Bottles(2)
  • Shorts-New Balance Track Shorts
  • Shirt-It'll be too warm for me to wear a shirt.
  • Watch-In the middle of a transition right now. I will be running this race with the Garmin Fenix
  • Sunglasses-Tifosi Slip-A great affordable sunglasses company. Great sport options.
  • Food-Phil's Bars (15)
  • Supplement-S!Caps Salt Tab (15)

Race Day Concerns

  • Salt tabs- During the later hours of my long runs, I have found that I am having problems retaining water and my internal temperature is rising. I am almost positive this is due to low sodium levels and hope that taking salt tabs with fix this problem.
  • Nausea-Will I be able to stomach food at miles 35+? Am I optimistic to think that I'll be able to eat my bars?
  • Sleep-With the race starting at 5:30AM, will I be able to get a good night sleep?